A Health Update {Hashimoto’s, pregnancy, fertility, and food}

19wkbelly

It’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about my health here, and I know some of you might be curious how things are going with treating my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) naturally, and how it has affected my pregnancy.

Quick background: I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in summer 2013, after years of not being able to find any answer to why I felt completely awful so much of the time. This diagnosis lead to massive changes in my already “healthy” diet. Over the previous years I’d been vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, avoided processed and refined foods, done detoxes, and yet still had very little energy and got debilitating headaches more days out of each month than not.

Once I learned the root cause of all of these problems, I was quite determined to learn to manage it naturally and very much wanted to avoid the need for any medication. I began researching a ton and found that much of what I’d always known to be true in the realm of nutrition, actually wasn’t (at least not for every person). In the midst of all of this I was also trying to conceive our third baby, and after 1.5 years of trying was diagnosed with PCOS. I learned that hormone balance depends on an abundance of healthy fats, and that I needed more quality proteins to help keep my blood sugar stable. I was told to avoid gluten, as it increases inflammation for people with autoimmune disease, and as I dug deeper I found that same to be true of legumes, sugar, dairy, and grains in general. All signs pointed to a grain-free, primal (paleo) diet, and I decided to give it a try.

I haven’t eaten any gluten at all since January 2014, and permanently quit dairy and corn a while after that upon seeing so clearly how much they affected how I feel. I rarely eat sugar (refined white sugar, almost never) or legumes, and I have gone many stretches being completely grain-free. This has been such a huge change, and definitely not always easy. I miss lentils and bread, but when I think about how I used to feel when eating them frequently, it really doesn’t seem so bad.

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So back to pregnancy. After over a year and a half of trying to conceive, even with all these dietary changes my progesterone was still low, so I was put on a natural compounded progesterone. We found out in late June of last year that I was pregnant, just weeks after starting the hormone treatment. At 8 weeks, it ended abruptly in a miscarriage. I don’t know, and will never know, if Hashimoto’s was to blame at all, but after it happened I became a lot more careful with my diet, avoiding inflammatory foods and increasing healthy fats and veggies. In January, after more months of overusing pregnancy test strips and wondering if it would ever happen, once again I was faced with two little pink lines. This time felt so different though. The anxiety that had surfaced after my miscarriage attacked with a vengeance, and I fought it every day with prayer, faith, and essential oils. When I passed the 8-week mark where I’d been last time, and especially when I reached the 12-week mark where risk is considered much lower, I began to relax. Twelve weeks happened to come almost exactly when I’d been due with the one we lost, which was bittersweet but also healing for me. With the second trimester came the end of my constant nausea, and I entered the phase of truly enjoying this pregnancy.

My morning (read: all-day) sickness in the first 12 weeks made it basically impossible to stay as strict with my diet as I had been. I still avoided gluten, sugar, dairy, and most legumes, but added some grains back to save my sanity. Protein-rich foods often made me feel ill by simply thinking of them. Even now, I’m eating rice or a piece of millet bread here and there, and simply trying to listen to my body and discern what it needs on any given day. Sometimes that’s a big green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, coconut milk, banana, avocado and coconut oil. Sometimes it’s sweet potatoes, or raw coconut oil chocolate, or some eggs or grass-fed beef. Most of my cravings have been along those lines, though sometimes it’s for things like donuts or ice cream and I’ve had to find creative healthy ways to satisfy that!

breakfast

Pregnancy can affect thyroid problems pretty drastically at times, and for the first time I have needed a low dose of thyroid medication. I don’t love being on it, and am hoping to be able to stop after baby comes, even if it means getting even more strict with food for a while. I truly believe that the body can heal itself, but I don’t want to do any experimenting with thyroid levels while I’m pregnant.

Despite that, this has overall been the best I have ever felt while pregnant. I have more energy than I remember having with the boys, much fewer headaches, and most significantly much fewer digestive problems. My first two pregnancies involved almost constant tummy issues—painful indigestion practically ever time I ate—and now it’s pretty rare and usually directly linked to slipping up and eating something I shouldn’t (like some corn chips, hummus, or peanuts).

