Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Feeling Like You Come Second

Tickle Tickle - 079, originally uploaded by RoxandaBear.

Everyone has heard of the husband who gets jealous of the new baby. It is almost a cliche. The baby is getting all the attention and he feels like he has lost his wife forever. I don't love gender specific cliches because they are almost always not gender specific and can be found on both sides of the spectrum.

I have seen it happen with fathers who transfer all their love to the child, and the wife feels left out in the cold. This is more common among ethnic fathers, because some cultures (e.g. Italian, Hispanic, Greek, Egyptian, etc.) traditionally put the kids first, but it can also happen with non-ethnic fathers. For example, if a new mother has postpartum depression, a well-meaning father may feel rejected and transfer all his love into the child, who is easy to please and gives love back freely--especially if you give them treats.

Either way it happens, it is a huge problem if it lasts for very long. When the child always comes first and one spouse feels rejected for long enough, the marriage will suffer. This dynamic could lead one partner to find comfort in another man or woman, in an addiction, in a fictional video game life, or any number of other destructive forms of comfort.

When the marriage suffers, the children suffer. No matter how much you do to make them happy, what children need is an intact, happy family. Recently I witnessed something like this first hand and it made me very sad, so I had to write about it.

Doctrinally, we are taught that the marriage relationship comes first. Of course, newborns need a lot of care and attention and your marriage will change during that first year after each child. But despite how tired you are or how much else is on your plate (moms and dads) you can't stop nurturing your marriage. Just because you see no negative warning signs doesn't mean that there isn't trouble. One party usually is oblivious when things are stewing. So don't let them get stewing. Keep going on dates, keep giving back rubs. Keep having sex. And communicate. Too many people don't know how to constructively communicate and they seek marriage counseling when it is too late. A good marriage counselor or relationship coach has tools that can help you--a lot--but not if you get them too late. If you can't afford a counselor, there are number of good books on communication and on making marriage work.

In our book we have a whole chapter on unity and a section in nurturing marriage. This section is filled mostly with information from general authorities, and lots of great input from real couples. I may post a cliff notes version of that chapter on the blog soon, because I think everyone could benefit from it. But I would love more input and comments that might add to it.

What did you do to nurture your marriage during pregnancy? What were some problem areas you didn't expect? How did you deal with them? How did you enhance communication? How did you work out division of labor issues? How did having a joint spiritual path help you? If you had any advice to share, what would it be? If you had an warnings, what would they be? What were you most grateful for during that time?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Protecting Our Powers

Super Mom

In every cartoon, comic book, or action movie, what would the bad guys like more than anything? Answer: to figure out how to take away a superhero's powers. Without their powers, heroes are no match for villains. Game over. World as we know it--over.

This isn't just comic book reality. It's a real life strategy, too. In business, in war, and even sometimes in relationships. Of course, this is all patterned after the ultimate struggle between God and Satan. Satan is the bad guy, and in his attempts to frustrate the plan of salvation, he is going after our one divine power--procreation. It is our duty to protect these powers--and not just our own, but our children's, too.

I'm not talking about sex here. We already know that Satan has convinced loads of people to abuse and misuse sex. That is the attack that gets most of the attention, diverting attention from the more subtle forms of attack which he is waging directly on our wombs and our bodies' abilities to function and bring forth children.

According to a 1985 study in England, one in 6 couples who try to conceive will require specialist help at some time in their lives due to infertility for 2 1/2 years or more. Based on my own random sampling, I think that number may be much higher now.

Does anyone have any idea why not just America, but the whole world is in a fertility crisis?

Here are just a few of the things that I have discovered through my fertility journey and my own research and study.

Plastics - Did you know that plastics leech into your food and water, bind to our DNA and actually alter it. If you can avoid using plastic, microwaving in plastic or freezing in plastic, you will be doing your family a great favor. Try glass storage containers and stainless steel water bottles. Since we can't avoid plastic altogether, learn what kinds of plastic are worse than others.

The Foods We Eat - It is no secret that the foods you eat while pregnant have an effect on your developing child. In fact, this has been known since Biblical times. In the birth story of Samson, in Judges 13, an angel appeared to Samson’s mother and told her that she was to bear a son and gave her these instructions:
"...drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb… " (Judges 13: 4-5)
A Nazarite was a man or woman who was consecrated unto God. The vow could be for their whole lives or for a limited amount of time. As part of the Nazarite vow, a person could not drink wine, vinegar or any other strong drink. They also could not eat grapes or anything that came from a vine tree or else their vow with God would be broken (Numbers 6: 1-9).

