- Thanks for stopping by Carrots where I write about cultivating a Catholic family through literature, liturgical living, and urban homesteading. I'm Haley, a young Catholic wife and mama to two little ones (and one on the way!). I'm a ballet teacher, coffee drinker, bacon eater, medieval literature reader, and lover of all things Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O'Connor, and Wendell Berry. You can also find me at Mama and Baby Love where I'm a contributing writer.
Author Archives: Haley
Ever wonder how to take your enjoyment of food to a new level? The answer might be a major shift in your food lifestyle to embrace seasonal eating.
Until college, a tomato was a tomato to me. It certainly wasn’t a food I would ever want to bite into all by itself. You pick them up any ol’ time of year at the grocery store to add texture to sandwiches or burgers and they all taste the same, right? Wrong! There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes and a fresh local tomato is in a different ballpark from the flavorless produce stocked in grocery stores…Read the rest
It was almost 4am and it didn’t feel like we were anywhere close to meeting our baby…
After 9 hours of active labor I was exhausted and discouraged. Since I had to get back in bed for my penicillin dose and to be monitored for a few minutes, I asked the nurse to examine me to see what kind of progress I’d made since I was 4.5 cm in triage over 8 hours ago. “Surely I’ll be close to 8 cm and entering transition! Surely!” After checking me, she said she was having a hard time distinguishing how dilated I was and called another nurse in. This nurse examined me and told me the bad news: I was only 5cm dilated. After dilating 3 cm in an hour, I only made .5 cm of progress in almost 9 hours!! I started to sob.
Daniel was able to calm me down and get me prepared to start our rhythm of walking the halls. I started to feel disoriented. We didn’t get too far down the hall before I felt nauseous and we went back to the room. I barely made it inside before I started to vomit. I wanted to be on my hands and knees and after a strong contraction, I would throw up. I felt horrible, but I knew that I always throw up as I’m entering transition so maybe things were finally going somewhere! I tried to stay on my feet because that’s how I had the strongest contractions–with Daniel holding me upright while I breathed through them.
My memory starts to get fuzzy here and I’m not sure exactly what time it was when this was happening. But I got back into the bed on my side for a few contractions (still throwing up after each one.) Each contraction was between 2.5 and 3 minutes long. Then I started to feel the urge to push. Daniel was holding one of my legs up as I rested on my side and I remember mumbling to him that I needed Dr. B to come in. When she arrived, she examined me and advised me not to push because I was STILL only 6.5 cm dilated and she didn’t want me to tear my cervix. “What am I supposed to do?!” I asked her. She advised me that I probably had a long way to go and that I could try some different positions to make more progress. When she stood up to leave, I begged her not to go. “Please! Just stay five more minutes! Something’s different. I know I’m about to have this baby! Please stay for a couple more contractions!” I think she thought I was nuts, but she sweetly complied.
My mom left the room to reheat the socks filled with rice in the microwave for my back labor. I got up to use the bathroom. On the way back to the bed I had a strong contraction while standing up and holding on to Daniel. Then I wanted to be on my side in the bed with my legs around one of these peanut shaped birthing balls they had at the hospital. As soon as I hoisted my leg around the birthing ball, Gwen’s positioning changed and she wanted to meet the world! I yelled, “I’m pushing! I can’t help it! She’s crowning!” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Dr. B stand up, wash her hands, and get her gloves on. I tried very hard not to push since the idea of tearing my cervix was terrifying and about 30 seconds prior I had been 3.5 cm away from ready to push, but there’s no stopping your body from pushing when it wants to! I felt Gwen’s head come out and Dr. B told me to give a good strong push which was what my body wanted to do anyway and it felt like Gwen’s shoulders and body jumped out.
Dr. B passed me my beautiful baby girl right away and I remember being out of my mind in awe of my new daughter and saying, “Gwen! I love you so much! You’re so beautiful!” over and over again. The relief and the joy!
All of this took approximately 3 minutes because my mom then returned from heating up the rice sock in the microwave for 2 minutes and missed all the excitement. Our nurse also had stepped out for a minute and heard someone say that I had delivered to which she said, “No, you must have that wrong. I was just in there and she was only 6.5 cm.” Dr. B. encouraged me and said, “Well, you knew your body! I’m glad you told me to stay!”
