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.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

7 weeks!

Today I got to meet with my midwife again. When I first walked in the door, one of the midwife apprentices I didn't meet last time was there to greet me. She was obviously far along in pregnancy herself, and when I asked her the due date she said "any day now, though I really want the baby to hang in there a few days longer!" How refreshing, to hear someone who WANTED to keep their baby in toward the end of pregnancy. It seems like most women when they hit 38 weeks or so are completely done with pregnancy and want that baby out (to be fair, I got impatient long before 38 weeks).
We discussed husband/partner involvement in labor- basically the midwife will let the husband be as involved as he wants to be (or, in the case of my husband, as he does NOT want to be). Husband K is HUGELY supportive of my decision to homebirth (largely in part to his hatred of doctors). As a matter of fact, the other day he told me he always didn't understand why doctors interfered with labor so much and why it was always such a big deal- my husband who before having met me rarely thought about such serious and, um, womanly topics.
Last pregnancy, he was a champion during my 8 weeks of bedrest and did a great job of taking care of the house so I could just focus on the baby. But he does NOT handle blood or medical things well. I've come to terms with the fact that he won't be catching my baby or cutting a cord- his sole job is to STAY CONSCIOUS during labor. And while I was surprised last pregnancy when I was in the hospital for preterm labor by his ability to hold my IVs for me so I could go to the bathroom without a nurse (I would never in a million years have thought him capable of holding an IV, he's gotten queasy just from thinking about IVs in the past), when the actual labor came around he mostly held my hand and looked at my face and completely ignored anything going on "down there". He did need to leave the room once towards the end when things got bloody but aside from that he held up quite well. When the baby actually came, K teared up and took pictures and played the classic new father role quite well. So yes, while he is supportive of my birth, I am not disappointed that he may not be that involved in it. To make up for his lack of involvement I've asked a friend to come help out and will probably ask yet another friend to help with pictures.
The exam itself: My blood pressure today was 84/56- yikes! No wonder I've been getting so dizzy. I just wish I could eat something without wanting to gag. I have only thrown up twice (still, that's twice more than my last pregnancy and twice more than any other woman in my family has ever experienced from morning sickness) and even then it's been over a week, but my food aversion is going strong. Thank heavens for Crispix, they always sound good.
This is what Kermit looks like this week:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Self-righteousness and Superiority

There is a woman from church that I am assigned to serve with. I visit with her once a month; she's 31 weeks pregnant and has a son a few months younger than mine. She's having an induction, the date is already set. The reason? Her first labor went so quickly that she never had time for an epidural and the pain was unbearable- sounds pretty reasonable, right?. Her first baby was "large" (8 pounds) so the scheduled induction is fairly early- I think 38 weeks.
I'm very proud of myself, I bit my tongue. I didn't say "did you know that an elective induction is almost TWICE as likely to cause fetal distress (where the baby isn't getting enough oxygen for extended periods of time)?" I did say "I can imagine how scary it was to not have an epidural when you had planned on one- that kind of pain takes a lot of preparation and when birth doesn't go according to plan it can be hard to adjust". That's as preachy as I got about NCB (natural childbirth). I was proud.
The reason for me moderating myself? Days prior on facebook, a friend had mentioned being all for epidurals, another friend (NCB-friendly, though perhaps a bit colorful) went off a bit on him, so I found myself private messaging him my views on epidurals in an effort to smooth things over. Even then, he felt attacked and judged and I felt horrible because that hadn't been my goal. It made me re-examine how I view other women's birthing choices.

I have a problem not judging mothers who take unnecessary interventions in their labors. Unfortunately, that means I'm judging 90% of women out there- including many good, dear friends. It's not so much judgment as confusion. HOW could you NOT research the possible side effects of a scheduled induction or c-section? If they knew that the induction greatly increased the odds of fetal distress, the pain of childbirth, and the risk of emergency c-section, they wouldn't choose it, right? Surely if they knew that a c-section QUADRUPLED the rate of maternal death, they would at least try labor, right? And that doesn't even bring in the dangers of subsequent cesareans.

