Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Dollar Shave Club

Pros: High quality products. Low cost. Natural ingredients. Pleasant scents. Honest, down to earth company.
Cons: Not Made in America. Cannot order products on demand.

I signed my husband up for the Dollar Shave Club in October 2014. We signed up for the $9 level, but you can be supplied with basic razors for as little as $1 every other month.
I'd heard about the club from some passing ad or something. When Jason mentioned he was just about out of razor blades, I suggested we check it out. I placed an order for the Executive blades. We were close to the normal shipment date. So, they went out almost immediately. My credit card wasn't charged until the day the product shipped. The package arrived days later. It was well packed, with environmentally friendly material, and contained a free sample of the Easy Shave Butter.
We were very impressed with the company and it's products. We plan to sample more of them with each of our upcoming shipments. I highly recommend this company to anyone who shaves, male or female. You can't beat the quality for the price!
And if you do sign up, please use my links so we can get $5 off our next order!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flynn's Birth Story

Man, has it been a crazy few weeks! Let's see if I can get you caught up.

Around 35 weeks, I started gaining water weight really bad. Around 36, my blood pressure started creeping up. I didn't develop pre-eclampsia or anything, but I was definitely keeping an eye on things.

At 37 weeks, 4 days, my blood pressure spiked. It was pretty scary alone. Combine it with having gained almost 40 lbs of water weight in the last 2.5 weeks and we weren't willing to just give it time to stabilize. Jason took me into the hospital for monitoring. All tests came back healthy. My blood pressure eventually dropped on its own.

Against my better judgment, I allowed a pelvic exam. Yes, I know these are pointless, and nothing good ever comes of them. I was scared and desperate for answers. I got stupid. They accidentally popped my membrane during the exam. And did we at least get some useful information for the trouble? *eye roll* Ya, right.

It was actually 37 weeks and 5 days by the time the membrane popped. The baby wasn't ready to come out, and my body wasn't ready for birth. I had some contractions, put wasn't going into labor. That meant pitocin. Pitocin sucks. A lot. In every way possible. Not the least of which is how painful it makes contractions... Even unproductive ones!

I had both of my other kids without pain killers. It was hard work, but totally manageable without drugs. I even dealt with a couple hours of pitocin enhanced contractions just fine. After about 6 hours of pitocin... And several dosage increases, which exponentially effect the pain level, the bronchitis started to play it's part. Oh ya, I still have bronchitis. The pain was just too much and I started having wicked coughing fits with every contraction. It became quickly apparent that I wasn't going to be able to push when the time came. I couldn't even catch my breath between contractions.

Faced with a choice between an epidural and possible vaginal delivery, or an almost guaranteed emergency c-section, I opted for the epidural. It was nearly impossible to hold still enough to get it placed, while basically not breathing so I wouldn't start coughing. In the end, it did it's job and there are no signs of lingering problems. Phew! That might have something to do with the length of time it was in. As soon as the pain had subsided enough for me to breath again, Flynn was on his way out. The epidural went in around 6:30am, and Flynn was born at 7:19am. The epidural was back out pretty quickly. Maybe 7:45am at the latest.

We didn't have our home birth, but the hospital staff rolled with most of our preferences with nothing more than curious questions. They caught Flynn in the cute towel Jason had chosen for the task. Liam and Cora were there for the whole thing, and watched Flynn's birth. The Dr impatiently waited for the cord to stop pulsing before clamping it off for Jason to cut. They just had us sign a form to keep the placenta. No one batted an eyelash. The vitamin k shot was their line in the sand though. When we told them we were on the fence about it, they freaked. They got all frantic and started calling pediatricians and social workers and anyone they could think of in to convince us. Not one was capable of holding an informed discussion about the pros and cons, or had any clue how babies body normally functions or how the shot effects those functions. It only made them more frantic to realize we wouldn't respond to anything but facts, since none of them had any. In the end, Jason and I had a gut feeling there would be an issue with Flynn, and decided to get the shot because we feared he'd need an IV or worse. It turned out that we were right.

Upon first appearances, Flynn was perfect. 7 lbs, 11 oz. ... 21 in. ... Scored a 9/10 on the APGAR. He latched on perfectly and nursed well. He was a calm and happy baby. He and I were released after 24 hours.