Gwen started nursing and I snuggled her while I delivered the placenta and then got stitched up for one small tear. Daniel picked up his phone to text family that Gwen had arrived and he realized that it was May 30th, St. Joan of Arc’s Day and Corpus Christi!***
After several minutes of nursing, I was exhausted (and had lost lots of blood which is typical for me), so I needed Daniel’s help holding her while she finished nursing. Usually, I am exhilarated after delivery and can’t imagine sleep because I just want to gaze at my baby forever, but I was so worn out that I had to hand Gwen over to Daniel and then I immediately fell asleep. My blood pressure was very low for a few more hours and I was faint and light-headed, so they made us wait until I was more stable to move us to a recovery room. I have not bounced back as quickly as I did after Lucy was born. Probably a combination of a long labor, blood loss, and a little fever that my household has been passing around. But I’m starting to feel like myself again and our friends and family are taking such good care of us–bringing us food and keeping the older kids entertained while we get to know Gwen.
She is such a sweet, precious baby! She reminds me so much of her big sister in her calm temperament and she has figured out her days and nights in record time. Although she wakes to nurse every 1-3 hours at night, she’s sleepy all night long and goes straight back to sleep after eating for 10 minutes. Champ! And my sweet husband has been taking “first shift” most nights between 9 and midnight so that I can start the night with some uninterrupted sleep.
Daniel has dubbed her our “happiest baby yet.” There’s something slightly elvish about her little adorable face and I can’t wait to learn more about her as she grows and reveals her personality. Big brother adores her has been making up songs about her: “We love Gwen so much much much” and “Sittin’ in the backseat with my Gweeeeen!” However, any big changes in life make Benjamin’s more, ahem, challenging personality traits emerge. Big sister Lucy wants to kiss her baby sister all day and I have to keep an eagle eye on her to make sure she doesn’t try to “hold you, Gwen!” Yesterday was the first day that felt a little like normalcy with three kids. Despite the exhaustion and craziness, I have to pinch myself that I get to live life with these precious little people.
So our Gwen Stellamaris (Fair Star of the Sea), named after my confirmation saint, St. Gwen, and after Our Lady, the Star of the Sea, was born at 7:41am, 7lbs and 4oz, wailing and bright pink! With a full head of jet black hair and grey-blue eyes, she’s gorgeous. May she ever be a beautiful light for Our Lady and Our Lord! We love her so!
***In a sad, but beautiful turn of events, the sacristan at our parish, Lena, passed away later in the day. She was in her 90s and had been the sacristan since she was 14 years old–over 75 years! Her favorite saint was St. Joan. Gwen’s godmother, Julia, had been helping to care for her as she declined. Julia came to see Baby Gwen at the hospital just before receiving the news that Lena had passed away.
As I shared in Part I, I was dilated 4.5 cm in triage, so they got us set up in a labor and delivery room with our wonderful nurse Christine just after 7pm. My mom (my unofficial doula) arrived and started heating up socks filled with rice to place against my lower back to relieve some of the pain from the back labor while I got my penicillin drip. Socks with uncooked rice, guys! Helps so much! I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone has this experience but the penicillin STINGS. It stings so bad! The pain would shoot up my arm and was almost worse than the contractions. So Christine made the drip go really slowly so that it wouldn’t hurt so much. The downside was that I had to be hooked up for what felt like eternity in order to receive the full dose.
When I was finally done with the antibiotics and had been monitored for the fetal heartbeat, we noticed that my contractions had slowed down. So Daniel and I took a long walk around the halls to speed things up again. When the contractions started to intensify, I opted to try laboring in the tub for awhile so that the water could relieve some of the back labor pain. The warm water did help with the pain, but it felt like I had gotten TOO comfortable. Again my contractions had spaced out, so we decided to get me out and try laboring on the birth ball for a bit. Daniel and I prayed a Rosary as I sat on the birth ball and I looked at a holy card of Our Lady and the Christ Child that Abbey sent me.
