Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Infertility Awareness Week 2015: A Catholic Perspective

This week is National Infertility Awareness week. Though I'm not currently in the infertility category, it's something that will forever be a part of me, as it was a huge part of the journey that led up to where I stand today (barefoot and pregnant). We suffered for about 2 years before we were blessed with this pregnancy. Two years of charting, blood draws, surgery, medications, unending heartache, and so much more. Many couples suffer far longer, possibly indefinitely. This post is dedicated to all you still in the thick of it. You're in my heart always. 

If you are not connected to infertility in any way, I encourage you to read on to learn how to better support folks carrying this heavy cross.

The following post was actually written by 430 members of a "secret" Catholic infertility facebook group. I take no credit, just fully support everything they've written. 


One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of "unprotected" intercourse, or 6 cycles using "fertility-focused" intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has "primary infertility" and a couple who has conceived in the past (regardless of the outcome) but is unable to again has "secondary infertility." Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

April 19 - 25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know that you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey.

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of, "what if we get pregnant right away?" There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you'd announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for must couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in sex couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered "infertile" by doctors who understand charting of a woman's pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark, the couple "earns" the label from the mainstream medical community as "infertile."

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors' appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teaching of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with opinions that are not options for us and are told things like, "you'll never have children," and, "you have unexplained infertility"; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, "How are you and your husband doing with all this?"

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our small families, whether childless (primary infertility) or with fewer children than we hoped for (secondary infertility), make us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teaching of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that make us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet "no" or "not yet" or "maybe never" from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose not to say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don't want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husbands and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a find line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins -- with cramps and bleeding and tears -- we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be "best" for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Some will experience infertility with a complete lack of cycles. Some couples won't even get to experience the benefit of being able to really try to conceive because of this harsh reality, which is a constant reminder of brokenness for those experiencing it. The pain and anxiety that comes from a lack of reproductive health can be crippling.

And yet others, despite hormonal dysfunction and health issues, will experience the cyclical nature of infertility through conception itself (or recurring conception). These couples go on to lose their children (early, fully term, or shortly after birth, and anywhere in between) either once or many times. If you know that we've experienced a loss (something we may or may not have the courage to share), know that we are grieving. It wasn't "just" a pregnancy or "just another" pregnancy that was lost; it was our living baby that died. And we are more likely to be traumatized by the cyclical nature of our infertility because of our losses. We do not get to choose that our cycles will mimic our losses. We are at the mercy of hope.

Our faith is tested. We ask God "why?", we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of "Happy Mother's Day" that surrounds us at Mass on the second Sunday in May will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.

  • Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.
  • Do not make assumptions about anything -- not the size of our family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.
  • Do not offer advice such as, "just relax," "you should just adopt," "try this medical option or that medical option" -- or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.
  • Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a call and should be discerned by every married couple irrespective of their ability to conceive biological children. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.
  • Do not assume that if we try to adopt that the process will be successful. Many adoption attempts fail and don't result in a couple receiving a child placement (temporary or permanently). Some couples are flat out rejected from attempting to adopt by different agencies and governments. Just like adoption is an incredibly intrusive and emotionally charged issue that is part of a separate calling in the journey to "parenthood", it isn't always a possibility for infertile parents. Do not assume we can. And be gentle if we are trying. It's extra painful to be infertile and not be able to adopt. And we are likely so hurt that we can't bear to share the details with everyone.
  • Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the "real" answer. Often times we answer, "OK" because that's the easy, "safe" answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.
  • Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint's intercession. Most likely we've prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercessions on our behalf.
  • Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say, "no, thank you" to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.
  • Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be paitent and kind if we don't respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don't "like" all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.
  • Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.
  • Do not exclude us from your life because you think we may be uncomfortable. It is actually more painful to be left out because of the cross we're carrying, and we know that doesn't make a lot of sense to our families and friends. We will excuse ourselves from events or situations if we must, and please let us do so gracefully if the circumstance arises.
  • Do not ask when we are going to "start a family." (We started one the day we got married.)
  • Do not ask which one of us in the "problem" -- we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.
  • Do grieve with us if you know that we've experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death (or many). You may not know what to say to comfort us, and that's ok. Let us grieve at our own pace and on our own schedule without guilt or explanations, even if we have living children. Do not offer platitudes for why you think it happened, how you think it's part of God's plan for us to suffer, or any number of things you think might have been wrong with the child. It was our living baby that died. Let us grieve, pray for us, and if you can, let us know you care by being there for us in our grief. Let us know that you remember that our baby lived, no matter how short a life. 
  • Do not say things like, "I know you'll be parents some day," or, "It will happen, I know it will!" Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to, "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant" (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds; please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.
  • Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our  faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here or on earth or in Heaven, we will see and understand God's plan.


