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When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

By Anonymous

This is a birth story about the last time I brought a baby earthside. This is also the story of something I’ve learned along the way bringing my first two sweet miracles into the world. In order for this story to make sense, I’ve got to explain what led up to it. Really, this is my three birth stories in two parts. Warning: some details may be a case of TMI for some people. Further, this is my story. By writing my story I am not saying that my experience is, or should be, the same experience as anyone else who has been through the same things I have been through. Maybe my experience will help someone, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, I am recounting things as they’ve happened to me.

Part One:

I was sexually abused when I was very very very small. Besides working through a lot of mental/emotional issues that were wired into my developing brain, I also ended up with some physical baggage. My husband is a sweet and patient man of character.  He taught me that a man could love me without ever wanting to take something from me or use me. We shared our first kiss in front of the 100-ish people at our wedding. After we got married though sex eventually became something I feared. Even though I wanted to share intimacy with my man, my body made doing so a painful experience. I asked my doctor for a referral to a gynecologist.

When I saw the gyno I explained what was happening and that I was previously abused. When she examined me physically as soon as she touched the entrance to my vagina all my muscles tensed up and seized. She told that unfortunately she sees this regularly and that I wasn’t as bad off as some women who will shrink to the size of a test tube. She explained that muscle has memory. That even in cases of people abused when they are very small who may have no actual memories of the abuse their muscles can still remember it. She prescribed devices made of wax that would slowly stretch my muscles out and train them to not react to the pressure of penetration. We opted to use lots of prayer and slowly stretch things out with my husband. Again, he is a patient, patient man and for that I am very thankful. It took time, but eventually we worked things through and sex wasn’t painful anymore.

We were excited when we found out we were expecting our first little one. I believed strongly that natural labour was the best way to go if at all possible, and I thought I was pretty informed. We took prenatal classes together, toured our local hospital, talked about our hopes for labour and delivery and overall felt that we understood as best we could what we would prefer our labour to look like. I wrote up a “Birth We Would Like to Try Do” list. We didn’t want a set in stone idea of how things “had to” go as that seemed to be the most common scenario for everything to go wrong. We were fortunate to have a Doctor we had a really great rapport with who would thoroughly answer all our questions and was quite hands off overall. He did follow certain policies he was bound to though and I was never told I could simply say “No.”

Thus, as I approached the magical 10 days past my “due date” when he said that was the time we induce as the placenta starts to deteriorate I walked into an induction. I had been at about 3 cm for a week. He explained that he would essentially be using a tampon of hormones that would help my cervix to finish thinning and ripening and if things got too intense the beauty of this method was he could just pull the thing out. What I didn’t know was that however much hormone my body had absorbed still had to be worked out in my system once he took the insert out. Suffice to say, after progressing throughout the day and making it to nearly 8cm I ended up being steamrolled by continuous contractions. One would start before the last one ended. Then to boot, when I was next checked I had gone backwards in dilation by multiple centimetres. Our doctor was concerned that my contractions, while being pretty continuous and somewhat painful, were not being very effective in moving baby down. He said he would be starting oxytocin shortly to help them be more effective.

At this point my husband and I had a meeting. If my body was reacting to the level of pain (which wasn’t incredibly terrible) I was in by clamping down and closing up (knowing my previous history with all the muscles down there we figured that’s what was happening) then how would kicking things up a notch not lead to a disaster and possibly even an emergency caesarean? We made the decision that before any oxytocin got anywhere near me I would have an epidural (I’d had nothing up to this point). We decided that while we wanted to remain drug free, more than that we wanted to avoid a preventable caesarean. I ended up getting the epidural, my body was able to relax, and only a few hours later I pushed out the miracle that would turn me into a mother.

In the days and weeks that followed I felt let down that I hadn’t gotten the natural drug free birth I believed would have been most ideal. While I knew we needed to make a decision, and believed we had made the right one, I also regretting not preparing waaaaayy better for dealing with the actual pain of labour. Really, I’d had no clue what I was doing. I was trying to tell my husband to press here or there or massage this or that, while hoping I was guessing right and often I was totally wrong. Doing his utter best to support me I ended up feeling alone and abandoned by him when I needed him most. I thought that perhaps if we had been better prepared and able to cope better we wouldn’t have needed the epidural. That I would have been able to experience all that I had read about when women described feeling empowered and strong etc. when they birthed their babies without any interventions. I did more research and decided that next time things would be different.

Jumping to pregnancy number two. We hired a doula (If you are thinking about getting a doula but aren’t sure if you should bother with the expense, get the doula. Just do it!), I took a much more thorough prenatal class, and I watched episodes of “One born every minute”. I reminded myself over and over that women give birth every day and I could too; that I already had. My husband and I were now aware that my body might react unfavourably if I wasn’t coping well and were committed to making sure I was well supported and didn’t feel abandoned or alone in the delivery room. My husband had started a new job over 1100 km away but was due home a couple weeks before my “due date”. Given that I went post dates the last time and other women in my family have done the same, we were confidant he would be there before baby came.

One week before my husband was due home I had bright red show. I immediately saw my doctor who confirmed I was in early labour. I cried, then called my husband and told him I would appreciate if he was with me for this. He threw his things in the car and started driving. I called my doula and let her know I’d be phoning sometime in the next while, and I went about my day. I had so much confidence that time that I didn’t have with my first baby. Confidence that I had a team to support me, confidence that my body could do this as I’d done it before. Confidence that we had a better plan in place. Confidence in my ability to recover well afterwards. Just a lot more confidence. At 1:00 am my water broke while I was lying in bed. My sister came to drive me to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital I would deliver at by 3:00am and met my doula there. She hooked me up to a tens machine with a boost button (which was awesome), I put on the gown I had sewn, and we laboured. My husband arrived at 4:00am following his 12.5 hour drive. I knelt facing the raised head of the bed and with each contraction my husband and sister leaned into my hips and my doula pressed my lower back.

Then I hit a point where I felt like I’d had enough and said I didn’t need to be a hero and could certainly have an epidural. The doctor (same one as my first baby) turned to my sister and said “We’re about to start pushing. They always say that when we’re about to start pushing.” And sure enough, I was complete and in fifteen minutes or so of pushing out came my second miracle. While holding my newborn baby and saying over and over “I did it” in a somewhat dazed and surprised head space, I remember two things very clearly. 1) I did not feel any rush of accomplishment, power, or realization of how strong and amazing my body was. I did not experience any sort of joy, euphora, or otherwise “birth high” sort of feelings, 2) I was overwhelmingly relieved that it was all over. I didn’t realize at the time how deeply upsetting this labour was to me. I was soon caring for a newborn (with undiagnosed silent reflux; this was very challenging) and an energetic toddler and had a number of other things going on that prevented me from really taking the time to process everything through. I was, however, terrified of ever being pregnant again. I had never had panic attacks up to that point.  Just the thought of ever conceiving again would lead to a minor panic attack.

Fast forward through an awesome experience that led me to being willing to try again (we have always wanted a big family) and we were pregnant again. My second born’ was diagnosed with silent reflux and was being treated with appropriate medication for his condition and was also finally sleeping through the night. I had both the time and mental clarity to think about and process my previous labour.  As I looked back on it in I realized fully just how traumatizing that delivery was which was somewhat puzzling to me. I had achieved my ideal drug free labour. I had been awesomely supported and birthed in a quiet room with nobody telling me how to push or what to do. On a scale of one to ten I would say the pain never got past a 5-6. My husband made it in time and my body didn’t go backwards. I had gotten everything I had hoped for and yet, I felt overwhelmingly traumatized. I thought about and talked through everything with my husband trying to figure out why I was so incredibly upset by such an ideal labour. Trying to figure out why I hadn’t experienced any of the euphoria I’ve heard described, or even the level of “birth high” I felt after my first baby.

