Well Rounded Birth Prep

Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guest post: A Journey Down Granola Blvd...

By Courtnie Thorsen

I have been asked more than once, about my reasons for being "crunchy",  when I used to be so "mainstream". Why now? What persuaded you? What made you change your mind?

The answer is alot of soul searching, alot of maturing, and alot of research.

I was 19 when I got pregnant with my oldest son. I sat in silence on the toilet watching the pee spread across that stick- the lump in my throat almost suffocating me as I seen the line turn pink. It didn't work out with the sperm donor and I, so I went at this thing called parenthood alone. I moved home- broke as hell, no job, and 6 weeks pregnant.

I had no plan, no idea what I was getting myself into, and no clue how to be a mom.

I put no effort into researching anything aside from breastfeeding. I was an excellent OB patient & went along with whatever I was told to do- or not to do.

My son was born 5 days before his due date. My labor was incredible. I spent the majority of it alone, at home in my bathroom. When my mom returned home from running errands, I was screaming upstairs...we arrived at the hospital at 9 centimeters. I was terrified at all the rushing around. Something must be wrong, this can't be a normal experience with all this panic going on.

I got the trusty epidural. No one bothered to tell me- it would all be over soon, that I had done and was doing an excellent job, that my body would not fail me now. Three hours later, after the threat of a cesarean section for not pushing him out fast enough- he was born. Covered in sticky meconium he was the tiniest, most innocent, most perfect creature my eyes had ever seen.

I sent him off to be circumcised. It is what all boys go thru. "How gross", I thought. 'Who would want to have such a disgusting penis?"

I took him home. His penis oozed this nasty pus and blood combination & try as I might- somehow the vaseline was always missing somewhere.

Breastfeeding was hard. He ate more than I could pump. We switched to formula at 11 weeks old. We got all of our shots on time, we made all of our well child visits. Soon my son developed severe constipation.

I met my Husband when my son was 7 months old. He loved us both, and we loved him. We got married in 2005 when Jack was 2. Jack started preschool and we were happy. When Jack was 4- his preschool teacher thought we should have him tested for ADD/ADHD. He was diagnosed a month later.

Around this time, my husband and I decided we wanted another baby. Jack's adoption by my husband had just gone thru & we were ready to expand our family. We conceived quickly and were ecstatic to learn our baby was a girl.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I feel the formula Jack was on, played an integral part in his bowel issues. I researched breastfeeding benefits. I also researched vaccines. What if having all those shots contributed to Autism, to ADHD, to other behavioral issues, his bowel issues?

My daughter was born 4 days before her due date. I was waiting for labor to begin & at my last doctor appointment- I begged to be induced. My daughter had turned and was laying on my sciatic nerve. I was so unbelievably tired of the strong "false labor" I had been having for weeks. Twice it needed to be stopped with medication in hospital.

My induction was routine. The labor was awful & my hopes for a drug free delivery were pushed futher into the hallway with each drip of the pitocin. I argued with our crappy nurse pretty much thru the whole thing. I was really pissed though, when I was told to "labor down" as my daughters head was about to crown. And let's not forget when I was told I was complete at 5 freakin' centimeters.

None the less, when they placed my pink, perfect Savannah on my belly- the rest of the world faded into the background. She was here and she was awesome!

Our breastfeeding relationship was strong. So strong it took us thru two bouts of mastitis, new teeth, and an attempt at ending our co- bedding arrangement.

We nursed everywhere. I began to see how important my breasts were to my daughter. How she couldn't wait to snuggle me and them when I got home from my part- time job, when she hurt herself, when she was tired, when she needed reassurance, when all was not right in her world. When she broke her arm- it was my breasts that comforted her in post op.

Our delayed vaccine arrangement was working too. She was healthy & at home with one of us, all the time.

Someone was missing in our family. I stayed up late at night thinking about it. It consumed my thoughts. I cried when I packed up clothes Savannah was growing out of.

We again conceived quickly. Only this time, I had done my soul searching. What was I trying to fix? What was I trying to prove?

