Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Problems That Continue After Birth


The common thought about hyperemesis (severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy) is that regardless of severity, all problems will vanish (at the latest) at the birth of the baby. Then voila, all systems are go and mama is back to full health .

However, in observing many Facebook conversations among post-hyperemetic mothers, it is easy to see that this is not the case. Complications from hyperemesis can easily continue for months or years after baby's birth, and it seems that it is common for HG mothers to experience various problems for the long-term.

What are the possible post-birth problems following a hyperemetic pregnancy?

Firstly, there is the rare form of hyperemesis that continues full-force after baby's birth. Thankfully, this is extremely rare. I have only heard personally of two cases (one I know personally, one by hearsay). Unfortunately, there is no knowledge of this in the medical literature.

More commonly, post-pregnancy complications involve any of the following:
  • Long-term fatigue and exhaustion
  • Long-term nutritional deficiencies
  • HG injuries such as damaged teeth or Mallory-Weiss tears
  • Gut health problems
  • Postpartum nausea, which may peak at various times during a woman's cycle (often at ovulation and pre-menses)
(I am not including psychological issues like flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, but those, if anything, are even more common than physical complications.)

With my first pregnancy (my pregnancy with uncontrolled HG), I experienced a lot of long-term fatigue after baby's birth. It was not until baby was something like 15 months old that I finally felt better. HG was the most grueling experience of my life, and it left me spent and exhausted. It took a long time to heal from how badly beat up I felt after that pregnancy. 

But my most pressing problem, with each pregnancy (with either active HG or controlled HG) was postpartum residual nausea. I have dealt now with this problem for many years. 

For me, the nausea was not tied to my cycle or to various times of the month. It was simply ever-present in short waves of seconds (perhaps minutes) that came and went all day, every day. 

At first, right after baby's birth, it was somewhat more severe. I cannot tell you how much money I wasted on pregnancy tests, absolutely sure that the nausea meant I was expecting. I lived in a state of "I must be pregnant" for many, many months. 

The nausea gradually subsided over time, but it took a good 18-24 months for most of it to vanish. And the same postpartum nausea occurred with each subsequent pregnancy (three in all). 

I should perhaps mention that before my HG experience, I had never dealt with nausea in any form (barring stomach bugs, etc.). This was not typical of my pre-pregnancy existence at all.

I took the time to consult several OB's about this issue of postpartum residual nausea. Each time, I got the same answer - complete silence and a distinct "deer in the headlights" look, followed by a how-quickly-can-I-change-the-subject response. Not one of them had anything to say about this condition, nor did any of them even seem to know about its existence. The take-away lesson was, as with many health issues - you're on your own. Modern medical science often can't to help you - so be prepared to research and experiment on your own with post-HG postpartum symptoms. 

Thankfully, by the grace of God, I learned several things that helped me to eliminate postpartum nausea, and I want to end this post by sharing them with you!

Here are the three stages of my journey through dealing with post-HG postpartum nausea:

Step #1: I started the very low carb (VLC) diet while preparing for a subsequent pregnancy. 
Result: The nausea got much, much worse.

This really scared me. I was starting a diet to prevent HG, and it was making my already-present postpartum nausea worse? How could this possibly help?

Thankfully, some internet searches quickly gave me the scoop on what was going on. In my attempts to begin the very low carb diet, I had unintentionally made the diet very low carb AND low-fat. This was a major mistake. Do not attempt a diet that is both low-carb and low-fat. In doing so, I made myself very sick! A VLC diet must also be high-fat to be healthy and successful.

However, having been raised in the eighties and nineties, I had grown up well-brainwashed with the "fat is evil" mindset, and I was still unintentionally cooking that way.

Step #2: I added the high-fat component to the VLC diet. 
Result: Success!

To jettison the habits of 30 years took some real work, and I had to work on cooking high-fat intentionally. This meant lots of avocados, lots of cheese and cream, lots of butter and peanut butter.

Within several hours of adopting the new high-fat component, I felt better! Not only was the over-and-above nausea gone, but about 90% of my postpartum nausea vanished - just like that.

Additionally, I felt great. I am now a huge proponent of the low-carb high-fat diet and have experienced many awesome health benefits from it. If you're still nervous about this, check out this wonderful book - "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." This is the best book on food history that I have had the pleasure to read, and it was a distinct learning experience.




Step #3: Fermented Foods
Result: Complete Success!

