Monday, December 27, 2010

The Gift of Days-Long Labor

Having a baby is such an exciting time, not just for the new parents, but for the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, sisters and brothers.  There are so many people that are invested in this new little person.  They all want to be called the minute you start labor so they can rush to the hospital and wait.

But what if labor isn't like the movies?  We know how often that happens, right?  First contraction and the baby's practically falling out.  Regardless, everyone is rushing around to get out the door and races to the hospital.  There is this idea, even subconsciously,  that if we head to the hospital, the baby will come. 

I recently had a couple start good contractions on a Sunday.  We thought for sure she'd have her baby and would not be in class Tuesday night.  We'd text or talk every several hours.  I knew her mom was nervous and wanted her to head to the hospital.  This woman knew it wasn't time.   She visited her chiropractor, and while it didn't seem to necessarily help speed things up, she didn't have back labor after that.  A success, for sure! 

I finally talked with her husband who had been a fun guy to have in class.  He said everyone was asking if this was normal -- labor taking so long.  All their comments were getting to him and he was starting to doubt their decision to stay home as well.  The pressure from family and friends can often lead to going to the hospital too early, which can lead to interventions that the couple didn't want in the first place.  Most people have never seen labor "take so long" because women don't labor outside the hospital very often.  And in the hospital, time limits are enforced.  So two days is unbelievable!  Surely, something must be wrong!

I believe that we'd see this so much more often if women:  a) waited until labor was very well established to go to the hospital, even if it meant days, not hours; b) were not dying to get an epidural, and thus, rushing to the hospital; and c) were not induced and simply allowed labor to start spontaneously.   If this couple were to go to the hospital, labor would likely be augmented either with pitocin or breaking water.  Were they ready to interfere with the natural process? 

Needless to say, they made it to class Tuesday night.  It sure was fun watching her contract all through class!  Some were super intense and she handled them beautifully.

This type of labor continued for a couple more days.  Baby B was born on Black Friday in the early morning.  I got news while I was in a line at Staples, or was it Sports Authority?  No drugs, no augmenting labor.  Just trusting that this labor was just what mom, baby, and even an emotional new father needed.  They are on cloud nine.

Another one of the couples from the same class has had a very similar week.  Contracting every 3 minutes, lasting about 60 seconds.  Still getting some good sleep.  Eating, resting, walking.  The story from the first couple has bolstered their confidence that this is normal.  They have had to remove "the family" periodically as well for the same reasons.  Both these women have amazing husband-coaches.

Like I always say, the baby will come out!  Labor will not last forever, although you may get to a point that you can't imagine it ending.  It will.  Enjoy your labor.  Take it as it comes.  Don't rush through it.  You'll treasure these hours -- or days! -- down the road.  Do something memorable with your labor.  Get creative.  Stay in a hotel, see a movie, take some long walks, build a fire, enjoy a warm bath, eat a yummy candlelight dinner, get a pedicure, eat chocolate, get a massage.  All these things can release endorphins that encourage oxytocin to get flowing.  Remember, oxytocin is a feel-good hormone.  It's hard to feel good when you feel rushed or watched.  So when I say enjoy your labor, I really mean ENJOY YOUR LABOR!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Recycled: Thoughts of the Birth of Jesus

With Christmas here, I was thinking about Jesus's birth. I was so struck by all the Nativities this year. Jesus is laying on a bed of straw with all around admiring Him. I have a hard time believing that Mary was anxious to lay her baby down. I think she wanted to hold and love and protect her baby -- what an enormous responsibility this new mother had.

I have also become so sensitive to the Christmas songs about the birth of Christ. "Away in a Manger" is a song that I've always enjoyed, but I have to say, surely it is an American-written song, as only in America would we sing, "No crib for a bed." I really don't think Mary thought this was a crisis, but we sing about it as though that is what they would have to have as new parents.

Jesus was a homebirth and I bet his parents were cosleepers!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The "F" Word

What is the "F" word in birth?  Got your attention?  You're thinking I'm going to start using profanity here, don't you?  OK, I'm not.  My least favorite word that is thrown around in regards to a laboring woman and a new mom is "Failed."

I've heard references here and other places about failing natural birth because they had an epidural or c-section.  I hate to think of a woman starting out motherhood with this forced -- or self-inflicted -- label.

