Tag Archives: pregnancy

Triangle Pose

October 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Triangle pose stretches and strengthens the thighs and ankles, stretches the hamstrings, hips, spine, and chest, relieves backache (especially during pregnancy—I’m photographed here as I entered my third trimester), and helps to keep stress at bay.

  1. Position legs 4 ft. apart. Raise arms parallel to the ground and actively reach hands out, palms face down.
  2. Turn right foot out 45 degrees and align heels together (or heel to arch to help with balance). Firm the thighs and keep right kneecap in line with the center of the right ankle.
  3. Inhale deeply, and as you slowly exhale, extend the torso directly over the right thigh, bending at the hip joint.
  4. Firmly press the outer left heel into the ground and pull the left shoulder back to open through the chest.
  5. Lengthen the tailbone towards the back heel and place your right hand on a block, your ankle, or on the ground outside of the right foot (advanced). Lift left hand up toward the sky and gaze toward fingertips.
  6. Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
  7. Inhale to come up, and repeat opposite side.

TrianglePose1

Endometriosis

December 13, 2013 by

If you’ve experienced extended pelvic pain, you’re not alone. As many as 15 to 20 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 50 will experience chronic pelvic pain that lasts six months or more. Pelvic pain can have many causes and sometimes it’s difficult to find a specific cause.

It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of these women will have endometriosis, a painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus—the endometrium—grows outside the uterus, or anywhere else where it’s not supposed to grow. It usually grows on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, or other organs in the abdomen or pelvis.

“The problem with endometriosis is that it can be difficult to diagnose.”
—Ginny Ripley, family practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Health System

The condition becomes troublesome when the displaced tissue continues to act as it normally would if it was inside the uterus and continues to thicken, break down, and bleed with each menstrual cycle. However, because the tissue is outside of the uterus, the blood cannot flow outside of the body. The displaced tissue can build up around the affected area and can become irritated, resulting in scar tissue, adhesions, or fluid-filled sacs called cysts. For women in their childbearing years, the adhesions may block the fallopian tubes and cause infertility.

“The problem with endometriosis is that it can be difficult to diagnose,” says Ginny Ripley, family practitioner at Nebraska Methodist Health System. “It doesn’t show up in ultrasounds or CAT scans, so the only definitive way to get a diagnosis is through surgery. Surprisingly, we’ve found that the severity of a woman’s symptoms do not correlate to the severity of the condition.”

So while some women with extensive endometriosis may have no symptoms at all, others may experience painful periods, heavy periods or bleeding, pelvic pain during ovulation, and pain during bowel movements or urination. The pain is usually located in the abdomen, lower back, or pelvic areas. Many women don’t realize they have endometriosis until they go to the doctor because they can’t get pregnant, or if they have a procedure for another problem. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of women who are infertile have endometriosis.

Because of the difficulty in diagnosing endometriosis, it is often a matter of ruling out other causes first before arriving at a diagnosis of endometriosis, notes Dr. Ripley. Other common causes of pelvic pain include fibroids, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease caused by long-term infection, pelvic congestion syndrome, an ovarian remnant, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, and musculoskeletal factors.

The type of treatment a woman receives will depend on the severity of symptoms and whether or not she is planning to become pregnant. Several treatments have to be tried before it is determined what works best. Many women can be treated successfully with anti-inflammatories or a combination of anti-inflammatories and oral  contraceptives and/or hormone therapy. Anti-inflammatories help reduce bleeding and pain. Birth control pills and hormone therapy help shrink the endometrial tissue by lowering hormone levels and help suppress the growth of additional endometrial implants—but they also prevent pregnancy.

“While the tissue growth may come back, it often cleans up the area long enough to allow a woman to conceive.”
—Katherine Finney, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist University of Nebraska Medical Center

In more severe cases in which all other options have been exhausted, surgery may be recommended to remove the extra tissue growth, says Katherine Finney, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Surgery is performed laparoscopically. This means that the doctor places a small, lighted tube through a small incision in your belly and looks for signs of displaced endometrial tissue. The tissue can then be removed or destroyed through heat or cauterization.

“While the tissue growth may come back, it often cleans up the area long enough to allow a woman to conceive,” says Dr. Finney. “Rates of conceiving are higher after surgery, but some women may still need fertility treatments to help as well.”

If pregnancy is not a goal, medications, such as hormone therapy, can be taken following surgery to prevent the growth of new or returning endometriosis, says Dr. Finney.

For women with severe pain due to endometriosis, a hysterectomy may be considered as a last option; however, this is rarely needed anymore. “We do far fewer hysterectomies today than we have in the past because we have so many other effective options,” says Dr. Ripley.