Because this topic is so difficult for so many women and men, the best thing our friends and family can do (and indeed strangers we encounter who may be aware of our struggles) is pray for us. We are grateful for those who offer their prayers and support in a gentle way. Your support is invaluable to us.

Lastly, remember that compassion means "to suffer with". We didn't sign up for this to happen. We can't control whether we overcome this. And we're doing our best to navigate the murky waters and maintain our sanity and our faith and our relationships with our family and friends through it all. We truly need your support and love to accomplish that. Please, please suffer with us and be Christ to us. No other understanding of our cross will be more merciful or more loving than if you put yourself in a situation to sympathize or empathize with us. The pain of infertility is exacerbated by the fact that it draws us into ourselves. We need your help to remind us in the most difficult moments that we aren't alone, God din't forget us, and that we have something precious to offer through the fruitfulness of our marriage even when it isn't manifesting in the children we so desperately want to hold. Together, we can offer up our shared suffering for Christ. It's a powerful witness to both of our faiths to travel this road together and we'll manage it better with your help than if we have to travel it all alone.


This post was made possible through the collaboration of 430 members of a "secret" facebook group of Catholic women and men struggling with the pains of infertility in all its forms. Together we are stronger. And in having the conversation, we are breaking the silence. 

If you are Catholic and experiencing the pains of infertility and would like to join a "secret" facebook support group, please let me know and I will happily add you to our discussion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Preparing for Natural Childbirth, Part 2: Our Birth Preferences

If you haven't already, check out Preparing for Natural Childbirth, Part 1 to learn about all our research and the preparations that went into writing these birth preferences.

Also, please keep in mind these three disclaimers while reading.

First, I have no idea how our labor and delivery will actually go, obviously. 

Also, I've never done this before, so consider me a novice.

And finally, these are our preferences for birth. They are in no way a judgement of your preferences for birth, how you've given birth in the past, or how you plan to give birth in the future. Please do what's best for you and your family!

Now it's time to dive into our birth preferences. Notice, we're not calling this a birth plan. Amy, our doula, suggested using the term "birth preferences" since that's really what they are. We'd prefer for birth to go exactly this way, but we know babies make their own plans, and so, since we don't actually have any idea how our labor and delivery will go, it's best to call these preferences. We'll still do everything in our power to make them happen, but won't be too disappointed if they don't work out.

Our birth preferences really kick in once we get to the hospital, but before we head there, we plan on laboring at home as long as possible. At home, you're really in the most relaxed environment possible for you and relaxation equals faster dilation. You can eat and drink whatever you want, and there are no interruptions, no monitors, no restrictions, and so on. It's most peaceful, and a peaceful place is a great place to be when you're laboring. Amy plans to be with us in our apartment as soon as we call on her, to help us through the hours of early labor, and then she'll ride with us to the hospital as soon as contractions are getting close and strong. We hope to be past 6 cm dilated by the time we arrive at the hospital. And from there, that's where things'll really take off...

Our Birth Preferences

During labor, Stephanie would like...
  • To walk and move around freely.
  • Dimmed lights.
  • The door closed for privacy.
  • Quiet voices.
  • As few interruptions as possible.
  • Intermittent monitoring.
  • A heparin lock if IV is deemed necessary, so that she can move freely.
  • Her water to break naturally.
  • No internal fetal monitoring.
  • Vaginal exams only upon consent, and as few as possible.
  • For John (husband) and Amy (doula) to be with her at all times.
  • To use natural pain relief techniques, such as breathing, massage, showering, sitting in the tub, etc. Please do not offer any pain medication.
  • To push only when she feels she should.
  • To choose the position she delivers in.
  • To have warm compresses and oil applied to help the perineal tissues stretch.
  • To be instructed to push in such a way to avoid tearing.
  • To tear naturally, if at all. No episiotomy.
  • To be turned onto all fours if baby's shoulders are stuck.
  • The opportunity to discuss and accept or refuse any procedure, except in the case of an emergency.

