Breastfeeding in the Church

My family and I go to a pretty cool church here in DeKalb. I've been going since we moved to Sycamore when I was 12 years old, continued going when I was home from college on the weekends, and it's where Greg and I eventually ended up after we got married. It's been a really cool blessing to have been a part of the same community for over half of my life. They really are like family; they've seen me through my dorky and highly embarrassing junior high years (and loved me through them!), supported and cheered me on through college, and celebrated with us when we got married there in '04. How fun it is, now, to be growing my little family amidst the larger church family that I grew up in!

It's been interesting, though, to observe their reactions to my ever-increasing "crunchy granola" lifestyle. Kind of like a funny little social experiment that leaves me grinning (though sometimes frowning) on the inside.

Take the breastfeeding issue.

Thankfully, I haven't received any off-putting comments about my nursing (covered) during the discussion hour or in the service. But it's been amusing to observe the different reactions of people when it's time for Augustine to eat. When I'm in the sanctuary and he needs to nurse, it almost always happens right before the pastor tells everyone to stand up and greet those around you. Awkward! So there I am, sitting at the end of the aisle with my noisy eater suckin' away!

I get the impression that some people try to avoid eye contact or walk the other way, while those who know me well don't bat an eye. While I wish breastfeeding at church would be a non-issue, Greg brought up the point that some might just be trying to be respectful. Breastfeeding is, in fact, a very intimate and special thing between a mom and her baby. I can understand why people would want to give me space.

In spite of the funny and semi-awkward encounters I've experienced while nursing, I have noticed that it gets a little better with each passing Sunday. People are getting used to it, which I like. The awkward avoiders are becoming fewer, and I feel like people are realizing that this is just what we do.

I recently read an article in Christianity Today called "Breastfeeding in the Back Pew." In it, the author proclaims, "In a culture where breasts are perennially on display--but where breastfeeding is often regarded with disgust or at least embarrassment--allowing mothers to breast-feed in worship would counter how sexualized breasts are in modern culture. It would also communicate respect for mothers.... The earthy eloquence of breast-feeding, even in church, would also remind us of both the humanness of our Savior and of God's loving sustenance of us through all the seasons of our lives."

Amen and amen.

The End of my Sabattical ~ What I've Learned

My doula-work hiatus is almost over; I am officially on-call again after a six month break!  Adding another little life to our family has given me some fresh perspective on the whole process, from fertility to pregnancy to birth and postpartum.  Moving forward, I feel more equipped than ever to assist other women and their families through every facet of childbearing.

Fertility

After 15 months of trying to get pregnant, I experienced again the heartache of infertility (it took us the same amount of time to get pregnant the first time).  I did learn a lot about my body through the process, though, through charting my cycles with my husband using the Creighton Method.  In time, I was able to get my hormones back in balance through natural progesterone cream and eventually a stronger dose prescribed by my doctor.  I also believe that acupuncture and some traditional Chinese medicine (with Pat Faivre) was a huge factor in optimizing my fertility.

In total, we have spent two-and-a-half years trying to conceive, and though those have probably been the toughest years of my life, I'm grateful for them.  I feel like I'm better able to empathise with other women who struggle with infertility, and I now have a whole slew of resources to offer them.  And I can't help but think that if we got pregnant any other month, we wouldn't have a Lucy or an Augustine, and I can't imagine our family without them.

Augustine (3 months) and Lucy (4)

Pregnancy

About 36 Weeks Pregnant with Auggie

With my first pregnancy, I was in the 1% of women that just loved being pregnant (that the other 99% of pregnant women hate).  I had no morning sickness, felt more beautiful than ever, and savored every miraculous little kick inside my belly.  I still enjoyed being pregnant this time around, but it was a lot harder on my body.  Maybe it was that I was four years older?  Maybe it was the fatigue caused by chasing one child around while growing another inside my body?  I still had pretty mild pregnancy symptoms, but between daily back pain and sheer exhaustion, I gained an appreciation for why most women just want pregnancy to be over.

Auggie came a week later than Lucy did (39 weeks and 38 respectively), and I also had a lot more "false labor" this time.  So I was able to experience the waiting game that almost all pregnant mamas play (even if it was only for a week).  Not fun!  But like the fertility struggle, I'm now able to empathise a little more with those mamas whose babies just want to take their sweet time.

Birth

(My favorite!)

Oh wow.  I could write so much here!!  But I'll focus on two things:  having a homebirth vs. a hospital birth, and having a doula.

Sweet Relief!