Some women may not require treatment, as they have no or only mild symptoms, while others can have notable symptoms due to pain and/or infertility issues. Treatment is typically based on symptoms. If you are near menopause, you may want to consider managing your symptoms with medications rather than surgically. Once you stop having periods, endometriosis will usually stop causing you problems, notes Dr. Finney. In rare cases, post-menopausal women will still experience continued pain, in which case their physician should evaluate them to determine if they are a candidate for surgery.

Young Hero: 
Tracy Christensen

December 9, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I was 16 years old when I had Tracy,” says mom Rene Miller. “I was not only very young, but also going down the wrong path. He is the reason why I turned my life around.”

Around her 26th week of gestation, Rene was hospitalized due to eclampsia, a life-threatening hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. Tracy was removed from the womb in an emergency C-section, only weighing 1lb 7oz and measuring 12 inches long. “The doctors stressed the fact that he wouldn’t survive the first hour,” Rene recalls. But Tracy survived the night. And another. And another. When a week had gone by, the doctors didn’t know what to say, but they knew that his life would be a struggle from that point on.

At 2 mos., Tracy, who weighed about two pounds, underwent surgery for a hernia. Yet again, the doctors didn’t know if he would survive. “I was able to hold him for the first time before he went into the operating room. I prayed for the first time in my life that God would work a miracle for my son.” While Tracy made it through his first surgery, Rene and the doctors had a feeling it wouldn’t be his last.

Next, it was a brain hemorrhage at 3 mos. “[He] received a tube that ran from his head to a jar that drained the fluid building on his brain. The doctors were actually expecting a brain tumor to be found, but instead they just found fluid and a blood clot.”

At around 5 mos., Tracy and Rene were able to go home. “It was right before my 17th birthday,” she remembers. “It was the best present ever.” But then Tracy began vomiting and having difficulty breathing. Even more troubling, he was unable to tolerate Rene’s breast milk, which was helping him gain the very weight and strength he so desperately needed. Back to the hospital they went.

This time, Tracy underwent a fundoplication (a surgery which tightens the esophagus) and received a feeding tube (which fed him and helped him burp for several months after the surgery). And then came the multiple ventriculoperitoneal shunt surgeries to drain the fluid off his brain again.

Shortly after being allowed to go home once more, Tracy was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Rene knew he would be developmentally delayed, but the biggest question in the back of her mind was whether or not her son would ever walk and talk.

Physical, occupational, and speech therapists came to Rene’s home twice a week for a year to work with Tracy, as his weakened immune system made it hard to leave the house. “Tracy proved himself once again though,” Rene adds. “He said ‘Mom’ at 1½ years, and he walked around 3 years with the help of leg braces and a walker. He also potty-trained at 3½ years and started preschool.”

The next decade proved difficult as well, what with Tracy getting meningitis and having seizures because of the damage to his brain. But he kept pushing through, as he had ever since he was a baby.

Today, Tracy Christensen is a 16-year-old student at Blair High School, where Rene says “he blossoms.” He’s involved in the Special Olympics and works at the school office, and he’s also a big brother to an 8-year-old sister, Kaidence, who helps watch out for him.

But it’s Tracy’s smile that helps Rene know her son is truly a hero after everything he’s been through—it “lights up your heart,” she explains.

“Tracy has always inspired me. He saved me,” she says. “He has shown me and given me strength and opened my eyes to the world…He is the most amazing young man, and I don’t just say that because he’s my son.”

Single Parent

August 16, 2013 by
Photography by Natalie Jensen Photography

“There are only two ways to live your life—one is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as if everything is.” – Albert Einstein

Single parenting comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it was because of a surprising divorce, the death of a spouse, or an unexpected, unwed pregnancy. Most of us don’t grow up dreaming about being a single parent. Usually, our dreams consist of a white picket fence, a harmonious house that smells of bread baking, a loving husband, and perfect children quietly playing in the background. Well, that life isn’t reality for a growing group of single parents in 2013. I’m hoping my column will give you a new perspective on single parenthood, as well as some much-needed relief.

I personally awoke from my fairytale five years ago. Suddenly, I was balancing my lack of income, providing a home, putting food on the table, and creating a consistent routine for three small children—not to mention walking my children through the effects of divorce and the stigma of being from a “divorced family.” My path consisted of living with my parents for three years while I finished my college degree. After those long and sacrificial years, I was able to buy a house and provide for my children on my own again.

Being thrown into the role of a single mom developed a sudden closeness between my kids and me. Not only did we share a room practically piled on top of each other, but we talked about things we’d never talked about before. It became a time of healing, but I also found out more than I would’ve ever known about my children if we had all been tucked away in our separate rooms.

Not having extra money led to playing a lot of cards, long walks, bike rides, and watching old movies together. But most importantly, the lessons about life that they have learned are the most valuable. Pain doesn’t last forever. Prayer gives you strength. They watched me go through the process of starting over with strength and determination. Those lessons have been the unknown benefit of losing all my material things and becoming a single mom because what we do have is each other, and that turned out to be a better dream than I could’ve ever imagined.

