Archive for the ‘pre-pregnancy’ Category

When a Dream/Plan Dies and It’s OK   Leave a comment

In 2014 I learned one big lesson (among plenty of small and medium-sized ones): adoption is expensive. In fact, out of our budget. So for all those who have heard me say we planned on “having one and adopting one”, there’s been a change in plans and I’ll have to suck it up for a second pregnancy (hopefully).

Back story: Way back when I was around age 10, I was reading my mom’s Ligourian magazines, which included lots of stories about couples trying to start families and the ensuing emotional struggles. I decided then that if I had trouble conceiving I would not feel like less of a woman, and that I wouldn’t get so obsessed with conceiving as to completely drain my finances and ruin my marriage. I also decided that I wanted to experience pregnancy and labor, God willing, but I also wanted to adopt a child. That idea has stuck around for 25 years, amazingly enough, and Mike and I had planned to go through one pregnancy and one adopted kid.

Fast forward to this past year, Conan’s second year of life. Our plan was to start looking into adoption and start the process sometime during the year. But we immediately hit a major roadblock: adoption is EXPENSIVE! A domestic adoption costs well over $10,000, what with all the fees, classes, and whatnot. I had not know that the adopting parents have to pay for the biological mother’s medical expenses, without insurance, and her maternity leave. (And if she changes her mind and takes the baby back, the adopting parents are back to square one with much lighter bank accounts.) In all my years of having this “plan” to adopt I had never even looked at the most basic information about adoption and didn’t know this in advance. So we could have adopted our first kid, and used almost all of our savings, but now we have no way to swing it.

There is fos-adopt (aka foster adoption), which is actually affordable. That is what is really pushed nowadays apparently. But, and I feel horrible saying this, I just don’t think that we could do it. And it’s not something I’m willing to gamble on.

So after 25 years of having an idea/plan/dream, it’s gone. As someone who is a planner, it has sometimes been difficult to adjust when situations change. But not in this case. I was feeling a little weird about following through on an idea first developed as a kid. The adoption process with it’s classes and waiting and counseling requirements is quite daunting. Most of all, though, is just the gut sense that it wasn’t meant to be, and satisfaction that I didn’t give up the dream on a whim but based on a confrontation with reality.

Posted January 25, 2015 by mayakey in parenting, pre-pregnancy

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Litany of a Hopeful Mother   Leave a comment

Do you pray for things? We’re always told not to pray for wants. So I don’t, and haven’t for years. Instead I pray for internal peace, I pray for other people, I pray for situations around the world. The interesting thing about this is that after a couple decades of being insistent about not praying for things that I want meant that I couldn’t do it. Not even for a baby. The closest that I could come was to pray for everyone who was trying to grow a family through pregnancy or adoption. At least for the first year of trying. Then I realized that praying for a baby was a form of letting go, an existential acknowledgement that I can’t DO anything to make it happen but that it is all up to the universe. It seems both intuitive and counter-intuitive at the same time (is that counter-intuitive?). Praying for something can be a way of trying to control life, but praying for something acknowledges our powerlessness and accepts that powerlessness at the same time.

So I started trying to pray for a baby. Really hard to do after a couple decades of not praying for things. Other than adjusting my personal no-words, feelings-based form of prayer, I figured that the easiest way was to create a litany. That way I have help. It’s one of the parts of Catholicism that I’ve always liked but never been able to practice. The idea of asking the saints to pray with you is so magical, and intimidating. I started by searching for patron saints of hopeful mothers. That was a mistake. I do not understand how some of the canonized saints got that way, and I am completely baffled by some of patronages. One of the patron saints of hopeful mothers that I found was accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her child, until she recanted after he hid in the church for a while. And so somebody decided this would be a good person to pray to when hoping for a baby???? Not only are some of the canonized saints ridiculous to me, but I just feel so silly asking a random dead person to pray for me with no connection to them. So I decided to go with what I know (the popular parent saints), and let it grow as I get more comfortable.

Here’s my starter litany, in which the “us” is my husband and I.