But he was losing more weight than he should. He was eating constantly but always crying for more. I started pumping between feedings so we could supplement with bottles. He couldn't even handle the low flow bottle nipples without choking and gagging. He became lethargic. He kept losing weight. His Dr put him on a high calorie formula. By then, he was becoming jaundice. His numbers were inflated by the dehydration, but he wouldn't have yellowed so fast if he hadn't had that vitamin k. Three cheers for straining his little kidneys. That got him admitted to the NICU before any damage could be caused. Plus, their standard procedures, as overkill as they may seem, gave us answers we may never have gotten.

Flynn was born with underdeveloped muscles in his mouth, tongue, and throat. He wasn't ready to be born and hadn't finished growing the muscles he'd need to survive. 15 minutes of what appeared to be very productive breastfeeding was earning him only 10ml of breastmilk. At 10 days old, that just didn't cut it. It took 5x as much to maintain his weight, and 7x as much to gain steadily. Unfortunately, he was still choking and gagging and barely actually eating anything, even with the best nipple the NICU had. He would eat 3x as much (just enough to maintain his weight) if we bottle fed him breastmilk fortified with a calorie boost mixed in. I was able to pump just enough to keep him in breastmilk, but I have never had luck with long term pumping. They brought in nutritionists, lactation consultants, feeding specialists. We had loads of information. We had developed a physical therapy for him, that we could continue when we went home. We had a great game plan...if we could just find a nipple he could drink from. He was on the fast track to feeding tubes.

Then nurse Ann came on shift. She realized that if things didn't turn around fast, Flynn was looking at feeding tubes at the end of her shift. She made it her mission to find a way to keep that from happening. She asked lots of questions. She called the Dr and specialists for clarification. Then she disappeared from the NICU for a couple hours. She came back with specialty nipples for us to try. She had called around to lactation consultants and stores for recommendations. Then, she'd convinced a local store to donate enough of the best options for us to have a supply at home if they worked. Flynn was able to drink from two of them. It still takes a lot of work on both our parts, but his intake increased. Nurse Ann had gone home by the time we saw results. Flynn was gaining weight. In fact, he gained so much overnight that he went home the next morning.

It turns out there are some hearing issues too, and he just keeps having more tests to figure out what's going on there. Other than that, Flynn is super healthy now. He's gaining weight quickly, and growing, and today he had his first full meal straight from the breast. We don't expect him to do that regularly for a while, yet, but it's huge that he's nursing productively at all.

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Autism and Pregnancy

OK. I'm about to discuss how two things that vary intensely from person to person happen to mix for me. Don't think for a moment that my autism or my pregnancies, or how they effect each other within me, are some kind of standard. This is one of those things that isn't discussed much, though. So, I feel a kind of compulsion to get that conversation going. ;)

As common as both these things are, you'd think they'd ever end up in the same conversation, right? I know, I know. It's a controversial issue *eyeroll*. With organizations that claim to be autism advocates claiming parenthood is unfair to both us and our children (both because we're incompetent and that we are likely to pass along our "disease") ... it's a subject that is often avoided for fear of flamers. The thing is, it's not really possible to flame on this without sounding like a moron, so they don't really scare, I'm totally comfortable deleting comments. ;)

I'll do a point by point thing here, because it helps me organize me thoughts. If there seems to be particular interest in one area, I'll jump in with a more thorough post at some point in the future.