I KNEW there was a better way. A more natural way. An instinctual way to parent. I hired a doula, and drove 40 minutes each way to a midwife. I wanted to birth my way. I didnt want to tear because I was pushing to slow & had better get it out or else. I didn't want to be told to stay in bed, or labor down or have a cathater stuck up my urethra. I didnt want to be told when to push, how to push or where to push. I didn't want someone to start an IV, to make me change into an ugly, scratchy hospital gown, or stick their fingers in my vagina every 2 hours to check if I was progressing on their time. I didn't want my son's genitals cut up without his consent. I didn't want him stuck with needles upon his entrance into the world. I didn't want crap in his eyes, spread so thick I couldn't see their depth. I didn't want anyone to clamp his cord to early, severing the rich blood that had nourished him for 10 months. I wanted to feel my son be born. I wanted our bodies to work in tandem to meet each other. I rode those powerful waves of perfection & it was divine.

Brody was born in a freestanding birth center on October 12, 2010. While his birth was not perfect, it was damn close. I was respected & so was my child.

For our family, there is a better way- a more natural way. An intended way of going about giving life & living life. I have made my mistakes along the way & still do. But I know now that no one but my husband and I have our families best interest at heart.

I will not be responsible for someone turning a profit over my families well being. I make it my job to be informed in regards to how I raise my children and the choices I make for them & the ones I allow them to make for themselves. Birth is normal, natural and incredible. Vaccines are a personal choice & should not be forced upon anyone. Circumcision is abuse, a violation of the child's human rights & should not be acceptable. Breastfeeding is bestfeeding, and good nutrition is key. Doctor's only know what they are taught & good or bad- all of them make a profit off of you. Babywearing is good for your baby & promotes the most basic of bonding principles that is trust. I will not leave you to cry it out for your needs are just as important as my own. Co-sleeping is amazing. You sleep- I sleep, we all sleep with co- sleep!

Follow your gut, and your heart. No book, or doctor, or article can tell you more than your instinct. If something isn't sitting right with you- speak up & speak out!

Courtnie and her children

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Guest post: surprise unassisted homebirth VBAC with classical incision scar birth story

by April Hager

I wrote this up for the Special Scars Group that has been sooooo wonderfully supportive and encouraging for the past nine months. My 1st 4 were unmedicated birth center births. #5 was an emergency CS at 26 weeks with classical (vertical) incision.

This first week with our new little blessing has flown by, but the thrill of it all will stay fresh in our minds for a long time to come! Like all special scars mamas, from the start I’d been reading, researching, and praying to make the most informed choice about a VBAC. When I found an OB willing to be on call for my delivery and a midwife in his practice who agreed (although not so willingly) to attend my birth, I felt a plan coming together. I tried to think of everything I could do for a successful delivery: exercise, excellent diet, a natural protocol to ensure that I’d be GBS negative (and my labor would not be slowed down by antibiotics required if a positive GBS test) having my favorite homebirth midwife act as my doula in the hospital, taking Gentle Birth herbal formula the last 5 weeks of my pregnancy to make labor go quicker (less chance of rupture, right?) and not go over my due date with a larger baby that might be more stressful to push out. 

I was due Sunday, June 26th. On Saturday, the last shoe of my plans dropped. My oldest daughter was finished with her job at a summer camp for the week. I picked her up that morning so she could take part in her sister’s birth. She joked that I could go into labor just as soon as she took a nap! She got her nap and I still wasn’t dilated beyond the 3 cm that I had been for several days. 

My Braxton Hicks contractions seemed to have lessened even though I’d been pushing acupressure points (especially BL 32) all day. I finally took a walk around our yard and got one hard contraction to happen. I started dinner at 5:00 and seemed to be having good contractions every 30-45 minutes. I was beginning to need to breathe through them, but still only dilated to 3 cm at 10:00 pm. I just knew that I’d be in labor in the wee morning hours and exhausted from not getting any sleep, so I thought I’d lie down for awhile and perhaps the contractions would taper off and I could sleep a little? I anticipated making the one hour trip to the hospital in a few hours when (as the OB instructed) contractions were closer together. By the time my husband came to bed at 11:00 he noticed that I was breathing constantly and asked if we shouldn’t be thinking about going?

