Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Tincture Making Basics – Part 2 – Herbs n Health Goals

Medicinal Herbs n Health Chart

Medicinal Herbs n Health Chart

In my last post I shared how you can easily make your own herbal tinctures and why you want to do that (health, vitality, immune protection, optimal performance, enhanced energy, better dreams, sublime relaxation, fertility benefits, brain and memory boosting, to name a few). Today, I share with you some popular herbs and how they might benefit you when you make your next cup of tea or herbal tincture.

With herbs, sometimes the effect is immediate and sometimes it takes a few weeks to feel the benefits. Therefore, if you’re working on your hormones for example, and you’re a woman, you might notice improvements over the following 2 to 3 menstrual cycles if you’re using herbs (teas, tinctures, capsules, etc) on a pretty regular basis. If you’re looking for some relaxation because you’re stressed out or have a headache, then a single cup of (strong) herbal tea or a few squirts of tincture throughout the day can do the trick.

I’m having a blast making my own herbal tinctures and part of the fun comes from mixing up various herbs based on my own health goals. In order to do that I read books, articles, and blogs to determine which organic herbs to buy when making my herbal tinctures (and drinking as teas or taking in the form of syrups). I consider myself a bit of an herb collector now, and I even bought a special herb bookshelf to store my herbs (pictured below). These herbs are used in various ways, especially in my home pharmacy and travel pharmacy first aid (I’ll share that with you in the future).

It took a lot of time to compile my list, which by the way is always changing as I learn more. I decided to share my labor of love. I have not tried every herb listed, and there are many great herbs that are not on here simply because I selected ones that made sense for my family. Some I put on the list because I want to research them more before trying.

Read More »

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Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

HypnoBirthing Session One – Recap

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility

I know my blog is primarily Raw food centered, but the raw lifestyle can reach into so many other areas of life that are natural, beautiful, eco friendly, etc. It all fits, if you ask me. I also have many women writing to me that they are glad I’m sharing my personal journey with fertility and pregnancy, the things I’m experiencing, the things I’m learning. So, with that introduction…


On Sunday, we attended our first HypnoBirthing session in preparation for our future homebirth. HypnoBirthing is a special alternative to the traditional Lamaze and Bradley classes that many folks take. HypnoBirthing might sound a little “out there” to some, but it’s been pretty amazing so far. The basic premise of HypnoBirthing, according to HypnoBirthing.com, is that it’s a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. Sounds good to me. :)

Even though we’ve only had one session, my take is that it’s basically getting into a meditative, relaxed state during child birth, which can help the mom to better cope with it. I saw a few videos on YouTube and most women usually look like they’re having a nice, relaxed birth. In a number of cases, you wouldn’t even know they’re experiencing child birth. That probably sounds crazy to some people. On the other hand, there are some people who went through HypnoBirthing classes only to find that they couldn’t really use the techniques when it came to birthing time. I learned that one important thing is practice, practice, practice. The more I practice the HypnoBirthing techniques, the better my chances are that HypnoBirthing will be an awesome experience for me. Ongoing, daily listening of the cds is important, as well as reading the HypnoBirthing book about 4 times, attending all classes, and practicing breathing. There is more to it but I’m not that far into the course to describe it.

I read the HypnoBirthing book before I got pregnant, and I’ve been listening to the hypnobirthing relaxation and affirmation cds for many months now. They were instrumental in helping me relax for our fertility adventure with Mini-IVF. As far as I was concerned, this wasn’t going to be just a tool for birthing, I was eager to implement these elements to my whole life.


Our session on Sunday focused on a few things.

1) Language – there is a preferred HypnoBirthing language that should be used. For example: We say “surge” instead of contraction. We say “birth companion” instead of coach (for the husband or partner). We say “birthing time/month” instead of due date. We say “birth breathing” instead of pushing. We say “pressure/sensation/tightening” instead of pain or contractions. Personally, I really like the suggested words. I feel much more relaxed saying the word “surge or pressure” instead of contraction or pain. The HypnoBirthing language relaxes me and the medicalized language tenses me. The next step will be teaching this to the grandmas who will probably attend the homebirth.

