Babysitters, Bedrooms, and Being in the present

I think this was the first episode my sisterwife, our husband, and I watched all together.  Sitting in Melissa’s living room in a row of recliners, laughing heartily, arguing, each of us noticing and pointing out different things, made the viewing of it a party.  Episode 2 of Seeking Sister Wife‘s second season (the one titled “Failure to Launch”) was extremely entertaining and definitely the funniest of either season.

Babysitters

The Alldredges left their 7 children at home for the first time and traveled to Niagara Falls.  They left them with some unnamed friends.  Here is a screenshot of the babysitters waving goodbye with all 7 children.

Waving goodbye
The Alldredges’ adult babysitters along with 6 of the 7 Alldredge children wave goodbye to Jeff, Vanessa, and Sharis.

Oh, wait.  I only count 6 children.  Where is their oldest child, 9-year-old Dain?  Maybe he had to go the bathroom or something.  *shrug*

TLC didn’t name the babysitters for you, but I will.  They are Taylor and Sara, some of our good friends.  They had their 4 children at the Alldredges’ house as well (who weren’t shown in the goodbye scene).  They actually have 5 children of their own now, since Sara just gave birth to a baby boy a few days ago!

Taylor and Sara were going to be one of the families in the first season of Seeking Sister Wife — they were under contract and everything — but as filming was getting closer they became uncomfortable with some of the things the network was planning and, although they’re still open to plural marriage, they felt inspired that it was not the right time/circumstances. They believe that (at least for them) such things are best left in God’s hands – not in the hands of TV producers. After everything was explained to the network, TLC terminated the contract, eventually replacing them with the Snowden family.

Taylor is one of the contributors to this blog.  His post called “Dateonomics” is one of my personal favorites.  In it, Taylor shows the mathematics of why polygamy being available is actually good for women.  I used his ideas just the other day to explain these concepts to a friend who wasn’t sure what she thought about polygamy.

One of the main ideas in the post is that if polygamy is allowed, then the women don’t have to compete with each other in order to get married, and they have a lot more men to choose from, so their chances of marrying a good man are much higher.  Instead of 10 men and 10 women in the dating pool resulting in every man getting a wife, polygamy allows the better men to score more women, potentially leaving some men unmarried.  This puts the pressure on men to step it up because they are the ones who have to compete for the women.  And in reality, there aren’t equal numbers of men and women in the dating pools: there are more women than men, due to various factors laid out in Taylor’s post.  And in a monogamous culture, even if the pool of men is decreased by a tiny number, that still means there will be females left single.  That makes dating analogous to a game of musical chairs: not everyone will get a spot, so you better play the game hard in order to not be left an old maid.  If I am not explaining this well, you should really check out Taylor’s article and see what you think.

Anyway, it was fun to see our friends on the show even tho they were just babysitters and not one of the featured families.

Bedrooms

The Alldredges’ flight to New York was Sharis’s first time on an airplane.  Once they arrived at their hotel, we find out that Vanessa and Sharis got separate hotel rooms, which gives the sisterwives privacy and allows them to keep up the same sleeping schedule they were already on.

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Sharis gets the hotel room key ready and Vanessa says, “I’ll just come check out your room first, and then I’ll go get settled afterwards.”
Alldredge sleeping arrangements
“When we travel, we get two rooms. That way, it’s just like home.  Tonight, I’m gonna be with Sharis, and tomorrow night, I’ll be with Vanessa.  And we’ll just keep on with our schedule.  It makes things real easy and gives the ladies some privacy, and it works.”  – Jeff Alldredge
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Vanessa tells Sharis she thinks her room is on the same floor, just down the hall*.

Normally my sisterwife Melissa and I drive separate cars, eat separate meals, and sleep in different rooms.  But when we’re camping or otherwise staying away from home, we do things differently: we typically get just one room or set up one tent for the whole family, including the children, we drive just one car all together, and we combine our meals, etc.  We like the closeness on occasion, and it simplifies things.  Yes, there’s not as much privacy, and yes, Joshua has to rearrange his sleeping schedule, but it’s not a big deal if it’s only every once in a while.

