Friday, March 22, 2013

The Farm, The Clot, and The Due Date.

Before I was ready to have children, I watched "The Business of Being Born," a fascinating documentary about the medicalization of birth in this country. Ina May Gaskin, legendary midwife, was in this film, sharing her experiences with natural birth in her community, dubbed "The Farm." This community was founded in the 70's by a group of cross-country-caravaning-hippies from the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. The Farm is much less populated today, but people still travel from across the country to see it, mainly because of the midwives. While the United States has a 30-35% c-section rate, The Farm has less than 2%. They have helped women birth over 2,000 babies in their 40 years of existence. The statistics are quite impressive.

I have been wanting to go to "The Farm" since the day I found out I was pregnant. I had dreams of visiting Ina May, her community, and having one last road trip with George. After a garage sale, penny-pinching, and random blessings falling into our lap, we were able to make the roadtrip happen. 

We left at 5:30 in the morning last Tuesday, and arrived that evening. Sweet George didn't even sleep until we were in the car...he worked until late Monday night, then when he got home, tidied up the place and packed. He's been exerting so much energy both at work and at home lately. He really sacrificed a lot to make this trip happen for us, even though it was mainly my prerogative to abandon responsibility for a few days and take a road-trip to Tennessee. 

I really loved driving east into the sunrise on Tuesday, and driving west into the sunset on Thursday. I turned my phone on Airplane Mode, and used the map I printed off prior to leaving. I had a playlist ready to go. I had been looking forward to this trip, unsure if we were even going to be able to pull it off, for months. The music in the speakers, combined with the sunrise ahead of me and my sleeping man beside me, brought tears to my eyes. After being on a stretch of highway for a while, and right as the sky was beginning to light up on the horizon, Animal Collective's, "What Would I Want? Sky" song came on. Sometimes, I feel like I'm in a movie, and the music playing at a particular moment is the most intricately selected soundtrack. This was one of those times.

Immediately after that song was "When You Come Back Down" by Nickel Creek. My dad wrote out the lyrics to this song in a letter to me, on the day I moved into my dorm. The lyrics put a lump in my throat everytime I hear them. This trip was no different. "You gotta leave me now, you gotta go alone, you gotta chase a dream, one that's all your own, before it slips away... When you're flying high, take my heart along, I'll be the harmony to every lonely song that you learn to play... When you're soaring through the air, I'll be your solid ground, take every chance you dare, I'll still be there, when you come back down. When you come back down." During this song, I began sobbing, feeling an intense array of emotions. Finally going to a place I've yearned to see. Having a dream literally come true. Knowing that when the trip was over, we were going to move in with my parents, and have our own little baby. Grateful for George, working to make this trip happen because he knew how much it meant to me. Grateful to my parents for keeping their opinions about this trip to themselves and allowing me, even as a grown woman, to learn my own lessons. 

*(Sidenote, little did I know, I was going to come back down. Two days later. To his and my mom's house, then to the emergency clinic, with a bloodclot in my right leg.)

"Orange Sky" by Alexi Murdoch was the next song, and that was literally when the sunglasses went on. The sunrays were bright, and I was driving straight into them. The summation of perfect songs and a rising sun was transcendent. George woke up shortly after, and we continued to drive through Arkansas.

We saw signs for President Bill Clinton's childhood home, and decided to stop and check it out. Maybe it's because we are desperately wanting a home to call our own, or maybe because we both are huge fans of Bill Clinton, but regardless, we loved that place.

His childhood bedroom
My favorite part of road-tripping is stopping randomly after seeing a sign for something (could be interesting/funny/random), and experiencing something locally, without a plan to do so. 

We got back in the car and kept on driving to Tennessee. 

Many hours, bathroom breaks, and windy country roads later, I slammed on my breaks and then reversed a few feet. The entrance to The Farm was so rural, so small, and so NOT advertised...I ALMOST PASSED BY!

"Tuesday's Gone," by Lynyrd Skynyrd, began pouring out through the speakers while the wind was pouring in the open sunroof. That moment was surreal. There was a big yard with a TON of roosters and chickens in many cages to the right. To the left was the Welcome Center of The Farm. There was also a warning that the cages to the right did NOT belong to The Farm, and a word of caution to stay away...that they would call the police. We heard a gunshot right after reading the notice! We laughed, got back in the car, and continued down the windy roads. It was awesome driving down the road into the community knowing that the roads, the land, the houses, the water towers...EVERYTHING here was made BY these people, FOR these people. 