I am so grateful to have given birth twice, once in the hospital and once at home, because I really feel like I can relate with moms who choose either.  If you would have mentioned homebirth to us the first time around, I would have laughed and said you were crazy.  The hospital was where we felt safest, and so it was the best place for us!  Just like it is for so many other families.  This time we felt more comfortable at home, and so that is the route we took.  They were vastly different experiences, albeit both miraculous and life-changing in so many ways!  And having the intensity of those labor surges so fresh in my memory will no doubt help me to be the doula I need to be for the laboring mamas I will be serving in the coming year.

And having a doula was amazing (understatement).  What a blessing it was to experience the other end of doula care!! Katie Seelinger was truly an embodiment of the word doula (servant).  She helped me through some of the craziest contractions of my life; I remember her touch (not even intentional touch!  I think it was her knee gently touching my leg or something!) literally made those contractions hurt less.  Her close proximity, encouraging words, and just her presence was a God-send.  She was also helpful in many practical ways!  When you have a homebirth there is kind of a lot to do.  It's like you're hosting an event in your house, but you are physically unable to be the hostess.  Katie was my hostess.  She cleaned, cooked, took some killer photos, and took care of anything else that needed tending to, so that I didn't have to worry about the details.  Having her there also freed Greg up to support me more fully, and eventually enabled him to spend some time bonding with his new son.  Thank heaven for doulas.  Wow.

Our team! Nurse Karen, Midwife Steph (in green), doula Katie, me and Auggie, Greg, Lucy, and sister Katie

Postpartum

Postpartum is not fun for me.  Actually, I hate it.  Hormones are raging, sleep deprivation is at a maximum, boobs are engorged, and perineal stitches are killing.  I realized after I had Auggie that my prenatal curriculum for my clients was way too lacking in the postpartum preparation department!  So incorporated into my final prenatal agenda now, is some crucial and practical advice for getting through those first crazy weeks.

We were all sooooooo sleepy thanks to our five pound bundle of joy :)

So here we go!  I'm so grateful for having a break from doula work, and for the experience of growing our family by one little member.  But I'm excited to jump back in!  I have learned so much, and am so excited to share the journey with whatever mamas come my way :)

Blessings! 

A Holy Privilege: Giving Thanks for Birth

It's 9 in the morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and both of my kids are sleeping. (Auggie is down for his nap, and Lucy is sleeping in).  With these few rare moments of peace, and preparing for Thanksgiving, I'm finding myself overwhelmed with gratitude for the two births that I've been given. 

Though Lucy was born in a hospital in the standard semi-reclined-holding-my-legs-back position, I would still say it was the most amazing experience of my life.  I had a drug-free, 10-hour long birth with her, staying at home for seven hours and arriving at the hospital at 7cm dilated.  The ways I pushed my body (or my body pushed me), were unlike anything I had ever experienced before, and unlike anything I could have imagined.  I conquered that birth, despite the distractions of being in a hospital and being cared for by less-than-sensitive people.  The sense of empowerment I felt after birthing her was incredible!  I felt so strong, like I could move mountains if I wanted to. 

Auggie's birth was also unreal.  I could not have asked for a better birth team or a more peaceful environment... although maybe I would have asked for a longer labor??  :)  Seriously, though, with Lucy's labor I enjoyed the challenge of staying in a rhythm with my contractions.  Aug's hit me so hard and fast I remember hardly being able to catch my breath!  It was awesome, though.  The experience of being weightless in a pool in my living room, in the midst of the crazy pressure I felt with those last contractions, was amazing.  I will never forget the moment I reached down and felt his tiny body, lifting him up out of the water to meet him for the very first time.

I have been blessed.  And my births have shaped me in ways I never thought possible.  And so I find myself giving thanks to my Creator for His wonderful design for birth, and how I have been able to experience Him more through these two babies being born through me.  What a holy privilege it is, whether in the hospital or at home, all-natural or medicated or c-section, to partake in Creation through childbirth.

Wool Diapering with Auggie!

When I was pregnant with Lucy, I thought about using cloth diapers. I decided against it for a few reasons... The amount of information on the internet was so massive I didn't know where to start.  I didn't have any friends at the time who used cloth, so had no one to ask about it.  And I just figured it'd be way too gross and inconvenient.