And then one night I stumbled across it. With my first labour, once I had the epidural I was no longer dealing with pain in areas of my body where I had experienced trauma as a small child. I could feel all the pressure of that baby being born, but nothing hurt down there. With my second, I could feel all the pain and just had to cope with it. It didn’t matter that I coped well, it didn’t matter that the pain was never as enormous as I thought it would get. While talking and processing what came out was “I just felt so violated! I was being subjected to pain in the most personal parts of my body and I couldn’t do anything but hold on until it was over!” and then I burst into tears. That feeling of being violated and just coping until it was done was buried somewhere deep in my being and having a completely natural labour with my second baby had fully brought it to the surface.

After that chat I became much more aware that labour itself could dig up some pretty deep wounds in me. So, we prepared more. We read more, we planned more. We had moved since our last delivery and were blessed to get on with a midwife who was terrific. We put together a great birth support team. And we waited. I was now fully aware that I was free to decline doing anything I didn’t want to do during my pregnancy/delivery. Thus as 10 days “post dates” I signed a form that I do not consent to be induced and we continued to wait for baby to be ready to meet us.

That story coming finally…

Part Two:

I was 43 weeks + 1 day. My husband and I had chatted and decided that we weren’t comfortable going much past 43 weeks and so the previous few days I had been using a breast pump on and off, walking lots, and even tried taking herbs, and using an essential oil a friend gave me. Nothing really worked. When I was walking I would have decently strong contractions, but as soon as I stopped they petered out. It was Friday, and my in-laws were set to arrive to be staying with us for a time. My husband and I took kids to an indoor family fun carnival in the evening, and the whole time we were there I felt strongly that I wanted to see my midwife. During the carnival I remember holding my baby boy (soon to be middle child) and being acutely aware that this was the last event where he would be my youngest. I wanted to cherish every moment of the evening.

As things were winding down I told my husband that I wanted to call the Midwife as I was now a day past 43 weeks, couldn’t seem to kick labour over into go mode, and hadn’t felt bubs moving as much as usual that day. While I was confident my littlest one was simply tucking in for what lay ahead, I figured it would be wise to make sure. I spoke to my Midwife and she said we should come in and be assessed and monitored for a bit and that she could sweep my membranes too. Not sure if a membrane sweep would push things over into real labour, we called our friend who was doing our birth photography (but didn’t have a car at the time) and said we’d be able to pick her up shortly. My in-laws had arrived at our house while we were at the carnival. We thus dropped our kids off with them, said a quick hello, and headed for the hospital an hour away.

Our midwife met us at the hospital. She assessed me, and we monitored bubs for a bit. I don’t actually remember if I was already dilated or how much if I was, but she said I was soft and certainly ready for labour. She also said that now she had us there she didn’t want us to disappear again. She performed a stretch and sweep and we made arrangements to stay overnight in town. I had some decently strong contractions start up, and was having trouble trying to fall asleep with them. I was starting to wonder if we just needed to head back to the hospital when I finally drifted off. I woke up the next morning (Saturday) with no contractions at all. We also woke up later than we’d thought as we were normally up by 7:00 or so with the kids, but without them there we had both slept in. We rushed to get ready and back to for the 9:00 am meeting we’d agreed to with the midwife to discuss what to do next.

Our midwife said she would be happy to rupture my membranes and was confident things would progress well if we went that route. I was hesitant to start that way as it was my understanding from my previous labours that once my water broke I would be “on the clock” and after somewhat arbitrary amounts of time could be pressured to allow further interventions. I was not quite fully awake and put together and didn’t express any of my concerns though. I just asked what other ways we could try kick things up a notch. Our midwife consulted with the Dr. on call (she had to as per hospital policy) and said she could order an oral dose of cytotec to start labour. When the nurse came in with the pills I remembered the contractions that I’d ended up being steamrolled with my first labour. I was tired from how long it had taken me to fall asleep, hungry from not having eaten breakfast yet, and given our haphazard and rushed morning I felt that everything was coming at me too fast. I chatted with my husband and essentially said I didn’t want to take the pills and would like to leave the hospital, collect myself, eat some breakfast, and then reconvene with the midwife. I remember saying to my husband, “Nobody is holding a gun to our heads saying we need to start labour now. A few hours isn’t going to make or break this.” When we told the nurse that we didn’t want to take the pills and wanted to leave there was some confusion when she relayed our desires to the midwife. The midwife (who was doing training in a different part of the hospital) came back and asked if it was true that we wanted to refuse care from her (essentially firing her from our labour). We assured her that was not the case and clarified what we wanted to do and she was fine with our plans and said she’d see us in a few hours. So we went downtown, met up with our photographer friend and another friend who would be supporting me during labour, and had some food. I collected myself some, and returned to the hospital much more composed and confident. Once again, while walking contractions would get strong, but once I stopped they disappeared.

When our midwife returned she again brought up that she would be happy to rupture my membranes. This time I was able to express my concerns about being “on the clock” and she assured me that wasn’t going to be the case. She said as long as baby and I were looking good then there was no need to add anything else unless it had been quite a long time and I hadn’t made any progress. I didn’t need to fear any 10 or 12 hour arbitrary timeline. I was very relieved and decided that we would just break my waters then. When she was preparing to do so, she noted that baby was still sitting high enough that there was a very real risk of prolapsing the cord if bubs wasn’t lined up right when my water broke. (We later realized this was probably why nothing would ever turn over into sustained labour. Baby was just sitting too high). The doctor on call was called in, and she stabilized my little one while my midwife broke my water. The doctor guided bubs to drop down into place, and I was safe to stand up.

And then I walked, and sat on the bed, and sat on the toilet, and made wonderful progress. I eventually got into the bathtub and laboured there a while and quite appreciated it. My husband did an awesome job of supporting me and I was so thankful for our friend who was also a terrific support. Things started to get harder and I felt shaky and ill and recognized that I was in transition. I focused on making sure the muscles in my face were and thighs were loose and used a low voice to repeat “Mooooovvee down baby.” Throughout everything from the time my water was broken I felt calm, confident, and very well supported. As I progressed through transition though things started to feel different. I couldn’t find a position that was working to manage the contractions (which were only about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 for pain). I started to feel like they were coming at me more than I could cope with. I tried to remain focused and breathe, and relax but it just wasn’t working. I broke down and said I needed a break from everything. My midwife suggested a quick acting narcotic (which I had never thought I would agree with but in the moment was fine with) and I was given a dose of fentanoyl. As the pain abated and I could reflect on things apart from the pain two things hit me. 1)I was terrified of all the sensations coming back, and 2)I remembered this terrified feeling from my last labour. With much more clarity than I probably should have had on a mind altering drug I knew that what I had been overwhelmed with was that same feeling of being violated and just trying to hold on until it was over. I had been trying not to focus on it, and hoping that I could cope better with it this go round. I had hoped that with each contraction I would get a handle on it and it would eventually go away. The feeling wasn’t going away though, it was getting stronger. I knew I did not want to go through the same emotional trauma as my previous delivery and I told my midwife I wanted to get an epidural.

My midwife was a tremendous support and she assured me I was doing well, and encouraged me to keep at it. I told her that I was serious and I wanted an epidural right away. My fentanyl was going to be wearing off shortly and I did get a bit panicked so she ordered a second shot while we sorted things out. I continued to repeat that I wanted an epidural please and thank you. My midwife took my husband out into the hall and had a chat with him. She explained her that she has had many women regret getting an epidural at this stage and that some have even “blamed” her for “letting” them get one instead of continuing to encourage them to carry on. She was concerned that I was being hit hard by transition and might regret having gotten an epidural so close to the end of everything. We had prearranged for our medical team to check with my husband if anything came up where they needed clarification on our birth plan/desires. My husband and I had talked at length about every aspect of our delivery and I figured that while I was in labour I wasn’t interested in trying to explain things to people. I also trust my husband completely and knew he would stick to what we had talked about. I am thankful that our midwife took the time to ask my husband if what I was saying lined up with our desires for this birth, and he assured the midwife that if I was insisting on an epidural I had good reason and that it would be better for me to have one than not.

