Thursday, March 31, 2011
I think gratitude must be one of the greatest virtues. It is definitely something that I want my children to carry with them always- a deep gratitude for the blessings in their life. Our outlook in this area can make us a happy or depressed person.
It seems so common today to focus on all the things wrong with pregnancy. So often that is what is focused on in every visit- all the pain, suffering and physical "illness" that accompanies pregnancy and birth. I believe this has a deep and hidden impact on the entire birth process and introduction to motherhood.
So, in that light I wanted to take a minute to count some of my blessings today and some of the good things about this pregnancy, even though I have entered the final and less comfortable stages. I am not telling you what to do- but maybe we can all make a list like this for wherever we are in our lives.
~I was grateful today that my six year old son put his clothes away without being asked. I am pretty sure I am getting most things wrong when it comes to mothering, but I am grateful for a child who manages to be pretty awesome, kind, and thoughtful, despite me. What a blessing the spirits that these kids come with are in my life.
~I was so glad today to see the SUN! After a long, rainy, Northern California winter, spring is finally here! I love the sun and just being able to be outside with my kids and soak up those vitamins. Beautiful day...
~I am grateful to be pregnant. There are aches and pains and things that are hard about it, but I know what a blessed woman I am to have the opportunity to have four little children and to have had the pleasure of growing them in my body. What an unexplainable miracle, the gift of life.
~I am grateful that my husband mopped for me today. I have spent too many hours focusing on all the stuff he does wrong. How nice that he eased my burden when I was tired.
~ I am grateful for eggs. They are not that fun to clean off the floor, but they are yummy to eat- even for dinner. And- they cook pretty fast. Plus the kids loved them. It is always a bonus when I don't have to beg everybody to consume their food. A thumbs up from a six year old when he tasted his dinner, for some odd reason, really warms my heart. What is better than that?
~Chocolate. And lemon bars. I know I shouldn't, but I just can't help it. Plus, how amazing is it that around three pm when I start to crash, I can have one little piece of dark chocolate and suddenly have the energy and patience to make it through the rest of the day? I am also grateful that chocolate is legal and available. Wonderful.
~My toddler. We talk a lot about the difficulties of toddlers. You know what though? I think it is really a fun age. They have personality, they are getting verbal, and they can really play with their siblings, but they still really LOVE mama. This one has a strong personality and the odd combination of both intelligence AND perseverance. (I always thought people really only needed one or the other....) But I just love that child so much. She is amazing, entertaining, funny, and also so thoughtful, kind and eager to please. How do I keep getting blessed with these wonderful kids?
~Our home. I am grateful for a place to live. It is such an amazing thing to have a place for us to all be together, cook together, play together and sleep safely each night. My son told me today that not everybody has a home, some people sleep outside- very true, very true.
~Waking up to my beautiful three year olds face. I don't know how I ended up with such a beautiful daughter who really looks like a princess. But there she is. So far, she has been my "easy" child. If you have enough kids this sometimes happens. Talented, friendly, lovable, intuitive, and thoughtful, she actually took a neighbor flowers today because she was sick. I wish I could take credit for their personalities. How do they come wired to be so dang great?!
~Last but not least: spandex and all other fake yet stretchy fabrics. They are truly a beautiful invention. Something that can be worn while pregnant AND post partum is just something of a miracle. Plus, when it has the added bonus of being comfortable and passably stylish, it doesn't get much better than that.
As it turns out, I am blessed with a pretty amazing life. I hope you are too-
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I love this birth story because it is from a 'normal' mama who chose home birth after a long and hard hospital induction. Healing birth is a beautiful thing, isn't it?! Also, really amazing what a great birth partner her own mother was for her and how birth can be beautiful even if not quite what we had planned in our head. Enjoy!
(Midwife, Natural, Homebirth)
I’m not quite sure of the exact moment that we decided to pursue a homebirth. I’m the farthest thing from the ‘hippie-type” I had always imagined gave birth at home. We did have a midwife for the birth of our first child (my son, Merrick) back in 2008, but we hadn’t even considered anything other than hospital birth. I think it was somewhere in between the downward spiral of induction via artificial rupture and Pitocin and the three days my son ended up spending in the NICU due to side effects from the epidural that our decision found its roots. By the time Merrick turned 15 months and we found out we were expecting baby number 2 – we were pretty much sold on the idea of homebirth. After attending an information night put on by our midwives we were hooked. The following is the story of how Keara’s homebirth came to be.
I’d been having contractions from 38 weeks off and on, so it surprised a lot of people when my due date (June 28th) came and went with no baby. I, on the other hand, was not expecting to have her before since I went to 41 + 5 with my older son before having to be induced (artificial rupture, pitocin, epidural – the whole gamut).
I went for my 40 week appointment at my midwife and she offered to check me to see how my cervix was progressing. She found me to be ‘soft and favourable’ and approximately 2cm dilated. I knew from hearing other people’s stories that you could be as much as 3cm dilated for weeks before , so I didn’t hold out too much hope for imminent delivery. I may have mentioned offhand that I wouldn’t be opposed to a , and although standard practice at our midwife’s office is to not do sweeps until after 41 weeks, my midwife may have obliged my request . Again, I had previously had about 4 sweeps when pregnant with my son, with absolutely no success, so I was not holding out hope.
That night we went for dinner and I experienced some cramping (typical after a sweep), but no spotting or show. The next day I lost part of my plug – just a bit of brown-tinged mucus.
On Thursday July 1st I woke up around 6 am with some minor cramping and went to the bathroom – where I noticed that I’d lost a bit more of my plug – this time redder and a bit larger. I went back to bed not thinking much of it. Around 7 I woke back up with some stronger cramping and realized that the cramping had a regular 15 – 20 minute pattern. I texted my hubby (who had decided to go into work on the Canada Day holiday) that “Today may be the day”. Of course with two weeks of prior contractions, neither of us was sure. We agreed that if the cramping got more intense or closer together that I would text him to come home.
By 11am the contractions were about 10 minutes apart and starting to get more painful, although still nothing that I would consider actual ‘labour’. Merrick had just woken up, so I texted my mom and she agreed to come over around noon (“No rush” I texted her – nothing would be happening anytime soon). Around the same time my mom thought that it may be time for Billy to head home, so I texted him as well.
After Billy and my mom arrived things continued right along. We timed contractions and they were consistently between 8 and 10 minutes, but only lasting about 30 seconds (which just didn’t seem long or intense enough to me to be ‘real labour’). I called our doula Tracy and she arrived at the house around 4 o’clock.
My mom had called my dad in the mean time, since contractions had picked up slightly and the intensity seemed to be worrying Merrick. Dad was my back up plan for him if he wasn’t reacting well to me in labour – so off to grandpa’s house he went.
At that time, I had spoken to our midwife on the phone and she decided she would head over as well.
Tracy had brought veggie lasagna and some muffins and bagels with her – and she put the lasagna in the oven while I laboured through a few more intense contractions with my mom. I seemed to be having a bit of back labour - feeling searing pain all through my lower back and hips, and my mom knew exactly where to put the pressure to ease the discomfort. She suggested I get into the shower and have the water run over my lower back to ease the pain. By the time I got into the shower, I knew immediately I did NOT want to be in there – contracting in such a restricting and uncomfortable space. My mom helped me back out of the shower and back into my nightgown.
Tracy suggested it would take at least an hour to fill the birth pool and we should get on that! So Billy and mom started to prepare it while I tried to get our box of birth supplies from the nursery. I got as far as our hallway before dropping everything on the floor and labouring through a rough contraction on my hands and knees. I decided to go lay on my bed for a bit. Tracy got a cold pack for my forehead and used a hand fan to cool me down through the next few contractions.
