halfway through maternal-newborn

Back when I started this blog years ago, I assumed that once I was in nursing school I would be able to document my everyday life as a student nurse. HA! There are just far too many other things on my plate to worry about and this blog, and writing about what I have been up to, is the least of my worries. However, I still want to be present here. It is not going to be enough, but it will be something.

Since June, I have been in maternal-newborn/OB classes and it has been wonderful! The learning and labs have been so fun and truly light up my soul with passion as I have learned so many new things. A few people (seasoned nurses) have gently tried to tell me that *maybe* I will change my mind about becoming a labor nurse and midwife someday. I kindly tell them that my passion grows daily for women’s health and that has not changed in the least. If anything, being in the area I am passionate about has only made me more excited and hopeful for my future as a nurse.

Despite my strong passion and excitement for this class, the last month and a half have been pretty insane. I had to take a med calc exam THREE times. We only get 3 chances and the mistakes I made the 2nd time were so silly. Three chances was all we are given and thank GOD I passed the exam on Thursday! Focusing on that exam and on the second exam for the class (yesterday) eat up any free time I have outside of family time and work. I truly felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders as I passed that med calc exam. I feel like I can really focus and enjoy the class more. The stress surrounding that was so bad my migraines and other physical pains resurfaced. And there is nothing like pain to make you want to curl up under the covers despite how much work there is to be done.

Nursing school is just as hard as I expected it to be. There was not a moment leading up to starting nursing school over a year ago where I thought “Nah, this won’t be THAT hard…” Nope. It’s hard. Getting through it requires so much self-discipline, focus, and support. My support comes straight from God, my family and very close friends. Self-care has been incredibly difficult for me to make a priority. I know that sounds bad. How can I possibly take care of others if I am not taking care of myself?! Trust me, this is a huge work-in-progress. In fact, writing here is one of the things I cam doing for myself. I know that I will wish I had spent more time documenting nursing school, so better late than never. 😉

On Monday, I start 4 weeks of maternal-newborn clinicals in the hospital. I am so excited! I cannot wait to put my hands on a pregnant belly, feel for positioning and contractions and connect with a family as they welcome their baby! I’ve been to several births, but only has an observer and never as the nurse. This week is going to be epic!

I Love my Fat Body by Katie

Friends, I am honored to share this beautiful woman with you today. Katie is a fellow coworker and friend of mine. She works nights; I work days. We say good morning and good night to each other as our shifts change. A few days ago, she wrote this beautiful post about body confidence and, after wiping away the tears from my smiling face, I asked her if I could share her words here. I was struck with so much love and joy I couldn’t help but cry. Katie eloquently expresses the beauty that is her body and the love she has for herself. Every woman, girl, child–needs to possess this kind of self-love. Many years ago, someone wise told me that you cannot love someone else if you don’t love yourself first. I found this to be true just before I met and fell in love with my now husband. Please share this story and message with every woman you know. Share it with your mother, your daughter, your sister.

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I love my fat body.

And why wouldn’t I? My fat body carries me through 12+ hour nursing shifts, allowing me the privilege of taking care of people when their bodies and minds are vulnerable. My fat body takes me on adventures, exploring new treasures that this world has to offer. My fat body allows for me to feel the pleasure of my senses. My fat body includes a brain that has developed who I am, a mind whose delicate dance of neurotransmitters and electrical impulses enables me to feel love, sadness, anger, and joy.

So what’s so wrong with my fat body? After more than a decade spent in and out of therapist’s and nutritionist’s offices, I have finally come to an answer: nothing.

Few people seem to be aware of this, though. Last year I went to my health care provider for a yearly exam, without any health concerns. The office visit went through its normal paces, and as we were wrapping up, she said, “Katie, you know there’s one more thing to talk about: your weight.” I nodded my head in agreement, knowing that I had gained weight. She proceeded to tell me the ways in which I could lose weight (eat less meat, exercise more, eat more fruits and veggies) and rattled off the risks of being “overweight.” Again, my head nodded in agreement. I was holding back tears the whole time, feeling shameful and defeated. This was all stuff I knew, and she knew it.

