Saturday, November 09, 2013
Author’s Note: You can read more about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood on my site here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get your own copy of Natural Birth Stories
When I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy, I picked up a book one day that my mom recommended called Spiritual Midwifery. It was the first time I’d read any book that Ina May Gaskin published, and I was hooked from the start. Reading the stories of those women’s natural births was empowering; it quelled my anxiety while also raising my belief that I could give birth without medical pain relief.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.
I’ve written before about the births of both of my daughters (here and here), but those posts were about the run-down of events, so I appreciate the chance to highlight a favorite part of my natural birth experiences to share with you today. It will be no surprise to those of you who know my recent career move (I became a birth doula this year) that I attribute most of the success of my natural births to having great birth partners. I was lucky enough to have both my mom and my husband present at my births, and in addition to their excellent support, my births were guided by intelligent midwives.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
I learned today that 100% of my Facebook followers are women. 100%! Which got me thinking. If the comments y’all leave me are any inkling, most of you reading this post are also women (which may not be fair in this case, considering the post has birth in the title. Men undoubtedly ran screaming). I’m writing today to see if any of you lovely readers are interested in posting your birth stories on my new doula website
When I was pregnant, the #1 source of help to me was hearing and reading mothers’ birth stories. I read Spiritual Midwifery from cover to cover, which is a collection of birth stories that took place on Ina May Gaskin’s farm in Tennessee. It was empowering to discover that many women not only gave birth without much outside assistance but that they frequently enjoyed the birth experience. Unfortunately being pregnant also seemed to draw out the random strangers (or even members of my family) who had very challenging labors, and I heard some traumatic stories too.
Read more »at3:26 PM3 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Babies,Birth,Sharing is Caring
Friday, October 28, 2011
Where the actual birth is concerned, Charlotte’s story is considerably shorter than Genevieve’s. I had heard that second babies came faster, but I had no idea what I was in for…
Regardless of actual temperatures, that summer will go on record as my hottest ever. I do not recommend spending a summer in DC at the end of your pregnancy if you can avoid it. I have no actual footage of myself when I was very pregnant with Charlie, for the simple fact that no one needs to see that spectacle. Here’s the last shot I allowed with belly showing (in May):
With Vivi, I was pregnant in the winter (aka. English spring, same diff’), when all you want to do is bundle up anyway, so you just find as many scarves and XXXL sweaters as you can and be done with it. See?
A few weeks away from my third trimester, a friend who was also pregnant asked me if I had discussed my birth plan with my doctor yet. I knew I should have, but the answer was unfortunately no. Maybe I hadn’t because in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going to like how the conversation went; to be honest, I was afraid of all American OB/GYNs. I had such a great experience the first time around with the UK system, and I didn’t trust the US system to provide the same level of woman-focused care.
Incidentally, it is a very dumb reason, perhaps the dumbest, not to discuss birthing with your doctor because you don’t think you’ll like what he/she will say. For a while, I tried to talk myself into keeping him. So ok, I knew he was old fashioned and had long waiting room times. And ok, so one time he let a pretty pharm rep in before me even though he was running 30 minutes late. But hey, he had a sonogram machine and took pictures at every visit. That was kind of cool. And he was just down the street from my house in Falls Church. Plus, he was the only doctor I could find taking patients who had privileges at the hospital down the street from our house. Whatevs, most doctors are the same, right? False.
Anywho, so there I was sweating my ass brow off in my doctor’s office. I had just asked him what he thought of natural childbirth, and I was wringing my hands with anticipation. Knowing that I had given birth naturally the first time in 10 hours, I was expecting him to say something, anything, positive. But positivity was not in the cards. Instead, he said that just because I had a shorter-than-average labor the first time didn’t mean anything, and I shouldn’t go into my labor expecting it to be shorter or less painful. In fact, according to him there are lots of patients who experience more pain the second time around. So I shouldn’t rule out an epidural. OR A C-SECTION. Because his priority is, and I quote, “getting that baby out of there quickly and safely.” Yes, he did say quickly first. Oh, and yes, he wants a fetal monitor strapped to me the whole time, and yes, he plans to give me an IV right away. He actually called it a “spare tire.” To a public health professional! Ugh.