Finally Made It!!!!!

Sweet little accents made our accommodation feel enchanting and welcoming.

We stayed at a woman named Linda's house. She rents out the lower level.
We unpacked our groceries, I made dinner (another huge perk, staying here meant a refrigerator, stove, and oven, so we were able to bring and eat our own food, saving us money, and keeping us healthy), and then we spent a lot of time unwinding, stretching, and relaxing. 

The next morning, I woke up shortly after the sun started coming through the window. There are few better things in life than waking up to sounds/sights of nature, rather than an alarm clock (or soon to be crying baby). I let George sleep, had some tea and cottage cheese, and read some Ina May (the inspiration for the trip in the first place).

We then went to our prenatal appointment. We waited for a bit in the waiting room, and met a nice couple from Alabama. Apparently, home births are ILLEGAL in Alabama?! Weird. So this couple came to Tennessee for all of their prenatal visits, and plan on delivering at The Farm. They were very friendly. While we were waiting to see Pamela, we looked around at the books, brochures, and general decor. We were totally diggin' the tie-dye hippie vibe, with the professional material and undeniable statistics. 

Not long after, we got to meet with Pamela. She is an absolute delight. So calm, so pleasant, and so naturally in her element as a Farm Midwife. She was also in the documentary I was obsessed with, and I read about her a lot in "Spiritual Midwifery," one of Ina May Gaskin's books. I read that as a teen, she was unfamiliar with midwifery (other than what her minister had explained to her), and very involved in her youth group. She strongly valued hard work, God, and family. Her parents sent her to San Francisco in 1965. She describes her experience, "There were hippies with flowers in their hair everywhere. They looked pretty and had fun and seemed to share a lot of the same ideals that were strong in my mind, so I became a hippy, too." (Pamela's Bio) Her story is so inspiring.

I instantly felt comfortable with her. We told her why we wanted to come, and she tested my urine, measured my fundal height, told me the position of the baby (head down, yay!!!), and listened to the heartbeat with the doppler. She measured me at 36 weeks, and told me I looked 'very pregnant,' more so than the 33 weeks I thought to be. We tried to figure out my due date based on my last cycle, but I just can't remember when that was. My original sonogram due date was 5/4, and it was 5/5 at 20 weeks. Based on when we think Sprout was conceived and my fundal height, things were starting to look more like end of April.

(Thanks to George for all these great shots!!! I loved my visit with Pamela!!!)

Later that day, I explored some more of the community. It was surprisingly quiet. I caught a sweet girl off-guard when I entered the "Eco-Village." Turns out, she's the "Winter Keeper" and the only girl living in this part of The Farm right now. I probably scared her to death! I asked her if I could look around, and take pictures, and she was very sweet and welcoming. We ended up talking for a while and became friends. Then she went on about her day, and I went on about exploring.

"The Wholeo" Stained Glass Globe

The next morning, George and I packed up and began driving back home. We wanted to take a more scenic route, and go through a few states we'd never seen. We went through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. We stopped in Tupelo, MS and got some Tupelo Honey. This was the last song we danced to at our wedding, so that was a fun and meaningful souvenir. We ate at a fun local diner, with pictures of Elvis everywhere.  We stopped a lot, actually. I drank so much water, and went to the bathroom often. I made sure to stretch my legs at each stop. 

I specify, because the next day (Friday), I was shocked I had developed a bloodclot in my right leg. 

I was shocked because:

(a) I'm generally very healthy. I've never had surgery, never been admitted to a hospital,
(b) I put forth so much effort in PREVENTING the bloodclot. I felt like most people wouldn't have been as conscientious stopping, stretching, heel-pumping, and water-gulping. 

But I had an epiphany, and it was indeed a great learning moment for me.

In order to "surprisingly" find out you're pregnant, you ARE healthy. 

And I know that the three BIGGEST risk factors for developing a blood clot are pregnancy (estrogen makes you clot...another risk factor is being on birth control), travel, and smoking. I don't smoke, but I had 2 of the 3 on board. I was in the car 12 hours on Tuesday, and 14 on Thursday. Getting the bloodclot didn't mean I wasn't healthy...it affirmed that I AM healthy enough to get pregnant, and I am NOT invincible to risk. 

I felt a pain in my right calf Friday morning. I went to my mom and dad's, and enjoyed coffee on the patio with my mom and sister. I told them about the pain, but as a few hours went by, I became more obsessive about it. I called my midwife, and she was out of town (bummer!!!!!!!), but the OBGYN on call told me to take an aspirin a day for a week.


