more than a midwife

“518….517…516…515………..514……..513,”  I counted down the room numbers in my head as we passed. My legs felt numb, like they were carrying me against my wishes.

Only a couple of hours earlier we had gotten the call that our very dear friend and midwife had suffered cardiac arrest and was in ICU. Her situation was very grave as she had been without oxygen for too much time.

We had just happened to be in town looking at houses. So excited to get to live near her again! Later the realization would hit me that if Brent had gotten the job weeks earlier, when we thought he should, we would not have been in town to be with someone we love so dearly.

Crinkle… Crack… Crack… As I crush and peel garlic for our soup for dinner I think of Terri and how she was the first person to introduce me to raw garlic instead of “garlic powder”. Who knew you could use the real stuff? You can bake your own bread? Every meal doesn’t have to involve meat? How much vitamin c can i give the baby? Should the umbilical cord smell like that? Do you think this wound needs stitches and can you come do it? Can you come make my baby come out? (x 5, y’all. The woman is patient!) She was the first to introduce me to a lot of things.

As one of her other friends put it recently, Terri singlehandedly shaped the way that I view pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, health, wellness, food, herbs, medicine, and life… and death. Terri and I have shared tears at funerals. I’m not a good enough writer to pen the profoundness in experiencing the circle of life come to an end for a soul with someone who has personally ushered in hundreds and hundreds of lives. The similarities are many. The ushering in and ushering out of lives. The compassion and tender touch that that requires is not lost to Terri.

As I cuddled Ezra and read his bedtime book I realized that Terri had given us that book. And boxes and boxes more children’s books. Every time she visited her arms were full of books because she loves my children and knows how much they love to read.

At those moments throughout the day when I hold my little ones close and thank God for another moment with them, I think of Terri who was so pivotal in their arrivals and I thank God for her through each moment of the day too.

I have spent the last few days reflecting on the last 9 years with Terri. I can remember almost every single interaction because Terri threw her entire self into it. She loved hard and wholeheartedly. She never sat down! (Unless it was to hold a baby.) She was always laughing. Even when I was in excruciating pain, and it wasn’t even annoying.

To see her laying so still in a hospital bed is just unnatural.

Yesterday I stopped a nurse who was about to bathe her. “I want you to know this woman delivered all five of my babies,” I wept. As I told her about the exceptional care that Terri had given to me and h u n d r e d s of other mothers, Terri opened her eyes and stared at me, blinking occassionally. I don’t know how much she heard or understood what I was saying but I stared back and continued to tell anyone who would listen that this woman spent her life caring for others and we really appreciated every little action they did to make her more comfortable and get better. I rubbed her feet as much as I could. How many hours has Terri spent rubbing my feet, my back, my arms, my head…holding my hand during my most uncomfortable moments e v e r.

She’s seen me naked more times than she could ever want to recall. The woman knows my body just as well as I do. Which is why she was able to diagnose me and prescribe treatment over the phone last summer when I was sick, after two different doctors had seen me in person and run many tests and not had a stinking clue.

Personally, I am holding Terri with open hands. As Ann Voskamp says, “Joy’s a flame in the palm of the open & humble. Clench the hand tight, point fingers to self and this snuffs out joy.” I thank the Lord repeatedly every hour that passes for the time we have had with Terri so far and humbly petition Him for more. I believe very strongly that the Lord numbers our days and He will fulfill His purpose for Terri. I can trust Him. Haven’t I been learning that along the way so very recently?

I can trust Him. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. He gave us Terri. 

i'm my own midwife

Yesterday as I was huffing down the street I had that little tune playing over and over in my mind. These are my “official” prenatal records, in case you didn’t know. I usually record this info in a notebook for each child, but I can’t seem to ever remember where I put it. 

Of course, I have a wonderful community of midwives- friends- that keep their beautiful eyes on me from time to time, but for the most part, it’s just me.

