Lately I like to think about the phrase “pregnant with meaning.” It is generally used to describe a word or symbolism that has profound depth of meaning. However I feel we would use it much more appropriately if we used “pregnant” as a metaphor for something that is yet an idea, un-birthed; still gestating.
Because when we are pregnant, we are not just full! We are not full like the full moon or full of shit! We are creators full of a creation not yet fully realized.
In this pregnant post I would like to take some time to elucidate anyone who may be wondering how I am handling my self-care during my unassisted pregnancy.
Why I Chose UP
Of course one may free birth and still have an assisted pregnancy. However, I have chosen to embark on the soul journey of my pregnancy alone. Self-study is much more my style, and I have been enjoying my research and reading immensely.
Part of my reasoning for choosing this “radical” path is that I do not see it as radical at all. I see pregnancy and birth as completely normal, natural life events. Doctors and hospitals are for sick people, and I am not sick. I trust my intuition, my body, and my own ability and authority to care for myself. It would be an extremely rare event should something go “wrong.”
“The idea that pregnancy and birth are allopathic, medical events is actually quite recent. For most of human history, pregnancy was expected… was seen as a special event, but also as a normal part of life. In the 21st century, that perspective, seeing pregnancy as just a normal life event, is very rare, and almost in some circles outlandish.”
– Bauhauswife podcast episode #8 Unassisted Pregnancy
I am not concerned with any facet of “prenatal care” that can be provided to me by medical institutions. I don’t need to be weighed or measured. I don’t need to hear the baby’s heart beat or know its gender. I am not interested in a glucose test or any kind of fetal monitoring. I am not diabetic, and have never been diabetic.
I tested positive for group B strep when I had my first daughter, but since antibiotics are the only “remedy” and antibiotics devastate babies gut microbiomes for life, I will always refuse them regardless. They do far more harm than good. Personally, I believe that group B strep is a completely normal part of a mother’s natural microbiome (according to Wikipedia it is a harmless, natural part of “up to 30% of healthy human adults”) and is nothing to fear. My daughters have been just fine.
Beyond all that stupidity, the bottom line is that I feel good. I feel my baby kick me like a crazy little cricket every night. I know that my pregnancy is going very well and I do not need a machine or a doctor with supposedly more authority than me to tell me that. I am my own authority. I trust my body to tell me if something isn’t right.
“The fact that we have elevated this lackluster cursory procedure of being weighed and measured and counted as the epitome of what is required to be cared for during pregnancy, as the definition of prenatal care… I find this to be frightening and backwards and dangerous and really just very, very sad.”
– Bauhauswife podcast episode #8 Unassisted Pregnancy
Various Aches and Pains
aka How I Have Been a Pain in the Butt Complaining to My Husband
It has been a long time since my last pregnancy (6 years!), so I forgot a lot. It’s actually amazing to me how much we forget. Mostly the bad stuff! Which is good. It’s good that we don’t remember it. Maybe there is even something biological that makes us forget.
The first thing I realized I forgot about was first trimester morning sickness. I was fortunate not to have hyperemesis gravidarum, but that didn’t stop me from complaining ad naseum! For those three months I am pretty sure all I ate was crackers.
Every night, lying in bed I would feel terribly guilty for not eating better that day. I couldn’t shake it. I knew logically that if my body felt like vomiting at the thought of a green smoothie, that meant I wasn’t supposed to eat it right now. But my illogical pregnancy brain continued to lament that I could not fulfill my pre-pregnancy intentions of eating impeccably well.
Before getting pregnant, I did eat almost impeccably. I was also working out every day and focusing hard on my health. So my new regimen of crackers and inactivity was disheartening. I wanted so badly to muster up the energy to go grocery shopping and prepare something nutritious for my baby, but instead everything rotted in the fridge.
I also experienced Kona ice cravings, which I blogged about early in my pregnancy, after I found out that craving ice is common in pregnancy and means you are low on iron. My daily prenatal must have been salutary enough however because I didn’t take any extra iron supplements at that time and my ice cravings soon dissipated.
