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Birth Of Elsie {Homebirth Story With Siblings}

Birth Of Elsie {Homebirth Story With Siblings}

We were just waiting for the Braxton Hicks contractions to turn into the real deal so we could get our daughter here.  Sunday morning was spent with the church family and then the afternoon was spent with Greg’s family celebrating his mom’s 55th birthday.

I was feeling pretty good and honestly didn’t feel like I’d see my daughter anytime in the next few days.  I was nervous that when it was finally time that Greg would be late getting home and I’d labor alone, that the midwife would barely get there in time, and that everything would happen so fast, I wouldn’t hardly remember the experience!  Needless to say, that was not what occurred.

Greg decided to go ahead and get the pool set up and ready. That way if I did start my labor before he got home, I could easily start filling the pool up on my own.  We all nestled into bed pretty early and I was sleeping pretty sound until 1:43 AM.

I was awakened by an uncomfortable contraction and spent the next hour and a half pacing about trying to be sure if I was really in pain before I bothered waking up Greg.  I got out a journal and start writing down times and lengths of contractions, and finally decided about 3:30 to wake him up and call in the midwife and my parents.

Everyone arrived about five that morning. Danette and Caroline, her sweet apprentice, began monitoring Elsie’s heartbeat and my blood pressure.  My BP was slightly raised, so after a homeopathic dose of calcium and magnesium, I returned to my left side to relax through some more contractions.  That all worked, as my blood pressure lowered, and the more relaxed I stayed, the more intense the contractions were.

My mom got to work fixing some biscuits and gravy from scratch, and my husband quickly decided we needed to do this more often if it meant eating my mom’s cooking for breakfast!  I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor and spent most of the morning just nestled into my room breathing through contractions.

(Remember me talking about The Sphincter Law before? I honestly wasn’t worried this would effect me in the privacy of my own home.  I pretty much figured I have enough control over my mind and body that once labor started, I would get in the zone and be good to go.  Well, that was not the case.)

By the afternoon, with contractions still 10 minutes apart, and losing intensity at times, we thought a walk around the neighborhood would help. It did not help at all.  In fact, I felt as though everything was being put on hold.  I stayed out in the kitchen chatting with everyone and went almost 30 minutes without anything happening.

So, with Danette’s encouragement I went back to my room with my headphones in, music up, and only the company of my husband, and at times Emma.  As long as no one else was around my body would allow contractions to come up to eight minutes apart and last over a minute.  However, oddly enough, even if my sweet mama would come into the room, everything would stop.  I really got to experience how little control I had over my body’s birthing plan.

Jamie Buckland 1-2

 So, with the afternoon turning into the evening, my body slowly worked on getting Elsie lined up for her big debut.  For years Greg and I had told Emma that if/when we ever had another baby, the new little one would be in between us instead of her, and she would have to be prepared for that.  So, with the last few hours of her being the baby dwindling away, she nestled in between us to make the most of it.  We chatted about what Elsie would look like as she drew pictures, and then Greg would hold her really still as I would hum through my contractions.

Jamie Buckland 2-2

Everyone was pretty tuckered out after an eventful, yet still uneventful day.  The kids camped out in the living room with my parents and Danette and Caroline made themselves at home in the kids’ beds.  And that is how it was, still and quiet, until around 12:30am on Tuesday morning.

Finally, the contractions were coming on nice and strong!  Hooray!  I was up pacing back and forth, and then every eight minutes or so, I would bend over the bed to hum through what was now what I would consider active labor.  I woke Greg up and Danette heard us stirring around.

It was time to start boiling water for the cooled off pool and a wardrobe change as I got ready to get in the water.  Danette had told me we would hold off on getting into the pool until I couldn’t get comfortable any other way. I was at that point.  I crawled into the birth pool around 1:15am Tuesday morning and prepared myself to crawl out of it when no longer pregnant.

As soon as I got in the water, a contraction came on super strong. Then about two minutes later, another one, and that was the pace for the next two hours. My body was so relaxed in the water that I was completely out of control and the human ejection process had begun!

The water definitely helped me handle the intensity of the pain, so I just hummed away as my mind kept repeating things like, ‘and this too shall pass’, over and over.  The last 30 minutes were totally overwhelming.  I felt completely out of control during the contractions and proclaimed I felt like I was suffocating and couldn’t catch my breath.  Danette reminded me to relax and not let my contractions get ahead of me, so back to the humming and focusing.