As it neared 11pm, I started to feel exhausted. My contractions were strong but not regular. I remember apologizing to Daniel and my mom about how boring the labor was. I really wanted to lay down and rest, but I was worried that would slow things down and just make me more tired in the long run. But since it was time to get more antibiotics and be monitored, we decided I should rest while I was hooked up to the IV. By this point my contractions were difficult with intense back labor. I would breathe into each one while praying Hail Marys and Daniel stayed by my side every minute, encouraging me and helping me remember to relax and let my body work.
It felt great to lie down on my side for a bit while I received the second dose of penicillin, but just as I feared, the contractions slowed down and I was antsy to get out of bed and start walking again. Midnight came and went, so I knew our Gwen wasn’t going to be a May 29th baby. After what felt like forever, my second dose of penicillin was finished and we could get up and walk. I remember telling Daniel, “I’m just so tired. I don’t remember feeling like this last time.” We consulted Dr. B. who offered to give me something to help me sleep for a bit. Daniel and I talked it over and he was worried that I wouldn’t actually get good rest and that it would just slow everything down with an end result of being more exhausted than before. So we decided to soldier on.
I had been snacking on and off and drinking water and orange juice but I was hungry for something more substantial, so our nurse brought in a sandwich tray and I devoured a ham and cheese. That perked me up a little bit and I was having some good contractions in the rocking chair. I kept getting up and walking around our room and the halls because that seemed like the best way to make progress. My contractions were getting longer and closer together and I couldn’t pray Hail Marys anymore while breathing through them. I switched to a combination of counting down from 20 with each slow breath (by 0 the contraction would be over) and praying to favorite saints with each breath “St. Lucy, pray for us. St. John of God, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. Bl. John Paul II, pray for us...”
I got back into the tub to get a little break from the back labor pains. It was almost time to get another dose of penicillin and I was getting so discouraged and tired. Lucy’s birth had been so fast and I hadn’t expected another long and painful labor like I had with Benjamin.
During labor I am very calm and quiet. I go inside my head and breathe through the contractions and don’t move or make noise. But the pain and exhaustion were becoming overwhelming. The back labor and pain in my thighs with each contraction was getting unbearable and I knew it meant that Gwen was likely in a weird position like Benjamin was. I didn’t want to go through that kind of pain again. I looked up at Daniel and just burst into tears. “I can’t do this! I’m not going to be able to do this! I’m so tired and the labor isn’t going anywhere! I don’t know what to do!” I might have also said really reasonable things like, “Do something!” and “Fix this!” He held my hand and looked straight into my eyes and said, “I know you can do this. You can do this, Haley.” It was almost 4am and it didn’t feel like we were anywhere close to meeting our baby…
The final Part III coming soon!
This pregnancy was by far the hardest of my three. The endless weeks of morning sickness, the exhaustion, the acid reflux. I was more than ready to put it behind me and meet my new little daughter. As with Lucy, strong Braxton-Hicks were a daily occurrence starting in week 35 and I foolishly (oh so foolishly!) convinced myself that I would surely not make it to my due date. If you’ve ever been overdue, you know that each day after your due date feels like a million years. And despite the evening primrose oil, the birth ball squatting, the walking, and the pineapple and spicy food eating, our little Gwen was stubbornly staying put.
On my due date I started a treatment of acupuncture to induce labor naturally so I could avoid an induction. On my second appointment I had contractions on the table but they fizzled out. Same story with my third appointment. But at my fourth appointment on May 29th, exactly a week after my due date, my acupuncturist (a deacon at our Parish) brought out the big guns. He brought in a relic of St. Francis of Paola and we prayed that he would intercede for a safe delivery for Gwen. I started having mild contractions right then in the office at about noon while my friend Colleen’s album of sacred music played in the background. The song was Ave Maris Stella, ushering our little Stellamaris into the world.