Our Lady, Mother of Jesus, pray for us

St Joseph, stepfather of Jesus, pray for us

St Anne, mother of Mary, pray for us

St Elizabeth, mother of John, pray for us

St Zachariah, father of John, pray for us

All parents of the world, pray for us

That’s as far as I’ve gotten and I’m still trying to get the comfort up to add my grandma to the list, and a friend’s mother. Saints don’t just include those who’ve been formally canonized, after all. It’s just that I feel presumptive asking someone to pray for me (somehow the “famous” saints are different). Although, I suppose my grandma would probably not have any objections. Maybe I’ll add her tonight.

Posted April 27, 2012 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, spiritual practices

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I’m Shocked! Shocked About Mislabeled Less-Toxic Nail Polish   Leave a comment

In today’s newspaper there was an article about a report released this week by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control that found that some nail polishes marketed as being free of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate do in fact contain those chemicals. Absolutely shocking, I say! Who would ever believe that a company would have misleading advertising that claims (explicitly or implicitly) that it’s products are healthy/not harmful for consumers? Oh, wait a minute, that’s greenwashing, which is rampant.

The DTSC’s concerns are not primarily exposure of women wearing the nail polish, but the exposure of the salon workers who are surrounded by nail polish all-day-every-day at their jobs. My concern, however, is MY exposure to toxic and carcinogenic compounds in nail polish that I wear. There’s a reason that I stopped wearing nail polish before we started trying to get pregnant. Not only can the volatile chemicals be inhaled, but some chemicals can be absorbed through the nails and skin as well. For the last decade or more I have only purchased nail polishes that state that they are toluene and formaldehyde-free; I think that dibutyl phthalate-free polishes must have come on the market only in the last few years when I haven’t been paying attention. But even without the “toxic trio” as the article refers to them, nail polish still contains a soup of other harmful chemicals. Basically, it is just not possible to make nail polish as we know it today without that soup. I’m highly skeptical that the so-called “organic nail polishes” on the market today aren’t just substituting less-harmful chemicals for the toxic solvents, colors, and other ingredients in conventional polishes. So while it is disappointing to know that there is a possibility that my nail polishes aren’t living up to their marketing claims, since I already consider them to be toxic soup it doesn’t really change anything. I still love me some painted toenails.

Posted April 11, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, pre-pregnancy

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Open Invitation to a Future Child   Leave a comment

Dear future son or daughter,

With a loving and hopeful heart, I invite you to come join our family, blessing us with your presence.

I am deeply grateful for the many blessings that I have received throughout my life, and I would like to share them with you, pass them on to you, and help to bring you new ones. I cannot promise that we will be perfect parents, but by the grace of God we will be good parents as we love you, teach you, nurture you, and enjoy life with you.

With love,

Your future mother, Maya

Posted March 16, 2012 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy

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Time to Take Care of the Nestee   Leave a comment

Upon reaching the unfortunate “1 year of trying to conceive without success” milestone (it’s closer to 1.5 years on the calendar but interruptions like gallbladder surgery messed with the schedule), I started doing some self-evaluation in addition to testing. One of the things that I realized was that I had gotten distracted in this process and had been neglecting myself. I suppose this is in general a problem for many people, and mothers especially, but when trying to get pregnant I’d guess it is counter productive. I’ve been so focussed on house stuff and financial matters, and the intellectual side of trying to become a good baby-host, that I kept procrastinating the stuff that was just for me. After years of being pretty good about monthly massages, I got ONE massage in 2011. After a few years of being good about monthly clothing purchases I bought a pair of jeans and some socks in the first 10 months of 2011, and both of those were almost-emergency purchases (translation: I had 7 pairs of socks left, and jeans with an impending hole). I don’t remember if I did any home facials all year, most weekends involved fairly extensive to-do lists and attempts at productivity, and I can’t remember the last time I cuddled up with a good book. It’s not that I didn’t do anything fun, or that I wasn’t taking care of myself in the basic sense, but that I wasn’t taking care of my emotional/mental self.