I know polygamous families who stay in one room or tent the way we do, and I know other polygamous families who require a room for each wife the way the Alldredges do.  I recognize different families have different preferences, and when the Alldredges stay with us, we give the wives separate bedrooms.  But next time we stay at your house, feel free to put us all in the same room.   😉

Being in the present

Vanessa Alldredge seems pretty excited to be in Niagara Falls and she’s looking forward to meeting her potential sisterwife in person. She says when they were courting Melina (as shown in Season 1 of SSW) her pregnancy made things difficult.

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“Last year, I was just in a different head space because of my pregnancy.  But this year, I’m feeling much more present in the relationship.” – Vanessa Alldredge

Vanessa is referring to the molar pregnancy she was going thru, which Jeff also mentioned in Episode 1.  The hormones of a molar pregnancy are many times higher than those in a normal pregnancy, so it makes sense that poor Vanessa was really sick.  She told me in detail about her experience and even shared ultrasound photos, which you can see in this blog post.

Bummer

Once again, I only had time to write up a fraction of what I wanted to share.  I made notes to write about the McGees’ synagogue kicking them out because of their belief in polygamy; their talking to their sons about Bernie’s “talking to another woman” and not only the sons’ reactions but also the reactions of the son’s friends; the McGee son mentioning again that a plural wife of his dad’s “wouldn’t be a mom per se“; Bernie being confident that when he has plural wives, the whole family will live altogether in one house; the Winders attempt to come out as polygamists in their community (Joshua wrote about it here); Sophie Winder calling herself Sadie’s second mom; whether a new wife needs to adapt to the family’s diet, the way the Snowdens expect; the Snowdens’ potential sisterwife being a Pisces; Ashley Snowden’s “Highly Meditated” tank top; and her inspirational quote “Anything in life worth having takes effort”, referring to her efforts to practice polygamy.

But alas, the 3rd episode has aired and I won’t let myself watch it until I publish this post, so I will go ahead and do that right now.  A recliner in my sisterwife’s living room is calling my name.

Oh, before I go, here are the numbers of the total amount of screentime each family had in episode 2.  The Snowdens’ screentime was double that of the Alldredges.  Playing favorites, I see:

Alldredges: 3 segments totaling 7 minutes, 9 seconds

Winders (2 segments): 8 minutes, 33 seconds

McGees (2 segments): 8 minutes, 37 seconds

Snowdens (3 segments): 14 minutes, 15 seconds

What do you think?  Did you notice a kid was missing in the Alldredge farewell scene?  Did you get a chance to read Taylor’s Dateonomics post yet?  If you were a polygamist, would you want to share a hotel room or get separate rooms when traveling?  What was your favorite part of this episode?  Is it obvious to you the Snowdens are TLC’s favorite family?

Cynthia Alldredge Was on Season 1 of Seeking Sister Wife!

There she is!

Cynthia Alldredge

For all the people who say that Jeff is trying to hide his first wife, Cynthia, there she is on the first episode of Seeking Sister Wife 😜.  This is a screenshot from 2 minutes and 29 seconds into the 1st episode of season 1.  The picture is cropped, but they maybe should have done a little photoshopping as well.  That mysterious hand indeed belongs to Jeff’s first wife.  She told us so herself.

 

Sorry if this was not the post you hoped it would be.  I just thought it was too funny not to share.

Thoughts on Seeking Sister Wife, season 2, episode 1: “It’s Time to Start Seeking Again!”

I’m excited that the next season of Seeking Sister Wife has premiered!  I was pretty surprised to learn that the Brineys weren’t going to be on this season.  I knew April was living in Utah again but I assumed that her leaving Oregon would end up being nice juicy gossip for the TV show to capitalize on.  Well, despite the Brineys not being on it looks like the show will have no shortage of interesting material.