Now that I am past all this, I can look back with understanding and feel good about some of the good choices I did make, like getting lots of rest while I blogged like crazy back in July when I started this beautiful mess of a project we call Gold Millennial.
Of course I don’t feel great about the five weeks I spent torturing myself working at the school. Every day I worked there I knew it was a bad thing for my baby. Even before the days when I felt like I would pass out all day, and had to keep sitting down. Working 7-7 made it next to impossible for me to eat well and get enough rest. Not to mention the extreme amounts of stress. I am just glad I made the good choice to quit, rather than to keep pushing myself and doing harm to my baby.
Lately I have experienced the second trimester round ligament pain, and at first I was confused by it. It felt like cramps. But I soon realized what they were and that I had nothing to fear. I mostly feel these pains when I go walking or hiking, which makes sense since when I move, my muscles are being stretched!
As with both of my prior pregnancies, my gums are bleeding a bit. Nothing excessive, but I am flossing every night and I did find a natural product that is supposed to help mitigate it – an anti-gingivitis mouth rinse with 20% aloe vera. I’ve been using it for two weeks now and it seems to be helping a little.
Another new complaint is restless leg syndrome, which in my opinion ought to be called crazy legs! Because I feel absolutely crazy!! I typically go to bed when I tuck my girls in at 8, but then my damn legs keep me up sometimes til two in the morning. It is quite maddening.
Nourishing My Baby and My Body
The other day I remarked to my husband José how wonderfully healthy I feel and look this pregnancy compared to my pregnancies with our older daughters. I beat myself up when I eat a cookie, but looking at myself in the mirror really put into perspective how different this pregnancy is.
People talk about that pregnant glow, which actually comes from dilated blood vessels (vasodilation), pumping more blood through the body for baby. “This can make facial skin look brighter, or blushed.” But that isn’t what’s making me feel extra vibrant.
With my prior pregnancies, glow be damned, I felt like a gross, ugly blob! The extra fat and fatigue I felt was likely due to all the junk I was eating and a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I hated being pregnant. I looked forward to birth and to my babies, but I didn’t enjoy the pregnancy one bit. I thought women who spoke of loving being pregnant were crazy!
With this pregnancy, education and nutrition (and possibly years of wisdom and experience since I’m 30 now and was 22 then) have changed me. I don’t feel like a gross blob at all. I feel quite wonderful, actually. And dare I say it, I am actually loving being pregnant.
My belly is beautifully round and just pops off my body. In stark contrast to former years, I enjoy very much being active, and am bolstered by weekly reminders in my reading of how it is a lie that pregnancy makes women weak. It is in fact the most powerful time in our lives. Just check out this mama Gracie V weight-lifting all over her Instagram.
Although I know that I am not weak, and can still lift heavy things and do lots of squats ( read as: am supposed to be doing lots of squats…), I do see some truth to the “weak” analysis of pregnant women. I know I’m walking on a fine line of blasphemy to my freebirthing sisters when I say this, but I have to make a note of it.
I have been experiencing light-headedness often, that feeling like you’re about to faint. And I know that this is due to the vasodilation, so I am not scared by it. When it happens, I just sit down and rest, drink some tea or some magnesium water, and go on about my day. But I wonder if this may be partially to blame for the stereotype. It can’t possibly be a deficiency of any nutrient, because I have been obsessively supplementing all the most-needed pregnancy nutrients via dietary changes and a few vitamins.
I am typically not one to advocate supplements, as I believe that the best nutrition comes directly from whole foods, however I have made an exception for this pregnancy. I’m not taking any chances when it comes to my baby.
I am also drinking at least three cups of tea per day, alternating between red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, dandelion root, and a pregnancy tea that is a combination of RRL and nettles. RRL tones the uterus and nettles are considered a “nourishing herb” for pregnancy due to their anti-inflammatory properties. They are very high in chlorophyll and vitamins C and A.
