Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You choose the topic

I have a million topics I could write about. What do y'all want to talk about? Are there questions that you want answered? Homebirth, circumcision, solid foods, doulas (labor support), ultrasound, breastfeeding, induction, relaxation, emergency childbirth, children at birth, VBACs. Name your topic. This will be fun!

Monday, September 29, 2008

My 4th, and Best, Birth

Physically, this was my best birth. I had been teaching Bradley for about 2 years when I gave birth to this baby. It was funny to be so huge and teaching to people, knowing I would be doing this again.

David and I practiced relaxation a handful of times during the pregnancy. I did my exercises and ate my protein. I was 34 at the time of this birth, 4 years since the 3rd birth. I found that my metabolism had slowed quite a bit in that time period.

I had the most fabulous midwife, Barbara Pepper, in Albuquerque. When I went in for my visits, I would do my own "pee stick." A couple of times she asked what I had had for breakfast because my glucose levels were elevated. I would embarrassingly admit to eating Cocoa Puffs and OJ. She would smile and encourage me to eat less sugar. When I did, I found that my glucose was normal. My body wasn't metabolizing sugar as fast as it once did.

I never had an ultrasound with this baby. We had with the others, and also knew the sex of each baby before they were born. Barb said she didn't see why I needed one -- everything was normal. I completely trusted her and her professional wisdom. She had been doing this for more than 30 years.

I didn't have the testing for Gestational Diabetes at 28 weeks. I also declined having the Group B Strep test at 36 weeks. I throw that out simply because I want women to know that you have a choice, even when it comes to testing. Even the Diabetes Association has said that this does not need to be a standard test for everyone. It is though. Same with ultrasound. It is not recommended that all women have an ultrasound, but I don't know anyone these days who does not have one. (There are risks associated with ultrasound, but we'll save that topic for another day.

One thing that was interesting with this pregnancy, I started feeling Braxton-Hicks contractions at about 10 weeks. I would take every opportunity to use those as practice contractions and do my relaxation. I would just relax every bit of my body during those brief periods, no matter where I was when I was having them.

All of my babies have been born in the 39th week, the first being 40.0 weeks. This one was no different. Easter morning, 3 days before my "due date," I woke to having very frequent Braxton-Hicks. They were very regular though, so I decided to stay home from church to rest. David took the 3 kids and I slept for a couple of hours and read a book. It was so relaxing and peaceful.

The contractions continued throughout the day, short and close together, not hard at all. David and I went for a walk around 3:30 and my water broke while we were out on the walk. We headed back home after that! I called my parents, who were coming over for dinner. We had a New Mexican Easter dinner of Chile Rellenos, Spanish slaw, tortillas, and fruit salad. I've never thrown up in labor, but I decided to take my own advice and not eat anything that I don't want to see again! I ate a tortilla and some fruit.

At 7:00 p.m., I was emailing with some potential Bradley students, commenting that I was in "early labor." We were putting the kids to bed at 8:00, and as I was laying on one of the girl's beds, I had a really strong contraction (the first of the entire day!) that I really had to concentrate on relaxing through. I told David I was going downstairs to take a shower.

My dad went back to their RV around 8:30 and my mom was staying for the birth. My brother-in-law also stopped by during that time to bring us some things from the store. I remember being fine to talk to him, but when I had a contraction, I had to lean over and not speak.

Everyone left and I went immediately to my bathroom, which I loved. I had told David during the pregnancy that I imagined laboring a lot in our bathroom. It's like, once my body was where my mind wanted to be, alone, labor really picked up. I had tons of contractions on the toilet. I was in the shower when David came in. Remember, last time David saw me was in the girl's room and I'd just had my first major contraction. He came in happy and talking, and was shocked when I told him to call Barb. He didn't believe I could possibly be ready for her to come to the house already! It had been 30 minutes since that contraction!

He timed several contractions while I was in the shower, doing the "doula hoola," rotating my hips, with my head pressed against the shower wall. It felt so great! I could feel that being upright was the best position. This is the only labor I didn't have back labor. What a difference!

When I got out of the shower, I decided I wanted to sit in the bathtub for a bit. We filled it up, but I would never sit down. I leaned over the edge instead, on my knees. David was right in front of me, talking to me. When you have birthed 3 babies together, you learn what different sounds and expressions mean at the different stages of labor. I was really starting to sound out the contractions -- loudly. David knew the baby was in the birth canal.

He was so calm. No one else was there yet. We had invited his sister, Marla, and my friend, Ingrid, in addition to my mom. Two of our children wanted to be at the birth, so we needed someone to be with them, plus, we needed someone to do the video.

David calmly told me not to fight the contractions. If I needed to push, that was the right thing to do. We knew what to do if the baby came without Barb there. How wonderful to have a husband who believes in my body to do this! Birth is not a crisis!

Barb got there shortly after I got out of the bathtub. I had a short period of back labor as the baby descended into the birth canal. Barb applied counter pressure and then massaged the backs of my legs as David embraced me and I leaned into him. I felt so supported.

We didn't stand there very long. I was ready to push this baby out! I moved over to my bed, but instinctively knew that I needed to remain upright. (Most hospitals/OBGYNs would not have allowed that.) They stacked a bunch of pillows under me as I leaned on the headboard. I was on my knees. (The video of this birth is awful! The back side of my 200 pound body is not attractive!)

At any rate, I didn't push very long before the head was born. She was born "in the veil" meaning the sac was covering her face. This is very rare, but the superstition says that if this happens to your baby, he/she will have good luck all their life. My best friend's last baby was also born in the veil. Interesting...

Her head was out for nearly 5 minutes before I birthed the rest of the body. Psychologically, I think I was hanging onto the baby as long as I could. There were a couple of reasons for this: 1) I knew this was very likely my last pregnancy and birth; and 2) We really wanted this baby to be a boy. Not really because we were dying to have another boy, but because we wanted our son to have a brother. And he desperately wanted a brother.

Barb mentioned that the shoulders needed to come out and I barely started to do the "Gaskin Maneuver," lifting one leg to release the baby's shoulders, and the baby slipped right out. I took the baby between my legs and awkwardly flipped over so I could sit up. I held her for a long time before I turned her over to find out the sex. I was so scared to find out.