I don’t have cable TV so on Sunday night I was trying to figure out how to watch.  Luckily Amazon video has it, altho Season 2 costs a lot more than Season 1 did.  I guess that’s how it goes when a show is more established.  Either that or it’s the 13 episodes we’re expecting versus the 7 episodes we got in Season 1.

This season has our familiar Snowdens and Alldredges and we also get to meet the McGees and the Winders.  I don’t personally know the Snowdens or the McGees at all.  I know the Winders from Facebook but we’ve never met in person.  I personally know the Alldredges as well as the Brineys.  Last season I thought knowing both those families would be an advantage when it came to writing my blog, but as it turned out, I always felt the need to censor myself for the sake of our friendships.  In fact, one time when Joshua wrote his opinion about a Briney situation, he ended up writing a follow-up apology post for the sake of his friendship with Drew.

This episode had plenty of interesting things to talk about.  I made 4 pages of notes while watching, and I only had time to turn a fraction of them into a blog post before the next episode aired.  Here are some of the thoughts I had about it while watching.

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The McGees call themselves “Hebrew” or “Messianic.”

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“We basically believe the Bible cover to cover.” – Bernie McGee

I find this interesting because we are somewhat in that category as well.  We are a unique blend of Messianic and Mormonism so I’ve taken to calling us “Messianic Mormons.”  We believe the Bible cover to cover, as Bernie McGee says they do, but we also believe the Mormon scriptures cover to cover.

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How sad that the McGees’ house burned!

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We once had a house fire, altho not nearly as devastating.  Ours was 100% my fault.  I left a batch of beef bones boiling on the stove while we went camping for several days!  Obviously the water boiled away long before our return, and the bones smoldered, causing what’s called a “protein fire.”  The professional from the disaster clean up company had been doing his job for decades and told me it was the worst protein fire he’d ever cleaned up after.

We came back from our camping trip and walked in the house and it smelled like a thousand burnt dinners.  I realized immediately what had happened and I ran over to the stove, carried the pot outside, and set it down on the cement pad in the backyard.  I removed the lid and what was left of the bones burst into flames!  The lid had fit so tightly on the pot that no oxygen was able to access the bones.  If we had been less fortunate, very likely our house could have burned to the ground while we were out of phone service.  I have always said my guardian angel was sitting on the lid, keeping it tight-fitting enough to keep any air from accessing the smoldering bones.

Some of the cleanup included cleaning everything (and I mean every single book and toy and other items), replacing the countertops, repainting the entire house, “ozoning” all of our clothes and every room, and replacing items that were too close to the stove or stubbornly refused to give up their stench.

I can scarcely begin to describe the smell that permeated our home and everything in it.  I used to hate the smell of smoke.  I would avoid campfire smoke, and the minute we arrived home from a camping trip, I kept everyone from relaxing on couches or beds (because they would contaminate them) and instead they had to strip down in the laundry room (without their clothes even being dropped on the carpet) and get right in the bath or shower.  But the smell of our protein fire was so much worse (not just stronger but much more terrible) that, I kid you not, campfire smoke now smells pleasant to me.

Not only did the protein fire smell awful, but it permeated everything like you wouldn’t believe.  When we got home, we were in the house for half an hour with the doors and windows open and fans turned on, imagining that the house would air out and the smell would eventually dissipate, but instead the smell only grew stronger in our nostrils.  We realized we couldn’t sleep there that night and we arranged to go to my parents’ house for the night.

When we arrived at my parents’ house, we learned that simply from being in the smelly house for a short while, we had picked up the offensive smell.  I had brought some unworn clothes from our closets, planning to launder them in my parents’ washing machine before wearing them, but the smell traveled from the laundry room up to the kitchen and I was asked to move the clothes outside until washing.

The smell that got transferred from our contaminated bodies to our car during the hour-long drive took weeks to disappear.  A rubber ball that had marinated in the fumes ended up getting taken to my parents’ house by one of our children.  It was kicked around my parents’ backyard for a year, never losing its disgusting odor, before someone gave up on it and finally threw it away.

