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Category: Post Partum

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant

January and Brandon tell the birth story of baby #5 aka The Bull! They recount the multiple moves, financial hardships, and sheer stress surrounding The Bull’s pregnancy. Somehow they survived the stress of that time period and moved on, but at the time it didn’t feel like it. Also, a trip down memory lane with… Moviefone!

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Click here to download Episode #7: Homeless and Pregnant!

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We are having a Labor Day sale at Self Love Generation! Our classic Birth Without Fear logo, “i don’t babysit. I PARENT.”, and “You Do You Boo” unicorn T-shirts are back, along with a re-imagining of our popular “Team NO Sleep” raglan shirt, as well as a “You Do You Boo” rainbow unicorn lanyard that Brandon loves are all 20% off through Labor Day!

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Join January in 2017 at a Find Your Village event near you! January will be in Atlanta, GA on September 9th, and Nashville on September 23rd! Make sure to get your tickets because this is the last year January will be holding Find Your Village events!

PPD, PTSD and Antenatal Depression: Nutrition and Research…What Helps?

PPD, PTSD and Antenatal Depression: Nutrition and Research…What Helps?

Postpartum depression, antenatal depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder related to birth are multi-faceted, complicated illnesses that can be caused by a number of different things.  While some experts propose that these things have physical causes, others report psychological factors as the main cause.  And others, like myself (although I would not consider myself an expert), believe it could be a little of each.

Either way, all of us agree that the effects of these conditions are detrimental and should be prevented as much as possible. One research team noted that postpartum depression “is a serious mental health problem for women” and that “it’s consequences have serious implications for the welfare of the family and the development of the child.” (O’Hara and Swain,1996, p. 37)

In another report:

“Postpartum depression has a long term effect on mental health since it may increase the risk of continuing or recurrent depression. Postpartum depression has also been associated with adverse effects on early infant development, especially among socially disadvantaged children. Serious consequences for the child include increased risk of accidents, sudden infant death syndrome, and an overall higher frequency of hospital admissions.”

PPD has far-reaching effects on not just a woman but her entire family and society in general.  And even worse, 1 to 2 of every 1000 women experience postpartum psychosis.  (Stanton & Gallant, 1995; Noncas & Cohen, 1998)

While numbers differ, most studies indicate the number of PPD cases is between 8 and 15%.  However, a study by researchers Stanton & Gallant showed at least 26% of moms experience at least mild depression.

The percentage of women experiencing postpartum depression can differ dramatically by country as well.  That is why studies show rates of postnatal depression that are much larger and much smaller.  Either way, we know this is sadly a growing trend.

Because no one knows a woman’s body as well as she knows it herself, I think it is best to present as much of the scientific evidence available on this topic to women and let them pinpoint, prevent, and even possibly reverse the triggers that led to their own experiences with postpartum depression.

Consequently, the following information is a collection of strictly unbiased scientific studies and their outcomes.  I encourage every mom to consider each one and how it might help her and her family’s health during pregnancy, birth, and beyond, as well as other women in her community.

Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

According to one study, women with low DHA levels are 6 times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.  “Study results quantified women with lower omega-3 PUFA levels as being six times more likely to be depressed antenatally, compared to women who had higher omega-3 PUFA levels.”

As a nutrition counselor, I often see the effects of essential fatty acid deficiencies.  Most common is a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids related to the improper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in our food supply, which is what the study above showed.  For instance, vegetable oils (corn, canola, soybean, etc.) are very high in omega 6 and low in omega 3’s, leading to a deficiency of omega 3’s.  At least 70% of our food supply contains one or more of these types of oils.

Sixty percent of our brain is made up of fats.  When a growing baby in utero does not obtain the necessary fats from mother’s diet for proper brain development, the necessary fats will come out of mother’s stores in the brain.  This is a common cause of not only PPD but also postpartum “brain fog” and children with ADHD.

EFA deficiency does not have to wait until delivery to affect a mother in the form of depression or brain fog, sometimes resulting in antenatal depression as well.

To correct/prevent this, vegetable oils (and foods containing them) should be eliminated as much as possible and exchanged for healthy oils such olive oil and coconut oil.  Foods that are also high in these essential fatty acids are fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.  I recommend that pregnant women take a cod liver oil supplement for good brain health in both mom and baby.

Thyroid Health

Women with thyroid dysfunction had a higher incidence of depression.”

In this study, researchers found that the more severe the mother’s thyroid dysfunction, the more severe her postpartum depression was.  Like PPD, postpartum thyroiditis is a growing health concern and one that I often encounter in my profession.  Symptoms include low breastmilk production, extreme fatigue (more than from having a newborn baby!), and depression.

Pregnancy can have a taxing effect on a woman’s thryoid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the neck.  Coincidentally, so do things in our food and water supply.  Soy/soybean oil and fluoride in drinking water are two of the most damaging to our thyroid health.  Avoiding foods with soy/soybean oil in them and drinking non-fluoridated water, as well as eating 1-2 Brazil nuts/day for selenium (which has a protective effect on the thyroid), will go a long way in helping support a woman’s thyroid during pregnancy.