This entire 25 hours of labor, Danette did not “check me”.  We did not know how dilated I was at any point in time.  My body was completely in control of the process, and although I felt helpless for those last few minutes, the empowerment I felt when it was all over was totally worth it!

I threw up my yummy snacks from the long day of labor as I transitioned through those last few centimeters, and started shaking as my body prepared to deliver my beautiful little girl into her daddy’s awaiting hands.  Danette gave me some ginger candy to help with the nausea, and I was really thankful, even asking for another piece to get me through the end.

Danette had a pitcher and would pour water over my back through my contractions while my husband was sitting on a stool in front of me holding my hands, and I was bent over the edge of the pool on my knees.  My mom and Caroline were patiently awaiting the progression, and my dad and kids were still fast asleep.

I remember looking over my shoulder once and finding my mother shedding big tears as she tried to deal with her baby girl being in so much pain, but the midwife was quick to comfort her and assure her all was well.

With all the controversy surrounding our decision to birth at home, I want to make it clear that I never once had any worry about my health, or the well being of my baby through the entire process.  My mind never once wandered into those dark thoughts, and I praise the good Lord for bathing the entire ordeal with His wonderful grace.

About 10 minutes before Elsie found her way to daddy’s hands, Danette told me I could check to see if I felt her head.  My water still hadn’t ruptured, and it was obvious I was feeling her sac cushioning her head in it’s descent.  With the next contraction I exclaimed that I felt like I could push.  So, I did.

On the second push, I felt my water break. Seconds later ,I announced her head was out.  Greg was scurrying around from being in front of me to getting behind me and Danette was getting the flashlight on so they could indeed see if she was on her way out!  Her head had been delivered, and with ease her little body followed just in time for Greg to reach down and lift her up out of the water.

They carefully helped me roll over onto my bottom where I stayed for the next hour.  Greg laid my sweet Elsie right onto my chest as I expressed my sheer delight that my baby girl and I had worked so hard together, and now here she was!  She immediately began to root and kick, lifting her head and bobbing around to begin suckling.  My sweet girl latched right on and has been an expert nurser from the beginning.

The after pains were pretty harsh. We waited 45 minutes for the cord to finish its beautifully engineered job, and then Danette clamped it for Greg to cut it.  Then miss Elsie got to go cuddle with her papa as they helped me get out of the pool and into my robe so I could get in the bed to rest.

Jamie Buckland 3-2

Moments later, it happened. As Emma looked on from her daddy’s chest, little Elsie took her place in between mommy and daddy.  And like that, the process I had anticipated for so long was over. My little babe who I’d dreamt about for years was finally lying here in her home, in my bed, in the blankets I had washed just weeks before.  We were complete.

And now Emma seemed so much older and much more mature.

 Jamie Buckland 4-2

The Big “E” seemed much bigger as he nestled the new little “E”.

Jamie Buckland 5-2

Elsie will be a few weeks old in just a few hours, and I’ve gotten to share our experience with some of our close friends and family. Some have been curious about how I felt afterwards.  I can honestly say it was a much easier recovery than with Ethan or Emma.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at just how good I have felt.  I did have a small tear, but never had any discomfort from it whatsoever.  Danette had made me a brew up of some comfrey root, which worked wonderfully.

Some have asked now that it is all over, will we be trying to conceive again, and if so, will I birth at home again? The answers are yes, and yes. We plan on trying for #4 when Elsie is a little over a year old, and yes, I plan on inviting my new favorite midwife, Danette, back into my home to attend the birth of our next child.  Looking back, I am so thankful everything went just as it was.  Even with labor lasting just over a day, I feel so blessed Greg and I got to spend that time together as we waited for her arrival.

A big thanks to all of you who have supported us through this journey! And of course a huge thank you to BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR for all the information and stories that helped me along this journey.  If you want to read more about why we chose a home birth, you can read about my first two pregnancies and why I felt so passionate about sharing this experience.

