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Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
The practice of placenta-eating grabbed headlines recently after Actress January Jones extolled its benefits in People magazine.
Jones had the organ encapsulated after the birth of her son, and credits her high post-baby energy levels to the placenta pills, which she pops daily and “anytime she feels tired or down.” People quoted her insisting, “It’s not witch-crafty or anything! I suggest it to all moms!”
If you read this blog regularly, you probably remember that my doula offered me the option of placenta encapsulation. She said that mamas who ate their placentas had increased energy and milk supply, and that the pills also helped combat postpartum depression.
Ultimately, I chose not to have my placenta encapsulated. Now that I have a two-month-old and find it near impossible to stay awake past 9 PM, part of me wishes I’d made a different choice. Maybe the pills would’ve helped with the exhaustion that’s part of life with a newborn and a toddler.
I have friends who did it, and their experiences in doing so intrigue me. Like so much about having a child, from pregnancy to birth to parenting, it’s personal. I love hearing the stories of people who made choices different than mine and how they played out.
I think it’s cool that Jones talked about placenta encapsulation in People. She knew she was inviting controversy. That the “Ew, gross!” comments would prevail. Because, well, eating your own organ is kinda gross. But by offering herself up as the poster child for placenta eating, and in doing so thrusting the practice into the spotlight, Jones may help others.
And sure. No press is bad press, right?
Let’s move beyond The Ew Factor for just a moment, though, shall we? It may help overcome breastfeeding challenges, stave off postpartum depression, and give new mamas the energy to make it through the inevitable difficult times. Speaking from my current seat on the New Babyland rollercoaster, that’s serious stuff.
Women such as Jones who choose to encapsulate swear it does these things. (Theorizing and personal experience are the main practice drivers here. As one friend who had her placenta encapsulated pointed out, there likely aren’t lots of studies to quote because who will pay for them? No one profits [monetarily] directly from a woman downing her own placenta.)
Have you done it? Would you? All experiences and opinions welcome.
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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
I left you hanging at the end of My Birth Story: Part One having labored at home, driven to the hospital, then spent another couple of hours contracting in various positions before deciding I was done. If this birth was going to be anything like my first, I had another fifteen or so hours ahead of me. The pain of each contraction was too great, and they were coming at me faster and faster, so, um, no thank you. Done.
But. But! I’ll have you know that I’d identified this roadblock during my HypnoBirthing work, which asked: What might hold you back from navigating this birth drug-free? My answer, without question, was my first birth. To be specific: My first, 30-hour birth, which featured three tries with the vacuum, four—four!—hours of pushing, and a phone call to get the c-section doctor headed our way, before ending in a vaginal birth. I knew I’d have a hard time not fixating on those excruciating, drawn-out dramatics. I knew it would be hard to give this birth the chance to evolve on its own.
So there I was, not giving this birth the chance to evolve on its own. I told my husband and my doula, Dawn, that I couldn’t take this pain for so long again.
“It won’t be that long,” they both insisted.
I said I didn’t believe them. That they were just trying to trick me into staying with it. “I think you’re lying,” I said. I was serious. After all, how the hell did they know?
Dawn did her doula thing and made a deal with me. “Last time, you stalled out at a four [dilation-wise]. They want to check you at 10 AM—in just twenty minutes. How about you two walk a few laps, then come back and get checked, and if you’re at a five, we’ll go in the tub. I bet you’ll be a five.”
“Do you really think so?” I asked.
“I do,” Dawn said.
So I agreed. Clint and I went back to walking the carpeted hospital halls. When a contraction hit, I bent over the ballet-style bars lining the walls and stuck my tush out so Clint could squeeze my lower back in this crazy-magical way that took the edge off. It was a move Dawn showed him, and it helped just enough to keep me going.
The nurse took her sweet time coming in to check me, so it was 10:15 by the time we found out if we were heading into the tub or calling the anesthesiologist. The verdict: A five; stretchy six, and 85 percent effaced. I stuck to my end of the bargain. Into the tub I went.
Dawn was so sure of that five that she’d already drawn a hot tub and decorated the bathroom in a string of white lights. I slipped in wearing a tank top because for some reason, that layer of material made me feel a little less vulnerable while floating there, all massive, slippery and moaning in front of a small crowd.