2) “Emergency Room” vs “Healing Room” – These are not actual rooms, but rather they are states of mind. In life we should strive to only be in the emergency (stressed, high alert, tense) state about 2-5% of our lives at the most, during those rare instances that legitimately require a fight or flight response such as emergencies, etc. The rest of our time should be enjoying the healing room. :) Most likely, we all spend more than 2-5% in the emergency room, but being aware of this and making a concerted effort to increase the time in the healing room is a good start. When we’re in the healing room, our breathing is deep and relaxed, our digestive system is relaxed and running efficiently, and we feel good. When we’re in the emergency room, we’re tense, on alert, breathing is more labored, digestion is put on hold, etc.

This becomes important during child birth because if a woman is in the emergency room state of mind during this time, her cervix can tighten up, thereby making birthing more difficult and increasing the chances of “special circumstances.” (That’s more HypnoBirthing language… we say “special circumstances” instead of complications. Isn’t that much nicer? I think any mom who plans a home birth and ends up having to go to the hospital will be in a much softer state of mind if she considers it due to special circumstances, rather than complications.)

3) Limp Lucy (Mom) and Gorilla (Dad) – Our HypnoBirthing instructor, Sherry Gilbert, had two little stuffed animals that she used to represent the birthing parents. Mine was Limp Lucy, which was a soft white bear that had really limp and loose arms and legs. All I could think about when I saw her was, “Ahhhhh…” Limp Lucy is totally relaxed and demonstrates the state in which I should strive for child birth, and how I should feel and look when doing my Calming Breathing. Heck, I want to be Limp Lucy all the time. The birth companion, on the other hand, is a protective gorilla. Need I say more? My husband found this image from the following article and he forwarded it to me with the following caption: Picture of me at homebirth when pizza guy comes to the door (my husband also noted that he is the gorilla on the left, pizza guy on the right – lol).

4) Surrounding myself with positive birthing stories
Our HypnoBirthing instructor gave us each one of these pins. I love it! She explained the importance of hearing positive birthing stories… and how it can do more harm than good when people share their birthing horror stories. She said that as I grow in size and my pregnancy becomes more obvious, I might be surprised how some strangers will feel compelled to share their “not so great” stories, and by wearing this pin I might be able to shield myself from that.

My HypnoBirthing homework for the week:
1) Go to the “healing room” daily
2) Listen to rainbow relaxation track on the HypnoBirthing cd once a day
3) Listen to affirmation track on the HypnoBirthing cd once a day
4) Practice my “Calming Breathing” 5X/day
5) My husband and I are to each visualize the home birth independently. Then, we need to discuss it and compare visualizations. That will be fun!

Here are some neat statistics about homebirthing experiences.
Here is a good article on WebMD, Hypnosis in the Delivery Room

And… here is a quick video showing HypnoBirthing in action. I noticed when they edited the video, they actually used the word “contraction” – oops!

Have any of you used HypnoBirthing? What did you think?

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Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Fertility Adventure Update – Fertilization: CHECK!

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility

GREAT NEWS! My egg successfully fertilized into an embryo. YAY!!! Go Monkey Go! Next step? The transfer is set for Sunday, but they’ll call to confirm on Saturday.


Today we stocked up at Whole Foods Market for some more stay-in-the-apartment-meals over the next week. I was pleased with today’s selection there… nice fresh greens that were hearty and vibrant. I bought ingredients to make that same salad I made before, along with more green smoothies and banana / nut butter sandwiches, etc. Basically, the same stuff we ate last week. Oh, and I grabbed some organic raspberries. They looked and smelled great (yes, I open the package to smell and inspect them. I’m not paying $4-6 bucks just to get home and have them be bad).

On the way out of Whole Foods I noticed a kiosk selling adorable certified organic baby clothes!!! I had to stop in. And, of course, I had to buy this certified organic Monkey outfit!!! How cute is that???

Tonight we’re meeting our good friends Gena and Cassie for dinner at Caravan of Dreams (here is a blog post from our last visit there in June). I’m looking forward to a deliciously fresh, organic, Raw vegan meal. I suspect I’ll get a bowl of their creamy avocado coconut soup and a hearty salad. And, of course… there is Stogo about a block away with organic coconut (or soy) ice cream for dessert (not raw, but it is vegan and organic)… I’m just saying it’s there…. in case any of you wanted to know that… just saying… lol

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Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Fertility Adventure Update – Successful Egg Retrieval

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, new hope fertility center

We went to the clinic for the egg retrieval. It was a tad stressful because once they ensured, via sonogram, that my follicle was indeed still there and large (holding the egg), I wanted to make sure they grabbed the egg while it was still there waiting.