However, there was still that tiny, nagging 10% of residual nausea still sticking around. Ugh! However, I was happy with how far I'd come, and I didn't have any more ideas. I was okay with where I was.

Then, about a year ago, something amazing happened. A friend of mine found the answer to her repeat-hyperemesis in an H. pylori treatment protocol. Wow! I was so excited!

The biggest part of my friend's treatment plan was the addition of large amounts of raw, lacto-fermented foods to her diet (almost all of which are completely missing from the standard American diet). These include (among hundreds of possibilities):
  • Raw fermented pickles (NOT typical storebought pickles)
  • Raw fermented sauerkraut (NOT typical storebought sauerkraut)
  • Plain, full-fat yogurt
  • Plain, full-fat kefir
  • Non-pasteurized kombucha 
  • Lacto-fermented vegetables (kimchi, lacto-fermented salsa, etc.)

Almost immediately upon adding lacto-fermented foods to my diet, that last nagging 10% of my postpartum nausea vanished. 

*Large celebration!*

Thus, I had found my answer - not through medication, but by simple dietary changes that had been within my power (but not my knowledge) for years. 

I hope that these steps will help some of you dealing with similar challenges. For those of you with other post-HG symptoms (or other health problems), I encourage you not to give up! Oftentimes the answers really are out there, and oftentimes they can be found through diet and supplements. But you will have to do the hard work of research and experimentation on your own, as most modern doctors simply are not trained that way. 

I would love to hear about your story. Have you suffered from post-HG postpartum complications or symptoms? Have you found anything that helped? Please take a few minutes to let me know!

Much love, dear friends. 






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week 32 Pregnancy Update


I had good intentions, everyone - really! I meant to start doing pregnancy updates every two weeks... but time has slipped away. At this point I'll be lucky to keep up with my monthly updates!

Keeping in line with my previous posts, I'll divide this update into "pregnancy health" and "what's going on around here" sections. Let's dive in!

Pregnancy Health Update

Pregnancy

We are now doing prenatal appointments with our beloved midwife every two weeks! Baby and I both look great according to all standard measurements (BP, FH, FHT, etc.). There has been absolutely no deviation from standard measurements, which is just a little crazy. Not that we're complaining!

For those keeping track of our journey, ketones are now trace only (somewhere between zero and +1).

Energy Levels

Unfortunately, my energy levels are fading quickly - standard for third trimester. I have never made it back up to "normal" during a pregnancy, and it doesn't look like it's going to happen this time either! I am working diligently on my Before-Baby To-Do List, but it looks like several items (namely the cooking ahead for six weeks bit) are going to get the axe - as usual!

Nausea

Nausea is still ever-present, anywhere from "comfortable" to "ick!" It depends on the time of day and what I've eaten. I have had chance-after-chance-after-chance-after-chance to see that carbohydrates are truly evil during pregnancy (further proof that what we're doing is working!). Whenever I overindulge, the next day is simply awful. Week 29 was particularly rough after indulging in a couple of days of evening carrot cake. Delicious, but oh, the after-effects!

I think we've actually gone slightly backwards with nausea, but that is typical during the third trimester. It happened last time. Thankfully it's not a huge regression.

For the record, I am now allowing myself more carbs than the strict VLC allows. I'm doing some low-carb (but not very-low-carb) foods like cottage cheese, as well as small amounts of fruit and beans. I'm avoiding grains and straight sugars completely. I wish I could say that having small amounts of carbs was easier than the strict diet I've been on for two years, but actually... it's not. It's harder. Really, it's like telling a cocaine addict that he can have "just a little" bit of cocaine. Truly, abstinence is better than reawakening those carb cravings.

Good News!

Week 32 is always a wonderful landmark because it means that we now have our choice of transport hospital! Our favorite local hospital can only take mamas and babies that have made it to 32 weeks or later, so it's always a big relief to know that, if needed, we can head to the hospital where we feel comfortable rather than one of the alternatives.


Pregnancy What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update

Random Pregnancy Stuff

We... still... don't... have... baby... names. My goodness - this is taking forever! If we don't get on it soon, it'll be more along the lines of, "The baby's here! Quick, somebody open the baby name book and point randomly!"

In better news, I am thrilled to say that my skills of fetal palpation are finally showing some signs of improvement! Till now I've been absolutely hopeless, but now I am getting better and better at determining baby's position. Baby is still quite the flipper - he alternates between LOA, ROA, and transverse - many times a day!


