Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our Pregnancy Journey

His room is ready. All the blankets, bibs, burp cloths, and a few outfits have been washed and folded. Our hospital bags are packed and ready by the door...all we need now is a baby!

I know I said in my last post that I would share his nursery next, but as I started typing this post, I got completely consumed with sharing my pregnancy journey first, and it became quite lengthy. . . so I PROMISE his nursery will be posted first thing tomorrow! In the meantime, here's my 9+ month adventure ~ enjoy!

We found out we were pregnant on December 22, 2011 while I was in the hospital suffering from weeks of severe abdominal pain. It turned out to be SMAS (Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome), a completely unrelated-to-pregnancy condition. Adam and I had been trying to conceive, and I had taken a pregnancy test the week before that was negative. Needless to say, we were both shocked and thrilled in the best way to hear the news from the doctor! On the downside, it meant our treatment options were rather limited. The SMAS resulted from me losing the fat pad around my duodenum (part of the intestine).  This happens to people who are anorexic or people who experience great amounts of weight loss, neither catergory of which I fit.

Three months before, I drastically changed my eating habits in an attempt to stop my Sjogrens symptoms that were interfering with my life more than I liked. Medications weren't working and were costly. I stopped eating any and all processed foods, going totally organic and natural. The result? ALL of my Sjogrens symptoms (muscle spasms & cramps, extreme fatigue, dry mouth, eye problems, etc.) completely vanished! I had lost about 20 pounds (not an insane amount) and went from a size 10 to a comfortable size 6. My rheumatologist was amazed by my improvement and said he wished more people would be as committed to healing themselves through natural means as I had been. I felt better than I had my whole life...until early December when my fat pad apparently decided to melt away.  SMAS happens to less than 2% of people who experience "drastic" weight loss. That's about, oh. . .one in a billion. But, that's the story of my life. Stuff that happens to a very small number of people seems to happen to me, but I digress...

It was a very rough five months to follow as I dealt with the SMAS.  As far as the pregnancy was concerned, I couldn't have had an easier one. I didn't suffer from morning sickness, fatigue, or any other typical pregnancy symptoms. However, the SMAS came with enough pain and discomfort to cover the gamut! I missed almost 2 months of school; experienced what my gastroenterologist said is comparable to, if not worse than, labor pains for about 8 hours a day; and felt frustrated as I was forced to consume over 3,500 calories per day to try to rebuild my missing fat pad! That meant eating all the foods I had so happily given up, and drinking disgusting concoctions like Carnation Instant Breakfast mixed with a tall glass of half-and-half twice a day. Ugh. Our only treatment option was for me to wait for the weight to return in my stomach and treat the pain with Tylenol.

Zofran became my best friend. I don't know how I would have dealt with the constant state of nausea I was in if I couldn't have taken that amazing little tablet. I had a hard time keeping down so many calories. Things did get a little worse before they got better (my colon shut down completely, adding a whole new element of pain and discomfort), but my gastro doc, Dr. Barnes at Summit Medical Center (whom I HIGHLY recommend!) was so thorough and constantly seeking options for us to try. Eventually, after going to him every Tuesday for what felt like forever, my condition became manageable and my flare-ups were less and less frequent.

As for the pregnancy, I knew very early on I wanted to explore the "au naturel" route (despite the majority of people around me telling me that I was crazy) for labor and delivery. With all my health complications, the midwives weren't an option. Thank the Lord for Dr. Doug Brown at Heritage Women's Center! We have been more than pleased with his services, as he is supportive of natural labor and is so patient with us, giving us all the time we want or need at each appointment. He listens to our needs and concerns, and we always have a good laugh about something at each visit. A friend also told me about doulas, something that was completely foreign to me. Who knew there were trained and experienced professionals out there to support expectant mothers through natural birth?! Another friend from church shared the name of a legendary doula here in Nashville...Beulah Kyle (yep, that's right- she's Beulah the Doula, and there's no one else as awesome as her!), so we met her at Panera one day for a meet-and-greet. She won us over immediately, and I felt so confident that God placed her in our lives to guide me along this amazing journey.

Along with being a retired OB nurse and a doula, Beulah is also a Hypnobirthing instructor. We went to her house for five one-on-one classes, and each week she had a yummy homemade treat waiting for us (I need to get her banana bread recipe). Hypnobirthing is all about mind over matter. We learned breathing and relaxation techniques and watched several birthing videos where the mother remained calm and relaxed throughout labor and delivery. I decided to pilot some of the hypnobirthing techniques during my SMAS flare-ups to see if they eased the excruciating pain I was experiencing. To my amazement, it worked! I was actually able to work through some of my worst abdominal pain through careful concentration, relaxing all the muscles in my body, and breathing away most of the tension that was contributing to my pain.

Finally, in June, I turned a major corner. My stomach had finally expanded enough that the arteries were no longer restricting my duodenum, and my pain was almost completely gone. My colon was (and still is) not back to fully functioning, but we found a plan that makes it totally manageable. I stopped feeling nauseous all the time, and the third trimester greeted me with a burst of energy and nesting. I was able to up the ante with my walking routine, going a little farther each day, until I was soon up to walking 3 miles per day! I kept this up until last week, when I had to drop it down to 2 miles, but I'm still going every morning. I am back to eating like a "normal" person, consuming around 2,000 calories, and I've been able to add back most of the natural, organic foods I prefer. My only change in taste buds has been my cravings for beef. I didn't like it AT ALL for my entire life until my pregnancy, so I think William takes after his daddy. . . he's going to be a meat lover!

Now we're on the final countdown (I'm due August 18), so we'll see how he makes his grand entrance into the world. I think the hardest part has been blocking out all the skeptical, snide comments people make when you tell them you are planning a natural birth. You know what? I won't know if I don't try, so that's exactly what I intend to do. Do I plan to get an epidural? No, but can I change my mind? Absolutely. Will I completely refuse a C-Section if there's a medical emergency? Of course not- I'll do whatever we have to do to make sure my baby boy arrives safely. But am I going into this with the expectation of a natural, drug-free birth? 100% yes. I've been diligent in my preparations, and I have surrounded myself with positive, encouraging friends who support what I'm attempting. I promise to report back on my delivery experience in the very near future. In the meantime, I will continue to keep myself occupied and try to patiently await the blessed day when I get to meet my son for the first time. Thanks for reading all the way to the end of my long-winded story. The nursery reveal is coming tomorrow!


  1. Sophia, you can totally do the natural birth. After the SMAS pain, you'll be all, "Seriously? Is this all you've got, Uterus?" Just keep moving. Do not lie down. Walk, bounce on the birthing ball, hang from Adam's shoulders and dance back and forth while bouncing, whatever way you can find relief in each stage. If you keep your head in the game, your body will follow. Plus, I've heard nothing but complete awesomeness about Beulah the Doula, so you'll be in good hands. Now, hurry up and have that 7 pound, 11 ounce baby so I can win something.

    1. Thanks for the words of encouragement and birthing tips, friend! I hope to get to employ them in the coming weeks! The prize IS pretty awesome, so just maybe you'll win! ;)