Monday, February 17, 2014

MTHFR and Me

I'm really excited today! I think I might have found some answers to help solve my depression and mood issues during this pregnancy. I also wanted to follow up on my last post so that people wouldn't think I was over here crying in a hole everyday. I'm okay! Answers are coming and I'm happy!
So what is MTHFR?
For starters, I can't take credit for this discovery, as there were many people involved in helping me to see the light of this new information, but I can say that I am choosing to follow this new path. In short, I think I may have a genetic disorder called MTHFR, short for "methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase".
 My brother recently did some genetic testing and what he discovered is that he has a genetic mutation which makes it so his body can't process folic acid. His wife, unfortunately, also has it. Because of these types of mutations, there is an excess of folic acid build-up in the body, which can cause various health problems and illnesses. 
These genetic mutations are common and can cause problems ranging  from depression, anxiety, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, nerve pain, migraines, elevated homocysteine levels, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Alzheimers, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, stroke, heart disease, multiple miscarriages, still births, as well as other congenital anomalies (birth defects), and Down’s Syndrome.  
Having adequate levels of folic acid is so important to our bodies overall functioning and health that when we are deficient, it results in a whole lot of problems.  (This lovely lady sums MTHFR up on her blog so nicely!)

For someone who can't process folic acid, such as a pregnant woman taking her daily dose of pre-natals, they'd need to switch to a form of folate that is more bioavailable, such as methylfolate vitamins. Methyl vitamins are a pure form of folate, from what I understand. 

**Deplin and Noova DHA are two methylfolate brands that I know of, so far.

So why do I think I have MTHFR? 

First of all I'm related to my brother, so it's very possible I have it, too. (I need to get tested.) 
Second, from what I've read about pregnant sufferers of MTHFR they can experience depression, fatigue, anger, and anxiety. I match all those symptoms, too, and have struggled with these emotional rollercoasters with my last three pregnancies. 
Lastly, after my sister-in-law led me to read Melanie's blog, I felt in my heart of hearts that God was leading me on the right path to finding answers. Coincidentally Melanie is a mother of all boys, a practicing Mormon, a fun personality, and a mother like me who was searching for answers to her depression. I spent about an hour yesterday reading her blog posts and feeling like I had found my soul-sister!
  All in all, It just doesn't seem plausible to me that I would be doing so awesome, then revert to feeling so down. There seems to be something missing in this equation. Sure there has been some stressful things going on; moving, house fires, adopting animals, first trimester sickness, making new friends, new callings--these are things that are harder than normal, but nothing that should throw me over the edge. At least I don't think they should? I know myself pretty well by now to know when I am normal stressed  and when I am crazy Sally. There is a fine line! 

I am excited to know more about MTHFR, and how taking methyl vitamins can change my life. I plan on switching my pre-natal vitamins as soon as possible, plus take a genetic test to find out for sure. 

I'll let ya'll know the results! It might take a few months, but so worth the wait. Also, I realize that there's no "magic cure" for everything so I will still continue to make changes to keep my stress down and balance up.

So how did I find out about MTHFR?

I have my sister-in-law to thank for turning me down this path towards healing. I was aware that her and my brother were researching MTHFR, and that taking methyl vitamins had helped them both immensely, but I lacked the motivation to look into it myself. My mom even emailed me about it awhile ago and I shrugged it away. It wasn't until my SIL started emailing me more intensely about it yesterday, that Micah and I started researching it ourselves. (Thank you, Gen.) Sometimes it takes a loved one's concern to make you think more seriously. I'm glad she wasn't intimidated to email me and tell me about MTHFR
(By me being an open book, I realize that I can get all kinds of advice---It's nice to be able to have the power of discernment to know which is right for me.)
Also, as it turns out, our homebirth midwife knows a lot about MTHFR. I knew she was meant to be our midwife! She said she had mentioned Deplin to me at our first pre-natal appt. I don't even remember. 

 I would love anyone who has had any experience with MTHFR to please feel free to leave me a comment below or on my fb page. 

