Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Journey to Natural Living

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it was like before I cared about natural living. I’ve decided to write out my journey! Some of it you’ve heard before because I’ve been sharing a lot of things on this blog. J These are things that I have learned through research, so I’m not saying everyone must do these things or agree with them. In fact, I have a hard time doing all that I want, to the extent that I want.
I’ve been working on this for a few days, so I hope it flows!!

My Journey
It all started the August that we moved back to San Marcos (2006). The job that Robert was going to be starting did not provide insurance. So, we found some independent insurance. At this point, I only had Karis, and I knew I would want more kids. The representative told us that the insurance didn't cover maternity (and most independent insurances didn't), and that most of his clients used the Austin Area Birthing Center. At that point, I was NOT interested in natural childbirth. I had a lot of issues that happened as a result of my first birth (tearing, scar tissue, surgery, long recovery), so I was honestly thinking c-section (of course, just thinking… hadn’t researched or anything). We didn’t have any choice with insurance, so I was just hoping that I would have insurance through a school by the time I wanted another. Well, time went by and I began to want another child. About March of the next year (2007), I started doing a lot of research on natural childbirth. I learned that people have natural childbirth because it's so much better for mom and baby, there is usually much less recuperating time, it's usually cheaper, etc. I also looked into why epidurals, episiotomies, Pitocin, c-sections, etc aren't as great as they are made to be. I learned that many of those interventions are done so often that people don't even look into the problems that they cause. I learned that many "emergency c-sections" are caused by the interventions.

Through this, I began to talk to people on a website called Cafemom (like a facebook for moms only!) that had either had birth center birth or homebirth. I did a lot of research on the safety of these. I found that homebirth is just as safe, or safer than hospital birth statistically (and homebirth is common in most countries... hospitals are for emergencies/high risk only). I found that as long as a woman was low risk, then they could have a much better birth at home. I found that the difference between a birth center birth and homebirth is that homebirth is cheaper and I could be in the comfort of my own home (they use the same equipment). I learned that birth was a normal thing, not something to treat as a sickness or emergency. I learned that the less interventions, the safer and better the labor and delivery are. I learned that midwives have training in recognizing the potential complications that can occur, and have usually had experience in those complications. I learned that midwives aren't just book trained, but they are trained by attending MANY births with other midwives before they ever practice on their own (they are apprentices for a long time first).

I did research to find a midwife, and I found a wonderful midwife (on a website called Texas Midwives) that came to our house to get to know us even before we started trying to have a baby. She gave us so much information and calmed the fears that we had. Six months later, I ended up pregnant with Ethan and began planning the homebirth that I had been dreaming about. My midwife came to my house, on my schedule for my appointments. She did all the things that doctors do: checked blood pressure, weight, did labs, listened to the heartbeat, felt for baby's position, measured my belly, etc. She gave me a wealth of information on nutrition, supplements, herbs, natural remedies, etc in a binder.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant, we ended up moving to the camp, which is 45 minutes to an hour away from a hospital. I also came upon the ACOG's statement against homebirth. I began having fears about homebirth. I discussed these fears with Robert and my midwife, and I also prayed about it a LOT (as well as did even more research). My midwife and Robert both reminded me that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology would be against homebirth because it takes away from their profits. It is becoming more and more common for women to use birth centers and have homebirths (because women are receiving more and more information). The one thing that I thought was funny was that the whole statement was opinion. There was not ONE statistic in there, because statistics proved that homebirth is safer for low risk women. So, after lots of prayer and more research, I decided to stick with my decision to homebirth. My midwife assured me that if there was even the slightest thought that there would be a problem, we would go in. And, God created birth to be a normal part of life. Without normal birth, we wouldn't have people on this earth. I do feel that the hospital is a good thing to have, and that some of the technologies are sometimes necessary (and I'm thankful for them!), but it's for sick people or high risk pregnancies; it’s not for normal birth.

After my final decision to have a homebirth, I began preparing for Ethan’s arrival. I ordered my homebirth kit from In His Hands. In His Hands is a company that sells homebirth and newborn supplies, and it is a home based, Christ centered business. It is located just outside of Austin. The man who owns it actually met his wife here at camp J. The company is very well known, and used by many in Texas and out of Texas.

Then, I ordered cloth diapers. We bought BumGenius One Size Pocket Diapers. I was so excited to receive those!!
We made sure that we had everything we needed, then we just waited.

A shortened version of my birth story (if you don’t want to read about birth, you might want to skip this paragraph!)
On June 14, 2008, at 5:00 pm, my water broke. My labor started at 10:30 (immediately strong). I got into the tub because that was the only way I knew I would be comfortable. My midwife started on her way about an hour later, as well as another midwife and midwife apprentice. The apprentice and other midwife got here before my midwife because she was further away. I breathed through each contraction, dealing with them without much trouble. I stayed in the tub until transition. Transition lasted about an hour, and was very tough. But, I got through it!! I did whatever my body told me to do in order to be comfortable. I would get in and out of the tub. I would sit. I would squat… anything to help move the baby down and make it more comfortable. Eventually I wanted to lie in bed because I was very sleepy. I feel asleep in between contractions (yes, that can happen!). Eventually, my body began pushing all on its own. It’s amazing how the body just knows what to do. At 3:14am, after about only 10 minutes of pushing, my little guy was out (and NO tearing occurred even though I still had scar tissue from Karis' birth!!). It was amazing to let my body do what it needed in order to have a wonderful birth. My labor was short! Afterwards, all I wanted to do was hold my little guy. We were able to just rest in bed as a family as the midwives cleaned everything (including doing laundry), and made me an amazing breakfast. They made sure everything was good, then left us to enjoy our new little guy. The ONLY regret I have is that I wish we wouldn't have had anyone else there besides me, Robert, and the midwives. Next time I won't do that. I also still had lots of trouble breastfeeding (long story... for another post), and through recently reading some information on the hindrances of milk supply put out by La Leche League about it, I might have a problem that makes it impossible to breastfeed exclusively. I will try again with the next baby (and discuss this fully with my midwife), but I have to be okay with breastfeeding and supplementing if necessary (even though I wouldn't want to do this, I may have to). As long as my baby receives my colostrum and some breast milk daily, I know he/she is receiving what is necessary.