"Failure to Progress" is the second most common reason given for a c-section -- second only to having had a c-section previously. If you have taken my class, you know how I feel about this "diagnosis."  I can't imagine who thought it was a good idea to tell a woman she "failed to progress."  What was the thought process, who agreed it was a good name, and why on earth do we keep calling it this?!   I don't really believe that it even exists.  I believe that what it really means is: 
1) You did not dilate on our time-clock and your time is out;
2) This induction has failed but we are in too deep at this point and you are expecting a baby out of this ordeal, so we'll throw the blame back on you by telling you that you failed to progress;
3) We might even throw in a CPD diagnosis (the your-baby-is-too-big phenomenon) for good measure;  
4) This is not the Olive Garden -- you cannot sit at this table all night.  The lobby is full and your table is needed.  The servers only have 3 tables and they need to make money.  They can't do that if you occupy this table for their entire shift.

There are many things that contribute to labor taking a long time, but that is not really the point of this post.  Suffice to say,  if a woman is treated respectfully and with encouragement and patience, with care providers trying to get to the root of the "problem," we would have more women birthing their babies vaginally.  

For the sake of this post, let's say that the first-time mom, recovering from a "failed-to-progress" c-section is now trying to breastfeed her baby.  Is she confident that her body is going to produce milk for her baby?  Her body just "failed" her in childbirth, so why should she expect any different from breastfeeding?  It may not even be a conscious thought, but the subconscious is very powerful.  Women who have a c-section are only half as likely to breastfeed their babies as women who birth vaginally.

I believe that people who get information, practice their childbirth method of choice (no matter what that may be), choose their care providers carefully, hire a doula, and basically put their ducks in a row, stack the odds in their favor.  Things might not go as planned, but you did what was necessary on the front end.

I may have told this story before, but indulge me -- now's a great time to bring it out again.  After my friend Jenni gave birth to her first baby (without pain medication), her baby was very lethargic.  She simply could not get the baby to latch on for hours.  There was so much pressure in the hospital to either get the baby to latch or to give the baby a bottle of formula.  She was pretty upset because she really wanted to breastfeed.  We were on the phone (I was in Albuquerque and she was in Salt Lake) and she made a comment about "one out of two wasn't bad."  She had had her natural birth, but just wasn't going to be able to breastfeed.  I told her if she was going to choose one of the two, it should have been breastfeeding.  Her response?  A very hoarse, "Now you tell me!"  Jenni went on to breastfeed her baby for 19 months.

So, yes, birth is so very important, but it is also a few hours of your entire life.  (It's hard for me to say those words, as you can imagine.)  If a mom is so upset about the birth, breastfeeding can be a lifeline for her and her baby.  The Pregnancy Edition of Mothering magazine just had a great article on this topic.  Those hours you will spend breastfeeding and holding your baby are gold.  Wearing your baby, holding your baby, sleeping side by side, getting to know his/her cues.  The kind of parent you become to your child -- this is what ultimately matters.

I am getting off on a tangent.  Coming back to the "F" word -- Ladies, let's not beat ourselves up!  Let's just remove the "F" word from our vocabulary, shall we?  It has no place in our lives.  It's impossible to build self-esteem in ourselves or our children when this word is a part of our lives.   I can't think of a single good reason to use the word "failure" or "failed."  For the record, I would never tell any of my students they "failed" if they had an epidural or c-section.  That is the absolute last thing I would ever want them to think or believe about themselves.  Motherhood is hard enough without being called the "F" word.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Uterine Tilt -- What You Need to Know

This very well may be the most personal post I've ever written.  I feel like there are so many things that women don't talk about.  We suffer through things, ignore them, hope they'll go away -- I guess the word for that is denial.  Worse, we are just too embarrassed to bring questions or concerns to our care providers or even our friends or family (who may be suffering with the same symptoms).

My paternal grandmother died of colon cancer when she was just 59 years old.  She never had a pap smear her entire life.  To be honest, they don't even know for sure where the cancer started.  It may have started somewhere else, which is highly suspected.