Labor & Delivery Circumstances

One particular study found that cesarean delivery increased the rate of postpartum depression or postpartum PTSD:

“A significantly higher incidence of postnatal depression was found among subjects who had undergone Caesarean section than in those who had a vaginal delivery. The excess of cases of postnatal depression among the Caesarean subjects appeared to consist of a milder illness which started sooner after delivery. Following Caesarean section, there was a significant association between postnatal depression and general, but not regional, anaesthesia.”

Alternately, a study by Missouri Western State University found that while women having home births and/or who were attended to by a midwife, the location and type (cesarean or vaginal) was not so much the factor leading to postpartum depression as was the amount of control and satisfaction a woman felt she had with her baby’s birth.  Overall, they found that the more support a woman had during labor and postpartum, as well as the more control she had over her own labor and delivery, the less likely she was to suffer from postpartum depression.

Bottle-Feeding

“According to a new theory being proposed by University of Albany evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup and his colleagues, the decision to bottle-feed is tantamount, in the mother’s psyche, to mourning the loss of the child. At least, that’s how a woman’s body seems to respond to the absence of a suckling infant at its breasts in the wake of a successful childbirth.”

The authors of this study believe that “the absence or early cessation of breastfeeding would have been occasioned by miscarriage, loss, or death of a child. We contend, therefore, that at the level of her basic biology a mother’s decision to bottle feed unknowingly simulates child loss.”

Of course, not all women are able to breastfeed.  For those that are, this is good reason to avoid bottle-feeding strictly for ease.  For those that choose to bottle-feed or need to bottle-feed based on certain circumstances, we can still reap the benefits of frequent skin-to-skin contact with baby to increase psychological health of both mom and baby.

Lack of Postpartum Community Care

Traditional cultures took (and continue to take) a very different approach towards a woman’s postpartum period.  In a report from 1983, researchers Stern and Kruckman found that postpartum depression was virtually non-existent in traditional cultures.  These cultures had many practices to value new mothers and their babies by the way they took care of them and encouraged a period of rest and pampering.  While these cultures differed in the way they valued the postpartum period, they all shared five protective social structures.  They can be seen here (http://www.breastfeeding.com/helpme/cultures.html) and include a distinct postpartum period that is set aside and treated differently than any other time of life, social seclusion and mandated rest, and functional assistance.

In contrast, mothers in industrialized countries are encouraged to be as productive as possible and to entertain guests who come to see the baby.  There is an inherent expectation for mothers in America to get back to life as normal as quickly as possible.  Mother-focused support is extremely limited in industrialized countries and, according to Stern and Kruckman, is a main cause of postpartum depression.

Additional Factors

A very large study of  Scandanavian women and postpartum depression discovered additional factors leading to PPD:

-Psychological distress in late pregnancy
-Perceived social isolation during pregnancy
-Positive history of prepregnant psychiatric disease (either by family members or the mother herself)

This study shows the importance of avoiding any unnecessary stressful situations whenever possible during pregnancy.  It also confirms that women with either a family history or personal history of depression.  Correcting any underlying imbalances and/or nutritional deficiencies related to depression either before or during pregnancy will benefit both the mother and baby.

(For more information on some of the possible causes of depression and some natural remedies, go to Healthy Families for God’s article here.)

Postpartum and/or antenatal depression, as well as PTSD related to childbirth, are definitely complicated illnesses.  Hopefully, with this information, moms will be able to experience more of the joy and excitement of bringing a new life into this world!  To support women in your community, share this article with them.  Together, we can work to create a more supportive postpartum period for mothers the way traditional cultures have done for centuries!

Sara Jo Poff is a personal nutrition counselor, wellness educator, and the founder of Healthy Families for God.  Her mission is to help people overcome health traps and the food habits that cause them in order to live an abundant, joyful life living out their God-given purpose.  Sara Jo also started Circle of Elephants, an effort to protect pregnant women from medical injustice in America.  But before these pursuits, her priority is as a wife, a homeschooling, cloth-diapering, extended breastfeeding, Jesus-seeking mom to five children, ages 2 to 16.  For more information, check her out at http://healthyfamiliesforgod.com/.

*Photography by Katsoulis Photography. He also has an extensive 200 page guide on the subject of Pregnancy Photography that has just been published for the iPad that can be found here.

 


Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Rebecca shares a beautiful reflection on her c-section scarring.

I don’t actively go out of my way to look at my scar. I don’t hide its existence, but I just don’t fuss over it either. It is there, under a little flap on my tummy, hiding until I straighten myself out to peer at it in the mirror.

I didn’t always look this way. My tummy was once flat, though anyone who had only just met me in the last 4 years would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

I recently enjoyed reading some stories of old friends experiencing success in their careers, unhindered by children and able to progress to the peak of their industries. I get more time to read about these things on Facebook while I feed my 4-month old as I put her to sleep, lying on my side and stroking her hair as she drifts off.

I wouldn’t exchange her, or my son, for any success in the world; and so I can say confidently and clearly that I have only happiness for these people. There are no “what ifs” or “maybes”. There is only joy and excitement.

Are you waiting for the “But…”? It’s not there. If I learned anything from having children, it’s that comparing success is a dangerous road, which inevitably leads to hurt for one or both parties.