When Luce was a few months old we met some friends from Wisconsin in Madison, and their youngest at the time was in diapers.  My friend, Lauren, showed me her cloth "system," which consisted of cloth prefolds, wool covers, and a wet bag.  She seemed pretty excited about it, and told me how easy it was.  She explained that the wool covers get a little wet, but you just let them dry and they're good to go for the next change!  I really couldn't wrap my mind around it.  Cloth diapering, maybe, but

wool

covers that you don't even wash in-between changes??  Gross!

Fast forward a few years to my pregnancy with Augustine.  Almost ALL of my friends used cloth, and I had been able to see firsthand how easy and routine it can be!  The thought of using wool covers was starting to seem attractive, so through the last half of my pregnancy I had several phone conversations with Lauren to pick her brain about it!

I learned that wool is both water-resistant and moisture wicking.  Wool keeps baby cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It's breathable, which protects against diaper rash, since all that moisture isn't trapped inside against baby's bottom.  And the most amazing thing to me is that wool is naturally antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial.  (This is why you don't have to wash it in-between changes--wool naturally neutralizes the urine!)  And they are absolutely, without a doubt, the cutest diapers I have ever seen.  Why are more people not using wool??  It is the perfect diapering solution.

The only downside is the expense.  Wool diapers can cost up to $30 a piece--yikes!  But Lauren came to my rescue again and shared a

free pattern

to make your own "soakers" out of recycled wool sweaters.  So I scoured the local thrift stores for sweaters, and proceeded to make Auggie 6 brand new and adorable diaper covers for less than $10 total.  Hooray!!

And in case you were wondering what happens if daddy accidentally shrinks a soaker in the wash...

:)

Back to Work!

For the past few months, I've been enjoying a break from doula work, so I could focus on my own pregnancy, birth, and adjust to having a new baby in the house!  The best part about my little break has been not having to keep my phone on me 24-7.  (Ask my husband, I lose it at least 8 times a day.  I don't even know where it is now.)  The worst part has been, well... not working as a doula!  I love this job so much. 

I'm gearing up to begin doula-ing again when little Auggie is a few months old, and am officially taking clients starting in January!  So to kick off this new chapter in my doula career, here are a couple of new videos that have been in the works for a while.

An interview with testimonials from some of my awesome clients...


 
 
And a music video we made last Spring...  Enjoy!

 
 


Augustine's Birth. 9.2.2012

31 Weeks!

Throughout the last half of my pregnancy, I had been having lots of braxton-hicks contractions. On Friday, August 31st, they started to hurt--and become regular! I thought that this could be the beginning of labor, so that evening I called our midwife, Steph, and told her what was going on. She asked if I had been drinking water, and I realized that I hadn't been, so I got some water and started hydrating myself, and my contractions began to slow down. Even still, they continued even when I got into bed, and I began timing them and relaxing through them.

At around midnight I got up and went into to Auggie's room to sit in the glider. After about an hour of sitting there, I was getting tired and bored--contractions were not becoming stronger or closer together--so I went back to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling a little discouraged and moody, but not too bad.

Saturday we just had a laid-back family day. I was kind of irritable and despite staying super hydrated, was still getting regular, semi-painful contractions throughout the day. In the afternoon, we went to the grocery story for a few items, and then to blockbuster for "pizza and a movie night" (ie. "mommy's-having-contractions-and-doesn't-want-to-cook-or-do-anything-else" night). Lucy picked out Cars, but got bored half-way through and started climbing on us and being goofy, and I did NOT want to be touched... ugh! Finally, Greg put her to bed and gave me a great massage.

I headed up to bed early, because I was super exhausted from staying up until 2am the night before. I laid down shortly after nine, and at around 9:30 my contractions started to intensify. I began to time them, and called Greg up at around 10, after a particularly strong one. I said, "I think we need to call Steph" (our midwife). He said, "Well, let's work through a few more contractions, just to make sure this is the real thing." I agreed, but at the peak of my next contraction, I said, "Actually, we need to call her now." It was getting intense so, so fast.

So Greg got to work, calling midwife, doula, mom and sister, telling them it was time! He also got the futon downstairs pulled out into a bed and put sheets on it, brought the pool in from the garage and started filling it up, and made several trips upstairs to check on me and make sure I was okay.

I stayed lying in bed for awhile, trying my hardest to relax and get into a groove with my sudden and powerful contractions. Then I felt a little trickle of fluid and headed into the bathroom to check on it. Greg came up and I told him I thought my water had broken--he was talking to Steph on the phone, who told him to make sure it was clear (that the baby hadn't pooped). I labored on the toilet for a little bit, and then headed to sit in the glider in Auggie's room (pretty much the same thing I did while I was in labor with Lucy!). The cushioned seat was really comfortable, but my contractions were intensifying at a speedy pace.