The two children who wanted to be there for the birth came in right as I pushed her head out, so they were there for the birth. Everyone was so anxious to know who this baby was going to be -- James or Darcy? I finally turned her over and David announced (trying to sound happy for the sake of the video), "It's Darcy!" Everyone in the room looked at Daymon. He had the biggest, silent tears rolling from his eyes. It just broke my heart. My boy will never have a brother.

Now, if truth be known, I had enjoyed my time alone (while the others were at school) with the 3rd child so much, I was really hoping for another girl. We had so many clothes for a girl, too. And who doesn't love the name Darcy? Was I trying to console myself? Maybe a bit.

It took 1 hour and 12 minutes to deliver the placenta. Average time is anywhere from 5-45 minutes. Most hospitals administer pitocin, regardless of circumstances or necessity. They mash the uterus and some really lame doctors will even tug on the cord. None of these things are part of the natural process. Breastfeeding will cause the uterus to contract and take care of the placenta. Barb kept checking my vitals and to be sure the cervix wasn't closing, as that would be a complication. Everything was fine. This was my normal for this birth.

I would like to note that I had NO intervention with this birth, not even a vaginal exam. I just gave birth.

Darcy was born at 10:55 p.m., less than 3 hours after that super strong contraction. I loved all my early labor with this birth. Barb and all our visitors/helpers were gone by 2:00 a.m. My husband was snoring next to me and our new baby. I laid there next to her, both of us wide awake, staring at each other. I was processing the whole event. Not to mention having the absolute worst afterpains ever! These get worse with every baby. Every time I breastfed for the first 4 days, it was like being in labor again. I had to sound it out and have everyone in the room be quiet.

Darcy weighed just one ounce shy of Abby, at 7 lbs.15 ounces. She was really long too, 22".

Daymon was the first child awake the next morning. He came downstairs and climbed into bed with us to stare at Darcy, his newest sister. He looked up at me and whispered, "I love her more than anything in the world." I am so grateful that he was allowed the opportunity to witness her birth and find out that the baby was a girl with all of us at the same time. I believe that it helped tremendously with his love and acceptance towards her, and even us, for sharing this event with him.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What I Learned From My 3rd Birth

This will not be long, don't worry. The first 2 births, I wanted to really show the contrast between them -- drugs vs. no drugs. That is not the point of this one.

I had wanted to have the 3rd baby at home, but David said no way. Our video is a prized possession of the 2nd birth, so we knew we wanted to video the 3rd too. At 33 weeks, we found out that the hospital we were to give birth at did not allow you to videotape the actual birth. I had been jumping over red flags the entire pregnancy, so that was the last straw. David finally consented that it was time to search for another birth place.

Yadda yadda yadda, that birth place became home. I interview lots of midwives over the phone and narrowed it down. I took David to meet the one I like the best. I think deep down he was really scared to be walking this road with me. After meeting Jenny, though, he was full of confidence. In his words, "That woman could handle anything!"

Ninety percent of the births she attended were water births, so "when in Rome..." We decided to have a water birth.

I was cocky with this birth. I had all this knowledge of birth and my memory of the 2nd birth was that it was pretty easy. So, I didn't prepare. I ate my protein, but I did not practice my pregnancy exercises. We did not practice relaxation even one time before labor began. What a mistake.

You know how everyone always tells you that each labor gets shorter? That's what I was expecting. My 2nd labor was 5 hours, so 5 hours into this labor, and I'm thinking, "Where's the baby?" I really wasn't working hard though, not until the few hours before the birth. (This labor was about 14 hours.)

My water broke about 2 hours before she was born. Right before this, I was sitting on the toilet, totally freaking out in my head, thinking, "What am I doing? If I was in a hospital, I could be having drugs right now? Why didn't I prepare for this birth? I am an idiot!"

Things picked up after my water broke and I went to my glorified kiddy pool set up in the living room. I never recognized the urge to push because I was sitting on her head, propped up on my arms. Very uncomfortable. I was so hot in the water. Looking back, I should have gotten out and birth on land! I screamed my head off when I pushed this baby out. (The mailman came to the door to deliver our mail during this time!) All my cords have been short, and the water was so deep. I had a hard time holding her head up out of the water because my arms were shaking so bad. I wanted to breastfeed immediately to help deliver the placenta, but again, I couldn't because the water was so deep.

Oh yeah, she weighed 8 pounds, Dr. Wolsey! No tears.

So learn from my mistakes: practice and prepare for each birth. I have heard many midwives comment on 3rd births, that they tend to be the hardest. That was true in my case.

I love water for labor, but for birth, this was not the best situation for me. I had intense back labor again and in order for anyone to apply counter-pressure, they either had to be in the water with me or leaning over the very deep edge.

For baby #4, everyone kept telling me to keep my options open, but I knew I didn't want to birth in water again.

The funny thing about the whole story is that baby #3 has been the last to learn to swim and is always the first one out of the pool!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Attachment Parenting

I have thought so much about Sheri's comments about the book she read that said that for every month you breastfeed your baby past 1 year, the more dependent he/she will become and the harder it will be to wean that child. It has driven me crazy!

My last 2 children were breastfed for 24 months and 28 months, and they are both very outgoing and "independent." One is very mature for her age and can talk to adults and children alike. The other is creative and such a free-spirit. I am so close with both, but they are very comfortable with people and really, well-adjusted individuals, so far in their short lives. They were never purposely "weaned." It was just a natural process that happened. The others were 15 months and 19 months the last time they breastfed -- still respectable amount of time. None of my children are joined at my hip. They all lead pretty normal, healthy childhoods.

When I was born (1971), it was very popular to not breastfeed (I was not breastfed), to let your baby teach herself to fall asleep on her own -- even if that meant crying alone in a dark room, and feeding on a schedule and only then, and even starting solid foods when just a few days old. If you didn't do these things, you were going to spoil your baby. Who would ever want that?