I’ve hit those hard days of the last trimester. Crying for no reason, extreme exhaustion, insatiable hunger, hip pain, etc etc. I really thought I was going to lose it for a couple of days. I feel so guilty when I call Brent, who is contentedly doing his job at work- probably humming a happy tune- and have to sob into the phone some really pathetic thing that totally upset my day and has made me certain that I cannot continue. He’s a good man. He refuses to come home and “rescue” me. I can count on one hand…no, three fingers… the number of times he has come home early or called in to work because I was sick or feeling overwhelmed. I like it. It forces me to deal with life. The last time I could hear in his voice that he really wished he could come home and help (they get written up for leaving work early, even if they are sick!) but just couldn’t. He begged me to please stop crying and tried to help me get a grip. The really annoying thing is that in the rational part of my mind, I knew that there was nothing wrong. I was just tired (and sick). The kids were fine, life was fine, the sun was shining… I was just losing it. 

I made up my mind that something had to be done, so we made some rules. Rule #1:Kids are not allowed to drink from my water bottle or eat my food. Okay, so we really only made one rule. LOL

I’ve started taking a prenatal vitamin, because I just can’t get it all in with my diet right now. I’m trying, but it’s not happening, so my Plan B is a  prenatal. =)

It struck me the other day that I’m about to have another baby. I usually prepare for this as one prepares for a marathon. A good birth doesn’t happen accidentally very often, and  I like to try to have my body ready for the hard work of labor. SO, I’ve also just started walking every day. Today is the third day. I know, I know, if you are pregnant with your first or maybe second child you are probably wondering why it took 28 weeks for me to start walking. I did that with my first pregnancy. I did everything perfectly and looked at older fatter moms of many and wondered why in the world they didn’t take better care of themselves. Fast forward five years, and three and a half kids later, and I totally understand. “Yourself” comes last. Folks, I can’t even poop without some sort of interruption. My bottom hit the toilet seat at 6 a.m. yesterday. Prior to this event, it was peaceful and quiet in the house- no one was supposed to be up yet. As soon as I sat down, someone immediately began to yell and woke everyone else up. I could hear the pounding and banging through the ceiling as WWIII broke out above me. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to give those of you who haven’t walked a mile in these shoes the idea. You think that it is as simple as planning it out, making room in your schedule, blah blah blah. It’s not. Take my word for it. It is downright impossible to work out inside your house because someone is going to hurt themselves just as you are striking the yoga position, and you are going to hurt yourself trying to get to them quickly. When your husband is gone for 9-10 hours a day, the last thing you want to do when he gets home is leave to get some exercise by yourself… but now I do. Just 30 minutes of walking. We have some perfectly slight hills, and as soon as Brent gets home I truck off in my tennis shoes. And gyms with nurseries are not an option. Germs and perverts- need I say more?!?

Anyway, my blood pressure was 106/64 last time I checked it, and baby’s heart rate was 152 last time I checked. (Which was several weeks ago since I loaned out my dopplerI was feeling all baby’s movements way down low, but since I’ve started walking they have moved to around the middle and into my ribs. Miraculous.  Walking is so good for mammas and their babies. My hips have started to hurt in the tell tale way that lets me know my bones are softening and moving to let a human being pass through them, so I’m trying to sit on that yoga ball more often to help facilitate that. 

Oh, and I’ve gained 43 pounds. I usually slow way down with the weight gain and start to gain more baby and less…ME… at this point, so I’m looking forward to that. 

I’ve started mentally preparing for all the changes and activity that will be taken place. Making lists in my mind of things I need to do before having this baby, things I will need to have this baby, and wondering with great curiosity what life with four little people will be like. I vacillate between being totally terrified and somewhat confident that one more baby isn’t going to make that big of a difference. Today when all three kids were loaded up in the van I started to talk with them about where we thought the best place to put the new kid would be. We all agreed that the new baby should sit in the middle aisle next to Arwen. Maybe this time I have a hope and a prayer of at least having someone to hold the pacifier in the baby’s mouth while we drive. (I usually do this WHILE driving. It works about as well as it sounds like it does. My babies don’t take pacifiers. I’ve tried every single kind. They just don’t take them unless you physically hold them in their mouths, and that defeats the purpose.  ). Charis is really excited about getting to see the new baby be born, and I’m going to talk to Brent about letting Arwen cut the cord this time, since he gets to catch the baby. I’ve explained to them all again, that Mommy is going to be making noises and moving and not to worry- it’s good pain that helps the baby come out. 

I’m also tinkering with the idea of setting up in the soap room. It’s such a big room, and it smells nice. LOL. However, it would put me further from the bathroom, and that is no fun, so maybe we’ll keep it in the living room after all. There’s still time to decide.