The experience was educational and in many ways it could have been worse.  When we first bought the house, we had opted for a $10,000 deductible on our homeowners’ insurance, mostly out of habit, since we had liability-only car insurance and high-deductible health insurance.  Some time later, my parents’ bedroom ceiling caved in due to unseen water damage, and I realized that even tho we might use doctors and car insurance less than the average person, our chance of needing to make a homeowner’s insurance claim was not lower than average, and when the time came that we needed to use it, we would be sorry about having such a high deductible.  So, we called the insurance company and lowered our deductible to $1,000.  Not long afterwards, the protein fire happened, and the cleanup required 2 weeks’ professional help, hotel stays, and replacing personal items.  I don’t remember what the total bill was, but it was probably close to $10,000.  Luckily we were only responsible for the first $1000.

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I don’t think Paige is emotionally ready for the challenge of plural marriage.  I wish I had time to elaborate, but Joshua already wrote a post about it called “Polygamy’s Jealousies and the McGees”.

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However, I am quite impressed that she is willing to live in a camper while looking for a sisterwife, for the benefit of being flexible enough to move if that’s what the potential wife wants.  In the cases of polygamy I have seen, the new wife joins the family and in doing so chooses to join the family culture and whatever setup the family has.  When Enoch Foster married Lydia (a little of their courtship was shown on Three Wives, One Husband), she got to become a part of an amazing family with organization and resources that had been in the process of being set up for 2 decades.  In her case I could see the real benefits of being the 3rd wife!  I’ve never heard of an established family being willing to join the new wife, rather than the other way around.  That part of this episode was pretty interesting to me.

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I loved hearing the story of Paige’s conversion to polygamy.  I want conversions to come from something inside or from God, not from another person using logic or scriptures to convince us.

Paige McGee's conversion
“One day I was just reading some verses in scriptures that talked about a man having multiple wives, and something just touched me, and I knew that was something we were being called to do: to live a polygamist lifestyle.” – Paige McGee

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The McGee boys are extremely charming.  I love the conversation they have where younger brother Kyle says he’s looking forward to having another mom, and older brother John tries to figure out what that role is called.

Kyle and John discuss having another mom
“I don’t know what I would… What would that class — that role be called? Like a… a mom… I don’t know what that would be called.” – John McGee

Hey, boys, how about the word maunt?

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Very often we hear about wives’ jealousy over their husbands.  Much less talked about is the jealousy over their children.  Paige McGee says it could possibly be hard for her to see her sons develop that relationship with her sisterwife.

Paige McGee discusses watching her sons get close to another mother
“Watching my children get close to another woman in a motherly way could possibly be very hard for me to do.” – Paige McGee

In a country where so many children are raised by only one parent, I think it’s beautiful and extraordinary for a child to actually have more than two parental figures that love them and are invested in them and help raise them.  I believe this has the potential to be a powerful advantage in the children’s lives.  I would hope any jealousy over that issue wouldn’t keep a wife from pursuing polygamy.  Moms ideally do what’s best for their children, consistently, whether they enjoy it or not.

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Vanessa’s molar pregnancy is mentioned.  I wrote about it in this post, which includes ultrasound images and details about Vanessa’s experience.  If you’re interested in what happened, go ahead and read it over there.

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The Alldredges discuss their “dream” home and the lodge they’re finishing.

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They ideally want each wife to have their own bedroom wing (to “provide for some privacy”) but to share the main living spaces.

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This is one example of many possible housing situations.  The Winders have another housing situation of living in completely different towns.  Our current house has separate living spaces but they’re connected on the inside, so family members can freely move about and be where they want to be, but the wives still get to be queens of their own castles.  Personally, I prefer this and so do Melissa and Joshua.  (We lived in different counties for 5 years before moving in together last year.)  Joshua discusses housing arrangements in this post about the Brineys’ living situation in Season 1.