My gut told me to go to the emergency clinic by their house. It would be $150 which would set us back financially, but I knew that if it was a clot, it could be lethal. I knew the exact test I needed, an ultrasound of my right leg, to determine if there was or was not a clot. If there wasn't a clot, it would be an expensive cost for peace of mind, but worth it.

After the ultrasound, the ER doc came in the room and told me it was a DVT, and I was being admitted to the hospital I plan to deliver. I was surprisingly happy at first, because I had a gut feeling and I listened to it, and I was right! But then I realized the severity of the situation, and became more concerned.


There was a lot of miscommunication at the hospital. Another lesson I learned? YOU HAVE TO BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. Speak up. At all times. Otherwise you will end up paying more money... (I almost had to go to the ER at Lewisville Medical, but I insisted the emergency clinic had called ahead with a room for me as  a direct-admit. Had I not been insistent about this, I would have had to pay that $150 ER fee twice!!!)... and could potentially receive improper medical treatment.

The internist almost hung a bag of Heparin on my IV (the strongest anti-coagulant I'm aware of). Keep in mind I haven't had an ASPIRIN in 8 months for fear of what it would do to the baby. So this seemed very extreme, but I also thought at this point that I could die, and that was the main priority.

The radiologist had a different diagnosis than the ER doctor, and it turned out to work in my favor. The clot was superficial, not deep, so I didn't have to have the Heparin. I received a total of (3) Lovenox (blood thinning) shots. The next morning, they did a scan on both legs, and the clot was gone. The pain was gone, too. They also did continuous fetal monitoring and an ultrasound. Baby checked out good.

She did, however, measure at 5.5 pounds, and 35 weeks (instead of the 33 I thought I was). That meant if I went to 40 weeks exactly, the due date would be 4/20 instead of 5/5. I looked at a calendar, and there is a full moon on 4/25, so THAT IS MY OFFICIAL GUESS. April 25, still a Taurus, 10 days ahead of what we planned, and 1 month from now. 

So there it is. A super long blog post with a title reminiscent of "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." The Farm was my Aslan, The Clot was my White Witch, and Sprout's Due Date is the Wardrobe. I can't believe I'm about to cross over into parenthood. I'm grateful for our last pre-baby adventure, even with the clot. I learned a lot. I was afraid my mom was going to say "I told you that trip wasn't a good idea!" but she didn't. She said something to the extent of, "The insistent part of you that listened to your heart and brought you out on that trip, was the same part of you that listened to your gut and got you to the hospital." She was proud of me for going with my instincts. 

I've heard instincts improve drastically with motherhood. 

Maybe I'm well on my way. 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Musings from a Pro-Choice Preggo.

I remember when the ideological debate of "pro-life/pro-choice" was based on abortion. But now, at 8 months pregnant, I have found myself being asked constantly where I'm going to deliver, who my OBGYN is, what my birthplan is, and when I'm returning to work.

If we are going to continue to defend the right to "choose pregnancy," we must, COLLECTIVElY as women, encompass the choices made throughout the journey.

It starts with the two pink lines. 

(actually, it starts with the woman choosing a contraceptive that is best for her... and if she wants to start a family, choosing to go without...then, consenting to a mutually beneficial and healthy sexual relationship...but I digress)

Two pink lines.

If the woman chooses to continue with pregnancy, she then makes decisions, every day, throughout the pregnancy, that are best for her. Food. Exercise. Alcohol (or lack thereof). Midwife/OB-GYN. Increase hours at work (more money) or decrease hours at work (less stress). We can say she 'ought' to choose what's best for the baby, but the moment we do that, we start making choices for the woman, and begin to undermine her ability to choose for herself. And when it comes to money, society ought to be sensitive when it comes to saying what one 'should' do. Often, the individual directly involved wishes they could do the same thing! But many women don't have choices (re: working/staying at home, insurance coverage, etc), based on their financial situation. 

Once she is in the third trimester, she begins to solidify a plan for getting that baby out! And so begins my rant...

...The Business of Being Born is one of my favorite documentaries, EVER. I loved all four follow-up episodes, too. I've read 3 of Ina May Gaskin (legendary midwife)'s books, and am actually going TO THE FARM in two days. Based on this paragraph, one would think I'm going to have a natural birth at ALL COSTS. And that probably includes a typed up "birth plan" to hand to the team that will help catch the baby, with strict rules of how it is to go down (This RN will not have "that plan," because I know what nurses say at the nursing station, and I refuse to be that patient. After 9 months of planning with my midwife and husband, I will trust the process and hope my choices are honored without feeling the need to be a control-freak.)