As my friend also pointed out, I usually approach everything in life with a rather spiritual/emotional perspective, but so far have been largely intellectual on the trying to conceive front. I’ve focussed on reducing external stressors, eating right, maintaining my exercise routine, charting, taking supplements, and house-projects (nesting). Yes, I was doing some visualization, and trying to deal with internal stressors, but entirely unsuccessfully.

It is time for that to change. I am re-committing to myself. One of my personal golden rules is that I am the most important person in my life, and I need to live by my own rule. February has been a good month to get that started with two massages (courtesy of a gift certificate), a hair cut so that I like the person in the mirror for the first time in over  a year, and a consistent visualization practice. I created a daily invitation/prayer to my future child, and am doing myofascial release treatments in the pelvic region to release stored tension (the pelvic region is the seat of the second chakra, which deals with relationships and sexual function among other things). Maybe the most important thing is mentally putting my foot down on the recent habit of putting the house first, and the inclination to be busy. It’s hard since there’s so much I’d like to do, and I enjoy doing it; but it creates internal stress and pressure to do-do-do-go-go-go. Internal psychological pressures are a bear! Especially for those who could be described as planners, or people who love to have multiple “projects” going on at any given time.

Some of this stuff is considered luxury by many even if it isn’t: like monthly massages, hair cuts, or clothing purchases. On a spiritual/emotional level taking that sabbath-time for a massage, even just one hour a month, has a huge effect. No, your muscles will not stay loose, but the benefits of a release of surface tension, break from mental stressors, and possible release of stored tension will last longer when it is a regular practice. And believe me, not liking what you see in the mirror or dreading getting dressed in the morning because your clothes are worn out or you have to wear the same things every week, has an incredibly negative effect on a persons psyche.

Can Something Be Unknowingly Stressful?   Leave a comment

Alternative title: When other people insist that something is stressful, but you don’t think so.

This past week we went to the doctor for a fertility consult and are starting to do some testing since we’ve passed 15 months of trying (technically 12 months + 3 months off due to gallstones/gallbladder surgery) to get pregnant. In addition to discussing testing options, the doctor suggested that while it has been very helpful that I’ve been charting so that I know I’m ovulating, I should stop because it is stressing me out. Apparently it happens all the time that people stop charting and then get pregnant because the charting is “stressful”. When we walked out of the office, though, I told Mike that I have no intention of stopping charting. I think it would be WAY more stressful to not chart than it is to chart. In fact, the month that we moved into our current house I didn’t chart and it was incredibly stressful for me because I felt lost in my own body. It was like someone had taken away one of my senses, and I didn’t like that experience. Am I missing something here?

I got introduced to Natural Family Planning/Fertility Awareness Method by my friend, and started charting more than a year before we started trying to get pregnant. I was immediately hooked! The self-knowledge and self-understanding that comes with observing fertility signs is an incredibly wonderful experience to me, and I intend to continue charting through menopause. So observing my fertile signs and charting is just as much a part of my day as brushing my teeth, and occupies about as much of my mental state. Taking my temperature in the morning doesn’t require any more thought than to roll over and stick the thermometer in my mouth when my alarm clock first goes off. (It’s a zen alarm clock, with chimes at increasing frequencies following the golden ratio). Checking cervical fluid is just a matter of observation throughout the day. Sure, there’s a little bit of stress related to timing sex during the fertile phase. However it seems to me like it would be more stressful to do so without  observing fertile signs and having no idea when your body is at its most fertile. And I also question the idea that I experience more stress around the time when I might get my period than someone who’s not charting. It seems like we’d be going through the same emotions regardless since most women have a sense of how long they usually go between periods.

This is probably partially a personality thing, after all I am definitely an engineer and someone who wants to be intimately knowledgeable about/involved with myself and my health and wellness. Maybe there’s also a difference that I didn’t start charting when we started trying to get pregnant for the purpose of trying to get pregnant. This doctor was not the first doctor to suggest that charting may stress me out as my naturopath suggested the same thing about a year ago. Unless I’m in total denial or completely missing something, though, I do not feel that observing my fertile signs and charting is causing stress in my life and interfering with my ability to get pregnant. Is it possible to have other people tell you that something is stressful for you and yet not experience that thing as stressful? I think so, obviously, but I’d love feedback.