I was having bad back labor pains (still pushing BL 32 to alleviate them) and felt like I’d better get out of bed and perhaps use the toilet. Contractions were so intense that I worried I’d be stuck on the toilet. My water conveniently broke before I made myself get back up and I checked to find that I seemed to be fully dilated! I tried sitting on the birth ball while my husband called my doula to tell her that we were going to the hospital. As soon as I was somewhat in between contractions and could talk I told him to just tell her to come to the house that there was no way I was going to get in a car the way I was feeling. I asked her if it was possible for a baby to come that fast and she said that it was. She instantly turned back into my midwife and said she was on her way! 

To relieve my back labor I knelt beside an ottoman in the living room and immediately felt like I needed to push. Hubby later told me he was scared to death at this point, but I felt like since we had no choice in the way things were going and if God allowed it to be this way, it must be going to turn out OK. I felt no pains in my upper abdomen where I’d imagined my vertical scar to be. Hubby asked my girls to get a towel to put under me and then called them over to help him catch the baby. I had her head out in a couple pushes. Tremendous relief followed but no immediate contractions to help me push her the rest of the way. I was waiting on another contraction to keep from tearing (I’d had episiotomies with the previous 4 natural births) but when hubby saw her breathing he encouraged me to go ahead and push. Out she came at 11:37! 

The first part of her I saw was her tiny little feet, a visual I’ll never forget, as I flipped over to get her on my chest. Every inch of her was beautiful-so perfect. I thought about that signed birth plan in the diaper bag. All my picky little details that I was prepared to ask for at the hospital. And now I could do whatever I wanted! I had so much energy because it wasn’t even my bedtime yet. I felt like I’d just run a quick sprint. My girls were crying tears of joy, hubby was still in shock I think, and the midwife was just coming through the front door. I was just amazed that my little girl was there in my arms on my living room floor. I got the homebirth that I’d wanted since seven years ago when my son was taken by emergency CS at only 26 weeks. God knew what I really wanted and gave me the desires of my heart without my even asking. Caroline had a peaceful, beautiful entrance into this world. I shudder to think of what it would have been like for her if I’d given in to the fears of others and had a RCS. I believe that God understood my wanting to ensure the safety of myself and my baby by choosing to birth in a hospital, but in his omniscience He also knew that it would be just fine for me to birth at home and unassisted at that! He worked it all out and used all of my prior preparations in the perfect way that only He can and I’m so grateful!

April, her husband, and their 6 beautiful children

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In which I admit that bedtime is a total failure at my house.

Go ahead, judge all you want. Provided that you have successfully raised 4 or more young children close in age. If you have done this and lived through it and enjoyed the experience, feel free to post all sorts of advice on how I could be doing this differently. When I only had 1 kid--indeed, even when I had only 2 kids--I did a "good mommy" bedtime routine, as well. It's when you have 3 kids age 3 and under that things begin to get hairy.

I am pregnant with our 5th baby. Our oldest kid is 8 1/2. Bedtime is a disaster at our house. I felt saddened and guilty when I read this "Please, Go to Sleep" NY Times editorial. Bedtime here more closely resembles the one the author so disliked from her own childhood, minus the relaxing glass of wine to reward a harrowed mom at the end of the day. And that was only describing bedtime with ONE child. Try it with 4. And my husband works late frequently and unpredictably, so I never know whether he'll be home at 6 p.m. or at 9 p.m. It's a total crapshoot. He's an involved and loving father--when he's home. Since we have no family support or help, I'm on my own most of the time. I also homeschool our kids, so it's just me and them--24/7/365. Yes, this is a lifestyle choice, and one I'm glad that we made. I'm not trying to complain. I'm just being honest.

By dinnertime every day, I'm exhausted and nearing mommy-burnout stage, wondering what time my hubby will get home that night and whether I should just go ahead and feed the kids without him. After that, whether or not he's home, I'm stick-a-fork-in-me-"done" in terms of mediating the kids' squabbles or dealing with their toys on the floor ("I thought I asked you to pick those up before dinner!") or helping the kid who was roughhousing and bumped his/her head. I don't mean to sound callous. Really, I'm not. I'm a loving, devoted mom who is committed to attachment parenting. I'm also not talking about a newborn here. These are kids ages 2 to 8 who sleep contentedly in their room without me, etc.

