Wednesday, October 29, 2014

36 Weeks: Bronchitis

I had this really cute idea for last week's blog. Jason has totally caught the cloth diaper bug, and there's all kinds of diaper adorable happening in our baby prep. Unfortunately, another kind of bug seized control of our lives.

Liam and Cora went to this really awesome teen leadership program, run by our state 4h organization, about a week and a half ago. It was a wonderful, enriching experience for them both. The downside was that they both came home sick.

Cora had a stomach bug. Incredibly, I'm the only one who didn't catch it! It was pretty mild and mostly short lived. It threw Liam's whole digestive system out of whack pretty bad. It's an easy target. :/ I expect it to take about 2 months to get him back to 100%, but he's back to a fairly functional level already. He is finally starting to swallow his pride and eat to support his system when it gets messed up like this. That's a huge relief to me, though I wish he would learn this life lesson a little faster.

Liam initially came home with a chest cold. It was really rough for about 3 days, then faded quickly to a bit of a cough when something (smoke, early morning air) aggravates his lungs. He doesn't seem to understand that the winter inversions are on their way, so he's stubbornly insisting it'll be fine in it's own time. I predict a winter of lung problems for him. Jason caught it too, and was perfect again after 3 days. A week later, he's started having a lot of trouble breathing as of today. I'm hoping it's more because his body is exhausted and not functioning well. He doesn't work for a few days, and should bounce back in no time - if that's the case.

I, on the other hand, ran smack into my nemesis. Like Liam's weak spot is the digestive system.... Mine is the respiratory system. I was able to provide remedies that instantly soothed my family, and aided their bodies in healing quickly. It seems like I can never do anything for myself though. *eyeroll* I totally avoided my sweet family while they were sick. I've been obsessive about one cup, plate, and bowl being mine. No one else can use them, and I use nothing else. For a couple days there, it looked like I might have managed to avoid it. Then it got me, and I knew I was in for it.

I can't even describe the misery of the last week. At some point, the chest cold cleared up. For almost a day I thought I was in the clear. Then, something new happened. There wasn't much to cough up anymore, there was no fever, and my throat wasn't sore. Now, my lungs felt like fire with every breath, I couldn't take a breath without coughing, and if I laid down at all I would quickly begin to suffocate. Jason has been quietly panicking. He texts all the time from work and barely sleeps because he's too busy doting on me. I wish I felt well enough to really appreciate it!

Last night I coughed up a very small amount of blood.  I planned to go to urgent Care first thing in the morning, but Jason couldn't take any more. We went to the er. Flynn and I were highly monitored. There were several tests to be 100% certain what was going on. It's only bronchitis - the mildest of the possibilities considered. Then there was a huge ER wide debate and research festival to find a prescription that is safe enough that the Dr and I were both comfortable with my taking it. I was very impressed with his attitude. He dismissed several drugs that most Dr's wouldn't think twice about giving me, and wasn't at all shy about looking up every single suggestion. We finally came up with one thing that turned out to just make my lungs burn more, and one thing that is slowly and steadily easing the inflammation so this vicious cycle of pain can end!

I've only found one herbal that works, so I'm all over that. A lot of respiratory remedies aren't safe in pregnancy. The rest either make me nauseous (aversions?) or make my lungs burn. It turns out the main ingredient in Good Earth Tea is hard to get ahold of herb, used medicinally in rural Africa for respiratory issues. It's pregnancy safe, and my system not only tolerates it but responds to it. Woot! The other ingredients also happen to be useful in easing my symptoms, so double Woot! for the surprising find. I was even able to lay down in my own bed for a nice long nap today! And I could still breath, albeit painfully, when I woke up. It was amazing! I can't wait until I can sleep a whole night again. :D

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

34 Weeks: DIY Prenatal Care (AKA Unassisted Pregnancy)

First, the update. Flynn and I are both healthy. He's super squirmy and really strong. I'm having a totally typically 3rd trimester. That means I'm very fatigued, get crazy edema if I don't keep my feet up, and will actually break down in tears if I don't have taco bell multiple times per week. Of course taco bell gives me indigestion so bad I end up in tears anyway.... But as far as pregnancy symptoms go, that's all pretty mild.