I went upstairs to get in the hospital attire and wait with some other women. Women came and went and I was still sitting there after what seemed like forever. All the while, I was willing my egg to stay put until the doctor could take it out of me. Then, while some other ladies and myself were sitting in the pre-op waiting room, there was a TV showing CNN, and guess what they were featuring at that moment? A story about an EMBRYO MIXUP from a fertility procedure in Ohio. YIKES! Not something a bunch of women awaiting egg retrieval or embryo transfer need to see. Thankfully, I opted for the minimal amount of valium so that I didn’t lose my egg sitting right there watching that – lol. I almost passed on the valium, but decided it was important to be as relaxed as possible and the valium would help that. I had it last time they did the retrieval of multiple eggs. So, the nurse gave me the smallest dosage this time since we were just retrieving one egg. I’m usually quite the anti-drug girl, but there are times when I think they’re warranted… like fertility adventures.


Then, it was my turn. I practically jumped out of the recliner and skipped to the procedure room when my name was called. They double checked my identity (whew). And, I hopped up onto the table, put my legs in the stirrups and waited for the doctor. What came next I was a little unprepared for. You see, last time I had the procedure done, like I said, I had valium (probably a normal dosage, i.e. higher than what I had today) and I had been taking a strong anti-inflammatory prescription drug for a few days prior to the procedure. This time, I was instructed to take 600 mg of over-the-counter ibuprofin twice before the retrieval (12 hours apart). What I’m trying to get at is that this single egg retrieval was a little painful. Like… ouch! Sure, I’ve had worse pain before in my life, but this was a pokey kind of needle-like pain. Perhaps last time it felt the same when getting the multiple eggs, but I didn’t care because of the larger valium dosage I was on. That’s all I can come up with because I could definitely feel it this round.

BUT! It’s all worth it so far… we successfully retrieved my egg! YAY!!!! They’ll fertilize it today and let me know tomorrow if fertilization was successful. Then, we’ll let it grow until day 5 and transfer it into my uterus on Sunday. Yippee!

After the procedure, I felt like celebrating. So, off to Cafe Blossom we went. Yum Yum. We had a delicious lunch and as we were walking out, something cool happened. Someone recognized me from my blog. James, as I soon learned was his name, recognized me and called my name. My first thought was, “Aw geez… I’m wearing frumpy ass clothing.” Nonetheless! I was so happy to meet a fellow raw foodie who followed my blog – HOW FUN! He was such a nice guy and we chatted it up for a bit. Truly, apart from my big exciting fertility procedure, this was the next highlight of my day. Thanks for speaking up, James! :)

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Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Fertility Update: A Fresh Transfer(?), NY Apartment, And Monkeys On The Ride Home

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, new york

We arrived in New York safely. I love flying Jet Blue. They have Direct TV / movies and XM radio. They offer plenty of complimentary bottled water and snacks (although I passed on those because they’re not particularly healthy, ehem). We also opted to purchase seats with extra leg room, which was especially nice for my husband. And, we arrived in NY about 20 minutes early.


Here we are at the airport before departure. We checked our luggage, and mine just barely squeaked by, weighing in at 49.5 pounds. Yikes. I’m guessing the culprit is my Blendtec blender. A Raw girl’s gotta do what a Raw girl’s gotta do! Although I love my Vita-Mix 5200 (read my blog post reviewing the Blendtec vs Vita-mix), that thing is a monster in size and weight, so if I travel and have a kitchen accessible then I like taking my Blendtec. But, if I’m in a hotel room, then I like taking this awesome travel blender.


For my carry on backpack I came prepared with plenty of fresh Raw vegan foods for the flight. Ummm…. apparently I couldn’t wait for the flight before my stomach started grumbling so I’m munching away on an organic carrot here, while waiting to board the plane. I also packed a cucumber, red bell pepper, celery, prunes, Garlic Basil Chia Crisps, and an apple.





Here is a pic of some things I packed… water filter, sponge, glass mason jars, protein shaker bottles, Sun Warrior’s Raw Rice Protein Powder, as well as raw cashews, supplements, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, LOTS of prunes (you know the travel thing and making sure you’re pooping), dates, chia seeds, raspberry leaf tea, Dr. Bronner soap, and more. I wanted to make sure I had some stuff from home so I didn’t have to buy everything when we arrived. You can guess my luggage on the trip back will be considerably lighter. Too bad we’re not flying home for it to matter.