I dialed back in to my method of dealing with the contractions, tweaking it ever so slightly to fit my new environment. I’d wait silently and gratefully in the stillness; floating, relaxing, breathing, with a cold washcloth (supplied by Clint) on my forehead. Then a contraction would surge, and through the white pain I’d picture it moving my baby down while I shifted and wriggled through the water.
Like my first birth, they came at me unpredictably—5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 2, then 10. But they were getting stronger, sitting heavy on my lower back and wringing my midsection like a wet towel. In the quiet space between contractions, my skepticism resurfaced. I mumbled to Clint, camped out next the tub, “I really don’t think I can do this.”
His reply: “You’re doing great. You’re almost there!”
I willed my head up to meet his gaze and said, “You do not understand.”
Then came a machine-gun string of contractions. Bam! Bam! Bam! They hijacked my body, shooting down through my legs like an electric current. Sounds originating from somewhere deep inside me left my lips without my consent. In the brief moments between each, I was not so much relaxing as going limp; giving over to whimpering, watery eyes and chest heaves. Though it bore some resemblance to crying, it wasn’t. That would’ve required energy. I had none.
“We need to call the doctor,” Dawn said. “I think it’s about time for you to push.” I still thought this was the old It-Won’t-Take-Long-This-Time Routine, designed to keep me in the game.
But then I heard my doctor’s voice from the hospital room. He poked his head in the bathroom door. “It sounded like things were moving along pretty quickly, so I figured I’d come by,” he said. I knew that Dr. C only showed up for the final stretch, so reality began to sink in. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was almost there. “Let’s get you out of the tub and get you checked,” he said.
I didn’t want to move. Not because I loved being in the tub, but because moving required effort. I geared myself up, and in the space between contractions they rushed me to the bed where Dr. C confirmed: I was at a nine-plus, and just a rim away from being completely effaced. I’d opened a full four more centimeters during my time in the tub, not even 45 minutes.
It was true. We were almost there.
Four more surges and I was completely dilated and 100 percent effaced. Time to push. Finally, I believed I wasn’t destined to repeat Birth #1. I would not push for nearly four hours. I would push simply as long as it took to meet my little girl. And with any luck, that wouldn’t be long at all.
My instinct was to tense and straighten my legs. My instinct was wrong. When each contraction came, I worked to tuck my chin to my chest, curl my butt under and push, push, push, push. On about the third round of pushing, I found it: The sweet spot. The pain disappeared, a white light filled my head and engulfed my body, and I could feel her moving through me. To me.
As much as I wanted it to, my body did not remember this position. It took a couple more tries for me to find it again. And again. The last time I did, I stayed there, pushing past one contraction and straight into another as the pressure and burning built, then released. Finally. Released. After twenty minutes of pushing, our baby arrived at 11:42 AM. Just 17 minutes before the “best case scenario” time I’d wished for the day before.
They put her on my chest immediately. She was absolutely perfect.
Clint cut the cord as I held her, transfixed. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s beautiful.” Then, prying my eyes away to look at Clint: “I can’t believe it did it. I did it.” It was almost a question.
Clint took off his shirt and had his skin-to-skin bonding with her as all my fun post-birth stuff unfolded. The placenta birth and stitches (an “almost two” tear—not bad) and whatnot. We did let them weigh and measure her (7 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches!), but after that, we insisted on keeping her near, nursing and snuggling her first hours away. She’s a cuddly one.
People keep asking me if Hypnobirthing worked, and my answer is: It helped. It did not erase the pain, but it helped me work through it in a way that I was unable to do instinctively during my first.
But enough about my first, already. This is the story of my second, entirely different birth.
The birth of our little Vera Loraine.
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Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
First things first: Everybody was right about the sex.
I was exactly one week overdue. I’d tried a whole list of things said to promote natural induction: Exercise, massage, eggplant Parmesan. People kept telling me to have sex. I kept telling them to take a look at my massive nine-months-pregnant self.
Um, yeah. Not interested.
But then I was 9.25 months pregnant. That .25 is a lot in LatePregnancyLand. The hubby and I discussed, and decided it was worth a shot. Three hours later, around 5 PM, I felt my first real a contraction, I kid you not. Here is a phrase I’ve never typed before: Yay, semen!
By “real” contraction, I mean it was in the right place. My Braxton-Hicks had been in the top-central tummy region. These contractions were what I remembered from birth one: low and achy, like period cramping. They were light and random, then they disappeared altogether, but I had a feeling. She was on her way.
