Making Amends

I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time now, but I felt I couldn’t write it until I revealed the enormous shift I’ve made over the past year. If you didn’t know that I had left Mormonism how could what I am about to say come across as anything other than pandering? I needed you to know that I am in a different place so that I could atone for my past mistakes. I choose the word atone carefully, knowing that my recent declaration could make it sound as though I am trying to be clever. But I know of no better word than atone to convey a complete cleansing, which is what I need. Some of the things I’ve said in the past hurt people in really deep ways and I want to shed the baggage that comes along with realizing that. This does not mean I recognize all of the mistakes I’ve ever made or will continue to make, or that I have the ability to own up to each and every one of them. I am deeply flawed, and within that bundle of flaws comes pride and shame, both which prevent me from being all that I want to be. I’ll keep chipping away at those stones that burden my progress, but for now I hope those I have hurt will accept the apologies I am offering up below and know that they come from the truest part of myself that I am mentally and emotionally able to lay bare.

fire sunset chicago eclipse

Most of these apologies are related to my Mormon mindset, but I will start with one that has no relation to the faith of my childhood. While I was pregnant I wrote a post called I’m Gonna Climb That Mountain (those who were hurt by this post have requested that it be made unavailable to the public so that the hurtful messages I voiced within it can’t be spread any further). I’m not sure anymore what I was trying to convey, but reading back over it I can see that it was a terrible post and I said a lot of hurtful things. I’ve been ashamed of that post for a long time, but haven’t allowed myself to take it down because I didn’t want to hide behind my ability to make posts private or delete them altogether. I think women should birth how and where they want. I am sorry that I made any woman feel like her birth plans or birth experience weren’t good enough. I think mothers should have every opportunity to choose the birth experience that leaves them feeling empowered and triumphant, because that is how I felt after the births of my babies and that is what I want every woman to have as well. I think that some women do everything they can to give birth a certain way and it turns out to be something else entirely. Those women should have the opportunity to grieve the loss of a great dream while they simultaneously celebrate the arrival of their little one(s), and no one should ever criticize them for doing so. There is no mountain. There’s just a pregnant woman doing her best for the life she carries inside of her, and then there is a beautiful mother doing her best for her child.

And now for the opinions and thought processes that were a product of my personal history and religious tradition. A wonderful thing to note is that not all of those who come from my community or belong to the Mormon faith think or act the way I did; they are much better people than I. But when I shifted away from Mormonism and a worldview shaped by my youth I left old hurtful attitudes behind and I can’t untangle where these attitudes began and how much of a role my past played in nurturing them. All I can do is acknowledge that they were a part of the Jenna of the past and that I want to leave them behind forever and move toward the better Jenna of the future.  Continue reading

The Birth of T2

Twice I have endured the slow, stretching, sleepless, process we call pregnancy. Twice I have planned, prepared, hoped, dared. Twice I have given birth. Twice I have been able to look back and say “I got everything I wanted.” I am grateful to be able to say that, because I know how lucky I am.

Below is my retelling of the birth of my daughter. I type it as she grunts and wiggles in my lap, the joyful result of the story I’m about to tell. During my pregnancies I longed to hear the birth stories of the women in my family. I don’t want to wait until my daughter is blooming with a little life of her own to tell this story, to trust my faulty memory to truly communicate how transcendent the experience was for me. Even now my written word can’t do it justice. My heart is full.

I listened to far too many women say their second, third, fourth, etc, babies came “sooner” and I thought that meant that I would deliver at an earlier gestational date than I did with T1. He came at 40 weeks 2 days, and I was convinced that I would be delivering before the 10 month mark. My mom came down, I had everything prepped and ready to go, and we waited. And waited. And waited.

On the night before my due date, February 1st, I was convinced that this would be my last night without a baby in my arms. I lost my mucous plug that day, my due date. The 1st was a Friday, the weekend of the Superbowl, and it felt like time had stopped. I was bored, anxious, tired, sick, swollen, and ready. What was baby waiting for? On the night of the 5th my mom told me “My nurse friend said that if you really want to get this baby out, try the same method that you used to get it inside of you. And lift up your hips at the end to help the sperm get to your cervix.” I would have tried anything recommended by a medical professional at that point, and so we did… it.