In addition to the tea bags for convenience, I bought a little bag of nettle leaf from Mountain Mamas and have been boiling it in a pot with 8 cups of water about once per week so that I can have a half gallon of it in the fridge. Although it takes a bit more prep, I have to say that I prefer the taste of the tea when I brew it myself from scratch. That is probably because I make it much stronger than the little tea bags and I like it stronger. If I’m in a hurry though and have none prepped, two tea bags makes a stronger brew and that is good too.
Since I have been irritated by restless leg syndrome, a malady that affects 40% or approximately 1 in 3 pregnant women, I have been reading up on what I can do to get some sleep at night. I read this article and learned that many studies have linked RLS during pregnancy to iron and/or folate deficiencies. The article recommends 325mg of iron paired with 300-500mg of vitamin C for absorption. Prior to reading this, I was afraid to take any iron supplement, since I’d heard and read in various places that too much iron can be toxic, especially to young children (Orgasmic Birth, p. 62). So I had been increasing my dietary sources of iron with blackstrap molasses, nettles, spinach, and kidney beans. But since magnesium drinks right before bed paired with Dead Sea salt baths rich in magnesium have not been quieting my RLS, I am trying out the iron supplement dosage specifically recommended for pregnant women.
UPDATE: so far it’s been a week of me taking the 10ml dose of this twice per day. I can honestly say that my RLS symptoms have quieted down a good deal. I kind of hate that the supplement is working because now I’ll have to go buy more and that shit is expensive!
I have also been supplementing my diet with foods I’ve researched and found to be extremely high in the nutrients needed for baby’s best growth and development in utero (and my own continued health while I grow the thing).
I’ve read that baby pretty much always get what he needs, because he just takes it from mama. The real danger comes from mama herself losing nutrients that baby is taking. Examples are iron and calcium. If baby needs calcium and there is not enough in mama’s diet, he takes it from her bones. If baby needs more iron than mama consumes, then mama can become anemic, and an anemic mother risks going into shock and bleeding out in childbirth, among other complications. (Orgasmic Birth, p. 63). This terrifies me. Another good reason for the damn iron supplement.
But I also went on one of my favorite food websites, nuts.com, and ordered big boxes of peanuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. I got a 5lb. bag of peanuts that I cannot wait to blend up with my beloved Vitamix into some super creamy peanut butter with flax seed oil. I might throw some avocado oil in there too. Last time I made this combination it was heavenly, and I have since spent many a night midnight snacking on a piece of 22 grain bread completely smothered in at least half an inch of the sticky stuff.
As for the rest, I plan to eat as many handfuls of pumpkin seeds and nuts as I can possibly tolerate throughout the day. I found this great website, Nutrition and You, where I learned that 100g (approximately one cup) of pumpkin seeds have 110% an average person’s recommended daily intake, and 148% magnesium. Peanuts are extraordinarily nutritious, giving us 60% folates, lots of fat, protein, B-complex vitamins, and the antioxidant resveratrol. Walnuts have 24% folate, 90% omega-3 fatty acids (essential for baby’s brain development), and 139% Vitamin E. I was excited to see that macadamia nuts have 253% RDI of total fat, and figured I could make a macadamia nut butter if I don’t love eating them by the handful.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, this baby is super spoiled, and not even born yet.
Lately I’ve been eating spinach salads with dried cranberries (iron + vitamin C), hard-boiled egg (B-12), walnuts (omega 3), and flax seed oil (omega 3). All the best for my baby and me.
Nourishing My Soul
So far I have listened to about a dozen Free Birth Society and Bauhauswife podcasts, read around the Free Birth Society Facebook group (which sadly no longer exists as they have run away underground, and begun charging exorbitant membership fees, due to a misguided attempt at self-preservation), read numerous other random articles about birth and pregnancy symptoms, and attended The Village Prenatal freebirth-friendly meetups with other pregnant and postpartum mamas in my community.