BACK PAIN. This isn't usually much of an issue until later in pregnancy. Applying some of the techniques I've developed over the years, for dealing with daily sensory input, actually make this easier for me than most pregnant women, I think.
BRAXTON-HICKS CONTRACTIONS. For whatever reason, I don't really have least not noticeably. The sole exception is if I have a pelvic exam. That always causes me issues, pregnant or not, and can cause very painful Braxton-Hicks, or even real labor in late pregnancy.
BREAST TENDERNESS. I'm going to blame this one on my sensory issues, too. This is one of the most consistently unpleasant parts of pregnancy for me. Far worse and more present than most pregnant women claim.
CONSTIPATION. This condition sucks, not matter what. I'm just as prone to it as any other pregnant woman. Thanks to my special interests (in alternative health and natural living) I am not suffering through this problem, so far, this pregnancy. =D I'll definitely offer up a post on this one, because it deserves it! 
CRAVINGS / AVERSIONS. It is often referred to as a symptom of autism, as well as pregnancy. Cravings and aversions certainly have an effect on my eating habits when I'm not pregnant. They actually became less common with my previous pregnancies. They're so intense and constant that they are practically my sole consideration when eating, this time around! I think the autism and pregnancy food issues have multiplied each other.
EMOTIONAL SHARING. I'm not great at this to begin with. Pregnancy brain has made it almost impossible. People are feeling left out. I'm feeling guilty. I want to include them, but I really have no idea how to do so. It's a big thing right now. =/
FATIGUE. My inclination toward habitual behavior is making this worse on me than it has to be. I keep just doing things I normally do. I don't realize until I've already pushed too far that I probably should have just delegated or done things a different way. Like walking to the lab for my blood work. I was in bed for like 2 days after that stunt!
INTERPRETING IMPLICATIONS. Man, do people say a lot of WEIRD stuff to pregnant ladies. I'm an having a really hard time knowing when they're serious, when they're joking, and often what the heck the point of the statement was in the first place! Taken literally, most of it is either really insulting, or downright threatening. I certainly hope they don't mean what they say.
JOINT PAIN. This one is driving me nuts. I retain an unusual amount of fluid when pregnant, mostly in my joints it seems. It starts early, isn't a symptom of anything other than my body's desire to retain a lot of water. I have tricks, but this post is going to be long enough with just summaries. I do think my sensory issues are making me less tolerant of this one, though.
MOOD SWINGS. Holy cow! Think swing, like those really fast spinning ones they have at fairs, not the cute little kid things at the park. As I've gotten older, my mood has been more and more sensitive to my progesterone levels. Do you know how much progesterone is in a pregnant women???? I'm a basket case.
NAUSEA. This is not something I've had a lot of in life at all. Generally, it is only caused by extremely nasty illnesses, or forcing myself to eat things I have aversions to. Admittedly, I spent a lot of my childhood nauseous because my family didn't understand aversions. As an adult, I have full control over my food choices, though, so even pregnant it's really rare that I make myself nauseous. 
NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. This takes a lot of processing power, for me. The worse the pregnant brain gets, the worse I am at it. My light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that I get so bad I can't even tell when people are using it. Right now, the mood swings just about putting me into tears that I can't interpret whatever communication it is they are clearly sending at me. This includes vocal tones, so I'm even avoiding the phone. *eyeroll*
ROCKING/FLAPPING. Oddly, I'm very still and calm when pregnant. If I want to move, I want to walk or do some other socially acceptable thing. Clean, cook, decorate??? Mostly, I'm just still.
SENSORY ISSUES. Other than amplifying sensory related pregnancy symptoms, these are much reduced. I can even stand to tuck ice packs down my shirt during the little heat wave we have going on right now! That'd usually have me screaming in pain. 
SLEEP ISSUES. This is also much reduced. I have had trouble sleeping, especially on any kind of set pattern, for as long as I can remember. Now, I fall asleep quickly and easily at roughly the same time every night. I wake at roughly the same time every morning. I wake less often, and am back to sleep in seconds instead of hours. 
SOCIAL ANXIETY. This is really amping up. It's not just instinctual, like normal. It went away almost entirely at first. The absolutely constant awkward conversations, miscommunications, and undecipherable language and behavior of others is getting to be too much though. 
URINATION. This is a complicated subject, actually. My sensory issues, and my coping techniques for dealing with them, made this a real struggle when I was younger. The lessening of withholding ability and control that are normal with pregnancy turn this into something that take more thought and planning than anyone without some kind of bladder disorder is likely to understand. =/
VERBALIZATION. I have to admit, I'm having trouble understanding this method of communication. There is soooooooo much more to it than just the words. And, even the words sound different out of every single person. It's like living in Babylon. No two people actually speak the same language as each other...or me! Ya, I have a translation key that applies to almost every word in almost every English language. Pregnant brain keeps forgetting how to read the key though. I just stand there, making people feel unwelcome with my lack of communication, when they talk to me. *sigh*

My husband. Well, frankly, he's so busy lately that he isn't even aware of most of this. So, it doesn't bug him at all. He just kind of rolls with whatever is going on.
The kids. The kids are on the spectrum too. I do have to explain some of the more pregnancy related issues to them a bit repetitively. The autism stuff is just how people work, to them. My going nonverbal or something is about as much of an issue to them as being a hugger would be to an NT. lol 