I got to my car and burst into tears. I cried the whole way home, and then started getting angry. I was angry because, now removed from the moment, I was able to see that I had just been a victim of body(fat)-shaming and fat-phobia. As I ran the conversation through my head, I realized that outside of weight gain, there were no indications that I wasn’t doing any of those things she had suggested, that I was unhealthy. At the time, I was about a month away from calling myself an official vegetarian, but was only eating meat about 2-3 times per month (eat less meat: already done). Between my job and personal activities, I was moving my body enough to not be considered sedentary (exercise more: partially there – I admit I could respect my body with more frequent purposeful movement). And as a near-vegetarian, and now as a full-vegetarian, I’m sure you can guess what I fill my diet with (eat more fruits and veggies: check). What made me angry was the assumption that I was unhealthy and the implication that fat people cannot be healthy, no exceptions. I wasn’t even asked about my level of exercise, my diet, or ways that I keep healthy. Never mind that my blood pressures consistently run 110’s/70’s. Never mind the fact that my body can run and jump and bend and lift. Never mind the fact that I didn’t come in with any health concerns, much less any which would specifically indicate a weigh-related diagnoses. Never mind the fact that I’m healthier now as a fat person than at any other time in my life. The number on the scale superseded all of the other data.

Needless to say, I have since stopped going to that care provider.

It has taken me a long time to learn how to love and accept my fat body (and it wasn’t without support from a phenomenal partner, dear friends, and loving parents). And it certainly wasn’t without the privilege of healthcare—an excellent nutritionist and skilled therapists—and the privilege of education. I have finally gotten to a place where I love my body for no other reason than that it is mine, all mine. I have one life to live and this is the body I have, so I had better treat it right (which includes loving it unconditionally and celebrating it in all of its fat glory).

I have wasted entirely too much time, too much of my short existence, hating my body for how it looks, while never appreciating it for what it does (note: even one second spent hating one’s body is too much time). No more. While it’s difficult to break free of our cultural indoctrination of body shaming self and others, and I still catch myself doing things that are not kind to my body (sucking in my belly when trying on clothes, taking pictures in a way that my body looks most “acceptable”, etc.), I am making a conscious decision to love my body every day no matter how it looks.

I can’t even begin to explain the freedom that has come with this. My entire life I have been self-conscious of my tummy, no matter what state it’s in. Last week I broke through that lifetime of trying to hide it and wore fatkinis all over Cozumel, Mexico, flaunting my back rolls, stretch marks, and belly. And it felt so. god. damn. good. It was unbelievably freeing to wear the adorable retro swimsuits I have been eyeing for years but never bought because I was “too fat.” Rather than wearing the prescribed fat woman swim dress that covers as much as possible (not that there’s anything wrong with that; if someone is most comfortable in it, more power to them! I, however, would not be true to myself and my style if I wore one), I wore a nautical, high-waisted bikini bottom with a bright red bikini top. I accessorized the shit out of it, because I’m a grown-up who still likes to play dress up. And I felt more confident than I ever have in any swimsuit.

As I continue on my journey of health, I look forward to loving and respecting my body more and more every day. I’m excited to provide it with more movement, give it the nourishment it needs to continue to carry me through this life, and share with others the joy I have found in body appreciation.

Article Review: Eat More Fish!

This is the article critique I submitted for my pregnancy nutrition class. This covers a very important subject of eating fish while pregnant. Did you eat fish while pregnant? If so, did you follow your doctors recommendation of only two servings a week? What kind of fish did you enjoy?

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A common discussion among pregnant women, their providers and the birthing world in general is whether or not fish is healthy to eat while pregnant and breastfeeding. Consuming fish regularly provides docosahexaenoic, or DHA, plus omega-3 fatty acids which are needed in any healthy diet, especially that of an expecting mother. An article printed by The Telegraph, a British newspaper, titled “Pregnant Women Should Be Allowed to Eat More Fish”, reports that women should be consuming more than the recommended amount of fish during their pregnancy to encourage vital brain development in their unborn baby while also receiving the benefit of this necessary fatty acid.

“Docosahexaenoic acid, an essential fatty acid, [is] thought to be important to the development of infants, particularly [in] regards their eyes and brain” (MedicineNet, 2012). This is a brief definition of DHA and why it is important during pregnancy. Since 2004, the Food Standards Agency along with medical professionals have recommended that women consume no more than two servings of fish per week, or 12 total ounces, which the article acknowledges that recommendation is “ultraconservative” (Gray, 2010). This suggestion is also seen in our text on page 114 which was printed a year after this article was released.

The article goes on to say that women should actually be consuming three portions of fish a week to ensure proper DHA and omega-3 fatty acids intake (Gray, 2010). Our text, unlike the article, describes the types of fish which are higher in mercury content and should be consumed less, if not at all. Those fish include swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and shark, as well as no more than six ounces of “white tuna” a week. There is a danger to the fetus if too much mercury is consumed, however there is a number of other fish with less mercury content and high in DHA.

