The Pregnancy of Adam Kolbe

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The moment the second line appeared I knew we needed a plan. This pregnancy was not shocking but it also wasn’t necessarily the plan, and I’ll leave it at that. I was already feeling at my limit with six kids. Added to that, the past few weeks had been filled with putting finishing touches on a huge apartment addition for our friend Kate. It had been a crazy and all encompassing nine-month adventure and we were ready for a breather. Instead God decided to invite us into another beautiful nine-month project.

In order to feel like I could mentally, physically, and emotionally survive this one, I knew we needed to be more intentional than ever before. Survive is hyperbole, of course, simply to point out that pregnancy is HARD. Pregnancy at age 40 with six previous full term babies that your body has borne is harder still. Pregnancy with a severe back issue and raising aforementioned older six babies, well, that feels like a league of its own. It was clear that this baby was real and here and that if this is what God was assigning us right now that it would need to take priority over other plans, activities, and dreams we desired. And that was okay.

Just a few weeks with a baby bean inside!

The Father reached out almost immediately. Within days of getting that positive test, I felt a gentle peace I hadn’t felt in a long time that neither made sense nor was explainable. It was a calmness of spirit that He was doing something within me, that He was going to show me something with this pregnancy and birth, that He was here and cared, and that He wasn’t letting go. I had the inklings of hope that He wanted to offer me a sense of restoration through this pregnancy.

The Shrine of Our Lady of la Leche

I did well, I think? I think I can say I handled the pregnancy much better than I would have hoped and kept an overall positive attitude, thanks mostly to that grace I just described. (Overall being a key word there, meaning generally speaking and certainly not without many frustrations and failures.) We went on a family vacation/pilgrimage to St. Augustine to the Shrine of Our Lady of la Leche and it was so special to pray for the baby there along with hundreds of other intentions I received. I didn’t share publicly or with family until I was about 18 weeks along. It felt like a special secret but I also found that it was better for my expectations and the state of my peace to hold it close until I felt I had to share.

Just hangin' with some dolphins...wasn't allowed to swim with them :(

I researched and bought a new natural mattress, a last ditch attempt after trying several others over the years with no significant back relief. Thank God it helped. Interestingly enough this was after noticing at a healing retreat a few months back that my back wasn’t hurting and later realizing it was because of the bed. Certainly God can work His healing through circuitous and less than miraculous means when we have an open will!

I spent and researched more on quality supplements – a general prenatal, a higher potency probiotic, so much magnesium in both pill and cream form, iron, a high dose B-12, and vitamin D. Because of Covid and for general winter immune support we were already taking a high vitamin C supplement daily and I continued that throughout my pregnancy. I got through the first trimester with a bit less slogging and a bit more perspective that it would pass soon enough. Not to say that it still wasn’t full of the same debilitating nausea and exhaustion as the others, but it seemed different somehow this time. I knew it would pass and it helped a great deal with perspective. I did spend a lot of evenings when the nausea and general grossness hit hardest (“morning”sickness my foot) playing Dr. Mario with my husband using a Nintendo system a friend let us borrow for a few months. I’m fairly certain hearing that music again would trigger a bout of nausea!

Another very important part of the pregnancy plan was to be very intentional about exercise. The boys moved our treadmill up to our bedroom and I can proudly say I used it every single day from Christmas through my 36th week, barring just a few days when I was traveling. I started with just 20 minutes of walking and moved up to the end to doing 33 minutes and approximately 1.5 miles a morning, the majority of it on an incline. It probably doesn’t sound that impressive to some but it was for me. I would wake up every morning at 5:45 to pray the Divine Office, grab a bit of coffee, and then I would put on my sneakers and do my walking while worshipping with praise music (simultaneously honing my birth playlist). During Lent, I used some of that time to listen to and pray a Rosary with the Dominican Nuns. That walking was so helpful in keeping me somewhat in shape and I think also helped stave off my normal debilitating back pain as well. There were more than a few days and plenty of nights that the pain showed up in full force but it was far fewer than my previous pregnancies and I seemed to be able to rebound easier. Every single morning Brian would bring up a plate of eggs for my breakfast, attempting to time it perfectly with the end of my workout.