We’re going to have an awesome (long) drive home through the south, stopping off in Florida for a quick visit with my father-in-law as well as my friend in Texas (whom I met online), and she has MONKEYS!!!!! And, they love my Raw vegan recipes… check it out here. It can’t hurt to be around monkeys while I’m trying to get my own little Monkey to “stick” right?






We arrived at the apartment we rented and were very happy with it. It’s gorgeous. Small (of course, it’s New York), but gorgeous. We’re staying in an apartment in Trump’s Heritage building on the Hudson River. Here’s our living room. We have a nice kitchen with a huge refrigerator so I plan on shopping at Whole Foods today. Will share more pics and video soon.

Possible changes to our fertility plan. (I love this photo. I grabbed it from a blog discussing a documentary, A Child Against All Odds, but I can’t find the blog now.)

As you know, we came here with the intent on transferring a frozen embryo. But, while at the doctor’s office yesterday, where they did a sonogram of my ovaries and uterus, I inquired about the egg that I’m about to release naturally in the next few days. I thought it would be a waste to just let it go and asked whether we shouldn’t grab that egg while we’re here, fertilize it, and transfer it back this trip, if it makes it to 5 days successfully in the petri dish… and leave the frozen embryos in my “embryo bank” for future use (or to use on this trip in the event that the fresh retrieval doesn’t work). I’m all about getting as many healthy eggs at my young-ish age while I can, so I can store them for future attempts (whether for this first child or the next child), therefore giving me a better chance for success.

The doctor agreed that we could try that. We’ll see how things go. I’m due back at New Hope Fertility on Saturday for another sonogram and blood work to see if we can do this or if we should just proceed with the frozen transfer.

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Monday, September 14th, 2009

Fertility Adventure – 1 Frozen Embryo Transfer Coming Up!

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, Mini IVF, new york

The time is coming for another chance at having a baby…. exciting!!! We’re heading to New York this week for a frozen embryo transfer at New Hope Fertility Center. It’s one of those shown in the picture to the right. Aren’t they cool looking?


It’s been a great month. I’ve had the time to fully research the vaccine issue. I’ve eaten a super clean, HRAV (high raw, all vegan) diet. I’ve exercised by strength training and doing some cardio. I’ve had time to listen to many visualization CDs about birthing, infertility, etc. I’ve become a pro at deep breathing. I’ve made progress on new Kristen’s Raw projects (I’m bubbling over with excitement about them). And, I’m ecstatic and ready for the next attempt at becoming a mom.

I’ll keep you posted about the trip (fertility stuff, food and restaurants, and overall adventures in the Big Apple) through my blog here (I’ll do some videos from NY!), as well as Facebook and Twitter. Wish us luck!

PS. A special shout out to my mom (many of you know her through Facebook – Susan Sunny Larson – if you’re not friends with her there, you’re missing out on some serious humor. Although, be warned, she’s beautifully intense – haha). Mom is taking care of our home and dog while we’re gone. Thanks mom!!!

For those of you who don’t know the back story, feel free to check out these blog posts:

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Monday, August 24th, 2009

Great Articles & Great Raw Food Today

by Kristen Suzanne in cancer, fertility

Here are great articles that I hope you take the time to check out.


Time Magazine: Getting Real About the High Price of Food – I’m excited because the word is getting out more and more about healthier eating… local, organic, more plant based foods, treating animals better, etc. Apparently, this article is the cover of Time magazine – YAY! We had Food, Inc. (see my post about Food, Inc) over the summer and now this.

White House Farmers’ Market – How cool that Obama is talking about having a farmers’ market outside the White House. I love shopping at my farmers’ market and I’m a part of a CSA that I LOVE. Everyone should have access to locally grown organic veggies. Everyone.

Relaxing for Health (and fertility!!!), It’s Good For You – I really enjoyed reading this article. Relaxation is so important… for boosting the immune system, helping digestion, and, yes, fertility! I’m all over that. In fact, I’ve recently purchased a few cds on meditation and visualization for pregnancy, infertility, etc. They’re WONDERFUL! I play them in the background when I’m getting ready for the day, when I’m juicing, and when I’m falling asleep at night.

*UPDATE: I’m adding this article that I found today:
The Anti-Cancer Diet - Whoohoo! Go Plants! I especially like the part about eating more RAW and ORGANIC! I’m saving the link to this article, because it sure pumped me up and encouraged my lifestyle.

