Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I went in for a prenatal late last week. They did the typical urine test, I've done them a several times before with Duckling. But this time the midwives told me that they had found ketones in my specimen, which meant that my body is in a state of ketosis meaning that I haven't been consuming enough food and so my body has started dipping into its emergency fat stores just to keep going. Well that explains why I was feeling lightheaded all the time. And why I was 16.5 weeks pregnant and had gained only two pounds.

It really didn't have anything to do with the way we eat. (In fact we actually eat more meat and cooked food in the winter. We feel better that way.) You can even eat 100% raw vegan and still have a healthy pregnancy. (Raw advocate Jinjee Talifiero has had five healthy, all-raw pregnancies resulting in healthy babies.) The problem was that I needed to eat more. Lots more.

I knew I wasn't doing the best. My appetite goes a little crazy when I'm pregnant and certain things I loved before become nauseating to me when I'm carrying a baby. But on top of that, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to only eat things that my husband could eat with his food sensitivities because I didn't want to make him feel bad- which limited my food choices. And I'm still nursing some. And I was keeping up our walking and hiking schedule. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to keep up a vision of what I felt like was perfect. I've had a history of food issues from picky eating as a kid because I hated almost everything my mom made, to going hungry as a teenager when there wasn't enough money for food, to the immense nausea I experienced with my pregnancy with Duckling.

At first I was hungry all the time, but soon, even though I wasn't eating anywhere near enough, I felt like I didn't need to or wanted to eat anything. I thought I could handle it and get through it. But I was starting to really lose a grip. I was getting really anxious and depressed and irritable. I thought I could take care of everything and became obsessed with trying to keep everyone happy, but I was just making my husband and son more miserable.

So when the test showed I was in ketosis, I got my wake-up call. Malamute and I talked a lot about it. In researching, I found out that the latest research into eating disorders has found that many people who suffer from eating disorders often share similar traits of perfectionism, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, being overly rigid and closed to change, and difficulty seeing long-term consequences- like me.

Remember those junior high and high school health classes where they talk about eating disorders? Don't they always make it sound so simple? Girl sees lots of actresses and models who are thin and/or takes up modeling or ballet. She stops eating or starts a cycle of bingeing and purging, then realizes how she's killing herself, sees the light and starts eating again. Then everything is OK. Turns out, the reality is actually much different than that:

  • For many with eating disorders, media images have nothing to do with their eating disorder. If media messages were solely to blame, then all of us would have an eating disorder since we are all seeing the same thin actresses and models. Eating disorders are preached about in secondary schools across America. Even magazines like Seventeen and Cosmogirl regularly run features warning about the dangers of anorexia and bulimia. A recent article in Seattle Woman talked with several women who described how eating disorders were not really about maintaining a certain appearance for them, but about exercising control, about how they feel, many even described it as an addiction. Behavioral tendencies, differences in brain chemistry, and possibly even DNA have been found to be contributors. The psychiatric community has also started to find a greater correlation between sexual trauma and eating disorders than previously thought and therapeutic approaches that emphasize dealing with underlying trauma are being encouraged.
  • It's not just about starving or purging. Many people don't realize that Binge Eating Disorder- where an individual goes through cycles of food over-indulgence and guilt- is just as much of a problem as anorexia or bulimia. People with BED are addicts, but their drug of choice is food. BED can also kill because of complications related to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • It's not just "starving girls". Most estimates are that 1-5% of all men have some sort of eating disorder, with a majority of those men have Binge Eating Disorder. Many researchers are even looking into the phenomenon of steroids and obsessive bodybuilding as being a type of eating disorder.
As for me, I've been eating a lot more (regardless of whether Malamute can eat it or not) and allowing him to help me more instead of trying do everything myself. I am feeling a lot better. I've even found myself being happy again. Since it's still pretty early on, I have a lot of time to change things. But things are looking up. =)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Healthier Christmas Treats!

Every Christmas since we've been married, Malamute and I have said that we don't have money for Christmas. We've never really gotten each other real presents. We did get a small tree for Duckling's first Christmas and threw a few decorations on it and felt guilty the whole time for the money we spent. This year, we decided to actually have a Christmas. We can't go into debt for anything, but we decided to get Duckling some nice presents and to buy some presents for each other. We got a small tree and I have been adding more homemade ornaments throughout the month and I think it looks lovely. (We also found a hippopotamus ornament at Target! We bought it and added it to the tree too.) We even bought a small tree topper. We also decided to spend some money on our dream Christmas treats.