Posted January 15, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, health, pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, self-care

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Starting The New Year With Less Dead Weight   Leave a comment

The run up to the start of a new year is, in my opinion, a great time to declutter and start the new year without a little of the “dead weight” that we accumulate over time. Some of this decluttering is easy, at least if done regularly. Sorting through clothes, getting rid of more cookware with non-stick finishes, passing on unused decorative items, or sending old books out to find new readers are all relatively easy steps. In my annual purge I’ve so far managed to get through the entire house except for the side yard and the office, and the clock is ticking down with one day remaining before winter solstice.

But in addition to the physical purging, some mental purging may help usher in a better new year as well. Anyone like me have a crazy backlog of “projects” waiting to be done? They do weigh me down, I have to confess. So in the last day of the purge as I tackle the office, where the physical manifestations of many of these projects reside, I’ll try to let go of some of those projects. This is especially important this year since we’re at 15 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. A child is a life change, and what if  the piles of little “projects” in my office are making my life too full and not leaving “space” for a child? I’ve been saying that it’s not a problem, but that could be denial. Isn’t there some kind of saying about keeping open space in your life so that there’s room for new things?

Posted December 20, 2011 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, psychology, simple living

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Pre-pregnancy Challenge to Increase Nutrient Density   2 comments

One my current goals is to increase the nutrient density of my diet in anticipation of gaining a parasite (aka getting pregnant), and I’ve been focusing on doing that by increasing my consumption of fruits and vegetables. A while back I switched from crackers for mid-day snacks to fruit and vegetable snacks, but I felt I was ready to take this a step further. So since March I have worked on making sure that I eat at least one serving of fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack. Well, sometimes it’s just a token with snack, but it’s all relative since a snack can be less than a serving size worth anyway. For this past month I’ve been keeping track of the total number of servings each day and comparing that to the old standard of 5 servings of vegetables, and 3 servings of fruit each day. At first it really depressed me that after all my effort I was barely making it most days, handily passing it some days, and occasionally missing the target. And that’s even if I count french fries and vegetable hot dog toppings as vegetables!

I confess to being a bit schizophrenic when I describe my diet. I don’t really consider my diet to be very healthy, but at the same time I recognize that by most standards it’s pretty good (decent amount of fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and whole grain products, frequent legumes, light on meat and dairy, well under 5 tsp/day of sugar). When I realized that even with the attention that I’ve been paying to increasing my fruit and vegetable consumption I’m still barely meeting the recommended target, I started looking at other categories, namely grains. If I remember the old pyramid correctly the recommendation was something like 9 to 11 servings of grains per day. By my accounting, on the days that I missed the fruit/vegetable targets I was also not eating that many grain products. At that point I figured that I need to start looking at this as more of a percentage/proportion thing, instead of a target number of servings. That lead me to the USDA website to check out the new “My Plate” thingy that’s replacing the complicated “My Pyramid” thingy that replaced the simple and clear food pyramid of yore (which replaced the really outdated quartered circle). I’m not impressed. For one thing, I suspect that there’s some politics being played. The personalized recommendation that I received included 3 cups (!) of dairy per day to maintain my weight, and 2.5 cups per day to lose weight. There’s no way I could possibly consume that much dairy in one day. The website recommends 3 cups/day of vegetables and 2 cups/day of fruit for me. Note that it takes two cups of lettuce to make one cup of vegetables, and a half a cup of cheese to make 1 cup of dairy. I’m not sure that “cup” defined in such a complicated way that it requires a chart is more helpful than “serving”. As far as using the plate graphic for reference goes, half of the diet is fruit/vegetable. I suppose on average over a week that’s almost true since some days are well over 75% and others more like 33%.