At about quarter to five our midwife Janice showed up and asked if we could do a quick exam to see where I was at. She took my blood pressure (90 over 60) and then asked me to go pee before she did the internal check. I got to the bathroom with some help from my mom and as I was wiping I pulled out a huge handful of bloody mucus. I remember grabbing onto my mom and proclaiming “Mommy, I’m scared.” (I think I called her “mommy” several times over the course of the day). Looking into her face as she told me not to worry – that it was all normal – calmed my fears.
All of a sudden I felt an extreme sense of panic and had an incredibly overwhelming urge to push! I yelled “I’m pushing!” and everyone started crying out, telling me not to push – while Janice quickly did an internal while I was on the toilet and proclaimed me to be “Fully dilated with the bag bulging!” and asked me to get back to bed and onto my side.
I have no idea how I got back to the bed – but I know my mom helped me and got me into a side-laying position. I don’t even think I had a second to lift my upper leg and seriously – with little to no effort on my part – out popped a baby! I didn’t even have to push on my own! In a gush of waters (which finally broke as she was emerging) Keara’s head came out, followed by one shoulder and then her arm and – there she was! My fantastic husband caught his daughter before the midwife even had a chance to put on her gloves! He placed her on my chest immediately. My mom cut the umbilical cord after a planned delay and Billy later shortened it to the clamp length. Keara barely made a sound – calm and alert and enjoying her fast and peaceful entry into our world.
Keara Lyn (named after my maiden name “Kear” and “Lyn” taken from my first name Melynda) weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces, was 19.5” long and had a full head of dark brown hair. She was a vibrant pink colour from both her fast delivery and delayed cord clamping – and, if I may say so myself, perfect – in every way.
Our home birth experience was not quite what I had imagined. I imagined a leisurely evening labouring in the pool with candles (I bought special tea light holders and candles just for this day. I had even bought special massage oil and labour mist to use during which I had imagined would be a long and arduous labour!) It turned out to be such a whirlwind I didn’t even have time to miss the things we didn’t do. My midwife even used the term “precipitous labour” when they called in the birth to the hospital – something I didn’t think I would ever experience after the 24 hour induced labour with my older son.
I could not imagine anything more beautiful than having my child born in the very bed where she was conceived – and then to lay there afterwards in between her parents in a completely calm and loving environment. All of the exams, weighing and checks afterwards were done in our bedroom as well. (9 and 10 apgar scores)
Shortly after she was born, my dad showed up with Merrick to meet his new baby sister. Billy picked him up and they lay down on our bed and Merrick caught the first few glimpses of the tiny pink bundle he was destined to love forever. Capturing that moment on film (although slightly blurry) is one of the highlights of our whole homebirth experience.
An hour and a half after the birth, I was up having a shower (with my mom as spotter) with no tearing that required stitches. I got dressed in a fresh nightgown and climbed back into bed (fresh sheets and blankets!) with our new daughter. Tracy put in a load of laundry and brought me a muffin while I breastfed Keara.
Having my mom as part of our labour was, again, amazing. After having her attend Merrick’s birth two years ago, I could not imagine going through another labour and delivery without her. She clearly has been there before and knew all of the things to say and do to make me feel like I was doing everything right. She and Billy are the perfect labour team and I know they made all of the difference in making our birth experience even more special.
Although not what we anticipated, Keara’s labour and delivery was an amazing experience - and the complete euphoria I experienced after giving birth drug free in our own bedroom will undoubtedly remain unmatched by future experiences.
Keara is now a healthy and happy 8 month old. We have been exclusively breastfeeding with amazing success and recently started the “baby-led weaning” process of introducing solids. Life with two kids has its challenges, but there isn’t a day that goes by that both Billy and I don’t feel incredibly blessed and grateful for our beautiful family.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
I have been reading a book about the death of President Lincoln. One of the first things that struck me as I started it was how much Booth (the killer) hated Lincoln. I have always thought of him as one of the greatest presidents of all time.
Of course he was president during a terrible time when the country was literally split so it makes sense and is even obvious that many people would have hated him. But, being so far removed from it in time and space the idea had never occurred to me.
It seemed clear that the way history is written has much to do with who wins and who writes the history. Had the confederates won our idea of Lincoln would be very different.
Who writes the history of women? Who decides what about us is important? Who decides what contributions we make and how important they are?
History is largely written by men and they are often the players, the leaders and the winners. We have always been here but in the pages of history we are often silent players only more recently mentioned by more modern female historians.
Maybe this doesn't matter much, but maybe it is deeply important.
Doesn't it seem as though many women do not feel that their roles as wife and mother are enough? How many of us yearn and even NEED to be more than "just" a mom? How difficult is this need to separate out from actual internal motivation or simply the imposed value (or lack thereof) placed on some female roles?
I vividly remember opening up our first bank account after I had had my son. We had moved and needed a new account. I had not worked outside the home for about six months. One of the things I need to fill out was my salary. How much money did I make? I remember the teller saying, "So you don't work?" and my reply, "No, I don't work..." I felt like I wasn't even a person any more.
Even as I write I see the contradiction in my own life. I want to be a stay at home mom. I can't imagine putting my children in day care. This is not because of what anybody else thinks but because I really feel that this is where I need to be right now. I know for my family it is the right thing.
I feel like I need to teach, I need to write, I need to be involved in things outside my home. I need to feel like I matter in the world at large. I need to feel important. I need to be more than the person who cleans the messes.
How do women and mothers find happiness and fulfillment in motherhood? Is the fact that we "need" more an indication of our own deeper needs? Or is it simply a reflection of societies lack of value, even deep misogyny towards women? Are we feeling our own desires and finally in a place in history where we can meet them? Or have we internalised societies obsession with male accomplishments and turned them into our own self hatred?
I find myself struggling with these questions all the time. Will I put off my needs? Will I make them happen sooner, later, or never?
What will you do?
I don't know the answer to all these questions.
One thing I do know is that my role as a wife and mother does matter. I can feel it in my bones. I know that this is probably the most important thing that I will ever do. It is deeply significant to me, not just today, but for generations and into the eternities. It is not however the ONLY thing that I ever want to do with my life.
The work that is unique to women in their homes is significant though often silent. It is its own brand of feminism. I think that we as women need to be the first to acknowledge our importance and stop acting like we don't work, don't matter, and don't contribute. We must take back our own power. We must write our own history. We must not accept mediocrity and second best. We can find joy in this work.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Moms who go out in public with all their little ones are bound to get some comments. Most often I hear people say that I "Really have my hands full!" or things to that end. But the comment I get most often from other young mothers is this:
"Oh, I don't know how you do it! I can't handle my one child!"
For some reason this comment bothers me the most. It doesn't hurt my feelings but it makes me feel really sad for this mother. Why? Because it shows some serious lack of confidence in her own ability to mother. I just want to grab these mothers and shake them and say, "YES you could! You are stronger than you realize!"
Why Don't We Think We CAN?
Ladies- what has happened to us? Why don't we believe that we can handle one of life's most basic and decidedly feminine functions: mothering?
(I am not saying everybody should have five kids or even any kids. Obviously there are lots of factors and desire is a big one. What I am talking about are women who are good mothers but really just don't think they can "do it" well.)
One reason this line of thinking is so prevalent is that we as a culture don't really value motherhood. We don't see the point in spending 25 years of your life devoted to raising children. This alone is kind of depressing. Mothering isn't perfect or easy or well paid. It is however something that matters. It matters that children are raised and it matters that they are raised well and with love.
Another is that because we don't value motherhood we don't support it. It can be incredibly difficult and even lonely and depressing to be a mother when you feel isolated and have no support network on top of the fact that your value seems to diminish in society the less you "contribute" monetarily.