I read Orgasmic Birth, by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro, which I highly, highly recommend and The Unassisted Baby, by Anita Evensen. I just received via Amazon order The Continuum Concept, by Jean Leidloff. I also picked up Unassisted Childbirth, by Laura Shanley and Birth as an American Rite of Passage from the library last week and read them both already. The Labor Progress Handbook by Penny Simkin is on my baby registry, so that I can learn various birth positions to try should the baby need my support in getting un-stuck. Although I do not anticipate this being a problem, it never hurts to be prepared.
From Oragasmic Birth, I mined gems of information. Did you know that calcium inhibits iron absorption (p. 62)? I did not. I thought my morning cream of wheat was giving me a boost of iron and calcium. Belly dancing was designed not to seduce men, but to prepare women for labor (p. 66). It’s undulations are perfect for riding waves and breathing babies down. If we still had our Y membership I’d be belly dancing every week!
But more importantly, from countless first-hand accounts and quotes from mothers sprinkled throughout the book, I absorbed a powerful knowing that birth can and should be sacred, exulted, and beautiful beyond measure. Several of the books I have chosen to order and put on hold were referenced in Orgasmic Birth. It has been influential in the direction of my research, and I only wish I’d read it before my first birth.
Birth as an American Rite of Passage is birth theory from the 1990s, but was still valuable in my understanding of the cultural conditioning that has brought us to where we are today in terms of the disrespect and abuse and irrational fear modern Western women have to contend with during their pregnancies and births. From a scholarly analysis of the “secret sisterhood” of pregnant and postpartum mothers that women become tacit members of once they enter the liminal space of pregnancy to a deconstruction of the implicit messages behind each individual medical intervention, my mind was blown page after page.
I typically do not like to read older non-fiction. I feel that it does not retain its value the same way fiction does, as facts and perspectives do become outdated. But in the case of Robbie Davis-Floyd’s famous birth culture manifesto, it was well worth the read. Too many other texts I read and even podcasts I listened to referenced it to overlook.
Unassisted Childbirth also spends several chapters unpacking interventions, and covers many of the same topics I read about in all the other books. However, it differs from the other books in that Mrs. Shanley is not shy about expressing her “radical” opinions about birth, and I love and respect that deeply.
I was quite put off by Mrs. Evensen’s commentary on Shanley’s book (on page 307 of The Unassisted Baby): “… if you need more how-to advice, then this book is not a good resource for you. Plus, if you’re already convinced that unassisted childbirth is the way to go, you don’t need to read this book either.” After reading the book myself, I disagree with Evensen, and I don’t like that she basically bashed another author of her identical topic for no good reason in her book. In fact if I may be so bold as to critique her book, I found a ton of typos in it and I did not find it as helpful as I hoped as far as covering the few and far between potential emergencies that can occur very, very infrequently in childbirth that I was expecting her to cover. I will have to research these further on my own as I have not come across enough information about them in my studies so far. These are: shoulder dystocia, cord prolapse, MAS, and hemorrhage. That being said, I felt that both books were very much worthwhile.
I plan to go deeper and further down all the rabbit holes I have time to excavate before baby is born. Right now I can’t get enough of reading on this topic, listening to podcasts, poking around Instagram’s inspiring quotes and stories, and intermittently watching powerful free birth videos.
I wish I could say that I’m mediating and spiritually connecting with my baby, but I guess I haven’t gone that deep yet! I am not super excited about re-learning hypnobabies again, so I don’t know that I will go that route this time. I may look into drawing up some pretty affirmations to put around my birth space when the time comes, and rely heavily on my intuition. As it is.
In the meantime I am enjoying lots of long, hot baths with Dead Sea salts (which have far more minerals than Epsom salts), chilly walks around the neighborhood bundled up in José’s coat (I can’t zip up my own anymore!), and just enough quality time curled up on the couch in front of the fire with my books.