So I stood up tonight and actively looked at my scar for the first time after having my daughter. It’s been four months. It’s still red, and is joined by the little skin flap and array of stretch marks that appeared three years ago after having my son through the same scar.

Both of my children were born by “elective cesarean”, though to say it was an elective choice is a lie. My son was born through a cut in my stomach after 36 hours of labor with no progression. I was given the option to continue labor, but after being told the safest option was to wheel into surgery, I agreed with the doctor’s suggestion and jumped on the trolley towards the surgery room.

People like to tell you when swapping birth stories (sometimes dangerous ground to tread) that they always have a friend who pushed through 36-hour labors, and against the odds had a vaginal birth that was “the most amazing experience a person could have”. Every time I hear these stories I have to remind myself that I chose what was right for me. My son’s birth involved me lying paralyzed on a surgery table, discussing kindergarten options with the surgery nurse whose son was about to enter school. Then my body started thrashing in what I later found out was shock from blood loss. Then the doctors did some stuff, and then I held my son. Then they weighed him, and I held him again while my husband cried with joy and I just made gulping sounds of joy in a greyish state. It’s not the almighty experience that vaginal birth stories have led me to believe.

My son is now 3. He is witty, cheeky, clever and naughty. I have never been more euphoric than when we sit and talk about his day for the single minute that he can stand to sit before running off again to play or explore everything in his environment. He is simply everything and all I could ever dream he could be.

He likes my tummy. He thinks the stretch marks make an excellent road for his mini trains and seems to assume they are ‘”pretty” before he will become socially programmed to be repulsed by them (I dread the day and work with everything in my power to prevent it).

He was recently diagnosed with asthma. My friend, who loves and is loved by my children, let me in on some medical facts she learned from her midwife mama: “Did you know cesarean babies are 90% more likely to get asthma due to not getting their lungs squeezed in the birth canal?” She asked. She didn’t mean for it to hurt; and if she knew, she would have been devastated. But it’s not uncommon for people to assume you were just totally cool to have a c-section and that it was all sweet.

Did my birth decision cause my son to end up hospitalized and struggling to breathe because I chose to be wheeled into that surgery?

My daughter came out of the same scar. They reopened it for her. She was breech and I had an “incompetent pelvis” (what a name!), which made it hard for her to engage and come down the canal naturally. So again, I “chose” to get on the trolley. I “chose” to get a syringe in my spine. I “chose” to risk going into shock again and needing a blood transfusion, and I chose what was medically deemed the safest way to bring my daughter into the world with the extenuating circumstances. If the doctor said that my leg was in the way and could risk my child’s safety during childbirth, you could bet your bottom dollar I would be hopping out of that hospital with my kids.

So tonight I stared at my scar. I took a photo of it. I marveled that this little cut bought my children into the world and made my life complete. I called in my husband to look too. He said what I was thinking without me saying a word – “Can you believe you bought our children into the world through that scar? It’s one of my favorite parts of you.”

I started going to the gym. I would like my tummy to be less wide and a little flatter. No matter how many crunches, sit-ups or planks I do, those stretch marks will stay. No amount of shea oil will wipe away my scar. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, because it made my world complete.

Sweet Ellie-Boy

Sweet Ellie-Boy

We discovered we were pregnant with you in November of 2014. Your sister was to be turning two years old then and although we had been determined for her to be an only child, we were excited to be bringing you into the world.

Our joyousness was quickly squashed by fears from the outcome of our last pregnancy. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I had a rough time for the first eight months of your sister’s life. I had insane amounts of anxiety and insomnia as a result. Once I found myself again, I vowed to avoid pregnancy for all eternity!

Then, you came along. I tried my hardest to ignore the feelings and fears in the beginning of my pregnancy. It took so much work, but I finally let go and let God. I told your daddy that this time was going to be different. I was going to do everything opposite of what I did with your sister’s birth.

I started off with my regular OB/GYN, but decided if I truly wanted to have an easier delivery and postpartum journey I would need to change everything. Plus, my OB made fun of me for wanting to encapsulate my placenta and guaranteed me I would have PPD. I placed a call to the only birth center I knew of in the area and made my first appointment with a midwife at 18 weeks pregnant.

My midwife assured me I had made the right choice and I agreed. I knew I had, because I was overcome with a strength I never knew existed within me. I had the most wonderful midwife and the most supportive family.

I ordered books about natural birth and devoured them quickly. After I finished each one I was filled with immense amounts of courage knowing thousands of women had done it this way before me. Your daddy and I practiced daily on techniques and talked about our hopes and dreams of how your birth would go.

My pregnancy flew by and before I knew it I was 37 weeks pregnant. We were so excited we made it this far and knew meeting you was just around the corner. At 38 weeks I started trying everything I could to meet you earlier. If it was on Google, I did it. Walking, bouncing, stretching, adjustments, acupressure, labor cookies, and labor tea to name a few! Everyone was so excited to meet you.

My 40 week appointment came and went. I avoided vaginal checks, but was getting anxious to know how far along I was. I was also nervous I would go way past my due date and need a hospital induction. I was determined more than ever to get you going! Finally, at 40 weeks and five days I started having regular contractions.

