Monthly Archives: October 2013

Having a Baby is Like Studying for a Test – Part 2: Pain Management

Tea ~ Orange Swirl Rooibos

This is Part 2 of 2 – Read Part 1 here
I think every woman fears being a mom at one point or another. Is it becoming a parent we fear, or is it childbirth we fear? For me, it’s the latter. Pop culture does an excellent job of exaggerating life and life events, sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny. The problem with it is that it morphs into our perception of reality. Let’s take pornography, for example. If your child’s first introduction into sexual relationships between 2 people is the porn they’ve run across on the internet or that a friend shows them at their house? It makes sense that this becomes the foundation on which they build their expectations for future intimate relationships. And no one has told them otherwise – – that IT’S NOT REAL! Setting yourself up for failure, my friend.

Our culture has made it the norm during childbirth to receive an epidural, with anywhere from 60-80% of first time moms in the US opting to receive one. But why is that? With my recent history of extreme reactions to not only drugs, but allergic reactions to foods, I question a lot of things that go into my body. We discovered in April that I have a gluten intolerance, and we’re pretty sure it was causing infertility for at least the previous 1.5 years, because I got pregnant right after giving it up after trying every non-drug method and treatment leading up to that point. We even went to a fertility clinic just to get blood tested and see what my hormone levels were. Before I had a single drop drawn (13 vials to be exact), the doctor sat us down to give us our options – we could start Clomid or move on to IUI or IVF. Whoa whoa whoa, slow down, sister! We don’t even know what’s WRONG and immediately you want to pump me with drugs to fix “something?” You’re fired. We did not return.

After having a thyroid antibodies test done to reveal an intolerance to gluten (not to be confused with having Celiac’s Disease or to be tested for that, it would be negative), it makes perfect sense that if your body & thyroid are working overtime with the digestive system to break down & process things it can’t, what’s the one body system that is the least “necessary” and may not function properly until everything else is up and running as it should? The reproductive system. We even had an MRI done because we were concerned there was something wrong with my pituitary gland in my brain, or maybe even a tumor. There wasn’t, and never once did my neurologist ask me about my diet, something that I suggested when I called to cancel my follow up appointment after discovering the gluten allergy and ruling out a neurological problem. Symptoms of gluten intolerance for me included:  migraines, fatigue (never felt rested, even after 10 hours of sleep), anxiety, constipation and infertility. Symptoms of a gluten intolerance can be anything, by the way. It’s a good place to start (or any food allergy) if you are having chronic issues of any kind. I was 10x more fatigued on gluten than I am pregnant, if you can believe it! Do I miss bread & pastries? Of course I do! But do I want to be healthy and feel well, or do I want to eat gluten? Not a hard decision to make, and I am so thankful I had a diagnosis I could do something about! How did we get so careless about what we put into our bodies? Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good dose of artificial colors every now and then – love fruity candies…hey, they ARE gluten free, after all.

Scripture is pretty clear about our curses from The Fall in Genesis. My fear comes from this as well:

“Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:16-19

I can tell you from personal experience of basically being pre-menopausal for 10 months (no period whatsoever, no real hormonal changes either) that the “desire to control your husband” is what we call PMS. That bitchy-ness we all get monthly, that is part of our curse. Someone asking if it was “your time of the month” based on my behavior used to offend me. After I did not experience those up’s and down’s, Greg & I can call it what it is. As painful as it was to be infertile, I’m so thankful for that time and for the truths of Scripture to shed light on my humanness. I encourage you to meditate on these verses in Genesis and shed light on how you handle your PMS and then call it what it is – part of your curse, and own up to it.

The other part of our curse as women is the pain in pregnancy & labor. If you are a Bible-believing Christian, let me ask you this:  have you ever considered being obedient to your curse? It says it right there in black and white that this WILL happen. Have you considered that by voluntarily and automatically (obviously there are exceptions to every pregnancy and birth) defaulting to pain-relieving medication, you are actually cheating yourself (and your spouse) of not only a rite of passage, but one of the most incredible God-given experiences of your life? I haven’t read a single book on this subject from a Christian perspective – I’ve read this pile of books in the photo above, none of them by Christian authors or scholars, and come to this conclusion based on both this Scripture in Genesis as well as what I read in these books and all the amazing things that God designed women’s bodies to do in response to pain during childbirth! Have you considered that we have these long labor phases (early, active, pushing, etc.) so that our brains can release pain managing hormones to ease our labor pains? If you get an epidural or other pain relief medication, you block these endorphins. And what’s worse is if it doesn’t take or work, you will be in far more pain than if you had never received them in the first place. No time for your body to catch up there! There is risk for what some women have called the worst headache they’ve ever had in their lives for hours, even days or weeks after giving birth with an epidural. Imagine the disruption in breastfeeding for you and your new baby (issues with breastfeeding is another risk, even without the headache). If you have an epidural, you cannot move around into positions that seem innate to you to labor in, you have to remain in  your bed as you will not be able to feel your legs (though you can try to move into positions in your bed to labor and deliver, but labor will most likely slow down if you are not moving around. Keep moving!).