Here's the really controversial stuff for you. It's the truth that I hear autistic parents say to each other, in private, but that we are all so careful not to say in public. You wouldn't want an NT thinking that we might judge them as cruelly as they judge us. And they would surely assume our emotions mirror theirs if they heard this kind of thing. --- My one real fear is that this kid might not be on the spectrum. It is so rare for me to see an NT in this world that I wouldn't feel like a total failure for having raised to be the person they are. I wonder how much of that is caused by their having NT parents (which my children don't suffer from), and how much is caused by them being NTs. Do NTs just naturally lack depth of personality, and the ability to empathize with people or creatures that are unlike them? Is there some kind of natural deficit that makes logic and reason impossible for most of them? Nature or nurture? If they are raised in a less melodramatic and more honest environment, can they overcome these common NT struggles? Even if they can, do I have the patience to bare with weaknesses in these areas (weaknesses I don't understand any better than they understand common ASD weaknesses) and teach them the coping techniques it takes to interact with the world at large with compassion and respect? Honestly, I hope and pray that I never have the opportunity to find out. The thought of trying to raise an NT absolutely terrifies me. As offensive as I find the idea, part of me wishes they had any kind of accurate way to test for ASD in utero. It would be a huge relief to get a positive....but it would also give me time to prepare myself emotionally if it was negative. I had enough trouble bonding with my ASD daughter because she had very typically NT social and emotional development until toddlerhood. How on earth will I connect with a kid that only every has typical NT thoughts and emotions???? 

OK. Emotions shared. Real and not sanitized for easy public digestion. Disagreements are fine, if presented in a respectful manner. Flamers will be simply cease to exist. Poof! It does feel good to just get it out there, though!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

19 Weeks

I've actually had a couple doctor's appointments since my last post. If you haven't been pregnant, you may not realize just how quick and uneventful prenatal visits are. They weigh you, measure your stomach, take your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level. You pee in a cup, have an quick but invasive internal exam (where they may actually POKE at your cervix, or take samples of it. Sounds like a great idea, right?). Then, you are rewarded for your patience by getting to hear the baby's heart beat for 5 - 10 seconds. At some point during the pregnancy, some other tests are often run, but that's the standard visit....and I don't even do all that. (I'll explain below) I suppose I could come on and post "Another visit. Everything's good." but I really prefer not to post unless I have some content to convey.

Everything is pretty standard at my visits.
- WEIGHT. My weight doesn't actually change much. At 19 weeks, I've gained about 8 lbs. That's more than is recommended for someone that started overweight, but even my doctor thinks the recommendations are ridiculous. How realistic is it to tell a pregnant woman to gain less that the total weight that the pregnancy alone causes? Most guides say I should have gained less than 4 lbs. by now. That's baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, 50% increase in blood volume in my body, constipation (which seriously accounts for more than 4lbs at this point in most pregnancies, alone!), etc. I don't see it, but my husband insists I'm actually losing roundness in my face and such, even with the fluid retention. He's convinced I'm actually going to lose weight, all said and done, from this pregnancy. lol (It's his first baby. I'll just take the compliment and let him enjoy his delusions.) ;)
- FUNDAL HEIGHT. I have no issue with this, but my doctor did it once, was massively confused, and hasn't bothered since. I don't measure anywhere near accurately until I'm like 8 months. The last 2 pregnancies, the doctors were months off in their estimates until the ultrasound. Even then, they went with an extreme end of the date range that gave, when right in the middle would have been correct. This pregnancy seems consistent. We know the exact date of conception, so anything that conflicts with that info is being considered inaccurate. 
BLOOD PRESSURE. Mine is consistently a bit low, with the occasional really low spike. (I think 85/47 or some such is my record. Most of the time it's around 110/70 or so) High blood pressure is a worry. Low blood pressure is normal and healthy in pregnancy. The changes in blood volume and such usually causes a slight decrease in blood pressure. Up to 15 points lower than normal (and my normal is about 120/80) is common, but even my sudden drops are only a cause for concern if they cause concerning symptoms. Mostly they just make me really run down and fatigued. Loss of appetite when it drops low. Intense craving for strong coffee (which I've never actually liked, even when I drank the stuff all the time) right before a sudden drop. And, of course, if I'm in any kind of social setting I'm likely to have an autistic shut down. Trying to process all that communication (talking, body language, vocal tones, whatever) is beyond my ability and my mind just shuts it all out.
HEART RATE. That's always spot on. Even when my blood pressure drops, my heart rate is always dead in the middle of healthy.
OXYGEN. That's always really high. That's a good thing. Super super healthy levels.
URINE TESTS. Sugar and protein are always very healthy. That in particular is always a comfort, since my pcos makes me statistically more likely to develop gestational diabetes. 
INTERNAL EXAM. This one I skip. Every time I've ever had one of these while pregnant, it's triggered contractions. Just braxton hicks early on, but that's what triggered both of my previous labors. I've always assumed this is due to my sensory processing issues. My experiences with these kind of exams do not match up with other women's descriptions of their experiences. I have had a single exam this pregnancy because of some light spotting. We ran a PAP as long as we were at it. That came back normal, as expected. The spotting was super light (though the first time I've ever had spotting during pregnancy, aside from the days before miscarriage), and likely caused by a very mild infection as I had a slightly inflamed cervix. I had painful cramping and braxton hicks for hours following, that's consistent in this pregnancy too...still not having those without a good reason.
BABY'S HEART BEAT. We don't actually do this one every time. The purpose is really more to calm my miscarriage fears, more than anything. There's no reason to expect it to be anything but normal. The heart beat has been consistently at the high end of normal. Some people think this indicates gender, but both my boy and girl were the mainly I think that just means it's my kid. Phew! Good to know! =)