So the topic of this entry is unassisted pregnancy. That means monitoring your own health, instead of paying a doctor to do it for you. It doesn't mean refusing to ask for help when you need it. It just means not asking for help when you don't need it. I have a history of first trimester miscarriages. Whether I need it or not, I feel more comfortable with a lot of monitoring and testing in the first trimester. This is very hard to accomplish on my own. So, I saw my family doctor. Then, we moved. My husband changed jobs and I was no longer insured. Obamacare actually makes it more expensive to see a doctor if I'm insured, than if I pay out of pocket. And since my husband has decent full time work, we don't qualify for medicaid. We had just planned to pay out of pocket for my checkups. The last half of my pregnancies tend to be pretty boring. Weight, fundal height, urine test...."everything looks good. See you in a few weeks." Rinse. Repeat. Out of pocket costs don't even equal our portion of an insurance premium unless I have 4-5 visits in a month.

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a pay as you go option for prenatal care. Even the low cost community clinic refused to see me for a single check up, unless I signed a contract and paid thousands of dollars up front. In this area, it's $2000-$7000 up front. That just covers the check ups. If I need any kind of treatment or testing, or choose to go into the hospital to birth, that's all extra. $400+ per check up (because the cheaper place will induce at 38 weeks, which you agree to in the contract)?????? That's just ridiculous. I don't need to pay an expert to tell me how much I weigh, or read a test strip for me. I'll just do it myself and save my money for things I can't actually do myself.

There are lots of ways to go about an unassisted pregnancy. They range from just trusting that if everything seems good, it anal retentive monitoring and record keeping. Being a medical profession and prone to doting, Jason is always wanting to check my blood pressure or something anyway (even when I was having regular care) so I figured it would be better to just do the charting. The amount of different sources I had to reference to find out what to chart, and what is normal in each of those areas...that's why I wrote this entry. There's no reason for this stuff to be some kind of big secret.

Our family is having weekly prenatal checks. This is mainly because Jason and the kids really enjoy being involved in the pregnancy in this way. Everything monitored at a standard prenatal visit is literally so easy a child can do it. So, this has not only been a great bonding experience, but empowering for everyone involved. That's not to say doctors are useless, though. They are invaluable when it comes to deciding what to do when things go wrong. If I start seeing signs of gestational diabetes or something is just testing way off, I'll be making a b-line for urgent care or the ER!

Back to the cost thing, we bought everything we need to monitor everything an OB would, and more, for $80 on amazon. If I didn't spend so much time finding just the right deal, I still could have found everything for $150.

As you can see in my pic, we are just using a plain old notebook for charting. At the top of each page, I wrote my name, birth date, and due date. This is to make things easier for the medical staff, if I end up needing to be seen for something.

Then, I added sections for each of the following;

Date -

Weeks Gestation -

Weight - We bought a new scale for this. I was having doubts about the accuracy of the old one.

Fundal Height - We bought a new tape measure for this. I couldn't figure out where we put any of the flexible ones. Fundal height is easy. The bottom can be felt just above the pubic bone. The top, below the belly button at 20 weeks. It rises an average of 1cm each week until birth. Average isn't specific though. Don't get all hung up on that number, like OBs seem to nowadays. Normal and healthy is a range of up to 3cm more or less than gestational age. So, at 30 weeks a normal fundal height is anywhere from 27-33 cm. That's what doctors are talking about when they tell you how many weeks you're measuring.

Presentation - This is what position the baby is in. If you know the clinical terms, great. If not, layman's terms are fine too. I haven't entered mine yet because Jason wants to use the clinical terms so he can learn them, but hasn't looked them up yet. :) Head down, facing rear, is good enough though. Head up, feet down, facing left. Head right, feet left, facing up. These are all examples of what I might have written.

Fetal Heart Rate - We bought a stethoscope for this. I dare to say that someone less practiced with a stethoscope than Jason might have to use something more powerful, like a home doplar. This can be a hard vital for us to get. Even when we find the heartbeat easily, Flynn likes to change position while we're counting beats. The range for a healthy heart rate changes throughout the pregnancy. It starts faster, and slows a bit as the baby develops. By the third trimester, about 110 - 160 beats per minute is considered a healthy range. Of course, drastic changes in habits are often more telling than pure data. Flynn's heart rate is around 150-160. If it suddenly dropped to 110, I'd start monitoring. If it stayed there for several hours, or there were other abnormalities, I'd probably go into urgent care to make sure everything was OK.

Fetal Movement - This is a place to generally describe what the baby's movements have been like. Mostly this just helps you recognize his personal patterns and know what's normal for him. When Flynn was reacting to the pain from my abscessed tooth a couple months ago, his movement became "frantic" because he was in mild distress. His heart rate was also high, and I spent the night in the hospital getting him calmed down.

Edema - This is the swelling, bloating, or water retention that is so common in pregnancy. I find that I'm so used to it that I actually underestimate the severity. So, it's helpful to have someone else poke at my wrists, ankles, and knees, and give their opinion of how bad it is. I'd still be writing "mild" but my family assures me I am firmly into the "moderate" category, at my best.