{By Jamie Buckland}

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

Mothering the Mother, Part III: Postpartum Plan {now, with kittens}

Mothering the Mother, Part III: Postpartum Plan {now, with kittens}

I wrote this post just after getting back from the inaugural Birth Without Fear conference almost a year ago. The dust had settled, baby E was back on her (haywire, semi-self-directed) routine, and I had finally stopped wearing my lanyard. I took a few minutes to reflect on my experience and gloat over my new Beco. What was it like? What did I learn? 

It was like this: the whole thing was nothing short of amazing. I got to meet women whose names I would recognize anywhere but whose voices were foreign to me. Some (the other BWF admins/contributors) were already close friends and meeting them felt strangely uneventful: they are who I thought they were, and they are perfect. Others, I knew only that I liked them – that I usually read their comments, that I tended to click ‘like’ (Piper! Dani! Laney! Molly!) – but little else. Seeing their faces, their families, their enthusiasm for birth choices, well… I was basically crying a little bit in my mouth all weekend.

Something powerful happens when women come together to support each other. Something tear-filled, something messy, something noisy and peaceful; it’s a soft chuckle and a baby’s wail and a hug from someone who loves you all at the same time.

It’s great. We should do it again sometime. ((We are doing it again sometime, and that time is October 25-26!))

Lots of beautiful pictures have been posted on the BWF Facebook page, including this one from Leilani Rogers (love that lanyard!).

Leilani Rogers, BWF Conference 2013

I had a great time on stage, presenting my talk on postpartum care, Mothering the Mother and just generally making a fool out of myself, sponsored by the Beauty “We Don’t Suck In Our Bellies” Revealed Project. No pictures survive from this 45-minute section of the conference and I absolutely, 100% most certainly did not bribe the photographers to make this happen.

Svea Boyda-Vikander Mothering the Mother

I talked about nursing lingerie, feminism, motherhood as political activism, birth in America, postpartum traditions historically and cross-culturally, and how even them tougher-than-guts pioneer ladies didn’t do postpartum alone (no! they had friends who looked after them on rotation for two weeks! the term ‘gossip’ comes from the words ‘god-sib’, meaning a sibling who takes care of you and makes you laugh). And, thanks to a seriously 1990’s last-minute powerpoint presentation prepared by my awesome husband, I showed some kittens.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 6.34.05 PM

 I also handed out a draft of a four-week postpartum plan. It is based on an idea I learned in my Stillbirthday Doula training of birth as a five-stage process – active labor, pushing, afterbirth, the first three days of baby’s life when colostrum is produced; and the first six weeks when bonding is solidifying and breastfeeding may be established. This plan can assist the mother and her community in providing care that works for her during the last two stages. It can and should be adapted to each woman’s individual circumstances. In fact, I’d love to hear what changes you would make to it. As always, let us know in the comments.*

*I would be particularly honoured to hear from families who have birthed their babies via C-section or adopted. This plan was written with vaginal birthing mamas in mind and I’m sure there are special considerations it does not touch on.

A downloadable version is available here.
Feel free to use and reproduce at will with credit to me (Svea Boyda-Vikander-of-the-Kittens) and Birth Without Fear.

Mothering the Mother: A PostPartum Plan

Svea Boyda-Vikander, Birth Without Fear Conference 2013

Names (both parents):

Guess Date:

Baby’s older siblings:

The Basics:

Food:

How will you get your meals?

How will your pantry be filled?

What are baby’s older siblings’ food likes/dislikes?

Do you plan to breastfeed? Who can you call if you encounter challenges?

Sleep:

What will your sleeping arrangements be? For the first week? The first month?

Do you plan to swaddle your newborn? Do you know how?

How many hours/day will mama nap?

How many pairs of pyjamas does mama have? Is this enough?

Do older siblings have any sleep difficulties or special routines?

Diapering:

How will newborn be diapered? Where will the diapers come from?

If cloth diapering, how will the diapers be cleaned? Any special instructions?

Are older siblings potty-trained?

More Basics:

Bonding with Baby:

What do you need in order to bond with your baby? (Mama and Papa)

Will you engage in specific activities to help with bonding (babywearing, co-bathing, etc.)?

Looking after Older Children:

Who will care for the older siblings?

When? How?

What are your children’s special needs and preferences? (e.g. “Azuro has recently been potty-trained. It is normal and expected that he will have some regressions (accidents) in this time. Clean-up supplies can be found [here]. His toys and activities are kept [here]. His YouTube playlist of favourite videos is online [here])

Mama’s Physical Health:

How long do you intend to stay in bed?

