Monday, January 10, 2011

A Birth Story

This blog has fallen by the wayside, and I now have my sweet 6-week-old Camille sitting on my lap as I finalize her birth story:
My last belly pic, taken at 35 weeks (two weeks before the birth)
4:10 pm or so on thanksgiving (nov 25th, I was 37 weeks to the day), I was goofing around on the computer and postponing a trip to the bathroom. When I just coudln't take it anymore I stood up to go to the bathroom and I felt a small pop and a small gush- I figured it was CM until I got to the bathroom and realized my undies were soaked and even some of my pants were too. I called to Kenny to let him know I think my water had broken but wasn't sure (two of my friend had suspected their waters had broken only to discover they had peed themselves instead). Kenny got a little panicky and asked what to do, but I decided to go lay down a while and see if a broken water became more apparent, and it did- when I stood up there was another gush. So I put on the depends diapers (ugh) and called the midwife. She told me to rest now and call her when contractions started. I figured we had a couple hours, since with Daniel's labor, they broke my water and two hours later I had real contractions.
We called the family members, I called Cristin and Marissa (my "birthteam"). We had our thanksgiving "feast" of ham steak and Hawaiian sweet roll,then Kenny went to work about setting up the birthtub in the kitchen. He didn't realize there was a liner, so he started filling it with water then we had to drain it out and redo it with the liner. It's a bit frustrating for both of us, but also kind of comical.

We figured contractions would begin at any moment- I was so surprised that they took so long to come. Cristin, my "semi-doula" came over around 8. We watched Business of Being Born while she rubbed my feet with coconut oil, it was heavenly- but still no contractions. She gave me some homeopathy stuff to get contractions going, then I sent her home so I could nap a bit. I went to sleep around 11pm. I woke up at 12:30 just enough to note a rougher contraction, then dozed until 1 when I couldn't sleep through them anymore. I came out to the living room to count contractions and found kenny asleep on the couch. I remember sitting on the floor next to my sleeping husband as contractions started to get more intense and petting the dog. It was very peaceful.
I spent as many contractions as possible on my hands and knees in the hope that the baby would find a good position. My first labor, the baby has been posterior and I wanted to avoid that this time. It seems to have worked.
Around 2 am, I was having enough contractions to call the midwife and birthteam over, so I did. They got there, listened to the baby's heart, checked my blood pressure, and I started needing to lean on the couch while kneeling to get through contractions:

Things picked up quicky so I got into the birthtub and it felt wonderful. The water had miraculously stayed warm in the 8 or so hours since it had been filled.

I quickly resume my kneeling position and leaned on the edge of the tub

Cristin rubbed my shoulders during contractions, that seemed the most helpful thing she could do for me. Kenny helped out too, though his was a less active role (as I expected it would be).

I experimented with making noises through the contractions, mostly settling on "lalalalala oooooooooooo lalalalala" (my French language background coming through, I guess). I never felt out of control and was chatting in between contractions right up until the end.
Around 4 am, I started feeling nauseous. This was unexpected. I never throw up and never felt that way with my first labor. I didn't end up throwing up, but this was a sign to me that I was in transition and the baby would come soon. Within a few minutes I thought I felt the need to push, and told the midwife so. She responded simply "then push, you don't need MY permission!"
I never once had a cervical check, but I trusted my body. I pushed. Within a few contractions I could feel the head in the canal, it was happening so fast (I pushed for 2 hours with my first labor). I had planned on "laboring down" to let myself stretch a bit (hoping to avoid another tear) but in the moment I completely forgot.
I remember thinking "I can't do this!" then hearing my own mind respond "of course you can, you ARE doing it, right now!" It felt like her head must already be out, she was so RIGHT THERE, but they assured me she was not.
A few more pushes and she was! The midwife "caught" her then put in her my hands under water and I pulled her up between my legs. She was covered in vernix but bright-eyed and so sweet.

The time of birth was declared to be 4:17 am, and I realized I had not looked at a clocked once since 2 am. I was so happy- I felt that with my first birth, so much emphasis had been put on how long things took, so I had made a goal of covering all the clocks but in the end there was no need.

The midwife gave me a warm towel and checked her heart immediately as she laid on my chest, where she stayed as I delivered the placenta.

I then got to really look at her for the first time. She had a powdering of brown hair, and dark blue eyes, dainty little hands and feet. So different from my son. Her lips were a bit swollen from the birth process and I remember thinking she looked much like my paternal Grandma (who was in her late 90s when she passed):

They handed her to Kenny while I got out of the tub and dried off a bit. He was so excited:

They set me up on the couch and handed me her to nurse for the first time, she took to it like a champ.