I remember the midwife coming back into the room and letting me know she needed to check me to see if I was 8 centimetres or more in which case it was too late for the epidural. I said (through tears) “But you’re just going to tell me I’m 8 centimetres and that it’s too late to get one.” In hindsight, when she initially told me that I was doing so great without the epidural and could keep going I felt like she didn’t want me to have an epidural. That wasn’t the case at all, and she was doing her best to support me in what she was thinking was a moment of panic that I might regret. However, this feeling spilled over into thinking she wouldn’t be honest in telling me how far along I was, which was totally irrational. She had not given me any reason to disbelieve her character during my whole pregnancy and I felt bad for essentially accusing her of setting up to lie to me.

Labour makes a person say crazy things!

She gently disagreed with me that she would tell me exactly how far along I was and wasn’t about to make anything up. Then she checked me and said that I was just under 8 cm as I had a lip on my cervix that was keeping me from dilating further. I have not had a lip on my cervix at all in my two previous labours. I honestly believe it was the grace of God on my life that kept me from progressing further as a smidge more of dilation and I wouldn’t have been able to get an epidural. To confirm what she felt she had a nurse check me as well, and the nurse agreed that I was just under 8 cm with a lip on my cervix. The midwife thus called the anaesthesiologist and said she hoped he was able to make it soon. By that time of day the anaesthesiologist was not physically at the hospital and had to be called in to come from home, somewhere in town. I was told it could be 30-40 minutes, but in a much shorter time he was there with his wonderful caddy of needles and other stuff and I rejoiced. I sat as still as I could and tried not to think that a needle was about to puncture into my spine. He numbed my back and then I felt the pressure of a push. But then I felt the pressure of a second push a minute later. I thought to myself “He did two???”. It turns out he didn’t like how the first puncture placed so he did a second try. I had absolutely no side effects from the epidural (I had a terrible pressure headache from the one I got in my first labour) so I think he did a stellar job. Shortly thereafter the tightness and pain started to fade away and it was like I could breathe again.

I was a bit weepy right before and after the epidural.  I remember apologizing to my friends that they wouldn’t get to see a natural labour and telling them I was sorry but it wasn’t my fault and that a very bad man hurt me when I was small and I just couldn’t cope with the feelings this was bringing up from that. They were all great and as the epidural really took I got chatty about all sorts of stuff. Both during this labour and when I had my first baby once the epidural was fully working and was masking all the pain I could still feel and had control over both of my legs. I could also feel all the pressure of baby being so low, and this time I could feel the tightness of my muscles contracting.

As it were, we sat around chatting and then eventually my midwife checked me again and said I could start pushing any time. The bed was up in a seated position and I tried a push and really just felt like not much of anything happened. It didn’t feel like baby moved at all. My husband and I had talked a lot this labour about pushing in alternate positions (I had previously only ever pushed in a seated position with the back of the bed up and the bottom broken down) and I felt like it could be good to try something different. I said to my midwife “I’ve read some good stuff about pushing while kneeling. Do you think that would be a good idea”. She told me I was free to try any position I liked. So I turned around and knelt leaning against the raised head of the bed (as my epidural didn’t prevent me from moving around, thank goodness!). I tried another push and immediately knew that this one was effective. I don’t remember my total number of pushes, but I remember that it wasn’t long before bubs was crowing (My midwife said “Baby has dreadlocks, like me” and I though “Ahh, this one has a lot of hair, eh.”) and then the head was out. My midwife said to breathe a bit and try relax and not to push for a minute to let me stretch some. I remember asking my photographer to get some pics of what was happening and replying to my midwife that “I have a baby’s head sticking out of me and you want me to relax!!” but I did my best to wait a bit. And then I pushed again and bubs was out!! It was 15ish minutes from when I did the first push while kneeling to when my precious new son was on the bed between my knees. My midwife said “This kid has gotta be 5 kilos!!” I guess he was a pretty big newborn compared to the ones she typically sees. She was completely right. Later when we weighed him we learned he was exactly 11 lbs (5 kilos).

I turned around and sat down and they tried to lift him up onto my chest. His cord was pretty short though, so he would only make it up to my belly. I sat, holding him and stroking him and my whole being swelled with joy at this beautiful squalling miracle of life that was now not in my belly but on it. I remember being so happy I could have cried, and simultaneously being so so so thankful to experience that happiness. After a couple minutes the midwife said his cord had stopped pulsing so if we were okay cutting it I could pull him up further onto my chest. My husband (as with our first two babies) cut the cord and I got to hug and hold my sweet little one in a far less awkward embrace. He had meconium on him as he had pooped near the end of the delivery but he was fine and suffered no ill effects from it. I didn’t care that there was poop in his hair. I loved him, and loved that I could feel that love for him as soon as he was born. We dealt with my haemorrhaging (I haemorrhage every time), sang over our sweet baby (we always have a guitar there and songs picked out), stitched me up, and ordered pizza. It was quite the party. Bubs nursed, our friends went to get some much needed sleep, I had a glorious shower, and then we settled in to the rest of our first night with our new son.

I don’t for a second regret getting the epidural. I didn’t regret it when I asked for it, I didn’t regret it five minutes after he was born, and a year later I still don’t regret it. Unlike my first labour where I processed, grieved about, and ultimately made peace with having gotten an epidural, I have never been anything but completely okay with how this delivery went down. Because of that epidural I didn’t spend the last portion of my delivery being clawed at by deep and dark hurts. I didn’t go hollow inside while trying to hold on until everything was over. I didn’t feel ambivalence towards my precious new baby in the moments following birth because I was simply trying to collect myself while being flooded with relief that it was all over. Because of that epidural I did not feel violated and helpless. Because of that epidural I could focus on my precious new baby. I could experience joy, and happiness, and such a deep welling up of love for my husband as he looked on in wonder. I could tune into the weight of this fresh new body on my tummy, then chest. I could marvel at his uniqueness and explain to everyone in the room what his name was and why we chose it. Because of that epidural I have healed so much from the trauma that characterized my previous “ideal” natural labour.

I am not saying it is wrong to desire, or even have a natural labour. I have read a lot of research and recognize that from a purely physical health perspective it is “ideal” to have a labour free of interventions and medications if possible. I think it is sad when women have interventions that they were neither informed about nor had any say in. We hope that in the future if we have more children I will be able to overcome my scars and progress through labour without things breaking down as they have. And, if that doesn’t happen and I am overcome with hurts from my past that I have no control over, I need not carry any guild or shame for the epidural I will get again. Yes, a natural drug free labour can be ideal, but it just might not be ideal for me; an I am perfectly okay with that!  

Accidental Unassisted Birth, Down Syndrome, Mom Catches Baby Born En Caul

Accidental Unassisted Birth, Down Syndrome, Mom Catches Baby Born En Caul

My pregnancy with Blake was discovered in October 2014; I had noticed clothes not fitting well for a while and was having to pull my t-shirts down when wearing Tyler on my back. I didn’t think much of it until one day I posted in a tandem nursing Facebook group, complaining profusely about how painful it was to feed the kids at that time.

I hadn’t had a period since forever, so it didn’t occur to me that anything might be going on until another dear tandem nursing mama friend ordered me gently to go and ‘pee on a stick’. Which I did out of curiosity. Poor hubby got told via text message as I was quite stunned & speechless at a positive result. Very delighted – absolutely – but just unexpected!

It explained my chaotic thinking that seems to occur early in my pregnancies, and my stress and anxiety type of symptoms. A bit of magnesium had helped with that, and that was all I had thought of it. I’m thankful that my naturopath had put me onto folinic acid which I had been taking (mostly haphazardly as I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant until I at least had a period) – that small amount of planning was very valuable.

There was a few things happening. I got sick with a sinus infection that I couldn’t shake, and we had a homeschooling camping trip that we went to before going to a GP in November to organize an ultrasound to figure out how far along things were.

So we went for the scan, to be introduced to the student radiographer who would be doing our dating scan. The poor girl just about fell over upon having a look, as instead of seeing the little jelly bean she expected, she saw a 17 week old baby. Oops!