I am a product of that type of parenting. So are my brother and sister. We are all extremely independent, but I don't know how "attached" we were/are. I like to think that now, at 37, I am attached, but it's taken years. My father and I never got along until I was well into my 20's. I would never have gone to him with my problems or questions while I was growing up. If I had a bad dream at night, I was angrily sent back to bed. I don't remember ever crawling into bed with my parents after a bad dream. This really wasn't their fault though. The parenting books generally said the same thing at that time.

So, yes, it fostered independence, but not attachment. Not trust. When I was 16, I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle halfway across the country because I couldn't get along with my parents (really, father). But it was a cycle that started long before my teenage years. Now that is just my story.

Imagine being a small child. No matter how much you love your brothers and sisters, it is your parents that you look to for love, support, comfort, knowledge, trust, and understanding. If you are denied comfort, you learn to not trust.

I don't know about y'all, but I'd rather have my child be attached to me than independent from me. What is wrong with some dependency anyway? What's all the fuss? Are we afraid that they'll never leave the house? They will. And we will be sad. I love to know that I can be dependent on certain people in my life. Interestingly, my aunt and uncle are at the top of that list.

David read this over my shoulder and said he was worried that this would hurt my mom's feelings. I don't know if she'll ever read this, to be honest. This is so not a pity party. I am simply commenting on how parenting philosophies have changed over the years. I've often thought of how I was raised and why I am the way I am. Don't we all? My mom is great. She has always gone above and beyond for me. My mom and I are close and really have always been. My father died 2 years ago, but the last several years were much different than they were growing up. I don't think my dad liked having small children around, and I really don't think he liked having a rebellious teenager daughter! He did much better with adult children!

So, Mom, if you are reading this, I love you! You have always let me be me, even though it has surely driven you insane sometimes. I learned that lesson from you when dealing with my own children. They are their own person and I can't make them be what/who I want them to be. You never did that to me and I am grateful for that.

I've turned this into a therapy session. I apologize. I hope this causes you to ponder your own upbringing, what it means in your life, and how you want to use it in raising your own children.

Be wary of any advice that is not good for baby, but very convenient for the parents. Attach those babies!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My First Drug-free Birth!

In honor of my oldest daughter's birthday, January 19th, I am reposting her birth story:

I am back to the topic of birth. Things have been hectic here. I've been writing this in my head, but I knew I needed a significant time block to sit down and type it out. Which means you need a good chunk of time to read this!


So here I am, geared up and ready to have baby number 2, knowing I am doing this different from the first time around. I knew a number of people who had had great births (yes, Alisa was one of them) with a group of midwives about 30 minutes away, so that's where I went.


A word of advice: when you are seeking out your birth attendant, be sure that who you are asking had the kind of birth that you are shooting for. For example, you are wanting to have an unmedicated birth and your neighbor insists that her OB is the absolute best. Before scheduling that appointment, find out about her birth. Did she have an "emergency" c-section? Did she want the drugs? Did her doctor want her to have the drugs? There are many birthing philosophies out there -- be sure yours matches up with your birth attendant. You might try asking friends and family first that had the kind of birth you are after.


First of all, meeting with a female practitioner was so much better than a male. Why do men even go into this profession? Think about it. It's creepy, really.


The majority of the midwives I met with knew the power of birthing and what that meant in a woman's life. They supported natural, normal birth. They spent time talking with me about my first birth and the journey that had led me to their door. They were interested in what kind of birth I was hoping for this time around. I felt so in control of my situation, but this was largely because I was taking control -- not trusting someone else make my decisions for me.


We enrolled in a lengthy class and learned so much valuable information. We "packed our bags," I like to say, for birth. We learned about the process of normal birth. All pregnant women and their husbands should know this information! It eliminates the fear. I understood how my body would work in labor and what to expect. I learned, and so did David, what to do in labor and how I could work with my body to help my baby make her way into the world without the effects of medication.


David and I would practice all sorts of exercises and relaxation. We tracked what I ate in order to get the protein I needed (80-100 grams a day). This process brought us closer together and caused us to focus on the new baby, which can be difficult with a 2-year-old running around.


I was due January 22, 1999. She was born on the 19th. If you have been reading this blog chronologically, you know what started my first labor -- intercourse and nipple stimulation. Well, guess what started this labor? Just a side note: nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin in the mother, which is what causes the uterus to contract. It crosses a blood-brain barrier, so her body also releases endorphins to help her deal with the contractions. When a woman has pitocin in labor, that is a synthetic form of oxytocin. It forces the uterus to contract and because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, there are no natural endorphins to help the mother deal with that pain. This is why pitocin-induced contractions are so much harder to cope with. When labor is allowed to start naturally, the body is very kind. Usually, contractions build gradually in intensity and frequency, and like I just mentioned, there are those wonderful endorphins. Baby will also respond better to natural contractions, like a massage, squeezing the fluid gradually from her lungs, preparing her to breathe on her own.


When you read about nipple stimulation in most books, they will tell you how dangerous this is and that you shouldn't do it unless you are hooked up to a monitor in the hospital. And yet, they are more than willing to pump you full of the synthetic drug. If it were dangerous, do you think our body would perform this way? Of course not. There is a phrase that I like to use in class: "The same thing that got you into this is the same thing that will get you out." Nipple stimulation is a part of that process. It is a natural labor inducer. If your body and baby are not ready, you will not start labor and will proceed with the evening's activities. (So if that is not working, why would you allow a doctor to pump you with pitocin? You are twice as likely to have a c-section because you and your baby weren't ready!) And if you are ready, you likely will not be finishing what you started, as was the case with us.


Contractions did start very intense. Let me back up here for a minute. Remember Dr. Wolsey's comments to me about the vaginal exam I'd had the day before I was due with the first baby? I was not dilating or effacing and it was devastating. Vaginal exams do absolutely nothing but put you on an emotional roller coaster. They are pointless. They tell you nothing about when she will start labor. (I talk extensively about this in class.) Despite this common knowledge, it is common practice, and even the midwives could not believe I didn't want to be checked! I must admit, it was hard to say no, but I was not traveling down that road again. I knew my body knew what to do, no matter what Dr. Wolsey had told me!