After delivery, Stephanie would like...
  • Immediate skin-to-skin with baby.
  • To wait until the umbilical cord stops pulsing to be clamped and cut.
  • To delay newborn procedures for the first hour to feed and bond with baby.
  • For newborn exams, vitamin K shot, and eye ointment to be done while baby is on her chest.
  • The placenta to detach and be birthed without Pitocin, unless an urgent need arises.
  • For baby to be evaluated and bathed in our presence.
  • To exclusively breastfeed while in the hospital.
  • To meet with a lactation consultant as soon as possible.
  • To be consulted before baby is offered a bottled or pacifier.
  • For John to do skin-to-skin if Stephanie is unavailable.
  • For John to go with baby if baby needs to be taken from room for medical treatment.
  • For baby to be given pumped breast milk if breastfeeding is not possible.
  • For all visitors to be turned away until we have had time alone with our baby.
  • For baby to be given a hearing screening test before leaving the hospital.

In case induction is necessary, we would like...
  • To try natural, non-chemical induction methods first, such as walking, castor oil, or nipple stimulation.
  • If natural methods fail, to try the cervical cream before Pitocin.
  • If Pitocin is required, for it to be administered following the low dose protocol and increased in intervals no closer than every 30 minutes, allowing Stephanie's body an appropriate amount of time to adjust and react to each dose increase.

In case of a c-section, we would like...
  • The surgery to be explained as it happens.
  • Stephanie to be conscious with at least one hand free if possible.
  • John and Amy to be present at all times.
  • For double-layer sutures to be used when repairing Stephanie's uterus.
  • Our baby to have the opportunity to nurse immediately.
  • Skin-to-skin time as soon as possible.

That's all we've got for now. But I suppose we may make a few more edits before baby arrives.

Notice that our preferences are very anti-disruption. We're going to try our best to create the most calming and pleasant hospital environment possible, as keeping things most home-like and peaceful are going to help me relax. And if I'm relaxed, so, hopefully, will my cervix be! Thus, disruptions like loud noises, bright lights, large groups of docs, nurses, or med students, cervical checks without permission, and so on are big no-nos.

Also, I want to be able to move around as much as possible. Labor pains will likely not be tolerable if I'm stuck in bed the whole time. Plus, moving around helps dilation happen faster and moves baby into the best position for delivery (baby's nose facing mom's back). Win win! So up and moving I will be! Walking around, rocking in a rocking chair, standing in a shower, bouncing on a birthing ball, slow dancing with my husband, squatting... whatever it takes to make labor most comfortable and most expedient, I'm going to do it. And that's why I'd like to be monitored only intermittently, on a heparin lock if IV is necessary, and I want to avoid an epidural, as epidurals numb your legs and make it impossible to get out of bed.

For us, the key to all of it is natural natural natural every step of the way. The more natural we can be, the less likely a c-section becomes. And if I can avoid that major surgery, I'll be one happy mama. Of course, if we need a c-section, I will absolutely be open to it at the time. But the key word there is need. I'd like to do everything possible to avoid one from happening, and from my research, that means avoiding any and all interventions. It means taking my time, moving around, working with my contractions, and listening to my body.

If I do get to the point where labor has physically and mentally exhausted me and my exhaustion is preventing me from progressing, that's when I will become open to getting an epidural, and will consider it as a helpful tool in delivering baby at that point. But here's hoping I can work with my contractions to progress quickly enough that complete physical and mental exhaustion don't happen.

You'll also notice, I'm big on bonding as soon as baby is born. No matter how our little one arrives, I want skin-to-skin immediately, and hopefully a chance to breastfeed as soon as possible. Newborns are amazing. When placed on mom's tummy right after delivery, they can wiggle around, find their way to the breast, and latch on all on their own. Beautiful, right? So that's why we're delaying all the typical right-after-birth baby procedures (cleaning, weighing, vitamin K, etc.), to make breastfeeding happen as seamlessly as possible, just as it was designed to. We'll also be holding off on visitors for at least 12 hours, to establish breastfeeding and bonding and to let John and me rest a bit before entertaining guests. Call us selfish, but I think it's for all the right reasons.

Perhaps at this point, you think I'm a nutcase. So much research, so much attention to detail... How about you just let it unfold on its own, Stephanie? To which I say, welcome to my type A world. This is just me being me. This is how I prepare for something I know nothing about. I learn as much as I can and make a plan, errrr, I mean preferences, and hope and pray that I get to stick to them. Maybe it's not your approach, but it's what's best for me, my husband, and our almost newborn.