Buying Christmas treats isn't quite as easy when you love someone who has multiple food sensitivities. But there are options. We bought a nice sampler of dates from Oasis Date Farms. If you think all dates are the same, you are sadly mistaken as there are several different varieties, each with their own taste and consistency. We had a good time sampling all the different types. We can particularly recommend Barhi and Medjool dates as our favorites. Barhis are oh-so good with a caramel-like flavor and nice chewiness. Medjools are nice and big and chewy.

The other thing we decided to do is have chocolates. I LOVE  chocolates and always have. Since going healthier though, it's been harder to come by ones that have better ingredients. Add to that the fact Malamute is extremely sensitive to dairy and chocolates seemed we nigh impossible to come by. Then I found Sjaak's Chocolates. They're a family chocolate company in Northern California that make their chocolates using traditional Dutch methods, but offer a wide selection of vegan chocolates. It's definitely on the pricier side, so we can't get tons, but they are DELICIOUS! We eat them a few at a time, with all of  us taking a bite so we can try each flavor. (Duckling would like to gobble every one of them down all by himself.) Another great thing about Sjaak's is that their chocolates are fair trade, which means that their chocolate comes from farms which are certified as using humane practices for the environment and their workers. Unfortunately, most chocolate that is sold in stores comes from cacao farms that basically use slave labor. Often, the workers on these farms are children who have been sold into servitude by their parents because of poverty. So fair trade chocolate makes Christmas merrier. =) If you're not looking for exotic truffles or don't have food sensitivities, you can easily find fair trade chocolate bars at most health foods stores and even a few regular grocery stores.

Another treat we've discovered is Panda licorice. This is the best licorice candy out there. It tastes great and the ingredients are ridiculously simple and wholesome. If you're not a black licorice fan like me, they make raspberry, cherry and blueberry chews as well. These are probably going to end up in stockings with some of Sjaak's bite-size chocolate candies, a Pro-bar, and an apple.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "Fireproof" Rules For A Successful Marriage

One night, Malamute and I were upstairs making some snacks and he started channel surfing for something to watch. He came across Fireproof an independent, super low-budget Christian film that went on to gross over $33 million in 2008, making it the highest grossing independent film of that year. Well, we had wondered how good it was, and now was a chance to see.

We were astounded. And NOT in a good way.

"Appalled" is actually a more accurate definition of our reaction to this "save your marriage" film purporting Christian values. So here are the Fireproof lessons for building a lasting marriage:

  • Men must be completely faithful to their wives, but if you are a woman and your life is difficult, you do not need to be faithful to your husband. This movie makes a big deal over how looking at porn is infidelity and how God considers it adultery to lust in your heart. But Catherine, the wife, has begun seeing a doctor from her work and no one bats an eye. She and her husband aren't getting along and her mother had a stroke, so that makes it OK for her to lust after another man. Try as I might I have yet to find anything in the Bible that says that women who are having problems are exempt from the seventh commandment. Maybe the Sherwood Baptist Church where the writers hail from is using a different edition than I (and the rest of the Judeo-Christian world) are unfamiliar with. Furthermore, the first person our hero Caleb confronts about the affair isn't his wife, it's the doctor, but I guess in a world where women bear no responsibility for their actions, this makes sense because obviously the infidelity all the mens' fault.
  • Being a good husband means giving your wife everything she wants- but wives are under no obligation to do anything for their husbands. As part of a "Love Dare", Caleb sets about tidying up the house and doing all the odd jobs that Catherine has complained about in the past. He also brings her flowers and plans candlelit dinners. He even spends the money he was saving for a boat ($24,000) on buying Catherine's mother a special wheelchair like she wanted him to. And she responds with sarcasm, an affair, criticism, and divorce papers. Wow. Here I was thinking that marriage was more than indentured servitude. I thought marriage was supposed to be two people both sacrificing their selfish desires to help each other. Apparently it's enough for just the man to sacrifice his selfish desires.
  • If you can just get rid of the computer, you will be able to avoid lusting after other women. Ah yes, the big porn scene. Of course this is handled by Caleb taking the computer out and smashing it with a sledgehammer. Because we all know that if we could just get rid of those nasty computers, then no man would ever have lust in his heart again. Ever. Even though lust, adultery, and porn have been around since the beginning of time. No, there's no need to get into why a man is looking at porn, since issues like molestation and an unhealthy and uneducated attitude about sex that is often cultivated in conservative religious environments are irrelevant. Just get rid of the computer and pretend that there are no other computers anywhere in the world.
  • You only need to have one conversation with your wife to save your marriage- just make sure you reveal that you've spent an enormous amount of money to give her her little heart's desire. Here I was thinking that communication was foundational to a good marriage! Apparently all the deep, meaningful, and sometimes even painful conversations Malamute and I have had were some how crucial to our relationship. Apparently, we've been flapping our gums for no reason. Catherine and Caleb only have one real conversation to save their marriage, and that's the one where Caleb reveals that he sacrificed his boat money to pay for Catherine's mom's medical expenses. Then she believes that he really wants to save their marriage and isn't putting on an act of some kind. Don't get me wrong, the idea of helping her parents with their expenses is great, but especially at $24,000, it's something I would want to discuss very seriously together. All the other issues this couple has like money problems and sex are never discussed. And apparently there's no need as long as a man sacrifices his boat money.
  • You don't actually need to have anything in common- except the judgement of your family, friends, and fellow church congregants- to stay happily married. What even brought this couple together besides the fact that Caleb is a firefighter and in a (really weird and rather creepy) first scene it is established that Catherine wanted to marry her Daddy when she was a little girl and he was a firefighter? What the heck are they going to do for the rest of their lives besides talk about Sunday sermons and Bible study? In fact, the biggest reason that they have for staying together seems to be that their family, friends and church are against divorce in general. Where is the love? You know the love of two people who are best friends and can rely on each other and really connect?
  • "Unconditional love" always means staying married. And of course, they begin trotting out the homilies on how Christ had unconditional love for us and so even if your spouse doesn't love you and treats you badly, unconditional love means staying with her. Let me be clear that far too many couples do call it quits too quickly and expect marriage to be all sunshine and roses. But the unfortunate reality that this movie never addresses is that some spouses- even Christians- are abusive, violent, or bad influences on children. There are a number of very difficult situations that people face after marriage and staying married isn't always the best or most compassionate answer. While there are many couples who break up on whim, there are far too many people who sacrifice their dignity and even their health and safety and that of their children to stay in a marriage- often using the excuse that divorce is against God's plan to change themselves from cowards to martyrs. Sometimes, unconditional love means saying "no".
There you have it. The Fireproof guide to holy deadlock- I mean a "happy marriage".

My Thoughts on Pants in Church

First off, if a woman wants to wear pants to church for whatever reasons (practical, philosophical, emotional, whatever), it's really none of my business and I'm not going to say anything about it. In fact, my MIL is a temple worker at our local temple and a few years the temple presidency made it a policy that if a woman showed up to the temple wearing pants, no one was to say anything about it. They decided that it was more important that everyone feel welcome and come to the temple than to hassle people about what they are wearing. Pants are becoming more accepted as nice dress for women in the rest of the world, but traditionally skirts and dresses have been the accepted type of best dress amongst Mormons.

All that being said, I don't think my equality with men has anything to do with what I'm wearing (or my major in college, marital status, masculine and feminine deities, or <gasp!> whether or not I hold the priesthood). For me, being equal to men has nothing to do with dressing like them or having the same types of callings. Yeah, I'll never be a bishop or elder's quorum president, but Malamute is never going to be Primary or Young Women's President. (And for those of you out there saying, "Well who's excited about serving in Primary or nursery?" Let me say this: I'm not that broken up about never getting to be bishop or stake president. I'm more than willing to let someone else take that on. All callings have a special challenge in store those willing to go the extra mile.) Not to mention that Malamute will never have the chance in this life or the next bear children, something I feel is a special privilege. If Duckling wants to take ballet lessons and his sister wants to study astronomy, we're not going to get them both ballet slippers and a telescope. We'll get ballet slippers for Duckling and a telescope for his sister. We love both of our kids, and want them both to have what they need to succeed. That's equality to me. (As a side note, this is NOT an announcement of gender for the next baby. We're guessing a girl, but those of you who are dying to know will have to wait until spring to find out!) =)

I personally don't think equality has anything to do with what I wear and everything to do with where my head is at. If I consider myself an equal to men, I don't think it truly matters what anyone else thinks. I disagree that the Church has a history of oppressing women. Utah Territory was the second territory in the US to give women the right to vote- something we had to forfeit to get statehood. Women were granted divorces when asked, even from polygamous marriages, and education was strongly encouraged for women amongst the early Saints. Being a midwife was actual considered so important that it used to be a calling. We are a people of women poets, scholars, and health professionals, long before it was considered mainstream for women. Long before Ms. Magazine, affirmative action, the Worldwide Organization of Women, government subsidized contraception, and the widespread wearing of pants among women, people of both sexes and all races made astounding scientific discoveries, wrote amazing works of literature and music, and inspired great social change. They didn't do these things because everyone else thoughts of them as equals, they did them because they thought of themselves as equals. If you view the world as hostile to you, it won't matter what you're wearing. You'll never feel like an equal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When You're Expecting the Unthinkable

Having a special needs child can be a lonely experience. For all the talk we get about "preparing for the birth of the baby", nothing ever really can prepare you for having a baby that doesn't quite fit the mold. There really just isn't a lot of talk about actually birthing a special needs baby.