Tell me what you know! 
I'd love to hear from you! Maybe you have lots of good advice or maybe we can embark on this journey together! You never know!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Life is tough, but so are you"--Pregnancy, homeschooling, and making tough decisions.

We're currently house shopping, car shopping, and school shopping. I know, it's a lot to take in, but sometimes change is inevitable and I am learning to just flow with it and accept the answers as they come.

My favorite new quote going up on the wall is,"Life is tough, but so are you." I stole it from Kid President, who I'm sure stole it from someone else. It's one of those free-for-all sayings that applies to everyone. I'm applying it to me right now because there's a lot of tough stuff coming at me, but I am trying to be tougher. 

We are (crossing fingers) getting approved for a home-loan this month and looking to buy a house. I didn't think I wanted to move again until this baby came out in July, but now I know we must move before this baby comes out in July! I'm so grateful we found this basement apartment right after our house fire, but as I learned before and am realizing again, it's just not healthy for me to live underground. I long for bright windows, and sunlight, and a view of the world above. I long for a window overlooking the yard where my kids are playing, and a chance to see their little, happy faces riding bikes up and down the street. Living downstairs is making me a crazy woman, and believe me, I don't need more crazy right now. So, we are hoping to be in something wonderful by April or May, just in time to unpack, do all my nesting, and then have a baby. (Plus save lots of money on rent and invest in our family's future.)

Second, we need a bigger car to hold our new baby. Right now we have a 5-seater, and 5 people in our family. I've tried to think of clever ways to squeeeeeze the the 6th child in, but none of my ideas were going to work. (stick the 5 year old in the cargo bed??)
But no, we have to buy a bigger car. As much as I despise car shopping, and car payments, and buying new insurance plans, this family is expanding! We thought about getting another VW Bus, which holds 7 passengers, but then decided our VW Bus days were officially over. Waaaaaagh, boo-hoo.  There's just too many bumpy, off-road camping trips, and long road trips we want to do that won't work with an old bus. We need something with 4 wheel drive and full-power-steering. Goodbye forever fun, pink bus days.

Lastly, after much prayer and consideration for everyones happiness, we've decided to sign up Odin for Kindergarten and Jonah for pre-school. They'll start next week. I know it might come as a shock to those that know how strongly I feel about homeschooling, but sometimes change is inevitable, and I'm learning to flow with it....

I'm having a very hard pregnancy right now. The emotional roller coasters and daily struggles to feel grounded and optimistic about life have hit a breaking point. I've struggled with depression as a normal human being, but now that I'm pregnant, it's gotten ten times worse. It feels that everything I've done to conquer and overcome my depression in the past has rewound itself and I'm back to square one.
From what I've researched, depression in pregnancy affects about 20% of pregnant women. It's not just regular hormones acting erratically, causing me to be extraordinarily cranky, eat more chocolate and sleep a ton more.....there's actually a radical change in brain chemistry happening here, which is bringing on mood disorders. Some days I can't get out of bed, and when I finally do, I'm exhausted, on the verge of tears, and already yelling at my children before they've done anything wrong. Many days I find myself feeling extremely anti-social, lonely, angry, and worthless. (Basically, depressed.)
 So, I'm doing all I can to combat it, once again. I'm taking the right things,  and I'm getting help.  I can't do this alone, I realized. I just can't. 

One form of help is coming from my angel mother-in-law, Sandy.
She is truly one of the most wonderful, loving, trusting, and compassionate people I know. She'll be coming up next week to stay with us for a month, to help with all these new transitions. 
First I will need her to stay with Zadok and Jonah while I help Odin transition to Kindergarten, then I'll need her to stay with Zadok some more while I help Jonah get used to his pre-school. 
Several weeks ago I thought perhaps sending Zadok to a private home-school-school several days a week would be helpful. But, it wasn't the right answer because Zadok would've been miserable there. It would have been a form of punishment for him, which wouldn't have be good for any of us. Because of his special needs, I've had to reevaluate my reasons for wanting to send him away. Sure he is having a difficult time at home with his brothers, and in turn I am having a hard time with him, yet he still needs me to be with him. He needs the reassurance that I am always here, and that he is safe. He's always needed that reassurance, and I need to trust that the time will come someday where he'll want to break free--at his own time, at his own pace, and not because I forced him.

