Monday, March 29, 2010

Religious Faith and Choosing Natural Birth

I think about this topic all the time, but I never really throw it out there. Going down the path of religion and its influence on our decisions has the potential of alienating readers. Sitting in church this week, I decided it was time to face this topic. This is my elephant.

In nearly every class I've taught since 2003, there has been at least one person/couple who is very involved in their church; ie. lots of youth ministers, music ministers, preachers, etc. Especially since moving to Texas, the majority of the people sitting in my classes go to church every week and are very vocal about their faith. They pray for each other. Some go to church together. They are mostly Christian.

When we talk about why they are choosing to give birth without medication, so many of these couples will express their belief that God made their bodies to give birth. It is a gift to be able to grow a life, birth their baby, and then to feed their baby with their own body. They have so much confidence and faith in Christ, it is very inspiring. I love these answers because I feel this same way.

The same is true of so many out-of-hospital midwives in this area. They feel "called" to midwifery. They pray with their clients and typically are very vocal in their faith. Faith in Christ and faith in the natural process of birth.

Our bodies were designed by our loving Father in Heaven to work perfectly to birth our babies. I do not believe for a minute that He meant birth to be a horrible, painful ordeal that we just "have to get through."

So, this brings me to my own life, and the things that I see with people around me. Truly, a Banned From Baby Showers experience, or existence, rather. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka Mormons. I was raised in the Baptist church and converted to the "LDS" church in 1993. I have never been around a better group of people in my life -- truly, servants of the Lord.

I had a guy in class a few years ago ask if Mormons have natural birth because we don't believe in medicine. I actually laughed out loud! If he only knew the majority of my friends! Nearly everyone I know in the Church has an epidural! I am so saddened by this, and embarrassed. I rarely have members of my church in my classes. So many of us have several children, but don't understand why several c-sections is bad for mom and baby. Or why induction is not natural or healthy.

In several lessons I've heard in church, I've heard people comment on fear. Fear in general, of anything. Fear is not given to us by our Heavenly Father, but by Satan. Today it was brought up again, and the comment was made about making decisions that are fear-based. Of course, I associate everything with childbirth, and it's all I can do to keep my hand down and not make a comment related to childbirth! Talk about a fear-based decision! The only reason a woman chooses to have an epidural (before labor even begins!) is because she is afraid of the pain -- and has not prepared herself physically, mentally, or emotionally to not have the drugs.

But isn't it true? We have no confidence in our body -- that our Heavenly Father created for us -- to birth these (large) families. He created this process so perfectly, right down to the hormones released before, during, and after birth that help bond a mother and her new baby together. Fetal lung fluid levels prepare your baby to be born at the exact time he/she is ready to breathe on its own. The system works so well, the majority of the time, because Heavenly Father designed it to work that way.

To believe that medicine can improve upon the natural process, I believe, is to laugh in the face of our Creator, who designed this process so perfectly. Unless there is medical indication for induction or medication (and these do occasionally occur), we, as Latter-day Saint women, should learn from our other Christian counterparts, about trusting in and having faith in Christ and faith in our bodies.

I have seen the strongest women in the Church and in their faith in Christ, and that is why this baffles me to no end, about the nonchalant attitude about being induced and having epidurals. Sisters! Think about our pioneer heritage! Heavenly Father wants you to have this wonderful experience. It is a gift. You can do it! Don't be afraid.

I will go as far as mentioning the frequency of birth stories that I read from my students that talk about birth being one of the most spiritual experiences of their lives. Makes sense. This new spirit joining your family. How special to feel that moment. To be an active participant in bringing your baby forth into this world. I believe that this is what God wants for us as women.

I cannot let it go without ending with a quote from our beloved prophet who led the pioneers across the plains. Brigham Young said, "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." I do not know what year he made that statement, but Brigham Young died in 1879 when no one would have had a baby in a hospital or with a doctor.

Sisters! Brigham Young saw our day! He saw all the c-sections and lack of confidence we have in ourselves. He said women should "go off into some country where you cannot call for a doctor... You will have it, and ... it will be all right." When he made that statement, doctors did not attend any births! Now, only 8% of American births are attended by a midwife. Interestingly, Utah has the lowest c-section rate in the country.