The day started out like any other day. Your sister and I enjoyed breakfast together and hung out at home. I remember feeling incredibly tired that day and sad. I was sad that you hadn’t arrived yet, sad that these were the last few days I was getting with your sister, sad I might end up in the hospital. Daddy was working late, so your sister and I watched movies and built animals and boats with K’nex. Daddy got home with dinner and your sister and I took a bubble bath together.

That evening, after we put sissy to bed, I started feeling cramps. We lay on the couch together and watched TV. Your daddy fell asleep on the couch, but I couldn’t take my mind off of the contractions I was now having. I tried walking and going to the bathroom, but they didn’t stop. They were about seven to ten minutes apart and not painful, so I just tried to relax.

Over the next hour I had some more intense contractions. I got so excited I woke your daddy up by jumping on top of him. We decided to go to bed and get some sleep, knowing this might be the last good sleep we would get for a while!

ellie2

I couldn’t sleep. I stared at the ceiling and kept checking the time on my phone. I finally decided to time my contractions since they were about five to seven minutes apart at this point. I got up and went to the restroom and called my mom. Afterwards, I decided to call my midwife to let her know what was going on. She told us to labor at home for a while until my contractions were three to four minutes apart.

I started to run a bath, but the contractions were getting intense. They were getting painful and I couldn’t talk through them any longer. We continued to time my contractions which were finally three to four minutes apart. We called my midwife again who told us to come on in to the center. We called family to come to the house to stay with your sister and called our parents to meet us at the birth center.

About 20 minutes later we were finally on our way. Your daddy was speeding down the road so fast that a policeman pulled us over. We told him where we were headed and he waived us on our way! I had contractions every two to three minutes during that car ride. We finally made it and got ourselves set up in our birthing room. For the first time in my entire pregnancy I was finally checked. My midwife told me I was five centimeters dilated with a bulging bag of waters! I was elated to find out I was halfway done. The hardest part was still to come.

ellie3

I labored on a birthing ball for a good hour, holding on to your daddy’s neck. The midwife pressed my hips together to relieve some pressure. The lights were dimmed and I could hear my calming playlist in the background. I stood up to walk around the room and suddenly felt nauseous. I knew I was transitioning to the final phase before I would meet you! Your Nana held peppermint oil underneath my nose to help relieve the nausea and your Mimi replaced cold rags on my head.

ellie4

I finally got in the tub and labored in different positions. Contractions were coming nonstop and were incredibly painful. The water helped to relax me and breathing techniques helped take the edge off of the pain. My instincts took over and my body decided it was time to push. All of a sudden my water broke with what felt like a miniature explosion! I rolled over onto my bottom and decided it was time to get you out!

ellie

Your daddy held my hand while your nana sat behind me holding my other hand. I squeezed your Nana’s hand so hard I tore the tendons in her hand! I felt a big contraction coming and I pushed! Out came your head! I asked daddy what color your hair was, but he couldn’t see yet. One more push and out slid the rest of your body.

ellie5

Next thing I knew you were on my chest – all blue and beautiful! You were born on August 11, 2015 at 3:26AM, weighing 7 lbs. 11oz. and 19.5 inches long. Our labor was a total of six hours long! We cuddled, took a sitz bath and cuddled some more! A new day began with a new beautiful baby boy! We named you Elliot, but you’re our sweet little Ellie-boy!

I Am Strong {Emily Weber}

I Am Strong {Emily Weber}

I am strong because at the age of 19, my husband and I became pregnant with our first child.

I am strong because at our first ultrasound we were told that our son would be born with “myelomeningocele”. The most common and most severe form of Spina Bifida.

I am strong because on July 05, 2011, I went in for a c-section. Jonah was born at 12:32pm with Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, bilateral club feet and Chiari Malformation II.

I am strong because two years later we decided to try for another child, even though the chances of this baby being born with Spina Bifida were even higher than the first time. I am strong because I went through an emotional battle with myself when we found out our daughter did NOT have Spina Bifida.

I am strong because even though I had a c-section the first time, I knew I needed to go for a VBAC for the quick recovery. Our son needed me to carry him and take him to his therapies.

I am strong because I went in for my VBAC January 1st.

I am strong because I was induced with Pitocin, even though it was much against my birth plan. I am strong because I was given foley bulbs to help the process, which was also much against my birth plan. I am strong because after 32 hours of labor, I decided to get an epidural even though it was against my birth plan. I am strong because after two “failed” epidurals, the pain was excruciating. I am strong because even though I was dilated to a 7, I knew something was wrong and I needed a repeat c-section.

I am strong because I went in for my c-section around 6pm, and I woke up around 10pm that night. I knew something had happened. I am strong because I listened to my body and had my c-section just in time to save my baby and me.

I am strong because my uterus had ruptured.

I am strong because after my surgery, I spent the night having nightmares of my daughter Genevieve crying, and I could not get to her. I am strong because I finally decided to take a sleeping pill, and ease some of my emotional pain.

I am strong because I spent the next few days in the hospital, in terrible pain, with a surgical drain attached to my c-section scar, all while waiting to find out if I would need a hysterectomy.