I am really excited to not only see what I am able to do in labor and delivery and hopefully come to the other side with a new sense of empowerment and confidence in myself and what my body can do, but I am just as excited to give Greg an opportunity to take an active role in the process! He’s going to be an amazing coach and father! Why do I want to cheat him of that opportunity? One of the videos we watched in a birthing class that was going through different birthing options showed a woman laboring with an epidural. When she got her epidural, she slept and rested and her labor slowed drastically, forcing the nursing staff to give her pitocin (a drug that mimics oxytocin to increase uterine contractions). She went back and forth with her epidural and pitocin doses just to deliver her baby, and she couldn’t feel her urge to push with the epidural (Note:  This video was in no way trying to convince us that one way of labor was better than another, these were just my personal observations). I turned to Greg and said, “Are we here to work, or are we here to take a nap?!”

Ladies, let me ask you another question. Do we not expect our spouses to go out and work to provide for our families? Go back and reread that passage in Genesis. What is the man’s curse? Firstly, Adam listened to his wife and ate from the tree God commanded them not to eat from. Is that not a constant temptation for men and fathers to just let women or their wives take on the leadership role? If you’ve been asking where the “real men” are in our culture these days, this is sin manifesting itself in their lives from Chapter 3 of God’s Word. The reality is, they are fighting their curse of lazy, self-centeredness as much as we are fighting our curse of controlling them and our world around us. And if we expect our husbands to be obedient in their curse of work and toil without taking shortcuts and looking for the easy way out, should we not be obedient in our curse of increased pain in labor and childbirth? While our pains may last as little as a few hours to our entire pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies), our husbands have 30-40 years of living out their curse and even longer for taking a leadership role in their marriage and with their families.

What beautiful opportunities for obedience men and women have been given! It brings joy and pride to my heart to see my husband taking responsibility for himself, our family and his curse from The Fall as I’m sure it will bring great joy to his heart to see, support and be proud of me for taking my curse by the horns. I don’t want to be cheated of an experience and blessing like this that will most likely take our marriage and friendship to a level I never dreamed! It sounds like an exciting adventure – oh, and then there’s a baby too. BONUS!

I really invite you to do your research and to consider your options and the risks & rewards of childbirth. Birthing from Within was really empowering (I checked all our books out at the Chicago Public Library), and The Business of Being Born is a really great documentary that is on Netflix Instant that I highly recommend.

Be encouraged!

Having a Baby is Like Studying for a Test – Part 1

Tea ~ Moroccan Mint

You know when you have big events or life changes going on and that is sometimes all you can think of to talk about? Or when you don’t know someone very well, that is all they can think to ask you about? If you’re in college, they ask, “So, how’s school going?” or if you’re getting married, “How are the wedding plans coming along?” or if you’re expecting a baby or adopting, it’s “How are you feeling?” or “How is the adoption process getting along?” I’ve observed this over many years and I really try my best to not monopolize a conversation with the “obvious” stuff about me. Of course, if people ask I will be polite, but let’s get down to the nitty gritty and past all the fluff. Life is too short for a lot of fluff.

I’m not going to talk about how I’m feeling or our baby registry or what color we’re going to paint the nursery because honestly, those things matter very little in the grand scheme of things. A couple of years ago, my heart started to change and God was moving me in a direction of a real desire to experience being a parent and pregnancy. I never thought it would happen. People assume that because I’m a woman that I automatically want to serve in kid’s ministry or hold other people’s babies. Nope. Too fluffy. Greg & I weren’t sure we even wanted our own kids when we first got married. We knew adoption was part of the plan at some point. So when I told Greg, who was not anywhere near a place to desire having our own children, nor did I expect him to be anytime soon or to just flip the switch and start now, I said, “I just want you to know, my heart is changing in this area.”

He only said 2 things:  1) “Ok, thanks for telling me.” and 2) “Why do you want to have kids?” A perfectly legitimate question. I think I’m crazy for wanting kids! This does not come naturally to me at ALL. There is not a single moment in my life, before telling Greg a couple of years ago, that I had this aching desire to be a mother. You can’t get much done as a parent. You’re tied to your house and your baby’s schedule for years, and then school & extracurricular activities after that. I felt like I would accomplish nothing as a parent and be incredibly frustrated by the whole process. I wanted to do things that mattered instead of selfishly procreate like everyone else (we also considered adoption as doing something that mattered).

I shared with Greg that I want to have kids because I feel that I have hit the ceiling on my understanding of God’s love and sacrifice for me. I want to know and comprehend just a glimpse of a love as passionate as a parent for their child. The heartbreak Abraham felt for Isaac as he walked with him to the place he would sacrifice Isaac as an offering to God:

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt, 1635

Sacrifice of Isaac by Rembrandt, 1635

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”” ~ Genesis 22:2-14

Wow, I cannot even imagine this! I’m not a parent yet and I cannot comprehend how difficult this must have been for Abraham. What’s even more crazy is that God experienced the full weight of this with his son, Jesus. God tested Abraham in Genesis, but it was not a test with Jesus Christ, it was Redemption Day for all of us when all the sins of the world were put onto the shoulders of the one man who had never sinned. I want to know and understand that love, the love that God has for me every single person!

I want to be a parent to love others better. I want to be a parent to grow in understanding of God’s love. I want to be a parent to grow in Christ-likeness and character that brings glory, honor and praise to our Savior. I want our child’s life to be a living sacrifice to God. After all, He is giving us this blessing & responsibility. Yes, He wants to give us good things for our pleasure, but what will bring me the most pleasure is seeing our son grow in his own knowledge of God’s love for him and sharing that love with others. That is what matters, and I trust that The Lord Will Provide.

Be encouraged!
Read Part 2