Two hours later, just after 12:00am on the 6th of February, I woke up to a pop. 40 weeks, 5 days. My water didn’t break with T1 (the midwife did it manually when I was around 8 cm), and I had really wanted to experience labor initiating with the breaking of the bag of waters. Even though I had read many, many birth stories where women described what it was like to have your water break spontaneously, and even though I had huge amounts of fluid gushing out of me every time I moved, I still called our midwife and said “I’m pretty sure that my water just broke. I don’t think I’m peeing my pants? The fluid is clear. I’m probably in labor.” She told me to go back to bed and get some sleep if I could. We cleaned up the bed (easy to do, I’d been sleeping on a shower curtain for weeks!) and I tried to go back to sleep. I had learned my lesson with my first birth, that even though I was uncomfortable and sore and excited, there is never enough sleep to be had right before a baby comes.

Contractions started shortly after I climbed into bed, 5 minute apart, and I could tell things were moving along fast enough that sleep wasn’t an option. That Husband rolled over and offered to help me, but I told him go to back to sleep. Before things got really hard I wanted some time to myself. I went down to the kitchen and tried to eat and drink, thinking I might have a 12+ hour labor like last time. I paced the floor, practiced breathing through the contractions, pushed my backside against the fridge to try to relieve some of the pain in my back, drank water, ate a banana, and played Candy Crush. I hated sitting with T1’s labor, but this time it felt so good to labor on the toilet. There’s something so wonderful about being able to completely relax your bottom half when you’re contracting.

At 3:30am I called my doula, Jen, and asked her advice. I told her contractions were 30 seconds long, about 2 minutes apart while walking around. I initially told her to go back to sleep and that I wouldn’t need her until the sun was up, but less than 2 hours later I called her and told her to come help me. I hadn’t been sure that a doula was really necessary for me, as I knew That Husband would be home, and it felt silly to have so many people present at my birth (husband, mother, doula, midwife, midwife’s assistant, photographer) but I’m so glad I decided to hire Jen. She was so flexible, willing to do whatever I asked, and told me she would come at any time, no matter how early it was in my labor, if that’s what I needed.

Continue reading

Review: The Essential Homebirth Guide

A friend emailed me asking if I had heard of The Essential Homebirth Guide after she had spent some time on Amazon looking at upcoming book releases. I thought it sounded like something I could use before T2 comes in a few weeks since I’m giving birth at home again, so I did what bloggers do and emailed the authors asking if they’d be interested in sending me a free copy in exchange for a review on my blog. They said yes, put a copy in the mail, and I had finished the entire thing two days after I received it. Considering I average around one book per month this is pretty impressive (I couldn’t put it down!).

The book is written by Jane Drichta, CPM and Jodilyn Owen, CPM who run the website Essential Midwifery. In the United States if you’re using a midwife you’re likely going to be working with either a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) or a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). I used a CPM with my first birth, but was able to find a CNM for the second birth (she delivers at a hospital for most of her births and does a small number of homebirths as well, which is rare). I don’t necessarily think one is better than the other, but working with a CNM means there is a higher likelihood that insurance will cover at least part of the cost! I went into more detail about the differences between a CPM and a CNM here.

The Essential Homebirth Guide is an incredibly apt title for this book because I kept looking over to That Husband saying “Why hasn’t anyone written this book yet? It’s everything women giving birth at home need to know.” This book is a practical description of the many factors that need to be addressed when giving birth at home. I could tell that the authors had worked hard to give evidence-based information, and the amount of advice they give is kept at a minimum.  The section on Group Beta Strep illustrated this really well for me. This is a test I have waived for both pregnancies, and it’s a frustrating/complicated area because a woman gets the test at 37 weeks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that she will have Group B Strep at 40 weeks. If she is having a hospital birth and tests positive at 37 weeks she will automatically get an antibiotic treatment when she delivers (even though technically she can test positive at 37 weeks and be negative at 40 weeks). It also means that a woman can test negative at 37 weeks but actually be positive at 40 weeks. The Essential Homebirth Guide lays all of this out very clearly, and also helps women understand what it means to be GBS positive, what it might mean for their homebirth plans, how GBS can affect the baby, and preventative measures you can take to keep GBS colonization under control.