How long do you intend to refrain from strenuous activity?

How long do you need someone to be at home with you (to ensure no crises)?

Mama’s Emotional Health:

What do normal ‘babyblues’ look like to you?

How would you like your babyblues to be handled?

Visitors:

Who is welcome to visit? When? For how long? Who asks them to leave?

What do you want visitors to do?

What do you want visitors to not do?

How will visitors keep your baby healthy? (e.g. “Please wash hands on arrival at the house, please refrain from visiting if you are feeling sick.”)

Who will announce the birth? To whom?

 ——–

The next Birth Without Fear Conference is October 25-26 in Austin, TX. I won’t be there (I’m interning at the fabulous Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco) but shucks, you should go.

{Part I is here and Part II here.}

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

This is a picture of my 15 month old and my belly. It has been well over a year, and I have slowly and peacefully accepted that my belly is going to be floppy and riddled with stretch marks for a very long time.

bwfblog

She has helped me accept my body.  When she nurses, she often caresses my soft, pillowy belly roll.  She does not care about the stretch mark scars or the flap that I have to tuck into my waistband. She often pulls up her shirt to excitedly exclaim, “belly!”, then tickle herself and laugh and laugh. She does it to me sometimes, too.  She strokes my stomach gently, so lovingly as she falls asleep.  She loves my belly, so I have come to love it – hesitantly, sometimes begrudgingly.  But if she can love it unconditionally, so can I.

When is Being a Mother Going to Be Enough?

When is Being a Mother Going to Be Enough?

The short answer is, it always has been.

Mothers, we have the hardest and most important job. It’s that simple and true. That job alone is monumental, ever changing, priceless and too great to put in a status update. It’s THAT big. 

On top of this, we work, serve, sleep little, support our spouses, and take on extra responsibilities. 

We need to slow down. We are over doing it. I completely put myself in this category too. It is unhealthy to never slow down, to not sleep enough, and to not enjoy the small stuff.

We all know how hard days can be and that life is not perfect. We already have enough to work on without adding to our load. What we seem to have forgotten is that our purpose in life is already HUGE.

It’s OK to use our talents for other things, of course. I do! However, while I feel ‘balance’ is a word we chase without ever catching, we can prioritize. We really can. We may say we are too busy or that we can’t because of x-y-z, but we can.

It’s a choice.

It feels like a hard one. I have gotten very little sleep the last few years with post partum depression and working on BWF being my best “excuses.” As I watch friends, acquaintances and people in general overdo it, I realize I am as well. I don’t want health problems, or to not be present with my children. For what? A few extra dollars or recognition? To be able to glorify being busy?

No thank you.

Raising my children to be amazing, successful, loving adults is the best thing I can do for this world. It is the best thing you can do for this world. It’s the best thing we can do for each other.

By slowing down, I have gotten more rest and sleep. My anxiety is reducing and I am truly enjoying ‘normal’ days with my family.

Go on lazy walks, take naps or watch a show while your kids rest, have a playdate with a friend, go to bed early, spend less time on social media, have a date night with your spouse, etc. Be present for YOU.

We can do other things, but we must take care of our minds and bodies and prioritize. I hope that I can continue to do this and inspire a few of you to do the same. 

And remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Only you and your spouse/partner know what is best for you and that even changes as life does. We can’t begin to explain what we have been through or are going through to justify our choices to others. So simply just do what is best for your family.

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Image: BWF LLC ©

Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

I recently posted about this new rad camera Canon sent me. Check it out here. I am an iPhone picture taker, but having this on hand has been a game changer!

Canon Canada is releasing a new app to help parents capture sweet memories of baby’s first year! This time is such a flies by so quickly, that it’s easy to forget to do so. I took one look at the app suggestions and knew just what to do! I asked a bunch of local moms with adorable babies to meet up at a park so we could get the cutest baby pictures ever!

Here are some inspired by the Canon Canada app. I’m not a professional photographer and these are not edited. We just had fun with beautiful families and a Canon Rebel SL1 and 50mm lens. Not to mention, these moms are happy to have these moments captured on camera to save forever.

First steps.

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And dirt.

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Kids usually love swings! This little guy had other thoughts.