It seems I’d bypassed ‘morning sickness’ somehow (something to be thankful for), but I felt like I’d missed a big chunk of the pregnancy by being so symptom free. Or in denial of the symptoms I was noticing perhaps.

So with that scan started our roller coaster. The senior radiographer came in & did a bunch of measurements, more so than what I understood. We went home happy to now have an ETA for bub, but this was interrupted by being contacted by the GP fairly immediately to go in to ‘discuss’ the scan.

My memory is hazy of this appointment; I mostly remember the horror of ‘chromosomal abnormality’ and ‘termination’ being mentioned in the same sentence, multiple times. Thankfully my husband had been able to come with me to the appointment.

My 2yo had fallen asleep in my arms nursing during the conversation. I carried him out while we were escorted out the back exit; I handed him to my husband at the car & fell into a heap. My first & only thought was “what have I done to my baby?” There was no question for us about continuing the pregnancy. This was our child, no matter what.

So we then had multiple appointments at King Edward Memorial Hospital. Whilst they were respectful & knowledgeable, they were puzzled by our lack of desire to confirm any diagnosis, and also by my desire to birth at home.

The first scan was organized quickly, about a week later. It wasn’t until we were there talking with the obstetrician afterwards about it, that I realized it was so they could still offer termination (which they did, a number of times), as they will do it up to 20 weeks. This discovery just broke my heart to learn. However, the appointment where I was told bub had a heart defect was the hardest, as it meant that our plans needed to change for the safety of the baby. However, I told them we would wait until the next heart scan before making any decisions.

I could see the pity in their eyes, with a knowing that I would be disappointed look about them.

Thankfully, during this time, I engaged the services of my gorgeous independent midwife who rescued me from feeling sucked into the medical world, where I truly don’t fit. I don’t think like they do, yet somehow I was ending up with multiple scans despite only having had one at 20 weeks for my previous two pregnancies and having to justify myself constantly. To them & in my own head.

This pregnancy was difficult & I had to work hard to protect myself in my bubble. I was offered the hybobirthing course by a doula-in-training friend, and it was amazing! Among the anxieties of the pregnancy and the busyness of 2 other little ones, it gave me a small amount of time each day to just enjoy bubby and to relax & block out the negativity that we are all so very susceptible to while pregnant.

So the second cardiology scan was basically, “Oh, that’s not what I thought it was. Baby’s heart is fine and perfectly safe to be born at home if you want. Just have it checked out when you’re ready.” Such relief! It was amazing and infuriating at the same time. And still the obstetrician wanted one last scan about a week later.

So, by the time I was done with the scans and follow ups, etc., I got a few weeks of just enjoying pregnancy as it should be and as it is intended.

My beautiful Blessingway was organized by some amazing friends for when I was about 36 weeks. It was a gorgeous day and I feel so very lucky to have been as super spoiled as I was. It really wasn’t until I had some hindsight & had birthed & felt a bit more normal emotionally that I experienced full appreciation of how truly blessed I am with my friends. This special photo was taken by Capturing Adventures.

CapturingAdventures

On Thursday 2nd April (at about 36w4d) we went to playgroup as usual. I was on my butt a lot. As usual. I was getting a lot of tightening, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was getting Braxton Hicks anytime the kids had a feed. I complained at one stage, had another mama put her hand on my tummy to comment that there was still plenty more room. Maybe there was.

So that night, hubby went out for a few drinks, which he rarely does. He didn’t get home late, so played with the kids for a while before they went to bed. But oh my gosh, I laughed and laughed and laughed at them. I’m surprised my waters didn’t break on the spot just from sheer pressure.

That night I was messaging a lovely friend who listened to me and supported me so much through the pregnancy. I was telling her how I had googled something about Braxton Hicks being more intense at night for some reason (I actually forget why now! Hormones perhaps?) and that I was glad to have discovered the reason for my nightly discomfort. I had my hypnobirthing track on to go to sleep to – it was after dozing through 3 or 4 changes of tracks that I thought I’d have a shower just to try to settle them down.

It was about 2am and I messaged my midwife to let her know. She replied with something to the effect of “have a good sleep” which just confirmed my idea that the discomfort would ease. The shower felt amazing but when I hopped out, I just wanted to walk around a bit. I let hubby know I was up and he went back to sleep. My 2yo woke so I hopped into bed to feed him. As soon as I could, I got back up as breastfeeding was NOT helping me relax!!

I wandered around the house and found myself swaying against our crazy-never-ever-tidy bookcase. All good. I was chatting to bub, reminding them to wait at least until Sunday so I’d be 37w and we could avoid any hassle. I was looking forward to going back to sleep.

Little 2yo person woke up again, wandering out to find me. Hubby got up with him. I sat on the lounge to feed him this time; quickly demanding hubby sit next to me while I squeezed the shit out of his hand through two contractions. And I call them contractions with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. There was still no acknowledgement in my mind that a baby was probably joining us that night.

I had to peel my 2yo off me and hand him to hubby. I just couldn’t do it, I needed to get into the shower. I was so torn by his sadness, but needed to go. Hubby picked up our little boy and walked and cuddled him to help him sleep.

I managed to send a text to my midwife as I was adjusting the water temperature of the shower “I think I need you here” at 3:30am. I vaguely recalled the same panicky feeling from my previous birth, and remembered how pushing helped relieve the pain, so as soon as I got in, I braced on the shower shelf and pushed.

It worked! It felt so good to push! But did anything happen?

I had a bit of a feel, totally clueless and only really just checking for a head which I was disappointed not to feel. Then the next wave came over me. I instinctively knelt on one knee, put my hands down… and caught my baby en caul! No wonder my waters hadn’t broken. (I was waiting for that as a sign of truly being in labor, just as I was waiting for morning sickness to start ha!) It was an amazingly brief acknowledgment as I wiped the membranes away immediately because I was very aware of being alone and needing bub to breathe.

I sat cross legged on the floor of the shower with him. I think I turned the water off somewhere along the way and called hubby, who it seems nearly ignored me as he almost had little guy to sleep. So they both came in to meet our newest gorgeous family member and cover us with towels. It was 3.33am.

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We got the big sister up who had just woken anyway and eventually called our midwife to come join us.

From there we had a few hours at home adoring our beautiful baby, before being ordered/ threatened/ whatever into KEMH by the pediatrician there, because bub displayed features of Down Syndrome. So we spent about 5-6 hours there while multiple staff examined him, x-rayed him, took blood, tried to vaccinate him, tried to admit us …all for no apparent reason than “people prefer to be in hospital if their baby has Down Syndrome.” Um, no thanks.

We eventually left and finally got our family home together late in the evening. We were so, so fortunate to have a beautiful friend waiting patiently to bring us dinner, heat it and serve it to us. I’m sure we were just in a total daze and exhausted by the energy exerted to protect our perfect baby. I still feel a loss from that time in hospital when we should have all been snuggled up together, discovering each other, but so absolutely grateful for the support around us and that I didn’t have to leave him at any time.

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So, little Blakey is the youngest of three. He has two adoring, loving siblings. We are all so lucky to have each other & I so look forward to watching them all grow together <3

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I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

I Am Strong – Cesarean Birth After Neonatal Loss

*trigger warning*

I am strong because in April of 2012, I gave birth to a precious baby girl named Evelyn, prematurely at 24 weeks due to incompetent cervix, premature labor, and infection.

I am strong because I endured a frightening classical c-section 4 hours after entering the hospital with a smile on my face, knowing it was the best chance my baby had to survive.

I am strong because I was told I will never have a future vaginal birth due to my vertical incision, and I would never be allowed to go into labor for fear of rupturing my uterus.

I am strong because I spent every single night in the NICU watching my tiny 1 pound 5 ounce, 11.75 inch long daughter through a plastic window, unable to hold her.

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I am strong because I pumped breast milk for her every 3 hours.

I am strong because at 5 weeks and 3 days old my little girl developed an infection called NEC, and within hours of its discovery, it took her life.