Often doctors and parents equate "special needs" with "automatic c-section", but the reality is that vaginal births and sometimes even an out-of-hospital birth can be great options depending on each mother and baby's particular situation. So why look at your options?

Recovery- It's often easier to recover from a vaginal birth than a c-section. If your baby is going to need surgery or spend time in a specialized NICU, being able to get up and get around easily is a huge benefit. Many small hospital have NICU's for babies who need extra care, but aren't critical or don't require surgery and these often have accommodations for parents making recovery a bit easier even if you do have a c-section. But if your baby is going to be at a large children's hospital- especially one that is several hours away from you- you will most likely have to figure out your own living situation. We only slept about five hours a night and had to commute to see our son and for a while I was solely pumping for him. I was really glad that I wasn't recovering from major surgery along with everything else. And we considered ourselves lucky because we lived within 30-45 minute drive from the hospital. A lot of other parents there were from out-of-state! A vaginal birth also means that you have less risk for complications. A girl I lived next door growing up also had a baby with myelomeningocele. She had a c-section which was complicated by uterine infection. Ouch. Something else I'm glad I didn't have to deal with during the whole thing. Now that I have a toddler to take care of too, if I were to do it all over again, I personally would be even more adamant about avoiding a c-section if it all possible.

Bonding- One of the most devastating things that can happen to expecting parents is to find out that the baby isn't going to live long. With certain birth defects, the baby may not live more than a few hours. For moms who are able to go natural, this might be a consideration so that they can experience that precious time without feeling "foggy".

Privacy- While babies who need surgery and have a good prognosis may be better off at a hospital, for babies who have a birth defect that is incompatible with life, a home birth may be an option provided (as is the case with any birth) that the midwife is qualified that the pregnancy is otherwise uncomplicated. Though it is rare because home birth is so uncommon in America, there are cases of couples who have birthed a baby with a fatal congenital abnormality at home. I did meet a midwife once who had attended a couple who found out on the 20 week ultrasound that their baby didn't have any kidneys and would only live for a few hours. Since nothing could be done- even in a hospital setting- they decided to go forward with their plan to have a home birth and the midwife was fine with that. They were able to hold their baby girl right after birth and all through the couple of hours she lived. She died peacefully in her parents' arms without any interruptions- just as the parents wished. I have heard of cases of babies with severe Edward's syndrome (involving defects that were incompatible with life) who were born and peacefully died at home. This is obviously a very personal decision, but for some families this has been their choice of handling an extremely difficult situation.

Stress reduction- I'm a big believer that moms need to give birth wherever they feel comfortable. Obviously, if your baby is going to be in the NICU or need surgery, this may not be an option. But again, if the baby has a fatal congenital abnormality, the setting may not make much difference in the actual outcome, but can be a big factor in the experience for a grieving family. I think that especially in a situation like this, parents need to decide what setting will help them feel safest- whatever that is. One option that more and more parents are turning to lately is the pre-natal hospice. Sometimes these are actual facilities where parents who are expecting a baby that won't live long can go to receive care and give birth in a supportive environment. Sometimes it's a network of resources to help parents of special babies to cope and support them in making the most of their baby's short life. I think it's wonderful that we live in a day when these sorts of options are available.

One of the biggest recommendations I can give after having given birth to a special needs child is that parents really do their own research. Sometimes, the recommendation for a c-section is made on out-dated ideas that aren't supported by current research. In the case of myelomeningocele, for example, doctors used to think that a vaginal birth would harm the lesion on the baby's back and destroy their chances of having any leg mobility. But even with a c-section the lesion can still be damaged and research shows no advantage in walking ability for babies who were born via c-section. More doctors are starting to leave the decision to the mother, but many health care professionals have been very slow to accept this. While the input of doctors and nurses can be helpful, at the end of the day, we as parents are the ones who have to live with the consequences of the decisions. Whatever your circumstances are, you are your own best advocate for your family, and the more you know, the better you can take care of yourself and your child!