Later that evening, my friend Konnie came down for a visit. As we sat on the couch sipping wine (another recommended inducer), I told her my dream plan: Get some sleep. Start to labor at home. Drop Roy off at daycare. Head to the hospital before morning’s rush hour. Have the baby by noon—ideally without any drugs whatsoever.
Konnie laughed. “You can’t control these things. She’ll come in her own time,” she said.
Konnie left, and I went to bed. Contractions woke me up around 1 AM.
They were light enough that I could get back to sleep, so I did, dozing off and on until about 3:30, when sleep was clearly no longer a viable distraction. Thankfully, streaming the pilot episode of “My So-Called Life” was. Angela’s earnest eyes and freshly dyed red hair and the troubled locker-leanings of Jordan Catalano tucked me straight back under the weight of high school’s angst and butterflies for another precious hour or so, until the contractions demanded my upright and undivided attention.
So I got up. Made myself an egg sandwich. Began timing them: Roughly 45 seconds long and seven minutes apart. I called my doctor. I called my doula. I woke Clint. You never know when things could speed up, especially since it was my second birth, and my contractions were all over the board during my first—two minutes apart, ten minutes apart, and of varying lengths, right up until push-time. Clint and I decided to go ahead and continue to labor at home awhile longer, see if we couldn’t make it to 6:30, that daycare/rush hour sweet spot. (Our doula, Dawn, offered to come help, but we felt comfortable making it to our goal time on our own.)
I filled the next hour and a half with showering and last-minute packing, with each contraction stopping me in my tracks. As soon as I felt one coming on, I’d sit down. Clear my mind. Breathe deep. Feel my uterine muscles working to move my baby down the birth canal and do my best to encourage them—and her. I talked to her a little, rubbing my belly and saying, “Good job, baby girl. C’mon. We’re ready for you.”
I think it was something about really tapping into her journey, taking place right then inside of me, but I suddenly started sobbing. The tears took me by surprise. I wandered over to Clint and hugged him, blubbering, “I’m just so happy. I can’t believe we finally get to meet her.” And then I went about contracting and packing until it was time to rouse Roy and get him to daycare. Clint and I drove to the hospital in light pre-rush traffic just as planned, pastel bands of sky insulating the horizon.
Dawn met us at the hospital, where we settled in and met our attending nurse. I changed into a tank top, zip-up sweatshirt and big, comfy skirt, then hopped into the hospital bed for the requisite fetal monitoring and dilation check. Since I’d dilated to a two more than a week earlier, I expected a high number, and so was disappointed to find out I was only at a four. A stupid four. To put this into perspective: I was at a four when I arrived at the hospital for my first birth. My son didn’t show up for another 17 hours. (I ended up taking one dose of the narcotic Nubain, which gave me a much needed half-hour break before nearly four hours of pushing. I really hoped to successfully skip all drugs this go-round.)
I was hooked up to the fetal monitoring equipment for about half an hour, which I spent quietly contracting and eating Jell-O, to help fuel the marathon birth I figured I had ahead of me. Once the nurse was satisfied that my baby was doing just fine, she set me free, and Clint, Dawn and I started doing laps down the carpeted hospital halls.
We did this for ages during Roy’s birth. We’d talk and walk like crazy, then when a contraction hit, I’d grab the ballet bar-type railing lining the wall with both hands and hang down into a squatting position until it subsided. I looked forward to this familiar tactic and so was completely surprised when this time, I hated it. It felt overly physical and active and public and unnatural. I gave it two laps around the nurses’ station, then called the walking off. We slipped back into my room to see what else might work. Now, it was around 9 AM.
Out came the birthing (aka exercise) ball. I sat on it, my hands planted on the foot of the hospital bed, circling my hips, around and around. As a contraction built up, I’d shift back, rest my head on the bed, and relax my body; breathe, breathe, breathe, letting my mind clear of all but a clean white light; envisioning my uterine muscles doing their job to move my baby down and out, down and out. Dawn turned on a loop of birth affirmations (“I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.” “I trust my body.”). She and Clint followed my lead, remaining silent. It was my version of HypnoBirthing, and it felt correct and productive, but man, I’ll be honest. It hurt like hell.