During that time, Danniele set up an herbal bath in our master bath room for baby and I to take together. She was so pretty and pink and was looking a bit less like grandma :) and I fell in love. She's a beautiful baby.

Afterwards they stitched me up on my bed (4 deep stitches along the lines of my scar from the first birth)- oh did that hurt! I was far more vocal through that then I had been in labor. I had had many many more stitches than that after having my son, but had been anesthetized (which is likely why I tore in the first place) and don't remember them.
While I was being stitched, baby Camille was taken out to meet her big brother, who had just woken up from a normal night's sleep to find his house full of strange people. He seemed to immediately understand that this was the baby from mommy's tummy and his baby sister:

Finally we weighed her- 7 pounds, 2 ounces

After a few hours, we noticed the area around her lips kept going gray- you can see it a bit in this pic:

She'd get pinker while on the midwife's oxygen, then go gray again. This can be a sign of heart problems (cyanosis) so we called around to find a pediatrician to look at her. None were open and the oxygen was running out, so we opted to go to the ER instead.
We were the spectacle of the ER- they never see brand new babies, that all happens upstairs at L&D. Everyone was shocked I was in such good shape and walking around so soon after birth. All the ER staff gathered in the hall to see the "homebirth baby", but everyone was respectful and congratulatory. None of their equipment was meant for little bitty babies, but eventually we could see that even when she was gray, her heartrate and oxygen level were great.

They took an x-ray then took us up to the NICU to await the results. They told me because we were a homebirth we were going to be kept in isolation so as to not infect the hospital babies (I remember thinking "no, we should be kept in isolation sot he hospital babies don't infect MY baby" but whatever). The x-ray showed a potential abnormality (NOT what I wanted to hear) so next they did an echocardiogram. Normally ultrasound techs aren't supposed to "diagnose" anything, but ours was a very friendly guy who, after hearing our story, said "you had a successful homebirth and are walking around 4 hours later... you deserve to hear that everything looks 100% normal". Whew! Then they moved us to our own large room in the pediatrics unit so we could be observed. By this time, she was staying pink on her own pretty well, but they want to keep us overnight for observation (I tried to talk them out of it, but she kept spitting up amniotic fluid and each time her heart did funky things so we stayed around.) I stayed the night alone while Kenny went home to be with Daniel.
The next morning they sent us home with the completely clean bill of health. Though I'm disappointed we ended up at the hospital (partially because of the financial implications), I'm thrilled with how the birth went, and I'm glad to be proof that homebirthers don't take unnecessary risks and go to the hospital when things look questionable. It was relaxed, I felt in control, I feel I kept my dignity, I didn't have to fight to get the birth I wanted. It was an amazing experience, I wish all women could have a birth like that!

Friday, August 13, 2010

22 weeks! and a baby GIRL!

I've been remiss in following my pregnancy. I am now 22 weeks along. My belly has popped, I feel constant kicks, wiggles and dances parties in there, and we got our one ultrasound of the pregnancy- and ended up getting an additional one for free because they botched the first DVD (which I actually don't care much about at all, but hey, free ultrasound!) Some favorite shots of our BABY GIRL:
We didn't get hardly ANY good face shots, but what we got was amazing!
I love how it looks like she is signing "I Love You"
I was a little shocked that it was a girl. It was so odd, up until a few weeks ago, I had thought it was a girl, I was hoping it was a girl. I even felt, before we got pregnant, that we needed to get pregnant and that it would be a girl (see this post about our spiritual prompting to get pregnant).Then my defense mechanism kicked in, I think, and I squashed those hopes down. Perhaps a bit too well, because when we saw those undeniable little girl parts, I was in disbelief. Took me a few days (and a few trips shopping for cute little frilly things) to come around to it. I'm still excited, but also a bit daunted- I've done the little boy thing before, but I haven't ever raised a baby girl!

And the most recent belly shot:
22 weeks and 1 day

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fabulous Natural Hospital Birth Story...

From my own sister Lori! Lori and I gave birth to our first babies 2 days apart. Her first was one of those amazing, inspiring natural childbirth stories, so she had set the standard high (And also showed me that I COULD do it).