I realize I haven't explained everything here regarding our birth preferences. If you'd like more details on any of our preferences, don't be afraid to ask. I tried to hit the big ones, but realize some of the other ones, like the use of double-layered sutures in the case of a c-section, may need explanations too. Just ask. I'll explain in the comments. :)

Now let's take these birth preferences for a spin, shall we?

Just 4-ish short weeks to go!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Preparing for Natural Childbirth, Part 1

Natural childbirth.

Usually when I mention that I'm going to try for a natural, drug-free labor, most folks ask why. I guess in our day and age of advanced technology, many just assume that drugs are the way to go. Why experience pain when there's a simple way to avoid it? 

Well, at first my answer wasn't so eloquent. I had a hard time describing what was really calling me to try to do this drug free. Mostly I'd say something like, "Well, if women did it for thousands of years before pain-releaving medicine existed, I can too!" Which didn't really help, because... "But we have the medicine now. Why suffer?" So then I'd try explaining that I wanted to listen to my body during labor, even if that meant lots of pain. That seemed to make a bit more sense, but still never quite did the trick. 

After fumbling to answer the "Why drug free?" question a few times, I decided I needed to get to work and really figure out the benefits of a drug-free labor. And not actually because I wanted a better defense when the question came up again. While I finally have come up with a better response, my main goal in researching and preparing for natural childbirth was to give myself the answers I'll need to keep myself motivated and drug-free during the worst of my labor. 

So before I dive into explaining our preparations, let's just throw a few disclaimers out there, shall we?

First, I have no idea how our labor and delivery will actually go, obviously. 

And also, I've never done this before, so consider me a novice.

While I do have those two things working against me, I have done my fair share of research over the last several months and feel as prepared as I can be for something I haven't had the chance to experience yet. 

One more important disclaimer: These are our thoughts birth. They are in no way a judgement of your thoughts on birth, how you've given birth in the past, or how you plan to give birth in the future. Please do what's best for you and your family!

Anyway, onward! Here's what we've done so far to prepare.

First, we found a doctor who's very pro natural birth. A friend of mine said once said of him, "If you wanted to labor hanging from a tree in a field, he'd be all for it." While we're not quite interested in that natural of a birth, we do love his approach to it all. We asked him recently what his c-section rate was and he estimated it to be around two percent. Yup, two percent. That's nearly unheard of today! The city of Memphis has a thirty percent c-section rate, as do most big hospitals in big cities in the US. So we know we're in the right hands. Another plus is, because he's in a practice all by himself, he does all his own deliveries. There ain't gonna be no surprise intervention-happy doctors attending my birth, nosiree! And just as another added bonus, he's also a NaPro doctor. We scored big time when we found him. 

After securing the perfect doctor, we found some well-reviewed books and bought them. My two go-tos for natural labor and delivery have been The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. Both fantastic books, both highly recommended if you're even the slightest bit interested in natural childbirth. I've drawn on both quite a bit to prepare for labor and delivery and also to write our birth preferences, which I'll share just a little bit later. (I should also mention that this Ted Talk by Ina May Gaskin is what led me to her book. If you're not ready to invest in the book, this video is great starting point.)

The next step was finding a natural childbirth class. And it actually didn't take much work on our part at all. The class completely fell into our laps. I called our hospital to set up a tour of the labor and delivery floor and in the process was offered a spot in their 6-week Lamaze class and another spot in their 1-night breastfeeding class, both free. How's that for convenience? 

This week will be our last Lamaze class, and so far, we've really enjoyed it. We're learning about the whole process of birth, from the start of the first contraction to the delivery of the afterbirth, plus practicing about 30 different positions and soothing techniques for labor at the end of every class. Practicing over and over again during each class will hopefully help us to remember to use several of the positions and techniques to relieve pain when labor finally does start. Our instructor has also included details on epidurals and c-sections, just in case things go those routes. 

Our breastfeeding class did not disappoint either. I'm hoping I can draw on everything I learned there to make breastfeeding go as smoothly as possible once baby's out. But if not, I also have tons of resources now and am prepared to call on a lactation consultant ASAP. 

Oh, and in case you didn't know, most hospitals offer these class for free, so if you're interested in taking a class but don't know where to look, call them up! Our hospital doesn't even require that you deliver there to take the class. If you can't find a hospital class, the next best place to look is your friendly neighborhood doulas. They usually offer classes too, but often charge for them. 