My passion around natural childbirth is not just from fuzzy feelings about the power of women, it's from real evidence of better outcomes! How can I soften that to not make it sound like women who haven't been exposed to that evidence are somehow remiss? How on earth can I phrase it so I don't sound like I think MY way (that is, only allowing interventions when they are truly medically necessary) is the only right way (when in fact, I guess, that is how I feel). How do I convince them that I don't have some huge ego to think I know better than their OB (When I do think that for normal, uncomplicated pregnancies, the mother, if she keeps herself informed, does know better than most OBs- who the statistics show take unnecessary risks and have worse outcomes than if the labor is led by a midwife or the choices of an informed mother).

But then I remember back to my own birth, and how, even after all the research and studying, I was willing to trust my OB. I remember when my OB wanted to break my water at 36 weeks because I was dilated to a 6, I thought it sounded like a good idea. She made it sound so urgent. Heaven knows I wanted to meet my baby and I was SO sick of not knowing when I would go into labor. It was so easy to justify that intervention for the small amount of control it would give me. I was going to go home and think about it.
So I did. I asked my sisters (older and wiser) and I asked my online Natural Chilbirth forum what they thought. My sister couldn't figure out why I would consider it, why I would take that risk. I felt judged for even thinking about it. Even after my labor, I felt judged for the interventions I allowed. I can never go back and change the way I did things, so why should I feel guilty about it? My baby and I were both healthy, so why the guilt? Unfortunately, I will always have to wonder how the labor would have gone without those interventions. Would I have torn so bad (not likely)? Would Daniel have had jaundice if he had baked longer (not likely)? Would he have turned around if I had waited for his cue for labor, so I wouldn't have had such painful back labor? I'll never know. But I certainly don't need external sources make me regret those decisions more.

So why am I now judging others? Well, a lot of it is the information I have. I'm currently reading Pushed by Jennifer Block and I just want to shout from the rooftops that EVERY woman should read this book before giving birth! Every page or so I read some jaw-dropping statistic about the things that go WRONG with interventions and the things that go right when labor is allowed to progress at its own pace. Worse yet, page after page shows that OBs simply don't know what to do with a labor that goes right- they have to "manage" it, they have to speed it up, they have to intervene, often ignoring the evidence and international recommendations against it.

And really, it's not judgment. It's wanting to insert knowledge into their heads that THERE IS A BETTER WAY. So... if it isn't coming off as self-righteousness, it's a superiority complex. Great. And NCBers often come off that way- they think they know more, they think their way is better, and they often shame women who have had unnecessary-intervention-ridden births (And often, regrettably,  the women who had NECESSARY interventions feels shame as well). No one wants to hear that there birth was "wrong". And no woman wants to feel guilty for believing a trusted birth professional when he said there was no risk for the epidural/induction/c-section.
But the fact of the matter is this- the NCBers I know DO know more- indeed, I would say of the women I know, that the more research a woman has done, the more likely she is to plan an intervention-free childbirth (and by research I don't mean "finding out which OB has the happiest clients"). And it sounds wrong to say it because it is so "superior", but a planned intervention-free birth IS a better way of birthing.
A few of these informed NCB women DO end up with interventions- surely less than the average rate, but it does still happen- but they can rest assured that they CHOSE those interventions because the risks of not having them (medical necessity) outweigh the risks of having them. There is no guilt in allowing an intervention when the mother knows it really is necessary, rather than when the OB (who wants to clear out a bed or get home for dinner) says it is necessary.