I am strong because at the age of 22, I was told I could not have any more children without risking mine, and my unborn child’s life.

I am strong because I could not lift my son. I am strong because I had to watch him fall down and get back up without my help.

I am strong because just two weeks after Genevieve was born, I was in the same hospital again for two surgeries to remove my gall bladder. I am strong because I fell into a dark depression during this time, and I never let anyone know of my struggle. I am strong because even though I felt emotionally and physically drained, I continued to produce the milk my daughter needed.

I am strong because I continue to have those same nightmares of my daughter crying and I cannot get to her.

I am strong because even though one doctor told me not to try again, I am looking for another specialist to get a second opinion. And I will get a third, fourth, and fifth opinion if I have to.

I am strong because even though both my c-sections were traumatic, I cannot forget how alive and strong I felt during my labor with my daughter.

I am strong because if it is God’s will…we will try again.

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The Kowalli Joey Jacket {Review}

The Kowalli Joey Jacket {Review}

We recently had the pleasure of checking out this brand new jacket designed specifically for all stages of motherhood. What we discovered is the Kowalli Joey Jacket does have some unique features unlike other pieces of outerwear you may have tried or looked into.

You are able to wear it starting in pregnancy as a maternity jacket. It then converts to babywearing outerwear that allows baby to keep warm and close in any front carrier, sling, or wrap. This would be especially helpful in winter months with a baby! Instead of draping a blanket over baby, both mom and baby can stay warm.

Snap closures and elastic cording allow the jacket to be adjusted to fit your post-baby body while pockets and hood (that can be hidden or used) give a practical solutions for wearing out and about. Plus, let’s be real… snaps and elastic are great for new moms!

A few other things we love about The Joey Jacket is it is made in the USA, and it can be dressed up or down.

One thing to take note of is it is new and comes in sizes small, medium, and large. Larger sizes to come!

maternity kowalli jacket
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Ladies & Gentlemen, Husbands & Wives, Mothers & Fathers: We Are Strong

Ladies & Gentlemen, Husbands & Wives, Mothers & Fathers: We Are Strong

I am Strong because I waited until the age of 32 to have my first child.

I am Strong because I saw our would-be son one day looking up at me holding onto the knee of the man who became the love of my life at the age of 28. Dream became Reality.

I am Strong because as the youngest of my home growing up, and the youngest in our family’s generation, I was not around young children much, so everything was new and exciting/frightening.

I am Strong because my husband made it home from his last deployment for the Army in 2010, and we made the happy decision to try and start a family.

I am Strong because five weeks into trying, the hubby and I went to the ER due to me having severe abdominal cramps. We found out after eight hours of waiting that we were less than 48 hours pregnant and in danger of losing the baby.

I am Strong because we also made the decision to do what it took to have me become a Stay-At-Home Mom; the call and eventual resignation from being in Property Management for almost a decade was bitter and sweet.

I am Strong because my pregnancy was filled with obstacles and unknowns, from start to finish.

I am Strong because our pregnancy took, and I was able to carry full term.

I am Strong because when we moved from Texas to Virginia, our insurance was suspended due to an employee’s typo, and we were forced to go without insurance for over 4.5 months of the pregnancy.

I am Strong because we had to ask a local 4D ultrasound locale for a session to find out how many and what we were having during the middle of the insurance nightmare.

I am Strong because our sweet baby boy blew a kiss to us on the ultrasound, one of at least three prior dreams that have become reality. (The DVD shows this amazing gift)

I am Strong because the pregnancy was high-risk from start to finish.

I am Strong because the natural hormonal surges that occur in pregnancy were so great that my hip and shoulder joints were prone to dislocation, making it hard to walk, sit, lift anything, or be comfortable.

I am Strong because despite all my efforts to consume the healthiest of things – the only true craving I ever had was for beer, not a winning scenario as it went unsatisfied – I gained over 50 pounds during the pregnancy.

I am Strong because we made a birth plan, but due to complications with my joints, had to settle for induction/possible csection as a backup.

I am Strong because at 41 weeks, I began having contractions. They lasted an entire week, but to no avail as I did not dilate.

I am Strong because we went into the hospital to be induced, only to have the first induction fail.

I am Strong because after the second induction was administered, my joints could no longer handle the hormonal surge and my right hip dislocated, causing me excruciating pain.

I am Strong because I was scared to death of having an epidural but made the decision to do so as my cervix was still not cooperative.

I am Strong because I had two extremely intense contractions during the administering of the epidural, but managed to stay still enough with the help of my husband so as to not incur any nerve damage.

I am Strong because the only progress the epidural produced was my water breaking.

I am Strong because after 72 hours from being admitted, our son’s heart rate began dropping with contractions. It was decided a csection was eminent.

I am Strong because I sang hymns while being rolled into the OR, strapped to the table, to calm my nerves.

I am Strong because it took over five rounds of pain blockers to get my body to cooperate to have the procedure.

I am Strong because upon delivery, it was discovered our dear son had the cord wrapped around his neck twice.

I am Strong because after being wheeled into the recovery room while our son went to be tested/weighed, the nurses had turned the television on in the room.

I am Strong because our son was born the morning of the tsunami in Japan, March 11, 2011.

