Posted in musings

an open letter to my  pregnant friends worried about their birth plans

Dear Mamas-to-be,

You might be coming up with your birth plans now, weighing your options and wondering what’s best. You might hear that birth is dangerous and that you need to be in a hospital just in case something goes wrong (my mother told me that). You might hear that your body is wonderful and capable, designed to give birth well if you just give it space and let nature work (my pregnant friend’s  husband told me that last week).

The thing is, they’re both partly right. The human body is an incredible thing, and women of all times and places have given birth without medication or intervention, relying on the support of their fellow women to endure the pain and bring new life into the world. It is a beautiful and a glorious thing, to see the body pushed to its limits and persevere, living out the fullness of its created potential.

But the flip side is that women have been dying in childbirth throughout all times and ages as well. We seem to forget that birth resides under the curse, that the presence of sin in our world and ourselves means that a powerful force has opposed itself to the life-giving work of God, of which childbirth is a huge part. It is not a shame or a failure to rely on the support of modern medicine to endure some of the pain and avoid some of the dangers that sin has brought to childbirth.

I want you to know, mamas, that your bodies are wonderful and beautiful however your birth plays out. If you give birth without medication, with your loved ones standing by to empower and encourage you, that is good. If you give birth with an epidural because your body can’t handle the pain and needs a rest, that is good. If you have a c-section because your baby isn’t coming out any other way, that is good. What matters is that you listen to your body, your baby, and your circumstances, instead of letting an idealized or stereotyped view of childbirth push you one way or the other. Hold the tension of the wonder of your body and the brokenness of the physical world, and proceed with confidence and humility, open to what your body and your baby need.

And if all the birth preparations are leaving you anxious and overwhelmed, remember that the next eighteen years of your relationship with this baby are far more important than the labor and delivery! Leave the unknowns to God, go forward with some common sense, and put it all in perspective 🙂 You will do great, and your babies will be blessed to call you mommy.

Posted in family life

Finding an OB

For my first two pregnancies, I did my prenatal care with a nurse midwife through a birth center, aiming for a non-medicated delivery. With both of them, for different reasons, I had to transfer care during labor and gave birth in a hospital with an epidural. So this time I thought I might as well prepare for that by choosing an OB for prenatal care, so that I could establish some history with my delivering doctor before the delivery!

From previous experience I knew which local hospital I wanted to deliver at (they are very well-equipped for non-medicated labor), which helped narrow the list down a little, but meeting and selecting a new doctor is still rather nerve-wracking for me! I decided to try first a pro-life, Catholic practice, but I was nervous that it might be an instance where a principled agenda excluded a general compassion, courtesy, and quality of care. Maybe I’ve been reading too many cynical articles lately… but that was one of my fears.

Last month I met the PA who will be alternating visits with the OB, and got a good overall impression of the office, but I didn’t actually meet the doctor until yesterday. And all my fears were proven unfounded. I have never been to a practice more respectful of me, the patient, as a human person.

Before the general examination I told the doctor that I was quite anxious and had a hard time physically relaxing during exams, and he first asked if they tended to be painful and then if I was a praying person. When I said yes, he literally prayed that the exam would go painlessly and that I wouldn’t have the anxiety, and thanked God for the new life inside me – and then proceeded with the gentlest Pap smear I’ve had in my life. (My mom always did say that male OBs were gentler!)

It blew me away.

All the little details of the office show the same respect for human dignity: the courtesy of the staff, the friendliness of the medical assistants, the closets for storing personal items and clothing during exams, and the timeliness of care (my whole appointment, including wait time, was 30 minutes – at other OBs I have waited longer than that just to be called back).

It brings me peace to know that my baby will be seen as a blessing and a gift even if they have special needs, that birth control won’t be pushed on me while I’m still in a postpartum haze, and that they care about the wellbeing of my whole person and not just my reproductive parts. This kind of care makes even the thirty minute drive worthwhile 🙂

Posted in musings

doctors, thyroids, depression, and pregnancy

My favorite doctor ever is my endocrinologist. She’s actually a physician’s assistant, but to me it’s pretty much the same thing. I think she’s the only doctor I really enjoy talking to and trust unreservedly – and it kind of makes sense, considering I’ve been seeing her for seven years and through two pregnancies. And when you’re pregnant with a thyroid condition, you really get to see your endocrinologist a lot! I am in there every 4-6 weeks through the whole pregnancy, as changing weight and hormones affect the dosage of thyroid hormone I need, so Marie and I have developed a fairly good doctor-patient relationship 🙂 She sees my lab results come in and knows who I am without having to look up the chart to remind herself; I see her and know that I’m going to get my questions answered and my concerns addressed in a friendly, competent way. (I am hoping to eventually find an ob that I trust in the same way!)