So when contractions started with such intensity, I was surprised. And scared. This was the beginning of labor. What happened to my early labor phase? I showed immediate signs of quick dilation -- shaking being the one I remember the most. I laid down under the covers and was thinking through the contractions. It was midnight, same as last time I started labor, 2 1/2 years earlier.


We had asked Alisa to be at this birth with us. David asked if I wanted him to call her and I said yes. I just couldn't believe how hard it was starting. I was freaking out a bit, wondering if I would be able to do it after all.


I had read so much about the use of water in labor. It's been called "the midwife's epidural." I got in the shower, and while standing there, rotating my hips, recalled everything I'd learned and prepared for. I was ready! I was determined to do this!


We didn't stay at the house more than a couple of hours. I remember eating a banana during that time. I wanted to have energy, but I remember I didn't have much of an appetite. Again, more of a late labor sign. I wasn't talking much and was very serious.


David drove the car (very slowly) and it was raining. It wasn't even very cold which was odd for Utah in January. I remember worrying a lot about being cold in labor because I am a shiverer. Have you ever tried to relax while you are cold and shivering?


A funny side note about the drive to the hospital: right before we got there, Alisa reached over me (we were both in the back seat) and locked the door. I had my eyes closed, very focused on what I was doing. I could not resist opening my eyes to see why she had done that. There was a guy in the middle of the road waving what appeared to be a gun. It was about 2:30 a.m. My husband said he would have run the guy over if he would have tried anything. Fortunately, he did not.


The midwife, Susan, literally met us at the door and helped us to our room. I had the 20-minute monitoring strip, which was no fun. I kept asking when I could take it off so I could get in the water. My vaginal exam told me I was dilated to a 7 and 90% effaced! That was so awesome! I was doing it!


I really used the lack of sleep to my advantage with this labor. I had my eyes closed nearly the entire labor and really was falling asleep between contractions. I was so relaxed between contractions, I just "forced" myself to stay that way and not tense up when a new contraction would start. When I would tense, it was nearly impossible to gain control again during that contraction. I learned pretty quick that it paid off to stay relaxed and not fight the contractions.


I spent a lot of time in the bath. Alisa and David kept me drinking lots of water and orange juice. (I, in class, usually don't recommend a lot of OJ during labor, just after the birth.)


Our nurse was so supportive of unmedicated birth and expressed disappointed in the amount of women not having natural birth. She was so encouraging, like a big sister.


Our midwife was so laid back. She knew that there was no worries. She knew I was handling it fine. I had good support. I remember my friend, Janet, had told me that she had used "sounding" as a way to handle contractions. (My son says I sound like a ghost when I do it, if that gives you any idea of what it sounds like.) This is an incredible, easy tool to use. It keeps your breathing steady and deep. Baby is getting good oxygen because you are taking good deep breaths and letting it go, audibly. I don't think I could get through labor without this technique.


I remember at one point, David was sitting behind me applying counter-pressure to my back (terrible back labor) and I was sounding out the contractions. Susan was sitting in a chair sleeping, or so I thought, and she said, "Donna, you sound so good. Keep doing exactly what you are doing." I cannot begin to tell you what this did for me as a laboring woman! Deep inside, I knew what I sounded like, but I really couldn't help it. I felt slightly self-conscious. Let's face it, we don't make noises like this everyday! She gave me the confidence and freedom to keep doing what was working for me, no matter how ridiculous I sounded! Thank you, Susan!

During this labor, I remember only thinking and focusing on the contraction that I was doing. I never thought of the next one. This is huge! It's the reason I was able to sleep and relax during contractions. I also recalled Martha Sears's comment about relaxing "like you are 11 months pregnant." This, too, was very useful.

At one point, the midwife checked dilation and found that I was a 9. She said the bag of waters was bulging and asked if she could break my water. I told her no. I didn't want any intervention. The cervix also had a lip, or rim, and so she pushed it out of the way. This was very painful, but I felt immediate relief.

I remember going to the bathroom and while I was there, I grunted at the peak of a contraction. It was totally involuntary and everyone knew the baby was descending. I went to the bed and continued to labor on hands and knees because of the back labor. After a short period, I started to say that I had to poop. Everyone was excited (!!) and the midwife said that was the baby. Although I had learned in class that the sensation is exactly the same, I was in total denial. Why wasn't anyone helping me off this bed to go to the bathroom?!

Susan checked me again and said that the baby was "right there" and if she broke my water, I'd have the baby immediately. I, at this point, said ok. She tried several times to break it -- usually a simple process -- but she said the bag was so thick. She said I must have eaten great protein. Yea!

She was right. My daughter was born eight minutes later, at 5:04 a.m. I gave birth on my side. I have this fantasy that I am this quiet birther -- that my babies enter this world in a dimly lit room that is quiet and peaceful. I finally came to terms with this on the 4th birth, that I am not a quiet birther. I am vocal. But I am a very vocal person, so it makes sense that I would sound it out. AND THAT'S OK. I felt so bad about this for so long. I always tell my classes that it is OK to be a vocal birther. Our midwife, Barbara Pepper, with our 4th birth, encouraged me to sound it out, like an animal. That felt so good, so right.

I didn't tear, but felt like I had. Women are always so afraid of the possibility of tearing. It does sound awful, doesn't it? The reality is, even if you don't (about a 50/50 chance), you will think you did. When the skin stretches, it burns. This is a very intense, but extremely short period -- usually a contraction or two.

My daughter was immediately placed on my chest -- oh my goodness, she had so much black hair! (Our son was completely blond.) I was so emotional. I DID IT! Even as I type this, my eyes are welling up with tears, remembering that moment. Everything I had been afraid of before -- for what? This was amazing! Shortly after she was born, I remember saying, "I can't wait to do that again." Even when we watch the last 3 births, this birth is the most emotional. She weighed 7 lb. 2 oz., a whole pound more than our first baby. Dr. Wolsey told me that I would probably never give birth to a baby weighing more that 7 pounds. We booed him in the delivery room when she was weighed!

We were incredibly prepared. We started off so great with this baby. Confident in ourselves and our baby. She was gorgeous -- still is! We named her after her great-grandmother, who I am certain was smiling down on her, probably sad to see her go, and yet excited for her to experience this life.

