As a self-proclaimed "healthy mama" I had expectations for how I would treat & feed my body when I was pregnant.
My entire life has been dedicated to learning about babies, for goodness sake-not to mention the last 5 years that I have spent educating myself on how to best support growing babies through nutrition & lifestyle.
I thought I had it in the bag.
Well...not one thing about my life during pregnancy went as planned. It was extremely hard for me to be ok with that.
I want to share my story. I want you to know that you are not alone. Hopefully I can help you to be confident in what you are able to do during your pregnancy--even if it's not what you thought it would be--so that you can prevent the awful feelings that I experienced from what I saw as my shortcomings.
I had prepared my body for pregnancy for three years, cutting out all toxins in my food & home, & increasing the nutrition value in my diet. For the 7 months before trying to conceive, both my hubby & I took it up a notch--no alcohol, minimal sweet foods (fruits included), no eating out, good exercise routines--you get the idea. We figured that any opportunity we had to increase the health of our unborn baby was one we wanted to take!
In our opinion, the measures we took helped to increase our fertility & we got pregnant in the second month of "trying". We had assumed that I would follow the same eating/living principles that I had for the last months...I was actually growing a baby now, after all!
Two days after finding out that I was pregnant I cut the tip of my thumb off in a meat slicer. It was a mess. There was blood everywhere, I fainted twice from shock/pain, & was rushed to the ER to see if my thumb was salvageable.
For most people the steps following the incident may not have seemed so devastating, but this girl does things a little differently.
Part of my lifestyle is the belief that true health is achieved by building our immune systems to be strong, healthy, & able to fight their own battles [of course conventional medicine has its place & can perform miracles-but I believe it's relied on far too heavily]. Because of this I don't easily take medication & generally rely on homeopathy. I haven't used an antibiotic in over 15 years, haven't taken an over-the-counter pain suppressant in about 5 years... & Hospi-what? I haven't visited one of those in ages!!
Now, as I carry this fragile life inside me, I am taken to a hospital, nearly force-fed pain meds (they thought I was insane but I was eventually able to convince them not to give me any) & suggested all sorts of shots, preventive antibiotics, & so on & so forth.
It might seem silly to some, but it was very traumatic for me. This seemed like the wrong way to start the pregnancy I had longed & prepared for.
There was about a month of some pretty severe pain (I was able to keep my thumb! They stitched it back on with a bit of Lidocaine) but I got through it & everything healed up great (no meds necessary!)
I was ready to feel healthy again & grow my baby!
the morning sickness
It was right around that time, at 5 weeks pregnant, that morning sickness hit! Of course I knew that morning sickness was a possibility, but I was not ready...at all.
We were living in an apartment building at the time & the smell of other tenants cooking brought tears to my eyes. I was so nauseous. I was counting down the days until that first trimester would end. Little did I know it would only get worse! The smell of everything made me ill & I couldn't cook a thing. I felt some relief in that I was still able to eat healthy & supplement.
side note: I had been to a clinical nutritionist at the beginning of my pregnancy and my body was personally tested against a series of vitamins, minerals, & supplements to see what my body & baby needed.
At about 8 weeks gestation I went downhill, big-time! I began throwing up daily, 6-8 times average per day. I became very sore from the motion of throwing up, & extremely dehydrated from liquid loss. Getting liquids in was difficult because water made me even more nauseous; everything did.
I craved juices for their sugar content since I was experiencing such extreme exhaustion, & the only food my body could keep down was what I call "hangover food": anything breaded, greasy, & able to soak up what was going on in my tummy.
That's right--gluten-free, sugar-free, (pasteurized) dairy-free mama was suddenly living off store-bought orange juice & bagels with cream cheese.
I had no tools to help me deal with the body upset that I was faced with. I was not prepared for this!
It got worse before it got better.
I was unable to drive for about a month due to my perpetual puking. Some days I couldn't even get out of bed. I was sleeping an average of 17 hours a day, had nosebleeds from the extra blood in my system, & felt like all of my abilities were taken away from me. I was incapable of doing anything slightly human.
Apparently the exhaustion, debilitation, pain, & dehydration weren't enough...because that's when the guilt kicked in.
I had worked so hard to be healthy for this baby & here I was, unable to exercise-I mean, not even walk-unable to cook, unable to drink water, & surviving off of bagels, pizza, PB&J's, & grilled chicken sandwiches.
Remember those supplements, vitamins, & minerals I was tested for? Needless to say, I wasn't able to take those either.
In my eyes I was already failing as a mother.
Unfortunately, the guilt & loss of abilities then led to a mild depression. Here I was, well past the first trimester, & it felt like it was never going to end.
I was in a pretty bad mental space.
All that was going on also effected my husband & I's relationship. It was like his wife had died--I wasn't a person anymore, just a shell of one that happened to be growing a little life inside of me.
Around 24 weeks I stopped throwing up daily. I was still nauseous & unable to freely drink liquids, but I regained some of my energy & appetite. I started to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. A very little bit.
Around this time my husband & I decided to move into my parents house to save some money & make a move to a new city once baby was born.
Outside life events mixed with a disconnect due to the rough pregnancy put even more strain on our marriage. We separated when I was 7 months pregnant.
I felt like the world was on my shoulders.
I was trying to balance growing a child, caring for my sick self, trying to heal my marriage, & not having a place to call home. I was stressing out!
With the chaos that had become my life, I did not have the mental capacity to "get back on track" with my health. I felt very inadequate, my life felt extremely unstable, & I had become convinced that my sweet baby was going to arrive looking like a deer in the headlights wondering what the heck was going on while he was baking inside of me!
the good news
My husband & I began therapy as we lived separately. About 2 weeks before I was due we found a spot & moved back in together. Finding a new space for our family helped pave the way to a stronger bond between us. We spent the last few weeks enjoying each others company for the last time as a couple. It's probably the closest we'd ever been.
My labor was incredible. I had a very empowering home birth that seemed like a consolation gift after my exhausting pregnancy. Baby Boy was born on April 11th 2014. He came out healthy, strong, curious, with a tooth, & a normal (not deer in the headlights) look on his face.
Since he was born we have moved again & I am so happy to say that everything has come full circle. Not only are we in a wonderful place that we are proud to call home, but we are happier & closer than we have ever been.
This experience, although awful, has given me many gifts. I have a new outlook on the reality of pregnancy, & a new understanding of what it means to truly nurture a marriage.
Coming back from the loss of self that I experienced has given me an incredible drive to help others. Not only do I want to help them prepare for the healthiest fertility, but I have become intensely focused on understanding how to support a rough pregnancy...even if it's just with a hug.
We may not be able to control what happens during our pregnancies, but I want to do everything I can to support you through yours. I look forward to sharing my future pregnancy journey with you, & hopefully I will be blessed to hear yours as well.
I am going to end this with a truth that took me a long time to discover. Although pregnancy is the building blocks for the tiny humans that we create, there are many subsequent years in which we can build their health. We also have to opportunity to build their health before conception. As mamas we do what we can to prepare our bodies & keep it up as best we can during pregnancy--but we can't feel guilty if it's not as we planned!! The guilt can lead to much worse things, trust me!
As soon as your little one is born & you are ready, you can return to your healthy lifestyle. Eating a proper, nutrient-rich, low/no-toxic diet will help make hardy milk for your tiny! It's also important to know that the foods that you choose to feed baby in the first 3 years develops their pallet for the rest of their lives. Most importantly, they will watch and absorb the values that you show & hold. Throughout these beginning years you can teach them about food, health, & the environment to spark their interest for the rest of their lives.