I’d been wondering how much of the “pain” my HypnoBirthing training might take out of the equation—I put the word in quotation marks because HypnoBirthing discourages use of it, preferring more accurate and less negative descriptions of what’s happening. “Tightening,” for example, or “pressure.” I get that. But even if you call it tightening, it’s intense, excruciating and off-the-charts painful tightening. One-millimeter-away-from-being-ripped-right-apart kind of tightening. My breathing and meditation tools did not prevent this sensation, but they definitely helped me work through it and with it productively. That is until I just didn’t want to anymore.
Sitting there quietly between contractions, dreading the next one, I was trying so hard to stay positive. Really, I was. I committed to a natural birth for many, many reasons. But the pain was so great, and it was still so early in the day, and if this was anything like my last labor, I could have 14 or 15 hours of this ahead of me. Contracting every five or so minutes, not to mention pushing—I didn’t even bother to do the math.
I opened my eyes and broke it to Clint and Dawn: “I don’t want you guys to be disappointed, but I can’t do this,” I told them. “I can’t take this kind of pain for so long again. I just can’t. I won’t. It’s too much.”
To be continued… (see My Birth Story: Part Two)
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Monday, February 13th, 2012
Here’s what was going on over here exactly one week ago today:
And a whole lot of this:
The birth went pretty much as I’d hoped. Difficult, as childbirth tends to be, but smooth and relatively quick. Relatively. Full report to come. The hospital stay was pretty relaxing, too.
And then we came home. My milk came in, turning my boobs into two large, painful boulders, ready to burst at any moment. My nipples burned from all the newborn mini-mouth action. And Roy threw up. Then he threw up again. And again. It was awful.
Settling in at home with a newborn is difficult. Beautifully disorienting and amazing and wonderul and difficult. Settling in at home with a newborn and a confused toddler with the stomach flu is much more difficult. You want to comfort him. You need to. But there’s a baby in your arms. A baby with a delicate immune system. You can’t do both. It’s heartbreaking. Plus, there’s all that puke to clean up.
Looking back, the last week can well be defined by all the moments that brought tears to my eyes. Here is an incomplete list:
* In the early morning hours, my contractions are gaining momentum and intensity. I’m packing the last few items in my bag between them. Upstairs, Roy is stirring in his crib. We are about to take him to daycare and then head in to the hospital. I start weeping uncontrollably. Our girl is finally on her way.
* I’ve been in hard labor for long enough that I want it to stop. Want to call the whole thing off. Seriously. My doula has convinced me to ride a few contractions out in the tub and see where that gets us. They pick up, rip though me, becoming just short of impossibly, literally, un-fucking-bearable. Only between contractions does my body have enough extra energy to whimper-cry.
* I take a warm bath a few hours post-birth. Clint is in the adjoining hospital room, holding our second child, a mere hour old. I’ve birthed her. I’m no longer pregnant. We did it. We are a family of four. I cry in pure disbelief and happiness.
* Roy bursts into the room, throwing the cloth hospital curtain back dramatically and grinning wide. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says “I’m the Big Brother.” He sits on the bed next to me and peeks skeptically at Vera, his sister, for the first time. Of course the tears come.
* The second night Roy visits us in the hospital, he wants us to come home with him. Doesn’t understand why the three of us stay and he has to go home. He sobs like he’s never sobbed before, repeating, “Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy.” Again, he sits next to me in the hospital bed. I hug him and whisper that we will come home tomorrow, I promise, and that we’ll all be together and that I love him forever and ever. He calms down but is clearly not OK. It breaks my heart in two.
* We finally get home. During Vera’s inaugural diaper change, she screams so hard it’s silent. Roy positions himself at her head and pats her fuzzy bird hair softly, repeating, “It’s OK, Vera. It’s OK.” Sob.
* Roy just puked. As Clint is cleaning him up, I hold Vera and watch as his toddler lip quivers, shiny bright pink against his pale skin. He looks at me directly, his big blue eyes broadcasting pure confusion and pain. I want to hold my baby, Roy, like I used to. I want things to be as they were. I wonder what we’ve done—and how we’re ever going to do it.
* Clint draws warm baths for me twice a day. The morning ones are especially lovely. I am all alone, soaking my recovering body and needy breasts in lavender salts. Vera is clean and fed and downstairs, in Clint’s arms. I can hear Roy’s toddler squeals and pajama feet padding the floorboards. I relax down into the water and quietly cry over how incredibly lucky I am.