I am Strong because I felt at the same time immense joy for his new life, and ultimate sorrow for the tens of thousands of lives who were washed from this earth that fateful day.

I am Strong because we finally had a healthy baby boy!

I am Strong because I found out through two sessions with a domineering and condescending lactation specialist that I had inverted nipples and would eventually not be able to produce enough breastmilk to meet our son’s needs. I was not able to experience the deep bond with our son that so many others are blessed to have.

I am Strong because I left the hospital weighing more than I did while pregnant due to the amount of fluids and medications administered during these events.

I am Strong because the first week of having our son home also involved suffering through a reaction and withdrawal from a medicine the nurses gave me that I had previously admitted being allergic to on top of recovering from the surgery.

I am Strong because though our son was healthy, we noticed him having consistent tummy troubles. At the age of 2, he began having the same symptoms I have experienced as an adult with IBS, but at such a young age.

I am Strong because we had many trips to the doctor and even the ER but to no finite clarity on how to help our sweet boy.

I am Strong because our son suffered open sores for seven months during this ordeal.

I am Strong because I made the decision to attempt fixing his troubles through an elimination diet. It took over a year to find the source of the problem, mainly being all grains, but within a week of a completely benign diet, his sores healed and we began to enjoy watching him be a little boy with no more pain, only joy and curiosity.

I am Strong because our family is now on a modified paleo – low FODMAP lifestyle, with all of us having seen significant improvement in our health.

I am Strong because I only discovered Birth Without Fear through an acquaintance’s chance post on Facebook.

I am Strong because I wept with grief and relief to see how not alone I am in this world of traumatic births.

I am Strong because I’ve been able to lose all the weight I had gained and be more healthy now than ever before.

I am Strong because my Husband never left my side, from start to finish. He is my Rock, and I will Love him until my last breath.

I am Strong because we want a daughter.

I am Strong because we may not be able to have any other children.

I am Strong because I rejoice in the glorious secret world that is our happy home with my husband and son.

I am Strong.

Ladies, Gentlemen, Husbands, Wives, Mothers and Fathers:

We are STRONG.

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Mother Mental Illness {Post Partum Depression}

Mother Mental Illness {Post Partum Depression}

This continues to be something not discussed enough, but needs to be more and more. Please take a listen and share with a mother who has gone through Post Partum Depression (or other similar things).

This podcast interview with Mary from Pretty Pushers​ and Dr. Lisa Duggan from Clemson University discussed the risks and signs of Maternal Mental Illness, and the holes in our current system that are preventing screening and help for the many women it affects.

pretty pushersMary says, “I was one of them, so this is close to my heart! Pretty Pushers wants to keep a consistent voice on this topic, and offer resources wherever we can find them.”

You can listen more HERE.

Thank you Mary for opening dialogue so women do not feel alone in this.

The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

The Birth of Sicily Rose {Postpartum Hemorrhage, Vanishing Twin Syndrome}

Had it not been for your blog and all the  amazing women behind the stories you share, I might not of had the courage to go through what I endured. But, looking back now, I made and I’m a stronger mother and women for it.

This past February, we welcomed our second daughter, Sicily Rose to the world. I didn’t know it at the time of writing her birth story, but we found out a short time later that she was a twin. In my blog post, I write about hemorrhaging during our home birth, but I didn’t find out until I was 4 weeks postpartum it was because her twin was left inside of me. I hemorrhaged again at 4 weeks postpartum and almost lost my life. After being rushed by ambulance, getting a D&C, and a blood transfusion, we learned that our princess wasn’t alone in my womb.

(Side note, we thought our daughter was a twin at the beginning due to finding out about the pregnancy very early on and suffering from HG. I bled at 6 weeks pregnant and went into the emergency room. We again suspected twins when my HCG levels were off the charts but that was not confirmed nor denied by the hospital. During my D&C, they removed a 6 cm piece of placenta that was firmly attached to my womb. It was an entirely separate placenta from my daughters because I encapsulated her placenta. In the lab write up, we learned it was a vanishing twin. Vanishing Twin Syndrome occurs in 1 in 10 pregnancies on average. He or she may have “vanished from my womb”, but my baby has never vanished from my heart after learning about him or her.)

In my post, I write about dilating to a 10 twice. I dilated all the way to a 10 one week before our baby girl actually decided to arrive. And looking back now, I find it kind of symbolic. It was as if I was birthing the twin I would never hold or meet.

So in honor of our babies here is the birth story of Sicily Rose:

The Birth of Sicily Rose

Our Sicily Rose has finally arrived! She was indecisive about coming at first, but when she was ready, she was READY! On Sunday February 9th, we planned a birthday party for our Audrey Girl. She just turned 3 on the 7th so we all went to Dave and Buster’s to eat lunch and play some games. I had contractions start up that morning at about 10 am. By 11:30, we were at the party eating lunch and they were still coming on pretty strong. I couldn’t eat a whole lot, because they just kept growing in intensity. Christian and I decided to leave the party and head for home because it was snowing pretty hard and we didn’t know how fast I was progressing. Nana stayed behind so our Audrey Girl could finish up her games.