Oh, I should mention that the direct and labor-intensive method of actually keeping track of some key nutrients is not really an option. It’s labor intensive, ripe for frustration trying to analyze within the seasonal variations (since we get all of our produce from the farmer’s market we eat a seasonal diet: no tomatoes in winter, no asparagus in summer, etc.), and misses the point of whole foods that contain more than just the basic vitamins but also contain other phytonutrients.

What was my conclusion after all this? I’m figuratively throwing my hands in the air and declaring that it is not worthwhile to try use any metric to judge whether I’ve improved the nutrient density of my diet. Instead I’m relying on the more subjective (and unfortunately also subject to denial) sense that I have done so. And that sense that I don’t know how I could possibly increase the nutrient density of my regular diet anyway, except to never eat cereal for breakfast and bake bread weekly so that I don’t ever snack on the delicious white flour Pugliese bread that we get from Raleys.

Posted June 22, 2011 by mayakey in food, goals, health, pre-pregnancy

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Two Big Purchases, One Easy And One Not So   3 comments

Since getting our new car paid off this spring we can really start working on the wish list for the house. Two weekends ago we bought a grill, last weekend a dining room table, and this weekend a couch. Then we’ll pause to give me time to build my herb garden and sew up the new master bedroom curtains (not busy, not busy at all). The table and couch have been pretty big deals, and it was a bit of a toss up which was actually higher priority. While we have been using an office table as a makeshift dining room table, we didn’t have chairs and have been sitting on the loveseat pulled up to the table. I had to use a cushion as a booster seat to comfortably reach the table. It was also ugly and required a tablecloth, which cannot be cleaned with a wipe of a rag when it gets dirty. In competition though, on the sofa the fabric is completely torn up on the seat, and the top layer of batting beneath is also torn so the foam padding is exposed and crumbling. Therein is the problem: there’s a good chance that this sofa was treated with fire retardents, possibly including brominated fire retardents, and exposure becomes an issue when the foam starts coming out. Brominated fire retardents are persistent (don’t degrade), may contribute to neurologic and reproductive issues, and may be toxic to the liver and thyroid. So they affect me as an adult, they affect me as a woman trying to get pregnant, and they will be passed on to my child. Until we paid off the car we simply couldn’t afford to buy a couch, even a couch that didn’t meet my other requirements, so this has been a major chemical exposure that I have not been able to address. Oh, and the couch sags a bit, giving my husband back aches. Since we couldn’t decide which was really higher on the wish list, we tackled them at the same time. Yes, it’s obvious that the sofa was the more important one, but due to the higher price tag and greater research requirement it is a much more difficult purchase.

We started with the dining room table. My big requirement was that it be solid wood, so that it will last a long time and to eliminate offgassing from plywood or other engineered wood. From there we had two directions: secondhand (so that no new raw materials had to be used) or new from FSC-certified sustainably harvested wood. I think the option with the smallest footprint is the former, so we planned a weekend of driving from one consignment or antique store to another all over Sacramento. After the farmer’s market I decided to stop in at the consignment store nearest us to see if it was worth going with Mike when he got back from the gun show. I was in love by the third table. There were several tables that I could have lived with for a couple of years, and a couple that I could probably have lived with for decades. But there was one that was beautiful and seems perfect. It was also close to the most expensive table in the store. Mike and I went back in the afternoon, and he agreed that it is the table for us. It is solid wood, even the brackets under the table and the little drawers in both ends. The chairs are currently upholstered in a white cotton, but that should be easy enough to replace with leather upholstery and organic cotton or wool batting. Easy, and next-to-no driving around required!