As if this isn't enough we have also convinced ourselves that children are much more complicated than they really are. Walk into any baby store or toy store and you will come away thinking that to be a good mother you need educational toys for every age, color coordinated rooms, beds, gadgets, clothes, perfect schools, organic everything, AND a house huge enough to fit it all in. (Not to mention all the thousands of parenting theories and advice books on how to do it perfectly so that the children end up half functional.)
The truth is that children mostly need love and food. They need some clothes but they don't have to be brand new and they don't have to be perfect. Toys are highly overrated, expensive and can be an incredible waste of space. And the perfect baby room with sheets that match the wall paper- well- do it for yourself if you want too, but the six month old is not likely to notice or care.
When we step back and think of what we have done to motherhood, namely:
- devalued it
-under supported it, and then
-expected perfection from all those who are fool enough to partake in it.
Well, it is no wonder women don't think they can handle this job. It doesn't pay, people think you are crazy for doing it, and if you choose to do it you must do it perfectly.
Yes, You Can
My response to the oft expressed sentiment I hear from young mothers who are sure that they "could never handle more children" is this:
Yes, you can. I am not saying you should. I don't know your situation. But you are almost definitely able to handle more than you realize. People survive war, disaster, and abuse. Motherhood is not any of these things.
Choosing to have more children is not choosing to wake up in a pit of vipers each day. It is just choosing to mother.
Maybe people don't value motherhood but it is still important and it matters. It doesn't just matter a little either. The importance of motherhood is vast and lasts for generations.
Now I am probably scaring you right? "It lasts for generations." Yes the impact is big, but that doesn't mean it must be perfect.
Be real. If you looked at life and only got out of bed on the days where you could do X perfectly (job, marriage, hair, etc) you would NEVER get out of bed. Nobody does everything perfect on any given day.
Let me tell you a story. I am a terrible driver. Really. I am BAD at it. I think I got in about 10 car accidents the first year I was driving. I totaled my first car a few months after I bought it. For some reason this required life skill just doesn't come easily to me. But guess what? I still drive! I try harder, I am more careful, I go the speed limit and I don't let fear get in the way of LIVING.
We all do this with things in our lives. We all have things that are hard for us and we still get up and go do them because we HAVE and we NEED to and because and important part of life and adulthood is pushing ourselves past our comfort zone.
Motherhood is like life. You don't know what you can really handle until you try to do it. Nobody really knows what they are capable of.
I am rarely a great mother. Some days I am good at it. Many days I am mediocre. There are days that I am REALLY and truly bad at mothering. But you just keep going. You try harder. You forgive yourself and you remember that children have the most amazing ability to forgive you also. Then, you get up and you go and do it again. Amazingly enough, as time goes on, you figure some things out.
Then, just as you think you have figured it out there is a new challenge and a new experience and then you learn from that one. Life just keeps going and you do your best. And on the days you don't do your best, you try harder then next day.
Men don't sit home unemployed because the just "can't imagine handling a job" and people can't just opt out of life because some days are imperfect.
You can do this. You can handle this. You can mother and your best really will be good enough.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This story is a little different than many of the stories I post- it involves an induction and an epidural. I think it is a wonderful read though for a lot of reasons. One- it shows how birth is such a learning journey and how even though we don't always get what we want, if we are wise we learn from it. I also LOVE how straightforward this mom is about struggling with and still overcoming her struggles with nursing a late pre-term infant. We are stronger than we know.
Emma’s Birth –
How to begin? Emma is my first baby. At 30 weeks, I was at my job (I’m a nurse in a hospital) and a coworker friend (who used to be a doctor in the Philippines and delivered lots of babies without equipment, without technology) took one look at me and said “You look like your blood pressure is high.” I didn’t feel any different. I think this statement is truly amazing. How did he know?? What an awesome sixth sense he has! I think it’s what you get when you have no monitors in front of you. Anyway, I went into an empty patient room and took my pressure only to have it start alarming and beeping at the front desk monitors. Everyone now knew that I had . No keeping it a secret! Whoops! I was 150/92. Called my doctor and I was evaluated and then put on bedrest.
At 36 weeks, I had been to multiple appointments and then they wanted me to do a 24 hour urine collection to get a better picture of my protein levels. When the results came back, I was diagnosed with
because there was quite a bit of protein in my urine which just simply means my kidneys were starting to be affected by my . At my worst times, my blood pressure would be 155/109. I was completely unprepared when the doctor called me (not even my doctor I had been with throughout because he was out of town) and told me I needed to come in and be induced that day.
My husband and I were in the middle of lunch with one of his coworkers when I got the call and just started crying right there at the table. Bless his heart, that coworker just kept staring at his food the whole time while I cried and relayed the information to my husband. God bless my DH who did not freak out and had me finish my lunch because he knew the hospital wouldn’t let me eat once I got there. (Hey, what can I say? I trusted the system. I was part of the system. It’s an entirely different story how I feel now and how this experience has changed the way I interact with my patients. Things happen for a reason.) We also went home and he had me take my time and take a shower. We had to pack a bag, take the dog into the boarding facility, so many things to do! So unprepared! J
We finally got to the hospital at around 4 PM and spoke with the doctor in person for the first time. Again, ours was out of town and it was very hard to just open up and trust this doctor but she was very soft and well spoken. At around 5 PM we started pitocin and things got going. Now, here’s the thing I will change for next time. I was scared. I went through maybe two contractions that I couldn’t talk through and the nurse looked at me, asked me if I wanted an epidural and I said “Yes!” I know, I know. I only blame myself. I didn’t prepare for this. I didn’t take any classes (I’m a nurse for gosh sakes!! J). I was in d-e-n-i-a-l.
I had a very strong epidural. I felt nothing. I’d like to tell the women thinking about having an epidural, that yeah, okay you won’t have pain but in retrospect, I felt very disconnected with the entire experience. Trust me when I say that you want to be able to participate in the labor and birth process.
The thing I loved about this doctor is that never once did she mention c-section even though I was “high risk.” My blood pressure stayed up the entire labor. Even when they were noticing decels on the fetal monitor towards the end of the labor, they turned me every which way till they found a position baby liked and had a great heart rate. Again, no mention of c-section. Awesome! After three pushes (yep!), I had Emma at 1:44 AM. She was 5 lbs 3 oz. A tiny little thing! (Now, seriously, I could have birthed that without meds, right?? That was probably my only opportunity to have gotten to birth out such a small head. ::sigh:: Live and learn.)
Now, here’s another positive thing (for Emma, not the hospital staff). Everyone said that she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed because she was only 36 weeks and wouldn’t have the coordination to do so. Emma proved every single one of them wrong. She was an excellent nurser. She latched well the first time. Even then, I was offered formula because she needed to “bulk up.” Because of her low weight, I had a lot of formula thrown at me. And that’s hard. First time mom, you want to do what they tell you to do.
There’s a lot of guilt involved when all you want to do is follow your heart and you’re given conflicting information. ::Sigh:: Luckily, I had some excellent lactation consultants. One of them was even showcased on your website, Mellanie Sheppard. Even though we were far apart, she was an excellent resource. So was kellymom.com. I was on that website, I swear, every day, multiple times a day.
Be sure to look into a lactation consultant before having your baby. It will help out so much. I think this is another major thing that women are discouraged about. Everyone knows someone who “couldn’t breastfeed.” She had recurrent blocked ducts. She had low supply. Educate yourselves. Fight for your milk. It’s the best thing for your baby. “Mama Birth” is pretty straight forward on her blog, even painfully so sometimes. So, I hope you’re okay when I say we pacify women too much and tell them, “oh you tried.”