I called my midwife about 5 pm and just let her know I had been contracting all afternoon, they weren’t letting up, and that I felt like today was the day. She asked Christian to check my purple line for dilation, so she could get an estimate at how far along I was. (If you don’t know the purple line trick…Google it.)

We guessed I was about 5-6 cm dilated, so I told my midwife to just hold off on coming for right now. I kept contracting, tried to eat some good protein so I would be ready for what was to come, but I felt too nauseated and what I ate did not stay down. I called my midwife about 8 and gave her the green light to head this way. She got here and checked my dilation. She said I was at an 8. She listened to Sicily’s heartbeat and I went ahead and got in the birthing pool. My contractions weren’t horrible, but the water helped ease any discomfort that I had.

After an hour and a half, I got out of the water. My midwife wanted to see where I was with dilation. I was finally at a 10. I decided to rock on the birthing ball for a while to see if I could persuade Sicily to burrow down. She was right at the edge, to the point where I could feel her head, but she was getting hung up on my pubic bone on the right side. I did some stretching and then began feeling overwhelmed. 10pm turned into 3am and still nothing. My Midwife, Sarah, suggested I lay down and rest so when it was time to push, I would have the energy to do so.

I slept until 5am and woke up to find my contractions had died down. I got up and decided to just walk, walk, walk. I did circles in our living room around the birthing pool. Sarah told me I should eat something, so I had my mom cut up some deer sausage and I ate that. It was so good in that moment. I remember that being all I wanted to eat.

I was so flustered at this point, because I had been contracting and had progressed all the way to a 10 and then nothing. The contractions just stopped. The walking didn’t stir them back up again. I was so tired. At 7am, I found a pillow and laid down on the living room floor. Christian slept on couch beside me. At 8am on February 10th, I could hear Sarah tell Christian to get me into bed, so I could sleep more comfortably and that she was going to head home to do the same. She said she would come back over later to check on us.

I was so bummed. Here I thought “this is it”, made it all the way to 10cm, and then nothing. Everything just stopped. I slept a little while but when I woke up, all I could do was cry. My baby was supposed to be in my arms by now. Christian worked until noon that day and then came home to help comfort me. He called Sarah and had her come back over to talk with me. She came right over without hesitation and suggested I see our chiropractor. She thought that would help Sicily get in the right position and not get hung up on my pubic bone anymore. It was worth a shot to me, so off we went. I was glad I did because it really helped me settle down and relax.

After my adjustment, we went home and I fell back asleep. My mom took Audrey home with her so I could have a few day to myself to recuperate and see how things progressed. I woke up Tuesday morning to my phone ringing off the hook. Everyone wanted to know “is she here yet?” It was so hard for me. I think I cried most of that morning. Christian came home from work and told me to get dress because we were going out. He surprised me with dinner at BeerKitchen…my favorite place to eat chicken and waffles and then we rented Bad Grandpa from Redbox. It’s been a long time since I laughed that hard and it was a treat to get a last minute date night with him before we became a family of 4.

Audrey came back home Thursday night. I was more than ready to have my big girl in my arms. Nothing beats snuggles from your child when you’ve had a rough day…or week. Friday I went back to the chiropractor for another adjustment. She suggested acupuncture and I was all for it. I didn’t get anxious and told myself whatever happens…happens. Saturday was spent relaxing at home. I was tired and indulged in a nap or two. Sunday, Christian did some painting around the house, so I decided to get out and get a pedicure with my BFF, Mallory. I thoroughly enjoyed some much needed girl time. Little did I know, this would be our last day as a family of 3…

Monday morning I woke up about 4:45. I had the urge to pee but I didn’t want to get out of my nice and warm bed. I laid there for a few minutes, then I felt this wet, warm sensation. I didn’t know if I had just peed myself or if my water had finally broke. I got up, pants soaking wet, and went to the bathroom. Sarah told me that if I was ever unsure to just smell it. A broken water bag doesn’t have a smell, but urine does. Mine didn’t have a smell and I was able to then go pee so we were all good. 🙂

I changed my clothes and Christian rolled over to see why I was up making so much noise. “I’m pretty sure my water just broke,” I told him. I wasn’t having contractions at this point, so I got on my phone and googled to see how long I could possibly be waiting for my labor to really start….it said up to 3 days so after all I had just went through, I was expecting the worst. I texted Sarah around 5am and told her my water broke. Since my contractions hadn’t started up yet, we decided there was no need for her to come over. I texted our birth photographer, Rachel to give her a heads up too and then I laid back down.

By 6:00am, the contractions were coming. Christian got up and decided to make me some eggs so I could eat, set up the birthing pool, and see how things progressed. He brought my plate into our bedroom to me where I was standing over our bed rocking through the contractions. They were coming fast and strong. As much as I wanted to eat, I just couldn’t. The contractions were getting intense and I wanted to get in the water so bad. My birth pool wasn’t filled up all the way just yet so I went into the bathroom and kneeled by the bath tub. I had to tell myself to just keep breathing through it.