Supplements are also pretty important when growing a human, and must go far beyond a simple prenatal vitamin.
I take a prenatal multi recommended by my nurse practitioner (who treats my Hashimoto’s). It contains methylfolate instead of the standard folic acid, which is absorbed much more readily by my body.
My other dailies are: fermented cod liver oil (one of the very best sources of essential fatty acids and vitamins A & D), a quality probiotic, curcumin (turmeric capsules, for inflammation), a special thyroid supplement from my nurse practitioner, and a magnesium/calcium drink.
I also use various essential oil daily according to what I need. One of my favorites is the Gentle Baby blend, which is specifically for pregnancy and babies. The book Gentle Babies has been a great resource for figuring out which Young Living oils can be used while pregnant.

gentlebaby

I think that just about covers it (for now anyway). What a wild ride this has been! I’m so thankful for all the knowledge I’ve gained and help I’ve received that has helped this pregnancy along so far and helped me grow the healthiest baby possible, and feel as well as possible so I can enjoy every moment of this. Now at 24 weeks, I am deeply aware of the magic of being her home for these months, her nourishment and protection. Every kick and squirm I feel is so very precious.

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they are my heart

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They are my heart. They fill my cup and simultaneously empty it. Motherhood is tough and messy, beautiful and vulnerable and absolutely amazing. There are moments of greatest joy and deepest ache, bliss and utter defeat often in the same day.
Today I’m sporting a bruised eye and nose from a toy thrown at my face yesterday (because I would let the 3 year old watch Netflix on my phone. yes really.)
This morning I woke before they did—a habit I’m trying hard to form—and brought my cashew milk hot chocolate back to bed for quiet time alone. Yet not really alone—this new life wiggles and kicks inside me and I feel the reality that she and I are the most connected we will ever be in our lives. That truth breaks my heart in the most wonderful way. I want to savor every minute of this.

I’ve been wanting to start writing here again for a while. I hate to make any promises, but I will say that I have the desire to do so and am going to give it a shot. I have so much I want to share, and am a perfectionist about photos to go with posts, and often I know it’s going to take so much time that I end up posting nothing at all. But really I have things to say. So I’ll just begin, and see where it goes.

Instagram has functioned as my daily blog for a while now, but it is fleeting and I crave something with a bit more depth and permanence. Yes indeed I am pregnant with our third baby—a girl! (I hadn’t shared that tidbit here so now it’s official.) We are so filled with joy. Nearly 23 weeks now, and after a very nauseous first trimester I have been fully enjoying this time, soaking it in and trying not to rush because it’s likely going to be my last pregnancy.

I’ll be back soon ;)

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Battling anxiety with hope and oils

dahlia 2

I haven’t talked about it here yet, but if you follow me on instagram or are friends with me in person, you know that in June of this year—after over a year and a half of trying—I was pregnant. And then by the first week of July, I wasn’t. Losing a baby was something that I never expected. Always knew it to be a possibility, yes, but it’s something that can’t feel close and real until it actually happens to you. I always trusted my body completely in pregnancy and birth, and had very little fear surrounding that stage of life. So when I was hit so suddenly with the loss of our tiny baby at 8 weeks, it was a shock I could never have been prepared for. The emotional and physical pain was greater than I ever would have thought. Over the weeks that followed, the most intense pain of it dulled gradually. I stopped crying during diaper commercials (well, for the most part at least). But in place of that pain, anxiety had entered. I was on edge all the time. The boys would climb onto me and I felt like I couldn’t breathe; any type of crowd made me want to run far and fast; I worried over every little thing and couldn’t sleep at night—everything in life felt magnified and too heavy. It took me a while to realize that it had been spurred by my miscarriage. Through a conversation in a friend’s kitchen, it dawned on me how freaked out I was by the thought of getting pregnant again, while simultaneously wanting it more than anything. And so I began the work of trusting God and accepting that it’s out of my hands and in much more capable ones.

Around that time we received our starter kit of essential oils from Young Living. After hearing them recommended time after time for anxiety and depression, I decided to start using Valor and Joy daily- I dilute them 1:1 with a carrier oil in a little roller bottle, and roll just a little on my wrists, heart, and behind my ears once or twice a day. The difference I’ve felt has been amazing. The best way to explain it is that I feel balanced, and more grounded. I can breathe again, and life is still life, but I don’t constantly feel like it’s more than I can bear.

valorjoy 2

So I’m clinging to hope, trusting in things I can’t see, and so thankful to have these wonderful, completely natural tools to help me heal. I will never stop being sad when I think about the baby we lost, but I know that we are okay, and that we’ll have another baby when we’re meant to. For now, I am feeling better, and that feels freakin awesome.

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39 weeks {a letter}

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36 weeks {a letter}


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30 weeks {a letter}

This week, I realized that I never shared our 21 week ultrasound picture here on my blog! This was from the day we found out he’s a boy. It’s funny- we did’t expect it be a 3D ultrasound, but it was so cool to kind of see what his face looks like.