From the angel, we learn that Sampson was foreordained to be a Nazarite “from the womb,” and that in order for her unborn son to keep his vow, his mother needed to keep it. From this ancient record we learn that what we eat and drink effects our children from the womb.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but lets start with the basics: eating a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains is important to the proper functioning of our bodies. It is also recommended in the Word of Wisdom.

But sadly, not all vegetables are created equally anymore, and it's not always evident from the outside. The hormones and chemicals that are found in “conventionally grown” foods (using pesticides, etc.) have been found to have associations with fertility. Studies are limited because there are some restriction on studying expectant women and children, but using simple, logical math, it stands to reason that if an ounce of toxins in my body have "associations with infertility" then think of the effect an ounce of toxins in the body of a 30 pound child.

But the benefits of eating and feeding your children a toxin free diet are not just fertility related. Some very interesting studies have been done on kids who were fed an organic menu one week and an identical non-organic menu. The results were that the children were much more well behaved while eating organic. But why not try your own study?

Sure, organic dairy and organic meat is twice the price, but organic veggies are not much more if you shop smart - farmers markets or coops. If you buy local and in season, it's usually cheaper than the grocery store. And you can save money by cutting back on packaged foods. You can read this post to learn more about that.

Eat meat sparingly - Too much beef consumption during pregnancy can impair male babies' sperm quality: "These data suggest that maternal beef consumption, and possibly xenobiotics in beef, may alter a man's testicular development in utero and adversely affect his reproductive capacity."

Genetically Modified Foods-- A shocking study just came out of Russia. Here's a clip from an article I recommend reading in its entirety.

"This study was just routine," said Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, in what could end up as the understatement of this century. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction. What he discovered may uproot a multi-billion dollar industry.

After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups."

This wasn't the first study of it's kind. A 2005 study showed similar results in rats, and not just the females--the male testes were affected, too. This is something to seriously consider when buying groceries for yourself and your children. Currently, more than 90% of the soy and corn grown in America is genetically modified. I don't have statistics on other crops, but I would be that if they are not labeled organic or GMO free, then you don't know what you are getting. And it's not just crops. Cows and other animals that are being raised for meat are being fed these same crops, which you may be eating second hand. Even farm raised fish are being fed soy. All I can say about that is yikes.

Prenatal Exposure to Dietary Oestrogen – Did you know that the food you eat while pregnant and that you feed your infant boy can have a major effect his fertility?
Phytoestrogens have become a major component in the typical Western fast food diet over the last few decades. Soy formula milk is another common source of phytoestrogens, now used increasingly as an alternative to breast or cow's milk for infants with allergies. This use is of particular concern since the most vulnerable periods for oestrogenic insult are thought to be the pre- and neonatal periods when irreversible damage can be inflicted on the developing germinal epithelium.”

Chlorine in Tampons, Pads, Diapers, Wipes, and More
- When on my fertility journey, my acupuncturist discovered that one of the potential problems was chlorine in my uterus. How the heck did chlorine get in there? I asked. Tampons. That's how. Unless you buy organic or chlorine free tampons, they are treated with bleach and other chemicals that may even make you bleed more. Sanitary Pads as well as baby diapers and wipes also have chlorine in them. Your babies--both boys and girls--have their reproductive parts soaking in this stuff--sometimes for several years. Think about that.

7th Generation diapers makes awesome chlorine free diapers that are the same price as the other major brands if you buy them on line. (In the store they are way more expensive). They also make chlorine free wipes. If you buy them on Amazon, the shipping is free. And if you subscribe to monthly delivery, you can get another 10-20% off. Or you can use cloth diapers or go diaper free (Elimination Communication), like I did. I am a huge fan of E.C., but that is for a whole different post.

Drugs - I'm talking mostly about pharmaceuticals here. Martin Rossman M.D., author of Fighting Cancer From Within, states that almost all drugs are poison to the body. While sometimes we need them, they often do other damage, and it is important to know possible side effects not just to us, but our forming child. According to this study, using painkillers during pregnancy can harm male babies' testicles and future fertility.

Consider learning about alternative or complementary healing as well as preventative measures. In D&C 89: 10, the Lord mentions herbs that have been ordained for the use of man. Alma 46:40 also mentions the healing properties of these herbs.pro
"And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate—"
Many physicians and are now practicing more integrative medicine, which combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques (such as hypnotherapy) -- all in the effort to treat the whole person.