Baby Number 2, Simon Atticus B____ arrived this morning at 2 am. 8 pounds, 9 ounces; 20.5 inches; 2 very superficial tears.
This is her birth story as I understood it (she called me at 5 am to tell me all about it, so forgive me if I get the details wrong, I was tired, though elated):

She'd had uncomfortable prodromal labor for 9 weeks (that's the way we do it in our family) but held out til she was 39 weeks along. She was very patient and ready to wait for a few more weeks if need be (not likely, since she was the farthest any of us girls have ever made it into pregnancy- we bake them fast) until a friend had a baby, then she got a little eager to meet her LO.
They DTD and she pumped and stuff yesterday to try to get things going, and it worked to get contractions really going so they headed into the hospital- she had already been dilated to a 5 for a few days, but her contractions petered out without dilating her further so rather than let them move it along (strip membranes, maybe break waters), she opted to go home and relax and let baby decide when to come. Her "false alarm" from trying to force the baby to come sooner made her realize really he was going to be the deciding factor. She was GBS+ and her first birth was only 3 or 4 hours total, so that was a consideration, but she wanted to give him the option of choosing when to come.

(walking around the hospital during the "false labor")

Sure enough, she went home, relaxed, ate, slept in her own bed one night... and the following night baby Simon decided to get things going at 11:30 pm. They arrived at the hospital at midnight, she went straight to a birthing tub while her husband and midwife took care of paperwork, and got into her zone. She says there was a point where it got super intense and she thought "man, if I'm only at a 5, and it's this bad, I can't do this, I won't last, I'll make them break my water to make it move along". Then another voice answered "no, you know what to do..." and like that she got into her zone and started moaning and letting herself space out to another place. Just after they had told her she was now at a 7, at 1:45 am, she felt her water break while she was in the tub. And within two contractions (which she says felt incredible, she could actually feel the baby moving downward and things opening up), bam, she felt pushy. She says she actually found herself shouting "I'm feeling inclined to push!" (though it was more like "IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'M feeling inCLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINED to PUUUUUUUUUUUSH!")

They got out of the tub, she danced around for a little while figuring out what to do next.
She wanted to push standing but then realized her legs wouldn't last, so her midwife had her get on her knees by the bed, and that felt right for her:

Before the last final contraction (edited to add: apparently Simon's head is already out in this pic, she's waiting to push the rest out):

It only took two primal pushes to get him out- apparently she got the head out and her body did the rest- and her first reaction was "that was IT?!" She was amazed at how short it had been and manageable.
Once she realized he was out (just before 2 am):

(^^we've decided this should be a poster for Natural Childbirth:))

They put him right on her chest where he rested then found her breast and nursed for 25 minutes. It was then that they weighed him, so that might have contributed to his hefty birthweight. He went on to nurse on the other side for 20 minutes.

Big sister Adelaide:

I'm SO super proud of my sister. It takes a powerful woman to manage a natural labor that comes and goes that quickly. She made wise choices, and, I'll admit, has some easy-birthing genes in her, but in the end she made sure she got the birth she wanted. I wish they didn't live 2000 miles away! Her story makes me excited for my own second birth:)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Belly-sleeping and SIDS

When Daniel was about 2 weeks old, I officially gave up the idea of making him sleep on his back. He just wouldn't do it. He was tired, and I was tired. I felt like an evil selfish mom for letting him belly-sleep against all of the SIDS recommendations. When I mentioned it to my pediatrician and asked his opinion (he's generally super laid back) he said "well, if your baby died of SIDS could you live with yourself for letting him belly sleep?" I was dumbfounded. What a thing to say!
Still, I was so tired, as was he, that I continued to let him sleep on his belly. I'm not typically a worrying-type mother, but I would go in and check on him frequently, convinced I was setting him up for death. It wasn't until he was about 6 months old (about when the SIDS risk drastically reduces itself to nearly nothing) that I decided to do some research around belly-sleeping.

I do not wish to downplay the risk or tragedy of SIDS. I just want to point out some factors mommies often do not consider.

The official recommendations about no longer belly-sleeping came about because of the "Back to Sleep" campaign in the early 90s (previous recommendations were to make them sleep on their belly to avoid suffocation from spit-up). The scientific community noticed a huge correlation between the time the campaign ran and a reduction in SIDS deaths- an over 50% reduction by some accounts. That, and that alone, is the reason for the recommendation. I'm not doubting the correlation exists- I do believe less belly-sleeping will mean less SIDS. Just like other common-sense guidelines that were also a part of the Back To Sleep campaign (no soft bedding, and importantly- no smoking near baby) can also be tied to the reduction in infant deaths. But a correlation does not establish cause-and-effect. It's also important to note that while the number of SIDS diagnoses went down drastically, the overall number of infant deaths hardly changed- just the number of SIDS diagnoses (by the way, the only way to really diagnose SIDS is to rule out every other possible cause of death.) It's also important to note that during this period- where the reduction in SIDS deaths is tied to just back-sleeping- there was a huge cultural push for breastfeeding (shown to reduce your SIDS risk by 2 or 3 times) and stopping second-hand smoke, and could also be tied to the drop in SIDS deaths.