Blood Pressure - We bought a basic blood pressure cuff for this. We use the stethoscope to hear my heart beat. Alternatives are to buy a digital cuff that does it all for you, or just use the free machine at your local pharmacy. Normal range is still just as high as ever, but up to 20 lower than when you're not pregnant. Below 90/60 in either area is considered hypotension (aka low enough to cause problems). Above 140/90 in either area is considered hypertension (aka high enough to cause problems).  Blood pressure can do crazy things during pregnancy though, so I try not to get caught up in the numbers unless they're WAY off, or stay outside normal ranges for more than a couple weeks.

Preterm Labor Signs - This is a descriptive area. A place to note anything that could be a sign of preterm labor, even if I'm sure it's not. It helps identify patterns that can either reassure me that everything is fine, or realize something is amiss.

We could have picked up the same tests the OBs use. Glucose, protein, and maybe ketone. Those are about as complicated to read as a pregnancy test. We opted for something slightly more complicated. We spent the extra $0.02 per strip and picked up the ten test strips. Ten tests on each strip, and each has to be read a specific number of seconds after dipping. We often use a second or third strip to confirm our results, and the kids don't get to be as involved. 100 strips for $12 means we can be pretty wasteful and probably still have strips left after the birth.
I did look up healthy ranges for everything on the urine test strips. That is just too much info for one entry, though. So, the short version is that glucose, or high levels of protein or ketone is bad. If I see those for more than a couple weeks, I'll be going into urgent care for further testing. The other stuff is mainly just extra info, unless I start getting really crazy results.

Then, at the bottom of the page, I list anything else of note. Allergies are acting up, or short of breath lately, or maybe breasts are starting to lactate.

And that's that. Prenatal chart info, all in one place. If I notice something missing or in need of updating, I'll make edits. ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

32 Weeks: Really Starting to Feel It

Well, first thing's first. The baby is doing great. Don't go embroidering anything yet, but Flynn seems to be sticking as a first name. It feels right. We have yet to find a middle name that works though. He's big and active and did I mention active? He's going to have a lot in common with Liam. I'm betting he'll hate being swaddled or enclosed in any way, like Liam did. He does the same shoving thing Liam did. It's like there isn't enough room for him and he's instinctively trying to push my hips and ribs and organs out of the way all the time. He's about as strong as Liam was, too. Liam's the one who put a softball through the bathroom door at one year old. I'm always freaking someone out by jumping out of my seat or making an awful face or noise because he startles or hurts me. *eye roll*

I'm actually doing really well, other than being a bit whiny. I'm super exhausted. I can only stay awake for a couple hours at a time. I literally fall over from exhaustion when I try to push it. My hips and lower back are absolutely killing me because our furniture is so not built for pregnant women. The mood swings have settled down some, to something closer to normal for pregnancy. The heartburn and swelling are really mild, which is awesome. I'm forced to be a picky eater because I get nauseous if I eat anything other than cravings, basically. Luckily, I still don't have much of an appetite most days. Now, it's because Flynn is shoved up into me so there's no room. I'm always starving. I just don't have anywhere to put the food. And strangers always think I'm lying if I mention being pregnant. *more eye rolls*

So, all in all...things are good. Flynn and I are healthy. And this is still a pretty easy pregnancy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

31 Weeks, and a 16th birthday

Yesterday was a big day. I hit 31 weeks, but Liam hit 16 years. He didn't want to do anything huge this year. So, we just had a really nice, mellow day.

He started his day at seminary. He has a really amazing and inspired teacher, and a class of kids he really gets along with well. So, that's always a good start to the day. He walks the other kids to school. Then, comes home. He did some chores, studied the birthing course homework a little, and almost finished unpacking his room. A birthday card and gift came via email.

In the early evening, his grandparents arrived. They timed their road trip with a stop over for his birthday. We took him to dinner. He chose Texas Roadhouse. The meal was yummy, and the staff made a fuss over him. It was a great time. Then, home for cake and a movie.

We are still missing some kitchen essentials in an unpacked box. We decided to order the cake. We found a very nice local bakery, and Liam picked out the flavor weeks ago. We asked them to put the frosting on the side, though, so Cora could decorate it. She had a blast with that and it looked great. It was a very tasty pumpkin spice with chocolate chips.

Liam's on a Robin Williams kick lately. So we bought a couple of his movies we didn't already have. Liam chose to watch License to Wed. His grandparents went to bed early, but a friend from seminary joined us.

All in all, it was a really positive, low key day. Exactly what he was hoping for. =D

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week 30: Does he really need a name?