Other News...

We celebrated our little guy's fifth birthday and survived the Great Phoenix Flood of 2014 - all in one week!

Flood Day! 


Birthday Cake! 

Field Trips, School Stuff, Etc.!

It's time for homeschool field trips to start in earnest! One of the beauties of doing school over the summer is that we get a really good start on academics without having to bother with all of the logistics of field trips. Now that we're well-established in our school schedule and routines, the rest of the world is starting school... and thus it's time for field trip season to start! We will average one to two field trips per week for the rest of the season (until whenever baby puts in an appearance!).

Our first official field trip of the years was a chance to visit a bat tunnel in Phoenix. It wasn't a huge success (too much heat, too few bats!), but we all had fun anyway.




I'm finally feeling well enough to get back into fun-kid-project stuff! Here are a few of our latest projects - homemade GAK, homemade playdough, and oven-s'mores.

Homemade playdough - one of my favorites! 

Oven s'mores - easy and fast! 

Homemade GAK and playdough (looking worse for wear after all of the colors have been mixed by little hands!). 

I finally spent my birthday money! Yes! Target, how I love thee!! One dust-buster, a set of baby-proof doorknobs, a duster, a crib mattress-cover, and of course... plastic storage boxes. Mmm. The rest of my money is being saved to buy fruit trees this coming February!



In other cheering news, I'm finally feeling well enough to get back to some of my normal activities - namely, playing the piano and organ and getting back into meal ministry (which is a good thing, considering how many of our friends are expecting babies over the next quarter!). It feels lovely!!

But now that I'm (mostly) feeling better, I really need to get back into hardcore birth prep - namely, walking, stretching, strength exercises, etc. *Sigh*

And finally, I'm still (STILL) working through my Spring Cleaning Lists (which I hope to publish here soon). My current projects are:

  • Using the food in the freezers so that I can defrost/clean them soon. This is one... slow... process. 
  • Oiling the wooden furniture - My favorite! Easy, fun, great results.
  • Washing (lower) walls - NOT my favorite. Difficult (i.e. impossible), time-consuming, and gives absolutely horrid results (patchy). I will never go for textured walls again - they just suck up the dirt and refuse to relinquish it at any price. Does anyone out there know how to wash those critters effectively? (Aside from just burning down the house and starting over?)

And one more thing... I'm finally seeing progress on my project of getting a chore system in place! It's taken a long time, but the train has finally left the station and we are seeing a wee bit of positive movement. 

Chores are not just a matter of chore charts and logistics. By and large, they are a matter of working through character issues - obedience (vs. feet-dragging), diligence (vs. laziness), positive attitudes (vs. sulking), etc. It is really a huge training ground for parenting skills, and I find that I need all of my strength and energy to keep focused on end-goals (that of producing good husbands and decent human beings for the world at large). It is very easy to become discouraged in this, as it is in all areas of parenting. 

But we press on!

Dear friends, I've rambled for long enough! I'll try to check in as often as I can! Have a wonderful week!



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Happy Birthday to Baby Wombat!


This past week, our baby with special needs turned FIVE years old!

I can't believe how quickly the time has gone!

Our little guy, alternately nicknamed the Wee Chublet or Baby Wombat (the latter gained from his personality-resemblance to Wombat in Jackie French's Diary of a Wombat), has progressed greatly this year. Though he's not walking yet (we're guessing a few more years for that one), he can now pull himself up to standing - and he is also crawling! Furthermore, he has discovered the joys of playing games - like rolling balls with Daddy, or his favorite game of "throw my water bottle and chase it."





For his birthday, we had a fun family celebration at home. Balloons, decorations courtesy of the 8yo, cards, some small gifts, and birthday cake - which was, incidentally, the best grain-free gluten-free carrot cake ever. Try it. It's awesome! I should know, because I spent the week good and sick from the overindulgence in sugar. (Apparently using a high-fat, high-protein flour still wasn't enough to keep the sugar from getting me... but it was delicious!)



We had a delightful time, and we're so delighted to be celebrating five years with our wee little man. I've said it again, but it bears repeating (especially in today's culture): Children with special needs are not a burden. They are a gift and a blessing from God, and they need and deserve all of our love and care. We are so glad that our family has been blessed with his joyful little life.