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The Winders call themselves “Independent Mormon Fundamentalists.”

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We don’t entirely fit into that category (for several reasons, but partly because of the whole “Messianic” thing mentioned above), but we have enough in common with Independent Mormon Fundamentalists (IMFs) to have some close friendships with people who consider themselves IMFs.  “Mormon Fundamentalists” describes the belief system and “Independent” simply means they’re not a member of any organized group.

I find Colton’s story interesting — I’m paraphrasing but he basically said that since the early LDS Church believed in polygamy, it didn’t make sense to change that belief, so he had to either give up on the Church or really embrace the fundamentals. Colton goes into more detail about the different flavors of Mormonism and his family’s beliefs on the Winder family blog in this post and this post, the second of which includes some nice Winder family photos (including Colton with a beard).

Tami believed in plural marriage before marrying Colton
“Living plural marriage was something that I wanted to do, but … if I’m being honest, it was something I didn’t think would happen until we died and went to heaven.” – Tami Winder

Tami’s story is interesting as well, how she believed in plural marriage but thought it was something she wouldn’t get to practice until heaven.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story of a couple who found out after marriage that they both believed in polygamy, were pleasantly surprised, and then started living it.

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In the episode, as Colton’s second wife Sophie approaches, Colton says to his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”

Aunt Sophie
Colton Winder asks his daughter Sadie, “Is that Aunt Sophie?”

The title “Aunt” is also what the Alldredge children use when addressing their “other mother”.  I don’t think the title aunt or mom fits when referring to your mom’s sisterwife.  There is definitely a word missing from the vocabulary of the polygamy world.  My best idea is the word “maunt” — a cross between “mom” and “aunt.”

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The Snowdens have a conversation about what happened “last time.”  Joshua wrote a post about it.

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There were many other things I wanted to comment on, such as Vanessa propping her phone up to take a family photo, even tho they were surrounded by professional cameramen.  And the charming comment Tami Winder gave about how she was initially attracted to Colton for “his looks, obviously.”  And the sad fact that our friends the Alldredges ditched us and moved to South Dakota.  :’-(  And Bernie’s overly optimistic statement that he doesn’t want to see hurt in his wife’s eyes again.  And how I love that Ashley Snowden was nursing uncovered and then was wearing her baby on her back.  I was also planning to give some observations about the obvious video editing that ended up making things awkward and unrealistic.

Well, I only had time to write up about a tenth of what I planned to.  Such is life, but I want to move on to the next episode, so I’m going to go ahead and publish this post, incomplete as it is.  See you in the next one.

Out of interest, here is the total amount of screentime each family had in this first episode (not counting the teasers like “Coming Up”).

Snowdens: 3 segments totaling 10 minutes, 43 seconds

Winders (2 segments): 10 minutes, 2 seconds

Alldredges (2 segments): 9 minutes, 36 seconds

McGees (2 segments): 7 minutes, 27 seconds

plus 4 minutes, 45 seconds of “Last season on,” “Coming Up,” and “And Later,” and the closing credits after the last scene faded out to total 42 minutes, 33 seconds in the episode.

What did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Leave your comments below.

Morning sickness, Midwives, and Molar pregnancies

Morning sickness during pregnancy is very common, especially in the first trimester. There is an extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Women with HG have a lot of nausea and vomiting and often have difficulty keeping anything down at all. HG can persist all the way through the pregnancy rather than only the first few months. Some of these women lose weight rather than gain weight; some are hospitalized because they can’t keep enough fluids down to stay hydrated.

My cousin gets HG so badly in all of her pregnancies that she can’t even take care of herself, much less her children; she has to live with her parents or her in-laws when she’s pregnant so she can have constant help.