So the moral of this long post? I do not judge any choice a mother makes in childbirth- so long as it is an INFORMED one. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Working towards a baby

So, I don't love working at home. I don't love what I do. I'm a "Web Analytics Consultant"- I help major websites figure out how people are getting to their site (say, from a google adwords campaign) and how effective their site is at getting people to do what they want (buy something). Lots of javascripting, lots of writing documentation. I was a linguistics major, which turned me into an HTML programmer (after all, HTML is technically a language too), then web designer, then finally analytics consultant. I'm very luck to have had this job progression- linguistics usually doesn't usually leave many career options (but boy, is it fascinating).
Anyways, I worked from home during my last pregnancy then up until Daniel was 8 months old. There is a reason people don't bring 8-month-olds to work with them- you can't get anything done. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, even though my husband is a lowly school teacher and we'll never be rich (until I publish my incredibly popular fantasy novel;)... but that's another story). I thought whenI quit that I'd be done with corporate work forever. Last November I got a job at Barnes and Noble making less than I had ever made, even as a teenager- but I enjoyed it. I was exhausted (I could only work closing shifts so K could watch D), I was incredibly busy, but when I walked out those doors each night I didn't have to worry about my job until I came back for the next shift.
In January some old clients reached out and offered me disgusting amounts of money to consult with them- more than twice what I used to make doing the same thing. It was a total blessing- without it we couldn't even consider getting pregnant. But part of me inside was pretty bitter- it was a good enough offer that I couldn't turn it down, meaning I was working again. I mean, actually working- I had to quit at B&N. It is stressful, even if I only work 5 hours a week, I may worry for another 20.

But since I've gotten pregnant, it's so much more doable. I'm working towards something real and tangible- my homebirth! With that goal in mind, it doesn't seem like a bother at all. Just one more part of pregnancy- financing the birth. Each hour I work pays for one fiftieth of my homebirth.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Belly Pics- 4 weeks

So the pic is 11 days old, but here we go, at 3 weeks and 6 days:

And here is the end goal (from last pregnancy, 35 weeks along):

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Significance of Forty

Last time I was pregnant, I got to thinking about the number 40. 40 weeks of gestation (though obviously very few women ever deliver at exactly 40 weeks). For Christians (and even jews), it is a number of great significance- it's all over scripture.
This website discusses it thus:
The number forty has long been universally recognized as an important number, both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement. It is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where Forty relates to a period of evident probation. But where it relates to enlarged dominion, or to renewed or extended rule, then it does so in virtue of its factors 4 and 10, and in harmony with their signification.
If that doesn't sum up pregnancy, I don't know what does! Chastisement (not punishment, but testing your limits), trial, probation, followed by revival, renewal and enlarged dominion. Think about it- all over the scripture the number 40 signifies a trial followed by a transformation:

-Noah's flood rains lasted 40 days and 40 nights before the earth was clean
-Moses was in Egypt 40 years before becoming sympathatic to the israelites, Midian for 40 years before becoming a prophet, and on the mountain for 40 days before receiving the Stone Tablets
-The Children of Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land
-Elijah fasted/repented in the wilderness for 40 days before the Lord sent him forth as a prophet again
-Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his earthly ministry
-Jesus tarried with his disciples after his resurrection before ascending to heaven

And now, for Forty Weeks, I will be tested, tried, and chastised. And at the end, there will be a new life, and I will be transformed and renewed.

Anyways, I thought that was fun to think about.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Meeting the midwife

So my midwife does this cool thing- she does all of her exams once a month. All of her clients come for the powwow, hear birth stories from recently delivered mommas, participate in a prenatal class, watch birthing videos... meanwhile she takes us aside one by one for our exam.
So even though I'm barely 4 weeks along, she invited me down. I'm so glad! A mom that had a successful VBAC two weeks ago shared a wonderful birth story.
There were maybe 10 pregnant mommies present. 4 of them are trying for HBAC (home birth after a cesarean). 2 others are first time mommies, one hits 40 weeks in 12 days.
Of the 14 VBACs my midwife has delivered, 2 have been transferred. Of first timers, she says about 9% transfer, usually from exhaustion (midwife kind of rolled her eyes and laughed that the first timers are so excited and eager and nervous that they can't rest when they have the chance and they wear themselves out with eagerness).