If I could do this, anyone could do this! This is why I teach Birth Boot Camp, so that all women can have this experience. It's not about pain at all. It's about doing what God has given you the gift to do. I believe that He wants us to use the powers of birth and not numb them with pain medication. The body works together so beautifully, that is, until we intervene with the natural process.

If you are thinking about having an unmedicated birth, do it! Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and the power of your body to give birth! Boo to all the naysayers who tell you that you can't do it. You can!



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Playgroups

I don't have much time to write, but it's been a great morning. I went to a playgroup with all relatively new moms with little children. My youngest, now 3 1/2, was the oldest child there. After we left there, we met up with one of my Bradley groups from last year (all 7 gave birth vaginally without medication!) and had a picnic at the Botanic Gardens in Ft. Worth.

It just reminded me of playgroups when my children were all home and little. Those are such special times. I don't know who looked more forward to playgroup -- my kids or me! Playgroups have meant so much to me and my children in our lives. In fact, when I told the kids at breakfast that I was going to 2 different "playgroups" today, they all had this look in their eye -- like that is where they'd like to be -- even my 12 year old son.

All the Bradley moms were breastfeeding and plan to continue into baby's first year, which, of course, makes me happy.

I haven't addressed Sherry's questions about attachment parenting, and I don't know that I want to go down that path yet in the blog. I'm sorry you've come across some "militant" websites and groups. I never want to alienate people from what I am saying -- doesn't that defeat the purpose?! -- but I do understand how people get to that point. For now, let me just direct you to anything by Dr. William Sears. I consider him the to be the expert. "The Discipline Book" is a really great book. It's not what you think based on the title!

Today, one of the moms said that she never tells her baby "no." This might seem like an interesting concept to most people, but it is along the lines of attachment parenting. It takes a lot of concentration and discipline on your part, but the payoff is great. She uses redirecting or key words to tell her daughter what she wants her to know. For example, baby is about to do something where she might fall and get hurt, mom says, "Ou-wee," and when she falls, she'll say it again "Ou-wee" so that baby makes the connection that if I do this, I might get hurt. She's not constantly telling her child "no," but saving the word for when she really needs it. This is very Dr. Sears.

I have found over the years, when I use that technique, no matter the age, I am a better parent and I have better behaved children. So thanks, Carmen, for the reminder of being a good parent. You all make me proud. You are such good mothers to your babies. Thanks for letting me share lunch with you today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Extended Breastfeeding

I was going to write about my first unmedicated birth today, but Sherry had some questions about extended breastfeeding. Rather than list it under the "comments," I decided I would write a post about it.

Extended breastfeeding is an interesting topic. Often, when I mention breastfeeding in class, I can see some people (usually men, but not always) squirm in their seat a bit. I am not shy about this topic and certainly do not beat around the bush. I even do a live demonstration in class on nursing without a blanket. A great tool for this is a nursing bra/tank made by Glamourmom. Everything is covered and mom is confident and baby is happy. If you buy anything from them, I ask that you use my code: DORY49. I can earn free bras/tanks to hand out to my students. Thanks.

It is one thing to get everyone comfortable with the topic of breastfeeding, but then I throw them a curve ball when I talk about extended breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding for at least one year; exclusive (no formula or solid foods) breastfeeding for the first 6 months. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years. The sad truth is that only about 20% of babies are exclusively breastfeed at 6 months.

If you are one of the very few that have nursed your baby till his/her 1st birthday, congratulations! Now, keep going! Let's talk about why:

For those of you who don't already read Mothering magazine, it is an excellent resource on loads of topics. I highly recommend it. Last year there was an article titled "8 Reasons to Nurse Your Toddler." The first four deal with the baby:
 1) Complete nutrition. A friend recently told me about her baby that wouldn't eat solid food (he was about 14 mos.) and she felt so bad, knowing he wasn't getting anything from breast milk anymore. Don't let anyone tell you that breastfeeding looses nutrients, fats, and energy! Just the opposite is true. 2) Breastfed toddlers are physically healthier. They continue receiving immunities that help them stay healthy and fight off illness. Fewer visits to the doctor's office -- yea! Money in your pocket.
3) Emotional health. Your baby knows that you are there for him and independence is not forced before they are ready. He can climb into your lap to "reconnect" and be on his way again. You are actually giving him confidence in you and himself.  
4) Smarter people! Breastfeeding promotes a higher IQ. It's brain food -- literally!

Now mom's turn:  
1) Promotes your emotional well-being. Prolactin, the hormone that makes you (and baby) relax is released when you breastfeed. I miss this hormone now that my breastfeeding days are over! I can't imagine trying to parent an infant (and especially a toddler!) without this hormone.
2) Reduces your risk of disease. Lowers the risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers. It also reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

I was in a bathroom at a midwives office several years ago and there was this big poster behind the door. The information on it was so powerful, it should have been in the waiting room. I asked for a copy of it and they went and copied it in all these different sections. It was pretty funny. Really, it should be a brochure, but I've never seen it anywhere else. This is part of what it said:

"Women who breastfeed lower their risk of breast cancer. Nursing for a lifetime total of: 2 years lowers the risk before menopause by 40%, 6 years lowers the risk before menopause by 66%, 7 years lowers the risk of breast cancer throughout a woman's lifetime to almost zero."

I have spent 7 years and 2 months of my life breastfeeding!

3)Acts as a natural birth control. I feel so strongly about babies having their time to be the baby. If number 2, 3, 4, whatever, comes so close behind, they are forced to grow up, likely, before they are ready. You are less likely to start a period if you are exclusively breastfeeding, day and night. 4)Makes parenting easier. Who can argue with that?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

OB vs. midwife -- the debate

OK, I went a little crazy yesterday and was really harsh on the doctors. Every now and then I find one that is really great and does believe that a woman's body can do this without his/her help. They are extremely rare, however. They are trained to look for things to go wrong.

Likewise, I've run into midwives who do the profession a disservice by calling themselves such. I call them "doctors in midwives clothing!" There are some who are very medically minded and think intervention is appropriate in nearly every birth. One of my students in Albuquerque was giving birth with a large group of midwives at a local hospital and was insistent on little intervention. The midwife scolded her for birthing in a hospital, telling her she should have birthed at home because this (interventions) is how it is done in the hospital.