A lot of nights, I feed them dinner then tell them, "Good night, go upstairs. Brush your teeth. Brush your sister's teeth. GOOD NIGHT. I LOVE YOU. GO TO BED. GO UPSTAIRS." Then I do not want to see them again until morning. It's somewhere between 8 and 8:30 p.m. when I send them upstairs to manage their own bedtimes. (No, I'm not proud of this. I'm exhausted and cannot do better.) They rumble around up there until 10 p.m. or later many nights. Augh! It's so frustrating! I can't relax or wind down or read anything of substance or even think until they go to SLEEP. And by that time, I'm too fried to care. All I want is to wind down and go to bed myself.

I feel bad that I don't help my kids take a fun bubble bath, then dry them off and dry their hair, then supervise careful teeth brushing and flossing, then read one chapter per night of a sweet and relaxing bedtime story where they all lie cuddled on and around me like a pile of puppies. Sorry, I can't do it. I hope they remember all the good things I do and did, not Mom's failure to do the "right" thing at bedtime. Nobody's perfect, not even perfectionists.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baby chooses birthday vs. "family centered cesarean"?

This post is my rant about the between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place situation that moms who know they will be planning a cesarean face. This post is *not* for discourse regarding whether a cesarean is or isn't the "best" choice for any specific situation. Whether a mom has a medically indicated reason that is foreknown and is planning to have a cesarean, or whether she is having an elective cesarean, moms deserve to have choices and options open to them.

There's lots of talk in the media now about "family centered cesareans," "natural cesareans," or "gentler cesareans," which allow mothers more involvement in the birth, immediate skin-to-skin contact and bonding after the birth, earlier establishment of breastfeeding, and more.

More and more mothers are aware of the dangers of early elective deliveries (whether by induction or cesarean). There are many awareness campaigns encouraging moms to wait a bare minimum of 39 weeks before scheduling a delivery of any sort. Many moms are also aware that there are benefits to baby if he or she has the advantage of the hormonal changes of spontaneous labor as well as the physical effects of labor (squeezing effect of contractions that help push mucus out of baby's lungs, for instance) and dangers of baby not being ready for birth if it's scheduled (higher likelihood of respiratory distress, NICU admission, neurological issues, breastfeeding problems and more). These moms know that in many instances, it's possible to wait on spontaneous labor to begin before going to the hospital and requesting the aforementioned cesarean that she had planned.

Here's where the problem lies: it's difficult for moms to have a "family centered cesarean" without having it scheduled. Most OBs are in a rotation of who is on call, and most American OBs have never performed (nor even heard of) a "family centered cesarean," "gentler cesarean," or "natural cesarean." If a mother is blessed enough to find a care provider who will support her desires to have an atypical, involved, gentler cesarean birth, odds are that the other OBs in the practice will not honor her birth plan. If mom doesn't schedule her family centered cesarean, she's not likely to achieve her birth goals (unless she happens to go into labor when "her" OB is on call).

It shouldn't be this way! Moms shouldn't be forced to choose between "best cesarean birth for mom" (family centered cesarean) and "best cesarean birth for baby" (allowing baby to signal readiness to be born and having a cesarean at the onset of active labor). I can't see any good reason (legal or monetary reasons benefitting OBs don't count as a "good reason") why moms shouldn't be able to request a family centered cesarean on demand at the onset of labor. In fact, I can't see a compelling reason why gentler cesareans shouldn't be the norm for cesarean births and offered for all non-emergency cesareans (the majority of them).

I know that this is available in other areas (UK and Australia), so it's possible here, but it will take educating mothers and educating care providers to make it happen. It will take a push from consumers to request a better cesarean experience, or take their healthcare dollars elsewhere to an OB who *will* accommodate their birth wishes.

What are your thoughts? Have you had or attended a family centered cesarean? Was it scheduled or upon natural onset of labor? How did mothers/doulas/birth activists make alternative cesareans available in your area?