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Here are some of the things I had today. Yummy, fresh, all organic, and full of vitality.

1 quart green juice (plant blood!) with a dash of wheat germ oil (high in Vitamin E, an important vitamin for fertility). I like to make a LOT, like 10-15 cups worth. I store it in glass mason jars, filled to the tippy top, in my refrigerator. It only lasts us about 2 days maximum because between my husband and myself, we drink it all up.

2 cups grapes
These were from the CSA and they were awesome… fresh, crisp, sweet, and damn refreshing.

6 cups Raspberry Green Smoothie (1.5 cups filtered water, 3 cups raspberries, 6 leaves curly purple kale, 3 bananas) – I didn’t drink this all at once. It’s loaded with nutrients and lots of fiber. Mmmmmm…

Coconut Yogurt with 2 tablespoons hemp seeds (the yogurt is not Raw)

3 cups Creamy Juicy Greens
This is where I take a couple cups of the fresh green juice that I have and blend it with avocado in my Vita-mix blender. This is great because: 1) some nutrients need fat to be assimilated, 2) if the green juice is too green or spicy, then the avocado mellows it out a bit, 3) it’s totally satisfying and filling, and 4) the creamy factor is out of of this world! When I juice my greens using my Green Star (read about my 2 favorite juicers here).

Guacamole and Salsa
I love this combination as an easy and delicious salad. Avocados are so good for you, and tomatoes have nutrients in them that need fat (like from the avocados) to help your body assimilate them.

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Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Fertility Update – Hypnobirthing & My Imaginary Helper

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility

My good news to report is that for the first time in weeks, I feel really good and pretty much back to normal. My body is telling me that it’s on track and everything is healing. My miscarriage symptoms ceased yesterday (it was about a week long), the extra weight and toxins I was carrying around are going away, and overall, I just feel really good!


I know that I owe this in part to my organic diet (with plenty of fresh juice – see today’s pic), my plan of relaxation, husband-giving-massage, healing under the sun by day and under the moon by night, etc. But, I also owe this in part to hypnobirthing. Let me explain…


For those of you not up to date, here is my Fertility Adventure (The Full Story), My Update (when it started going downhill), My Response (Setbacks & Silver Linings), My Juicing Frenzy (healing, detoxing, restoring from fertility drugs and experiences).

So, here I am today… feeling wonderful. I did as promised and I wrote my birth plan (it’s at least down on paper and I can make minor changes as the months go by) and I’m belly deep in reading about vaccines (currently reading Dr. Sears’ book, The Vaccine Book).

One of the other things I had on my to-do list before getting pregnant, and for during the early weeks of pregnancy, was to start hypnobirthing classes (details on hypnobirthing here). My midwife and doula referred me to a lady named Sherry. I contacted her and she agreed that starting sooner than later was a great idea because I would learn useful visualization and meditation techniques that will help me right now… as I attempt another pregnancy with Mini-IVF. While we’re waiting for a class to start, she is working with us in a private situation and we had our first session on Sunday. It was glorious and I’m sure it’s one of the reasons I’m feeling wonderful.

Sherry taught me some proper breathing techniques of breathing through my nose for both inhaling and exhaling and the relaxed state of body that accompanies it. She gave me some pointers for visualizations… taking advantage of visualizing my healthy womb any chance I can get whether it’s waiting for the microwave to heat up my water or waiting in line at the post office. Taking time, even if it’s only 45 seconds to conjure up a delightfully lovely vision of having a pregnant belly or a calm home birth is very beneficial.

When I told her I was concerned that I’d have a hard time meditating intentionally, she suggested that I create a way to think about how my body is healing, if the healing itself is hard to imagine for me. For example, when I simply think of a healthy uterus, the vision is quick to come and go. I needed help in sustaining the picture in my mind. She offered that having an “imaginary” helper can facilitate this process. So, here it goes… don’t think I’m nuts – LOL – on the contrary, I’m having so much FUN with it! I’ve enlisted the help of Merlin. He’s a wizard and wears one of those wizard hats. Currently, he resides in my uterus and has been there since Sunday cleaning it up with his broom and magic wand. As I imagine him doing this, it helps me keep the vision in my mind and I have fun at the same time. Who knew that as an adult I could have an imaginary friend? Once he finishes tidying up my uterus, he’ll go to work on my blood, brain and all that good stuff in helping me prep my body for pregnancy. So… meet Merlin. (I bought a copy of this print so that I can hang him up in my office and always be reminded of my imaginary helper. I think he’s pretty bad-ass if I do say so myself.)