Well, it takes a huge amount of commitment and not always easy in the beginning. There will be a lot of times when you want to give up. Don’t. Keep going. It’s so, so worth it! Oh, and never make major decisions about stopping breastfeeding between the hours of 8 PM and 8 AM. That is a mantra passed on to me from my wonderful SIL. Stay positive. You can do it!
Well, anyway, that’s my story. Lots of lessons learned. Can’t wait for the next baby! I have an in depth birth plan this time! ;-)
Monday, March 21, 2011
This will be funny in ten years.....
~The precocious, vivacious, possibly genius toddler who learned to open the fridge.....and of course, prefers to play with the raw eggs.
~The stain right on the stomach of all maternity shirts.
~Realizing that the toddler (who you were fool enough to leave un-diapered for two minutes) has pooped, asking her where she pooped, and then turning around to go look for it only to realize that you just found out where she pooped. And you are standing in it. At least you were wearing socks. And the carpet is already old.
~Getting angry about car seats on a Facebook page with people you have never met before.
~The irony of realizing that you (in your ultimate positive attitude) gave away all large maternity clothes. You were thinking "Oh, I won't get that big this time." Now you are in your third trimester and have grown out of hubby's scrubs. Oops. Good thing sweat pants never go out of style..... Right?
~The daily dumping of magazines and books onto the floor by the toddler. (I know, she comes up a lot. Something about toddlers.)
~The ripped, smelly, stained, small and decidedly ugly couch that has survived many moves, urination, vomiting, couple fights (makes a nice bed for guy in the dog house) and even the birth of a child, that is the focal point of your TV room.
~Five people (one of them heavily pregnant) in a full size bed.
~Not being able to sleep (does anybody else get third trimester insomnia?!) on the night that above mentioned toddler ACTUALLY sleeps!? ACK!
~Plumber's crack. Not the plumber. Not the husband. No- it is yours. (In my defense- I have no waist right now and my pants just don't stay up.)
~Buying a Suburban because it will fit all your kids and it is a great deal, only to have gas prices rise to FOUR dollars a gallon shortly thereafter. Actually, this may never be funny.
~A three year old who wets herself because, "Mommy, I want to wear a different dress!" but has been potty trained for a few years.
Is it possible that finding joy in this journey means... laughing at it now? Here is to finding the humour in every day. Good luck mamas.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Ahhh, the birth plan.
I admit, I teach about how to make one. I talk about them. I encourage them. I actually think the birth plan is an important tool. BUT- let me tell you why.
A birth plan IS:
-A way for you to figure out what you really want, what is most important to you and to organize your thoughts.
-It can help you visualize your "ideal" birth and then find out if your care provider/birth place is on board with your desires.
-It can help you communicate in an organized way your desires and needs without forgetting something during your visit.
-A birth plan can help you and your partner talk about things, realize where you agree and differ and really discover the many many choices that pop up once you have conceived a child.
A birth plan is NOT:
- A guarantee that your provider will do anything that you have in it. (Yes, this is true even if they nod and smile, even if they give it lip service and even if they sign it.)
-It is not a non-combative, "I'm afraid of you and your white coat and I don't really want to question your authority" way to communicate with your care provider and magically get all your deepest desires fulfilled.
-It is not a force field surrounding you from typical, routine, and stupid hospital interventions.
-It it is also not a way to somehow control the birth experience.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make and execute a birth plan.
~If you are scared to death of your birth place because of X number of factors (call rotation, c-section rate, epidural rate, pitocin rate, etc), then please be honest with yourself about this. It is hard but you need to realize that your birth plan will not protect you from typical procedures. This is especially true with ROUTINE things that are done to EVERYBODY.
For example, I lived near a hospital in Texas with the highest c-section rate in the state. They also had everybody deliver on their back, everybody got an IV and all babies were separated from their mothers at exactly one hour post-partum.
You could write a beautiful, researched, glowing pink birth plan on real lace and scent it with your mothers perfume. It would be unique and sincere and eloquent. It would not however change their routine procedures and it would probably not spare you from an unnecessary cesarean surgery. The only thing that could do that would be running like hell away from that hospital. (By the way, always nice to tell them why you are leaving because in obstetrics, money talks. If enough people take their money elsewhere, then things will change.)
~Just because your care provider "agrees" to your birth plan, does not mean he will be agreeable when you are actually having your baby.
I really don't like to scare pregnant women because there is so much fear out there already. A birth class should empower a woman to be fearless about birth. This is really hard to balance though when it comes to the realities of modern obstetrics.
The truth is that many care providers have no problem with natural birth.....IN THEORY. It is fine if it works out- but most of them almost never see it work out. Their training is often in the problems and how to spot them. That means that all women are inevitably looked at as:
a) walking time bombs or
b) a potential lawsuit.
This isn't out of meanness, it is just a matter of training and caution and a deeply ingrained distrust in the natural process.
So, handing this person your special piece of paper is not enough. You must really talk to them. REALLY TALK. Ask real questions. (Think percentages, "when was the last time X happened", or "what would you do in this situation", type of questions.)
Next- get real answers from your care provider. A brushed off hurried answer may very well come back to haunt you. Vague is bad. A dismissive "Only when necessary" is also a warning sign. It might be an awkward visit. This person does know a TON more than you or me about anatomy and pathology. They went to school for a very very long time. They do have an intimidating array of knowledge which should be respected. It is better to have a awkward visit that makes you change providers than a horrid birth that makes you cry.
I only had a birth plan for my first birth, which was in the hospital. My other two I felt so at peace with my choice and my care provider that it didn't even occur to me to write one. I also had long visits with my midwives where I got to talk to them about my concerns and get their answers.
So, one of the end messages on birth plans is this: while they are great for a lot of things, if you really need one to protect you from your care provider, then what you need most is not a birth plan, but a different birth place or care provider.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the current acceptance (in some places) of birth plans is either lip service only or a clever marketing tool to get women to feel more comfortable when they should be running for the hills.
My dream is for women to be able to advocate for themselves throughout the process of pregnancy, labor and birth. My hope is that they can be kind but firm in their needs and desires. My desire is that they will be honest with themselves about the risks and benefits of delivering their babies in different places and that they will have the courage to birth in an environment that is supportive, not just in word, but in deed.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The third trimester. I am there. And- I have decided that there are some things I need to let go of for my own peace of mind and happiness.
~No more scales~
Except for when I see my midwife, I am going to stay away from those mean things. I am pregnant and I am gaining weight. I have no health issues that make careful monitoring an issue. I am gaining just as I have with my other three and I need to let go of this. I don't have complete control over my body right now and there is no way I am going to be skinny.
I feel better already.
I fully realize that some women feel super sexy and gorgeous while pregnant. (I feel happy for them. And a little in awe.) I am actually vain about my appearance while I am non-pregnant. Not in a "Is my hair perfect?" or "Do you like my new shoes?" kind of way. Just in a "I can fit in these jeans" kind of way. My personal vanities just need to go bye bye when I am pregnant. I need to accept that I can not fit into anything and still be a decent human being. Maybe I can actually bring myself to feel attractive just the way I am- motherly, not teeny-bopperish. How transcendent would that be?
Yesterday I wore black stretchy calf length admittedly strange pants (I don't even know what to call them), with a white maternity shirt (complete with stain on the belly button area) and brown boots. It was comfortable and I enjoyed it. It probably didn't look that good but embracing the spandex-ness of it all was liberating. Today I am actually wearing a velour track suit. It feels soooooo good.
~Catching the toddler~
She is getting faster and I am getting slower. End of story. I think we are looking at a few months of poor discipline. Life will get back to normal- whatever that was.
I feel pretty good but I need more rest. It is really hard for me to accept that I just can't get as much done. It makes me feel lazy.
