overcoming HELLP syndrome.

Now that we are nearly 7 months post partum I thought I could manage sitting for a moment to share about the journey to a healthy pregnancy after HELLP syndrome. I am NOT a medical professional, nor do I offer tried and true medical advice. The following is my experience alone.

  1. Pray to Jesus. I know – not your standard American health advice. But He made you. He is for you. He did, after all, give his life for you.
  2. Know where your hope is found. I found it repeatedly necessary to reevaluate my focus, to know that my hope is in God and his goodness for me and not any diet, exercise program, supplement or herb.
  3. Seek knowledge and wisdom. Act accordingly. God designed our bodies to function a certain way, yet not every person’s body responds the same way to the same foods, supplements, or stress levels. I learned the hard way that I (quite unfortunately) just can’t consume row after row of scotcheroos and get off scot-free. You can’t care well for your body if you don’t know how it works, so find out.

Let’s talk practically about diet, exercise, supplements and herbs.

But first, the back story. A few months after Whitterboy was born, my gramps became super ill and passed away within just a few short weeks. Those were extremely high stress weeks, flinging my already weak body into an extreme flareup. I had suffered from ulcerative proctitis for many years on and off prior to becoming pregnant and this flareup came on blazing to the tune of bloody diarrhea and a whole lot of mucus lasting over two months. I was anemic, incredibly thin, and fatigued.   My husband came across a diet catered specifically to combat ulcerative colitis and thus began hours upon hours of research and a complete lifestyle overhaul. I learned the great impact teeny tiny gut flora have on our health and how to go about getting rid of harmful bacteria (SIBO) and fostering the colonization of the helpful. Since putting into practice what we learned, I haven’t had a flareup in over 3 years, which also, in my opinion, led to a happy healthy pregnancy and birth.

*Diet. What goes in your mouth effects your whole body. Diet is so extremely important to overall health. While it would be nice to live off of Cheetos and fudge, we (I) just can’t consume high quantities of those foods (and the like) daily and expect to just be fine. Eventually imbalance creeps in resulting in disorder and disease.  –  I understand that this side of heaven there will always be imbalance and disease. Even the most healthy of bodies will still die. O how I look forward to the day this broken world will pass away and Jesus will make everything brand shiny and new – including this warn out body of mine. But until then, let’s make the most of the one body you have by taking good care of it and feeding it nutrient dense foods.  –  I began the healing process by following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and transitioned to more of a paleo diet after a year or so of healing. The Brewer’s Diet was recommended to me by another HELLP overcoming mama. I followed it to the best of my ability while remaining grain-free to avoid any potential gut issues. Follow the links for more specific details. I also sought the counsel of Melanie at Food4Thought who I found through my midwife. If this is all you’ll read, the primary nutrient stressed is protein. I made a goal of consuming 100 grams of protein every day. From a grain-free protein shake (here and here) and eggs topped with homemade yogurt for breakfast, to cheese, nuts and beef sticks for snacks and a hearty portion of meat for dinner, consuming THAT much protein didn’t seem so tricky.

*Exercise. So I could use some pants kicking in this category. To be honest, I didn’t follow any major exercise program during my pregnancy; however, I DID make a point to walk everyday and I benefited a great deal from doing a select few YOGA poses every morning and evening as well as squatting for a few minutes multiple times a day (both for exercise as well as just hangin out in a deep squat).

*Supplements. (because sometimes you need a boost.) Below are the supplements I used with links included.

*Herbs. Aside from a colorful diet and high protein intake, herbs, in my opinion, contributed most to my overall wellbeing. Most of the herbs I’ll reference I consumed in the form of tea. A LOT of tea. I would steep and drink at least a quart per day of the following.

alfalfa-leaf

Alfalfa leaf. Alfalfa leaf is believed to contain essential vitamins including the entire spectrum of B-vitamins, A, D, E and K. It is also believed to be a source of iron, niacin, biotin, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium.

