Natural Birth Dos & Don’ts

A quick heads up for any of you who have connected to this blog or my birth story because you’re hoping to have a natural birth: I wrote a story on the Dos and Don’ts of Natural Birth for Parents.com.

It was nice to be able to pull together some of my thoughts and to pick the brains of other mamas who’ve gone the natural route. Of course I had a couple of experienced midwives weigh in as well.

Our advice includes some basics, such as finding a supportive practitioner and birthing environment, as well as things you might not think about at first, such as remembering your birth partner, going ahead and eating that egg sandwich and cutting off others’ birthing horror stories.

Come to think of it, you should do that last one whether you’re headed the natural route or not. No pregnant lady needs the extra worry.

Check out the story.

Natural birth hopefuls: I sincerely hope the full list helps you achieve the birth you want. I’m happy to try and answer any questions in the comments.

Natural birth veterans: What advice did we miss? Help the hopefuls by adding your two cents!

 

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January Jones, Placenta Eater

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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Post-Baby Socializing

We’re at the 7-week mark now, and things are going pretty well. I’m finding the baby thing a little easier the second time around.

 I’m not coming fresh to every little thing, and that contributes to an overall feeling of (relative) competence. I’m  comfortable being around a baby. Handling a baby. Having a baby.

Her cries and do not scare me, nor do the various hues and consistencies of her bowel movements. I know how to use a breast pump and what to carry in the diaper bag. We’ve already got a kid-friendly schedule in place and a daycare provider we love and trust.

It’s more about managing/balancing the family’s time (there seems to be less) and emotions (there seem to be more).

We’ve had some unseasonably warm weather here, which has made things easier. It’s drawing us out of the house, and out of our heads, much sooner than if it were the typical chilly Minnesota March. It makes a huge difference.

The most common outing is “around the block,” followed closely by “to the neighborhood park.” We sometimes swing by and pick up Vivian, Roy’s bud, and her family, too.

Check out the protective arm around the shoulder. Roy loves Vivi.

Vivi got a new brother the week after Roy got a new sister. Franklin and Vera kick it on the playground’s edge for now. Oh, the little siblings will be tearing it up soon enough.

As the weeks pass, we’re getting more adventurous. Last week, for example, Vera and I went out to lunch to celebrate Romelle’s birthday.

I’m still at that stage where showering and putting on clothes that do not double as pajamas feels like a major coup, so this was big stuff. Romelle is totally worth it.

And guess what? Clint and I went out, together, without the kids. We got them snuggled into bed, put on spitup-free clothes, then drove off to spend time with other grownups for a couple of hours. (Of course, a sitter was involved. Thanks, Bubbe!)

It felt so novel. I do not have any photos of the occasion because I was too busy talking and drinking wine and just completely enjoying what it felt like to be out talking and drinking wine. It’d been a really long time.

Yeah, things are going pretty well.

Babysmiles make everything better.

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Gearing Up for Pottytraining

Look who’s wearing big boy undies.

Not often, and not for long, but we’re practicing. Gearing up for our three-day-weekend potty training extravaganza, scheduled to begin next Friday.

Changing a newborn’s diaper pushed me over the edge. Once I had something to compare it to, I realized Roy’s bum had grown huge over the last couple of years. And his poops. They’re practically man-sized.

Plus, on a daily basis, he disappears into a corner and turns quiet with concentration, and when we ask what he’s doing he says, “I’m pooping.” And when we ask if he’d like to do so on the toilet, he simply refuses. It’s just so purposeful. Quite the opposite of the helpless baby on the other side of the room, grunting and wriggling and unselfconsciously expelling large quantities of bright yellow liquid into her teensy diaper.

Enough is enough.

Clearly I’m ready. Outside of often refusing to #2 on the toilet, he seems ready. Pees on the toilet several times a day and exhibits extreme pride over his Thomas and friends undies, as well as a desire to keep them nice and dry. When we were out scouting big boy beds at Ikea last weekend, he kept asking Clint to take him into the bathroom—not to potty, mind you. Just to suss the situation out. See what he was signing up for.

So next Friday, we’re starting our pants-free potty training weekend. Just me and my mom, two potty chairs, lots of water and one toddler, naked from the waist down. It’s a version of Julie Fellom’s Diaper Free Toddlers Program. We call it The Potty Train. All aboard!

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My Birth Story: Part Two

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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