Speaking of doulas, that's the another big thing we've done to prepare for our natural childbirth. We've hired a doula.

In case you're not in the know, a doula is a professionally trained childbirth companion who provides emotional, physical, and informational support to the mother leading up to and during labor and delivery. Her role is to help the parents have a safe, memorable, and empowering birth experience. Our doula, Amy, is well aware that we're interested in a natural childbirth and is going to do everything she can to support that. In fact, studies show that a doula's presence at birth tends to result in shorter labors with fewer complications, reduces the need for Pitocin, forceps, vacuum extractions, and c-sections, and reduces the mom's need for pain medications. 

We started working with Amy a few months ago and have spent most our time together so far just getting to know each other. I mean, we are going to have to like each other by the time my labor starts, am I right? :) We're very much looking forward to seeing what tricks she has up her sleeves. Doulas are famous for their bags of labor "toys" such as birthing balls, massage oils, flameless candles, rebozos, essential oils... all great natural pain-releaving resources that come with hiring a doula. 

In addition to all this, what I'm looking forward to most about having our trusted doula by our side during birth is that my husband gets to be just my husband during the whole process. While I'm sure he'll still be worried about how I'm feeling and how things are progressing and all that jazz, the pressure is off for him to be the perfect birth partner. That role goes to Amy. And since Amy has attended over 50 births, she knows what to expect, how to coach, what to do when mom isn't coping well, etc. All the things that normally stress a dad out will be off John's shoulders. Amen to that! She will be an invaluable resource to both of us during the labor and so we're definitely happy we hired her. 

One final and very important step in my preparations has been convincing myself that a lot of labor is a big mind-game. Perhaps that's not always true, but from what I've read in our books and in other women's birth stories, your head really can get in the way of your labor. If you don't work with your body, you're probably working against it, against the contractions. And if you're working against the contractions, you're not going to progress.

When you don't progress, docs usually recommend interventions, and interventions can snowball into surgery. First Pitocin to speed things along, then an epidural when Pitocin makes the contractions too painful, then forceps or vacuum extraction to help deliver baby since mom can't feel what she's doing when she's pushing, and then when that doesn't work, a c-section. Or sometimes it goes straight from Pitocin to c-section, since Pitocin makes the uterus contract harder than normal and some babies don't respond well to that. Sure, those are some pretty dramatic examples of interventions, but they happen more often than you'd think. And mostly because OBs just aren't patient enough to let moms figure out how to work with their bodies in the first place. They want your baby to be born on their schedule, and so they intervene.

This is what I'm hoping and praying all our research and prepping will help us to avoid.

And now, after all our hard behind-the-scenes work, I do have a good answer for why I'd like to try for a natural childbirth.

I want to listen to my body. And I want to learn to work with it. I won't be able to do either of those things if we take the pain away. My body is made to do this. Labor pains are not a sign of something wrong, but a sign of my body doing everything right. So they don't need to be medicated away. They are made to be listened to. Contractions are beautifully designed to be intermittent, so that mom gets breaks throughout. It will not be unbearable. It will not last forever. So I can do this. My hope is that when I allow my body and mind to cooperate, I'll be able to bring this sweet baby into the world as easily as possible. No drugs, no instruments, no surgery, no unnecessary interventions. Just me and my beautifully designed body doing exactly what it was made to do. That should do the trick.

Keep in mind, I say all that more to convince myself than anyone else.

Now here's hoping!

Stay tuned for Preparing for Natural Childbirth, Part 2: Our Birth Preferences.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How We Announced Our Pregnancy to the Interwebs

We had reached our 28th week of pregnancy and finally felt it was time to announce the pregnancy to the social medias, i.e. facebook and instagram. 

We especially felt we needed to say something because we had announced our plans to adopt on facey and insta about a year before and hadn't said anything since. 

So it was time to blast the news. But then we were having a bunch of trouble coming up with a creative way to announce it. 

We didn't want to do something cliche, like the three pairs of shoes announcement. Or holding up a jar of Preggo sauce next to my belly. Or posting a pic of an ultrasound. Or whatever other overdone way of announcing a pregnancy you can think of. 

So we put our thinking caps on. And promptly struggled to get creative. 

It wasn't until our friend, Kaitlin, aka co-host of my board-game-themed baby shower, recommended announcing our news with a board game. And then, when we were still drawing blanks, she recommended Apples to Apples.