I’m off to find some protein. 

how to make pregnancy tea

My pregnancies have all been fairly easy so far. Not a lot of morning sickness, and I really feel pretty good the entire time, other than some bad attitudes towards the end because I go “overdue” every single time. Up until now, I really had taken advantage of this luxury and assumed it was just luck of the draw or good genes. 

Until this pregnancy.

I have never felt so terrible in my life! For the first 3 weeks I almost felt as if I had the flu and the nausea and exhaustion were literally ruining my life. I wasn’t sure what I was doing differently with this pregnancy until about a week ago. It occurred to me that I hadn’t started on my pregnancy tea yet.

I always liked to think that my easy pregnancies were because I worked hard to follow my midwife’s demands of a gallon of water a day, a regime of preventative herbs and exercises, and avoidance of processed foods (as much as cravings allow!). A healthy pregnancy requires personal responsibility and hard work. When you home birth, you don’t have the luxury of a doctor on hand to fix those things that could have been prevented in the first place. It demands that you purposefully take top notch care of yourself and your baby. I have really taken this for granted since my last pregnancy!

This pregnancy tea is my life blood. I adore it more than coffee, people. Evidently the tea makes more of a difference than I thought! A week ago, my order of bulk herbs arrived and I quickly whipped up a batch. As I took the first few sips, relief flooded through my body and, I’m not kidding you, I could literally feel my strength returning! Eureka! 

I’ve made this tea for my pregnant friends, and some have even attempted to pay me for it. I get a lot…and I mean A LOT of question about, so here it is: 

The Pregnancy Tea Tutorial you’ve all been waiting for

Now, you can buy those pre packaged pregnancy teas, but you won’t get anywhere near the quality of a fresh batch, and you’ll also spend quite a bit more money since it is ideal to drink 3-4 glasses of the stuff a day!

I get my bulk herbs from The Bulk Herb Store. Their prices are great and their quality is exceptional. The original recipe I started with is called “Nourishment Tea” and can be found in Aviva Jill Romm’s book, The Natural Pregnancy Book. Buy the book and look up the recipe, you won’t regret it! 

In my tea, I use the following herbs:

Red Raspberry Leaf : Tones the uterus, prevents hemorrhage, high in iron, high in Vit. C, Vit B1 (thiamin)

Nettle (as in Stinging Nettle): Promotes healthy kidneys, strengthens the blood vessels, prevents anemia, Vit D, Calcium, tones uterus, Vitamin K

Oatstraw: Calcium, Magnesium, gentle nervine, great remedy for cramping or insomnia

Alfalfa: Vit D, Vit K, chlorophyll

Spearmint: aids Digestion

Milk Thistle Seed, ground: gently supports the liver and is a remedy for morning sickness

Fennel: aids digestion

Rose Hips: Vit C

I eyeball it as I add each herb to the jar, using mostly Red Raspberry and Nettle, and decreasing in amount of each herb used as I go down the list. None of these are contraindicated for use during pregnancy and you would have to be trying hard to overdose on them, so exact measurements are not necessary. 

Here’s my Ball jar full of mixed herbs. (Sorry, I can't find that photo!)

I stuff a large tea bag (about five heaping tablespoons), fold over the edge, and staple it shut.

Toss it in a quart jar- I use an old mayo jar, and cover with boiling water. It is really important to keep a lid on this, as some of the useful properties of these herbs can escape in the steam! I painted this jar when I was pregnant with Charis. It was pretty at one time. (Lost that photo too)

One mistake that people often make with herbal tea preparations, in addition to not covering it, is not letting it steep long enough. If you think you can just pour some hot water over some herbs and let it sit for three minutes, you are only getting flavored water, and very little benefit. (Except with delicate herbs and flowers, such as chamomile, but it still needs to be covered. 

Pregnancy tea needs to brew for at least 20 minutes. I let mine brew over night, at which point it actually becomes an infusion. Then I add some stevia and sip on it all day long. I start this regimen (usually) as soon as I find out I am pregnant. These herbs are truthfully the cornerstone and secret to a healthy, comfortable pregnancy! 

Pregnancy Tea is actually great for the entire family. Even Brent enjoys a glass of it, iced, at dinner sometimes!