When she grabbed my file she put it in a green folder- apparently green stands for "already experienced at least one successful vaginal birth". She then told me she has NEVER had a "green folder" transfer to the hospital. So the odds are in my favor!
She has her own birthing tub she loans out for free, we just pay for a liner.

She gave me a lot of health supplements, chatted about my first pregnancy.. no internal exam or anything. We both suspect I will need to tear a bit because it sounds like my first tear didn't heal correctly.

All in all, it went great, I'm excited about my new found friend/co-clients, and look forward to next month's party/exam

Daniel's Birth Story- part 2- the birth

So we headed into the hospital about 7 am on a Saturday morning. as previously mentioned, we had had sex which started some bleeding and gave me the first "real" contractions of the pregnancy.When we arrived I was dilated to an 8, and I don't think any of us expected me to go back home. They tried to test if my water was broken but with all the blood they said they couldn't get a good reading. That may or may not have been true- but I think they would have said anything to keep me there at that point.
Sadly, as we sat there waiting for the party to get started, contractions died back down. Around noon, I agreed to let them more fully break my water to hopefully get things going again. I so wish I hadn't- I'll never known how it may have been if I let my body progress on it's own- but I was so eager to be in labor.

By 2 pm, contractions were back in full swing. I remember clearly, eating popsicles (the only thing they let you eat), bouncing on a birthing ball, singing along with Newsies. I felt like an 8 year old:).

I had a GREAT nurse. While she herself was all for medical interventions and such, she fought hard for me to get the natural experience I wanted. My doctor had wanted me on an IV and monitors the whole time which would have kept me in bed on my back, but I wanted to be able to move around and do whatever helped me get through the pain. Apparently the nurse told my Doctor (who is obviously fairly new to the job) that "such-and-such a doctor let's their natural patients do this all the time" and convinced her it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't have an IV and they only monitored the baby intermittently.
We asked them how many women went natural and they said "um, just you:)" We hard some screams of bloody murder from the room next door and I'll admit, I was surprised to learn that that woman had had an epidural and was still screaming like that. Yikes.

Around 5 the contractions got to be really strong and I'd grab and squeeze/rub Kenny's hand as hard as I could. He was great. The baby was turned to the side a bit so we tried various positions and stuff to make him turn- all of which seemed to make the contractions more intense. I had back labor, so even when I wasn't contracting, I felt intense pressure. This wasn't what I expected. After my sister L's story of "getting to regroup and relax between contractions", I had a definite set of expectations.
Still, the pain was never out of control. I never once thought I wanted drugs. I do remember asking Kenny at one point "can we be done with this now?" I never yelled or screamed, but I do remember some unearthly growls I couldn't reproduce if I tried. I remember complimenting the nurses on what a good job they were doing, which got a good chuckle out of everyone- not what you expect from a laboring mother.

I was propped up a bit lying on my back for pretty much all of it. Moving brought on much more intense contractions.

At 6 I was dilated to a 10 and was told I could start pushing. I don't remember feeling pushy, though. I just remember wanting to be done, so I pushed. It took two nurses and the doctor- the nurses held my legs up for me which really helped. To the point I freaked out any time a contraction came and they weren't both right there.
Pushing was REALLY intense. I don't know why I thought it would go faster. It was frustrating because I couldn't really tell what progress was being made. They set up a mirror so I could see, but it wasn't like I pictured- I couldn't see too much because for most of it, it's still all pretty internal. I could just see myself get more frightfully torn up and messy down there... in the future I think I'll opt for no mirror:)

Towards the end the doctor said "we're going to go ahead and make this opening a little bigger for the baby" and I said "um, what?" I told the doctor I'd rather not have an episiotomy, so she backed off. Of course, had I had a doctor or midwife who knew what she was doing, we might have slowed down and let me stretch out a bit more. There may have even been some perineal massage to help things stretch out.
But no, instead my doctor gave me a local anesthetic shot down there right at the end so the pain wouldn't stop me from pushing. This is my biggest regret. If I had been more patient, if I didn't think I was going to have my sisters' birth, I might have done things differently. As it is I ended up with an awful 3rd degree tear. Healing from that tear was worse than labor itself. I'm not exactly petite and the baby wasn't huge... there is no reason I should have torn so badly except for sheer impatience and an OB who didn't know any method to help a mother than cut her wide open.