But that's not me.

I'm going to have a hospital birth, because our biggest stressor throughout the entire pregnancy is MONEY, and I am SO blessed to be covered by my mom's insurance plan until the end of May (thank you, President Obama). The insurance plan covers hospital births, but not birthing centers or home births. The cost difference is in the THOUSANDS of dollars. It was a no-brainer. I was thrilled to find a midwife in a group of OB-GYNS, and I have really enjoyed my time with her, and trust her completely.

The single most important factor in ensuring women have a CHOICE and a VOICE, is education. We have to have factual information, without a bias, to form our own opinions. 

If a woman only utilizes her OB-GYN as a resource, she will inevitably have biased information that makes the hospital look like a knight in shining armor, saving countless lives. If she only reads natural birth books/blogs, she will see the hospital as a money-hungry demon trying to push her on the table for a c-section. 

The truth is probably somewhere in between. I've definitely formed my own opinion, and I feel reluctant to even share it with the internet, because people (especially women) are SO quick to judge other women's opinions. Which is just SO IRONIC to me. Usually the same women who are 'pro choice' are liberal, more granola, and 'pro natural birth,' and sometimes....these women can be the most egotistical, condescending, competitive women out there (not to mention, these women can also be very insensitive toward women in third world countries who would do anything to have drugs/doctors to help them with birth. And saying "women in Africa squat and have babies all the time," also belittles the women around the world having babies naturally that don't CHOOSE this birth method, but rather, have no other choice. And yes, I have heard that phrase multiple times). 

I understand the desire to have a natural birth for spiritual reasons, and to feel a natural experience that all other mammals experience without the help of drugs...but if the motivating factor behind natural birth is to brag or belittle other women, the choice has then become quite shallow and petty. 

On the contrary, women who have scheduled c-sections, or who beg to be induced early, might just be missing out on an experience worth having, to feel inheritantly FEMALE and MAMMAL. And I wonder how many women out there never had that choice, based on medical issues or infertility issues (or who knows what), and would have given anything for the experience. But at the end of the day, if a woman doesn't WANT to have a natural birth, we, as women, ought to support her right to CHOOSE. 

The same goes for breastfeeding. I have my own opinion on this also (go figure, I have an opinion...)! We know breast feeding is better for the baby, and has countless benefits for mothers. But those breasts belong to the WOMAN. Not her baby, not her partner, not her doctor/midwife. THE WOMAN. And the moment another person casts judgment on her for not doing something with her breasts...they fall under the same category as a person who casts judgment on a woman who has an abortion...

I suppose, ideally, every woman would have spiritually-transformative, natural births, and breastfeed, and raise civilized, respectful, well-mannered children. Ideally, all women would be educated on the medicalization of birth (and the unnecessary procedures that occur for convenience and profit), and while we're at it, ideally, there would never be a NEED for hospitalized births. But sometimes, there is. And we ought to be grateful we have hospitals in that time of need. Ideally, all women would be educated on the benefits of breast-feeding, and would find the act both nurturing and bonding.

But that's not reality. It's not even CLOSE to reality. And I think what matters more than casting judgments, or being a Google Expert, is trusting other women's ability to make decisions for themselves. 

(*SIDENOTE....I think it's safe to say MOST women know the benefits of breast-feeding, but MOST women have to work shortly after having their babies, and MOST employers don't provide a place (nor time) to pump. So, MOST women dry up early and lose their milk supply. Which is not only emotionally devastating, but also financially burdening, as now formula is an added expense. A lack of mandatory paid maternity leave is prohibiting choice for most women. That's a WHOLE OTHER BLOGPOST....)

So anyway, I'm going to THE FARM in two days. And I can't WAIT. My dreams are ((literally)) coming true. And I'll probably be on a HUGE natural birth kick when I come back. But my underlying value, more so than natural birth, is freedom of choice. And that won't change! So choose on, fellow preggos! Choose what's best for YOU! And women out there, EMBRACE one another! On the many choices we make, everyday! On choosing to be single, or married! Choosing to have families, or choosing to focus on careers! We are living in 2013, and we are SO LUCKY to have choices. Our great grandmothers never had these opportunities, so we should ENJOY THE JOURNEY OF CHOICE!