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Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Vegan Chipotle Burrito Juice

by Kristen Suzanne in fertility, Mini IVF

It’s Tuesday night… and it’s the end of day 4 of my juicing frenzy. I asked my mom, “If I get a vegan burrito from Chipotle, and I blend it and then strain it… can I call it juice?” LMAO. That was my sign. Time to stop my cleanse.


Each day of the cleanse and healing had its ups and downs. Some moments were a breeze and I felt strong (especially during the 1st half of the day). Other moments (late afternoon and evening) could be kind of tough. And, tonight, it got to the point where I know I’m done… at least for this particular juicing extravaganza.

So, I had my vegan burrito from Chipotle (not juiced), and a few bites of organic dark chocolate. (What can I say? When I go down, I go down in flames – LOL). I feel great. I restricted myself for four days, I had a nice squishy reward, and I’m ready to hit it hard with my organic, vegan, high raw diet tomorrow. In fact, I’ll make it a little extra high raw for the next couple of weeks so that I can continue to gently cleanse and heal my body from my fertility treatment.

I started my miscarriage today (bleeding). And, to my surprise, I have no pain or cramping. Fingers crossed it stays nice and easy.

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Friday, July 31st, 2009

Setbacks and Silver Linings

Here is another lengthy post. I feel it’s important to continue sharing my thoughts and experiences at length because the emails and comments continue to pour in about how grateful people are that I’m providing so many specific details. First of all, thank you so much. I can’t express how much all of the love and support means to me. I also now realize more than ever just how many people’s lives have been touched by similar events, or may be in the future.


I’ve had a little more time to digest the news of my pregnancy loss and impending miscarriage. I found that yesterday, from time to time, I felt like a deer in headlights… a tiny bit of shock, some lack of motivation to do anything, and a little bit of feeling unorganized. That’s the best way I can describe it. I kind of just wanted to sit and stare at times. After talking over the possible next steps with family (details below), and being surrounded by an amazing, loving, and supportive husband and mom, I started to feel better with each and every hour.

It’s a different feeling of loss this time (at least so far) versus how it previously felt when we tried naturally and then I would get my period. Those times were extremely painful. But, this time… since we had some measure of success (that gives us hope), plus I know I have a solid plan on the very near horizon, and possibly just by the fact that we used technology to assist us… I just feel better and easier about the whole thing. Another helper (if you can call it that) is that we had some inkling that this could happen from the last two blood tests. I’ve had a week or so to wonder “what if?” So, overall, it’s just not as hard this time. Don’t get me wrong… there is definitely some disappointment and frustration, but… I simply don’t want to dwell on that. What would be hard is sitting around, being angry or sad. That would make it harder for me. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on the next plan for having a wonderful pregnancy and getting my baby. With that in mind, I’m aware that grieving feelings may arise… so, as my doula warmly put it, “Be gentle with yourself.” I will. Promise.

Lessons
It’s a natural part of human nature that, when bad things happen, we adjust our perspective in a way that makes it seem not so bad. Call it cognitive dissonance (I prefer the “silver lining instinct”)… it’s a heck of a lot more adaptive and constructive than curling up into a quivering ball of uselessness. Rose-tinted glasses or not, I cannot help but realize that I now know more as a result of what has happened than I did just a month ago. Knowledge is empowering… I’ve been granted a certain gift of foresight in the form of knowing what it will be like when the nine-month countdown begins. For a few short weeks, what had previously been a possible future became an expected future. An abstract idea became my imperative reality. I felt a nervous and exciting urgency, sometimes scary, in the pit of my stomach. I now know what it feels like to lie in bed at night and think “holy shit… I’m going to have a baby! I have so much to do still and the clock is ticking.