My first 3 pregnancies were easy compared to my 4th pregnancy. But that last one was a doozy. I had HG and vomited all the way up to my due date. I was usually at my sickest in the evening, when I ought to have been singing to my kids and snuggling with them as they were being put to bed.  Instead, my then-9-year-old daughter basically ended up putting her siblings to bed on a fairly regular basis, no bedtime songs and cuddles with Mama because she was lying on the floor with her face over a bowl.

I didn’t have HG as badly as some other women I know of. I was able to gain a normal amount of weight in my pregnancy, and I only had IV fluids once. However, I used many, many remedies to keep myself reasonably functional, including all the natural remedies such as peppermint and ginger and frequent snacks. A prescription of Zofran (from a certain CNM named Karla Jo Bennett) wasn’t helpful. What did help me was taking Unisom — the one with 25 mg of the active ingredient doxylamine succinate — twice a day (three times a day helped with the nausea/vomiting even more but it made me way too sleepy), taking loads of vitamin B-6 (micro-doses all day and a slow-release dose at bedtime), completely stopping my consumption of all grains, and most helpful of all, getting a shot of b-vitamins every day or two.

morning sickness remedies
My morning sickness remedies

The first midwife I went to for b-vitamin shots was Karla Jo, but eventually my regular midwife taught me how to give myself shots, which was far less expensive and far more convenient than driving to the midwife’s office and paying her to do it every time.

I got tested for H. pylori (a bacteria in the stomach that is one cause of HG) and the test came back negative. Karla Jo was the midwife who was lucky enough to keep my stool sample in her freezer until the the lab came by to pick it up.

Karla Jo is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), which is the kind of midwife with the most education and privileges (such as writing prescriptions).  Since she has more privileges than my regular midwife, the two of them worked together to meet my needs for medical care. (I saw several other types of medical professionals to try to get some answers about my HG, but in the end, no one could solve the puzzle, and eventually I gave birth and the problem ended on its own.)

Karla Jo is not just my CNM but she’s also my mom’s first cousin. I was close friends with her kids (my second cousins) when I was younger.  We went on homeschool field trips together; I played Foosball in their basement; and her daughter and I wrote sticker-covered letters back and forth.  I remember having dinner at their house once when they ordered plain cheese pizzas and added their own toppings after the pizzas were delivered (that was so foreign to me).  I attended the baby shower of one of her daughters and drove across Los Angeles to visit her other daughter, who was on a layover.

I was surprised when I saw Karla Jo in the sneak peek of Seeking Sister Wife, and I excitedly texted her and said, “You’re my friend Vanessa’s midwife! I saw you on TV!” and we laughed about it and she told me about her experience with the TLC film crew.

Karla Jo was the midwife who performed Vanessa’s ultrasound in episode 5 of Seeking Sister Wife.  She had to give Jeff and Vanessa the sad news that Vanessa actually wasn’t carrying a baby, and the further bad news that she probably had a molar pregnancy.  It turns out she was correct, even though in 20 years of caring for women and babies, this was the first time Karla Jo had seen a molar pregnancy.

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Molar pregnancies occur in roughly 1 out of 1000 pregnancies. This means it’s highly unlikely you will have one, but it’s likely that you know someone who’s had one. Karla Jo’s sister had one. So did my mother-in-law.  My regular midwife has seen 3 in her career.

In a normal pregnancy the hormone hCG (which is responsible for morning sickness) appears at implantation, increases to a peak between 8-11 weeks of gestation, and then decreases. The levels of hCG going down after the first few months is the reason why the symptoms of morning sickness typically lessen at that point.

The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/mL). Normal levels approach 300,000 mIU/mL at the peak. In a molar pregnancy they go much higher, so even though the woman isn’t carrying a baby, she feels sicker than someone having a normal pregnancy.  She also has positive pregnancy tests despite there not being a baby, because hCG is what’s being tested with pee-on-a-stick pregnancy tests.

When you watch the early episodes of Seeking Sister Wife, and Vanessa is so sick, you can bet there’s a good reason she was experiencing the worst morning sickness out of all of her pregnancies. When Vanessa’s hCG level was tested it was 1,200,000 mIU/mL!