When I was about 33 or so, I started having terrible pain when I had a bowel movement only in the first day or so of starting my period.  It was so painful.  If you have sat through my class, you know how I love "poop stories."  This is not one I particularly enjoy!  I am going to be really specific, as that is how I have gotten to the bottom of this (no pun intended!).  I'm amazed as I've shared my experience with other women, how many of them say that they experience the same symptoms.

Let me preface my story with the fact that I've never had "bad" periods with cramping, headaches, etc.   I always used tampons, up until an episode I had about 3 years ago.  It was in the first 24 hours of my period.   I was sitting at our kitchen table and started having a lot of pain, much like labor.  All my kids were around the table to top it off!  My husband was on his way to church for an activity and I had to call him home.  I really thought I was going to have to go to the ER.  I finally made it to my bathroom where I had to sound it out (again, just like labor).  Once I had the tampon out and pooped, I was fine.  That was the last tampon I ever used.

I had this pain on-and-off for a few years.  After that episode, I was pretty freaked out and just kept thinking about my grandmother.  I was convinced I had a tumor growing!  I scheduled an appointment with an OBGYN that some students had liked for their births.

She ran through several things she thought it could be, none of which sounded too great.  She did an exam and literally laughed in the middle of it.  She explained that my cervix was pointing directly at my rectum.  She said that when bowel was coming through, it would push against the cervix (swollen and blood-filled) and cause the pain.  Once the bowel passed the cervix, the pain stops.  Well, it wasn't life-threatening and at least I knew what was causing it.  Her solution?  Nothing!  She said there was nothing I could do and that it was a good thing I teach relaxation classes because I'd just have to practice what I preach.

And I've done that for the last few years.  The frequency and intensity has picked up since then, however.  Last spring I was reading a Mothering magazine (March-April) about womb massage and different reasons it's done -- infertility and difficult periods were at the top of the list.  I couldn't help but wonder if that was something that would help me.  But who the heck does womb massage?

This summer I was explaining my crazy situation to a Licensed Midwife and she said that I should visit Dr. Kristen O'Reilly, a chiropractor.  She said she had had a number of moms visit Dr. Kristen for a "uterine tilt."  I was, to say the least, intrigued.  Of course, life gets in the way, and I even forgot I have this issue -- until day 1 of a new cycle begins and I have this horrible pain again!

I finally scheduled a time to visit her, not knowing what to expect.  The uterine tilt was probably very similar to what I thought "womb massage" would be like.  My uterus felt tight and she "worked" on it for several minutes.  She adjusted my back and shoulders at the same appointment and I felt like a new person!  Seriously.  I've seen a number of chiropractors in my time, but this was amazing! 

I came back two weeks later, 4 days before starting a new period (yes, I'm that regular).  I could tell that I was more tender, but not as tight.  The true test would be when I started.  Guess what?  It was the easiest period I had had in years!  And, the flow was more steady.  An odd comment?  Maybe.  I've talked with a number of women who say theirs are not "even" either.  In other words, I had reached the point where I didn't really even need a pad.  The flow was almost entirely when I used the restroom.  I believe, now, that that was contributing to the pain I was having, with more blood accumulating and pooling. 

I visited Dr. Kristen two more times over the next month and we both could tell such a difference in the tightness of the uterus.  An easy adjustment, really.

This last period?  Not one bit of pain!  I am amazed!  I was skeptical going in.  Hopeful, but skeptical.  Do all chiropractors do a uterine tilt?  I doubt it.  I've heard so many chiropractors say they work on pregnant women and had many women come to class who visit chiropractors.  But recently, I had someone visit Dr. Kristen and could not believe the difference!  She said she'd seen chiropractors all her life, but Dr. Kristen was the best.  The difference is that she is trained in the Webster Technique and really uses it.  She works one day a week at a birth center and sees their clients.  She is good at working on pregnant women!  She's had great success with turning breeches too. 

I hope this post helps some of you out there.  That's why I wrote it.  After being told there was nothing that could be done, I was just hoping that menopause would get here quickly!   Women should know about this non-invasive treatment.

OK, I know this seems like the biggest endorsement ever, but there was no way around this post without talking about this chiropractor who has helped me so much.  I don't know if you can just walk through any chiropractor's door and ask for a uterine tilt.  I highly doubt it!  But maybe you'll have a better chance at a uterine tilt than a womb massage!