I don’t have a lot of tasks in my morning routine. Get up. Use the bathroom. Drink water. Go into the backyard. Sit in the sunlight. The rest of the morning varies from day to day, but these first five items happen almost without fail.
Some time in the last few weeks, as I basked in the mercifully-cooler-November morning AZ sunshine, with my shirt pulled up above my belly as usual to maximize the skin exposure for vitamin d, I started thinking about how easily light travels through the skin. This is a fact most children given a flashlight are delighted to discover. Earlier today, one of my kids shouted, “Look, Mom, my finger is red,” holding a light behind her fingertip. I’ve noticed that the baby in my womb, if she hadn’t been “awake” yet, usually wakes up and starts wiggling and kicking once I’m outside with my belly in the sun. So I’ve been wondering… what, if any, effect does my daily sun routine have on my baby?
Yesterday I reached 19 weeks. Yesterday was also my 120th day (approximately) since conception, the day the soul becomes fully “connected” to the fetal body in the womb and the woman carrying the child becomes fully the mother of that child, according to Kundalini Yoga tradition. Yesterday was also the day of my ultrasound. It was an intense day.
I told a friend, “I think the ultrasound technician is trying to kill me,” when he was running more than an hour late. I think he was trying to kill a lot of people, actually… my friends and family were dying with the suspense of it all.
I had been anticipating my ultrasound with a potent mix of trepidation, excitement, and dread. People kept saying, “You already know,” or “It’s him.” My kids were already calling the baby Elijah. But I didn’t know. I hoped it was him, but I didn’t know it was him. I had heard more than enough I-thought-I-was-having-a… stories to teach me not to make any assumptions. My 9-year-old daughter said, “God wouldn’t do that to you. It has to be him.” I laughed. I’ve gotten used to blessings disguised as cruel heavenly jokes over the years.
My brother and his wife came into town and visited us on Monday. My brother mentioned that he was having horrible neck pain. “Magnesium!!” I yelled at him as I slathered his neck and shoulder with magnesium oil cream and spray.
It’s been several years since I read The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D. But I was skimming through it the other day and came upon the chapter about magnesium’s impact on pregnancy-related issues and early infancy. I shared some of this info in my 2010 blogpost “Magnesium for Pregnancy and Beyond,” but I felt impressed to share a bit more today. I’ve got a lot to do today, so I’m going to be lazy and just quote Dr. Carolyn Dean.
I’ve asked myself more than once over the years: “Why do I get to have it so easy?” I’ve never had to “try” for long to become pregnant. I’ve never experienced more than mild morning sickness, never “prayed to the porcelain gods.” I’ve had four uncomplicated, fairly easy pregnancies. I’ve given birth vaginally four times after three smooth, uncomplicated labors, never pushing for more than 25 minutes (and that was with one posterior baby). I’ve never had a truly colicky infant. It doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Especially when I think of my sister-in-law who waited desperately for four-and-a-half years of infertility before finally adopting her son. Especially when I think of another friend who waited even longer and now waits yet again to adopt a second child. Especially when I think of a friend who has experienced debilitating morning sickness through six pregnancies. And when I think of my cousin who gave birth after pushing a posterior baby for five hours (he finally turned and was born quickly afterward). And especially when I think of a friend who gave birth a few years ago… desperately wanting a VBAC after three prior cesareans (and one prior VBAC attempt), finally with a wonderful midwife who supported her wishes and believed in her, only to get to nine centimeters and discover that she really did need a fourth cesarean after all.
How can it possibly be fair that I get to have it so easy? That question has been rolling around in my head eliciting a variety of answers. And the only one that gives me peace is this: Every mother must experience travail to bring forth her children, but that travail is experienced in a variety of ways.
A week or two ago I had a little epiphany. Ever since, I’ve had that song stuck in my head… “I wear my sunglasses at night…” I’m a child of the 80’s. Actually, that’s the only line of the song I really know, so I’ve just had that one line repeating over and over in my head. Ha. What is that song even about?
Seriously though, if we’re going to wear sunglasses, we really should be wearing them at night (unless we’re driving, of course). And because of all of this pondering about light and sunglasses, I’m becoming convinced that every woman transferring in labor to a hospital should wear amber (blue-light blocking) eyeglasses. At least until she gets situated and comfortable and labor is continuing to progress.
Let me explain…
It might help if you read these posts first:
My husband gets to have the same conversations with me over and over (or, rather, he gets to listen to me ramble over and over about the same bizarre stuff that rolls around my brain). For example, the conversation about how we all shower and shave too much. I really do talk about this excessively. Sorry, husband. I’ve been contemplating writing this blogpost for a long time. I nickname it “the pubic hair post.” Ha ha. But really it’s about so much more than pubic hair. Hear me out…
So here’s my premise:
Body hair is surface area for oils, pheromones, and other unseen natural chemical messengers we probably haven’t yet discovered.
These unseen chemical messengers give us valuable information about each other, facilitating some relationships and preventing others (for good reason).
I’ve written about this concept before (see my “Mate Selection” post HERE). And a 2008 Psychology Today article, sums it up well: “As we act out the complex rituals of courtship, many of them inscribed deep in our brain, scent-based cues help us zero in on optimal partners—the ones most likely to stay faithful to us and to create healthy children with us.”
As I was rambling about this topic to my husband (again) yesterday, I mentioned that it’s unfortunate that the phase of life when it’s most important for our body’s natural oils and scents to be broadcast to the public (during the mate-selection process), most “first-world” people are daily shaving, showering, and slathering themselves in artificial fragrances (I know I did). As a society, in general, we are routinely stripping away and masking our authentic scents in an effort to appear/smell “attractive” to potential mates when, in reality, the way we’re most likely to find an ideal reproductive match would be to shave, shower, and slather ourselves less.