I went straight from the acupuncture office to the hospital where I had an appointment for a biophysical profile to be assured that although overdue, Gwen was thriving in the womb and had plenty of amniotic fluid. She looked great and my friend Brittany’s mom was my ultrasound tech which was special. I took home pictures of Gwen’s chubby little face wondering if this was the day I would meet her. The contractions kept coming. At 3pm my friend Allison invited me and the kids for a walk in our neighborhood which sounded like a great idea to help labor along if I really was in early labor. The pressure increased and the contractions got stronger as we walked. When we arrived back home, I had the bloody show. “This is really happening!” I thought to myself. I let my sweet mother-in-law know I was in early labor and she came to pick up Benjamin and Lucy for a sleepover. When I buckled Lucy into her car seat, it hit me that this was the last time I would see her as “the baby.” Soon she would be a big sister.
I asked Daniel to come home from work at 5 as labor picked up a bit and we packed the car with our hospital gear even though my contractions were only 30-40 seconds long and 10-25 minutes apart. When I was laboring with Lucy, we waited a little too long to go to the hospital because my labor was not at all textbook and my contractions didn’t get regular even though I was in active labor. With Lucy, I was deep in transition when we made the trip over to the hospital which was not super fun for me (highlights being a car ride of misery and throwing up in the hospital parking lot). And because Lucy’s birth was so quick, we didn’t want to take any chances! I was also keeping in mind that I was GBS positive again and needed to get started on penicillin 4 hours before delivery. So we headed over just to see if they wanted to admit me or whether we could labor longer at home.
When we arrived at 5:30 we got set up with a great nurse in triage. She attached the monitors for the fetal heartbeat and for my contractions. I was still in a super-excited-that-we’re-having-a-baby mood so I knew I probably wasn’t truly in active labor. The nurse examined me and confirmed my suspicions, I was only 1.5-2cm dilated and the baby was still in a high station. “Should we just go back home?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “you could try walking around the halls for an hour and see if anything progresses.” We decided to give that a try since if we went home we would just be walking around our neighborhood anyhow. The contractions started to lengthen and get stronger. At the end of the hour we walked back to triage and got the good news: I was 4.5 cm! The nurse was surprised at how much progress I’d made in such a short amount of time and set up my IV port for the penicillin while she and Daniel chatted about Catholicism (she had asked about his tattoos, which are religious in nature, and wondered what would make two Protestants who went to a Baptist college convert). I was still in my right mind enough to contribute here and there to the conversation.
They called Dr. B., my doctor (my midwife that delivered Lucy had left the day before for a midwifery conference, thinking, as I did, that surely a third time mama wouldn’t go more than a week past her due date!). Thankfully, I had been to several prenatal appointments with Dr. B and really connected with her calm and kind personality. I also knew that she wouldn’t push for unnecessary interventions and was supportive of natural birth, so I didn’t have any anxiety about her delivering Gwen.
It was almost 7pm. “With 3 cm of dilation in an hour, this baby will be in my arms before midnight!!” I thought to myself. What I didn’t know was that I was beginning a loooong and exhausting labor…
To be continued in Part II
We are just falling in love with Baby Gwen (who’s making things very easy on mama by sleeping in 2-3 hour stretches all night between feedings!). Thank you for all the well-wishes and love for her!
Today you can find me over at Mama and Baby Love sharing about my breastfeeding struggles with our firstborn and how everything changed the second time around!
And please keep my sweet friend Dwija and her baby in your prayers. She’s facing very serious pregnancy complications.
Image credit Jade Pierce Photography
And now, the post you’ve been waiting for! A chicken virtual meet and greet! You have been waiting for that, right? Ahem.
Apparently there’s a nesting instinct that takes over pregnant women as they approach their due date. Instead of starting a painting project, organizing, or attacking the dire laundry situation, this phenomenon prompted me to do super unnecessary things like convince my longsuffering husband that we should spend a Saturday afternoon photographing each of our backyard chickens. What can I say? I’m a weirdo. But it’s endearing, right?
So here we go! Introducing the three Barred Rock gals:
These are the stinkers that escaped the other day and had me chasing them all around the yard with my giant 40 week pregnant belly. They are generally the trouble-makers and Bellatrix is the loudest of all the hens. They lay medium-sized pinkish-brown eggs. (Named after Narcissa, Bellatrix, and Andromeda Black from Harry Potter, of course.)
Her name inspired by Arthurian legend, Miss Morgan Le Fay is my second favorite chicken. The greens and oranges of her feathers are soooo pretty. We’re pretty sure she’s an Americauna because she lays lovely olive green eggs.