(Start here to read our little guy's full story!)

Dressing up in Daddy's shirt for the special occasion. 

The 8yo's gift - a print-off of an American special forces flag. 

With Daddy as we get his cake ready!

Happy Birthday to our little guy! 



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Daily Homeschool Schedule


This year I have had to do a major rearrangement of our schedule. Not only is the toddler no longer sleeping late (*sob*), but a number of different factors (such as integrating our new chore schedule into our day) have made last year's schedule completely unworkable for this year. From what I hear from other home educators, this is extremely common. New year, new schedule. (Or sometimes, new month, new schedule.)

In fact, by the time you read this blog post, I can pretty much guarantee that our schedule will have changed. (It did.)

The challenges never stop!

I finally created two basic charts to show our daily schedule - mainly so that I could say "check the chart!" to the 8yo's endless daily queries of "What's next, mommy?"

Here's what our mornings and afternoons look like right now. We have various "touch point" times during the day, but no definite time-for-each-activity. My biggest challenge right now is instituting a good chore system - it is turning out to be a huge headache (and a ton of work - far more than doing everything myself!) - but I cling to the hope that it will bear fruit some day in the far, far distant future.


MORNINGS
  • Get up, get babies dressed (7:00 a.m.) - This takes longer than you'd think! It's also easily one of the most stressful times of our day. Working on it. 
  • Breakfast - Also takes longer than you'd think!
  • Table chores - Basic clean-up of breakfast (which I try to keep simple!).
  • Group chores - An area of work or cleaning in which the children and I work together (such as outside, kitchen, dusting, etc.). This changes by day. Time: 15-30 minutes. 
  • Chorepacks - Individual chores for older children, including grooming, rooms/beds, and a few helping-out items. 
  • Morning (Couch) Time - Our morning family time, which currently includes Bible reading, character book reading, poetry reading, Bible memory verses, and reading a chapter (or two) of a read-aloud. (Our current read-aloud is "Blue Bay Mystery.") I'm also slowly adding other items, such as manners, weather, calendar, catechism, etc. Due to the presence of a certain two-year-old, progress has been slow, and this time is very challenging. 
  • Toddler Book Time - I read to the two toddlers while the 8yo does his math. Good for the toddlers, and it keeps them out of trouble! 
  • Break (15 minutes) - The main challenge is pulling the 8yo back to the table!
  • Table Work, then Free Time - Handwriting, Maps, Composition, etc. 
  • Lunch (12:00 p.m.) - I keep this super-simple. Usually it's "snack plates" - plates of cut-up non-heated items, such as cheese, meat, crackers, fruit, vegetables, etc. - or leftovers. 
  • Table chores - Clean-up from lunch.




AFTERNOON/EVENINGS
  • Quiet Time (1 hour) - This is truly our sanity-saver. The babies nap, I nap, the 8yo reads or plays with LEGO sets.
  • Snack and Reading Time - With the 8yo while the babies sleep.
  • Finish school work - This is Math Part II (we split his lessons into two parts). 
  • Coffee and Game Time - DH and I have coffee while the 8yo gets 30 minutes of computer time. 
  • Afternoon chores 
  • Free time - That is, free time for the children, and dinner prep plus 30 minutes deep-cleaning for me (plus however many of the five thousand items on my to-do list that I can cram in!)  
  • Dinner
  • Table chores, then free time - After a good year of effort, everyone is helping with dinner chores. It works very well!
  • Baths, children dress for bed, older children put their laundry away
  • Snack while Daddy reads aloud
  • Devotions with Daddy and bedtime (ideal - 8:00 p.m., actual - HA!)




Look for an upcoming post in which I will discuss the progress we've made so far on the topic of children's chores


Monday, September 15, 2014

We Survived the Great Phoenix Flood of 2014!


This past Monday, I did something that I have never done before - and will probably never do again. That's right - I cancelled school for weather!

Seriously - in Phoenix?

But yes!



Sometime in the middle of the night, the rain began - and went, and went, and went. The thought of flooding never crossed my mind, even as the thunder kept me awake, because the simple truth is that Phoenix doesn't flood. Never has, never will. Right?

But when we got up on Monday morning, the water was actually lapping at our back porch, and our entire neighborhood was under water. We'd never seen anything like it!



Our area was particularly hard-hit in the flooding, for several reasons:

- Our neighborhood was privately developed, meaning we have no appreciable drainage system or flood control landscaping (a fact which never mattered one bit till Monday).