At some point while I was sitting there, our awesome doula, Katie, got here, and I remember she and Greg sitting in there with me. Greg said that everything downstairs was ready, so I could head on down if I wanted to. I didn't want to move, but I was moaning through the contractions and didn't want to wake Lucy, so after one contraction, I stood up and walked/ran downstairs, trying to make it to the futon before my next rush. I crashed on the bed and immediately got another contraction, which I tried my best to relax through. Greg and Katie sat with me, moaning with me and helping me to keep my rhythm.

(Side note: having a doula was AMAZING. We didn't have a doula through my labor with Lucy, so this was a new experience for me. It was so cool to be on the receiving end of doula care! Just having her presence there with me was helpful in a way I can't really put into words. I remember thinking to myself that just her close proximity and quiet attentiveness made my contractions literally hurt less. Knowing that there was someone there who was 100% focused on supporting me and helping me was a huge burden lifted.)

Midwife Steph holding my hand, nurse Karen behind me

At some point my mom got there, and I called her over to hold my hand. It was dark, and there were candles lit--a perfectly peaceful atmosphere for labor. (While she was holding my hand I got a really strong rush, and moaned through it.  Afterwards she told me she didn't realize I was having a contraction, and was shocked that I didn't squeeze her hand. She thought I was sleeping!)

Next our nurse, Karen, arrived, and I wanted to hold her hand, too. (During my labor with Lucy, I did NOT want any type of physical touch... for some reason this time holding hands was extremely helpful). I love Karen. She sort of has a motherly personality, and she LOVES everything about mamas and labor and babies--I have never met anyone as passionate as she is about what she does! Her presence in our house was also extremely reassuring.

Comforted by my sister

At some point our midwife, Steph, arrived, although I have no recollection of when that happened! It was clear that my labor was nearing the end, and people were suggesting that I move to the tub (again, I didn't want to move!). I asked if it would make my labor hurt less, and Karen laughed and said, "Absolutely!" So I sat up on the bed and got another rush. The baby was so low that I had to use my arms to hold my bottom off of the bed--it felt like I was sitting on him! I somehow made it into the water and felt huge relief .All that incredible pressure was immediately relieved. Being weightless was amazing.

I had no idea where Greg was, and asked him if he was in the water with me, and he said, "Yep!" I was on my knees, leaning over the edge of the pool.

He's coming out!

My sister got here just in time (she was driving in from Chicago), and I only half-way remember her arrival. I did sense her presence, though--she was rubbing my arm and reassuring me through the most intense contractions of my entire labor. It was such a blessing to have her here.

Shortly after I got in the water I got the urge to push. This is my least favorite part about labor. (During Lucy's labor, I remember breathing through these pushing contractions--I had gotten into such a good groove with my labor that I didn't want to change things up!) This time I did the same thing, but Auggie was on his way out with or without my help. I think I sort of just grunted through a few contractions, felt the burning "ring of fire" and in my semi-conscious state realized he was almost out. Greg's hand was on my perineum, to help guide baby out, and once his head was out I felt such relief!I in stinctively reached down as I pushed the rest of his tiny body out, and said, "Where's my Auggie? Where's my Auggie?" I pulled him up out of the water and he immediately began to cry. When I first saw his face, I remember thinking that he looked familiar. That somehow I had already known what he looked like--that this was my son.

Catching my baby.

Greg and I reclined in the pool, and my sister brought Lucy down to meet Auggie. She was amazing, and marveled at meeting her new baby brother. Shortly after that, they had us move to the bed to deliver the placenta. I carried my newborn son over, still attached to me with the umbilical cord, and cuddled with him while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and Greg and Lucy cut it together. Then Greg got some male-bonding time with his new baby while Stephanie stitched up my small tear.

Steph, Karen, and doula Katie wrapped things up, and my mom took Lucy back upstairs to bed. Suddenly, everyone was gone, and it was just Greg, Auggie, and me. We were told to try and get some sleep, but it was nearly impossible after having birthed my baby boy! There was so much love it was keeping me awake. I cuddled with Aug while Greg emptied the pool, then we settled in together. Lying there, Greg commented on how normal this all seemed, and I agreed.

What a blessing to have had such a beautiful and peaceful birth, meeting my baby in our home surrounded by the love and support of some amazing people.