DHA has been nicknamed a “brain food” of sorts. “Women who consume adequate amounts of EPA and DHA during pregnancy and lactation tend to deliver infants with somewhat higher levels of intelligence, better vision and otherwise more mature central nervous system function than do women who consume low amounts of these fatty acids” (Brown, 2011). The article touches on this topic briefly while also stating that some research has found no correlation with better academic abilities in children later in life (Gray, 2010). Regardless, it is important to emphasize the importance of DHA consumption and how eating fish while pregnant is not nearly as bad as others have made it seem. When I was pregnant with my son, I avoided fish. I was only basing my decision off of what had been recommended to me by my doctor. Also, my husband is highly allergic so avoiding it was not difficult. However, later in my pregnancy I did enjoy a number of salmon meals. I know that I was not receiving an adequate amount of DHA despite taking a daily prenatal vitamin. I have gained a much better perspective on fish and how important it is while pregnant. I will ensure I consume enough DHA next time by taking fish oil and eating more than one serving of fish per week. Our text states that taking fish oil daily is safe and beneficial (Brown, 2011).

The only reference the article makes to data proving that not taking in enough DHA, or the recommended 340 grams per week, showed children were born with a greater risk of having low verbal intelligence (Gray, 2010). How high was that risk? Were these children exposed to any other teratogens while in the womb? Was the mother taking a regular prenatal vitamin? These are all the questions, and more, I asked myself as I read that statement. Studies like this can be a great stepping stone in determining whether or not fish can or should be consumed while pregnant. However, it is not clear on any of the other circumstances surrounding those women and their babies with lower verbal intelligence. There are many other factors which could cause a child to be delayed verbally. This is the first I have read that a lack of DHA could be one of those factors.

This article brings up a great point, encouraging women to eat more fish and that it is less dangerous than previously thought. The information provided is true in that consuming an adequate amount of DHA is very important while pregnant. However, our text still only recommends two servings versus three servings listed in the article. I consider myself to be less conservative and agree with the article. I do not think the information in our text is as accurate, despite it having been published a year after this article. I am not sure if that is because doctors must still only be recommending two servings or if the author of our text is biased. Our text even states, “Fish and seafood are by far the richest food sources of EPA and DHA (Brown, 2011)”. If DHA is so important for the developing baby then why is our text still only recommending two servings per week? In this case, our text does not support the recommendation presented in this article.

I would recommend other pregnant women read this article so that they receive information on this subject from different perspectives. Only she can decide what is right for her and her baby. I already find myself wanting to share this information with the labor and delivery nurses I work with as a means to create healthy discussion about something that is really important. I would tell them that they should read the article and consider the fact that most fish do not have a high content of mercury and that adding that natural form of DHA to their diet would be very beneficial. I would also share the research given about how good DHA is for brain development, which I think supersedes any other discussion about it. For me, that is a done deal. I will be taking in more DHA either through fish or fish oil. I would add more information about the brain development and how DHA specifically affects a positive result, especially in pregnancy. This is the first I have heard, even after having a baby of my own, that DHA specifically targets brain and vision development which would have been nice to know ahead of time.

 

References:

MedicineNet, 2012. Definition of DHA. Retrieved on September 6, 2012 from:

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=23903

Brown, J. E. (2011). Nutrition Through the Life Cycle (4th Ed). Belmont, CA:Wadsworth.

Gray, R. (May 30, 2010). Pregnant Women Should Be Allowed to Eat More Fish. The Telegraph. Retrieved on September 6, 2012 from:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7782834/Pregnant-women-should-be-allowed-to-eat-more-fish.html

Article: How well do you know your cervix?

I know, odd question. But think about it. Of all the parts of your body the cervix is one of those parts that most women haven’t a clue about. We know it’s in there, somewhere below the uterus. We know about cervical cancer and get annual exams to ensure our down-there health is up to par. But what else do you know? Most women’s knowledge of their cervix stops at that, especially if they have never had a baby and are not in the medical field. Before I became pregnant I knew very little about my cervix and even wondered why on earth “cervical” is used for two different body parts (you know, the one in your neck?!).

Below is a link to a fantastic article on cervical myths (the one down there). Aspiring to be a midwife has me sifting through all kinds of literature to educate myself. Every woman and her body is different, however the natural process of pregnancy and birth is quite universal.

Enjoy!

What You Don’t Know About Your Cervix Can Ruin Your Birth