Odin and Jonah, on the other hand, will do great in school-- I just know it! Odin has the bubbly, happy, easy-going  personality that will allow him to thrive in any situation, and Jonah is right behind him. So the decision came that it would be best to sign them up instead. 
 I've struggled endlessly with this decision, and have felt the guilt and punishment of a resistant homeschooling mother. The passionate homeschooling mother in me wants to keep my kids out of the rote, government education system,  let them learn and thrive creatively on their own, teach them correct morals and principles from the safety-net of our home, and build a strong, family system based on our own educational values. 

I had to tell her to shut up.

Then I had to dig down deeper and deeper to find the sweet, soft whisperings of the guiding Spirit, gently showing me the path I truly needed: 
"You're not a bad homeschooling mom for sending your kids to school." it said.
"You're not a bad mom for needing this space right now." it spoke again.
"Your children love you and will be happy, but you need to be happy first." It pleaded.

But I want to homeschool all my children, I tried again. I want to enjoy all the wonderful, joyous moments with my kids throughout the day. I want to be there when they make new connections and learn new concepts, and watch their faces light up as they understand. I want to help build a community of homeschool support, and connect with other families in our area. I want to start a co-op, to share my talents and abilities with my children and the world. 

Not right now, it nudged me again. You completely lack the mental capacity and patience to take on these challenges. You can't do this alone. You just can't.

So that is the end of that. Zadok will continue to stay home and the younger two will start on their new journey next week. Perhaps they'll do school just this semester, or maybe they'll start again in the Fall. It's hard to tell. This is one of those stories that will unfold for itself. If there's one thing I've learned, (besides that the world is tough but I'm tougher,) it's that the world is not black and white. There is a  long, beautiful spectrum of color out there, winding it's way through our lives. One day a decision may seem perfect for us and we may start to see in all black and white, but then something happens: Changes occur, prayers are answered, the right people come into our lives, and we suddenly find ourselves tip-toeing carefully on gray, then bordering dark purple, then teetering on the edges of mauve, til we've suddenly reached bright, fluorescent pink. Flourescent pink is where we find our answer: In fact,  maybe it was pink all along, even when I couldn't see past the black and white of my own passionate, made-up mind.

At least that's how I see it. 
Here's hoping all goes well during these new transitions. 
And praying that pink is a tough color on me, as I face the tough decisions of this world.
18 weeks pregnant!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I've Got the Music in Me! (growing through my newest calling)

I was asked to be the musical chorister for our children's Primary group last year in Hawaii. We met at the Hilo LDS church building on Kilauea Avenue where we had about 20-25 kids coming to Primary every week. 
I was floored at first when my Bishop asked me to volunteer for this job! Of all the church leadership positions I've held, music is something I never considered possible!
 My reasoning being because I don't play any instruments, I don't read music, I have an average singing voice, and I often don't remember the words to songs. All of these factors pointed me in the direction away from musical callings!
But God obviously had something to prove to me when he called me to this position. I trusted his will for me and said yes, starting my new job the following Sunday.