The Questing Beast is our only Aracauna. At first we though she was one of our meat birds but then those tell-tale fluffy feathers on the sides of her face gave her away and we realized she was a layer. Her mint green eggs are by far the prettiest. We named her after a creature from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King which is one of my all-time favorite books.
Our little Rhode Island Red! She lays large brown eggs. Yes, we named her after a Game of Thrones character. Nerd alert.
Maeve, Queen of Fairies, is my favorite favorite hen. There are FEATHERS ON HER FEET! She’s so exotic and beautiful and lays little pinkish-brown eggs.
Thanks for letting me introduce you to the ladies!
What’s your favorite hen?
When my first child was born I thought I would go mad from lack of sleep. I would sob from sheer exhaustion during the early morning hours when he would inevitably be awake–night after night after night. The second and third times have been so different. Mostly because my daughters haven’t struggled with the colic and reflux that plagued our boy, but also because I think my attitude is different.
So here’s a few tips I try to remember when I have a newborn that might also be helpful to other new moms:
1. Don’t expect a full night’s sleep. I would get so frustrated when my son wouldn’t sleep through the night, something he didn’t do until he turned one, making it only harder for me to fall asleep again once (if) he did. I would dwell on the sleep I was missing as the minutes ticked by. I would count up the scant, interrupted hours (or minutes) of sleep in horror. With my girls, I expected to be up at least every couple of hours for the first few weeks and 2-3 times after that. Then I get to be pleasantly surprised when the baby gives mama a good long stretch of sleep before that one year mark.
2. Sleep close to your baby. It’s not for everyone, but I love co-sleeping. I love snuggling up with my baby at night and never having to listen out for her or go to a separate room to make sure she’s still breathing. And I don’t even have to completely wake up to nurse my baby while lying down before we both nod off again. Having my baby so close helps me turn down my mommy radar that’s constantly listening out for those infant cries, allowing me to relax enough to go to sleep. I usually just have baby in my bed but we also have the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper which gives baby their own space. Be sure to practice safe co-sleeping!
3. It won’t last forever. It feels like it you’ll be tired until you die of exhaustion. You won’t die. Probably not, at least. There really will come a day when you wake up in the morning and realize that your baby slept all the way through the night. I know it sounds crazy but try to give up control, resign yourself to exhaustion, and enjoy the sweetness of your baby. If your baby is extremely colicky and screaming through the night this is really really hard to remember. I understand. I’ve been there.
4. Be a team. Daniel and I were so tired and so new at being parents when our son was born that we struggled with this. It started to be a competition of Who Was Most Tired and Miserable. When Daniel was up with Benjamin and exhausted the next day, I felt horrible and guilty. And still tired. When I was up with Benjamin and exhausted, I hated Daniel for being asleep (which he probably wasn’t because of the colic-induced screaming). Now we’re a team. I do the night feedings (well, it’s not like he could help me out with that) and Daniel gets up with the kids early in the morning. That way I start the day with, at the very least, a couple solid hours of sleep to get me going. When I start to lose it, Daniel helps out and I’m trying to learn not to feel guilty when he’s tired. He wants to help. When he gets really tired, I try to make sure neither babe wakes him up and I don’t resent him for a full night’s sleep. He tells me what a good mom I am when I gulp down my second cup of coffee with blood-shot eyes. I tell him what a stellar dad he is when he cleans up the preschooler’s vomit in the middle of the night so I can keep resting with baby. Encourage each other. Appreciate each other. Lean on each other.
5. White noise. Having some white noise where the baby sleeps helps soothe them and keeps them sleeping longer because it makes them feel like they’re in the womb (who knew wombs were so loud?). We like this one. It also keeps me from hearing every tiny baby sigh and midnight bathroom trips the preschooler makes.
6. Pray. Sometimes I can get through a whole Rosary during a long nighttime feeding. Or I can start one and pick it up again the next time she wakes. Then I feel like I’m doing something important (as if feeding my baby wasn’t important enough!). I pray for my family. I pray for my friends. I ask the Blessed Virgin to help me be a good mama. I ask forgiveness for flying off the handle when Benjamin asked me the same question 3,086 times the day before. You get the idea.