My husband was amazing. He doesn't handle medical things well- passes out pretty easily- so his job was to merely stay conscious through the whole thing. He helped with holding my hand and giving me ice chips, but he generally stayed in the corner trying not to look towards the lower half of me.

Finally, after 2 hours of pushing and 6 hours of real contractions, Daniel came. They immediately put him on my chest. I don't even remember the after birth, or the stitches (though Kenny did have to leave the room a bit for some fresh air at that point). He was 7 pounds and 11 ounces- not bad for a baby who was technically premature by two days.
I'll admit, the first motherly feelings I had were of "thank heavens I'm not pregnant anymore!". But he was beautiful. My husband teared up a bit, but I was all smiles. The quickness of the transformation from pain and exhaustion to joy, peace and love is amazing!

He had this crazy sideways conehead from being pushed out sideways. His head had a nasty scratch from dragging against my pelvic bones. But he nursed like a champ and got a 9 on his APGAR (would have been ten but we snuggled a bit too much and he wasn't trying to breathe through my boob, turning him slightly purple).

Because I didn't have an epidural, I was immediately able to get up and move. I could shower, use the restroom. Neither Daniel nor I were groggy.

We stayed in the hospital for 2 days. D spent probably 80% of his time with us and 20% in the nursery. I'll admit to being glad of some baby-free sleeping time. I'd never known such a pure exhaustion. I shook violently for hours after the birth.
K was a great daddy from the beginning. Completely out of his element, but so full of love:

D had some bad jaundice- another reason I wish I had been more patient and let him bake a bit longer- and we had to keep him on a biliruben tanning bed at home for the first week, so I couldn't hold him except to nurse:(.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Daniel's Birth Story- part 1- preterm labor

Here I am at 28 weeks pregnant, going out for a date- little did I know it was to be my last time leaving the house for anywhere other than the hospital for 8 long weeks:

I got pregnant in August of 2007 (on our one year anniversary, just as planned) and we moved from Utah to Texas when I was about 20 weeks along. I had a very uneventful first pregnancy- no morning sickness and no complications... until one morning when I was about 28 weeks along, I was feeling particularly crampy and my back ached. Nothing awful, but enough for me to complain to my sister, L, who was also pregnant at the time. L then said "um, you should go to the doctor, that's exactly how B (our oldest sister and mother of 4) felt when she had preterm labor issues."
I thought she was overreacting- I really didn't feel that bad. But as the night dragged on, I didn't get feeling better. My husband and I prayed that we would know if we needed to go to the hospital. At the exact moment the pain got worst. We took the hint and headed to L&D.
When we got there, we discovered those "cramps" were back-to-back contractions, and I was beginning to dilate (at first they said 2 centimeters, then as time went on they changed their analysis to one centimeter and finally to "only barely open"). All of the sudden I found myself the subject of a lot of attention. They wheeled me into a delivery room, shot me in the butt with steroids (to help the baby's lungs develop) and put me on *shudder* magnesium sulfate to calm my uterus. An ultrasound showed the baby was still healthy and measuring slightly ahead of schedule.
The mag sulfate was AWFUL. I was super hot and shaky. I was weak, which sucked, because they were pumping full of liquids and I had to go to the bathroom every few minutes. At one point I told the nurses I was going to lose consciousness (I pass out a lot, I know how to recognize that feeling) but they didn't believe me- said my levels looked perfectly fine. I then passed out. Shocking. I also threw up for the only time in my pregnancy. And I got to experience bed pans for the only time in my life. In short, it was HORRIBLE.
Amidst all of that, we never really panicked. I don't know why, but we felt strongly that it was going to be ok. The biggest things I worried about was that we still hadn't decided on a name, and didn't own an infant carseat yet (though if the baby came at 28 weeks he would not have been needing a ride anywhere for a LONG time).
After 3 days, they sent me home. I was still contracting but it had slowed down a bit. I was put on full bedrest, with "bathroom privileges" only. They prescribed Terbutaline, which my doctor correctly stated "would make me feel like a crack fiend looking for my next hit". I continued to work from home from my bed for 6 weeks, during which time I contracted 6-10 times each hour:

My husband took AWESOME care of me while on bedrest. He was essentially functioning for the three of us. I will never forget his selflessness. The weeks progressed. We had a few scares and more trips to L&D but I didn't progress. I complained to L (who was on her third baby shower) that I never had a chance to meet anyone in my area because of bedrest and that I was sad I didn't get a baby shower. She told B, who told my mom, who mentioned to my sister-in-law C (who lives about 15 minutes away) and she got right on it! In the end, about 25 people, most of them complete strangers from church (who have since become good friends) came to my shower. After weeks of bedrest and isolation, and being unable to do any baby shopping myself, I couldn't have gotten a better gift.
By 35 weeks, after 7 weeks of contractions, I still wasn't dilated to more than a one. I was effacing, but really... nothing was happening. I wasn't in pain- I could really only tell I was contracting by poking my tummy and seeing if it was hard. My husband let me sneak off bedrest to go see a movie in the theater- 21- and I was in heaven. I began to wonder if the "emergency" stay in L&D or the bedrest was necessary. I researched mag sulfate and terbutaline and learned that NEITHER of them are proven and tested for laboring mothers. There was a class-action lawsuit out for perceived negative fetal side effects for Terbutaline.

Considering at one point I was worried I wouldn't make it to 34 weeks, once I hit 35 and then moved on to 36... I was almost disappointed. While I wasn't particularly uncomfortable, I wanted to be done with the whole mess and meet my baby! Every little twinge I felt, we worried we needed to get to the hospital. My sister B showed me pictures of her baby born at 35 weeks- gray and floppy and small- and her baby born at 36 weeks- pink and happy- and convinced me a week could make a lot of difference and to try and be patient.

Finally at my 36 appointment, there was change! I was dilated to a 4 and my bag of waters was bulging (mind you, I still wasn't feeling anything down there). That was April 17th.

April 24th, my sister L had her first child with a midwife at a hospital:

It was a fabulous birth- spontaneous rupture of membranes, 3 hours in the hospital, half an hour of pushing, no tears... She called and told me the pain was bad, but it wasn't non-stop. Between contractions she could rest and regroup. I think part of me was subconsciously waiting for her to have her baby before I would have mine- she was technically 3 weeks further along and had also had (more painful) preterm labor issues (apparently women in my family do) but had made it to nearly 39 weeks. Now it was my turn, and after hearing her great birth story, I was ready!

That day at my appointment I was 6 cm dilated.  My OB (a very nice but perhaps unwise lady who I hate more and more with time) was TERRIFIED that I was that far along and still not in active labor under her care. She wanted to break my water right then and there. I knew that if she did I would be on a timer for when to deliver before they'd start intervening. I still wanted a natural childbirth and didn't want to start my labor with an intervention. My sisters also helped talked some sense into me and firm my conviction. I also knew my baby needed to bake a bit longer. So even though I wanted to meet him and was sick of wondering "am I in labor or not", and despite my doctor literally BEGGING for me to be admitted and induced, I convinced them to let me go home.
That said, I still tried every natural trick I knew to start labor. I told my boss no matter what, I was done working for at least 8 weeks. We went for walks, I ate spicy food, I was as active as I know how to be.