On the exhale I let go of any burning need I have to feel perfect, accomplished, or above average. Pregnancy has lots of great things about it- excessive energy doesn't have to be one of them and it doesn't make me a lazy bum.
If the universe is listening, I do have to say that I feel it is a little unfair that in the last months of pregnancy sleep is very broken by urination breaks, especially when I will be up frequently with a newborn soon.
That being said- I just need to let go of the desire for solid sleep. I can not stop drinking water and I can't make my bladder bigger. So, I am going to embrace my moments alone at midnight, 2 am, and 4 am. I will enjoy my "quiet" time. And the soothing sounds of water flowing.
I refuse to feel guilty about chocolate at this point. I refuse. When I have this baby I know I will feel obligated to watch what I eat so now I will embrace a brief few months out of my life where I can just enjoy food. (This might be what men feel like all the time.) There will be no emotions, just pleasure surrounding the nourishment that me and the baby need. It will be kind of like that book "Eat, Pray, Love" except that no Italian men will be wanting to grope me.
You know what, letting go of some of my ridiculous expectations that I put on myself makes me feel better already. Happy gestating!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
As cliche' as it sounds, the greatest day of my entire life so far has been the day my son was born - January 27th, 2011. It wasn't the greatest day just because of the end result of having my child in my arms, but it was also hugely based on the journey we took to get there (both on Jan 26th and 27th).
For the week or two weeks before my due date (Jan 22nd), people were constantly asking me if I'd been having any contractions yet. Being a first time mom, I had no idea what they were supposed to feel like so I wasn't sure if I'd had any yet or not. I'd been having some twangs "down there" for a week or more, but I wasn't sure if those were contractions or not. When people asked if I was having any, I'd say, "I don't know, what do they feel like?" And the only answer I seemed to get was "you're probably not then. You'll know when you're having them." .... And so I patiently sat and waiting to "know" when I was having any contractions.
On Wednesday January 26th, I woke up at about 4 am feeling some mild cramping, just like I was about to start menstruating. I noticed it came and went every 20 to 30 minutes. I knew this cramping feeling was a good sign that labor wasn't far off. I had read about it somewhere and was expecting this feeling. All morning I felt the crampings come and go.
I had an appointment with my lovely midwife Patricia at Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center at 2 pm that afternoon. I arrived, greeted the always smiling and cheerful midwife/receptionist Pamela and my apprentice Carmen and told them that I was feeling cramping all morning. "Good!" was their response. I started my appointment with Carmen and Patricia and told Patricia that I was crampy also. We agreed that labor would probably begin in the next couple of days. They checked my stomach size (37 and a 1/2... I think), felt for baby (which had dropped and was much lower in my pelvis. Baby was always sucking fingers whenever Patricia felt for the head. :)), checked baby's heart-rate (132 I think?) and weighed me - 157. I had gained 25 lbs. We all sat on the bed for a while and Patricia asked if I had any questions or concerns. I told her that I couldn't think of any - I really felt at peace about everything and was just excited to meet my baby! She shared some funny birth stories like she always does and we closed up our appointment. At one point while we were talking, I felt a cramp that made me suck in my breath a little, sit still and pause a moment longer than usual before answering a question that was asked of me. I didn't think much of it because it was still just crampy feelings. Patricia told me that most often you'll feel the cramping feeling and a feeling like a belt or rubber band tightening around your stomach. I hadn't felt any tightening sensations at all yet - just the crampings - so I didn't even mention to Patricia that I had a strong cramp right then. I headed back out to Pamela to make another appointment for next week (ugh. 40 and 1/2 weeks and still had to schedule a check up for the following week!). Pamela noted that my eyes were glassy looking and I was flushed. She said "I think this baby's coming soon! Let's go ahead and make an appointment for next Friday, February 4th for your 1 week check up appointment!" I grinned, took the appointment time and told the ladies, "bye! I'll be seeing you all soon!"
By the time I got home from the appointment, it was 3:30. I was feeling more and more crampy - about every 10 minutes or so now and by 4 o'clock decided I should lay down and try to rest, just in case tonight was the night. The crampings were coming a little stronger and a little more frequently now, and by the time Skyler got home at 5:30, I was fairly sure that baby would be coming in the next couple days. I told him that I'd been feeling really crampy all day but didn't have any tightening yet, so I didn't think I was having any contractions yet. I called my mom around 6 pm to tell her that I thought it'd be coming soon and while talking I had to tell her "just a minute" and sit quietly on the phone until the cramp passed. She asked what I was doing and I told her I just had a cramp and I needed to be quiet for a minute. She asked how frequently I was feeling them and I told her that they were probably about every 6 to 8 minutes. She told me, "Kayla, I think you're having contractions! You should start timing them and recording them!" I agreed and got off of the phone with her. I texted Patricia to let her know that I thought maybe I was having contractions and that I'd time them and let her know by 7 pm how things were going. So by 6:30 I started timing and recording the contractions (which I still wasn't entirely convinced were contractions.). They started out every 5 to 6 minutes and lasted about 55 seconds long. Some were stronger feeling than others. Each one I would start the timer, close my eyes and lay my head back against the couch until it let up. By the end of the hour, at 7:30, they were 3 to 4 minutes apart and still about 55 seconds. Up until that point, since I wasn't convinced they were contractions, neither was Skyler. He was just on the computer doing his own thing and I was sitting and recording contractions, doing my own thing. At the end of the hour, I showed my records to Skyler and when he saw the consistency and timing of them all, he snapped into action, knowing that yes - I had begun labor. I had texted Patricia around 7 and let her know that they were consistent contractions. She called me and said to check in around 8 unless I felt like I needed to go to the center sooner than that. At 7:45, Skyler thought that we had better call Patricia and let her know we were going to head to the center. I jumped in the shower for a bit while Skyler packed up the car. It was such a fun "switch" to watch as Skyler had been just sitting on the couch doing his thing, thinking labor was far off, to then realizing "oh man! This is it!" and watching him rush around the house putting the bags in the car and grabbing everything off of the "last minute to grab list" that I had left for him. We headed to the center at about 8 pm. It was a 20 minute drive from our house and by the time we got there, my contractions were about every 2 to 3 minutes and still lasting about 55 seconds.
We got settled in my favorite room at the center - Sweet Pea. Patricia attempted to check me, but (hating check ups) I squirmed from discomfort and she couldn't tell quite how far dilated I was. She told me that she thought I was really dilated already though and that the baby's head was only about a finger tip length inside of me. She thought the baby would be here before too long!
Along with Patricia, my birth team consisted of an apprentice Hannah (my apprentice Carmen that I'd had at all my appointments for my whole pregnancy was assisting another birth that night), and the midwife/receptionist Pamela. She is retired from midwifery but I just love her and had told her previously that if by chance she wasn't doing anything on the day of my birth and she wanted to, I would love her to be there too. She has such an awesome calming presence about her and she is funny to boot. I knew I'd love having her join my already incredible birth team. My cousin Andrea was also there for the birth to take some pictures for us.