One of the struggles I’ve had when navigating the world of homebirth is that the amount of unbiased reliable information is very small. All midwives have a particular bias that needs to be measured when advice is given, and googling things usually takes you to forums where women are giving out plenty of opinions without much evidence to back them up. In Chapter Nine: The Big Ten, I was able to read up on things like Anemia (something my midwife is watching closely with me), Rhesus Factor (I’m positive and decided to get the shot with both pregnancies) and Gestational Diabetes (a huge hurdle for women planning a homebirth because testing positive could mean that you will risk out from your midwife’s care and have to transfer to a hospital). As diabetes and large babies were discussed I read “Ultrasound has a known error rate of 13% when it comes to estimating fetal weight.” At the end of that sentence I’m pointed to a study by Nahum and Stanislaw titled “Ultrasonographic Prediction of Term Birth Weight: How Accurate Is It?” published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This is one of the many reasons why I think this book is so awesome.

Other favorite chapters included Chapter Five:”She Said, I Said, They Said — Communication, which discusses how to talk to your midwife and how to talk to your family about your choice to give birth at home, and Chapter Ten: Labor and Birth at Home, which I need to go back and review once again because it’s time for me to start assembling towels and checking to make sure the birth tub doesn’t have any holes! There are also multiple appendices that discuss Questions to Ask During an Interview and Further Reading for the Homebirth Family.

I plan on giving a copy of The Essential Homebirth Guide to my midwife and I hope she starts recommending it to her other homebirth clients as well. If you’re giving birth at home I would rate this book as essential as Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and I can see it being incredibly useful to women giving birth in freestanding birth centers as well. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now.

I’d Like To Photograph A Birth

One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to photograph a birth. If you are in the Chicago area (it would need to take me less than 90 minutes to get to you from Hyde Park so I don’t miss it), and giving birth in a birth center or at home between now and May, I will photograph your birth for free, and give you a DVD of the watermark-free images afterward. I’d also be happy to do one during the month of July while I’m living in Utah.

Why a birth center or at home? Because for this project that’s the type of birth I’d like to focus on. For this particular instance I’d like to focus on alternatives to the American norm (if you happen to transfer to the hospital of course I will follow you throughout!) Think of it like a photographer seeking out a red-headed model for a particular concept shoot they have in mind. I’ve photographed one other birth, which was in a hospital, ended up being a c-section and loved taking part in that. Eventually I’d love to expand into making birth photography a small part of Jenna Cole, and this free offer is the beginning of that.

My birth images from Kelli Nicole are so meaningful to me and I want to provide that for other families as well.

If you fit this description, please email me, or pass it on to a friend if you think they’d be interested. If I don’t hear from anyone I plan to contact some local midwives to see if they have a client who would be interested.

2010 in Review

I’ve seen a few bloggers do posts like this in the last few days, and I love it for a few reasons. It’s a great way for me to look back in a few years and remember what my year was like. It’s also a great way to point out some favorite posts from the past year to any new readers!


I wrote about my struggle with pregnancy weight gain and accepting my new body shape. I started eating in the style of the Real Food movement, something I am still doing today. I started answering questions on Formspring, and kept doing so even when it felt like everyone else was dropping out. To date I’ve answered almost 3500 questions! That’s a whole lot of talking about myself :). Baby was going to arrive in a few moments and I knew the time would go by in a blink, so I started thinking about the post-partum period.


I talked about Good/Better/Best, and I’m still working to do better each day. We stressed about what we would name T1. I admitted that I pee my panties a little bit sometimes. We had a snow day in Dallas (very rare) and I went exploring in a wooded area near my house, coming frighteningly close to getting lost!


I gave you a tour of our apartment at Villa Miranda in Dallas. I made baklava for the first time, something I would most definitely like to do again. My stomach exploded with stretch marks, a part of my pregnancy that is still with me to this day. I had maternity photos taken by my friend Bethany! I devoted a post to my caring and devoted husband. I was showered with love at my baby shower. This was an exciting month, but the highlight was most definitely finding out that we were moving to Chicago!