The midwife with me for my previous three births had moved to Ireland shortly after the birth of my last baby. Thankfully, a new midwife had arrived just around the same time who began practicing and attending home births. I had worked with her practice about eight or nine times over the previous years as a doula and I was comfortable with her approach and the care and skill she provided. I messaged Maura shortly after seeing that second line to make sure she could reserve a spot for me in mid August.

Throughout the pregnancy I was swatting away different anxieties that would creep up, some that would pester and linger for longer than others. I worried a lot about blood sugar, thinking that my previous baby’s bigger size and a few issues that came up after he was born could possibly be attributed to mild gestational diabetes that went overlooked. I checked my own blood sugar a lot, researching and trying all sorts of tactics and supplements to try to get that morning read off the cusp of “high”. I learned how subjective a whole lot of the GD diagnosis and treatments truly are and how, despite the stern protocols offered, we still don’t know a whole lot and there’s room for a lot of differing opinion on whether common expectations and protocols are actually personalized and evidence based. That’s a different post, though. My fasting blood sugar remained at that borderline throughout the whole pregnancy and I could never get it to look like a wonderful “optimal” reading no matter what I tried. Turns out, looking back with a few non-pregnant readings seen, those numbers were exactly consistent with my non-pregnant reads. I most certainly don’t have diabetes now and probably didn’t then, though whether a mainstream medical provider would have agreed, I doubt.

Another concern to work through was baby’s position. Having had my fifth born “accidentally” vaginally breech at a hospital transfer from planned home birth and having had the next sixth baby freak me out by turning breech at 39 weeks, it was a valid thought that this baby might veer breech as well. I did a lot of processing of those two experiences and a WHOLE lot of digging into the information available on vaginal breech birth. I watched videos and trainings, I prayed, I talked several times with my midwife, I dug into the research and expertise available, and I became convinced that a breech baby was not a valid reason to change my birth plan. I had birthed six full term babies vaginally, one of them breech already, and I had no huge complications. I knew if anyone was perfectly capable of birthing a breech baby, it was me. It wasn’t right for me or even any safer to switch to a surgical or hospital birth for that reason alone, unless that was what I truly wanted. I made a plan with my midwife that if baby was feeling breech at term or at the onset of labor that I would stay home, sign a breech waiver (if there was time), and possibly have another midwife come up (again, if time). Our plan to stay home to birth, barring anything truly concerning, of course, remained intact even if baby was breech. I felt truly empowered by that decision and really appreciated my midwife’s support and respect in that choice.

I saw a pelvic floor therapist a few times during the pregnancy with the hope of helping (or at least mitigating) my diastasis recti and related back pain. I’ve never had issues with prolapse or severe incontinence, thankfully, and she was impressed at my strength but my abdominal muscles and core were definitely not in full functional state and contributed to my chronic back issues. She taught me some exercises to do and I did them faithfully each morning after my walking. Regardless, I still had two significant days where I could literally feel my abdominal muscles stretching apart yet again. It was incredibly painful for a few hours on those days, enough to move me to tears. I don’t remember that kind of pain in previous pregnancies. It almost makes me think that I actually was doing a good job with the exercises and they may have even have been improving but the pressure of the pregnancy was just too much for them and they ripped/separated more suddenly under the growing weight, if that makes sense.

During the last couple months I began taking more evening Epsom salt baths, rewatched all of Monk, lost a lot of my appetite, and ate an even lower carbohydrate diet. I doulaed a few more births until my last at 33 weeks. My friend Theresa generously brought us a meal once a week the last six or so weeks of pregnancy which was an absolute gift. Another friend Allie hosted a sweet brunch to celebrate the baby with some of the young women from our new parish that I had only recently met. We observed a Confirmation, our first kid with a broken bone, a graduation, and a whole bunch of birthdays.