7. Swaddling. Swaddle. Do it. I finally jumped on the Aden and Anais swaddle blanket bandwagon and they’re wonderful.
8. Eat well. When I cut sugar and too many carbs from my diet, I am significantly less tired. When I take care to eat plenty of the delicious veggies that Daniel grows in his garden and have lots of protein at breakfast, I can avoid a horrible crash at 2pm.
9. Coffee. Let’s be honest. It’s hard to survive no sleep without coffee. But, to give hope to you non-coffee drinkers, I survived most of Benjamin’s first year without coffee because of health issues. Hot water with lemon does help jumpstart your day. But, it’s not really a substitute for that happiness in a cup: COFFEE.
10: Be thankful. If I recollect how thankful I am to have my babies, I can circumvent some of the frustration at being tired. Fighting some exhaustion is a small price to pay for these little ones and I can’t forget that.
How bout you? Do you have any sleep advice? Any suggestions for how to survive seasons of no sleep?
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This is a guest post by Michaela of Making Life Divine in the Women Speak on NFP series. In this series you will hear from women using various methods of NFP, some to avoid pregnancy, some trying to conceive, and their experiences.
Disclaimer: This series is not meant to be a substitute for any method of training in NFP! If you are interested in one of the methods introduced in this series, please contact a certified instructor for information about training in that method of NFP.
My story is complex and controversial to say the least. Granted, I am fortunate in many ways. I am a young stay at home mom. I have a 19-month-old son and I’m 19 weeks pregnant with baby #2. My son is by all appearances healthy at 19 months and I can only pray to God that He blesses me again with a healthy baby. We are a military family, currently in Florida though Arizona is “home”.
My husband and I were married in the Catholic Church. I am Catholic and he is not. I am my husband’s 2nd wife. I never EVER thought I would marry a divorced man or a man who is 13 years older than me, but I ESPECIALLY never wanted to marry a man who already had a kid. My husband never would have stood a chance if our meeting had occurred differently. (That is an entire story of its own)
He has a son from a previous relationship who is now 13 years old. He is Autistic. He is considered “low functioning” on the spectrum, but I believe he knows everything you say even if he’s never spoken a word. Despite his challenges, he’s generally considered healthy… what a loaded word. I did not know his son when we got married, but I knew that I could love a man who could love a child with such challenging needs. I didn’t know how hard it would be though. I was a new wife, a new mom, and I had a role I never wanted as wife-of-a-man-with-another-child, and not just any other child.
Why do I bring this up? What does this have to do with NFP? For us, NFP was everything. It was everything from becoming healthy as fertile individuals to prevention of pregnancy thru planned conception. Natural. Family. Planning. It’s not about a method. It’s not about an iPad app (though I use both). It’s about a journey to have faith in God and build a family.
Natural: There is NOTHING anyone does to directly cause Autism in his or her child. NOTHING. However, the rates are skyrocketing, why? There are now studies that suggest maternal pre-conception and first trimester folate levels, maternal health and illness prevention and genetic composition are significant components. To me, another big one was how hormonal contraceptives change mating behaviors. (AKA, take your Folic Acid, stay healthy, be aware of the effects of hormonal contraceptives on sexual attraction, and don’t marry someone just like you genetically). The cause of Autism is multifaceted, theoretical in many ways, maybe this, maybe that…it’s never-ending, but I had to do the best I could and leave the rest to God (but I didn’t know that lesson yet).
I had been using Hormonal Contraceptives for over a decade. I never considered what I was doing my body until I became Catholic and became a nurse with greater understanding of medication and its responsibilities and consequences. Contraception in marriage was something we knew we would forgo. I tossed boxes of OrthoEvra in the trash! I felt liberated. I was ready!
Family: We talked during our marriage prep about being open to any children God would give us. I have wanted children my WHOLE life. But, my biggest fear was, what could I do to prevent my children having Autism? The fear was almost enough to make my husband feel that it wasn’t fair to “do that to me”. Would we not have kids? Being a mom was all I’ve ever wanted. Ultimately, we talked about the biggest thing we knew decreased risk of Autism – the gender.