To this day, there is no official stance on what causes SIDS. Most lay people think it's a kind of suffocation- though officially a SIDS diagnosis rules out death by suffocation- that's a different diagnosis. Some think it's a genetic defect. Recent studies favor the idea that it's a form of sleep apnea. That makes the most sense to me, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's a combination of genetics and sleep apnea or maybe something else entirely.
But why, if it's apnea (or even genetics), would belly vs. back matter? Because SIDS affects babies when they're in their deepest form of sleep. And most babies sleep much more deeply on their stomaches. ALL of the SIDS guidelines (back-sleeping, keeping the room cooler, having a fan blowing on the baby- they've even noticed in studies a decrease in SIDS when caffeine was administered to the babies) have one thing in common: they keep the baby from sleeping as deeply.
Now, some babies are deep sleepers no matter what you throw at them. This, I believe, is why some babies still die of SIDS even while sleeping on their backs. Unfortunately, that means there isn't much their moms can do to reduce the risk of SIDS. You can follow every SIDS guideline and still lose your baby. The odds are low to begin with and lower if you follow all the guidelines- but there is no way to eliminate the risk altogether. Sorry if that's a depressing way to view it.

 This study shows that babies who slept on their bellies had far more "efficient" sleep but also more instances of apnea (the non-fatal kind)- which goes hand-in-hand with the SIDS-is-linked-to-apnea-during-deep-sleep theory. Babies that were studied who later actually died of SIDS were much less likely to have arousals during their sleep than babies who were never affected by SIDS. In other words, belly-sleeping babies slept more deeply, and longer, than their back-sleeping counterparts. But the deep-sleepers were also at more risk for SIDS.

The problem is, not letting a baby sleep deeply carries its own set of risks. I'm borrowing this straight from the wikipedia article on the Back to Sleep campaign (I added the emphasis):
"...According to the study, at 6 months of age, the infants who were placed to sleep in the prone position had statistically significant higher social skills scores, gross motor scores, and total development scores than those infants who were put to sleep in the supine [back] position. [A different study] reported that "Typically developing infants who were sleep-positioned in supine had delayed motor development by age 6 months, and this was significantly associated with limited exposure to awake prone positioning."" (to be fair, it goes on to note that how much time the babies had on their tummies while awake was not factored into the study and might have an effect).

In other words, babies need that deep sleep for their development. Without deep sleep, they are likely to hit their milestones later. On top of that, back-sleeping leads to an increase in problems like cradle cap (not a huge deal), asphyxiation from reflux (a very big deal), and since the Back to Sleep campaign, there has been a huge increase in the amount of babies with plagiocephaly or cranial asymmetry problems (funky-shaped heads from laying on their soft skulls)- not to mention the temporary and less worrisome cradle bald spots.

In other words, there is a set of risks, whether you sleep your baby on the belly or their back. I won't judge a mother either way. The risk of SIDS for a normal, healthy baby is very small compared to the risks that come from back-sleeping, but obviously death is infinitely more tragic than an asymmetrical head or hitting milestones a few months later. I do think that parents of babies that are more prone to SIDS (respiratory problems, prematurity, diagnosed apnea, snoring...) should consider follow all possible SIDS guidelines to the letter. But if a mommy lets her baby sleep on his or her belly, it's possible that instead of being a negligent parent, they are choosing a different set of (scientifically based) benefits and risks- longer sleep periods, deeper sleep, and more likely to meet milestones on time.
If it's worth the risk to you, then go for it. I do. I personally feel that letting my baby sleep deeply is more important than the small risk of SIDS. But, I also understand that there's validity to valuing protection from SIDS above deep sleep. I really don't think you'd be "right" or "wrong" either way- or rather, I think both ways can be right, depending on what risks you're most comfortable with. No mother should ever feel judged for making an informed decision.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Natural Labor is like Running a marathon

A friend of mine is scheduling an early-ish induction because last time her labor went so quickly she didn't have a chance to get an epidural and she found herself in an unexpected drug-free birth. Mother and baby were both fine, but the pain of that birth has convinced her that rather than risk it again she wants to hand the control completely over to the doctor and anesthesiologist. While obviously this represents a very different way of thinking than my own, I also can't really blame her. If my only labor experience had been drug-free without any preparation, I'd probably give drug-free childbirth a less-than-stellar review.
Another friend of mine recently ran a marathon. We chuckled at the idea of someone CHOOSING to run 26 miles... that is NOT my idea of fun. I've never even jogged for more than 6 blocks. But I'm still proud of her for doing it, and I have no doubts she's gotten a lot out of it.