You think he’s smiling…

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But don’t be fooled.

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He was so mad at us, but capturing these pictures was hilarious and great!

So we tried again with this cute little one and…SUCCESS!

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Love that little foot and smile in the background.

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Some babies love tummy time, some can’t stand it. This adorable baby loved it!

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Oh, but first we had to wake him up. Haha, thank goodness for a fast camera so we were able to capture it.

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Inbetween our sessions, I captured these candid moments between one mom and her son.

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The amount of bonding, releasing of hormones, growth and love by simply holding your baby is not only incredible, but important.

We have the dad hold.

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The gazing and smiling into each other’s eyes.

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Breastfeeding on the go.

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The hip hold.

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And of course we can’t forget baby wearing!

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Parenthood can be a blur and it’s hard to remember precious moments just as they are. If you can capture them, it will help you remember these sweet moments you otherwise may not (in such detail). Yes, put the phone down and soak in this time, but sometimes pick up a great camera and record the every changing first year (and beyond) of baby’s life!

What other special moments did you make sure to capture of your baby’s first year? Follow up post to come!

All photos copyright of BWF, LLC. Post sponsored in party by Canon Canada.

I Am Strong {Because I Am A Mom}

I Am Strong {Because I Am A Mom}

I am strong because I got pregnant after being married for only a few months. I was told I would never be able to carry a baby inside my womb and it live.

I am strong because I prayed for my child every night. Because I had three previous miscarriages because of my unique issues.

I am strong because I stopped taking all of my PTSD & depression medication because it wasn’t safe for my baby. I am strong because I battled demons from my last to ensure that my child wouldn’t have any kind of medication that could harm him in utero.

I am strong because at 22 weeks I fell. My baby stopped moving and I started to bleed. I am strong because I prayed all the way to the hospital & during the very long ultrasound to be told my placenta had torn but everything was OK.

I am strong because I was put on bed rest and was fired from my job. I fought tooth & nail & won my unemployment because of wrongful termination. I am strong because of the financial hardships & stress.

I am strong because at 29 weeks I started to notice my mucus plug was coming out & I went into preterm labor. I developed severe pre-eclampsia and was monitored closely. I am strong because I drove 3x a week with my mother, 70 mi round trip for BPP ultrasounds & urine analysis tests.

I am strong because at 32weeks I was told it was time & I only had 30min to prepare. I welcomed the most perfect little boy into the world Via emergency C-section On 11-21-11 because my blood pressure was 210/156. He came out screaming, weighing only 4lbs 5oz and 15in long – perfectly healthy.

I am strong because in recovery I started to seize because of my blood pressure. I had 6grand maul seizures. I was immediately cut & had a central line placed into my jugular & given many medicines to keep me alive & to stop my tachycardia (extremely high heart rate ). I was placed on a magnesium drip & bed bound, unable to stand, eat or move.

I am strong because for three days I wasn’t allowed to see MY son. I am strong because I lay in bed praying & watching my family & close friends bring me pictures & exclaim how perfect my son was in NICU. I am strong because I cried myself to sleep without him near me.

I am strong because I stood up and walked to the door when they said I was allowed to see him. I didn’t care about a chair, I didn’t wait… I didn’t care about my C-section pain or the bleeding… I just needed to hold my baby. I wasn’t waiting anymore.

I am strong because He was in NICU 5weeks before coming home. I am strong because I had little help in home from his father when He did come home. (Thank god for my mother & bff) I was a new mom with an infant who was microscopic to me. I am strong because I took care of him with an apnea monitor even though I had No previous baby experience. Because he had bad reflux & choked. I am strong because I didn’t make milk but we still did skin to skin & He suckled until everything I had completely dried up. I am strong because I followed my instincts & co-slept until he was 11mo old.

I am strong because I’m now a single mom on my own with a very rambunctious, super smart, healthy 35in tall, 29lb 21mo old. I am strong because I am a mom.

Elizabeth

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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.

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part I)

Hospital Trauma and Healing at Home: A Story of Two Births (Part I)

**Trigger Warning: This post narrates a traumatic birth.**

Sarah Robertson-Barnes, former contributor to the Pregnant and/or Parenting Through Adoption/Infertility/Loss (PAIL) blog collective and writer of Little Chicken Nuggets, shares two birth stories with us. With grace and humor she here describes the challenges of being pregnant after infertility and loss, and the traumatic hospital birth of her son, HGB. Tomorrow, Sarah will share the triumphant and healing home birth of her second son (a surprise pregnancy!), whom she calls MJB.