Did I mention my husband is 1 of 5 boys, 0 girls. Of those 5 boys they’ve had 11 children – only 3 girls. No woman (there are 7) has birthed a girl first (just saying). I practically married into a dynasty!
Planning: Autism is more prevalent in boys. The current statistics are 1 in 88. That’s OVERALL. It’s actually 1 in 56 boys. It is also more common in siblings when one already has a diagnosis on the spectrum. The risk in direct siblings, if the next child is a boy, is over 25%. But half-siblings 12 years apart? No one knows. All providers I ever talked to told me that any given pregnancy carries a 4% risk that SOMETHING will be “wrong”. Less than 2% of boys will be diagnosed with Autism.
While I was deployed (our entire engagement) I read the book by Dr. Landrum Shettles, How To Choose the Sex of Your Baby. Why? Because he talks ALL about NFP Science: taking temps, reading mucus, understanding how babies are made, and the differences in making those babies. (Gist being, if you pinpoint ovulation you can skew your chances of conceiving one or the other based on how close to O-day you have intercourse.) I knew that if I had a girl, we had a better chance of not having a child with Autism.
What does the Church say? Well, my understanding is that it’s accepted to use natural gender selection methods because you use the same methods in selecting which days to be intimate and which days not to be, so long as you realize that God will give you what you are meant to have and if it’s not what you “want” then you are to still be loving and open to the gift you created, just like if NFP “fails”. The Church understands couples need consider health risks when preventing or achieving pregnancy. There’s that word again, health. For us, health risk included considering how to mitigate risk of Autism by gender preference.
Some plans don’t go the way you want them: Guess what happened? We got married; we tried for 3 months charting temperatures, observing for mucus, and documenting it all on Fertilityfriend and NOTHING. So, we decided to “wait a year”. I was in Colorado Springs on Active Duty and Joe was in Phoenix at his civilian job anyway. The night before he left, with no egg white cervical mucus noticed, on day 14 of what would have been my first “normal” cycle since throwing away the patches months earlier, while using Ovulation Predictions Kits that had read negative, we conceived our first child. I knew right away he was a boy. I was scared out of my mind. What had I done? NFP had not failed me. I had failed to understand it.
I did everything I could in the first 20 weeks to determine if he was a boy or a girl. I peed in cup and watched glitter turn green in a split second; I did Chinese calendars, midwives tales, the ring on a string. They all said BOY! We went to our ultrasound and VOILA! BOY PARTS! I was DEVASTATED. I cried and cried. I felt selfish for ruining my husband’s happiness because the doctor told us that everything was healthy. His brain was the right size, his heart was beating strong, his face showed no clefts, he had two feet, two hands, a complete spine, and I’m CRYING because he’s a BOY?! I’m such a horrible person. I couldn’t admit this to my provider or anyone! I became extremely depressed. I didn’t understand God’s plan over my plan.
I delivered my son naturally and when he was placed in my arms I began to wonder, would he love me? Would he hug me? Would he show me something precious to him and want to share it with me? As mothers, we are gifted with unconditional love, but I was so scared. When he was 4 months old I had to let go of my fear because it was ruining my mothering experience. I had to give my fears to God. And when I did, I watched my son grow; meet his milestones and I celebrated them even more! I have pictures of everything he does. I LOVE my son more than I ever imagined. He is a Mommy’s BOY. BOY being the operative word. Cars. Rocks. Animals. Throwing balls. Tooting in the tub. B.O.Y.
Planning (Round 2): So when it came to #2, what do we do this time? I thought about not having any more children and I even thought about spacing with hormonal control until my son was deemed developmentally appropriate or not. I felt it might be my only choice to ensure his health before we brought another life into this world. After much prayer, we gave it to God.
To space our children, we practiced exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continued breastfeeding through his first year (we still are), I took my PNV’s with at least 800mg of Folic Acid, and watched for fertility signs. I got my first cycle at 8 months post delivery but I did want to ensure that my son was 12 months old and had had his 12-month check up before conceiving again. The AAP now recommends that all children be formally evaluated for Autism at their well checks (Linc has been evaluated at 9, 12, and 18 months). AND Child Spacing of at least 12 months from birth to conception decreases chances of Autism in the subsequent child. Although 3 years is recommended, we didn’t feel waiting 3 years was something we were willing to do. I was still nursing; I was charting all possible symptoms and observing for CM. If I thought there was something, we shared our love in other ways.