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When Vanessa’s regular midwife Sherri Price couldn’t hear a baby with her doppler (as shown in episode 4), she asked her good friend and fellow midwife Karla Jo if they could come to her office (which is at her house in Pleasant Grove, Utah — not in Genola, Utah like SSW implies) and have Karla Jo take a look with her ultrasound machine.

After Karla Jo said yes, Sherri mentioned that, oh by the way, a camera crew is coming.

Karla Jo hadn’t planned in advance on being filmed that evening, and she didn’t get home until just before the film crew wanted to start filming.  She had had a full day and the film crew and everyone else beat her to the house.  Her husband fed them ice cream and entertained them for an hour.  (At one of my appointments with Karla Jo, her husband took my kids into their backyard and let them collect the eggs from their chickens.)

Most midwives don’t have their own ultrasound machine (they’re a pretty expensive piece of equipment to just use occasionally), but Karla Jo has one. So she is kind of the go-to when another midwife wants her client to have an ultrasound done.

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Karla Jo says it was an interesting experience to have a film crew present while she did her work.  Normally she would have dimmed the lights in order to see the ultrasound screen better, but the film crew needed the lights bright.

She didn’t get told anything that happened after everyone left that day.  She didn’t know for sure if she would end up in the final cut; she didn’t get a copy of the episode; she didn’t get told when it was airing.

As far as the filming and editing of the show, Karla Jo say the editing was done in a deceiving manner.  For instance, the audio is edited enough so that at times she is shown saying the exact opposite of what she actually said (for instance, the word “don’t” got cut out of one of her statements).  She also thinks the scenes she’s in that were posed (like when she was standing outside with Sherri) felt very fake.

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Technically Karla Jo can’t use an ultrasound to diagnose a molar pregnancy, but you’ll notice that she was able to give a better idea of what was happening than the first midwife was, and she gave good advice to go ahead and get checked out by a radiologist.

I have seen people on social media criticize Vanessa for going to another midwife instead of the emergency room. The show said Vanessa’s problem was “possibly life-threatening,” but that doesn’t necessarily make it an emergency. Cancer is life-threatening as well, but no one calls an ambulance. Vanessa wasn’t bleeding or even cramping; the situation wasn’t so urgent that they needed the emergency room, and going to the ER wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Please, let’s leave the ER for true emergencies, rather than clogging them up with important but less-urgent medical situations.

As I said, at the time of Vanessa’s first prenatal with Sherri, she wasn’t bleeding.  However, early in Vanessa’s pregnancy, after taking a positive at-home pregnancy test, she was spotting quite a bit and even bleeding a lot at one point, so she thought maybe she was having a miscarriage.  She got an ultrasound, which appeared to show a very early embryonic sac.  She also got blood work done twice showing that her hCG hormone levels were rising at an expected rate.  So according to all that she was definitely pregnant.  She figured that she was either going to miscarry or not, but that it was out of her hands.

The bleeding eventually slowed and she continued to be pregnant (as far as she could tell), so she just figured things were progressing normally. There seemed to be no other reason for concern, and she planned her first prenatal for 12 weeks gestation as usual.

Her first prenatal is shown in episode 4, and the follow-up appointments and surgery are depicted in episode 5.  What the TV show doesn’t tell you is what happened after Vanessa’s surgery.

The pathology report fortunately came back negative for cancer from the mass that was growing inside her, and for a short time she thought Oh good, surgery went well and now I’ll just recover.

But Vanessa ended up with a painful complication.  Her high levels of hCG hormone triggered something called theca-lutein cysts, which are a type of ovarian cyst most commonly associated with molar pregnancies.

After Vanessa’s surgery, her ovaries looked fine, but within days the cysts grew as a result of those heightened levels of hormone. Her abdomen was filled with these ovarian cysts, as shown in the below ultrasound images.  She had so many and they were so large that she looked 8 months pregnant!