- Our neighborhood additionally has two distinct height levels. Our area (the lower level) effectively served as a run-off basin for the higher level.

- Additionally, we are bordered by a property (a mobile home park) that is several feet higher in elevation than we are. During the storm, a number of areas washed out beneath the dividing wall, meaning that we now were a run-off basin for the entire mobile home park as well. It was like a waterfall!

One of the areas where the under-wall dirt washed out. 

- Making things even worse, four of the houses on our street had just finished a complete course of flood irrigation on Sunday evening. We knew there was rain in the forecast, but paid no attention. In Phoenix, there are two fairly dependable rules concerning "rain in the forecast" - those being:

(1) If there's no rain in the forecast, it's not going to rain. 
(2) If there's rain in the forecast, it's still not going to rain.
And even when the impossible happens and we do get some rain, it's always short-lived and not enough to serve as any sort of irrigation. Thus, when the flood came, a good bit of our neighborhood was already waterlogged.




We escaped very easily - just a bit of ceiling damage. Our house and another house in the neighborhood were the only to escape so easily as, by the grace of God, those two houses had been burmed (that is, landscaped for flood irrigation) and were able to deal with the volume of water that we experienced.

The other homes in our street all suffered to various degrees - everything from the minor (flooded garages) to serious damage (one home flooded completely, and one home had floor-to-ceiling basement flooding, which then resulted in an exploded wall from the pressure build-up).

Our neighbor's basement door (now under water). 

This was the one time in my entire life when I have prayed for no more rain, and it will probably be the last. I love rain. But Monday was the first time when I nervously considered the fact that we really couldn't handle any more rain without serious consequences.

This experience also gave me an opportunity to identify with areas of the country that regularly experience flooding. While the amount of rain we received was only enough to elicit an amused giggle from true flood-plain dwellers, the truth is simply that we Phoenicians are not built, landscaped, insured, or prepared in any way to handle unusual amounts of water - and thus this hit us much harder than it would any other city prepared for flooding.
"Hey, I heard there are these things called sand bags that are good for keeping water out. Where do you suppose we could buy some?"
"Beats me, but since we can't get out of the neighborhood anyway, it doesn't much matter!" 
We ended up canceling school, and the children spent the entire morning in the rain. Needless to say, they had a marvelous time. (No, we did not let them go anywhere unsafe.) Unfortunately I didn't catch any pictures of their fun, but it was a day that will live long in their memories!

Here's a quick video that I got sometime during the morning (sorry, I can't figure out how to embed video with the newest changes to Youtube!):

Flood Video

One interesting thing to notice was the aftermath of our little flood. Having never experienced one before, we were very surprised at what the flood left behind. There was tons of trash (where it came from, no one knows), and our grass was coated in a (disgusting!) thick brown sludge of dried mud. Again, it's usual to y'all out there, but we'd never seen anything like it. New experiences all around!

For those of you who live in oft-flooded areas - I take my hat off to you! Wow! Amazing stuff.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families: Crock-pot Pizza Pasta!


In searching desperately for a fast potluck dish to take to a function, I ran across this recipe for Pizza Pasta. It was a huge success, and I highly recommend it!

Pizza Pasta

Did you know that you don't have to cook pasta ahead of time for baked or crock-pot dishes? True! Just add pasta uncooked, with a bit of extra water, and you're set. It cooks up beautifully and removes one of the most time-consuming parts of pasta casseroles (just like with the Crock-pot Lasagna!).

I used penne pasta instead of lasagna noodles - anything you have on hand will work just fine.

Enjoy! 


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families: Instant Black Bean Soup!


This recipe has been in our family for years, and it's probably one of the easiest on the books:

Instant Black Bean Soup

We make several changes. The original recipe is great, but we find it far too watery (we reduce the broth by half), and we add an onion for flavor. Here is our version:

Instant Black Bean Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cans black beans, undrained
1/2 cup jarred salsa
2-3 tsp. chili powder (less when there are children eating)
1 cup chicken broth (we found that 2 cups was too much)

Saute onion. Add black beans; mash partially. Add all other ingredients and heat. Serve.

Serve with: Sour cream, cheese, green onions, chips.

Good addition: Cumin!

One recipe feeds two adults and three young children - for larger families (or to have leftovers!) double or triple (or more!).

Enjoy!