Family Success Story: The Codrs

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fertility issues are something that Jim Codr wouldn’t wish on anyone—not even his worst enemy. “You just sort of float along indefinitely with no end in sight. You start to question what you are, what you want, and how bad you want it.”

Emily, his wife of nearly 10 years, agrees. “There was a time when we didn’t think we would be able to have any children,” she says. “Our biggest obstacle, as a couple, [was] the difficulty of starting a family.”

Nora, 3.

Nora, 3.

But then, one day, everything turned around for the Codrs. They were blessed with a daughter, Anna. And then twins Nora and Margaret. And then a son, Edward. All of these fairly back-to-back pregnancies were surprising. “We got all sorts of raised eyebrows when we announced No. 4 was coming,” Emily adds.

What the Codrs didn’t realize was that the little blessings they had hoped for would turn out to be just as testing on their marriage as the fertility issues. “Having four children under 4 made life very stressful,” Emily says. “We had heard that multiples put a lot of stress on a marriage, but we had no idea just how little time we would have for each other, let alone ourselves.”

Each day presents a new set of obstacles for Jim and Emily. Not only do they have to ready themselves for work every morning; they also have to feed, dress, and drop off their four kids at school and daycare. It’s quite the hassle already, but it can be even more taxing when the children don’t want to cooperate. “[It] requires a great deal of organization and pre-planning the night before,” Emily says.

Eddie, 2.

Eddie, 2.

Fortunately, Jim and Emily, who both grew up in Omaha, have plenty of support around them to take some of the edge off of raising four young children.

“We lived in Kansas City for about five years prior to moving [back] to Omaha. I came to work for my father,” Jim says. “We came to that decision primarily because we [knew we] wanted to start having kids and thought the career move would be a better fit…Boy, I’m glad we did. The flexibility and benefits are huge.” Emily, too, has a flexible job that allows her to attend to the needs of her family when problems arise.

“We have an amazing network of people that have done nothing but help us along the way,” Emily says. “We have wonderful friends that didn’t forget about us when the days were long and hard caring for multiple babies…We often remark that life would be a whole lot more complicated for us outside of Omaha. [It’s] such a wonderful place to raise a family.”

When it comes to parenting, Jim and Emily try to stay away from the “divide and conquer” philosophy and focus more on working together. Leaving the house is a perfect example. Going anywhere with their children is one of the most hectic things they deal with on a regular basis, but they’ve gotten to the point where they have a system. “Logistically [for us], we simply need two adults minimum…It has sort of forced us to another level of parental participation,” Jim explains.

“We always wanted a big family…We may not be taking our kids on trips around the world, but at the end of the day, we tuck in four, healthy, balanced children whose parents love them and love each other.” – Emily Codr

“We don’t have roles as parents. If something needs to be done, we just do it,” Emily adds.

“I disagree with Emily about roles. She has a role—just do everything!” Jim counters with a laugh. “But seriously, she is a really terrific mom and keeps the engine going. I’d be lost without her.”

Having so many young children so fast brought the family closer together, in the Codrs’ opinion. Before they had kids, Jim and Emily had been more “carefree and freewheeling…even self-absorbed and a little immature.” Or, at least, that’s how Jim saw himself. Nevertheless, being parents has taught them many lessons.

Anna, 6.

Anna, 6.

“Being together is a priority for us,” Emily says. “We do most everything as a family, and we enjoy sharing experiences with each other. We [also] appreciate the ordinary days.”

“You learn what patience and determination really are,” Jim says. “It’s very easy to lay blame when things are going wrong, especially when they’re out of your control…You learn to stop hitting below the belt and lean on each other instead.” He adds that he admires his wife for her calm collectiveness. “I wish I had the grace under fire that she does.”

Although raising four children is quite enough to deem Jim and Emily saints in some people’s eyes, they don’t feel like they’re doing anything extraordinary. “We always wanted a big family…We may not be taking our kids on trips around the world, but at the end of the day, we tuck in four, healthy, balanced children whose parents love them and love each other,” Emily says.

Of course, the Codrs say their kids are just like other kids (in other words, they fight constantly). But in the end, they work well together and love one another.

Maggie, 3.

Maggie, 3.

“One of the coolest things about having several kids stacked together is that they have such an emotional attachment to each other,” adds Jim. “They always want to do things as a family. They love the weekends and nicknamed it ‘family day’…Their sibling relationships are just as important as the child-parent relationships. We try to stress that.”

“From what we have been told, parenting doesn’t get any easier as the kids get older, but we are sharpening our teamwork skills every day, and life must be getting easier because we cannot imagine how we did it,” Emily says.

“Oh yeah,” Jim adds. “It never ends. But that’s part of the fun, right? You get better. The kids get better. We’re all learning how to cope with one another.”