Then we drove up the street to a store that sells custom furniture to start the process of getting a new sofa. Between the two of us we had some challenging requirements (ok, mine were the biggest challenges): firm cushions and back, leather, hardwood, organic fill, and no offgassing foam. We’re getting 3 of the 4. We didn’t even bother shopping any furniture galleries because we figured the chances of finding something hardwood, leather, and without/with a minimum of offgassing and toxic treatments were pretty much nil. A perusal of a few furniture store website where the words “(wood) veneer” showed up in every description proved that out. The issue with the wood is that many particleboards are made with adhesives that offgass formaldehyde and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Plus hardwood just lasts longer. The issue with leather stems mostly from the fact that I am tired of not being able to clean my furniture. I’m one of the few people who tries to wipe down my fabric furniture every spring and fall, but usually I give up long before the water stops turning black. I want leather where one wipe of a cloth leaves a clean surface. Additionally, since we’re about to have kids I understand that leather stands up better to “life”, stains less (as long as you wipe the spill up right away), and looks better with age. And leather is not necessarily treated with toxic flame retardants, stain repellents, and water proofers. (Just the not-so-inert leather processing chemicals, oh well; and some cleaning/protectant chemicals aren’t great either). Unfortunately, about 95% of leather sofas have soft cushion backs, so it was a challenge to get a leather tightback sofa that will be comfortable for Mike’s back.

I did have to compromise on the foam in the sofa, though. Not surprisingly in the green black hole of Sacramento, in a web search I wasn’t able to find any custom furniture makers advertising non-polyurethane foam, and I’m not crazy enough to drive to San Francisco for a sofa. (Side rant, the term really should be “made to order” not “custom”) The consultant at the store we went with also expressed concern that a latex cushion wouldn’t last as long as the polyurethane. So I’m stuck with the VOCs (specifically isocyanate, I think, which is used to make it foamy) offgassing from the foam. The cushion has a layer of down on top of the spring/foam layer, which is encased in cotton batting, so there’s another miss. “Conventional” cotton uses an absolutely crazy amount of pesticides. While I would have preferred a spring/latex cushion with organic cotton, hemp, or wool batting, this compromise is acceptable. It’s about as good as I expected to find. All-in-all the sofa purchase was not as hard as I feared, but it was a challenging purchase and since there wasn’t an example of the model in the store, hopefully we like it. In 8-10 weeks when it is delivered.

Posted June 11, 2011 by mayakey in home, pre-pregnancy, shopping

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Training for Pregnancy and Labor?   4 comments

When I was a kid (or maybe a teen) I remember my dad once saying something along the lines that he wished more women would prepare for pregnancy and labor as if they were training for a marathon and not a walk in the park. I don’t remember the context, but I do remember that it was a statement that made a lot of sense to me at the time. While it is a perfectly natural event, it’s a physically and mentally taxing event. Now that I’m in the midst of trying to get pregnant, that statement of his keeps ringing through my head. It still makes sense to me, but I wish I could ask him what he really meant. I’ve got my interpretations, which follow, but I’m curious what his intended meaning was.

“Nutrient-loading”: In preparation for a big race, an athlete needs a diet that provides lots of calories, and specifically lots of easily-burned carbohydrates (aka “carbo-loading). During pregnancy a woman needs to load up on vitamins and minerals so that there are no deficiencies for the developing baby.

Physical endurance: While baby-me may have wanted to get out of the womb and on with life, I know that most women labor for more than 4 hours, and even if much of that time is non-strenuous, I can imagine that having a high endurance level, like a long distance runner, would be really useful.

Muscular development: I have not been through labor yet, but I can well imagine that it is an extremely physical experience that really taxes muscles all through the body, but especially in the abdomen. And wouldn’t toned abdominal muscles (even if much of that is lost during the pregnancy) make it easier to push the baby out? Runners need to strength train the whole body with special attention on the legs, is the same true for pregnant women but focusing on the abdomen? On more than one occasion I’ve heard it said that belly dancing is great to prepare muscles for labor. I’ve never been able to fit belly dancing lessons into my schedule, though. This will definitely be a topic that I bring up with my midwife, eventually, whenever we actually get pregnant.

Mental endurance: I would imagine that some of the mental tricks that athletes use to keep themselves going through a tough event would be really helpful for a woman going through labor. I mean, isn’t labor basically an athletic event, just without the competition and with a really great reward at the end?

Those are my interpretations of my dad’s statement, but since I’ve never been through pregnancy and labor before, I’d really love to get feedback from those who have.

Posted May 16, 2011 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy