Monday, October 29, 2012

Military Mom Gives Birth 8 Hours Before Husband Returns Home From 7-Month Deployment

I LOVE this story!  I am not from a military family and I actually don't even know many military families, but I've had several do my class overseas.  I love my country and I so appreciate their service and sacrifice on our behalf.  This is the story shared by a Banned From Baby Showers reader - and a Birth Boot Camp Instructor trainee.  I had the privilege of meeting her in Tampa a few weeks ago and she shared a bit of her story with me then. I'm honored she would share it here.  Enjoy this story.  And grab your tissues.  

My Birth Story - Sean Heath

It was the early morning of July 26th. Brian was due home from a 7 month deployment the following afternoon at 4pm. I’d been talking to the baby for weeks, asking him to stay put until Brian made it home. I was now 5 days overdue and amazed I had made it so far and was now so close to Brian being able to be here for the birth. Originally he was scheduled home the beginning of July, but they got extended 3 weeks which coincided directly with my due date. I’d stressed over what to do when we got the news of the extension… whether to have my family come out, or hire a doula, etc. I ended up deciding I was stressing about it too much. I didn’t want one more person in the room in case Brian did make it home, and I just kept going forward with the thinking that he would. We had been planning a home birth since the very beginning, partially because I didn’t want to go to our local hospital and partially to ease my stress over what would happen if Brian didn’t make it home. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about getting Mer anywhere or drive myself to the hospital. And with as fast as my labor with Meredith went I knew this time could be faster, leaving me less time to get somewhere to give birth. One of my leading thoughts when we found out our timing would be pushing it was that I wasn’t all that sad Brian would miss the birth itself, but since it would be such a different experience having a home birth, and I was sad he might miss that experience.

In my last few weeks of pregnancy I started stressing about having a support person again and got a referral from a friend for a doula, Monessa. She not only had a deployed spouse rate which was very affordable, but she agreed to be flexible with me… letting me hire her if Brian didn’t make it home and agreeing not to charge me for anything if he did make it in time.

So it was the early morning of July 26th… I was in bed unable to sleep, feeling like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve. I was so excited homecoming was the following afternoon and anxious about the last few hours between then and now. I knew there was still plenty of time for a baby to be born, even though we were SO close to Brian making it back. I was laying in bed reading “Pushed” when at 1:15am I felt a pop. I’d heard women describe this feeling and I immediately had two thoughts, “you’ve gotta be kidding me” was one, and the other was “please let me be one of those women whose water breaks and doesn’t start laboring right away.” I didn’t get an immediate gush of fluid, so I wasn’t totally sure that’s what the pop was. About 15 minutes later I got a small gush and when I went to the bathroom what came out was definitely not pee. It was cloudy and specked with mucus. I knew for sure then that my water had broken. I called Brian who was in Fallon, NV for the night and told him. His response was “oh no” since we both knew how close we’d gotten to having him here. I still hadn’t started contracting so was holding onto the sliver of hope that it would be a long labor (who ever hopes for that?? Haha). I broke down crying on the phone, so frustrated that we were just hours away from being together again. He was so great, reminding me that it was going to be fantastic, we were going to have a baby and that I would do a great job. After hanging up with him I got the bed stripped and ready, and made sure all my supplies were in order.

Almost exactly an hour later I got my first contraction, around 2:15am. The whole time I was thinking that it was the middle of the night and I really didn’t want to disturb anyone so I waited to call anyone for a while (even though my midwife, Cynthia, would laugh at me later saying she’s pretty sure my water breaking was one of the things she’d told me warranted a phone call). My contractions started with regularity, and were immediately 1 minute long, 5 minutes apart. So textbook, where my contractions with Meredith were definitely not (I found out later they were typical for a posterior baby). I tracked my contractions for about 45 minutes before I decided to call Cynthia. At 3am I called her and told her what was going on. She said to track them a little longer and give her a call back either when they got more intense or when I wanted her here. I waited a little longer. The contractions were still fairly light and I wasn’t sweating through them yet so I decided to wait to call Monessa (doula) and Nikki (who was on “Meredith Duty”). Around 4:30 the contractions picked up a little bit and that’s when I decided to call both Monessa and Nikki. After I called them I came downstairs to unlock the doors and put a lunch together for Meredith since I wasn’t sure if she’d go to preschool that day or not. Being upright made the contractions a little worse and closer together and stopped me in my tracks several times.

Got back upstairs and Monessa showed up a few minutes later. She started rubbing my back which felt really good and relaxing. I said I wasn’t sure if I should call Cynthia yet since my contractions were still bearable, but I also knew she was at least a 30 minute drive away. Monessa suggested I wait for a few more contractions before deciding for sure, so I waited. Maybe 20-30 minutes later they started picking up and I was feeling like I was sweating through them. This was the point with Meredith that we’d decided to go to the hospital, so I was thinking I was probably hitting around 3-4cm dilated. I decided to call Cynthia. This must have been around 5:30. We decided to change my position, and I sat on the ball at the end of the bed, leaning on the bed. This definitely picked the contractions up, and after a little while of this Monessa suggested the tub, which I’d just been thinking about. She ran the bath for me and I got in. It felt so good and relaxing. Cynthia showed up just a few minutes later and got set up while I relaxed in the tub. I spent probably an hour in the tub, during which time my contractions picked up from being able to breathe through to having to moan through. I asked Monessa to ask Nikki to call Kat, my photographer. I felt like things were progressing now and I wanted to be sure she was there. Thankfully she lives just down the street from me, so made it over very quickly. This was around 6:30 I think, and again I just kept thinking I didn’t want to disturb anyone too early. She made it over just before I got out of the tub.  Around 7 I got out of the tub and onto the bed. I was laying on my side and the contractions were getting intense. I started feeling a little pushy and was having a hard time staying relaxed through my contractions. Cynthia checked me at 7:15 when I mentioned needing to push and told me I was only 5cm. This was SO discouraging considering the intensity of the contractions I was feeling. I kept hoping it meant that I was just progressing very quickly and not that I had hours of this type of contractions ahead of me. I was feeling a LOT of back pressure at this point too and was asking Monessa to apply counter pressure on my lower back.

During one of my next contractions Cynthia checked me again and I was at 7cm. She said not to try to push, but if my body was pushing along with the contractions to keep doing what I was doing since it was obviously working, and quickly. Every time I’d feel pushy, amniotic fluid would come out and I remember Cynthia telling me that was a good sign that I was dilating and the fluid was able to get through. She asked if I wanted to change position, and so they got me up on my hands and knees. This picked the intensity up even more. They kept having to shove more pillows and stools under my arms to make sure my position wasn’t fighting gravity. I started feeling very out of control. I got whole body shakes and was screaming and crying through my contractions. With Meredith’s birth I never did anything other than very loud moaning, so this was a very different experience for me. No one ever told me when I made it to 10cm and could start pushing, it just started happening. I kept thinking that someone should call Brian but couldn’t articulate it. And then he called. I was between contractions and Monessa put the phone to my ear. He asked how I was doing and I responded “I’m okay” and I remember hearing everyone laugh in the background. Monessa continued to hold the phone so that Brian could “be there”. He says he had no idea what was going on and then all of a sudden there was the baby’s cry. I was feeling that really low pressure of pushing but was much more aware of the feeling of needing to poop than I ever was with Meredith. I think that inhibited my pushing a little bit, especially with my butt up in the air! I got the “ring of fire” feeling, which I also never had with Meredith and started feeling like I really might not be able to push him out. Screaming through it all did help focus my energy and I felt his head come out. With Meredith delivering her body afterward was easy, but that wasn’t so this time either. Another contraction and another BIG painful push and he was out. I felt an overwhelming wave of relief that he was out and it was done. At 8:03am he was born, only 45 minutes after I was told I was only 5cm dilated. It was a very quick and very intense labor.

Brian was still on the phone and the baby cried. It felt like ages until they got me flipped over onto my back and put the baby on my chest, but I’m sure it was only a few moments. I asked for my glasses and they fogged up immediately. They got me on my back and put him up to me and I got to see my son for the first time. My first thought was how he didn’t have nearly as much hair as I’d expected him to have. Based on how much heartburn I had through my pregnancy I was sure he would come out hairier than Meredith was, but he had just a little hair on his head. He was also very fair and I noticed a little later his eyes were light and looked like they may be blue.

I talked to Brian for a bit and Monessa snapped a few quick pictures on her cell phone to send to him. The timing of his phone call couldn’t have been better. He had to go get his jet ready to fly home that afternoon. I delivered the placenta and after the cord had stopped pulsing I cut the cord myself. Cynthia showed me the placenta and noted that there were several white calcification spots, showing it was aging.

They got me propped up in bed and once things were cleaned up Nikki brought Meredith up to meet her new baby brother. I had tried to prepare her for the noises I might make and what the birth would be like in case she wanted to be in the room when he was born. I’m glad she didn’t want to be though, with how intense it was. She got to meet him almost right away and hung out in bed with us as we nursed for the first time. She got a special present from baby brother which she got to open (it was a “Jessie” doll from Toy Story which she’d been wanting). We hung out in bed for a little bit, then they took him and got him weighed (he had already pooped on me, so I really think his actual birth weight was closer to 10lb). Cynthia handed him to Nikki to hold and I laughed at the “deer in the headlights” look she got on her face! I took a quick shower and Cynthia got me stitched up. I had a small tear, about the same as I had with Meredith.

I joked that now I had a few hours to rest before homecoming, and Cynthia very firmly told me I was forbidden and I think told Kat to make sure I didn’t go! After a while we sat on the bed while Cynthia checked Sean out, making sure all his joints were good and everything was healthy. Meredith sat up with us and Cynthia explained to her everything she was doing. It was all so relaxed and calm. They got wrapped up and I got a photo of everyone in bed with me before they left.

I mentioned to both Monessa and Cynthia later that as much as it wasn’t the timing I’d hoped for (not having Brian there) it was such a different and amazing experience having a baby in only the company of women. It reminded me of the book “The Red Tent” about biblical era birthing when women would retreat to a tent together and help their sisters and friends birth their babies. As much as I wanted Brian there I feel the timing couldn’t have been better. I had an amazing birth experience surrounded by amazing women, and Brian came home that afternoon to meet his just hours old son.

I, of course, dismissed Cynthia’s forbidding me and went to homecoming anyway. I almost didn’t go. I was in baby bliss land and was happy to let Krista take Meredith and for us to have our homecoming when Brian made it back to the house. But we were able to get a pass to get the car out to the flight line so I wouldn’t have to walk far, and I really wanted to see Meredith’s reunion with Brian. The news wanted to interview us, but I didn’t want Cynthia to see the story and get mad that I’d gone to homecoming against her express instructions! I waddled myself out to the flight line and welcomed my husband home with his brand new baby. He said he couldn’t believe I went, but I kept saying I was going to get my homecoming, and I got my homecoming!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

If this job matters so much, why doesn't anybody care?!

A few years ago, I was doing an interview with a local magazine and at the end of the interview, she said to me, "Wow, your job really matters."  I patted myself on the back.

A few weeks ago, David and I were flying to NYC and got to talking with with a guy on the plane.  He worked for AT&T and we had a great conversation with him about a variety of topics.  After a while he asked what we both do for a living.  I gave him my card and he said, "Oh wow, you have a job that actually matters!"  

So, if people think that it "matters," then why don't people treat birth like it matters?  This is something I think about a lot.  A couple of years ago we were doing a production of "Birth" by Karen Brody.  Many of you remember it as our BOLD Fort Worth event.  We got a spot on Good Morning Texas, not because of what we were doing to bring awareness about birth and birth options, but because it was Infant Mortality Awareness month and Dallas and Tarrant County rates are some of the highest in the nation (7.1/1000 births).   But no one wanted to talk about the possible correlation birth had to these dying babies.  

Why are we so comfortable with the way things are?  Why are we OK with non-medically-indicated inductions?  Why are we OK with more than 1/3 babies being born via cesarean section?  Why are we OK with moms and babies being separated at birth?  Why is formula still pushed on moms in the hospitals and pediatricians offices?

If my job MATTERS, why do these problems still exist?!  If it MATTERS, why do we not support moms in breastfeeding wherever and whenever she needs to nurse her baby?  If my job MATTERS, why do moms have to fight to get access to care providers trained in normal birth?  

Do people really believe that BIRTH MATTERS?  If this is true, they should act like it.  We care about how our parents leave this earth - hopefully treated with respect and dignity.  I believe that babies deserve this same respect.  They deserve a peaceful entrance and welcome without separation from their parents.  

Birth matters for the baby.  Birth also matters for the mom.  I'm not sure that many women believe that.  Perhaps that is the bottom line.  Do women think birth matters?  I'll be the first to admit that with my first baby, I didn't think it mattered at all.  I was only focused on the end result - a healthy baby.  I didn't realize that birth impacted me or my baby.  After 3 unmedicated births, I know.  I know that birth matters.  I found my voice. My confidence.  My power. 
BNN Board of Directors
I'm just coming off a weekend with the Board of Directors for BirthNetwork National for our annual Strategic Planning meeting.  Wow!  Let me assure you, there are people working hard across the county to make change happen, to make women aware of their options.  To create options where options do not currently exist.  There is a lot going on.  But more people are needed to make these things a reality.  Check to see if your area has a chapter and how you can get involved.  If there is not a chapter, start one.  Seriously.  There is support and we are coming out with better, clearer training to support Chapter Leaders in leading their community in the promotion of Mother-Friendly maternity care.
What is the "birth climate" in your area?  Does birth MATTER where you live? 

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Perfect Birth - Does it Exist?

I received these thoughts from a former student - turning Birth Boot Camp Instructor - and wanted to share it here.  I think many women can identify with her point of view.  I'd have a dozen babies if it was all about the birth and breastfeeding.  Those little ones become big ones with opinions and attitudes!  While my 4th birth was my favorite, there are still things I would change or do differently if I could.  For example, I wish I wouldn't have said "Make him come out!" when I was pushing.  (We were convinced Darcy would be a boy.)  Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your thoughts.  You are not alone, my friend.

"While playing on the beach in Daytona during our Florida vacation, I was taking pictures of the kids.  I took dozens of the same activities- playing in the sand, wave jumping, boogie boarding- looking for that “perfect” shot.  You know, the one that looks like it came in a new picture frame, or that you would see in a magazine ad for a beach resort.  Later, when talking with my husband in the pool, he said that he didn’t know why I wanted a perfect picture instead of a real one. One that shows the personalities of our four kids: their movements, their expressions, their quirks; one that shows what the moment was actually like.

It dawned on me, at that moment, that I have had that same view of my births.  You see, I have been struggling with not having another birth experience.  Partly because I want to do it all again (Ok, not really.  The four months of morning all-day sickness and early breastfeeding struggles are not necessarily moments that I wish to relive).  But when it comes to birth, I am consumed with wanting another birth.  A big reason for this is that I still want, and feel like I have missed out on, my “perfect” birth.  I have had (mostly) wonderful experiences delivering my three sons and daughter, and was blessed to have finally accomplished my natural water birth with my 4th child.  But, I tell myself, it wasn’t a home birth… I went to the birth center too soon, and didn’t labor at home as long as I’d liked… the midwife was more hands-on during delivery than I would have preferred (we had planned on my husband catching the baby, but when her shoulders got a bit ‘stuck’, the midwife was quick to push him out of the way and take over).  Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful, life-changing experience- all of my births were- but it wasn’t perfect.  I find myself dwelling on that instead of relishing the amazing experience that it was.  I fondly remember the way my husband was my rock and encouraged me every step of the way.  I love remembering the way my three sons rubbed my back in between contractions, and how excited we all were to learn that they had a baby sister.  I am still amazed at what my body was capable of doing with the proper preparation and the resolve to succeed in my quest for a natural birth.

Was I perfectly poised throughout my labor?  Much like my squinty-eyed, goofy-grinned children, no.  But, just as my camera captured who my children were in the moment, my birth captured who I was at the time- all of them did, actually.

Were there things I would do differently if given the chance?  At the beach, as well as during my labors, yes!  But that does not take away from the amazing experience we had.  I will forever look back fondly at our Daytona vacation, and am glad I have pictures that show who my family really is.   I have decided to look at my birth experience in the same way.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was real, and it was perfectly mine."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bullying On the Playground of Life

I started writing this post months ago when my then-7th grader was being bullied by a girl half her size.  This girl at school was doing things like cutting pieces of Vena's hair, taking her shoes and throwing them across the classroom, throwing her homework in the trash, and berating my daughter every chance she got.

I've had another kid boss one of my girls to give her answers to her homework and then turn the other girls on her, telling them not to play with Abby.

My son had his share of problems when he was little, but figured out pretty early on how to deal with it.    As a junior in high school, he has a section leader (band) that he's had a hard time dealing with this semester, however.  The guy even pushed him and has been verbally abusive.  Daymon has just had to ignore him and stay out of his way.  It's really affected how he feels about band this year.

My youngest doesn't like to take treats in her school lunches because there's a girl who always takes them from her.

So, like most families, we have this constant conversation at our house about what is acceptable behavior and what is not.  The whole "treat others as you want to be treated" just doesn't pan out sometimes.  You can be the nicest person on the planet and sometimes people are just jerks.

We have noticed a theme with children that bully:  they are either only-children or they have a dysfunctional family life.  With the first category, I realize that all only-children are not bullies, but several of the bullies in our life have been.  They have been poor communicators and do not have conflict resolution skills.  They often get whatever they want at home and make fun of my kids who have to share the majority of what they have.  (I'm so sick of "Why can't I have my own iPad like fill-in-the-blank?")

The second category is more difficult.  These are the kids you would normally feel sorry for if they weren't such brats.  They are likely bullied at home by either their parents or older siblings.  This may be a rough analogy, but my favorite show is "Criminal Minds" on CBS.  By the end of the program, I find myself feeling sorry for the "unsub" because his childhood was so rough, it's no wonder he became a sociopath. And yet, he's despicable for all the bad things he did.  That's how I feel about some of these kids.

People who are bullied do become adults.  If they never learn to stand up for themselves, they either keep being bullied or become angry, depressed, or resentful.   I hope all children who are bullied are able to grow up, find their voice, and realize that the problem lies with the bully, not with the one who is bullied. They have to have people in their lives who tell them they are awesome though -- people who boost them up and help them see their worth.

My 11-year-old says, "You never lose a friend, you just figure out who the real ones are."  She's so smart.  She has awesome self-esteem and is still often treated awfully by some of the girls at school. She is able to let it roll off her though.  I am so proud of her and her maturity in dealing with these snotty girls.

So what about those girls on the playground that made other girls do what they wanted them to?  The ones who said that if you were friends with someone they didn't like, they wouldn't be friends with you?  We all dealt with that as kids!  Not much changes as adults, apparently.  Not long ago, I was told what Facebook pages I should and shouldn't "like"! I also know adults that have literally been told who they can and cannot be friends with by their supposed friends.  Can you imagine an adult telling another adult who they can and can't be friends with?!

I believe this topic is so relevant in our lives, no matter our age or the age of our children, or even our parents. Why do people like to boss other people?  It must make them feel powerful where they feel powerless in other areas of their lives.  They have to manipulate others because they have no control over their lives, compulsions, or addictions.  It's like the abusive husband that makes his wife think it's her fault he keeps hitting her.  She keeps coming back apologizing because she shouldn't have worn that dress, or made that expression, or said what she thought.  She deserved to be punched -- physically or verbally -- or so he makes her believe.

This translates over to birth.  Women are bullied into cesarean birth like never before.  They are bullied by doctors, nurses, friends, mothers, etc.   They may want an entirely different birth but don't want to disappoint the people around them.  They lack the self esteem to say "NO!  This is my life, my baby, and my body.  I will make my own decisions, like I expect you to make your own decisions.  I'm not telling you how to live your life -- please give me the same respect."

This all boils down to self-esteem.  If you are bullied, you lack the self-esteem to say STOP!  If you are a bully, your lack of self-esteem is evident because knocking others down makes you feel better about yourself.

I've worked with hundreds of women over the years and I believe many of them would make different choices in many areas of their lives if they had good self-esteem.  In the few months since starting training women as natural childbirth educators, it's been amazing to work with women and seeing them develop confidence in themselves.  It has been awesome!

Winston Churchill once stated, "Do your worst - we'll do our best."  I never want to be known as a bully, but rather someone who lifted people up and helped them become better people, reaching their full potential.  I want my children to be better than me.  I want the instructors I am training for Birth Boot Camp to be better than me.

If you are being bullied, you are worth so much more!  If it's too hard to stand up to the bullies, walk away from them.  Don't crawl back.  It's better to stand alone than to let yourself be put under by someone who wants to control you.   Like my very wise daughter says, "You never lose a friend - you figure out who the real ones are."