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Pregnancy Must-Haves

{from a maternity session I shot early this year}

I am now six months into my second pregnancy. My first was pretty easy- I had very little nausea, minimal aches or pains until the very end, and in general felt pretty good most of the time. This pregnancy has been pretty much the opposite of that. I was sick every day for the first 15 weeks, and have had headaches at least a few days each week. Midway through I began to experience a lot of back pain, and in general my body has gone through much of the typical list of pregnancy discomforts.

I write all that not to whine and complain- it could totally be so much worse, and will be worth it a million times over. I’m sharing because in the midst of all that, I’ve found some things that have helped make me so much more comfortable and able to enjoy being pregnant, and I want to share those with other mamas.

Here are some of my pregnancy essentials:

~Mommy’s Bliss Morning Sickness Comfort - my midwife gave me several sample pack of these capsules, and they seemed to really help the nausea.

~Preggie Pop Drops - helped calm my stomach a bit too. i really liked the lavender ones.

~Miso soup - also for morning sickness. this helped so much! i made it with swiss chard or kale in place of or in addition to the kombu.

~Teechino - to help cut down my caffeine intake without withdrawl symptoms, I mixed this with my coffee grounds starting with a 1:3 ratio and working the actual coffee down to about 1/2 a small mug’s worth each day.

~Hair ties - to loop through button hole and around button of non-maternity jeans. this allowed me to wear them about twice as long as i would have.

~Bella Band - Another great item for wearing regular jeans longer. now i use it to hold up some of my maternity jeans that don’t like to stay up well.

~Belly butter - I like something with shea or cocoa butter. The key is keeping your belly super moisturized. I did this every day in my first pregnancy, and since I didn’t get any stretch marks then, I’m doing it again. Some people say if you’re going to get them, no amount of lotion will change that, but even so, keeping your skin moisturized will help prevent itching as your skin stretches.

~A journal - for me, navigating the emotional roller coaster of these nine months (and way beyond) requires frequent writing. I also keep a journal for each of my boys, where I write letters to them- I started both early in pregnancy.

~Water bottle - I love my stainless steel Kleen Kanteen to avoid the chemicals in plastics. I try to remember to have it with me whenever I’m not at home. Drinking more water than feels completely normal is really really important to feeling well and being well during pregnancy.

~Chiropractic care - I can’t say enough good things about my chiropractor. Without her, I might be bedridden right now. Growing a human really moves things around, and getting adjusted regularly helps keep the spine, hips, and pelvis aligned. It’s important after giving birth, too. I switched about a month ago to a chiropractor who has specific expertise in maternity care. I also trust her with my babies, as I really believe it’s never to early to start taking care of your spine.

~Supportive, comfy walking shoes - being active in pregnancy is so important, and comfortable shoes are a must. My old ones were not so great, so early in my pregnancy I bought some Asics. Love them.

~Yoga mat and prenatal DVD/class/book - I like this DVD, as going to class is tough on our budget (not to mention difficult to get into my schedule). EVen doing a few basic poses and some breathing for a few minutes out of the day has such a positive effect on my energy, comfort, and sense of calm. It helps to much to stay limber and flexible, and strengthen muscles that you’ll use in labor.

~Digestive enzymes - for any trouble with digestion. The difference after I started taking this daily was incredible. I get Whole Food’s store brand “Wholezyme”, which is a blend of different types of enzyme.

~Yoga pants, jersey skirts, comfy bras (I went ahead and bought a couple nursing bras since the ones left from the first time are totally shot), maternity jeans… basically, things with lots of stretch. A lot of what I wear on a daily basis isn’t even “maternity”. Comfort is paramount though, and it’s possible to have it and still look cute.

~Pregnancy tea - one that includes red raspberry leaf. Sitting down with a cup of herbal tea is a great way to relax, and getting a blend for pregnancy can have some great health benefits. I like the ones made my Yogi and Traditional Medicinals, and the trimester-specific loose leaf ones from Worts and Cunning Apothecary on Etsy.

~Pillows. Lots of pillows. My current setup is one in front of me, tucked under my belly a little, and one under my top knee. Otherwise I seriously can’t fall asleep.

~Dried fruit - I have craved sweets a lot, and while dried fruit is still sugary and not as good for you as fresh, I figure it is better than candy, and having a little bit of it helps the craving a lot.

~Snacks - having healthy ones around all the time keeps blood sugar steady.

Maybe I’ll have some more to add near the end, as the third trimester always beings new challenges. But for now, that’s what I’ve got.

What are your pregnancy must-haves?

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18 weeks {a letter}

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13 weeks {a letter}


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