At this point, I knew this was the real deal and Sicily would probably be here sometime today. I told Christian to call Sarah and Rachel and tell them to get here now. I had called my mom when my water broke and I knew she would already be on her way. Sarah got here around 6:45am and just as soon as she listened to Sicily’s heart rate, I was in the birth pool. The warm water felt good and the contractions kept coming about 2-3 minutes apart. My mom got here soon after. She sat next to the pool on our chaise lounge and asked me what I needed her to do. At this point, there was nothing no one could do for me. It was just me and Sicily…working in sync with each other and trusting each other.

Sarah’s birth assistant walked in as I was laboring in the pool and I could vaguely hear Sarah tell her to get her gloves on and get ready because things were about to go fast. I smiled to myself when I heard this because that meant “this was it”…our girl would be in our arms today!

Rachel got here and then things went fast. I didn’t say a word to anyone as they arrived. I just kept breathing and focusing through the contractions. I remember thinking to myself, “When is it going to really hurt?” This pain was bareable to me. It was a good pain, because I knew in the end I would have my baby to hold. (Kidney stones hurt worse than child labor incase you wanted to know. I would birth 10 babies in a row before I would ever deal with another kidney stone.)

Audrey woke up and went to sit with Nana on the chaise lounge. She really impressed me that morning. She was so calm and spoke softly. She just laid in Nana’s lap and they watched me together. Christian came to the edge of the pool and held my arms as I sat in a squat in the water. I wanted him there. Right there holding me up. He was so cute. He kept giving me encouragement and telling me how strong I was. Sarah helped me remember to keep breathing. “The ring of fire” was felt just as Sicily was crowning and I knew we were getting close.

Sarah got behind me and put a mirror in the water to see where she was at. Feeling her head crown hurt. I was in the moment, I needed to bite something and Christian’s arm was there. He pulled back just as I realized what I was doing so I grabbed a towel and bit it instead. Just then, the ring of fire was over and out came her little head.

Sarah and Christian helped me lay back so I could push her the rest of the way out. I wasn’t in pain anymore. I was just breathing trying to muster up enough energy to get my girl here. Sarah’s assistant said, “it’s been two minutes. We need to move things along.” And just then I pushed and out into the water came our girl. I picked her up and brought her to my chest. She had inhaled a little bit of water and she wasn’t crying. Sarah told us to just keep talking to her as she patted her on her back. It worked because she let out the cutest little squeak. No crying. Just completely content laying on her mama’s chest in the water. All I could do is stare at her in awe and say, “I did it….I did it.”

Our story doesn’t end there, but how I wish it did. I wish I could tell you that I laid there in the birth pool holding my sweet girl and the rest of the day was just spent snuggling my little family of 4.

I felt the urge to push again and I knew it was my placenta coming. Sicily was still attached to her cord at this point and laying on my chest in the water. I told Sarah I needed to push and I did. Blood just shot out. The pool turned pitch black. Sarah, her assistant, and Christian helped lift me out of the pool and onto some towels on the floor. I remember Sarah sternly telling me, “Stop bleeding. You have got to stop bleeding.” And Christian told my mom to take Audrey into the other room.

Everything was happening so fast. I glanced down at Sicily still laying on my chest as I felt my placenta escape from me. The blood still flowing out much faster than it should have. I don’t really remember how but my birth team managed to get into our bed. Sarah examined me and said I had 2nd degree tearing in 3 different places. I was so glad I birthed in the water, because I can’t imagine how it would have felt if I didn’t.

My bleeding still hadn’t subsided. I was soaking the blue puppy pad looking sheets every few minutes. Sarah felt my uterus as we tried to get Sicily to latch on to eat. She examined my placenta that Sicily was still attached to, to make sure there wasn’t any leftover in my uterus. There wasn’t, thank God.

My options were running out, so Sarah did the last thing she could think of to stop my bleeding. She cut a piece of my placenta and told me to put it in my cheek and suck on it. I didn’t care. I would do anything at this point. I just wanted my bleeding to stop. I did not want to be rushed to the hospital. Christian turned white as a ghost. I’ve never seen him look so scared in all my life. The way he looked at me was terrifying. I asked him to leave the room and get himself something to eat.

Sarah’s little trick worked. My bleeding stopped and she was able to stitch me up. Her assistant fed me eggs and juice and mothers milk tea as Sicily laid on my chest still attached to the placenta. I kept trying to go to sleep but Sarah wouldn’t let me. She was afraid I would go unconscious and no one would know. Every time they moved me I started to faint. Christian came back in and helped feed me. Sicily latched on and Sarah gave us the green light to just snuggle skin to skin as we had been. Christian cut the cord and Sarah kept my placenta to encapsulate it. Another hour or two went by and Sarah continued to monitor me. She went over her concerns with Christian and came back in to tell me goodbye. She said she’d be back over later that evening to check on us again.

I spent the rest of the day laid up in bed snuggling with my babies. I was asked later if I regretted doing a homebirth because of the bleeding episode…I absolutely do not. I am glad I had a homebirth. If that had happened to me in the hospital, things would have gone a lot differently. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience….and “I did it!”.

Birth of Sicily Birth of Sicily 2

Our birth photographer, Rachel was amazing. I can’t tell you what these images mean to me. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to have her there to capture these moments. I highly recommend Tripp Over Love Photography.
www.photosbyrtripp.com

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