I didn’t have another cycle again until just before my son’s first birthday. I was using my fertility charting iPad app, counting days, and looking for CM (for serious this time). We talked about “going for the girl” again. We really didn’t care either way, but my husband has 2 sons and a girl would be nice. So, we left it on the table and we abstained around the most likely fertile days per the Shettle’s Method until I got the news that the Army was planning to mobilize me this coming fall. It was time to make a baby! It was in God’s hands to give us who He wanted us to have. I prayed A LOT, I paid very close attention to my symptoms and CM, and on day 19 in January of my 4th cycle we conceived Baby #2. Ultrasound confirmed (and still does) to the day what I already had charted – conception on day 19. We utilized the fertile CM symptoms to time our conception. We say baby #2 is also a boy. We do not plan on finding out until the delivery – not because I will be devastated if it’s a boy (I won’t be) but because we want the surprise!
God taught me by giving me my son that He is the Ultimate Creator. Out of a quarter billion sperm, my son was the winner the night that he was made. NFP did not fail me. God knew better than I what joy my son would give me and what appreciation I would gain for His guidance.
Am I still worried? ABSOLUTELY. Hormones, pregnancy, the unknown, the whole caboodle makes me a wreck if I get too wrapped up about it. I just have to consciously give my fears to God and pray for a healthy baby-in all ways.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share with you. This is a very difficult topic full of fear, hope, and ultimately faith- faith that I can be open to God’s plan no matter what it holds, and answer his call if I am chosen to bear a child with Autism or any special challenge. No matter who comes along, or what conditions they may have or acquire in life, they are blessed by God and I will love them unconditionally.
Michaela is a military wife, RN turned stay-at-home-mom, and soon-to-be mother of 2! Despite being a Pinterest/Facebook/BlogLovin’ addict, Michaela enjoys self-portrait photography, scrap booking, and playing piano. Michaela writes about the joys and challenges of her life and family at Making Life Divine.
I’ve got someone pretty special to introduce you to.
Meet our precious Gwen Stellamaris Stewart! Born after 13 hours of active labor at 7:41am on May 30, our little lass weighed 7lbs 4oz. She has grey eyes and plenty of jet black hair. She is healthy and sweet and we are so grateful for a safe delivery.
Labor was very hard and exhausting and my recovery has been much slower than with Lucy, so I will be mostly out of touch for a few days. But I wanted to say thank you for all the prayers and for the outpouring of love for sweet Gwen on facebook, instagram, and twitter. I’ve read and appreciate every comment!
Birth story coming soon!
My wedding ring is just a white gold band, no diamond or precious stones. Daniel and I couldn’t figure out the whole engagement ring AND a wedding band thing. (Why? I still don’t get it!) So a sweet thin band is all I have and it’s exactly what I wanted.
When we were discussing rings, I was concerned about blood diamonds and worried I would lose a fancy bejeweled ring (I cannot keep track of jewelry). So, I specified “no diamonds.”
This precious tiny gold band is sturdy and strong, like I hope my marriage will always be. And it reminds me that when we were married, we were 20 and 21 (babies!) and couldn’t afford chairs for our apartment, much less diamonds. We sat on pillows around a wooden tabletop Daniel made propped up on flower pots. We had an air mattress because we couldn’t afford a real bed and we ate a lot of pasta that first year because we couldn’t afford meat. Like the poor newlyweds Motel and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof you could have said of us, “They’re so happy, they don’t know how miserable they are!”
I love my ring because I always want to remember that this life together is what I signed up for: for richer, for poorer. I want to remember that marriage isn’t always glamorous, sparkling, or blissful. Sometimes it feels nothing like a honeymoon and a whole lot like exhausting work. And something it’s just there. Not exciting, not painful, just there. And you can only strive to hold on through the difficult times. But my prayer it that it will always be steady and present, like a promise, like my sturdy, simple wedding band. I love my little ring. I love my life with this man.