The next morning my doctor called me directly and asked me to please check-in to L&D to be measured. I was now 7.5 cm dilated. I was 75% done with labor and it hadn't even started! We ran laps around the hospital to get things going, but no luck. I made hospital history by walking out those doors 7.5 cm dilated. We went to toys-r-us and bought Legos to work on together to fill in the waiting time:

The next morning (I was 36 weeks and 5 days along), we had sex for the first time in 8 weeks, for the sole purpose of hopefully kickstarting labor. Needless to say, it wasn't the best we'd ever had. But it did the trick. I started bleeding a lot and contractions got much stronger. I sat in the bathtub (didn't want to get blood anywhere) while K made breakfast- it looked like there was clear liquid in the blood, so I thought my sac had ruptured (in retrospect it may have just been semen.) We then got in the car and headed to the hospital for the last time...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why Homebirth

One large reason I've started this blog is that I'm barely pregnant and already SO sick of the negativity surrounding homebirth. Everything from "oh- that's... brave" (here's a great article about that) to "hospitals are there for a reason- to keep your baby from DYING". *sigh*.

While they won't change my opinion of childbirth, I got sick of explaining myself to people who won't listen either because they don't really care, or because I might imply that their idea of scheduling labor at 34 weeks along "because one of the twins was breech and the doctor was worried" might not have been a good idea. I don't want to estrange my non-natural-childbirth friends, and they all already know my views on the matter.
But I want to shout from the rooftops: women, it can be better. Labor can be an amazing, empowering experience.
Doctors are wonderful if something goes wrong. Their training is FOR when something goes wrong. Few of them even see a normal, healthy delivery during their education, since more complicated procedures require much more training.
If something goes wrong with my pregnancy or delivery, I will get my butt to a hospital. And I won't feel like I failed at homebirth- I will feel like I am living proof that a homebirthing mother and her midwife don't take unnecessary risks.

See, where most OB-GYNs view every labor as a problem to solve, most midwives view it as a natural process that just needs some guidance and supervision. They are trained to spot when things go wrong (or might go wrong in the future), at which point a doctor (usually working in conjunction with the midwife) is more than welcome on the birthteam.
Midwives aren't the crazy birkenstock-wearing hippies you might think of. Ok, well, a lot of them are a bit on the "organic" side.... but they are trained, educated, and loving women. They bring with them pitocin, oxygen, monitoring systems, and most sanitation supplies you'd see in a hospital. They have a smaller client load, less liability to worry about, and statistically, they spend much more time at each prenatal appointment than doctors do. Unlike doctors, they are there for the whole labor- not just to "catch a baby". Most importantly they, like me, believe in the power of a woman's body to know what to do.

When someone asks me why I would take the risk of birthing at home, I think "why would a normal, healthy pregnancy take the risk of birthing at a hospital". Statistically, a low-risk pregnancy is much more likely to have major complications at a hospital. And yes, even the infant mortality rate is higher at a hospital, even when just looking at normal, healthy pregnancies with no underlying complications.

It is possible to have a natural, intervention-free birth in a hospital. Many midwives deliver in hospitals, in fact. I had a fine epidural-free delivery at a hospital for my first son. I had to fight my OB tooth-and-nail, but it was possible. My only regrets are the minor interventions I did allow (a post about that later).

I'm not saying interventions or hospitals are never acceptable. Not at all. If you HAVE to be induced because of some real risk, then by all means, get an epidural! I wouldn't go near pitocin without some medical help. If you've been laboring for 36 hours and need some relief so you can relax and regroup? Get an epidural! I won't judge. There are many just reasons for epidurals, inductions, and c-sections. So long as the benefits outweigh the risks. And the MOTHER is the one making an informed decision.

The biggest sign to me that this is the right path to me is that I find myself LOOKING FORWARD to labor. Not just to meeting my baby, but to labor itself. And people can no longer say to me "just wait til you're really there and the pain kicks in" cause you know what? I've already been there now. And while yes, there was pain, I never felt like it was unmanageable, I never felt a loss of control. And when I was done, I was so proud of myself. I had set a goal and accomplished it. I had joined the millions of mothers before me. I felt like I had climbed a mountain.