Yesterday I went in for my first appointment of this pregnancy with a host of concerns that I thought might be related to my thyroid condition: my increased fatigue (although it’s always difficult to tell how much is first trimester tiredness and how much is thyroid fatigue), my chills, my decreased appetite, and my increased moodiness and depression. They’re all part of the vaguely non-specific cloud of thyroid symptoms that could just as easily be caused by the pregnancy itself, or life stress, or something entirely random. I was hoping they were thyroid-related because then she could just increase my dosage and they would get better! But unfortunately my lab results looked great – they were even solidly within the much tighter range Marie likes to target during pregnancy, and at a place where I knew that I wouldn’t be having thyroid-related symptoms if I were not pregnant (after seven years of monitoring your TSH levels, you start to know where your body feels best, and that’s honestly pretty much where my labs were). Because she is an awesome doctor who considers her patient’s concerns as well as just the lab numbers, however, she did increase my dosage slightly in hopes that it will help; as it will need to increase anyway when I start gaining weight, there isn’t much risk of going too far and triggering hyperthyroidism, which has it’s own issues for me and the baby.

What it means for me practically, though, is that I’m going to have to get intentional about things like exercise, sleep, and spiritual quiet time, since I can’t blame my mood issues (which have always stabilized during pregnancy in the past) on low thyroid hormones. It’s not easy to work those things in when I’m exhausted and down, but it’s going to be important for my physical stamina later in pregnancy as well as my mental well-being now, so I need to come up with a routine and make it habitual. Sigh. It’s hard to get up and do something I don’t really want to do when I don’t even have the energy and willpower to do things I enjoy and want to do, like writing here or reading a good book, both of which have fallen off since the pregnancy hormones started wreaking havoc on me.

Have any of you dealt with this general fog and malaise during pregnancy? How do you cope with it best?


Posted in family life, phfr

{pretty, happy, funny, real} – a big announcement!

Well, the boys and I managed to finish our teaser project from last week, and while it didn’t turn out quite as nicely as my Pinterest-addled mind envisioned, I’m still pretty happy about it 🙂





The second picture has better smiles, but something about the first picture just seems fitting for two boys expecting a new sibling! Rondel’s somewhat suspicious face says, are you sure this is such a good idea? – while Limerick just looks slightly in shock! So I can never decide which one I like better…


Of course, most of our takes ended up along these lines:

L: Mom! It fell off again!
Me: Stop pulling it off then!

It would have been cute as well to have me holding the number 3, but that would have required another photographer so it wasn’t logistically going to happen this week. Another pair of adult hands would have simplified the process greatly though! No sooner would I position the kids and run back to the camera than they would start scooting around or becoming distracted by everything around them. I just considered myself fortunate that they were mostly happy throughout the proceedings 🙂


They were much happier when I let them run wild on the little walls and hills and explore the number boards in their own way! I have no clue how professional photographers get toddlers to look so good in posed pictures.

So… the details? Our new little one will be arriving sometime around Christmas, and we are so excited to welcome him or her into our family. I’ve been significantly moodier and queasier with this pregnancy so I have my suspicions that it may be a girl, but we’ll have to just wait and see – it could be that I’m just out of shape so my body is protesting more 🙂

I am beyond excited to be able to walk through this Advent season with Mary, growing heavy with child, pondering the mystery of the Incarnation as the mystery of new life blossoms within me (and probably aching for the pregnancy to be over like she must have been at the end as well!). It just seems like it will be a special way to experience Advent and Christmas, a new way to see the wonder and the gift of the baby Jesus. Hopefully I will be able to hold to that instead of letting stress and busyness run my days.

Head on over to the link-up at Like Mother, Like Daughter to share in each other’s everyday joys and struggles!