I was really nervous at first. I searched and scoured  Pinterest, and google-searched  for ideas and games to help me teach songs to the children. I joined a facebook group for LDS Primary choristers where I hung on their every word and looked desparately for inspiration. I read all the Primary music lessons from the LDS Primary handbook and watched the training videos online. 
I was so scared at failing at this calling that I wanted to cover every surface of learning. And I prayed. I prayed like mad that I could get up there and teach these children how to sing these beautiful, spiritual, uplifting songs, and that they wouldn't see right through me for the no-brained musician I really was.
I didn't know how to lead music, either. I figured I would learn as I went. With each song, my arm flailed back and forth, trying to mimic years and years of watching our Sacrament choristers in the front of the chapel. It couldn't be too hard, right? Just wave my arm to the beat of the music.
So that's what I did. 
Over the following months I found that, even though I was lacking in musical skills, my heart belonged to this calling. I quickly fell in love with learning the songs and with feeling the spirit of the messages composed within each note and measure. I looked forward to getting up there each Sunday to sing and memorize the words alongside the children.  I tried hard to make the lessons fun and enjoyable, as well as reverent and spiritual.
I looked forward to coming to church every Sunday cause I knew my lessons would not only impact the kids, but would lift and inspire me!  I always came home after church feeling refreshed and happy. This was the best calling EVER!
We decided to move to Utah just a few months after I accepted serving in this calling. I was sad to leave my favorite calling ever, but also grateful for the experience that I'd had. I figured that with all the extraordinarily musically talented people in Utah, they wouldn't need my immature skills. My next calling would most likely be in Cub Scouts or Young Womens, I reasoned. 
But, sure enough, our second week at Church, our new Bishop called me into his office and asked me to be the Primary musical chorister. He said he felt inspired to call me to this position, and hoped I would accept the call. I said yes. A little nervous and doubting, but indeed, I said yes.

It's been 6 months since that day that I've been teaching music lessons each Sunday to our new group of children. I knew from the beginning that God wanted me to do this job for a reason, but it hasn't been til recently that I've realized more certainly why. (and it wasn't just to make me feel really small. haha)

First of all, I think that God wanted to prove to me that I  still had the capacity to grow and learn new things: That even though most of my days as a stay-at-home mama are  filled with dishes and laundry and teaching my boys,  I could still learn a new skill and talent in my personal life. 
I asked our Sacrament chorister to give me lessons on how to lead music. She was beyond thrilled when I asked, and taught me everything she knew. My arm doesn't flail anymore, I can lead to the beat of the music, I know what a signature is, and I have more confidence standing up in front of our Primary group.
I'm also much improved at memorizing things. My brain has been stimulated in such a way that I am more adept at remembering the lyrics to the songs, as well as Scriptures. Learning these songs has done wonders for the mechanics of my mind!!

Second, my life has been filled with more joy and happiness. The sweet spirit these songs bring into my life touches my heart and makes me feel more connected to my Saviour. I've always loved singing, and having these songs in my head all week does wonders for my soul. We sing the songs with my boys for morning devotional and I love to hear them humming the songs throughout the day

Third, God knew that my boys needed me permanently in Primary. My boys are so shy and anxious in large groups of people, but when I am there they are content. I love watching them sitting there in Primary, participating in the activities, and feeling the spirit of the lessons. My 7yo Zadok is too shy to sing, but every once in a  while I catch him mouthing the words to the songs we're singing. It melts my heart. I know that these songs have the power to move him, even when he won't admit it.
I asked my boys one day if they liked having me in Primary or if they would like it better if I wasn't there. I was somewhat surprised when they all yelled unanimously,"We want YOU, mom! You can't leave! We like you the best!" I didn't realize they felt so passionately about it!

Lastly, being a music chorister reminds me constantly of my wonderful Grandma Lois. Before she passed away and when I lived close by her, our favorite thing to do was sing Primary songs together. She knew every word to every song, even in her late 90's. She was such a true example to me of someone who loved children and appreciated the power of music in their lives. She lived true to the messages and principles found in the church Primary songs, and taught me to do the same. 
She didn't have an amazing singing voice, but she loved to sing anyways! She always reminded me,"Heavenly Father doesn't care what you sound like! He loves it when you sing and wants you to sing for Him!"
I took that message to heart and even told my primary class:

It doesn't matter if we aren't very  musically talented, if we can't hold a tune, if we can't read music or play an instrument: God wants us to sing for Him and to feel the spirit of the songs! Through singing we will grow a stronger testimony of His love for us and His desire for our everlasting happiness! God will magnify our talents and teach us what we need to know! Just like he taught me to be a music chorister when I never saw it coming in a million years!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pre-natal visits, 16 weeks