“After two miscarriages and a bunch of fertility treatments, I am pregnant with HGB. Being convinced that I will complete the miscarriage trifecta within the year, I am too terrified to even consider seeking the care of a midwife which is what I want deep down in my heart. Instead, I stick with the OB sub-practice within my family health team. Because, you know, they can totally prevent random early miscarriage.

The crippling anxiety and depression, coupled with an unbearable interpersonal situation, make my experience of pregnancy almost intolerable.  And I have an easy, textbook pregnancy, so what is my problem? I can hardly admit it out loud, even to my husband, BJB. Being told that I should just get over it because “(I) am getting what (I) want” is dismissive, devastating, and mean. I don’t really believe that I will have a real, live baby until about 35 weeks. At that point, it is too late to transfer under the care of a midwife though I deeply desire a natural, unmedicated birth. In the hospital. In case of everything that could possibly go wrong. The things you cannot un-know.

We prepare for our delivery by going to the pre-natal classes at the hospital. They are… the worst. Honestly, they should just call them “Fear Mongering 101” at that place and be done with it. So, no beuno. I am reading all the Ina May I can find and even go to see her speak when I am about 37 weeks. I come out of that talk totally zen, all Earth Mother, confident, and full of crunch.

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My friend Carla (a doula!) is incredibly supportive and talks me down frequently. I will show the hospital what’s what! I write a birth preferences document of which, I will soon discover, NOBODY reads a word. I prepare for my birthing time privately with my yoga teacher. I decline the membrane sweep. I am going to have a natural birth and that will reclaim all that infertility and pregnancy loss have stolen from me, dammit. NO PRESSURE.

I am “due” on May 27. On May 28 I lie down after lunch to have a nap. I wake up at about 4:00pm feeling like I am getting the worst period ever. The sensation doesn’t stop, but holds steady for about two hours. I am pacing the apartment like a wild animal in complete and total denial that this is IT. I was told there would be WAVES. That there would be REST in between. That early labour could last for DAYS. Instead, I have a contraction for three straight hours with no respite. I can’t stand up, or sit down, or lie down. I can only sit in the bathtub until I FREAK OUT and start pacing again. My husband, BJB, says, “Um… I’m just going to call triage for a second.” He comes back and says, “Yeah. You are in active labour. Time to go!” AWESOME! So we pack the hospital bag (I KNOW! But everything was out on the kitchen table, just not physically in the bag. I do NOT recommend this!) and get in the car. To the hospital!

7:45 pm: Longest. Car ride. Ever. (Actual duration = 8 – 10 minutes).

8:00 pm – At the hospital, we go to the Preggo Intake Holding Room where they hook me up to the monitor and check me. 6cm! WOOT! Other than the fact that I am still having this LONG ASS CONTRACTION, I am killing this! A doctor shows up, and despite “meeting all the doctors” in our group practice, I have never seen her before in my life. She turns out to be lovely, but I am unimpressed/horrified/UPSET in the moment.

9:00 pm – Runaway Freight Train Contraction stops and I have this weird 15 minutes of lucidity where I feel awesome and totally normal. And then WHAM! Right back on the train for another three hours. But, 8 cm! Nurse assures me I’ll be “done” by midnight. I don’t know which nurse, because despite being told you are assigned one nurse for a whole shift, this is the fourth one I have seen in two hours.

12:00 am – 9.5 cm. FREAKING OUT. I am panicking. There are NO breaks in between my pressure waves. Because there are no waves. It is one giant wave – a tsunami. I suddenly decide I need an epidural NOW. RIGHT NOW. I am no longer able to mentally cope with the amount of pain I am in with nary a 30 second break. The devastation I feel over “giving up” makes it so much better! Blerg.

2:00 am – First stab (literally) at epidural fails. Second one takes. Anesthesiologist  is a total bitch. Oh, you are “very busy” and I am “not cooperating”? Cool. You should try being meaner, that might help. I have a human being trying to get out of my body while I’m trying to sit still.