I wrote about how I had been preparing my body to have a baby. I tried live blogging general conference, something I’d like to do again in the future but probably won’t happen now that I have a baby to entertain! I was getting so little sleep that it started to consume my thoughts, which of course led to a post here on That Wife. I wrote one final letter to T1 in embryo. Finally, T1 arrived! I wasn’t producing enough milk, which starved our son, and so I started supplementing with formula and wrapping him in a biliblanket to treat the jaundice which resulted.


I posted the story of T1’s birth, and tried to answer your birth questions. I wrote about how we are paying for our expenses while at business school, even though TH isn’t currently working. Stopped breastfeeding. Ignited a whole lot of controversy why I wrote my interpretation of the LDS views on mothers working outside the home. Highlighted ways that blogging had made me a better person. I had the first of many awful OBGYN appointments. My diet changed once again as we drastically cut back on the amount of meat we consume.


We used cloth diapers! I wrote candidly about what post-partum recovery is like. Let’s stop using “retard” and “gay” is derogatory terms! We buzzed T1’s hair, which made you all a little crazy. I realized that mommy blogging kind of sucks sometimes. Yet another sucky OBGYN appointment. That Food Diary was launched. I showed what it’s like to take care of a 4 month old. We had a little family outing at the Dr. Pepper Festival in Dublin. I took a little break from blogging.


I fed the missionaries, which was a big deal because it was my first experience trying to cook a meal for guests and manage a baby at the same time. I caught on to the idea of voting with my food dollars. We flew to Washington for T1’s baby blessing. T1 had two notable firsts, swimming and laughing. I became obsessed with the farmer’s market.


I’m a baby-wearin’ mama, and changed my eating habits even more drastically. We found an AMAZING apartment. Sadly, this caused us to give up cloth diapering. I spent time with e-friends at a pool party at my apartment building, a soda shop in Dallas, and in Boston.


We moved to Chicago and suffered through weeks and weeks without internet. I was able to spend some time with long-time reader Sophia and the Chicago bees. I attempted to save money and dye my hair myself, which was most definitely not a good idea. I grossed a whole lot of people out by creating a placenta print and posting pictures of the process. I came to terms with being a self-taught photographer. That Wife Book Club was launched! We struggled with juggling our baby at church, and I talked about postnatal cuddling. No internet was stressful, but TH not having a passport weeks before we were set to leave for Europe was most definitely a low point for us.


We went to Europe!!! (A trip I still need to post about in full.) I stressed about greeting my in-laws with a kiss, they introduced T1 to solid foods. I advocated for less helicopter parenting. T1 dressed as the Sleep Bandit for Halloween. My parents came.


T1 gained two teeth. I dressed up as the housing bubble and TH was a mortgage backed security for a University of Chicago MBA party. I officially lost 25 pounds. I attempted to go to Ikea alone with a baby, which was a very bad idea. We spent Thanksgiving in Washington after the wedding of TH’s best friend brought to the Pacific Northwest.


We want to shave T1’s hair yet again. I finally finished revamping my Jenna Cole sites. I pulled off a holiday party for That Wife blog readers, with about 10 people in attendance, and vowed to do that no more than once a year. I posted my thoughts on motherhood so far, T1 started crawling, I spoke in church, we joined some CSAs, and I showed what it’s like to run around after an 8 month old all day. We didn’t buy T1 anything for Christmas, and we decided we won’t be telling him Santa is real. We flew to Utah for 7 days and spent some time at a house in Heber City with my parents, we were spoiled by the amount of gifts we received and I felt a little guilty because I am so fortunate. Our entire family loved this way of spending Christmas enough that we’re considering repeating it next year.

You know what? After going through all of these posts and reviewing the past year, I realized that I really, really loved 2010. I feel like it’s an appropriate time for a little letter.

Dear 2011,I bet you can’t beat 2010 on the awesomeness scale. But why don’t you give it a try?


That Wife

Happy New Year friends!