And since I'm making comments about my existence and what I see around me... I see so many babies getting fed with a bottle. I assume it is formula, but it could be breast milk. Doesn't really matter to me. Why would you put breast milk in a bottle and drag that to church!? Just breastfeed your baby. Please. Your breasts are on your chest for the sole purpose of feeding your baby! Again, Heavenly Father must be so displeased with our culture of not using our body parts the way He intended.

I have probably angered people with this post. This is really not my intention. I needed to say these things. I believe them. I feel strongly, after years of research and seeing women transformed by birth, that there is no way it is a coincidence that womens' bodies work the way they do. Embrace birth and give thanks to your Father in Heaven who allows you to be co-Creator in the birth of your baby.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Biting Babies

This is a fun topic. When I tell people how long I nursed each baby, this is what they bring up -- teeth! My grandma was born with teeth, so does that mean she wouldn't have been nursed?! Babies get teeth at all different ages, and all babies, as well as their mamas, handle it differently.

In my experience, the months that are the worst for biting are the months actually leading up to getting that first tooth. It's amazing how hard a baby can gum the nipple! Once they have teeth, at least in my cases, things got better.

I have, however, had 2 babies that thought it amusing to bit my shoulders or behind my knees. Odd, I know. I never quite figured this out and they were older when they did this. My son was about 18 months old, if I remember right. He would come up and bite the backs of my knees while I washed dishes. And Darcy was probably around the same age, or maybe closer to 12 months. It put me on edge all the time, anticipating the next bite. If you have a baby biting while nursing, I know exactly what you're feeling -- physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you cannot relax during breastfeeding, this can affect milk let-down. So let's see what we can do to help.

I have received a couple of Facebook messages lately that I'd like to share:

"Baby J is cutting his first tooth & it's a doozy! He's yanking & pulling & twisting me up to pieces & I don't think either of us are loving it when nursing."

"Max has 8 teeth and I'm sure he's working on more, what with all the drooling. But he's been biting me for about a month. Mostly during nursing but other times as well. During the day he does it at the end of a feed. I've tried taking him off and telling him "don't bite Mommy", etc. and not letting him nurse any more but since he's already done that doesn't really bother him.
At night, he nurses to sleep as usual but when he bites me I usually take him off, tell him why, and I give him another chance after a few minutes. If he bites me again I try and walk him, rock him, etc. but he doesn't want that. I know he is tired because he's yawning, rubbing eyes, etc. Tonight I told myself I would just walk him until he fell asleep to teach him that I will comfort him but if he bites he is not getting to nurse. He was fussing, as usual, but it was more mad sounding, not actual cries, and it was intermittent. He fell asleep after a while so I'm thinking "Yay me!" But I was going to give it a few minutes before I put him down. He's done this before. Sure enough, after a few minutes he woke up and was fussing again.
Oh and he was pinching me when he was mad but I was trying to ignore that. I was okay as long as he was just letting me know he wasn't happy. But after a while it escalated into actual miserable crying and he got so worked up that I finally just laid down with him again and after a few minutes of nursing he fell asleep. Of course because he had worn himself out.
I just don't know what else to do. Letting him cry like that just doesn't sit right with me. Any other suggestions for getting him to stop the biting? I really don't believe he's trying to be mean, but dang! It hurts!
I guess this is the price I pay for having an otherwise perfect baby? LOL! I do love him so! Even though he seems to be part piranha!"

As much as this was a part of our nursing experience too, I've really had to think back to how we handled it. That's good news -- you won't even remember this one day!

The obvious, "Ow! NO!" and removing baby from breast is a normal reaction. I was just talking with a friend of mine tonight about this and she said that was the first and last time her baby bit her. On the other hand, if baby is startled enough and scared by your reaction, he may start a nursing strike where he's scared to resume nursing. This may last even a few days! I don't believe the baby is being mean. It probably feels good to bite down on something. You might try a cool washcloth before nursing. Let him suck on that for a few minutes. It may numb the gums enough that he doesn't have that need to bite down.