To give you a personal example of how natural medicine has helped my family, my daughter's pediatrician is also a homeopath. While she could easily prescribe pharmaceuticals or antibiotics every time Phoebe has an earache or other complaint, instead, she "prescribes" homeopathic remedies which I can pick up at Whole Foods or at my local homeopathic pharmacy (you can also find them online if you live in remote areas.) I have used homeopathic remedies with amazing success on myself and my child for the following: to stop vomiting, curb nausea, cure an earache, clear up a nasty snotty cold, calm anxiety, calm stage fright, stop diarrhea, aid sleep, heal bruising quickly, bring down swelling, and much more. To date, my daughter has only been on antibiotics once in her entire 4 1/2 years of life.

C-Sections - Cesarean section has been reported to be associated with decreased subsequent fertility. I have heard statistics that claim that 1 in 5 women are sterile after a c-section. Recent studies, which have tried to explain this association, suggest that there may be additional factors, such as voluntary infertility, or psychosocial effects of an emergency cesarean section or labor preceding the cesarean delivery. To me, this explanation is worse than the medical causes of sterility--basically explaining that women are too traumatized to give birth again. Hardly the way our Heavenly Father and Mother would want their daughters to feel during the one of the most profound expressions of our divine powers. Women afraid and unwilling to use their powers=point for Satan.

Other Surgeries
- Did you know that the c-section is the most commonly preformed surgery in America and #2 is Hysterectomies? That is a lot of wombs being cut open and thrown in the trash every year. I find this shocking and sad. While many hysterectomies are necessary, as well as other forms of surgical sterilization, this is something not to take lightly.
“The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer. (CHOI 2006, pg. 188)”
There are many more factors that can influence fertility in men and women, such as STDs, eating disorders, vaccines, and much more, but I have chosen to focus on the most far reaching.

I hate to use war metaphors, but I'm afraid it is not just a metaphor this time. Satan is waging a literal war against the plan of salvation/happiness, and he's aiming all his efforts at our procreative powers. If you have watched any spy/war movies you understand that in times of peril, hyper-vigilance is essential in order to survive.

We can not afford to be lackadaisical, blindly trusting consumers any more. And it's our job to protect our children, who can't yet make these choices for themselves. If you feel overwhelmed by this information or this responsibility, I would invite you to start simply by reading 2 pages in the Doctrine and Covenants. The Word of Wisdom is short. Very short when you compare it to the thousands of pages of information in the bookstore on health and diet and exercise. Perhaps it is this simplicity that misleads people. Don't be fooled. A careful, in-depth read of the Word of Wisdom and other verses that comprise the Lord's Law of Health will reveal more truth and personal revelation for your physical and spiritual health than you ever thought possible. Even if you have read it recently. Read it again. And read this post, too, about some additional scriptures included in the lords law of health.

I would love to hear comments or have you share additional information.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Considerations for Birthing

Today I want to share a subtlety about love and happiness.

I was once in a stake conference and I heard my stake president say that as a spouses, your number one priority is to make your spouse happy. I had heard him say that before. But this time, he explained it a bit more, and said something to this effect: "Making your spouse happy means more than just doing things to make him/her happy. It means creating an environment in which they can thrive and be happy." I didn't hear anything after that because that's when I went inside and started processing. I was in a loving relationship at the time and though my boyfriend had almost all of the qualities I wanted in a partner and he did many things to make me happy, I knew that the environment he created was not one in which I could thrive and fulfill my life mission, and thus have true joy. This was huge epiphany.

I was thinking of this again today as I contemplated what I look for in friends, colleagues, employees, collaborators, etc. For me it comes down to a subtle energy exchange. Do I feel drained, or do I feel energized? If I were to try to explain further I might use adjectives like openness, acceptance, and belief. If a friend, or even a stranger, were to tell me they are going to swim the channel, write a book, or have their baby with dolphins, I hope that I would say hooray!--and if I could, I'd try to help them achieve it. I believe that whatever the mind can dream up, it can achieve. I try to surround myself with friends would do the same for me. Although the occasional naysayer serves their purpose to inspire me, I don't want to spend too much time around them.

I hope that as you contemplate the environment you plan to give birth in that you consider this. What kind of people and surroundings will allow you to thrive and have a positive experience? How supportive is everyone on your team? Is there anyone you feel uncomfortable with? You don't have to be able to explain why. It's never to late to change care providers, hire a doula, or decide to un-invite a friend. (you can always not call them when you go into labor--say it went too fast.) Just follow your intuition--which is just another word for Spirit. You can never go wrong in doing this.