Vanessa's ovaries on ultrasound
Ultrasound images of Vanessa’s ovaries filled with huge theca-lutein cysts.
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Vanessa’s belly a few days after the surgery (huge because of the cysts)

She literally could not lie down or hardly even recline because she couldn’t breathe. She also couldn’t eat because her stomach was so crowded.  It was several weeks after her surgery before she was recovered enough from those horrendous theca-lutein cysts to start feeling normalish again, and it took almost 2 months before her hormone levels were back to healthy levels.

Now, months after Vanessa’s surgery (a high-risk D&C), her hormones levels are good and her belly is back to its proper size, but she is still constantly on the lookout to detect further problems.  Any cells remaining in her uterus could begin to grow, or worse, metastasize into other parts of the body.  The way to determine if that’s happening is with pregnancy tests, so she has to avoid getting pregnant but take tests every 2 weeks to be sure the hCG levels aren’t rising.  If she gets a positive pregnancy test then she will have to hurry in to the doctor to determine what’s going on.

Although her experience was difficult and traumatic, Vanessa feels like it was divinely timed and directed, and she is at peace about it.  She is glad the viewers of the show got to see thru real events how loving and supportive her amazing family is.

But she’s still nervous about the future.  Once she’s physically and emotionally ready to get pregnant again, her odds of having another molar pregnancy are significantly greater than before: about 1 in 20.

Vanessa appreciated having supportive midwives to help her through her experience.  She loves Sherri and also speaks very highly of Karla Jo.  She reports: “Karla Jo was really great!  I would consider her as a midwife if I was still in the area.  I didn’t spend tons of time with her but she came VERY highly recommended by Sherri and I really liked her presence and personality. I felt very safe with her.”

Karla Jo Bennett serves Utah County, Salt Lake County, and surrounding areas. Her midwifery website is www.gentlebirthandwomenshealth.com.  (Sherri Price is retired now, so if you were interested in hiring her, you’re out of luck.)

Note: Vanessa Alldredge’s story and medical details shared with permission.
What do you think?  Have you ever had hyperemesis gravidarum?  If so, what was your best remedy?  Do you use a midwife or a doctor, and why?  Have you ever heard of anyone having a rare molar pregnancy?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you for making breakfast, Aunt Vanessa

In the first scene of “Let the Seeking Begin!” [timestamp 03:30], Sharis prompts her children to say thank you to “Aunt Vanessa” for making breakfast.

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Aunt is a cute way to have children address their other mothers, although it seems inaccurate, given that Vanessa isn’t really the aunt of Sharis’s children.  I suppose one could argue that Vanessa is their mother’s sister[wife], and that makes the title Aunt reasonable.  Further, even if I find it strange, let’s remember that Sharis is the one who grew up in polygamy, so what do I know?

Another common way for children to address their father’s other wives is to call them Mom [first name].  In one plural family I’ve seen, the children refer to all the women as simply “Mom.”  This is heart-warming, but it seems impractical.  Besides, using the title Mom instead of the title Aunt doesn’t solve the problem of inaccuracy.

What do we do in my family?  My children generally call my sisterwife “Ma-Melissa”.  (Or is it “Mama-lissa”?  Or perhaps “Mom-Melissa”?  I’m never quite sure, given the first syllable of her name. 🙂 )  Other times they might call her “Mama Melissa” but sometimes just “Melissa.”  The phrase “the mamas” is often used to refer to both of us, as in, “Please obey the mamas,” or, “Ask one of the mamas for help with that.”  (Melissa’s children are from a previous marriage and they have never called me anything but “Charlotte.”)

It would be interesting to take a poll and get some data on what the most common naming practices are in plural families and what the reasoning is behind them.

The relationship between children and their other mothers is something in between Mom and Aunt.  I think there ought to be a term, peculiar to the plural marriage world, to describe this something-in-between relationship.

What about Maunt?  Or maybe it ought to be spelled Mont??  Hmmm… I wonder if that word would ever catch on…