Our team! Karen, Steph, doula Katie, Me and Auggie, Greg, Lucy, and sister Katie

Labor Stats: Total time from first contraction to birth: 2.5 hours! Augustine Grant Wheaton was born at 12:02am on Sunday, 9/2/12. He was 4lbs 15oz and 17 inches long.

Felicity's Birth

About nine months ago, I got an unexpected call from one of my best friends, Tara, telling me she was pregnant!! Tara and her husband live in Canada, so it's not super easy keeping in touch, but through email and phone conversations here and there, we were able to discuss her pregnancy and what she wanted for her birth. It was such a joy to be able to share my birth story with her, encouraging her to be confident in her Creator and in her body, and not to be fearful! It was also a huge blessing to get to spend some time with her when they came home to visit over the summer. Tara chose to go with a group of midwives (who happen to be abundant up in Canada!), and to deliver in a hospital. She also hired a wonderful doula :)

Here's her story...

"Tuesday, September 27th Clinton and I woke up to a beautiful sunny day at around 7 a.m. I had gotten up around 4:30 in the morning, felt a bit of discomfort in my tummy, but was able to go back to sleep for a bit. Clinton got ready for work and I told him that I would give him a call if things felt different or more intense. So he left and I jumped in the bathtub. I called my good friend Kimo, who is a doula in Illinois, and asked her if what I was feeling might be signs of early labor. She thought that they were and I before I hung up the phone I told her that if I didn’t call her at 1:00 for our scheduled chat she would know why! :o) I then called my doula, Vivian, who we hired in Calgary. She agreed that I was showing signs of early labor and told me to call her whenever I was ready to meet her at the hospital. I called up Clinton and asked him if he would come home, he had only been at school for a half hour. He got home around 9:00 and by this time I was feeling the waves of contractions. Before he got home I had also called my mom and my sister-in-law, Michelle, to tell them that I was in labor and to be praying!

I tried to keep myself busy, cutting my nails and shaving my legs, but as we started timing my contractions we found them to be coming almost every three minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds. Clinton paged our midwife team and Nadine told him that those were pretty close together, and she wanted them to last about a minute to know that active labor was in effect. She was making a house call but would be coming over right after. She showed up somewhere around 11:30 and checked me out only to find that I was already 8 cm dilated. :o) So… a decision had to be made whether we were going to go to the hospital or stay home. Nadine told me that everything was going fine, she had listened to the baby’s heartbeat and said we could stay at home if I wished or go to the hospital, whichever I preferred, it was my choice. I had my hospital bag packed (3 weeks earlier) and had written in my birth plan that that was where I would deliver. I started getting dressed and Clinton told Vivian (doula) to head to the hospital to meet us there. There were no rooms at the Foothills hospital (only 10 minutes away) so we would be going to Rocky View (about a 40 minute drive). I sat at the top of the stairs having another strong contraction and I thought- I don’t know if I can do this in the car. Thinking that I was already 8 cm, who knows how long the rest of my labor would be and why would I want to spend an uncomfortable 40 minutes in the car going through active labor. So I decided to stay home. I had an emergency stash of supplies- garbage bags, old towels, wash cloths- ready to go just in case. I was also comfortable about the idea of a homebirth, not worried about complications because I knew the midwives were skilled enough to let me know if there was any reason for concern and we would need to go to the hospital. The only thing that worried me was the potential mess, which didn’t really happen due to my prepared supplies and all of the things the midwives carry in their car in the event that we do a home birth.

Clinton helped me work through some more intense contractions and also put a focal point in front of me on the bathroom sink; it was the Willow statue I gave him when I told him I was pregnant (a dad holding a little baby and the mom kneeling beside them). As I sat on the toilet (my birthing stool) :o) I kept my gaze on the little baby, that looked like a little peanut, and inside kept telling myself that each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my little one! Vivian arrived around 12:30 and joined right in. She massaged my neck and her and Clinton took turns refilling my water and putting cool cloths on my neck and forehead. Her gentle nature was soothing and her encouraging words continued to help me relax and focus on my goal. After a while I moved to the bathtub…not to have a water birth, just to ease some of the pain. :o) Clinton became my birth stool and sat in his bathing suit on the edge of the bathtub while I propped myself up on his legs and went through a few more heavier contractions. Nadine stayed out of the way, getting things set up for the delivery and continuously checking the baby’s heart rate to make sure things were good. But she also gave me encouraging words through my contractions, telling me I was doing a good job and telling Peanut to come out soon because mommy wants to meet you! The only times Clinton left my side was to go to the bathroom and grab a small snack. While he was eating a fruit bar and the wrapper was crinkling I asked him, in my most polite “contraction” voice…do you think you could eat that later. Ha ha… the funny thing is that when Vivian was going through the snacks I packed I asked her if she could pass me the Swedish berries, which she eagerly handed over! In between contractions I was munching on Swedish berries, my favorite candy- BIG SURPRISE, eh? :o) While in the tub, the other midwife, Claire, arrived and the first thing she said to me was “you’re going to have your baby in the sunshine!” as the light was coming in through the bathroom window. It really was a gorgeous day!