burdock-root

Burdock Root. “Burdock root has been valued across continents for thousands of years for its ability to purify blood and cool internal heat. Internally and externally, it has potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects on the human body. Recent studies also show that burdock contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, which are all powerful, health-promoting antioxidants.” draxe.com

dandelion-root

Dandelion Root. “Dandelion root has a natural diuretic effect, allowing your liver to more quickly eliminate toxins. It also helps strengthen the immune system, balance blood sugar levels, relieve heartburn and soothe digestive issues.” – drake.com

milk-thistle

Milk Thistle. “Milk thistle is an herb that’s been used for thousands of years to support liver, kidney, and gall bladder health. It contains the flavonoid silymarin, which is thought to be responsible for many of its beneficial effects, including liver protection and antioxidant, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.” – Mercola

nettle-leaf-tea-organic-1210

Nettle Leaf. Nettle leaf (also known as stinging nettles) is an herb commonly found in pregnancy teas and recommended by many herbalists and midwives. “It’s a fabulous source of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamins A, C and K, and potassium,” says Hirota.” – fitpregnancy.com

oatstraw

Oatstraw leaf. Oatstraw is highly nutritive, containing minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins, and a variety of other constituents which deeply nourish the entire body and are especially soothing to the nervous system. This gentle restorative herb is for those that are cold, depleted, tired, and have “frayed nerves”3,10,12 or for the type of person who drinks too much coffee and is chronically burnt out. 13 It is also helpful for soothing and nourishing inflammatory skin conditions, building up strength in degenerative wasting conditions, and for enhancing the mood. – mountainroseherbs.com

red-raspberry-leaf

Red Raspberry Leaf. “Red raspberry leaf tea comes from the leaves of the red raspberry plant. This herbal tea has been used for centuries to support respiratory, digestive and uterine health, particularly during pregnancy and childbearing years. While usually known as a female herb, red raspberry leaf tea can also help support the prostrate and various stomach ailments in children.” – mamanatural.com

Not pictured that I also used is fennel seed and red clover leaf. I also added Mother wort to the mix POST delivery to help with uterine contracting according to the sweet gal at our local herb shop.

I’m sure I missed noting a few things. In short, eating well, moving your body, and gaining knowledge about how your body functions best is only going to help overcome HELLP. Do the research for yourself. May this journey to a healthy happy pregnancy and birth be filled with so many good things for you mama!

 

 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Eamon Eugene: a birth story.

“I will sing of your faithfulness and tell the whole world of all that you have done because you, God, have done awesome things for me. You have not let me down or let me fall into trouble. I trusted you and you gave me peace. I was not afraid and you filled my heart with confidence. You heard my every request – even every unspoken request – and you satisfied my desires according to your loving kindness . You have dealt so kindly with me, God. Let me tell about what you have done!”

He’s here guys! The tail end of May just two days after his expected due date marks his arrival.

Meet Eamon Eugene. All just under 9 pounds of him.

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Isn’t he wonderful? And I’m smiling! (or crying/shaking a little?) Y’all, No. HELLP. Syndrome. What a precious gift, both this sweet little honey as well as a healthy pregnancy, labor, and birth.

Let’s get to it. One of my very first prayers upon laying eyes on the positive pregnancy test was that I would literally be in labor for about a week without knowing it and baby would then just sort of, you know, come out. (I can ask right?) Considering our first born came 38 hours after my waters broke and our second was traumatically evacuated, the prayer made a lot of sense to this momma. God heard and He answered. For nearly 7 days I experienced regular contractions, 10, 5-7, and 2-3 minutes apart for a number of hours or sometimes all day long, then they would stop. It was quite frustrating not knowing what was going on, but then I would remember my prayer and suggested to myself that perhaps, just maybe, the Lord really was saying yes.

Memorial Day weekend came. I remember praying months ago that whichever day baby came, whatever we happened to be doing that day, wherever we were, that it would simply be a peaceful day. Storms rolled in and out all day. The smell of rain permeated the air and I was so satisfied. We played outside. We pulled a few weeds. Tad worked on his cafe racer in the garage. We ate outside on the deck under a few light sprinkles. I took 3 or 4 walks around the block between bouts of rain amidst more ‘false’ labor contractions. I remember thinking and saying, ‘Lord, this is a peaceful day. Don’t you think today would be a great day to welcome a babe? If not, thanks for a sweet day – and the smell of rain.’ Did I mention my love for the smell of fresh sweet rain?

Bedtime came. Contractions were still regular, perhaps slightly more crampy, but nothing to get excited about. We went to bed. I could not sleep. Something about having a large baby on my bladder and the constant need to make potty visits. So I got up. Things were more crampy still. I figured if this is legit, I may as well be moving to get this show on the road. If not, at least the dish washer would be empty! I had cleaned up the whole house, washed the dishes, and even purchased a lovely bouquet from my favorite florist, Beth from Elizabella Flower Farm, who also happens to be our across the street neighbor (win!),  downtown at the Ames, IA Main Street Farmer’s Market that weekend juuuust in case I did happen to go into labor and needed something pretty to look at. Aren’t they?