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I am strong because I held her for the first and only time as she was passing away.

I am strong because throughout the most horrifying time of my life I was able to plan a beautiful funeral for my baby, something no mother should ever have to do.

I am strong because 4 weeks after she died, I donated all of my pumped breast milk, roughly 600 ounces, to a milk bank  to help babies like her.

I am strong because 1 year and 9 months later I discovered that I was again pregnant, I was elated.

I am strong because I was considered high risk and went to many, many extra appointments.

I am strong because at 13 weeks and 5 days I went into the hospital to have a preventative cerclage placed in the hopes of getting me to full term.

I am strong because I was placed on modified bed rest for over a month, but I took it upon myself to continue bed rest as much as I could throughout the entire pregnancy.

I am strong because I was given weekly progesterone shots.

I am strong because despite the constant fear of losing another baby I decorated a beautiful nursery for our second daughter.

I am strong because at 6 months I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

I am strong because I gave up all of my favorite foods, took medication, and drew blood up to 5 times a day to control it.

I am strong because I held my breath during more than 21 ultrasounds, expecting to hear the worst each time.

I am strong because at 37 weeks to the day, 3 days after my cerclage was removed,  I began having contractions that eventually were 2-4 minutes apart.

I am strong because I finally realized they were not Braxton Hicks and had my husband drive me to the hospital.

I am strong because I was given 4 pills of Procardia to help relax my uterus, but the contractions continued to get more intense.

I am strong because after 3 or so hours of contracting in the hospital I was told I would be having my cesarean that night.

I am strong because at 8:08pm, just one minute later than my first daughter’s birth, my second beautiful girl, Emily, came screaming into the world at 6 pounds 5 ounces and 19 inches long.

I am strong because during her birth my doctor discovered that my previous incision scar was thinning, and had I not gotten to the hospital when I did it would have eventually ruptured, and endangered both of our lives.

I am strong because I heard over the curtain the doctors exclaim that Emily had a true knot in her umbilical cord and her cord was wrapped around her neck, but thankfully neither affected her health.

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I am strong because my baby had to spend 5 days in the NICU, due to being slightly premature and having jaundice, a place I thought I would never have to visit again.

I am strong because I was finally able to bring our baby home from the hospital.

I am strong because I have two beautiful girls, one on Earth and one in my heart, to motivate me to be the absolute best mother that I can be.

From Katariina Shoemaker

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A short and sweet story of a teenage mother, or just a mother, this is Jada’s story:

I am strong because I found out I was pregnant at 17, two months into a relationship, and decided then to keep the baby.

I am strong because I decided to end the relationship, because I wasn’t happy anymore.

I am strong because during my pregnancy, I went through the worst depression in my life a month before my son was born.

I am strong because I had my mother and my aunt in the birthing center room to support me while I went through with my natural birth, which showed me just how strong I was.

I am strong because I pushed for an hour (which felt like only five minutes) and gave birth to a 8 lb. 8 oz. healthy boy and picked the name of my son when I met him for the first time.

I am strong because despite the criticism on bed-sharing, I am proud to say I have slept beside my son every night since he was born, and have no plan to stop.

I am strong because I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public despite my overwhelming social anxiety, and plan on weaning when he is ready.

I am strong because I suffer from postpartum depression and am raising my son, alone, the way I feel is right for the both of us.

I am strong because I am going through with getting my high school diploma so my son and I can have a good future.

I am strong because now, at 19 years of age, I am where I want to be and have great plans that I see myself accomplishing in the future.

Brandon

Bummis Duo Brite All-In-2 Deluxe Review

Bummis Duo Brite All-In-2 Deluxe Review

As a cloth diapering mom for the majority of the past three and a half years, I am always excited to try a new diaper on my kids. When Bummis asked for a review of their Duo Brite All-In-2 Deluxe Pack, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this brand that somehow I had never used before.

The “fluffy mail” arrived and I ooohh-ed and aaaaahh-ed over the adorable pattern and how soft the inserts were, even before washing. The print they sent was “Elephant Tales” – a gender neutral and oh so cute print. My husbands first impression was, “Oh, we don’t have any elephants yet – cool” (he is an Alabama football fan). He was also happy to see that the diapers are made in North America (Canadian made, with fabrics from the USA). I had to take a picture right away, as is my habit when I (I mean my kids) get new fluff.

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I washed the inserts and wrap, just putting them into a load of diapers I had going in that day. Washed and dried and ready – and then my little bug got sick. We had to switch to disposible diapers while the illness took its course so that I could use copius amounts of diaper cream. So our adorable new fluff waited and waited…almost two weeks. The agony!

Once little Archer was feeling much better and no longer covered in diaper cream, I excitedly pulled out the new diapers. And he did this:

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And this:

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He doesn’t hold still for photos. Sigh. But as you can see – he was more than able to move and shake in this comfy wrap.

My first impressions of this All-In-2 apart from being adorable and soft:

  • The wrap is really stretchy – you don’t always find this with wraps/covers, and it really helps it fit snug without creating impressions in the skin.
  • The inserts snap in easily. Unlike other AI2’s I have used, this set has only one snap – and that is a good thing! It has one snap and you know where it goes – no confusing extra snaps or configuring multiple layers of inserts. Just snap and go. The snap is also in a place where it will not leave marks on the skin.
  • The inserts have two sides to choose from – the organic cotton side or the polyester side. We decided to use it polyester side up for a more “stay dry” feeling. Both sides are amazingly soft and smooth.
  • The insert does not bunch or move around, even on my super mobile baby who crawls around at lightning speed. No diaper wedgie = happy baby. No leaking to the gussets!
  • Snaps are bullet-proof – even with my curious boy pulling on them (hard!) the snaps stayed in place.

We went through all three inserts in one day and we left on one set a bit longer than normal to test the absorbancy. My kids are notorious “pee pots” (heavy wetters), and even with three hours between changes for that longer test we had no leaks and the insert didn’t seem totally soaked. Considering we had only washed and dried one time so far this is impressive – given that the inserts are cotton they will get more absorbent through the next few wash/dry cycles.

I did try to use the diaper at night with the deluxe booster provided. While we didn’t last all night, it did hold a lot. As mentioned, my little guy is a heavy wetter – even more so at night. He is also a year old now – I would think this would have held up for overnight when he was younger and had less output. The booster will be great for trips out to help the diaper change last a wee bit longer.

The fit was amazing due to the really stretchy wrap, and I did manage to sneak a few photos of the fit and the double gussets. I am a double gusset fanatic – they are the bullet proof way to keep in breastfed poops in the early months.

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In this photo you can even see my super awesome leggings I found for $3. (Sorry, I like to brag about my bargains).

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The diaper was relatively trim and fit under his normal size pants without an issue, an added plus when we wear cloth out of the house. We didn’t have any “wing droop” due to the well placed double row of buttons on the front. I really could not find any fault in the fit!

These All-In-2’s come in two sizes – size 1 for 8-20lbs, and size 2 for 20-35lbs. They have two “rises” to adjust the fit within each size as well as rows of buttons at the waist that are closely spaced, giving a really custom fit. My little guy is 12 months, and about 21lbs right now. I did not put the rise down since he is long-waisted, but he is on the second from the middle set of waist snaps. He has a lot of growing room to go in this diaper. For many families, a longer fit in a diaper means money saved – and no one can object to that.

This diaper will definitely be in the top of my stash now and I will grab for it often! 10/10 Bummis!

***This review was requested by Bummis and the diaper provided to me. However, all views are my own.

In Pursuit of Perfection

In Pursuit of Perfection

Let me start this post by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Yep. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. And I am about to admit to you that I AM NOT PERFECT.

I’m learning to live with it.

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Society in general is pretty obsessed with perfection. We want perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect lives. Messy relationships, screaming kids, stretch marks, boring jobs…not exactly the “American Dream.”