(I think) Pamela started filling up the whirlpool tub for me after I said I wanted to get in. I got in the tub and sat back to relax a bit. Contractions slowed down to about 3 to 4 minutes again (getting in the water usually does that in early labor), but at that point I didn't care. It just felt so good to be in the water! Patricia, Pamela and Hannah all went out to the lobby to relax and let me just labor. After a couple of hours in the tub, they suggested I get out and walk around so that contractions would start up more frequently and stronger again. Despite how much I really wanted to just continue to sit in the warm water, I got up and out because I did want my labor to progress quicker. Skyler and I walked back and forth through the center, stopping at each contraction. During each contraction, he would hold me up so I could just lean on him. Contractions definitely did pick up stronger again by doing the walking. After a bit, I decided I wanted to lay down on the bed just for a little bit because I was so tired. I just wanted to lay my head down for a while. I climbed on the queen sized bed and lay down, had two contractions and thought, "oh my gosh! Laying down is absolutely awful feeling!! Why does anyone labor in bed!? How horrible!" and promptly got back up from the bed. I went to sit on the toilet to labor there for a while; I had heard it was a great position to labor in and I knew that the gravity would help bring baby down. Skyler pulled up a chair and sat knee to knee, facing me on the toilet. At this point, I remember thinking about my gall stones. A few years ago, after my first gall stone attacks, I remembered reading somewhere that a lady compared gall stones to labor and she thought gall stone attacks were far worse than laboring. I always was curious if this was true. I agreed with the lady that my gall stone attacks were much more painful. I still wasn't feeling the band around my stomach - except for during maybe a few contractions. I felt the pain was totally manageable and I was having no problems with relaxing. Yes, they hurt, but it was more like a nuisance of a pain - just like how menstrual cramps are. Really annoying pain and uncomfortable, but hardly unbearable.
After being on the toilet for a while, I felt really nauseous suddenly and I was quickly given a big bowl to throw up in. I heaved about 5 times. I remember thinking how much better that made me feel. Pamela had come in the check on me and I told her I had thrown up. She said, "good! Throwing up makes you dilate more!" (I had learned by this point that whatever symptoms I said I was having - pain, nausea, pressure...it was all "good!". The pain and discomfort was progress. :))
About midnight, I decided I was ready to get back into the tub. I sat on my knees inside the tub and flopped my arms over the side of the tub and rested my head on a towel on the edge. Skyler pulled his chair right up to me. My contractions were about every 3 minutes or so, pretty consistently and the discomfort level remained about the same. Skyler and Andrea stayed with me in the room the entire time, while Pamela, Patricia and Hannah mostly stayed in the lobby. They took turns to come and check on me about every half hour to hour and use the hand-held doppler to check baby's heart-rate. I just labored in the flopped over position. Andrea and Skyler every so often would ask the other what time it was. It was 1 am. Then 2 am. Then 4 am. Each hour to two that passed seemed like only about 10 minutes to me. I never said anything when they said the time, but I remember thinking each time "wow, already?!" Time flew by. I wasn't in too much pain, but I know that after each contraction I felt like the 3 minute break was Heaven. I kept my eyes closed and stayed relaxed just about the whole time in the tub from midnight until about 5 am. Staying relaxed was very easy for me and I know it helped my labor progress and helped keep the pain at bay. I wasn't worried. I didn't have fears. I knew my body knew what it was doing and that it was doing it well. I knew that God designed me for this and that I'd make it through to the other side soon enough.
I threw up one more time (3 throw ups and 2 dry heaves that time) while in the tub, but again - it felt great. My stomach felt emptier and more relaxed after throwing up.
At about 5 am, Patricia came in to check me and I had just felt a couple of small hints of needing to push. I told Patricia that I thought I was getting ready to push. She and Hannah came in and sat on either side of the tub and quietly waited. Pamela sat on the bed through the open double doors from the bathroom and knitted. The small chitter chatter stopped among the others and they all were quiet and just watched and waited. I remember hearing Pamela knitting - the click click click of the metal needles, and I remember thinking "It's like Grommit's (from Wallace and Grommit) hanging out in my room!" It didn't bother me whatsoever and the thought made me chuckle to myself....even while in the last stages of labor. :)
The pushing stage had definitely started. My stomach would cinch up each time and I had the undeniable urge to push along with it. I remembered the analogy that I had heard that pushing is much like throwing up - only backwards. The stomach feeling was exactly the same. As each pushing contraction started, I'd let out a low moan, pull myself up slightly from my slumped over the tub (still on my knees) position, to a slight more upright position and would grab Skyler's hands to hold onto and squeeze. I remembered some birth videos where women used pull up bars during pushing and I understood why that seemed to help them. I did the same thing, only with Skyler's hands. I would use them to pull myself up and pull my knees up off of the tub with each push. I didn't say a word to Skyler, but he seemed to know that he needed to hold his hands and arms firmly so that I could use my strength to pull myself up with each push. After each contraction, Skyler would let go of my hands and put a cold washcloth on my forehead. I would slump back down and lay my head down in between each pushing contraction, which remained about 2 minutes apart. I kept my eyes closed the entire pushing stage. With each push, I would let out low moans. I was feeling a lot of pressure and kept telling Patricia that I thought I needed to poop. She just kept saying that it was okay and if I needed to, then go ahead! And I did. I think with just about every push, I'd also let out a little poop. I often said, "I think I just pooped" after each push, but Patricia already had the strainer ready and was scooping it out of the water as I would say it. :)
The entire pregnancy, I kept thinking that I would be so horrible rude and awful to people, especially Skyler, during my labor. I could picture myself getting really snappy and demanding and blunt. Usually when I am physically irritated or in pain, I just want to be left alone, untouched and get so aggravated when Skyler touches me - puts his hand on me or whatever. However, I was entirely the opposite during my labor. I was so polite and apologetic. Far more so than I normally am in life. I apologized for every single thing. I didn't want to bother anyone else and I felt bad for them that they had to take care of me during my labor. I kept apologizing to Patricia for pooping, and to Skyler for squeezing his hands.
Skyler leaned in and whispered in my ear, "do you want me to get in the tub?" This was the original plan. He was going to be in there with me and was going to catch the baby. I shook my head "no" and knew I needed him right where he was, supporting me exactly how he was doing. I think he was partly relieved, since I kept pooping. :) But I knew he'd get in if I really wanted him to.
I finally got to the part of pushing where baby's head was crowning. Though the rest of the labor seemed not near as bad as I anticipated and wasn't as painful as gall stones, pushing was the exception and was very painful. They call it a "ring of fire" for a reason. I could feel myself getting stretched out and I kept saying, "I think I'm ripping" after the big hard pushes. I remembered a story I had heard (not sure whether it was one of the midwives that told me or if I'd read it somewhere), that a lady was laboring in the tub and during one of her pushes she just stood up and the baby's head had come out and taken it's first breaths, so she wasn't able to get back in the water to push the rest of the baby out. She had to do it standing up out of the water. I could feel the water low on my back as I would push my butt out a bit with each push and I knew I didn't want that to happen to me! In between a pushing contraction I said, "more water!" Patricia told Hannah to fill the tub higher with more hot water. I said, "no. Not hot, just more." I never felt "out of it" or that I had gone to some special place during my labor. I was completely mentally aware of everything and was fully there in the moment.
The tub was filled higher and I continued pushing. When baby's head started crowning and coming out, I felt the "fire". The burning sensation. A few times I had to very consciously not push - I would say, "I'm going to stop pushing and let it stretch right now." Going slowly helped I think. It felt better to just let it stretch a little more. I remember during the pushing contractions that I had a few regular contractions too - ones without any urge or sensation to push. Even though those were painful, those felt like an awesome break and rest from the pushing, and I greatly welcomed them. I never got to the point where I said, "I can't do this anymore!" I never got mad at Skyler for "doing this to me". I knew the pain was good and had an awesome purpose.
I did say, "it hurts so bad!" at one point and Patricia said, "reach down and feel - I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised!" I didn't speak - I just shook my head no. I thought, "uh huh. Kind of got some other things going on right now..." (Crazy lady...) Skyler got up to walk to the other side of the tub to see what Patricia was talking about. The baby's head was partly out and his long hair was floating in the water. I remember praying several times during this part. "God, give me your strength. I need your strength to finish this." I prayed that several times. Also, I prayed, "Ok God, let's stop the contractions for just a minute. Just give me a few more minutes of rest so I can stretch."