For a couple of decades, my menstrual cycle was like clockwork. Every 28 days without fail (except during pregnancy/breastfeeding). It didn’t really matter what I ate, how much I slept or exercised, or how much sunshine I frolicked in. My body just did its thing no matter how much I failed to take good care of it. But, alas, this body of mine ain’t what it used to be. Now that I’m in my thirties, my menstrual cycle is a lot more sensitive to environmental factors.
During last year’s drama, my cycle was cut short by a few days nearly every month. I thought it was just the stress. As I healed and gained weight, my cycle slowly returned to its 28-day norm.
When my period arrived two days early this week, I was a little confused. Wait a second, I thought… Didn’t my body heal from all of that craziness? Then I remembered that I had spent many nights last week staying up past 1:00 a.m. working on my new website and doing research. I’ve been extremely sleep-deprived. That reminded me how I spent months last summer experiencing medicine-induced insomnia. This was fortunately the only side effect I really noticed from my medication, but it was horrible. Maybe the sleep-deprivation had been a big contributing factor to my wacky menstrual cycles last year?
All of this got me wondering… is there a link between sleep and fertility? I started digging and found a whole lot of information I wanted to share. If you’re trying to get pregnant and you’re finding your cycles less than regular, here are some things that may bring your body back in balance.
“As we act out the complex rituals of courtship, many of them inscribed deep in our brain, scent-based cues help us zero in on optimal partners—the ones most likely to stay faithful to us and to create healthy children with us.” (“Scents and Sensibility,” Psychology Today)
You already know that I love new baby smells and believe that our sense of smell plays an important role in the bonding process. Since making this discovery a couple of years ago, I have thought off and on about the subject as news stories or ideas have come up on my radar. Then, a couple of days ago, I had an experience that brought smell and bonding onto my radar again.
As my husband was saying good-bye to all of us to leave for work, he came over to hug and kiss me like he always does. It was an ordinary hug, no different from every other hug on every other morning. But this time I noticed something I had never paid attention to before. When we hugged each other, both of us, simultaneously (instinctively?), drew in a long breath through our noses, smelling each other deeply. As I watched this exchange, almost as an outside observer, I was absolutely fascinated. When he came home from work, later in the day, it happened again… hug… deep breath in through our noses. Maybe we’re not so different from our dog-friends after all? I’m becoming more convinced than ever that our sense of smell plays a far more important role in our relationships than we realize.
I was telling my husband about this observation last night. He had never noticed our smell-hugs before either. And then I was telling him about the blogpost I was planning to write. During our conversation, I told him, “I used to think that the most important factors in choosing a mate were spiritual and emotional, but I don’t anymore.” Yes, they are important, but I would now say that physical chemistry comes first, at least if you’re planning on reproducing (and giving those children stronger/healthier immune systems) and remaining faithful to each other forever. Here’s why…
I was pondering my ancestors recently and got wondering about their birthing experiences. How cool would it be to go back in a time machine and watch our ancestral mothers giving birth?! The closest I could get, however, was to look through some of the histories I have in my family history file. Most of them are sparse on birthing details, but it was still fascinating to imagine-in what the stories lacked. Much of what I found was heartache and loss, but I also found so much courage and strength as well. Here are a few snip-its…
My great-great-great grandmother, Inger, came to America aboard a ship with her husband and her three (living) children from Denmark in 1866. At the time, Inger, was pregnant with her fifth child. Here is the account of that child’s birth:
On board the ship coming to America a baby boy was born, 26 May 1866 to Inger and Andrew. He was given the name John B. after the captain of the ship. The baby died the following day and was buried at sea. . . . They had left one little grave in Denmark and now to lose their baby and not even be able to give it the burial they wanted to was very hard to bear. Conditions on the ship were not at all good. They came as steerage passengers, it was cheaper but more unsanitary and the trip took from 8-12 weeks
Back in August, a close friend from college specifically requested that I do some posts for women like her who plan to have epidurals. So I wrote the first in a supposed series of “Improving your epidural birth” posts, encouraging pregnant women to “hire wisely” when choosing a care provider.
This morning I got feeling bad that I haven’t written any more posts for that series, and I suddenly realized that I have! In fact, the vast majority of the posts I’ve written over the last six months are on topics that would be of interest to all women, not just those who choose to forgo pharmaceutical pain relief in childbirth. And scanning three+ years of posts on my old blog brought up many more.
So, with all of that in mind, I give you some of my best tips for improving your epidural birth (besides carefully choosing a care provider), gleaned from my blog (and other helpful sites) over the years.
1) Prepare your body for pregnancy.
The more I learn, the more I realize that the groundwork for a really wonderful birth experience must be laid long before labor begins. When you nourish and take care of yourself, your body will be stronger and better able to perform its vital functions in pregnancy and childbirth. A strong, healthy body is much less likely to suffer complications that can have a detrimental and traumatic impact on your birth experience.
Many of the same things that will best prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy will also improve your chances of conceiving—eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low on processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing your body’s levels of key nutrients (vitamin d, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and folate). Making these dietary and lifestyle changes habits before conception will make them much easier to maintain throughout the coming pregnancy and beyond.
Magnesium is incredibly important. (Especially for pregnant women, but I’ll get to that later.) Magnesium is probably most well-known for its partnership with calcium in muscle function–calcium contracts muscles, magnesium relaxes them. But magnesium is actually involved in far more than that. From what I gather, every time a nerve cell fires, magnesium is required to control the entry of calcium into the body’s cells.