Another trick I remember trying was to plug baby's nose when they would bite. Seems mean, but they have to breathe and they will release the nipple. I like this one because they can see your face and you can see theirs. Immediately end the nursing. Resume when you both feel ready, maybe in 5 minutes, or maybe in 5 hours! I also read about pushing the baby into the breast, but I don't like this idea. You can't see their face and this may cause them to bite harder. The idea was the same as the nose squeezing, making them release the breast because they can't breathe. The other, in my opinion, is more effective. I think that is an unpleasant association for the baby to bite and then not be able to breathe, and this is why we didn't have this problem very long.

My favorite lactation consultant in the DFW area, Mellanie Sheppard of For Babies Sake, suggested the following link: "This is is my favorite teething advice when babies are "chewing" like that (not just nipping at the end of a feeding)." Mellanie has told me time and again that is her favorite breastfeeding website.
I hope this is helpful. Sometimes misery loves company, doesn't it? There is comfort in knowing that other moms (nearly all of us) go through this at some point. This won't last forever, but you can't let the baby bite you either. Maybe it's time to turn off the Twilight movies, at least until baby is asleep!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"At 31 Weeks, My Doctor is Already Talking C-Section"

We are currently enjoying our Spring Break this week, so I am behind on writing my weekly post. We are putting in a pool, starting a Birth Network for the Ft. Worth area, recording a new series of DVDs, and of course, running a regular series of live classes. Oh yeah, and keeping four children and a busy husband fed and clothed.

I've picked up some new readers since doing the interview with Progressive Pioneer, so welcome! One of those people commented here with a question about her current situation, requesting advice. I'm always happy to give advice! Rather than post it under the comments, I decided I wanted to respond in a post. A lot of women find themselves in similar predicaments.

"Hi. I'm wondering if i could get some good advice from you? i actually found your blog through the interview on the progressive pioneer blog, and I've been reading through your blog ever since.

i am 31 wks pregnant, and this is baby number 4. i had normal vaginal births with all my big babies (10.4, 8.5, 9.5) with no complications.

we are currently stationed overseas with the military , in Germany and my doc is trying to say i'm gonna need a c-section. apparently the baby is transverse. don't i still have time for the baby to turn down? its already turned around a couple times. what else can i do? should i try to get a doc that's gonna work with me and not try to give me a c-section? every American i know whose had a baby here off=base has had a c-section."

If you look at a graph of how many babies are transverse/breech at 20 weeks vs. 40 weeks, it's remarkable. Approximately 30% of babies are not head down at 20 weeks, but at term, only about 4% of babies remain that way. The difference in the two is that breech babies can often be born vaginally when you have a doctor or midwife who knows how -- harder and harder to find these days -- but a transverse baby really is one of those necessary cesareans.

Sounds like this baby is a mover and a shaker! At 31 weeks, your baby will very likely turn. In the 7 years I've been teaching, I've seen a number of moms come through class, worried because their babies are transverse. Only one of those babies did not turn. Same with the breeches. When moms wants to know what they can do, I usually tell them not to worry about it until later. 31 weeks is still early.

I would give it another couple of weeks before trying any techniques known to possibly help get baby in a more favorable position. Except one: If you are not seeing a chiropractor, start now! Even if your baby is in the greatest position, chiropractic care can relieve a lot of pregnancy discomforts and help "line everything up" for labor. Ask for recommendations and be sure they are very familiar with working on pregnant women. Ask if they are experienced in the Webster Technique, known for helping to turn breech babies. Ask for their success rate as well. I do believe that all pregnant women should see a chiropractor for at least the last trimester, but it's never too late to start.

There are a lot of different "tricks" a mom can try. There are probably too many to name here. Henci Goer's "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" is full of information on turning breech babies. Mothering has ran several great articles on turning breeches too. I should do a post on all the options, but I think that will have to wait for another day!

Back to what this woman's doctor said about needing a c-section... Interesting that all the Americans are having c-sections, isn't it? What's that all about, over there in Germany?! I'm so curious if he's German or American? Is this what they think American women want? Surgery?

Your body obviously has no problem birthing your babies! There is a very good chance your other babies were in the same position at 31 weeks, but no one ever said anything to you about it because it really didn't matter. I would most definitely get a second opinion as your date draws closer and he's still talking c-section. The weight of the baby is not an issue. It's all about the baby's position as far as a c-section goes, and it's a moot point right now. Your body knows exactly what it's doing. So does your baby. In my experience, my babies' personalities have been the same in the uterus as outside the uterus, so good luck with this one! He/she is keeping you on your toes! Please keep us informed about the rest of your journey.