I did get some nice Heavenly few minute breaks and then I had a pushing contraction with about 4 hard pushes in it. (At this exact moment, I remember hearing a phone vibrating in the bedroom.). After the 4th push, I felt a *pop* and I knew that the baby's head was out. I felt such relief when it was just his little neck that I had to be around. After just a very brief moment at his neck, I had one more push and the little guy literally just slid right out. I was SO relieved! I had thought it would be like "okay here's one shoulder...ok now the next!" But after the head, it was cake and he just about flew out of my body. It was 6:27 am. I was still in the squatting on my knees position and he had come out behind me so Patricia just reached in the water and gently pushed him back through my knees and said "ok, pick up your baby!". I sat back a little bit and looked in the water. It was like a blood bath and I couldn't see anything. I said, "I can't see it!" but reached down and scooped him right up. I didn't see him looking purple at all - he instantly "pinked" up and started crying. I sat back in the tub and held my baby. I greeted him and then remembered we still didn't know Ellery or Ezekiel! I stole a quick glance and told Skyler "it's Ezekiel!!!" I thought of how I had just been praying that I needed God's strength to get through the pushing - and then it was Ezekiel, which means "strengthened by God".
I sat back in the tub and just held and marveled over my son for about 10 minutes. Patricia asked me to push when I felt like I could, so that I could deliver the placenta. After a few tries (not hard at all), it just popped right out. She scooped it up in a bowl and just let the bowl float in the water as I continued to hold onto Ezekiel for another 10 minutes or so. We all shared smiles and enjoyed the precious new life that had joined us in the room.
I was ready to get out of the blood bath (Skyler's exact words were, "it looks like Jaws in there!") so I handed Ezekiel over to Skyler with the umbilical cord still attached and one of the midwives put the placenta in a large ziploc bag and followed Skyler over to the bed so he could snuggle with our new son.
The ladies rinsed me off and I dropped some more blood clots....There was definitely far more blood than I thought there would be! I remember standing up in the tub as they were about to rinse me off and just looking down and seeing a huge blood clot (like the size of a lemon) just hanging from me. In my non-sleep brain, I couldn't think of what to do about it...so I just stood there and stared at it until Patricia reached over and gently tugged on it. :) I got all rinsed off and climbed in bed with my little and amazing family. They checked my vitals and Ezekiel's vitals and left us to be alone with our precious son for a couple of hours. At 8:30 am, they came back in to cut the umbilical cord. Patricia clamped it in two places and gave Skyler the scissors to cut it. He said it was a lot more spongey and tougher to cut than he thought. (The purpose of leaving the cord attached longer was so that the blood would drain and the umbilical cord would fall off faster (it fell off on the third day), and so that he would absorb the rest of the nutrients in the cord for longer. This is Bella Vie's normal practice and we had read statistics somewhere that babies that have their cord left attached for at least an hour, fair better than those with it cut immediately.)
They weighed him and measured him. 7 lb. 8 oz. and 19 and 5/8 inches long.
When my family came to visit later that afternoon, dad said that he had called that morning to see how we were doing. He said he just felt that he needed to pray for us right then and then called Skyler to see if there was any updates. He called at 6:26 am, one minute before Ezekiel came into the world. :)
Beautiful. Healthy. Perfect little angel. We are so so thankful for him and are absolutely in awe at how cute and amazing he is. My friend Amanda wrote a quote in her baby blog which said something along the lines of "motherhood is letting your heart walk around outside of your body." I read that and knew that this was completely true. *sigh* Precious, sweet angel baby. You hold on to my hand and my heart. I love you.
Monday, March 14, 2011
"The important thing is that you have a healthy baby....not the birth experience" is a phrase that mamas desiring a natural or home birth often hear. It is often followed by a dismissive, "You don't get any gold stars for having a natural birth anyway" type comment.
I will be the first to admit that there is a lot of truth in this statement. In fact, I do believe that the most important thing from a birth is a healthy and happy baby. But there are some ugly misconceptions that lie behind what appears to be a pro-baby statement.
-A healthy baby is somehow separate from a healthy and happy mother-
This is rarely the case. The truth is that in fact a healthy and happy mother make for a happier and healthier baby. Those that dismiss the mothers experience in the birth process forget that she has the baby within her AND that she will be the person providing the bulk of the care and love in the babies early days and months.
Do we really believe that the birth experience has absolutely nothing to do with the first moments of life? Is it actually separate from the health of the baby? Will a mother who feels violated and abused by her birth experience really be able to give all her positive energy to this new dependent life, who was in fact a player in the birth?
We are human, and so we will overcome a traumatic birth to bond with our young and love and care for them. But to think that a negative birth experience does not harm both mother AND baby is both ridiculous and shows a complete lack of knowledge about the postpartum period and the role of euphoric hormones in the birth process. (Check out some of the work by Sarah Buckley on this subject.)
Mothers and babies are by nature and spirit BOUND to one another. They are not separate beings.
- Babies are unaffected by drugs and interventions in labor-
This statement is a bunch of crap. Yes- it really is. Obviously drugs and other interventions are sometimes necessary to ensure a healthy baby. The fact that something is sometimes needed however, does not mean that its common and excessive use has no negative side effects on those who DIDN'T need it. (Think 32% c-section rate or Pitocin- lifesaving sometimes but used in almost every labor, or epidurals, the list goes on...)
Lets take a look at the drug Pitocin. It is a drug that certainly has a place in obstetrics and has surely saved lives. Yet it is so commonly used that we must wonder what it can do when NOT needed. (Should you be interested you can find many interesting known side effects of common drugs here.
From the package insert:
This isn't often said, but the idea that what really matters is a healthy baby implies it. A woman can have a birth experience that is traumatic for both her and her baby. She can have her wishes and self respect ignored. She can have a forced, managed, c-section birth and a baby that refuses to nurse and spends two days in the NICU. And yet the statement will be heard ringing from every hill, "what matters is the healthy baby". What they are really saying is that the baby is alive and that is all that matters.
Probably any mother would tell you (from an unassisted birther to a planned c-section mama) that in fact what really matters to her IS a healthy baby. There is however a difference between a live baby and a healthy thriving baby that will reach it's full potential.
Medicine and medical studies tend to look at things in absolute and measurable ways. So, when we look at outcomes we are looking for simply live babies or dead babies. The vast majority of mothers and babies survive childbirth today, no matter how many interventions were thrown at them or how many drugs were pumped into their systems.
Let us not forget though that we are dealing with babies. They are not born with their brains completely developed. Much of this further development will continue in the first year and will not be measurable for many years to come.
You can not tell at birth if a baby will have ADD, autism, reading problems, mild learning disabilities or other developmental disorders. These things are subtle and can take years to show up. And, even when they do occur, because of the literally millions of things that contribute to a whole person, it can be virtually impossible to pinpoint what caused the problem in the first place, especially if it happened during the birth process.
Are all of these risks proven? No, but we must ask ourselves if the benefits of exposing our babies to these drugs (especially unnecessarily) outweighs possible risk.
In the end...
When it all comes down to it I would trade a good birth experience for me for a healthy baby any day of the week. I would rather have a baby that was alive than dead and if a surgical birth was needed, then that is just sometimes how it goes.
What really matters IS a healthy, live baby. I don't think any natural birth proponent would ever argue differently.
The two deepest problems with the dismissal of the birth experience are these:
1) We dismiss the mother as nothing more than a vessel-
Mothers are an integral part of the birth process and what they experience has a profound effect on the baby weather it be medication, stress, or disrespect.
2) We dismiss the inherently natural aspect of the birthing process as useless-
In truth, a more natural peaceful birth can have a euphoric and climactic experience and is probably what NORMAL birth should be.