Anyways, it got me thinking. Imagine someone told you that in 9 months you had the chance to run a marathon. With preparation you could run the marathon, or you could opt to take a car to the finish line- either way it takes you to the same place.
You know that running a marathon is intense- some might say painful, even. You know you may have to push yourself harder than you ever have before. You know a lot of preparation will have to go into it if you are going to make it to that finish line. People have gotten hurt running marathons- heat stroke, pulled muscles, or sheer exhaustion. There's almost always someone there to come take a person who can't make it any further off the course and to the finish line. But you also know you will be a healthier person for all that hard work. You know you have the potential to do it, and you know the sense of achievement you will feel if you conquer that marathon.
If you were to plop me as I am on the starting line of a race, I would "try" it. I would run, then jog, then walk, then sit down and wave my white flag. When I drove up to the finish line I might say "I tried it, I now know what running a marathon is like, and I still don't know why someone would put themselves through that".
But with preparation I could make myself physically ready. Even then, I could run and run... and odds are, like most runners, there would be a point when I hit a wall. The only thing that would get me through that is mental preparation- confidence, knowledge that I could do it, faith in my body and in my preparation.
Would I ever judge a person if they tried to run a marathon and something kept them from running to the finish line? Of course not! Sometimes no matter how you prepare things just don't work out the way you planned. Is that reason to regret preparing for and trying to run the marathon? Of course not!

I'm sure you can get the whole point of my analogy, I won't spell it out for you. There are obvious loopholes in the analogy- for one, by taking a car to the finish line the only thing you really risk is missing out on the marathon. By choosing an intervention-filled birth, you risk a lot more than just missing out on experiencing childbirth. But that's another post.
The thing that is interesting to me is the different social views on running a marathon versus birthing naturally. If I were to tell people I'm going to subject myself to the intensity and risks of running a marathon, I would get hearty congrats and encouragement. Some people might express doubt in my abilities to complete the task- but in general, I would get tips and support. People would understand that I was challenging myself, improving myself, and that I would have something to be immensely proud of, even if I tried and ended up needing help to the finish line anyways.
But if I tell people I want to endure the intensity and the risks of a natural childbirth, the general reaction is "why on earth would you subject yourself to that? we have drugs and medicine and doctors for a reason".
Why would anyone subject themselves to a marathon? Don't they know we have cars for getting around?
The reason? Some people know that the journey can be just as important as the destination.

Some late belly pics

Sorry for not posting over here more regularly. Here's a cross post from my family blog from last Thursday:

You know how they say you're more likely to show a pregnant belly sooner with a second pregnancy? Yeah, they're right! Check this out. For a "before" picture, here I am at 6 weeks ago:

That's from today- I'm ten weeks along today! One quarter of the way done!

And here I am from last pregnancy, EIGHT weeks further long (18 weeks) :

I'm excited to be showing so soon though, makes the whole thing feel more real! I'm down about 7 pounds from where I started and just beginning to get my appetite back.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


I just got back from watching the new documentary, Babies. I had been looking forward to it a long time, so my husband watched the toddler so I could have some "me" time at the theater. If you haven't seen the movie, probably don't read this, so you can form your own opinion.
It was good. Not what I had hoped for, but good. I mean, how could I not love watching 4 cute babies? But I found something very lacking- mommies. I understand that the filmmakers wanted this to be about babies and not about parents, but it felt hollow without showing more mommy/baby interaction. We saw no tearful or smiling welcomings to the world, The credits finally showed the mongolian mom playing with her son and it may have been one of the more endearing moments of the film- and it was during the credits. I loved the little African baby, her interactions with the other children and with her ever-present mother (with her ever-present natural, sagging breasts). The mongolian baby had such an adventurous, happy little spirit, it was so sad to see what a lonely little life it seemed he led. Really, with just a few more scenes added showing the moms playing with and smiling at their babies, the film would have been everything I wanted it to be. But you can't have a baby without a mommy-figure, it just doesn't feel right.