But the idea of perfection has been taken to a whole new level with women. As women, as mothers, as wives – we are held to ideals. We are supposed to be beautiful, skinny, smart, sexy. We are supposed to be Wonderwoman of the PTA, June Cleaver of the home, and alluring in the bedroom. Not only does society push these ideals on us, but we push them on ourselves and each other (aka, “Mommy Wars”).

This pursuit of personal perfection is what I really want to touch on. This is something I have been working on within myself. As Birth Without Fear has turned a spotlight onto self-love, I have noticed my biggest issues. (I know, not the core of self-love, but hear me out). I have found that the biggest way I am cheating myself is in this idea that I should be perfect. Not only should I be perfect, but I need to prove it to the world.

I have a Pinterest account with almost 1,400 pins.

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I mean, REALLY? When am I ever going to get around to doing 1,400 things? Most of which are focused on cute/non-essential things. Sure, about 150 pins are birth related. About another 150 are homeschool related. But other than that…basically it is one big to-do list for me. That is around 1,000 things that I felt the need to remind myself to do. And when I accomplish one of them? This is what I do:

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Yes, that is my fridge. I put baskets in it, because Pinterest told me to. Now granted, it really did help keep the fridge in order. But honestly, did I have to prove myself to Facebook? Did I have to let everyone know that my fridge was clean? Several days after posting this, a thought hit me. “What if I made someone else feel like they need to clean their fridge?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all stop posting photos of those moments when the laundry room is finally clean, or the walls get a new coat of paint. But I do think that we create a paradox here. If we only post photos and statuses of when we have out “$hit together”, we are telling ourselves we are only allowed to share our perfect selves. And that is not self-love.

I take pictures of my kids all the time, most moms do. But only a fraction are posted to Facebook or shared with family. Sometimes it is due to the blurry capture of a running child, or the fact that I have already posted a million things that day. But usually the biggest reason I decide not to post something? You can see a mess in the background. You can see crumbs on the carpet or the dingy soapscum in the bathtub. You can see the dishes I have not washed or the toys that seemingly procreate each night while we sleep. I don’t post the photos because I don’t want you to know that we have a mess in the house…a house with a three year old and six month old and two not-so-neat adults.

Who am I helping when I don’t share those photos? Surely not my children who are adorable and love taking pictures. Surely not my family who would love to see photos of every little thing we do. And I am not helping myself or you either. For myself, I am just reminding myself, “Damn, I haven’t vacuumed yet. This place is so gross.” And for all of you out in Facebook land, I am only showing the most perfect side of my life. As far as you know, my house is always spotless and my kids are always dressed nicely. And then you turn around and judge yourself by those standards, whether you realize it or not.

To give an example, lets look at a common mommy subject – potty training. I have majorly struggled with this within myself (with admitting my three year old is not potty trained, not that I can’t use the potty 😉 ). What is the one thing we usually hear most? “Oh, my child was potty trained at 10 months!”, “Oh, we were diaper free all the time, even for bed, by the time he turned two!” And you know what, if that was your kid that is GREAT! I would be excited too! I mean, who really loves diapers? But you really don’t see a mom say “My three year old refuses to poop in the potty and hates underwear.” Why? Because society in general has told us that there is something wrong if a child doesn’t “get” the potty at an early age. Not only are our mothering skills brought into question, but we also think someone might judge our child too. And so, we don’t share and we don’t ask for help or maybe we even tell a little white lie about how well the potty learning is going. And then we unknowingly add to this idea that all kids are potty trained by “x” age.

I find myself not sharing certain photos of me baby-wearing simply because the straps pushed my love handles into view. I go as far as deleting a photo totally if my REAL smile is caught on camera because I am really insecure about my teeth. I am striving to help other women feel inspired and beautiful and I am striving to teach my children to love themselves just as they are. Meanwhile, I am deleting photos of myself or hiding my love handles. I am not going to become skinny or have better teeth by doing this…but I am going to slowly wear down my self esteem. I am not living honestly.

We do this to so many things in our lives. I catch myself judging myself in all these little ways so often. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I am striving to not only recognize these moments but to also push my boundaries a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, if I post that photo of my adorable toddler dancing complete with crumb covered carpet some other mom won’t feel so alone in her struggle to keep the crumbs away. Chances are, most people won’t even notice the carpet because my son is stealing the show with his amazing smile. I am going to focus on the fact that *I* made that kid smile…hell, I MADE that smile, literally. I created that ball of joy. Screw the carpet.

Maternal Death and the United States {Birth Without Fear}

Maternal Death and the United States {Birth Without Fear}

Maternal Death – the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes. (WHO)

This is a subject no one really wants to talk about. Mothers die. Mothers die in pregnancy and childbirth and just after birth. The weight of that reality is just so heavy and heart breaking. In our current birth culture, fear reigns. However, fear reigns without reason or knowledge of what really needs fear. And of course – all of us hope to Birth Without Fear. And so, I approach this subject with a heavy heart but hope as well.

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Where Does It Happen?

In short, it happens everywhere. However, some areas are more prone than others. This can be due to lack of care – think of sub-Saharan Africa or rural villages in some undeveloped countries. Maternal death in those areas is an unfortunate fact of life (though organizations are striving to change this).

But apart from the “obvious” places, where do you suppose it happens? Perhaps war-stricken places, or those places without advanced medical facilities? Would it surprise you to know that the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world?

Yes – you read that right. Our current maternal mortality rate is 21 deaths per 100,000 live births as of 2010 (WHO). This rate went up from 2005 (18/100,000). The 2010 “Healthy People” Goal for the United States was set at 4.3/100,000 – we grievously missed that by a large margin. The 2020 goal is 11.4/100,000, which would only be a 10% decrease from what the US considers to be its current statistic (the 12.7/100,000). I find it interesting that the government decided after they missed the 2010 goal that maybe they should try less to save mothers, since their efforts before had no effect and saw a rise in deaths.

The WHO number is adjusted from the number reported by the CDC (12.7/100,000) – this is because the United States does not have a universal system of reporting maternal deaths and the CDC admits that our numbers are drastically under reported due to this lack of uniformity in reporting (See this CDC publication, specifically page 20). Currently, only 25 states make it mandatory to state that a death was pregnancy related on the death certificate – and even this method is questionable due to lack of doctor training in filling out certificates and the great fear of litigation in the medical system. Ina May Gaskin writes about the lack of reporting here.

Other countries have much better standards of reporting. The “gold standard” is considered to the be reporting system in place in the United Kingdom. The UK ensures that not only is every death reported, but they also compile the deaths and reasons for them in a report every three years. This report is available to the public and the locations and names of the deaths remain confidential. This allows the nation and the nation’s health workers to look at the issues without fear of litigation – meaning they have no reason to hide maternal deaths.

To provide some perspective, here are the rates of some other countries:

  • Australia: 7/100,000
  • Brazil: 56/100,000
  • Denmark: 12/100,000
  • Germany: 7/100,000
  • Israel: 7/100,000
  • Japan: 5/100,000
  • Netherlands: 6/100,000 – note that about 30% of all births here are at home.
  • United Kingdom: 12/100,000

As you can see, we are rather behind many other countries – and don’t worry, I am going to come back to Brazil and why I included that statistic which is very high for an industrialized country (as is the USA’s number).

Why Are Mothers Dying?

This question is hard to answer since as mentioned above the reporting methods are varied and not always followed. We do know that some deaths are simply not preventable, this is just a fact of life. However, looking at the much lower numbers in other comparable nations we know that unpreventable deaths are not the reason for the very high numbers in the United States.

We know that it is not from lack of care in general – reports show that over 99% of all women in the United States receive prenatal care. However, we have to look at the level of care women are receiving. We have to ask, does a 5 minute rushed visit with your actual doctor count as adequate care? Does more diagnostic testing equal better care? Does spending more money equal quality care? (The numbers say no – we spend more than any other country in the world on birth).

We see a HUGE disparity in death rates in regards to ethnicity. An African-American woman is 3.3 times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman. This is simply not acceptable in a country as advanced as ours, and one that is supposedly equal. Midwives such as Jennie Joseph are helping to implement ways to combat this disparity – her creation of The JJ Way is an example of how we can work to correct this travesty.