One of the things I’ve learned this past year is that every time I’m given a fresh start to get pregnant, I find that I do things a little bit better each time. As the months go by, I’ve continued my reading and research… and as I learn more, I apply more. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned stuff I’d like to apply next time – such as… I want to make sure I’m eating enough protein (65-95 grams a day) once we make the next transfer. I don’t want to get any of it from organic soy products, rather I’ll concentrate on some cooked lentils, beans, etc…. with the remaining coming from Raw sources (sprouted quinoa, greens, green juice and smoothies, hemp and sprouted brown rice protein powders, nuts and seeds, etc). Of course, my diet will be mostly Raw except for the aforementioned cooked proteins. I want to make sure I’m getting plenty of vitamins A, E, and D in my diet as well as B-vitamins. To accomplish this, I’ll consume more sunflower seeds as well as olive oil and avocados (more about sunflower seeds and vitamin E in a moment). I’ll spend some more time in the sun. When I eat foods with beta-carotene in them, I’ll be more conscious about having a little fat with them to ensure I’m absorbing and assimilating it better (for example, I’ll add a little splash of coconut oil to my green juice with carrots). Those are a few examples. My diet is great and has been, but I’d like to fine tune it a little bit more. I’m not saying that had I been doing all of these things, I might have avoided a miscarriage. Rather, I’m excited that I can be even a little bit healthier and better prepared for it, which will benefit my baby.

Another example of lessons learned is that during this pregnancy, I started reading Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s new book, Your Best Birth. I’m a huge fan of their documentary The Business of Being Born (HUGE fan! I saw it last year when it first came out – rented it on Netflix, but I’ve since bought it so I can share it with family and friends). While reading their book, it was a tad stressful because the book goes into detail about the various ways of giving birth (hospital, home, midwife, obstetrician, etc) and as most of you know… more than anything I want a homebirth with my midwife and doula attending. I feel very strongly and passionately about this. Very. So, as I was reading the book, I realized that I needed to write a thorough and detailed birthing plan with variations for specific things (part for having the desired homebirth, but also part dedicated to the possible event of an emergency transfer to a hospital, and within that hospital part needs to have details for vaginal birth and c-section). I realized through reading the book while pregnant that I wish I had read it before getting pregnant, and I wish I had my birth plan already written. The hospital birth contingency plan will stress me out a bit to write. I also feel I need to visit the few hospitals I might have to transfer to in an emergency so I can get answers to my questions about their services and decide which one best fits my birthing plan. Again… something that could be stressful for me and would be better done when I’m not pregnant.

I also realized, over the past few weeks, that I had so many other things I wanted to focus on such as taking the various classes for the actual birth, specifically hypnobirthing (I plan on learning a few ways of assisting my birth and having hypnobirthing in my kit of tools for relaxing seems like a smart plan, even if I don’t rely on it completely). I think it would be prudent to start a class like that right away upon finding out I’m pregnant because the sooner I can master some meditation techniques, the faster I can use them to calm myself during potentially stressful times of the pregnancy. Also, I want to read everything I can get my hands on about breastfeeding (I have 4-5 books already). And, I want to immerse myself in the vaccine culture so that I’m well prepared in what kind of schedule of possibly reduced vaccination I plan to follow. I learned the past couple of weeks that not only did I wish that I already had my birth plan written, but also that I wished I already had a plan regarding vaccination. I originally planned on waiting until the end of pregnancy to dive into my stack of vaccination books. I now realize that I don’t want to do that when I’m pregnant. Vaccinations will be a tough, touchy, and controversial subject… not something I feel is positive about addressing while I’m pregnant. For my time while I’m pregnant, I just want to focus on happy thoughts and plans (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, strollers, etc) not contentious ones. I want to get the controversial planning done ahead of time.

My silver lining through these bumps in the road is that every time I didn’t get pregnant, or in this case with not holding on to it, I learned more, and for that I feel grateful. This time around, when I take care of some of these things ahead of time (before my next pregnancy) such as writing my birth plan, creating my vaccination plan, and learning hypnobirthing sooner than later, I’m setting myself up for a wonderful, relaxed pregnancy. I’m very excited about that. My smart doula also told me, “It is so so so hard to understand why our bodies do the things they do. And yet, we are asked to simply sit with the knowledge, knowing that our lessons – and the wisdom they provide – will unfold in time.” I love her!

Vitamin E and Sunflower Seeds
So, quickly about the vitamin E and sunflower seeds… Sunflower seeds are loaded with vitamin E (lots) and vitamin E is actually known as the birth vitamin. It’s great for fertility (conception) as well as helping protect against miscarriage. In fact, the Greek word “tocopherol” means “to carry offspring” – pretty cool, eh?