Since my wonderful homebirth experience, I have only grown more and more passionate about natural living because it is the way God intended it! It is just part of who I am (and Robert too!). Last fall, I began looking more and more into nutrition. This semester, I have learned the most... I really became passionate about it. I began learning more about how important whole foods are, and how important grass fed, organic, and local foods are. We have been lied to for years about how "good" low fat/low carb diets are. The most important thing for health and losing weight is to eat foods as whole as possible. This means not eating low fats because they are processed to make them lower in fat. Usually they have artificial sweeteners, more salt, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, etc added to them to still make their taste tolerable. I have learned that margarine and things like it are really bad for you. I have learned that things like butter, whole milk (preferably raw), whole milk yogurt, coconut oil, etc are actually good for you because the amount of nutrients in them (even though many people will say they aren't good for you, there is MUCH research to prove that they are). I've learned that it's really important to get lots of whole grains. I have learned that organic is best. I have learned that grass fed/pastured is even better. I have learned that eggs are actually really good for you (and that there is something in the white of the egg that counter acts the cholesterol in the yolk of the egg). I have learned that eating lots of fruits and veggies is very important (although, no one would argue this!). I have learned that ultimately HOMEMADE food is the BEST over any processed/boxed food (although, we eat boxed food every once in a while...).

I have learned that supplements are important because our soil has been depleted of many important vitamins and minerals. There is a huge argument about supplements because if you eat well, you shouldn't have to take anything. But, I have chosen to use them in moderation (especially in pregnancy, and with Karis because she doesn't eat much). We also rely more on herbs than medication because herbs are potent (they work!) and if taken correctly, they are safer than medication (we do take medication some... we aren't completely against it).

I have learned that natural/homemade personal products, cleaners, makeups, etc are so much better for you because conventional products have lots of toxins in them. We are almost completely natural in this area now.

I have learned that my anxiety was worsened by eating processed flours and sugars, by consuming lots of toxins, by using commercial products and cleaners, etc. My anxiety is improving through the power of Jesus and the power of healthy food.

Simple living has become more of a priority for us. Simple living means living only with what is necessary. It means not having a bunch of "stuff." The purpose for living simply is to focus less on the things of this world, and more on serving and loving God. We have found that the more junk we have, the more cluttered our lives are, and the more we focus on that junk. This is a new way of living for us, so it is something that we are continually learning and figuring out. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.

We have also made the environment more of a priority because God wants us to be good stewards of the things that he has left us in charge of. There are some things that we want to do, and it's just not very easy at the moment. We want to recycle, but we don't have someone who picks up recycling out here. So, we may just start taking it into Austin eventually (it's a long drive, and I think it costs money). So, because we can't recycle very easily, we are making a huge effort to cut down on un-needed products (this also helps in the living simply area). Napkins, paper towels, etc aren't something that we buy a lot of, and we only buy them for special occasions usually. If I do buy them, I buy 100% recycled. We use cloth diapers as much as we can (we have gone back and forth because Ethan has been getting a severe rash… we think we found the problem, and it has been better). We use the natural products and cleaners, not only because they are safer, but also because they are better on the environment. We use bpa free bottles and cups (mostly). We are going to start a compost bin soon. I'm excited about this because it will cut down on waste, and it will improve our garden.

Now that I've discussed my journey, I want to tell you that it hasn't all been easy. There have been many obstacles. The BIGGEST obstacle has been financial. It isn't cheap to buy meat, poultry, eggs, etc from the farmer's market. It isn't cheap to buy organic. It isn't cheap to buy natural products. I have spent a LOT of time on finding ways to do this as inexpensively as possible, and I have found that planning has saved me a lot of money. Only buying what I need, when I need it is always my goal (I'm not always REAL good at this, but I'm getting better). We used to always buy junk food, now we make most things from scratch (which definitely saves money). I did a lot of price comparison shopping, and at this point, I pretty much know what the products that I buy cost at many stores in Austin and Marble Falls. We planted a garden, and have enjoyed many veggies so far from that (and plan to develop this more and more). I buy most of my products from two websites (Lucky Vitamin and Vitacost) in which many products are much cheaper (some 1/2 off) than in stores.

Another obstacle has been the fact that we have a dining hall here at the camp (and during the summer, that means all meals are made). The food isn't organic, grass fed/pastured, whole foods, etc. It's hard, though, because it's free, I don't have to cook it, and it's a way to be around others. I'm still trying to figure this one out. Let me know if you have any ideas!!

I have also found that it is hard to do all that we want to do. And, since I know what is best (at least for my family), I'm hard on myself when I can't live up to my expectations. This is something that I'm learning to let go of. I'll get to a place one day in which all of this is just part of life (I'm getting there).

Some days I struggle with living the way I want. I can't possibly do all that I would like to do.
If you were to walk into our home, we seem just like any other person. We live differently than other people in many ways, but we're also just servants of Jesus striving to be more like him. This just happens to be some convictions and passions of ours, and we feel that living this way benefits our family. Through living this way, we are healthier and are fit for God's use. We are being good stewards of the bodies and the earth that the Lord gave us. Everyone is different. This is who we are.

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