Readers, feel free to share any tricks you have found successful in getting a baby to turn head down.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Progressive Pioneer Interview

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a blogger, Progressive Pioneer, about doing an interview for a series she runs called MamaViews. Her blog was really different and interesting.

She is a great interviewer and I hope you'll enjoy the interview I did with her. Looks like she has lots of North Texas readers including one of my former students!


"I Trust My Doctor!"

Every morning, I visit my local Race Trac to fill my mug for the day. The people that work there have a very vague idea of what I do for a living -- something with childbirth.

One of the male employees told me, months ago, that he and his wife were expecting their first baby. He was so excited. I asked him where they were planning to give birth. I informed him that particular hospital has a 60% c-section rate, but there are other options in the area. He explained that their doctor was the doctor that delivered him as a baby.

The months went by and every now and then, he'd give me a report of how much time was left until they met their baby. I would gently remind him that the baby (a girl) didn't know exactly what day she was expected. It could be a couple of weeks later. He would shake his head in denial.

Last Monday morning, he reported that they were getting checked to see if she was "progressing." I told him that I had been a "zero" and in labor 14 hours later. Likewise, I've had students that have been dilated to a 5, 6, even a 7 and not been in labor! The vaginal exam means nothing and would put her on an emotional roller coaster. Again, he shook his head and said they wanted to know.

The next morning, I asked him what they found out. He said they were being induced the next day. I told him that she was more than twice as likely to have a c-section with an induction. He said that she was having a c-section! Obviously, he did not understand the difference between an induction and a c-section! Of course, I asked why the scheduled c-section and he happily reported that his baby was "too big."

From this point on, I wish I could have seen this scene from above! I was practically chasing him around the store trying to give him information about the things that happen in labor to help the baby make its way out. (Truly, a Banned From Baby Showers moment for me!) I was telling him that women are being told their babies are too big everyday, but only 1/2500 women actually have babies that are "too big" to fit through the pelvis. He was moping the floor and literally backing away from me and hiding behind things. I actually said to him at one point, "Will you stop and listen?!" At this point, he looked at me and said, "I trust my doctor!!"

I walked to the register, shaking my head, paid for my drink, and got in my car. My 13-year-old son got an earful! I was so proud of him when he said, "How did babies get out for millions of years before c-sections?"

The next morning, the other employees reported that the couple had had the baby and she was a whopping 7 pounds! There were some ounces added after the 7 pounds, but no one could remember what they were. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, it was 15 ounces, the maximum without tipping the scale to an even 8 lbs. Is this baby too big?! I am less than 5'3" and I gave birth to two 8 lb babies. I don't think anyone would think this baby is "too big." So curious what the doctor said to this young couple...

So, now what? They are a victim of the system and don't even realize it. Maybe that is a good thing. She never experienced any labor and neither did her baby. She wasn't even due yet. She will very likely have problems with breastfeeding, if she wanted to at all. A mom who has a c-section is only half as likely to breastfeed. The implications are so far reaching for the mom's health as well as the baby's, not to mention any subsequent children they hope to have.

Bottom line -- I had nothing to gain by giving him information. I simply wanted them to trust her body, not her doctor. The doctor gained time and money by lying to her about "needing" a c-section. I actually shed a tear for this woman that I have never met. Total frustration. A doctor taking advantage of trusting parents-to-be and a young couple not getting information for themselves! They both are to blame. This is happening every day around us in every city across America. What are YOU going to do about it?

Myself, and 2 other Chapter Leaders, have started the Tarrant County Birth Network, a local chapter of BirthNetwork National, where expecting parents can get information about evidence-based care and the local care providers that abide by the Mother-Friendly guidelines established by the Coalition of Improving Maternity Services, or CIMS. Our first meeting is Thursday, March 11 at the downtown library in Ft. Worth from 6:00-8:00 p.m. We would like anyone who is interested in improving maternity care in the Ft. Worth area to join us. This first meeting we will explain what a Birth Network is, and from there, each month we'll discuss different topics relating to Mother-Friendly care.

Let's make a difference! If you are not in the Ft. Worth area, check out BirthNetwork National to see if there is a chapter in your area. If there is not, start one!