We hemmed and hawed a bit about doing another ultrasound. The first one looked good. It wasn't technically connected to the pregnancy though, so another is part of the standard pregnancy package if we want it. We're going to go through a few months without insurance, though. Not to will be back before I'm due. But, we decided that we'd feel better going into that period of self care with as much information as possible. So, the ultrasound is next week. Neither +Jason Shepherd nor myself really wants to know the gender ahead of time....but we keep going back and forth on it anyway. We're going to be moving into a place with less than half the sq ft of the one we're in now. Which furniture even comes with, let alone which kid goes into which room, would be a much easier decision if we knew the gender. We'll probably find out the gender, put I still feel quite torn. 

Well, that's long enough for today....
Until next time....

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

13 weeks

I had an excellent doctor appointment. Let's see if I can remember everything! Lol

- All the previous testing came back inconclusive or negative. That means all my weirdness was almost certainly just a mix of PCOS and pregnancy. I gave blood for the standard run of pregnancy testing.

- We brought the kids with. They heard the heart beat. He had trouble finding it with the doplar. So, they even saw the baby wiggling around a bit on the very low end ultrasound they have at the clinic. It's far too low end to see gender. That will wait for the real ultrasound.

- Even though there isn't a real medical need for another ultrasound, I'll be scheduled for one around 20 weeks. Dr feels it can't hurt to have the extra info (though I got the feeling he might not have suggested it if I hadn't brought it up), and we're anxious to find out who's room needs remodeling before I hit my inevitably third trimester uselessness.

- I love love love my Dr. I can talk openly to him about things that would normally get me kicked from practice just for mentioning. Best example ever:  He's totally comfortable with the idea of my having an unassisted home birth. The fact of the matter is that I'm giving birth wherever my water breaks. If I'm at home, I'd give birth in the car if we tried to get me into town. If I'm in town, the kid will still probably be half out by the time I get to the ER. The thing I love though is how he was totally comfortable with it all. I told him flat out that if there were no major red flags, I was more comfortable with an unassisted home birth than a hospital birth...and that baby and I would come in for a post natal visit "when I felt up to it". He didn't get antsy. He didn't try to control whether that meant hours or days. He just said that it was a good idea to be prepared for any circumstance (as an agreement, not warning) and " sounds good " when I gave him a run down of what the basic game plan was on my end. He even thought it was really cool that I was going to have the kids read doula/midwife reference books so they were prepared to help out or even for the chance I go into hard labor while Jason is at work.

- Also, he laughed and told me it was "perfectly reasonable" when I told him he could have all the blood and urine he wanted, but I wouldn't be drinking glucose or having anyone poking around at my cervix while I was pregnant without a damned good reason. I'm fully aware that there are far safer and gentler ways to carefully monitor a pregnancy than the standard methods...assuming you are inclined to carefully monitor. It's nice to finally meet a doctor that does too! Lol. He doesn't seem inclined towards carefully monitoring unless there is an unusual risk factor though.