“Sea salt contains a whole family of minerals from the ocean,” Stavroulakis explains. “The amniotic fluid that we were born in is the same mineral composition as the ocean, so when you impart those minerals onto the surface of the skin, there is a very synergistic exchange that promotes healing and conditioning of the skin.”
All the Right Things
I feel like I’m doing all the right things right now. I am so relieved that I finally woke up and realized that I don’t have to do prenatal yoga and have a water birth just because they are the popular things to do. No offense to all the yogis out there, but I don’t want to do yoga right now. I want to clean my house and sit by the fire and read my books. I am enjoying nothing so much as these two activities.
Cleaning is helping me get in lots of squats while I pick thing up off the floors and working up a sweat every day cleaning bathrooms and vacuuming doesn’t hurt either. It is satisfying my nesting instinct and the house will be impeccable by the time the baby is born. I actually feel like I’ve found the perfect winter exercise.
Reading is helping me relax and also helping me feel immensely educated on the topics of pregnancy and childbirth. I have learned more in the past three weeks of reading than in both of my prior pregnancies combined. Every other page my mind is blown. I feel enlightened and I wish that everyone in the world would read these books. It has been a very long time since I have been so hungry to read more, and more, and more. I am consuming word after word and book after book and I don’t ever want to stop reading.
I love all of the nutrient-dense foods I am preparing and consuming every day. I feel good about my commitment to feeding my family love. All the time and money I spend on my meals and snacks has never felt more worthwhile.
Taking responsibility for my own body and my own baby during this pregnancy has been one of the most empowering things I have ever done. I feel amazing in a way I haven’t felt at any time prior to this in my life. This whole pregnancy feels special, magical, and pregnant with a promise of an epic climax and a beautiful baby at the end of a sparkling, vibrant rainbow.
After researching placenta encapsulation, I have decided that it is way too easy not to do ourselves, so my husband and I will be washing, steaming, slicing, dehydrating, grinding, and encapsulating my placenta after I birth it. After the cord stops pulsing and we do a cord burning ceremony of course!
I am excited to take my placenta pills again, and I will be sure to document the entire process of encapsulation to blog about it here. When I had Josephine’s placenta encapsulated, I would take the pills twice a day with a tiny bit of red wine, and they made me high! I absolutely love them. I gotta have my placenta pills man. For this reason I am choosing cord burning and encapsulation over a lotus birth, as lovely as that sounds.
I already thought to the cold days ahead and bought a quartz heater, because the postpartum chills are a real phenomenon. I remember being freezing after both of my girls’ births, even though Josephine was born in June. This one will be born in the dead of winter, but for some reason I am really looking forward to it… I hope we get snowed in. Baby and Papa I will be toasty warm cocooned in our bed. We will cuddle in our cozy nest, with our gorgeous newborn, in bliss.
I especially love quartz because I have memories of our quartz heater in our tiny house broadcasting random, faraway radio stations in the middle of the night and making us freak out thinking we were being contacted by aliens. I also love quartz for its metaphysical amplifying power. I’m curious if we will feel the effects of the epic energy surrounding birth amplified in any way. I might put some of my quartz crystals out around the room just for the occasion.
I told José today that having this baby is making me very happy. I was so depressed before. I was focusing hard on trying to build a career, because I thought that would make me happy, but for the longest I’d really wanted to have a baby. Finally taking the plunge into pregnancy has been the best depression medicine on the planet. And I know that when baby is here, we will only be even happier.
I know better than to expect it, but I do harbor a small hope that our baby will heal his Papa too. José can’t feel the reality of his baby as deeply as I can now, with every little kick and giant summersault, but when he is born, that will change. This little one will steal our hearts in one breath, in one squeeze of his tiny fingers. On that day, every squat and vitamin and sleepless night of crazy legs will be worth it.
How have you handled your prenatal care? Or how do you think you would if you became pregnant? Share in the comments ❤