4:00 am – I am now being told that I am “failing to progress” as I am still at 9.5cm. They start talking Pitocin. I start crying. Nay, SOBBING. Because everyone is looking at the monitor and nobody is looking at the human woman in the bed. BJB talks to the doctor in the hallway and declines. They bring it up a few more times. Finally, at 6:00 am I say for the first of many times, through sobs, “Fine. Just do it.” so that everyone can stop talking about me like I am not there and I can have a moment’s peace.

7:00 am – Shift change. Dr. Asshole is now on duty and takes over. And by that, I mean he flicks the light on and barges in in the middle of a check. Hey guy! I know you’ve seen 2987329873 vaginas, but we just met. You could fucking knock.

11:00 am – I am told it is time to start pushing or I am looking at a C-section. Dr. Asshole says I am “on the clock” and I have two hours. NO PRESSURE. Cue a lot of people yelling “Push! Push! Push! Push!” while pushing my legs up to my ears and looking at the goddamn monitor. I don’t even know where BJB is anymore. Lights are on full blast. There must be 10 people in here. At least.

1:00 pm – Still pushing! Still being screamed at. Dr. Asshole now tells me that he wants to put in the fetal scalp monitor for a “clearer picture”. I am looking at BJB sobbing, “No no no no no” and Dr. says “Fine. It’s your life, do whatever you want. But you’ve got 10 minutes to push this baby out or we’re heading to the OR.” Sounds like a valid reason to me. And so I lie back, defeated, and sob, “Fine. Just do it.”

1:10 pm – No baby, but he’s literally right there. Dr. Asshole is telling me, “Time’s up!” when some resident suggests a vacuum extraction. Dr. Asshole says they have one shot. Feet in stirrups! More yelling! Can we get more people in the room please? Make it a little brighter? MORE YELLING!

1:13 pm – HGB is born! I assume. I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see him. BJB says they cut his cord and took him right to the warming table, where he was FINE. They rubbed and wrapped him up – no skin-to-skin for you! At least BJB brought him over to me. I did the placenta thing and got stitched up, still in the stirrups. Suddenly, everyone was gone and I had a cheese sandwich and ginger ale. And a BABY! Huzzah!

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Which means it is now time to get in the elevator with people off the street and go up to the maternity ward, where everyone will just waltz into your room and squeeze your nipples.

And now, the EMOTIONS…

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All in all, I realize that this birth experience is not “that bad”, at least in physical terms. Believe me, I am fully aware that it “could have been much worse.” What I struggle with, still, is how I was treated during my birthing time. I felt like a patient, not a person (on kind of the most important day of her life). I did not feel supported, comfortable, or safe in the hospital. At times, I felt abandoned, bullied, and threatened. I felt helpless. I was told I was failing. I do not feel that I was afforded  any dignity.

None of these conditions make for an ideal birthing environment. I wonder how different the same circumstances would have been with adequate compassion and support from the birth team. For months afterward, I felt so guilty and ashamed that I was feeling this way when “at least” I had a baby. Every so often, I would have a breakdown to BJB about what a total failure I was as a wife, mother, and woman. He would assure me that I was NOT, but really, I was. That is how it felt. After all the failures in trying to even conceive this baby, I couldn’t even birth him properly. I had failed again.

That feeling of failure was REAL and pervasive. Another in a long list of failures in my journey through infertility and loss. I believe that it influenced my early bonding with HGB and contributed greatly to my very serious PPD episode. Trying to talk about a negative birth experience is very difficult, particularly when it is a non-emergency situation. While folks are trying to be helpful, platitudes like “Just be happy/grateful that at least you have a beautiful baby!” are not helpful. It made me feel even more guilty and ashamed that I couldn’t “just” be happy. And so, for the most part, I have stayed silent for the better part of two years.

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To be clear, I feel much better about this now. I have forgiven myself for things that were beyond my control. I have found a few women my age (with similarly aged children) to discuss it with who are loving and understanding. And I’ve been to a LOT of therapy. Writing this out, finally, is part of that. I hope that if even one woman reads this and sees herself that it brings her some peace, lets her know she is not alone. That her feelings are legitimate and I wish I could hug her.

My previous birthing experience led me down a very different path in terms of prenatal care and choice of birthing place for my next baby. I am going with my gut this time, and I think it is going to make a world of difference.”

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