A big question that needs to be asked in the United States has to do with who is providing this care – care that is obviously not saving as many mothers as it should. In the United States women overwhelmingly see Obstetricians. While Obstetricians are amazing for complicated and high-risk pregnancies, they don’t have much training in plain old boring pregnancy and birth.

A majority of the time pregnancy will proceed in a normal fashion, and birth will follow in the normal fashion. When we use care providers who are trained to search for problems there tends to be a trend of finding problems whether they exist or not, or whether they are actually emergencies or not. As the saying goes, “Give a boy a hammer and he will find something which needs to be hammered.”

We can see that in countries were the majority of care is given by midwives (or that country’s equivalent care provider) the maternal mortality rate is lower (and the infant mortality rate is lower as well). The United Kingdom is a great example of this. They are comparable to us in many ways (general health and population structure), and yet consistently have better maternal outcomes. And they use the midwife model of care in which all women start with midwives and only transfer if problems arise. (Note that a woman can opt for an OB to start with, however most do not).

Now for the elephant in the room: the United States cesarean rate. Our current cesarean rate is 32.8% (CDC). Yes – basically 1/3 of all babies in the US are born through cesarean. So are 1/3 of all US women somehow “broken”? Unable to birth? Producing massive or stubborn babies? NO – of course not. If 1/3 of all women in the US were “broken” then those numbers would be reflected all over the world, and the statistics show this is not the case. In the same vein, we are not producing massive babies either – in fact the average birth weight has gone down as the cesarean rates have gone up (and is independent of that rise or that of induction).

Remember when I said I would come back to why I included Brazil? Brazil has a rather good medical system and is considered a developed country, so why the massive maternal death rate (56/100,000)? Take a look at their cesarean rate – 52.3%. Yes – over 50%. Brazil is an interesting case since most of these surgeries are elective, even for the first time mothers. The fear of childbirth is so deeply engrained in Brazilian culture that women jump at the opportunity to have a cesarean and avoid labor totally. A vaginal birth is seen, culturally, as something only poor women do because they can not afford a cesarean.

That mortality rate could be the United States’ future. We see a fear of birth in the US, and a huge cultural love of telling horror stories about labor and birth. We see more interest in elective cesareans (though elective first time cesareans are not significantly altering the rates). As VBACs are “allowed” in fewer and fewer places and malpractice issues continue to rise we see more and more women forced into surgeries they do not want or need. Our rates are heading right up to that of Brazil’s, and our maternal mortality rates will be sure to follow. A Cesarean increases the risk of death significantly in comparison to vaginal birth.

In comparison, the rate of cesarean in the UK is 25%, the Netherlands has a rate of 14%. As I stated before, the UK has 12/100,000 rate and the Netherlands 6/100,000 – rather interesting that as the rate of cesarean is almost half in the Netherlands and their rate of maternal death is also half that of the UK. While in some countries a higher cesarean rate does not correlate to a significantly higher mortality rate, those countries with very high rates of cesarean typically have higher (or rising) mortality rates.

We also cannot forget postnatal care. The postpartum period is one that needs care just as much as the prenatal time period. In the US, typically a woman is seen in the day or two after birth, at two weeks or so, and then at six weeks…and that is about it. This is simply not enough during this time of life when hormones are changing, the body is attempting to heal from creating another life, and things like retained placenta or clots can cause major issues. A much better plan of postpartum care must be put in place.

What Can We Do?

Be Educated. That is the number one thing you can do to not only help yourself have a safe pregnancy and birth, but also to help the women around you as well. When you learn, share the information. Break down the myths that pervade this culture – break down the assumption that VBACs are dangerous, or that “big babies” need surgical birth. Share the studies and articles you read.

Be Fearless. Help to eradicate fear of birth. Can birth end in tragedy? Yes. Unfortunately is does happen. But with proper and evidence-based care we give ourselves and our babies the best chance. Share the positive birth stories you hear. Share your positive birth. How does this help? It helps women to not fall into a fear based decision that increases her risks of complications – namely induction and cesarean. When a woman can start her pregnancy and birth journey from a positive place it gives her more space for growth and research. Absence of fear is not ignorance of risks – it is not being beholden to the fear of risk.

Those two things hand-in-hand – education and fearlessness – can go a long way towards helping this mortality rate go down. An educated woman is better able to avoid situations or care providers that increase her risks, and a fearless woman is better able to stand up for herself and decipher what is really in need of intervention and what is not without cultural fears clouding her view. Lets do our part to save mothers.

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Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

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And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2” measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2” or “almost 3” or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

Prepping for Your Home Birth Without Fear {The Ultimate List}

Prepping for Your Home Birth Without Fear {The Ultimate List}

One of the most common questions about homebirth from those considering it is, “What do you need?” While the list of supplies varies from midwife to midwife, there are some basic things that almost everyone is going to need to gather in preparation for the birth. There will also be things you will (probably) want to do for your comfort and peace of mind before “go time”. This is meant to be an Ultimate (I hope I thought of everything) List, but please don’t stress yourself to cover all the little extras. Birth really is pretty basic. This list is long and detailed so that you have a chance to consider everything you might want to do, not everything you have to do.

Early Prep

While not everyone plans a homebirth from the start, many women do. If you can get a head start on a few things it makes the final months much more peaceful. After you have lined up your midwife, get a head start on your prep.

One of the first things you can do is to create a peaceful space. (Right about now mothers of small children are laughing). If you know which room/area you plan to use then work in the early months to slowly declutter and create your space. Your nesting urge will come in handy with this as well.

If you have older children, you will want to decide if you want them at the birth or not. If you do there are things you can do to prep your child for the birth. Some things will depend on their age – for instance a one year old won’t need the same prep as a 5 year old. Older children may be interested in the mechanics of birth and understand more. You know your children best. Birth can be a beautiful family event if you decide to have your children there. And if you don’t think you want them there – no guilt! Everyone labors differently.

For younger children helpful prep includes books, videos, and role playing. There are a few children’s books out there that discuss homebirth, one of my favorites is called Hello Baby by Jenni Overend. It is beautifully illustrated and is great for little ones. Birth videos are also great for prepping kids. I previewed many, many homebirth videos on youtube and created a little playlist of those I thought my son could see. I included water births, “land” births, quiet moms, loud moms, and especially videos that included the whole family.

Speaking of “loud” moms – this is where the role playing comes in. While I was a very quiet laborer with my first born, I wasn’t sure if I would be again. We never know how labor will go (and I wasn’t quiet the second time, by the way). So we discussed as we watched the videos that mommy may “Roar”. I talked about roaring like a dinosaur or a lion. We had a lot of fun roaring at each other and I explained that if mommy roars it is okay – I am not hurting and it just means the baby is coming soon. Apparently this worked really well since my two year old was not phased at all by my roaring at the birth – and I was loud!

Another opportunity for prep and role play with little ones can include your midwife visits. Many homebirth midwives do home visits for prenatals or have offices that are child friendly. I made my son a little midwife kit of his own, including a little plush placenta I whipped up with some felt. During my appointments in our home he “helped” my midwife and we talked about the baby. All of this helps children feel included in this life changing event.

plush placenta

Now whether you decide to have your children at the birth or not, I highly suggest lining up a support person for them. If they are going to be taken somewhere else for the birth be sure they are comfortable at the location and with the support person. Also try to pick someone with a flexible schedule who can be “on call” for the birth.

If they are going to be staying with you for the birth then you need to pick a special person. You need to pick a person who is there just for the child/children. This means that if they need to leave the house or room and miss the birth, they will be 100% okay with that. I would suggest clearing this specifically with them, since in some cases support people at home births might be signing up in the hopes of being a spectator. This isn’t the point of a support person for the older child. Be sure to acclimate them to your routines and places they can go with your kids. Discuss car seats if they need to drive the children anywhere. While this may seem over-kill it will give peace of mind in the last weeks and while in labor. It also clears up your support team to work just for you during the birth and not have to split their attention.