I would love to hear comments from readers about how you followed your intuition.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Definition of Crisis

Never a Bad Decision, originally uploaded by ilina s.

This week I was reading an interview with Naomi Judd and she said something great. She said, "You're only a victim once, after that you're a volunteer." Of course, she was talking about something different, but I think it applies to birth.

If you feel victimized by a birth experience, for whatever reason, and you go down the same path again, you are a volunteer. That is not to say that if the outcome of your next birth is the same, that you were a victim again. I know women who have had repeat emergency caesarians, however, the second time, they weren't victims. They made empowered choices and took responsibility for them. The difference is in ownership. When we educate ourselves and nurture that connection with our source--the source of all of our innate wisdom and all truth--there is power. And peace.

If you have been a victim in the past, don't beat yourself up about it. Just move on and don't volunteer anymore. Sometimes, for whatever reason, trauma is in our karma. I know it was in mine. I had to learn some hard lessons early so that I could then go on to fulfill my mission. Sometimes it takes a crisis to create a catalyst for change. The Chinese definition of crisis is actually danger+opportunity. I think that's wonderful. Dangerous opportunity.

Last night, several long time California residents and I were reminiscing about the 1994 earthquake. During the the 1994 earthquake in Southern California, I was living about 5-10 miles from the epicenter. The thing we all remembered and articulated was, "We all became friends." And we did. It seems like the oddest thing to me now, because my current neighborhood is great. But I have lived in apartment buildings and neighborhoods where I didn't know anyone, and in fact, tried not to know to anyone. But after the '94 earthquake, everyone came together. Our neighbors suddenly became very important parts of our lives.

I seem to have had many of these same kind of experiences in my life--many personal natural disasters if you will. On of these dangerous opportunities happened during my pregnancy when I was unceremoniously abandoned. I got to know a lot of people. I learned to accept help. I was open to God's help. I was open to positive change. I found out I had a lot of friends, and a whole world of opportunity.

Please share your thoughts or dangerous opportunities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Father's Journey

The following story was submitted by Reid, father of 3 and one on the way. Please send us more stories, dads. Your voice is important.
"When we became pregnant with our first child, I knew next to nothing about pregnancy and birth. Over the course of that pregnancy, my wife and I read about birth, researched various birth topics, watched birth TV programs all in the hopes of making this birth the best experience possible. Despite all we learned, there was one thing I said over and over again: “There is no way I’d feel comfortable having a home birth.” Guess what happened two pregnancies later.

The main reason for my hesitation is queasiness. I don’t do so well with blood. I managed to do okay during our first birth (if you don’t count my slight light-headedness when the nurse couldn’t get the IV put in my wife’s hand). Our second birth was a little more difficult for me, but I made it through. I was relieved that I didn’t have any role to fill other than support for my wife. If we were to have a home birth, I’d feel more of a responsibility in the actual birthing of the baby. And what if the midwife didn’t make it in time? There would be no one other than me to deliver! I could not handle that.

So, what changed for me in order to feel comfortable with a home birth? There were a number of factors, and although it was not the deciding factor, it was the financial aspect that first allowed us to consider a home birth. Our insurance did not cover maternity care, so we would be paying out of pocket for all expenses, and this was going to be expensive. We began to explore other options, and we finally faced the idea of home birth. The difference in cost was very appealing, but we needed more than that to feel comfortable and confident having this birth at home.

It was the spirit and peace the Lord blessed us with that convinced us that having this baby at home was the right thing for us to do. This was by no means an easy decision for us, and one that we could not make alone. I still had my fears, and both of us had our misgivings and worries that something could go wrong. But we knew that God knew what was right for us. We are told in the Doctrine & Covenants, “Let them ask and they shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto them, and be made known from on high, even by the Comforter, whither they shall go” (D&C 75:27). So, after much thought and pondering, and feeling like a home birth was the path we were being led to, we went to the Lord in prayer to ask if it was right. After the prayer, we felt good about it, but my wife asked for a priesthood blessing for additional reassurance. Reassurance came when God told us that he would watch over us and keep us safe during the birth.

Over the course of the rest of that pregnancy, we occasionally had moments of worry and doubt, but that promise that the Lord gave us was something we could always fall back on. And that was enough for me to go into that birth calmly and comfortably, and come back out without the slightest bit of queasiness or light-headedness. God truly knows what is right for us all individually. Home birth is not going to be right fore everyone, but this was so right for us. I’m so glad we were led down this path. The Lord is so eager to help His children make these difficult decisions, and if we will but ask Him for assistance, He will guide us in the way we should go."


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