- I'm taking the maximum dose of my raw foods probiotic instead of a normal prenatal. At the maximum dose, it meets the minimums suggested for pregnancy... Plus I'm not suffering from constipation even at 13weeks. That alone is all the endorsement it needs! :D

- Normally, I would be having monthly appointments right now but we're a little behind schedule so my next appointment is in just a couple weeks. Friday, June 6th. I'll update again for sure after that appointment. Maybe in between. I was going to update before today but cell service has been really choppy out here the last week or so.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Here we go again

Well I've certainly had a roller coaster ride lately. Things have been going absolutely haywire with my body. I tried adjusting my diet and exercise levels. I tried every home remedy I could think of. I finally broke down and went to the doctor. We began running tests. Each round ruled out less and less preferable issues. Before I knew it, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to look at my ovaries. I won't go into much detail but with my symptoms and testosterone levels (117. Healthy can range from 2-45), ovarian cancer was looking pretty likely. It wasn't my first cancer scare but we really ruled everything out first this time. I was going in pretty sure of the outcome.

All of one second into the ultrasound, the world was tipped on it's side. That's how long it took to find the baby...because it's pretty decent sized. At twelve weeks, it's a little over 2 inches long. The tech really took her time and thoroughly checked out the baby and both ovaries from every possible angle. Everything is incredibly healthy and well developed. We still have a few tests to run just to be sure, but with this added information it looks likely that all the weird symptoms and such are just a result of my hormone disorder interacting with the pregnancy. I haven't had a baby survive past 7 weeks in over a decade. And frankly we weren't monitoring my systems at all until about three years ago. Add to that, I didn't suspect I was pregnant with my first until I was showing... And the Dr insisted I wasn't pregnant with my second until I was around 12 - 18 weeks. Clearly I don't have any idea what's really normal for me in the first trimester. Lol.

What I do know is that I am well past my personal miscarriage zone, and still have a healthy and very active baby in me. And it seems that the pregnancies that are easy to detect are the ones that self terminate, with me. The healthy ones throw off all the wrong signs in the first trimester. Since I'm clearly not incapable of having more kids without fertility treatments, as previously thought, I'll have to keep that in mind in the future!

As for pregnancy updates...
- I can't drink anything but bottled water without getting nauseous. That includes our awesome well water at home. I'm going to give my favorite soda a try tonight though. Fentimens rose lemonade. It's pricey so it's a rare treat. I'm hoping the touch of ginger in it will allow me to still enjoy it.
- I crave raspberries and raw goats milk cheese. I know raw dairy can be a crap shoot during pregnancy but it's soft cheeses and milks that are the real issue. With harder, drier cheeses the risks aren't any worse than eating pasteurized. So I found myself a nice hard goat cheddar (tastes almost like string cheese though, with a texture almost like fresh Parmesan). It comes from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company and is available for a nearly reasonable price at the discount grocer in the nearest big town. I'm eating like 12+ oz of raspberries and 8+ oz of cheese per day and not much else right now.
- Weight gain. I'm like 70lbs above my personal healthy weight range to begin with. At 5' 8" that's not quite as bad as it sounds, but it's still a serious issue. I really shouldn't need to gain much weight to support this pregnancy. I gained about 5 lbs the first month. Then, plateaued. Around week 10, I gained almost 10 lbs. I was bloated with water weight at first. Then, it all just kind of absorbed into my body. My comfy jeans are now snug. :( I haven't gained anything since then, though. So, I am figuring that was just my body increasing blood volume. The body increases blood volume significantly during pregnancy. Not normally so fast, but my body tended to handle changes in sudden shifts with my first two kids. So it's not a red flag.
- Although the baby doesn't have a gender yet, I am beginning to suspect it might be a boy. I'm having truly insane pregnancy dreams, and the one constant is that I'm always a man in them. That's very weird for me. My dreams are usually third person. Occasionally I might be myself or even someone I know for part of one. I'm never just some random guy my mind makes up though. I might share some of the dreams with you, but I'm not sure how well received they would be. They are increasingly disturbing and graphic. The consistent theme is that the guy I dream I am is witness to or the sole survivor of some kind of weird tragedy where he loses whoever he cares most for. They were almost comic at first but are getting to be more and more twisted and intense. The only upshot is that I wake up feeling like I just read a thriller novel, instead of like I just lived through it. The story lingers with me, but without any kind of emotional attachment.
- My next Dr appointment is Tuesday. My last batch of test results will all be in by then. I'll update you once I process whatever I learn then.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Been a While

Well it's been almost a year since my last post. We moved into our absolute dream home. It's so far from civilization, though, that the only way to access the net is over a very old and very slow 3g network. We've played with other options but finally broke down and upgraded to smart phones when we renewed our cellular contract. I still have far too much livestock and gardening and teen drama in my life to spend loads and loads of time online but I've always enjoyed blogging. So this is one of the first things I decided to start back up with.