Overall, we’re getting there. Roy’s back on regular food and hasn’t puked in a couple of days. Clint is a patient and clearly proud father of two. My milk is totally in and the pressure and pain are mellowing. Despite the crying jags, which are to be expected, I’m functioning and healing fairly well. And Vera has been a rock star. Mellow. A fabulous eater. A darn good sleeper and pooper. We truly can’t get enough of her and love her like crazy.
That’s it for now. I’ll re-emerge with another update when I’m able.
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Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Those two rounds of contractions (contractual episodes? contractisodes?) last week made it ever so clear that this baby will come whether or not I’ve packed my bag for the hospital. Already she has a mind of her own. Babies.
So I’ve given in to reality, on this point at least. I will fill that suitcase that’s open and waiting on my bedroom floor. Because I’m a compulsive list-maker, I consulted many “What to Pack” lists, then pared them down to a “What I Really Need to Pack” list. That’s one of the benefits of this being Babyhaving: The Sequel. I know that wearing the hospital’s disposable undies is better than ruining my own, and that between visitors and sleep and babygazing, I will not have time to tackle a little light magazine reading.
Here is what I think I need…
To pack ahead of time:
- Copies of birth plan (in case they don’t have the copy my doc sent over ready and waiting)
- List of phone #s to call (even if Clint can remember the list of five people now, he may not have his wits about him when the time comes, due to sleeplessness and baby excitement)
- Notebook (Birthing thoughts? Final baby-name narrowing down? Returning home to-do list? You never know.)
- Birthing skirt/2 tanks/zipper sweatshirt (aka stuff to labor in that allows me to regulate my temperature and allows the hospital staff to access my lady region. An extra tank in case I want to wear one into the birthing tub.)
- Two pair nonslip comfy throwaway socks (For labor. There will likely be dripping. Gross, I know.)
- Nursing bras
- Bella bands (Nice to pair with nursing bras, for the discreet & ladylike, such as myself.)
- Breast pads (In case my milk comes in. Oh, the leakage.)
- Lanolin (At first, your nipples hurt. A whole lot. Lanolin helps.)
- Arnica (My awesome friend Laura, a homeopath/pharmacist, recommends 200C post-delivery, and again 12 hours later, to promote overall healing.)
- Ponytail holders
- iPod/speakers (I prefer silence to birthing tunes, but we have HypnoBirthing scripts and affirmations on there.)
- Breastfeeding-friendly PJs/hangout wear (Better than a hospital gown. You’ll probably want options that allow easy access to Down There and/or your post c-section tummy. Make it something you won’t mind being photographed in.)
- Pantry snacks that may be tolerable during labor, such as electrolyte jelly beans, granola bars (sprung for fancy raw Pashen bars for the occasion), nuts, emergenC (Keep that energy up!)
- Have cooler ready
- Present for Roy (From the baby. So when they meet, she has it ready for him.)
- A few sleepers (Those long gowns with the elastic at the bottom, to make frequent changes easier. Might as well have her wear her own clothes, washed in our detergent, from the get-go.)
- Socks & hats
- Super cute going-home outfit
- Car seat with BundleMe (Essential for a winter baby in Minnesota—no bulky, hard-to-regulate snowsuit necessary.)
- Baby book (Get those footprints!)
- Boppy, or other breastfeeding pillow (Might as well start in the manner you intend to continue.)
To pack the last minute:
(Again, a list containing even the obvious is nice. It’s hard to make decisions while in labor.)
- Camera (batteries, charger)
- Phones & chargers
- Makeup bag
- Lip balm
- Vitamins & allergy medication
- Hair products
- Hair dryer
- Stock cooler (ice, drinkable yogurt, hard cheese, fruit)
- 12-pack fizzy water (It’s my jam.)
- HypnoBirthing scripts (On paper. For Clint to potentially read to me.)
- Towel to sit on in car (if my water hasn’t broken)
- Wallets/insurance card/ids
- Calendar (I’ve not yet gone electronic on this. Rockin’ it old skool style.)
(Just a loose reminder list for him…)
- Food (If he’s gonna support me, he needs to maintain energy as well.)
- PJs (The hospital is not the place for underwear-only sleeping.)
- Camp mat (To make a crappy hospital sofa more bearable.)
- Blanket (See above.)
POST-DELIVERY UPDATE: What I ended up using, not using and forgetting.
Image: Pregnant Woman Is Getting Ready for the Maternity Hospital via Shutterstock
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