8th grade graduation!

For the first time ever, I had professional maternity pictures taken. At 31 weeks pregnant, I helped chaperone my two oldest boys and a huge group of teens to the Steubenville youth conference. It was extremely hard physically but so good. At 36 weeks pregnant my husband brought our three older boys to the Fraternus Ranch for six days, which meant I was on my own with the three littles. Again, very hard but the sacrifice was worth it for the experience they had there. 

Heavy with child and my 17 year old on my old college stomping grounds

The weeks passed, sometimes too slowly for my liking. The summer arrived and for the first time ever, we had a pool available for me to use when hugely pregnant! Brian worked so hard to clean and repair it, to replace the filter with salt, and to make it beautiful for me. It was such a gift to be able to get in the water and for those minutes or hours feel the weight off and be able to move and float! Getting out there with the boys, especially as the heat and humidity turned way up in late July, got very difficult but the times I was able to muster up the energy were such a blessing. Getting out of the water felt like someone had just poured cement on me.

I was finally able to find a massage therapist the last month of my pregnancy. With the Covid situation, it was difficult to find someone who was actively taking clients with whom I was comfortable. I especially had concerns about being in very close proximity with a vaccinated therapist and the possible shedding of viral proteins that was being theorized. There had been so many reports of hormonal issues from women who had been vaccinated or in close proximity to recently vaccinated people that I didn’t want to take any chances. My fear of a preterm birth and possibly needing a hospital was greater than my need for a massage! But through the grapevine I did finally find a wonderful massage therapist who not only was a doula but who came right to the house for sessions! It was wonderful. I had several massages right in my bedroom with my own music playing. I had utilized chiropractic care numerous times in previous pregnancies with varied experiences and results, and this time really felt like massages were a better fit and would have a longer impact on how I felt.

At the beginning of August, I asked our priest to offer us the Rite of Blessing Before Childbirth which he did at Sunday Mass with our parish.

Birth blessing!

Several times I measured my fundal height and was always on target. I sometimes attempted to find baby’s heartbeat with a fetoscope I had bought with my other birth supplies. I was successful a few times but I think this particular cheap one just wasn’t great to work with since I more often than not was unable to find it. At 32 weeks I began drinking a quart a day of a 1:1 nettle and alfalfa tea infusion to increase my iron and vitamin K. At 37 weeks I turned it into a 2:1:1 red raspberry leaf, nettle, and alfalfa mix.

Throughout the whole pregnancy I had been listening to dozens of birth podcasts and couldn’t get enough. I fell into a lot of freebirth podcasts and was so intrigued at the idea of an unassisted birth. I didn’t have plans for one and continued care with my midwife but the idea resonated with me deeply. I knew I did want a midwife on call and present, though, especially in the case of needing pharmaceutical help with a postpartum hemorrhage or assistance with a breech or dystocia. But the idea of the birth being as completely hands off as possible became extremely important to me.

There were other births that I really wanted my older children present. This time I was leaning toward fewer people and a quieter, reverent tone to labor and birth. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to them being there but when I envisioned the birth so very often during pregnancy, it was in my bedroom with Brian, Maura (our midwife), Sigrid (a friend and nurse but also one of our midwife’s assistants), and possibly a photographer. Every single time I pictured it, usually as I walked on the treadmill a few feet away, I was at the foot of my bed on the ground kneeling or squatting, and I was allowing the baby to be born onto the floor in front of me. I wanted the tub and shower in our wonderful new bedroom available for labor but this time really pictured a land birth, not water. I dearly wanted my worship music playing and especially fell in love with one song called “Gracefully Broken.” The mere idea of allowing the Father to move powerfully in and through this birth, working in me, healing me, and speaking to me through this birth very often brought me to tears. be continued...

1 comment

  1. Hi Mary!!! I've missed you blogging since I left the Insta world...please continue :) And congrats on a new baby boy!!!!!!!!!!!


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