So, here is some advice. When you are looking for a great OBGYN or midwife, call your local Birth Boot Camp Instructor. They will know who supports natural birth.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Update on Blog Title

David had thought of the name Natural Childbirth Manifesto for the blog title, while the address was Banned From Baby Showers. It was too confusing, so everything is banned-from-baby-showers now. That might make the post "Birth of a Blog" make more sense knowing that I started under a different title.

Someone had asked about thrush... I'm curious if you know that you have it or just suspect that you do. It is hard to get rid of, but be diligent in keeping everything clean -- you and anything that goes in the baby's mouth. What, specifically, is your question? Are you and the baby being treated for thrush? Is it working? I'm assuming it's not since you are asking about it! I have a friend in Albuquerque who had it multiple times with all 4 of her children. Some women are more prone to it than others.

From OBGYN to Midwife

When I was researching midwives, I came across some numbers that I'd like to share. Forgive me, for I don't remember my source, but I remember very clearly what it said: At a typical office visit with an OBGYN, he/she will give you five minutes. If your appointment is with a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), usually practicing in a hospital group, appointments will last on average 15 minutes. If you are meeting with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) or a Licensed Midwife (LM), practicing usually at a free-standing birth center or homebirth, you can expect your appointments to last about an hour. In my experience, this has absolutely been true.

The midwife typically considers the entire woman and her family, not just the vaginal opening, when it comes to labor and birth. Birth is affected by so many factors. A midwife who has spent, literally, hours with her client, knows her and her concerns very well. She is able to work with the laboring woman and help her because she knows her and her desires. A doctor is focused on getting the baby out. The focus is on the cervix, not the whole person.

Our Licensed Midwife with our third baby said to me, and I quote her often, "Birth is 90% in your head, and 10% what happens to you." I believe this.

I had a miscarriage between our first and second children. It was very early on in the pregnancy. I went in to talk to the OBGYN, Dr. Brian Wolsey, that we had used with the first baby, I guess to be sure that everything was fine. While I was there, I asked him if I chose to give birth in a different position with the next baby, would he support me? He got down on one knee, contorting his body with his hands in the air, up around his head, and said, "Well, it's kind of hard to catch a baby like this." I knew immediately that he didn't care for my question.

Let's let that sink in for a moment. Read his answer to yourself again.

This is where I take issue with the term, "delivered." A woman does not need to be "delivered." I saw this picture recently where the doctor is holding a baby in the foreground, all proud, that he "delivered" this baby to the mother. She was sitting in the hospital bed, smiling at the doctor, like she couldn't have done it without him. Maybe I read more into that than the average person, but I was so offended. Who is the hero here?

The professional a woman chooses to have at her birth should be "attending" her birth, not "delivering" her. Dr. Wolsey, by making that comment, made it all about him. I would be the one giving birth. I always teach that the laboring woman should follow her instincts. If her body needs to be upright (there's a number of reasons why you'd want to be in this position), then who is her doctor to tell her that she is inconveniencing him?!

Sitting there on that table, I remember watching him on the floor, dressed in his nice clothes and tie, and thinking, "What a jerk." How many c-sections has this guy given to women who could have given birth vaginally just fine? Remember, he told us at the end of my first pregnancy that my body had just reached a point where it didn't know what to do. My body grew the baby, but it doesn't know how to birth it? Am I going to be pregnant forever if you don't remove this baby from my body? I could have easily have had a c-section with this doctor. I was one of the lucky ones who did not.

There are thousands of doctors out there just like Dr. Wolsey. I knew at that moment, watching him on the floor, that I would never have an OBGYN attend any of my births again. I am lumping all doctors into one awful heap, but I am fairly comfortable with that at this point in the game. The c-section rate continues to rise all over the country, but in areas where there are a significant number of midwives attending births, the c-section rates are lower.

Take my home state of New Mexico -- they have one of the lowest c-section rates in the country, and about 1 in 3 births are attended by a midwife. This is not a coincidence. I in no way want to make NM sound like they have a low c-section rate, as they don't. It's too high everywhere. It's just lower than the majority of other states. The World Health Organization has stated that the c-section rate should be between about 10-15%. The US rate averages 1 in 3, or 33%, of American babies are born via c-section. Will we ever see it reverse? Frankly, it's become so accepted, it's hard to imagine the rate actually going down.

There are other contributing factors to the outrageous c-section rates -- decline in VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) inflicted by ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and malpractice suits, to name a few. And we can't forget the very ignorant women electing to have a c-section over a vaginal birth. This is a topic for another day, but I just wanted to address c-sections briefly as I "attack" the OBs.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"I did it!"

Alisa, my crazy friend who wanted to give birth to her baby without medication, did it! I must admit, deep down, I really wanted her to fail. I kept telling my husband throughout Alisa's pregnancy that she had no idea how hard it was and there would be no way she could handle it. Although it wasn't a conscious thought, somehow, if she failed, that would validate my birth.

Now this is something interesting that I have run into over the years of teaching: Students tell their friends and family that they are planning a natural birth. They are always shocked by their negative reactions, especially by those who have given birth with medication. They will often ridicule the pregnant woman's decision. The phrase I have to laugh at is, "It's not like you get a medal." No, just a baby! You appreciate more what you work hard for. Labor and birth are a bridge between pregnancy and being this child's mother, and it needs to be experienced. I know how it feels to be on both sides of this issue. This is how I was with Alisa, wanting her to fail.

A former student of mine addressed this in her birth story: "I feel very empowered through this whole experience. I did what almost everyone I know told me I couldn't do. It was the most challenging, but rewarding thing I have ever done. I feel so good about giving (my baby) the very best start in life!... Knowledge is power in the Labor and Delivery room!"

When Alisa called me after the birth, exclaiming, "I did it!" she must have felt like the woman I just quoted. I was one of those people who told her she was crazy and wasn't strong enough. The sound of her voice is one that echoed in my head for months, maybe years. It was exhilaration at her accomplishment, pure joy and self confidence, even awe at the strength of her own body. The experience brought them closer together as they truly worked together to bring their child into the world.