You will also want to consider if you want a doula for your home birth. Be sure to set up an interview and get someone who you feel is comfortable in your home and is preferably experienced or knowledgeable about home birth. Another part of your team to consider is a birth photographer. Again, interview them and be sure they make you feel comfortable. It also helps if they understand home birth or have shot one before, since they have different highlights and flow than a hospital birth.

Almost to the Finish Line!

Once you hit about 32 weeks, order your birth kit. This may seem a bit early, but some companies take a few weeks to ship. Or, if you are lucky like me, it will get lost in the mail because apparently your house is invisible to UPS. This also gives time to clear up any issues if the order is wrong or missing something. You don’t want to be stressed at the last minute!

There are many places to order birth kits and your midwife may have a custom kit set up with a particular company. You can also order kits of your own making or a basic kit from places such a In His Hands or Baby, Birth and Beyond. *

Basic Supplies Include:

Now that is just a starter list, and as I mentioned above some midwives will want more or less or different items. Some additional items might be an herbal after bath, different herbal items (for cord care or afterpains), Depends-type underwear, and a “birth certificate” and foot printing kit. You can also take off items from a premade kit on most sites, and substitute in your own items. For instance you may get your own postpartum pads and “depends” (hey, those are handy the first day or so!). The one thing I suggest not skimping on is the chux pads. Most births require a good amount of them, and they are handy after birth too. I tend to use them for a couple months under my sheets to protect the mattress from breastmilk leaks in the night.

Once you have ordered your birth kit it gets exciting! You have all these cool things ready to go, so what do you do with them until the big day? Enter the plastic tote.

boxes

I love “totes”. Really – my house is full of these lovely plastic boxes. It makes everything look organized, even if you really just threw stuff in there eight years ago when company was coming over. But I digress. Plastic totes are perfect for organizing your birth supplies. The above picture is actually my birth supplies from my second birth. The top tote has all the little stuff. Here was my personal list:

  • Everything from the basic list above, plus a few additional items from my midwife’s list
  • Several hair ties (in a small plastic baggie, taped to the inside of the box)
  • Chapstick (in the small plastic baggie as well)
  • A roll of paper towels
  • My heating pads, both the plug-in version and my rice heat pack
  • A bath robe

The bottom tote has all the linens I would need. For the bed I had a fitted sheet and flat sheet, a plastic bed protector (I actually scored that at the dollar store), and a really old holey fitted sheet. I gathered four or five old towels I didn’t mind getting dirty or stained (none of them ended up stained) as well as several wash cloths. I also threw in a few pairs of underwear and a pair of socks. This box wasn’t so much about needing things set aside for me, it was more about having it set aside for my birth team. This way I could just say “check the tote” instead of explaining where my sock drawer was.

A note about the bed, and more experienced homebirth moms will know this already – prepare the bed whether you want to birth there or not. Labor is a funny thing and may not go the way you planned (as I found out myself!). The most convenient way to prepare the bed in my opinion is to make what I think of as a bed sandwich. When you go into labor, have your partner strip the bed. Then put on a fitted sheet and flat sheet that are clean and nice. Over this, put the plastic mattress protector (or large plastic shower curtain liner). Then over this put the crappy/holey/old fitted sheet you don’t mind messing up.

If you birth on the bed or get anything on it, you simply strip off the old sheet and protector and VOILA you have a clean and ready made bed underneath! It may sound odd but this was one of the best things after the birth was over. I ran to shower off and when I came back the bed was totally ready with minimal effort for my birth team.

Another great place to store your birth supplies for easy access is the pack-n-play or crib:

tamara birth supplies

Okay – so that is your supplies covered! That was easy.

The Last Weeks

Now there are just a few additional things you may want to do. One is a list. This list will be for your main birth partner. On this list include the steps you want them to take once labor starts. For me and my husband the list looked went something like this:

  • Call midwife (include number)
  • Call photographer (include number)
  • Call child care to give a “heads up” (include number)
  • Make bed
  • Empty washing machine
  • Hook up hose attachment for filling the birth tub, start to fill tub if in established labor

This list meant that I could concentrate on labor and not have to direct anything. I could get in “the zone”. I included the numbers on the paper just in case he couldn’t find them in my phone or his or if someone else was there doing the list instead. I didn’t include “call family” since we agreed we would not call family until the midwife had arrived and I gave the go-ahead. This was a lesson learned in our first birth that sometimes alerting family at the start of labor isn’t always the most peaceful thing to do if labor is long.

If you have a support person for your child, create a little cheat list for them of your child’s routine and favorite foods if they are not familiar with all of that. While the lists might seem over-kill, trust me that the less questions directed at you in labor the happier you will be. It also helps you avoid the little mini-panic that tends to happen in the last weeks when you realize that life is about change in a big way and you want to scream “I have no control” – yes, most pregnant mamas have been right there with you!

The next thing you will most likely want to do is a trial run on your birth tub, if you are using one. My friend and I both were very glad we did a dry run. For myself, we found out the tub had a slow leak and we created a plan for dealing with it. For my friend, she found this:

tamara tub hole

Yes – that is a giant hole. Apparently the plastic of the tub got brittle from the cold of the trunk it was stored in and it cracked. Since she looked at the tub around 36 weeks she had time to get a new tub from her midwife and do a dry run with that tub. Imagine if she had not inspected the tub until she was in labor! Doing a dry run also lets you see where you want to set it up and make space. Keep in mind you want room around the tub for your team to work and have access to you. Also figure out how you are going to fill the tub and think about how much hot water you will need. Some sinks may need an attachment to put a hose on it or may not have good water pressure. You can also fill your tub from the hot water heater or shower. If you are using your own built-in tub in your home, put some nesting skills to use and give it a good scrub down or have your partner do it (I vote for the partner).

tamara tub test

Another thing you may like to work on is affirmation cards. This would be a good activity for a quiet evening before baby comes or even as part of a baby shower or mother blessing. You can hang the cards around your birth space and even put some around the house where you will see them in the coming days (like on your bathroom mirror).

One of the final things you might want to do is be sure a space is clear for your midwife. Most midwives like to lay out their supplies if they have time before the birth is imminent. This can simply be a good patch of clean counter top or space on a bed in the birth area. If your kitchen looks like mine, a clear bit of counter space may mean moving your stand mixer under the cabinet or storing the blender or clearing the kitchen table (mine always ends up as a catch all). If you don’t have time to do this (or birth catches you by surprise) don’t worry, your midwife will find a good spot. Again, remember this is the Ultimate List – not the “stress about everything” list!

krystal midwife prep

You can also take a moment to set up all your postpartum supplies in the bathroom and by your bed. Myself and another friend I know created a breastfeeding station – nursing pads, nipple butter/lanolin, a good book, children’s books and small goodies (for the older child), and a nice water bottle. Some postpartum supplies you might like are a peri-bottle, pads in easy reach, herbal preparations (like those sold by Earth Mama Angel Baby), and over the counter pain medications for after pains (or herbal preparations). Always discuss medications or herbal options with your care provider.

krystal postpartum supplies

A small note about the cleaning that needs to be done. One midwife described it to me this way: “Clean like your Mother-in-Law is coming for a visit.” Basically, clean like you are having an overnight guest and then just take some extra care in a couple key places – your birth space and the tub/shower you may want to use. There is no need to over sanitize and totally tear apart your home in preparation for a home birth, just keep clean and neat. A great investment if you have it in the budget (or have an amazing friend) is to have someone come in and do a nice deep clean around 36 or 37 weeks.

Now you have all the preparation done. You have a peaceful birth space; you have your tub ready to blow up and know how you are going to fill it. You have your support team ready and affirmation cards made. Now you can relax and focus on that moment. That sweet, sweet moment when you hold your baby for the first time. Birth Blessings mamas! Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

krystal home birth

*Please note Birth Without Fear does not have an affiliation with any birth supply companies and these are only suggestions.

**Last three photos credited to Aperture Grrl Photography.

Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

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