We were totally sure we had the name thing figured out from the start. That was one thing we didn't need to worry about.

Patrick Alexander Shepherd. Easy. Patrick was my dad. We both love the name. Alexander is Jason's middle name, and he really loves the name. He strongly considered having it legally changed to his first name in his 20s.

Then, around the beginning of the second trimester, baby started moving more. We started thinking of him as a real person. And the sadness and loss I feel whenever I think of my father started cropping up whenever I thought of the baby. We started discussing alternate names.

All those name discussions got Jason to thinking. It felt like giving the baby any part of his name would be making an untrue statement about his feelings about this child, as well as Liam. He offered to have Liam change his middle name. Liam likes the name he has, though, and doesn't feel left out if baby takes the name. Jason decided it just didn't feel right, though. If we manage another boy after this, he gets the middle name. That way, there's no implications about first born sons. As far as Jason and his family are concerned, Liam is Jason's first born son.

So, now we're at square one. It feels like every week we have some change or variation to the name. Right now, we're leaning toward Flynn. If I can stomach giving my kid the name of a Disney prince, that is. One or the other of us feels very strongly towards one or more of the following names;


We've also played with word and letter combinations that aren't traditional names. Why should his sense of identity be tied to some ancestral expression of creativity. His name should make a statement about who he is, whoever that is. Figuring that out this early in his life is not an easy task. Unfortunately, all the more alternative names we've come up with that we really love - they all seem to have an overly soft or feminine feel. I wonder if we're instinctively picking up on something about his personality? Maybe he'll be more delicate and artsy like Cora, and less rough and tumble than Liam.

I'm not at all above input. Do you know a great name we might not have thought of? I'm starting to think he's going to be one of those kids that still doesn't have a name a week after birth! Lol

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Week 27: Let the games begin!

I officially entered my third trimester on Monday. Where my first two trimesters are something of a cake walk, the third is where I start to experience the drawbacks of pregnancy. I swear, it began at exactly midnight. Jason works nights, so I either stay up late or wake up for the 11-1 range most nights. It takes him a little while to wind down and we take advantage of that window to have a bit of one on one time while the kids are sleeping. He doesn't work Sunday nights, but our systems are used to the schedule so we were up.

Since the very beginning of this pregnancy, I've had a smaller appetite. I can generally stomach one real meal per day, and otherwise kind of snack when eating doesn't sound gross. I think part of that is that my prenatals are a raw food based probiotic. They're just super digestible and super nutrient rich, and I don't need much else. Jason and I typically have a healthy snack around 11. He is working at a pizza place while he interviews with the local hospitals, and tries REALLY hard not to eat while he's there - so he comes home hungry. And the point of all this? Midnight exactly as I start my third trimester, the heartburn starts in.

Pregnancy heartburn is it's own animal. I wouldn't say it's better or worse than regular heartburn, but it has a different feel. There's a kind of cramped, "desperately need more room" sensation in the mix. From that moment on, no matter what I've eaten, that special kind of heartburn is back an hour later.

The water retention is on the rise. Good thing I bought those men's size 10 sandals when I was swelling so much on road trips. ;)

The part I'd forgotten about (or blocked?) though, was my weakness to infection. Had I been more responsible, better prepared, or thinking straight I might have prevented my current situation. Earlier this year, I had a bunch of dental work done. I still have quite a lot left to take care of though. One of these items was a tooth right up front that needed filling. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided to hold off on the dental work - as everything left would mean quite a lot of anesthetic.

I went back and forth a lot about this one tooth, though. It was a gamble that it wouldn't deteriorate in some way. I took the gamble and everything was fine... Until Monday. Day One of my third trimester. I took a bite of the sandwich I was having for lunch, and about half the tooth just snapped right off. It didn't hurt, thankfully. It certainly wasn't going to wait until after the baby was born to be treated, though.

I hoped I could at least put off treatment until Jason was hired on with a hospital and our insurance kicked in. Tuesday and Wednesday were fine. My hopes were high. Thursday, I felt some infection brewing. I started in with the home remedies. Oil pulling, garlic, and using a tea bag as a compress seemed to work the best. The problem was that I didn't get up throughout the night to continue them. By morning, it was more intense than I was comfortable treating at home... At least not pregnant. I coated my gums with clove oil to numb them, and headed out to the doctor for some antibiotics. We did discuss pain management, but at that point Tylenol would do the trick just fine. $15 worth of amoxacillin in my pocket, and I was good to go.