I wanted this experience to be mine. I knew next time would be different for us. I never heard anyone talk about their birth the way she did, but then again, they all had the drugs! If Alisa could do it, so could I!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A long transition

I have this friend, Alisa, who always knew that she wanted to give birth without medication. (Crazy, huh? -- At least this is what I was thinking.) She took Bradley classes in her last trimester and was reading "The Birth Book" by Dr. Sears. I was at her house one day doing laundry and she left to go to work. I was left there by myself to finish up and nurse my baby. I was already a Dr. Sears fan, so I picked up the book and started reading.

If you have not read the book, it starts out by telling about the authors' eight births. This was so powerful to me. And emotional. The births with medication left Martha Sears feeling victimized, for lack of a better word. The unmedicated births were empowering! The way she described the differences between the two really struck a cord with me.

The next chapter is titled, "Birth -- Then and Now." I think of all the things that I read, this is what really impacted me. It details the history of childbirth in America. Don't you ever wonder how in the world we have gotten to this point? I live in North Texas where the c-section rate is an astounding 50%! Some DFW hospitals are at 60%. It is completely unacceptable. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to share my knowledge and experience -- except at baby showers!

I teach a class called "Consumerism in Childbirth" in which I go into detail about the history of childbirth and midwifery. How did the (male) OB even get involved in childbirth? Who are all these people in childbirth? What questions should you be asking of your doctor, midwife, hospital? How they answer is as important as what they say. Is homebirth (again, it's telling me that homebirth is not a word!) safe(r)? This is a great class to take at the beginning of pregnancy. But it is NEVER to late to change your provider. If you are jumping over red flags, pretending they aren't there, you have no one to blame but yourself if things don't go as you'd like or your wishes are not honored. As long as the baby is still inside you, you have a choice. I'll say it again -- you will only give birth to this baby one time. I get tired of hearing people say, "Well, on the next baby, we'll do things different" or "I'll definitely have a midwife with the next birth." Do it NOW!

So I read this chapter "Birth -- Then and Now" and was left with this feeling that as women, we have been sold a lot of garbage. And we bought it! Think of how childbirth is portrayed in the movies or on television. It is "funny" with the laboring woman screaming at her husband or demanding the drugs (and she's always flat on her back which is the worst, and most painful, position to be in). The other scenario that we see is the drama -- how dangerous childbirth is. But we watch it, don't we? We cry and feel sad. And scared. We fear childbirth because this is all we have ever seen. Very few people (doctors included) have ever witnessed a completely unmedicated, intervention-free birth. There's not much drama, let me tell you! Doctors need us to believe that we need them. I have to leave you with a quote by Brigham Young: "Would you want doctors? Yes, to set bones. We should want a good surgeon for that, or to cut off a limb. (!!) But do you want doctors? For not much of anything else, let me tell you, only the traditions of the people lead them to think so; and here is a growing evil in our midst. It will be so in a little time that not a woman in all Israel will dare to have a baby unless she can have a doctor by her. I will tell you what to do, you ladies, when you find you are going to have an increase, go off into some country where you cannot call for a doctor, and see if you can keep it. I guess you will have it, and I guess it will be all right, too." As a side note, before 1900 (when this would have been written), nearly all births took place in the home with a midwife. Less than 5% of American births were attended by a doctor when Brigham Young made this prophetic statement.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Transition

In labor, the hardest part is usually towards the end of dilation, right before the woman announces that she has to push. More often than not, she actually announces that she has to poop, as the sensation is about the same. Everyone is afraid of this period of labor, but only about a 1/3 of women will actually have a difficult transition -- throwing up, nausea, shaking, hot/cold flashes, and generally freaking out! We laugh about it now-- it's funny when you are not in labor, but not so much when it is your reality. It is also typically the shortest (roughly 10-30 minutes), but most intense, part of labor.

And so it was with the months after Daymon was born. When I left the hospital, there was this part of me that could not believe they were giving him to me. I was in charge of this little person. I honestly didn't have a clue! I remember laying him down in his crib, all bundled up with a little "tuke" on his head for warmth, and saying to him, "OK... Good night." His eyes were as big as quarters. I just looked at David like, "How do we make him go to sleep?" He shrugged. Beats me.

Thus began the nights of rocking, nursing at 2:00 a.m. (and 3:30, and 5:00), only for him to wake the minute I laid him back down. If anyone had ever wished that their baby came with a manual, it was me. This baby wanted to be with me all the time! (We'll address this later.)

Looking back, I don't remember how we survived those first few months. When Daymon was four months old, I was telling my hairdresser that I wished there was a "manual," an all-in-one book that I could refer to. This was my turning point. She told me about her favorite book, "The Baby Book" by Dr. William Sears. I think I bought it that same day.

I learned about cosleeping/bedsharing and babywearing, which have been life-changing know-hows for us as parents. Daymon started sleeping in our bed, and for the first time in months, we were all sleeping! I searched everywhere for a sling (this was 1996) and finally found one from a lactation consultant. It was bright tye-dyed, so you better believe that absolutely everyone stared at us! I couldn't get in and out of a store without people wanting to know how it worked. I've tried a number of slings since then, but I always come back to the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. I have taught, literally, dozens of people how to use theirs' over the years. (I made a DVD showing how to use it with babies of all ages, sizes, and positions so I can send one anywhere.) Each of my children has had their own sling which is packed away with their baby stuff.

I was comfortable with attachment parenting. It felt natural and right. I wasn't letting my baby cry. He knew he could trust me. And I learned to trust myself. I carried him a lot in the sling -- the car seat remained in the car where it belongs! -- and I found myself talking to him because he was right next to me. To paraphrase Dr. Sears, your baby is a player, not a spectator, when he's in the sling. That has been such an important parenting tool for me.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My "All-American" Birth

So much of who I am today is directly tied to how and where I gave birth to my children. I completely understand why women choose to have medication in childbirth. When I was pregnant with our first baby, my first reaction when we had a positive test was, "I've got to call the doctor and find out what to do!" I viewed myself as a patient. My sister-in-law, a doula, had encouraged us to seek out a midwife instead of an OB, but I thought she was crazy! I was not having a witchdoctor attend the birth of my first child! I lived by the philosophy "Ignorance is bliss."