She's creative, that one.

So if you've never played Apples to Apples before, the game has green cards with lots of adjectives on them and red cards with nouns or actions. We figured we'd use the green cards to describe our personalities -- mine, John's, and baby's -- and then hopefully find a red card that was related to pregnancy. Much to my surprise, after going through most of the cards in the box, I found a "Having a Baby" red card. Bingo again! 

After taking about 100 pictures and playing around with a bunch of different arrangements on picmonkey, here's what we came up with:

And in case you can't read the cards, here are close-ups of all the pics.

My adjectives described the pregnant me.

John's mostly described his normal personality, but also his thoughts on being a new dad.

And baby just got the cutest ones.

Oh, and here are a few outtakes we didn't end up using.

Overall, it was very well received. People said the sweetest things, and there were only a few silly comments about adopting leading to pregnancy. "See! The adoption process helped you relax and then you got pregnant!" *Eye roll.*

My favorite part of the whole announcement was how very "us" it was. If you've been around these bloggy parts for a while, you know we're gamers. Nerdy, nerdy gamers. So to be able to incorporate that part of our personality with our announcement made it even more special. And fun! And something we're sure not ever going to forget. :)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Big Move

I realize I've left you all hanging for a while.

Last time I mentioned the possibility of us moving was back in December. Oops. A lot has happened since then.

But to summarize, John got offered the job, we accepted, and we're moving to Johnson City, TN soon after baby is born.


And I really do mean soon after baby is born. Baby is due in mid-May and we're picking up and moving in mid-June. Call us crazy, but we've actually got quite a few things making the move way easy for us. First, his new job will pay for most of our moving expenses, so we're hiring packers and movers. So lovely! Also, we're moving to his family's hometown, so we'll have lots of family members around to help with the big transition. And finally, baby will be around a month old and I hear newborn babies are still pretty sleepy at that point. We're hoping this'll make our 8-hour cross-state move a bit easier than moving, say, a squirmy, don't-want-to-be-in-this-car-seat-for-more-than-five-minutes 1-year-old. Like really hoping. But also, I kinda have no idea what I'm talking about. Wish us luck!

We were a little stressed about finding a place to live, but quickly decided renting for another year was our best bet, and that took quite a bit of pressure off. As it turns out, renting is best for us right now, mostly because if John doesn't like his job, we basically need to leave town. His employer makes him sign a non-compete clause that basically says if you stop working for us, you cannot work within a 20-mile (or something like that) radius of the hospital. Mostly it's to prevent docs from stealing patients and moving them to their new practice, which John would never do, but it's par for the course for pediatric hospitalist contracts, so we just deal. We deal by renting an apartment in the area until John's sure he wants to work there long term or he wants out and we easily pick up and move to another city, without having to sell a house and such. Win-win-win.

Once we made that decision, it was time to apartment hunt. But me being in the 3rd trimester made that extra challenging because we didn't want to travel 8-hours away to Johnson City to find one. So, we did the next best thing and looked at a bajillion pictures of places to rent on Craigslist. Our plan was to rent a house, but then John stumbled upon this gorgeous and way affordable apartment complex...

... and we were pretty much sold.

Lucky for us, my sister-in-law and bro-in-law, who live in Johnson City, are awesome people and offered to spend an afternoon going on a tour of the place for us, just so we could be sure it was as lovely as it looked online. They gave us their stamp of approval and we called the office the next day and booked an apartment.

*Insert easy button here.*

Gosh, I love it when all the details easily fall into place.

So we still have lots left to do before the big move, mostly arranging all those little details like having the electricity and internet turned on, stuff like that. Oh yeah, and delivering a baby and learning how to be parents. No big. But we've got this, I think.

It's crazy to think that all of this is going to happen in the next 2 months. Insane, really. I don't really know what we were thinking.

Actually, I do. I know we sound insane for doing 3 big life changes -- baby, move, and new job -- all within about 1 month of each other, but it's just all felt so right. And why not just get it all done at one time? We'll have one super intense adjustment period for, hopefully, just a few months, and then life will be awesome in our new city. We'll be living very close relatives (which we've never done before, btw), John will be rocking out at his new job, I'll be spreading the good news of the Creighton Model to East TN, and we'll both be loving our new role as parents to our cute little bundle of joy/poop/vomit/crying/cuteness.

Here's to our new adventures!

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