OK, then I actually took the amoxacillin and everything changed. I'd somehow forgotten how excruciatingly painful it is to have that stuff fighting a battle in your gums. It gives a little hint what mother earth must feel like. After the second dose, the pain was so bad it was causing contractions. They weren't productive, but that only made them a little less scary. It took the Tylenol, clove oil, and every other trick I had up my sleeve to settle the pain down enough that I was able to walk to the car and into the ER. I'm pretty sure we were only minutes from Jason picking me up and carrying me. The ER doc was great. It's labor day weekend and every dentist in town is closed until Tuesday. ER doc called around and convinced someone to open his office up this morning for us. He prescribed me the heaviest pain killer my records indicated I'd ever taken.... Maybe it was when I had that gallbladder infection? Neither Jason nor I remember my ever being given percocet. It was the right call though. That only knocked the pain to like a five.

From the ER, I was sent to maternity for monitoring. They didn't pick up any indication that the contractions were a cause for concern. Phew. The baby's heartbeat was too fast, and a little irradic though. When ever my pain spiked, so did his heartbeat and activity level. I stayed on the fetal monitor for hours. The baby did finally settle down to safe levels and stay that way. It still matched up with my pain. I wonder if I'd still be there if he'd given me something milder.

I finally went home and got some sleep. Finally!

The dentist had trouble finding an assistant that was available so he ended ended up taking Jason up on his offer to fill in. He's a licensed CNA out here. That's not ideal, but it'll meet the legalities in a pinch. Jason didn't really do much other than be a witness for consent forms. Actually, he ended up napping in the lobby for most of the procedure. Lol The tooth was really infected. I could have kept it, had a root canal, and risked reoccurring infections. Plus, the additional pain put the baby at risk. I opted for extraction. It was a rough procedure. There was just so much infection, I really wondered if he was going to be able to pull it off safely. I really look like a world class hick now, and have just enough missing teeth to limit my dietary choices....but this should keep baby safe. It's very unlikely that I'll need any more dental work until after the birth. With any luck, this will be the extent of my third trimester infections. Although, with everything left to do to my mouth, I don't suspect we'll be having much fun with our tax return this year.

Monday, July 7, 2014

20 Weeks - Gender Reveal

We had the sonogram this morning. By we, I mean the whole family. +Liam Shepherd and +Cora Shepherd and +Jason Shepherd were all there too. I think Cora may have strained a check muscle from all the smiling. lol

One of the benefits of such a small community is that the tech had all the time in the world to be incredibly thorough. It was the longest sonogram I've ever had. She was at it for over an hour. She wasn't satisfied unless she had clear pictures of absolutely everything on the checklist. No matter how wiggly the baby was, or how hard it was to find a good angle. The only thing she couldn't do is take a good 3d image. There just wasn't any way to get the angle needed for that.

First, the important stuff. Everything is developing healthily. It's all the right size. It's all functioning incredibly well. And that goes for me, as well as the baby. They check on Mom's cervix and the placenta and such during sonograms. The cord is incredibly well placed. The blood flow within it is about as strong and healthy and ideal as anyone could want. Organs are all correctly organized, properly sized, and those with obvious function are doing their jobs quite well. Bones, limbs, fingers and toes. Everything is as perfect as it gets. She also checked for markers for chromosomal abnormalities. It wasn't on the checklist, but I asked her to check, as my age puts the baby at a higher risk. She took a good look, and there are absolutely no red flags. Everything looks perfect.

Now for the gender reveal. It's a boy! No, there is no chance we were mistaking something else. This kid isn't shy. We saw confirmation from multiple angles during the exam. It is absolutely a boy. We've had a name picked out for years now. Since our first pregnancy together. Patrick Alexander Shepherd. Patrick was my dad's name. I have a leaning toward family names....except that I don't actually like most of the common names in my family. lol I've always really loved the name Patrick, though. Lucky for me, +Jason Shepherd does too. ;) Alexander is Jason's middle name, and his favorite part of his name. He doesn't mind Jason, but he really like Alexander. So, he was very excited to name the baby Alexander. I hope Patrick likes the name as much as +Jason Shepherd does. lol

We talked about it as a first name, but I have some strong feelings about actually naming a child after another person. While it can be great to have that tool to create a kind of instant bond between's often really not that great. It almost always saddles the kid with a sense of responsibility to either live up to or overcome some set of expectations of similarity to the name-holder. I think that's likely the whole point, but it's really not a weight I want to put on my children's shoulders. They have enough internal and external expectations to live up to already. I don't want their names to make them feel like they have to be someone they're not....just to prove they aren't someone they're not. In this world, the last thing they need is any more pressure not to be themselves.

So, in conclusion, Patrick is healthy. I am healthy. Everything is progressing, not just normally, but ideally.