My Hypoallergenic Pregnancy

In April of 2013, I stood in my bathroom staring at the second pink line on the plastic stick and waited for it all to sink in.

It took a while. As in, about a week ... at least. I'm pretty hazy now on those initial days. The thing is, G and I had tried for three years to get pregnant. We were at the considering-IUI stage (soon, my gloomy mind had assured me at the time, to be followed by the expensive-and-fruitless-and-Clomid-ravaged IVF stage...yep, I'd done a bit of reading by then). Just as the cliché goes, we “gave up” for two months and...bam.

Or perhaps not so much bam. I'd love to be able to leave that paragraph right there, just like that...like Hollywood, like a cheesy Reader's Digest story, like a tearful vlog. But let's be honest: I was already into (deeply, deeply into) a holistic approach to our reproductive issues. I had a schedule on my kitchen wall that rivaled any western hospital chart, with herbs, yoga, and wait-then-copulate (our cutesy name for what had become a chore) designations in rotation. After 18 months of this schedule, G had had it and so had I. I kept up with the supplements and the yoga, dropped the rest, we had a few romantic nights and we'll never know whether it was the relaxation, the former regimen, or whether the stars aligned. Or maybe it was just chance.

One way or another, finally, we were pregnant.

My Hypoallergenic Pregnancy

I was immediately set back into tailspin mode. Where I previously obsessed over getting pregnant, I now overfocused on staying that way. We had no miscarriages in our past, but with the difficulty I'd had becoming pregnant in the first place, this little bean was all the more precious.

G told me to “just relax.” (I heard that phrase so many times on this journey that I was ready to take a hammer to the head of the next person who said it; I was half-tempted to warn G to duck.) And I did try to relax. Really, I did. But if anything happened to Bean, I didn't know if it would be three more years before we had another chance to be a family. Or five years. Or ten...or never.

And one thing I was absolutely strict on was being as all-natural as possible. I could compromise on the yoga and dropping the evening primrose oil. I couldn't compromise on shielding Bean from the harsher effects of a very chemical world. And this I don't regret. At all. Call me crazy; call me obsessive. You won't be the first and I won't disagree. But a nearly-hypoallergenic pregnancy worked for me, and has extended itself since then into all aspects of my life.

Here's what happened. I had always known I was highly sensitive to detergents and synthetic textiles (especially synthetic-weave clothing and bedding). When G and I first began trying to conceive and had our first difficult months of no second line on the stick, my food intake was the primary thing I looked into. I didn't demand, or even ask, that G change his diet, but I was sure as hell going to change mine.

So I did some research. And I discovered that tactile (skin/touch) sensitivities were often tied into other intolerances within the body. But these can be sneaky. They aren't always easy to detect and even when you suspect them, it can be tough to get an actual, practicing doctor to agree with you. (WARNING: do NOT self-diagnose and alter your lifestyle unless you speak to your doctor first. Be specific; leave nothing out. And yes, as anti-modern medicine as I became by the end of my pregnancy with Bean, that is still something I'll recommend to anyone in a similar situation...it's not just a CYA disclaimer. I mean, just in case you were wondering. I would, suspicious cuss that I am. Let's move on...)

A bit prematurely perhaps, I eliminated wheat from my diet. Next went dairy. I trucked off to my doctor's office to ask for intolerance and allergy testing. She told me I could not be tested for Celiac disease (an inflammatory/autoimmune response to wheat) unless I reintroduced it to my diet. I was too paranoid to do so, so I kept wheat out of my own accord (again, I'm not making recommendations...just explaining my journey). But she was able to test for dairy/casein, soy, and a host of external allergens, such as grass. I was positive for the grass, plus seven other externals; the foods appeared to be fine. So I kept wheat out, put the rest in, and avoided my allergy triggers.

Next, I replaced ALL (yep, all) synthetic or synthetic-blend fabrics from my home, with the exception fo the couch...that would have been a pricey proposition. I told myself that since I wasn't actually wearing the couch (though if it would have guaranteed Bean's health, I swear on scout's honor before you right now I'd have found a way to do that too), things should be basically A-ok. I replaced my bedding and pillow for cotton and organic wool.

Next, replaced as many plastics in the home as possible. I found an entire ousting of plastic to be impossible (I'm typing on a keyboard right now, for example) but cups and plates, storage containers and so on...all had replacements, and I went for those.

Next I attacked my makeup bag and medicine cabinet of toiletries. That was a two-month chore all by itself; so many ingredients can be allergy-inducing (or worsening) in susceptible individuals, and what constitutes “natural” in an additive isn't always clear. If you're going this route, prepare for some homework, that's all I have to say. Whew. But in the end, I was comfortable that I had done my best.

With these major issues out of way, I attempted to relax my way through the rest of my pregnancy.

And believe it or not, whether it was simply because I felt a greater sense of control, or whether sensitivities had played a part even in my emotional health, or whether it was both...things went rather smoothly and to both my and G's joy, Bean not only stayed lodged securely and happily, she decided to take a 10-day extension beyond my due date.

And then....she arrived.

Words can't describe how I felt when I looked into my daughter's face for the first time. If you're a parent, you know exactly how I felt...and you know every parent feels this way...and you know that nevertheless, your experience was unique. It just...was.

Today, “Bean” has a real name and she's an active little girl, enjoying as natural and non-chemical a childhood as possible while living life to the fullest. And Beanlet, her brother-to-be, is preparing to join her in (checking calendar...as if I weren't already counting every single hour) eleven more weeks. This pregnancy has been very different, from the start (shocker: we hadn't even officially started “trying” with Beanlet) to how gigantic my ankles are (hint: this time...super-duper gigantic...if that's an actual unit of measurement) to my temperament to...everything.

But one thing that isn't different at all is that I'm keeping things as all-natural and non-irritating as possible. Beanlet won't the same person as Bean. G and I don't want him to be. We just want him to be him....and healthy.

There's something to be said for just letting go and allowing nature to take its course, and that what we're trying to do this time around. But I believe we needed our experience with Bean to get there. What is my message to you? That whatever you decide to do (within reason and with good health in mind) during your pregnancy, try...and try hard...to have it feel right. Knowing that I was just doing something – and that this “something” was within my beliefs, was well-researched, and aligned with my personal health philosophy – was huge for getting me through my pregnancy fears with Bean, and allowing me to enjoy the journey with Beanlet. And it's a mindset I've been able to extend to other parts of my life as well – and it's made me not only healthier but a happier, more confident person overall.

Find what works for you...and then just take a deep breath, and enjoy. Do what you believe in, be healthy, and have your experiences to their very fullest. In my view, that's what life is all about. Good health and a healthy pregnancy to you.

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