I dare anyone who doubts natural childbirth to research it. The more you find out, the more you'll see that America's standard way of birthing is disastrous to mother and child more often than it should be.

Consider the Lilies

Last September, we were struggling financially. Our cars were playing mean tricks on us and we had unexpected medical expenses from very minor health problems. My husband is a school teacher, I'm a stay-at-home mom, and our medical benefits are AWFUL. We have no maternity insurance coverage. I realized it would be years before we either had coverage or could afford an out-of-pocket baby. Our son is getting older (2 years old this month) and both my husband and I LONG for another child. Even though we planned on a homebirth, which are much much cheaper, we still couldn't afford it. Finances cast a deep gloom on my house.

With that sad mindset, I went to the General Relief Society Broadcast of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (I'm mormon). This is a once-a-year meeting for the women in the LDS church, broadcast live from Salt Lake City, Utah. In truth, I wasn't thrilled to go. The meetings can be boring. But before the broadcast, a lady in the local church leadership got up and sang Consider the Lilies of the Field (by Roger Hoffman, inspired by Luke 12):
"Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.
He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with His eye."
"Consider the sheep of his fold,
How they follow where he leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed."
"He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with his eye."
"Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth...
The pains of all of them he carried
From the day of his birth.
He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And he will heal those who trust him,
And make their hearts as gold."
For whatever reason, this struck me very strongly. I was so worried about money I wasn't trusting in the Lord to watch over us. Then I got a very strong impression, right there during the song, that we needed to try for a baby in February (5 months from then). Then another impression, that it would be a little girl, and she belongs in our family.
(I may have made that last part up. Sometimes my mind likes to pretend it knows what God plans for us. If the baby is not a girl, my faith won't be shaken or anything. But that's what I thought I felt at the time.) UPDATE: it is, indeed, a girl.
I don't often get spiritual promptings. Usually the Lord just says to me "keep my commandments and you'll do all right, whatever you decide to do". So this struck me all the more strongly. I didn't tell anyone for a few months.

Finances got worse. A lot worse. We were in credit card debt for the first time ever, and not for making foolish purchases- just a few months of bad luck. I thought "I must have made things up. The Lord wouldn't want us to bring a baby into a world of debt. There's no way this is happening". I told my husband the impressions I had had and we were both sad that it just didn't seem possible.
And then... in January we got our Tax Return, we got some help from family, and we got out of debt. We were still barely getting by, but a burden was lifted. No plans for a baby still, though.

Then a miracle happened. Out of nowhere a client I had worked with at my old full-time consulting job found me on the internet and asked if I'd like to consult for them (I had quit my job over a year ago because I couldn't work and tend to an infant). 50 dollars an hour, no more than 10 hours a week unless I asked for more. I could do it from home and choose my own hours. When word got out I was consulting again, TWO more companies reached out, and I took one of those jobs too.
In order for it to work, we'd have to get my son out of my hair a few hours a week. I searched and searched for a daycare but nothing felt right and few would take him for as few hours as I wanted. Then a sweet daycare woman told me that it sounded to her like we needed a Mothers Day Out program and told me of a fabulous one at a local Christian church. Sure enough, it's perfect! D goes to school 3 days a week for 5 hours. He loves it, and it has helped his development and social skills so much.
So, just before February, we were blessed and things fell into place. Within 5 months we went from poor with no foreseeable way to afford a baby, to being out of debt with money to spare- just enough to afford the pregnancy. The Lord couldn't have orchestrated it better. All the sudden my prompting from September came back to me. I could see now that God knew all along. February.

So we went off birth control in February and conceived March 25th, 2010. 12 days later I got my answer, we're having a baby!


Today I am 4 weeks pregnant with my second child, due December 16th! This blog will follow the baby from it's very beginning.
I am planning to deliver this baby at home with a midwife (my first homebirth)- I meet my midwife on Sunday.

This is what Kermit (the nickname for the baby bean-I'm just trying it out) currently looks like:

So cute, right?