I remember when people would ask me if I was having "the drugs," I would think they were crazy for asking me such a question. Of course I was having the drugs! At one point during the pregnancy I thought there was a chance that our insurance plan wouldn't cover an epidural and I completely panicked. How could they expect me to give birth without pain medication? I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when I found out I had misunderstood our coverage.

Also during that pregnancy, I had an encounter with a woman who had had a midwife attend her unmedicated birth and chose to tear because she was emphatic about not having an episiotomy. She never explained to me why she was making these (crazy) decisions, but looking back on it, I wish she would have. (I always speak up when talking to pregnant moms!)

We enrolled in a hospital childbirth class because that's what you are supposed to do. The instructor announced right from the beginning that if you wanted to feel the birth and not have the epidural, you were in the wrong class. This was for "the wimps." I felt at ease. We were very prepared to be good patients. They explained all about the hospital procedures and policies. We took a tour. We learned about the epidural and were assured that it was safe for both mom and baby. I was so glad to be in such capable hands. I didn't have to know about anything that was happening to me. They would take care of everything. Did I mention that the hospital where we chose to give birth averaged 30 babies a day? (You are statistically more likely to have a c-section in a busy hospital.)

The day before I was due, I had an appointment with our OB. During my vaginal exam I found out that I was not dilated or effaced. He told me that at this point that my body "just wasn't sure what to do." He wanted me to come in for a non-stress test (fetal monitoring) in 5 days. He said at that point I would likely be induced and that it was best to emotionally prepare for a c-section because my chances of having one greatly increased with an induction. (Twice as likely, to clarify.)

I left that appointment, again, feeling like my doctor knows what he's doing. My husband's reaction, however, was quite different. He felt jipped. He wanted to have the experience of not knowing when labor would start and the rush to the hospital. We took blue cohosh and castor oil intermittently for hours. All joking aside, I DO NOT recommend taking those substances into your body. At midnight, we gave up and decided to go to bed.

Now, no one had told us that intercourse and nipple stimulation could start labor. We were engaged in these activities when I felt something very different than what I had been feeling for the last several weeks. It faded, but came back about 5 minutes later. We were so excited! We got dressed and went walking. By the time we got home, I had to stop during contractions. It got hard pretty fast. I took a bath and that did help. I hadn't prepared to feel anything, remember.

A side note -- I spent the first several hours of labor throwing up and having diarrhea from all the castor oil.

After 5 1/2 hours of labor, my vaginal exam told me that I was 90% effaced and 3 cm dilated. Remember, my body "didn't know what to do" and my cervix was a "big, fat zero" just a few hours earlier. My doctor didn't know when I would start labor! My body worked very hard in those 5 hours. I cried when I got to the hospital because I could have pain medication.

I had Nubain until I was further dilated. I felt drunk. I could still feel contractions, but I couldn't talk. My body was working so hard when I was moving around and making fast progress, but when I got in the bed, everything slowed down. (Remember that, pregnant moms.) Eventually I was able to have the epidural. With that came a flood of interventions, such as fetal monitoring, an IV, a catheter, a pulse monitor, fever reducer, pitocin to speed contractions, oxygen to bring up the baby's heart rate (who was doing fine until I introduced drugs into the equation), blood pressure monitor, eventually internal monitoring of the baby (had to break water to make that possible). What started as a normal, healthy, physiological event turned into a high-tech circus in which I had no control over.

My baby's heart rate kept dropping and the nurses kept telling me I was on the road to a c-section. I would have had one if my sister-in-law (the same one who wanted me to have a midwife) would not have been there. After each contraction, she would roll me over to my other side and that would bring baby's heart rate up. The nurses were surprised to find that I was dilated to a 9 and went ahead and moved me to a delivery room. I pushed for 45 minutes and gave birth to a very small baby boy. 6 pounds, 1 ounce on his due date. (That's a story for another time.)

My husband was very emotional, and while they cleaned the baby and check him out, David looked at me and said in this awestruck voice, "You've just given birth," like I was so amazing. I felt embarrassed by his reaction because I didn't feel like I had done anything amazing at all. I didn't even feel the birth. Nothing.

I reflected on the birth for several months afterward, but it wasn't until I picked up a copy of Dr. William Sears's book, "The Birth Book" that I realized what I had done. I only had one chance to give birth to that baby, and I blew it! In the words of Dr. Sears, "Birth Matters." Sometimes we find that out later than we'd like. The beautiful thing is that we can learn from those experiences and make the next time better.

So when I say that I understand why American women have medication in childbirth, I really do. I've lived it. And there is a better way to give birth.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Birth of a Blog

"A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature, but may also be life stance related."

So here I am -- an official blogger. I am a natural childbirth educator. I have taught the Bradley Method for 5 years. I have 4 children and would have more if they would remain babies forever. I love pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.

I have thought about doing this for quite some time, but naming a blog seemed so overwhelming. I have written a book on natural childbirth in my head and the title is "Banned From Baby Showers." Catchy, I think. " Why? Why would Donna be banned from baby showers?" I decided a couple of years ago that it was probably more important to have friends than to educate them about why they shouldn't believe everything their OB says. I just cannot tolerate the games that are played, making light of inductions and medication in labor. How we birth our babies is a reflection of who we are as human beings. After offending, and having to apologize to, several people at a baby shower, I decided it's better if I just stay away. I can offer congratulations and gifts privately.

So here I am, an educator in a world where the majority of women don't want to be educated, at least when it comes to labor and birth. It's easier to not know. If you have information, you simply cannot leave the decision making to your doctor. You have to act on your knowledge. Truly, knowledge is power.

As the definition of the word "manifesto" reads, birth is highly political and the majority of women don't know this until they start questioning their doctors and hospitals, and yes, insurance companies. The AMA is trying desperately to interfere with a woman's right to have a midwife-attended homebirth. Even as I type the word "homebirth" it says that I have misspelled it, like it isn't even a word!