Mothers who choose natural birth do not do so out of selfishness. Women do not attempt home birth because they only care about their own experience. Women choose natural birth because natural birth is often the best and healthiest birth for mother AND baby.
Let us birth our babies in peace and remember that this is what will render us the healthiest baby- because that is what really matters.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Just wanted to share this beautiful unassisted birth story today from one of our mamas. She just had a doula and a best friend assisting. There is something magnificent about birth without the worry of intervention. Hope you enjoy it and congrats to mom and family! ~/~
It's been a week now since Alana was born and already the memories seem a little bit fuzzy.
After what felt like days and days of warm up contractions and false starts I woke up Saturday morning to some indications that this would be the day things finally got going. I immediately texted my best friend Sarah so that she could come spend the day with me and help keep me distracted and phoned my doula Arie to let her know I expected to be calling her back to come join me later that day.
All morning contractions were steady but mild and didn't seem to be progressing. By the time Sarah joined me around lunch time my kids were driving me mental and it felt as if the contractions had tapered off again and I was wondering if I had been wrong and this was just another false start.
Sarah suggested that I send the kids away for the afternoon to see if we could get things moving again. After initially resisting the idea I had my brother and sister-in-law take the kids home with them. Sarah immediately went into annoying personal trainer/labor coach mode. She instructed me to start walking the stairs 2 at a time. Knowing she not only meant well but was absolutely right off I went to walk the stairs. Immediately contractions started again and they were not only stronger but closer together. I refused to time the contractions and even knowing that Sarah was I asked her not to tell me because I didn't feel that information would help me just go with the labor.
I had decided before labor started that laughter would make excellent medicine so in between stair walking trips Sarah and I watched a stand up comedy video. Contractions progressed all afternoon and before long I gave up on the stairs not feeling like they were necessary any more.
Dinner time was approaching and Sarah had plans and was thinking about leaving. I was still in denial that I was actually in active labor although I was clearly having to "work" through each contraction. I called Arie to let her know that it was time for her to come join me thinking all this time that Sarah would be leaving for a few hours. I had a thought though, and shared it with Sarah, that if things kept up the way they were going I would probably have a baby in about 3 hours. Sarah decided to stay. She and I worked though more contractions while waiting for Arie to arrive. I think it might have been about this point that I finally admitted this was really it and baby was definitely coming soon. Still, I had experienced slow labors in the past and at the back of my mind was still thinking there was a long way to go.
Arie arrived not long after this. She immediately asked that we start filling the birth pool. Not even thinking that things were getting that far along I was skeptical but thought that it would probably take a while to fill it anyways so we might as well get started. It didn't take that long to fill after all but by now I was beginning to vocalize through contractions so went along with the suggestion that I might as well get into the pool and see how things went.
I had been a little worried that things would slow down when I got in but in fact the opposite happened. I don't know if contractions got closer right away but they did immediately get stronger. I tried out a few positions to figure out where I would be most comfortable and once I found that position I didn't have much time left for thinking at all between contractions. It seemed to me that they were very very close together and getting very very strong. I was beginning to vocalize really loudly and also started feeling like pushing just a little bit at the peak of the contraction made them feel more manageable as did Arie's constant gentle reminders to keep things low. Every time I began to let the contraction take control from me Arie would gently help me turn it around and I was back in control and moving things along consciously.
Throughout this time Sarah was constantly along side me as my physical ground. As each contraction ramped up I would cling onto her waist and use her for physical support. With no concept of time I feel like all of these things happened quite quickly and really hard labor didn't really last that long for me. There came a time when I remember looking at Arie, one of the few times I actually opened my eyes, and said it felt like a ring of fire.
I believe this was a cervical feeling as I pushed the last of the cervix away as I pushed through the end of that contraction. Just after this something changed as I felt baby come down into the birth canal and immediately I began full body uncontrollable pushing. I would pull on Sarah from behind me and push into Arie in front of me. I have no idea how Arie managed this as I was pushing so hard and had no control over that at all. Only 2 contractions like this later I reached down and felt a fully birthed head. I didn't even stop to think about anything. I just pushed a little bit more until I could feel shoulder and the next thing I know I am pulling my very alert bright pink baby out of the water.
I don't think baby was even out of the water when I hear my husband, who has been in and out of his computer room during much of the evening say, "what is it??" My first thought was when did you get here? Right after that I checked and told him it was a girl. Sarah then tells me its only 9:30pm so I asked someone to call and have Olivia, my 4 year old, brought home so she could meet her new sister. We let our other daughter Alexis, who is not yet 2, spend the night at her aunt and uncles house.
All in all my immediate impressions after the birth were that the whole experience had been less difficult than I anticipated and gone much faster than I had thought it would. I like to believe that the loving support I received throughout the experience are what make me feel that way and not actually the reality of what happened and if this is the case I am perfectly happy to keep my fuzzy brained modified memory as actual truth. That was the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me and I am very very grateful to the two amazing women who helped make it such a perfect event.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sometimes it seems that we have lost our way so thoroughly when it comes to birth that we must literally re-evaluate, re-think, and re-learn some basic and innate knowledge.
1. First, I must take responsibility for my and my babies' birth. I will remember that it is ultimately me that will take this baby home. It is I who will deal with the physical, emotional, and mental results of the birth experience. I will own it. I will be strong and educated in my choices.
2. I will recognize the importance of feeding my baby and myself well during this sacred time of gestation. I will remember that eating well will not only make me feel better but it will be an integral part in our achieving a natural birth.
3. I will remember that my sedentary lifestyle may have left some important birthing muscles weak. I will strengthen them as I take time daily to embrace this baby, this birth, and the different strengths that I will need. I will believe that doing so will help not just with comfort, but strength and proper positioning.
4. I will research my choices and options. I will not let experts, others or fear dictate what I choose. I will not just listen to what other people think, but I will start learning to tune in to my inner mama strength and the intuition that I need in the coming months and years.
5. I will learn about labor and how it works. I will always remember that laboring is normal, instructive and POSSIBLE. I will keep in mind that I can do ANYTHING (even relax through a contraction) for a minute and a half. Nature is kind in her ways of bringing the baby into the world.
6. I will push my baby out under my own power. I will remember gravity and that she is my friend in this process. I will also not underestimate the ability of the baby to know how it should arrive and let him turn and twist as he needs to.
7. I will carefully choose my care provider, birth class and birth place. I recognize how important they can be to the overall birth and that this cannot be left up to chance. I will ask questions. I will not fear them because they have degrees I don't. I will dig for answers and I will find somebody else if I need to. I will remember that I am the consumer and that I will get what I am paying for.
8. I will learn and then practice daily relaxation. I will learn the power in my body. I will become familiar, along with my birth partner, with the ways that I relax, feel good, and let go. My ability to relax will become automatic as I tune into myself and my loving birth partner.
9. I will prepare myself by listening to the good and shutting out voices of negativity and rudeness. I will read positive birth stories and talk with women whose births were empowering. I will be strong in tuning out negativity, televisions shows, and my own fears. I will practice daily affirmations for my birth. I will recognize that where I am mentally and emotionally will deeply impact my birth.
10. I will face my daemons and move past them. I will recognize that past experiences in my life or in my births can come up again in this birth. But I will remember my own power and recognize the healing effect that a beautiful birth can have on me as I prepare to birth consciously.
11. I will look forward to this baby. I will prepare to nurture and feed it. I will joyfully plan to breastfeed and make sure that my birth team regards the first few hours between mom and baby as sacred and unforgettable.
12. I will remember that I have done all that I can to prepare for a good experience. I will let go of my anxiety as I hope for the best and let go of the rest. I will be at peace as I wait for this birth.