Next Steps
My doctor gave us a few options for the miscarriage. I can do it naturally (supposedly painful). Or, I can have a suction D&C, where I’m sedated, and they take some of the tissue for analysis (although the analysis isn’t guaranteed to provide any useful information). Or, I can have my gynecologist give me medicine to induce the miscarriage. I am opting for the natural route. Once I stop my current medicine (estradiol and progesterone), which I did yesterday, I should expect the miscarriage to occur in about three days. After that, depending on “how” the miscarriage goes (will I bleed for 4-5 days? Or will it be rougher and go for 7-10 days, in which case I may end up in the ER?) will help us determine whether we think my body is healed enough for another transfer right away or whether we should sit one out so my body can recover. Dr. Chang said that some studies show a slight increase for miscarriage if you get pregnant right after, but he also explained that opposing research suggests an increased pregnancy success by doing it right after because your body is “in the mood” already (my interpretive words). Personally, I’m feeling good about getting to it right away if possible.

Another thing that makes me feel solid about the next transfer is that I’m going to do it more naturally. Unlike last time, I had about 3 weeks of fertility drugs that I had been taking prior to the transfer. (As I mentioned in my previous post, the level of drugs I took with Mini-IVF was far less than with traditional IVF, which is great… nonetheless, I still had to take some drugs for the procedure, but future transfers won’t have that since we have the embryos.) This time around they can transfer it with my normal cycle, and the only drugs I might need are the ones for supporting the pregnancy. In my mind, this is a good feeling to know my body will be healthier for the baby (and for myself).

New Hope Fertility Center – Awesome Doctors & Staff
I’d like to take a brief moment to tell you how awesome Dr. Chang was on the phone. This was the doctor who did the egg retrieval and embryo transfer. Both of those times, he was so pleasant, patient, and took all the time I needed to answer my questions. I’m talking…. really patient and never for one moment made me feel rushed. On the phone yesterday, he was the same… amazing. He told me how the pregnancy didn’t look good and why. Then, he asked, “What questions do you have before we move on to the next topic?” I asked some questions, he answered them all slowly and thoroughly and then asked me again what other questions I had. He did that repeatedly through the conversation as well as giving me loads of confidence that we’re on the right track. He gave me many options for the various next steps, telling me the pros and cons of each. Then, when I told him of my desire for a natural approach, he was supportive. He made me feel like we’re totally on the same team. It’s not often that a doctor makes a patient feel so great… that her opinion truly matters… takes the time to address every little thing. And for that… I want to praise him. (I’ve learned from meeting with other fertility clinics that this is not always the case so I’m grateful to be teamed with a clinic who cares about my desires.)

And… while I’m at it… can I take a moment to praise two other people: Jessica and Melissa. Jessica was my first contact with New Hope Fertility Center, and she was an absolute doll on the phone. She helped us coordinate our planning, she answered my questions, and her response time for everything was very fast. Melissa is another sparkling gem there. She is at the front desk and I saw her smiling face every few days I went in. This gal was terrific. Every time I had a question, she either answered it (even though her role appeared to be mostly administrative, she had a solid grasp of the range of procedures and what they entailed) or she pointed me in the right direction to get the answer.

And, even though I’m not in a lot of contact with Dr. Zhang, the first doctor we met with and who is behind the scenes working his awesome magic…. he deserves praise for being as brilliant as he is. Without him, none of this would have been possible.

So! Back to My Plan.
Well! I’m going to enjoy a bar of organic, dark vegan chocolate for starters. (It’s been a long time!) I’m going to brace myself for the miscarriage and keep my feet up during this time (I might indulge in a small glass of organic wine during that – been a long time for that, too). Then, I’m going to get into my Raw lifestyle hardcore for the following 2-3 weeks because I have about 7-8 pounds I want to lose that I put on from the drugs and my increased eating of fat, etc. I’m going to exercise (I’ve been on restriction from this too so I want to get my body moving again). I’m eager to cleanse, feel light and energized, and get my lymph flowing. I am going to write my birth plan and vaccination plan. Then, we’ll head to New Hope Fertility Center in NY for the transfer and I’ll continue my clean eating, but I’ll add more protein and fat back in. I feel great about our plan!

Quick Update! I will now have 5-6 breastfeeding books. I just saw on amazon (and pre-ordered it) that Ina May Gaskin is coming out with a book on breastfeeding, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding. YAY!!! Her other book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is one of my favorite books and I highly recommend it if you’re pregnant or considering getting pregnant. I suspect her next book about breastfeeding will be equally amazing!

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