We have a pre-natal appointment at our midwife's house in a couple days. It will be our second one since we found out we were pregnant in October. I'm excited for our upcoming visit. I know our entire family will be welcomed warmly into her home, as everyone comes to visit with the midwife! Even the boys are curious and want to be there for the visits (or run downstairs and play with new toys). Last month we heard the babies heartbeat for the first time. It was exciting for my little 5 year old to witness this moment, as he got to feel the reality of what we've been telling him: "Yes, there is a little brother or sister in there, and there's it's little heartbeat to prove it!" 

Our midwife is caring and friendly. She is a skilled birth attendant who treats pregnancy and birth as a normal life process, not an illness that needs to be treated. She will sit down with us and ask me lots of questions about how I'm feeling physically and mentally, or any concerns I might have. She follows a holistic model of care for the mind, body, and soul of the mother and baby. 
She will also take my urine sample, checking for proteins or sugars in the urine, going over the results with us afterwards. She will measure the fundal height, the fetal position and check the fetal heart rate and placenta. She may take my blood pressure or measure my weight.
She discusses each decision thoughtfully with our family as she looks at the whole picture of my health and pregnancy. I've ever had problems with diabetes or high blood pressure so we opt out of the glucose test. I also opt out of any blood tests, as I'm not concerned with chromosome abnormalities at this point in my pregnancy.
Our visits are serene and peaceful, and I know that our midwife has our best interests in mind.

Our midwife doesn't recommend going in for an ultrasound, as far as everything seems normal and in-tune with the usual process of pregnancy.  Usually, If she or I find or feel there is something abnormal to be concerned with, an ultrasound will be considered. However, I will be going in to get one this time to find out the gender of our baby.
I didn't get an ultrasound with our last two pregnancies because there wasn't any reason to, and we weren't birthing in a hospital, so it wasn't routine protocol.
 Research suggests that the high-sound frequencies in an ultrasound can change the cell structure as well as heat the tissues in the uterus, which can affect the neural development of a growing fetus. Ultrasounds have been linked to autism, speech delays, dyslexia, schizophrenia, mental retardation, and basically under-development and cell death in the brain. 
After looking into the research again I am hesitant to say that my reason for going to get one isn't for medical purposes, but the find out the sex of the baby. I've had to weigh the risks and benefits of my desire for this upcoming appointment, as Micah and I haven't been 100% comfortable with it in the past. 
But this time around I feel different and confident in our choice. I feel that the small risk I am taking is worth taking care of the mental anguish I had the last time I was pregnant. I had so much angst about finding out the sex of the baby or thinking I was carrying twins the whole time, that I was constantly stressed, nor could I sleep well at night. It became a medical issue when my anxiety became too overwhelming for me to handle!
I know this doesn't make sense to a normal pregnant person, but for someone who has struggled intensely with anxiety and depression in pregnancy, finding out the sex of the baby is a big step towards feeling more peace in the process. I know it will give me something to relax on, to look forward to, and to prepare for. These are all things that help calm my anxiety and make me a happier, more sane, pregnant mama. 
So, we find out the sex in 3 weeks! (Stay tuned)

This will be our third homebirth and I have to say that pre-natal appointments are one of my favorite parts of the birth process. I always feel safe and loved in the personal and private care of our midwives. It's been very important for me (and Micah) to choose a midwife who is competent, experienced, and skilled, as well as humble, intuitive and spiritual. 
In labor and birth I not only rely on the medical aspect of her knowledge, but also on her ability to pray for us, feel inspired for us, and to make decisions based on the promptings of the Spirit. We've been very blessed to have 3 amazing midwives in our lives who have been exactly that. I am looking forward to this birth and know it will be a special experience as well.

Below: Our lovely friend and midwife, Amy, checking out baby Odin after his birth in 2008.

Our wonderful midwife Lily checking baby's heartbeat with the underwater doplar. Jonah's birth, 2010. (Me, deep in labor land)