[Note: I don’t want to be sued, so I’m not going to list his name here. Email me if you live in Virginia and really want to know.]
You can probably imagine where this is going. I walked out of there and did not come back. I made an appointment at a practice in Alexandria called The Physician & Midwife Collaborative Practice. It was a much farther drive both to their office and the hospital, but oh so worth the traffic. Their standard of care included one visit with an OB/GYN and the rest with midwives; the labor itself would also be midwife-led unless you had condition requiring special care. Only occasional fetal monitoring as required by the hospital, and no IV. I was in love from my first visit. No long waits, frank conversations, and almost all women providers. Perfect!
I had lots more Braxton-Hicks contractions with Charlotte than with Vivi, which my midwife told me is common for second pregnancies. During my last week of pregnancy, in fact, I cancelled an all-day off-site work meeting because I woke at 3:30 that morning swearing I was in labor. I got up and read “The Help” for a hour with stop watch in hand. Nope, no labor.
My mom came in town the day before the due date picked by the sonogram, Saturday the 28th. But that day came and went with no signs of labor. I prepared myself for the possibility that I would be a week, or even more, late. As it turned out, I needn’t worry because my original DC doctor, the same guy who correctly predicted Vivi’s due date with a tattered paper wheel he kept in his pocket, was right again. So much for advanced science, amirightladies?
August 31, 2010 (wheel-predicted due date)
On Tuesday, I woke early once again with the feeling that I might be having a contraction. Mom, Nate and I went for a walk. After another hour of only random, intermittent contractions varying widely in length and strength, Nate left for the office. Then the contractions stopped altogether. Mom and I did tons more walking in hopes of getting things going. We went to Home Depot for the thousandth time for supplies to get the house in for-sale shape. We had spicy lunch at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Four Sisters. Then we decided the best course of action in the afternoon was yoga and a nap.
4:35 PM. I wake from my nap with a start, knowing what I am feeling is for-real, ass-kicking labor. I wait for a few minutes, timing contractions and hearing my mom talking to her sister on the front porch. 5 minutes apart, almost a minute long, hella strong. I tell mom and immediately call Nate. I may or may not say something to the effect of “Come home now. This is serious. Thundercats are go!!!!” Nate calls David (our friend and labor babysitter) and goes to get Vivi.
5:10 PM. Nate arrives with Vivi in tow. I immediately run to the bedroom and shut the door, knowing I can’t be around her while I’m in such agony. I inflate my birthing ball. Mom starts my iPod labor music, and I soothe myself with the Beatles and wide hip circles.
5:35 PM. I ask Nate to get an ETA on David. Contractions are already almost to the 4-1-1 “come to the hospital” red flag, i.e. 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. David is stuck in DC traffic. This is not good. I ask Nate to call a back-up to come NOW. He calls our friend Alastair who lives in N. Virginia.
5:50 PM. Nate asks me if I want him or mom to come, if I have to choose only one. I shoo him away, unable to think of such a dire circumstance.
6:00 PM. I start moaning and ask Nate to call Alastair again. He is minutes away. I go wait by the front door. Nate calls our midwife to say we are on our way to the hospital.
6:10 PM. I see Alastair’s car and rush out of the house. I pass him on the front sidewalk. He asks “How’s it going?” All I can say is “Not good.” I hop in the back of the Honda and wait.
6:25 PM. We are stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. I am rocking in the back of the car like I think it will make us go faster. Mom is lying to me about how far apart the contractions are. I say “What happens if I start giving birth in the car?” Nate starts jumping curbs and dodging cars.
6:50 PM. We finally arrive at the hospital. All I can say is I am lucky I married a helluva good driver.
7:00 PM. We are buzzed into the labor ward, and in a deja vu moment, no one takes us seriously. I try to talking to an eye-rolling nurse, and mid-convo I have to find a gurney to writhe around on during my contraction.
7:05 PM. The nurse asks Nate some questions, gives us a room, and tries to strap a fetal monitor to me while I have monster contractions and wish I could either rip her head off or curl up in a ball and disappear. She still isn’t getting it.
7:10 PM. My midwife enters our room to introduce herself and assess me. She apologizes for not wearing scrubs yet but says she wasn’t expecting to be needed so soon. She says something, somebody laughs, and I set the building on fire. But not really. She goes and changes into scrubs.
7:15 PM. My body starts involuntarily pushing while I am still standing, waiting to get in the bed. I scream some stuff, somebody yells back, and I am shoved onto a bed.
7:28 PM. Less than three hours and few pushes later, Charlotte is born! She is almost a full pound lighter than Vivi (7.15 instead of 8.9) and is just as perfect. She has the Pointer cheeks and my lips from the start. I am elated.
A few minutes later, I am chatting with the labor and delivery nurse about how wonderful my midwife Trish is. I happen to mention how I switched to the midwife-led practice from my previous doctor. When she hears the doctor’s name, her eyebrows go up, and she then proceeds to tell me she used to work at his hospital and that he has a 90% c-section rate. There’s even a running joke at the hospital when someone delivers naturally: “How’d one slip by him?,” they laugh.
Your lesson, boys and girls, is to ask questions. Stand up for yourself. If you don’t like what you hear, go somewhere else. My mom was very educated about natural childbirth, knew my wishes, and was willing to stand up for me, so in a way she was a lay-doula. But if you don’t have a mom like that, I definitely recommend hiring a doula.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I gave birth naturally to both of my girls, and I’ve often been asked about their birth stories. I know I’ve already forgotten some of the details from Vivi’s birth that I didn’t write in her baby book, so I decided to tell her birth story on the blog. I know she will enjoy reading about it some day, and I also hope to inspire other women to try natural childbirth.
Nate and I were living in the UK when Vivi was born. He was on a temporary assignment with his job in US gov’t intelligence. I had just gotten my Master’s degree in public health and did not have a job, so I spent my time nesting, taking long country walks, drinking tea in our local shop, and making granola. What a paradise.
Even though I was not a citizen of the UK, I received excellent and free health benefits, which included weekly visits to my midwife and pregnancy classes with the other pregnant women in our little town, Oundle. We would all waddle together to the local tea shop after class was over to chat nervously and excitedly about our upcoming births. I grew so fond of these women, and it was a wonderful connection to the culture and people, who were difficult to get to know without such an easy conversation starter.
I drove to the train station to pick up my mom and her boyfriend. They flew to London from Atlanta and then bravely took the hour-plus-long train ride up to us. I had been working my way up to being able to drive long distances on the “wrong side of the road,” so I was proud to be able to pick them up by myself. I think they were both surprised by how big I was since they hadn’t seen me in four months. They were tired but glad to have arrived.
We were all so happy that even though we cut their arrival close to my due date, I had not gone into labor yet. I had some signs of pre-labor that day, so I barely slept with excited anticipation that Genevieve might be born the next day.
2:12 AM. I woke up and sat bold upright in bed, knowing that what I was feeling was a real contraction. I grabbed my stop watch, slid out of bed quietly and crept downstairs, enjoying the silent elation of being the only one to know what was happening for a few hours. Contractions started at about 7 minutes apart but quickly progressed to 5 minutes apart and lasted around 30 seconds each.
3:00 AM. I put the bags I planned to take with me to the hospital by the front door, and I checked and rechecked my packing lists. I sat down on my balance ball in front of the computer to burn my CDs of labor music and noticed that our friend David and my Uncle Joe were both online, so I chatted with them for a few minutes. It was strange that for a few hours the only two people who knew I was in labor besides me were thousands of miles away!
5:00 AM. Labor was in full swing with contractions four minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30 to 70 seconds. Having labored for three hours on my own, I was at the point where I decided I needed other people around to distract me and to call the hospital to let them know what was happening. I woke up Nate and then my mom, who hadn’t even been in the country for 24 hours yet. I can’t imagine what her jet lag must have been like at that point. If I had known we would be in the house for another three hours, I certainly wouldn’t have woken her so soon.
5:30 AM. Nate called the Hitchingbrooke Hospital labor ward and spoke with one of the midwives on duty to find out when we should come to the hospital. She asked to speak with me, and the first thing she said when I got on the phone was that if I could speak to her without having to stop talking during a contraction, then I wasn’t yet ready to come. I was a bit nervous about laboring at home by then but was committed to arriving at the hospital ready to give birth so I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time laboring in an unfamiliar environment.
[Note: Most women in the UK begin the labor process with the idea that they will labor naturally and add medications as they see fit. UK hospitals have all the medications we offer in the US plus a few others we don’t. More on that later.]
6:30 AM. My memory of laboring in front of Mom, her boyfriend Kippy, and Nate was that the men sat on our smaller couch trying not to look like they were staring at me, and my mom rubbed my back constantly. I sat on my birthing ball and rocked in circles while I leaned on four pillows propped on the couch. Our cat Sally tried to sit on my head. I would ask Nate how long a contraction had gone on, and he would say “When did it start?” I could tell we had needed a trial run before the big day, but I let it go and started timing them myself.
8:00 AM. We called the midwife again, and this time I couldn’t speak through contractions, so she gave us the green light to come on in. We piled into the car, and mom sat in the back with me while I was on all fours and spent the next forty minutes trying to find a comfortable position and cursing our rural lifestyle and choice of a hospital so far away. I asked seventy trillion times how long it would take and if we were there yet.
8:45 AM. We finally arrived at the hospital. Nate dropped us off out front so he could find a place to park, and I spent the following 20 muddled minutes trying to locate the labor ward in between incredibly painful contractions. We finally arrived to a bit of eye-rolling when I could barely think or speak from the pain. They handed me a cup and walked off, and I think that’s when I started to cry. My mom helped me with the cup situation and talked me off the ledge, and Nate attempted to persuade them that I was actually quite far along in my labor.
9:15 AM. I finally got checked into a room and assessed, and I could see the look of shock on my midwife’s face that I was 8 cm dilated! The nurse was apologetic that she hadn’t realized how far along I was; “You weren’t even screaming or carrying on at all!” I was so relieved that the pain I had been experiencing was not for nothing and felt a renewed sense of resolve that I could actually achieve a natural childbirth. I was offered a bit of what’s called “gas and air,” which is basically oxygen with a bit of nitrous oxide. It has been compared to having a cocktail; rather than taking away the pain, it basically takes away the nervousness and concern over the pain.
[Note: Unfortunately, the last time I checked when I was pregnant with Charlotte, gas and air is still not offered in the US. I cannot find an acceptable reason for this conspicuous absence with the exception that it can result in respiration trouble for infants. As that is also a potential side effect of Demerol and some other pain meds that are offered, I don’t think it’s a viable answer. My guess is that it could have something to do with the lack of infrastructure and the cost of installing the product being less than the benefit/return.]
9:45 AM. The gas and air lived up to the out-of-body experience promised, and I continued to labor through horrendous contractions but suddenly had something I could do during the contraction to take my mind off it. I think I might have said some weird stuff about monkeys. My mom was an endless outpouring of positive energy and support, continually reminding me of how well I was doing and that I could do it. If I hadn’t known she had given birth naturally to me, I’m not certain I would have found the strength within myself to do it.
10:15 AM. It was somewhere around now when Nate went to get a sandwich and asked me between contractions if I cared if he ate it. I wouldn’t have cared if he had taken off his clothes and drenched himself in mayonnaise at that point and often make fun of him for asking about eating during my labor. He swears it was only his concern over my super sense of smell that prompted him to ask.
10:45 AM. I was assessed again and thrilled to be at 10 cm dilated and fully effaced. My midwife cut off the gas and air, and I got into my birthing position kneeling over the back of my bed. I found laying on my back unbearably painful, so I requested to be in that position as rarely as possible.
12:12 PM. Genevieve Jane was born after exactly 10 hours of labor. She looked so perfect with a lovely round head and ten chubby fingers and toes, and I couldn’t believe she was mine. To say it was all worth it would be such a huge understatement. I would have gone through days of labor to have such a wonderful gift at the end of all that hard work.
May 1, 2008
After an absolutely awful night of no sleep for either of us in a room full of seven other new moms and babies, we finally were picked up in the morning by Nate and my mom, who both had had to leave after visiting hours ended the evening before. I will never forget how breakable Vivi felt in our arms as we tried in vain to strap her in the car seat without her screaming. We were pushed aside by a capable and impatient nurse who told us we weren’t going to kill her by buckling her in. Looking back, all I can think is, “Welcome to parenthood. You have no idea what you are in for.” But I think it’s better that way.
Update 2-9-12: I had to move this post to a new URL because I inadvertently included some personal information that I had to wipe from the old link. Also, when rereading this post, I realize I may not have portrayed Nate in the best light in my attempt to make a joke. I am so thankful to have chosen such a levelheaded mate; in every emotional or harried situation in our lives, Nate rises to the occasion and is a smooth operator, keeping me calm and making logical choices. I couldn’t have done either of my births without him and have fond memories of his contribution beyond sandwich questions.
Update 3-1-12: I am pleased to have been invited to share more of my birth story on another blog, which is dedicated solely to birth stories. I was more candid about the memories of the experience there than I was in this initial post. I am trying to learn how to be more honest in my own blog too.
at1:59 PM3 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Babies,Birth,Pregnancy
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Remember “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)“? You can listen/watch on YouTube still. It’s fun to go back and listen again…or for the first time if for some reason you were living under a rock or, like my young siblings, not listening to the radio in 1999. My personal favorites…
Be kind to your knees; you’ll miss them one day.
Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly.
I’ve been thinking about this song lately because I recently embarked on a Caribbean journey so needed to purchase some sunscreen. I sometimes wish I could go back in time when I was blissfully unaware of the public health concerns I am now familiar with, but alas, since I cannot I must push forward and do my due diligence. Just like I posted a while back regarding the USDA and meat oversight, we unfortunately cannot yet trust the FDA to oversee sunscreens. They still do not rate sunscreens by any standards and are controversially allowing companies to jack up the SPFs on their labels despite little to no evidence base demonstrating the high-SPF utility. Fortunately, there is a non-profit called Environmental Working Group that stepped Consumer Reports-style and filled the gap. They put out a bunch of information about which sunscreens are best.
Aside from my public health knowledge, having melanoma on both sides of my family has also pushed me to learn more about sun protection. Because summer is here, I thought it was a good time to share a little of what I’ve learned. The most important fact to know is that sunscreen does not prevent skin cancer. It is designed to protect against skin-burning UVB rays, but the cancer-causing UVA protection is unknown at best, and likely nonexistent. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to stay out of the sun, and if you have to be in the sun, protect your skin with clothing, hats, and shade-producing implements in addition to sunscreen.
Secondly, you need to get skin checks by your primary care physician at least once every five years. I get checked every year both because I’m very moley and because of my family history; typically, once every 5 or so years my doc finds one that looks suspicious and biopsies it. Luckily they’ve all come back negative so far.
The last bit of knowledge I can pass along is that there is no such thing as a safe tan. The closest you can come are the self-tanning creams and sprays on the market, so if you insist on having a deep tan, I suggest you deal with the hassle and mess of those products as opposed to tanning beds.at8:00 AM3 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to PinterestLabels:Babies,Birth,Health,mommy wars Older PostsHomeSubscribe to:Posts (Atom)