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It was now 11:30pm. I finally called my momma and told her that should these continue to come and remain strong, perhaps she should come crash at the asayplacey just in case we needed to head out. We didn’t have a set plan in place for our two big kids. I asked and trusted the Lord to work out those details with some apprehension in the back of my mind – not knowing exactly how events would unfold. But I make myself out to be the fool every time I doubt, because true to His character, He proves to be faithful in everything. I called our doula, Ami, who arrived right around midnight. It was evident at this point that it was indeed ‘Go Time’. I was needing to pause at each contraction, and things were starting to be expelled (I’ll spare those details). In perfect timing (thanks for that Lord) as soon as my momma arrived, and it was time for us to head out to the hospital (I laid down my desires for a home birth a long time ago. deep sigh. content heart. moving on.)

We arrived at the hospital, were admitted to our room, everything with me and baby checked out. I had to use the potty and stayed there for what seemed like an hour (that’s probably not too far from the truth?) until my water broke – handy. Baby was CO-MING. It’s incredible how things can intensify so quickly after that point. I went and lied on my left side on the bed to give easy access to my arm as they needed to draw blood to make sure everything continued to check out seamlessly. A blood test was the only way HELLP was detected with W, our second born, and was again needed. It wasn’t long after that I realized I needed to stay right where I was – baby was almost here! Slowly baby’s head emerged and what I couldn’t see was that the cord was wrapped tightly around his neck. I am so very thankful for the knowledge that this is fairly common and easily remedied. That knowledge kept me from much unnecessary worry and anxiety. However, the cord was too tight to pull over baby’s head, so the midwife needed to clamp and cut it before the rest of baby’s body could be delivered. I remember having a thought that this might happen. I eased the rest of baby out while holding onto his little body and it was done. Over. Finished. He (it’s a boy!!!) was here!

He came some quickly (roughly only 3 hours of ‘work through it’ labor) and so slowly at the end. We had only been at the hospital for 2 hours! Hallelujah! What an amazing answer to my request and the requests of so many interceding on our behalf. Not only did we remain healthy, but the day was incredibly peaceful, relationships were happy, the timing of everyone’s arrival and our departure for the hospital was seamless, and he came without too much longing for it to be over (I had so much of this with LL after 15 hours in the hospital). Eamon’s birth was by far the most intense and most painful (he was, after all, two whole pounds bigger than Whitterboy), however, it was by far the best of all three births. Yes, somehow, those things can and did go together. Despite his size and the intensity of his arrival, the Lord answered yet another request – that my pieces and parts would remain intact, that I wouldn’t require any stitching, and that using the potty postpartum would be a breeze. Y’all. Truly. This may be TMI, but every time I make a visit to the wash room I thank the Lord for his kindness to me. I’ve experienced an awful tear my first time around where crying was needed to make it through every potty visit and you’d hold it for hours to eliminate even just one trip to that awful place that day. I still, a week and half out, thank God for that bit of mercy every time I see the toilet.

Eamon Eugene birthday-2

We were all rejoicing. We could finally let our breath out. This daddy especially had been holding his breath for months – waiting. Not knowing. Waiting is hard when you’re not given a definitive outcome. We worked hard to live wisely throughout the entirety of the pregnancy; to eat and supplement well, exercise, and do what was needed to be as well as possible. But I had to keep reminding myself that my hope was not in my diet or what I could do. My hope was ultimately in God and what He would provide the birth perfect for my good and the birth that would bring Him the most glory.

*Because God gives wisdom to know how to help our bodies function optimally, I know many of you have asked about my diet and supplement regime during this pregnancy. Just wait a teensy bit longer! That post is in the works!*

Eamon was given his name a number of hours after his birth. It’s an Irish name meaning ‘guardian of riches’ or ‘wealthy protector’. Our prayer is that he would be a protector of true riches, things that are of true value – people (namely those who cannot protect themselves – the unborn and the slave) and the gospel to name two.

His middle name, Eugene, was also my gramps middle name. He passed away three years ago and his birthday was just one week before Eamon was born. While I had hoped they would share a birthday, I still wanted to use his middle name should we give birth to a little boy. When I looked and saw the meaning of the name, I all the more desired to use his name. Eugene means ‘well born’. What a gift that the name which first came to mind literally means ‘well born’. He totally and completely was well born into this world. Now I pray one day he will be well born again into new, true, eternal life in the one to come. Eamon Eugene, what a precious surprise you are! We are excited to see what you will become. What a gift. A crazy, emotional highway of a gift.

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Eamon, you are clearly so loved.