[So peaceful, just before pushing]

Nadine asked me if I wanted to move to the bed and since I’ve never pushed before she would coach me through that. Claire came in as a support and gave me position advice and also made me laugh when the Doppler gel splashed in her eye. She also warmed up some wash clothes with lavendar and put them on my feet…the aromatherapy was refreshing and calming! In the background the IPOD was playing Celtic Women which was soothing Irish music that Claire said was a nice way to welcome my baby. As I laid in bed, Clinton and Vivian held my hands and pushed on a pressure point on my shoulders in between my pushing to speed up contractions. Nadine guided me on how and when to push and breath. Everyone had such encouraging comments... Clinton- "I love you, I'm proud of you" and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” – he repeated that to me in English and in Spanish several times throughout the whole labor. Vivian – “you’re doing great, nice rhythm in your breathing!” Nadine – “good job, love!" Claire – “that’s good, take your rest, keep breathing.” I kept thinking to myself, this is painful, but I am handling it. It is not at all what I thought it would feel like, it’s not THAT bad! Crazy, I know…but God truly was giving me the strength and the peace to just allow my body to do what He created it to do. After a little while of pushing Nadine had me reach down and feel the head….so amazing!!! At this point I knew I was going to meet my baby very, very soon! Vivian took a video of Clinton and me saying one last thing before we were going to meet baby Peanut. Then after another good push the head was out…you could see the full head of dark hair and in my next push the rest was out. I pushed for a total of 40 minutes, some in the bathtub and the rest in bed. They placed the baby right on my chest face down and Clinton and I rejoiced in the new arrival of our child! Clinton said “I’d like to call you by name but I don’t know what you are.” So I lifted Peanut up to inspect and said “It’s a girl, her name’s Felicity!” Then just to make sure I asked “It’s a girl, right?” and Nadine and Clinton moved the umbilical cord out of the way and confirmed it… ha ha! :o)

The next few moments were the most special in the world! Clinton was crying, I was too overjoyed to cry (I didn’t cry at all during my labor)! We listened to the new screams of Felicity Catherine and we laughed together at the sight of our beautiful baby girl! She wasn’t all cleaned up yet, but she was so perfect and warm as she laid on my chest and in not too much time was already looking to nurse. :o) Claire helped me out with the football hold and some breastfeeding tips.

I asked Nadine if there was any tearing and she said that looking carefully at things, she would feel more comfortable if we went to the hospital for suturing there. To keep this part short, I had a third degree tear. There’s no specific reason that can determine why I tore the way I did. The doctor that did my stiches said it happens to 1 in 1000. She was the best OB at that hospital, according to Nadine, and she did things quickly and very well. I was happy that Nadine was honest and wise enough to tell me that we needed to go and get things done at the hospital since it was such a rare and bad tear. It was definitely not expected to do things so backwards- have a home birth, then have to go to the hospital, but it actually made me feel SO grateful for the fact that I had Felicity at home. I was so relaxed and that’s why everything went so quickly. I was comfortable in my bathroom, my bathtub, my bed. I had a great team supporting me. The sunshine, music, focal point, and snacks were all helpful tools to aid in a relaxing and rewarding delivery! The trip to the hospital was the worst part of the day, but the fact that the three of us got to sleep in our bed (a birthing bed :o) our first night as a family was so awesome. I'm still amazed at how great Felicity’s birth was! Praise God!!!"

[Tara and her birth team (minus Clinton): her doula, two midwives, and of course baby Felicity]

What a story!!

As I heard bits and pieces of the story from them, I was so suprised and amazed at how her birth unfolded! For instance, how FAST it all happened!! I swear I couldn't even tell she was in labor (by her voice) when she called me at 9 in the morning, and she was 8CM by 11:30? WHAT!!? I had talked to her during the weeks leading up to her birth, and she was just so at peace about her impending labor. Totally calm and confident, with not a trace of fear or worry in her. And I'm sure that her heart's demeanor contributed to her speedy labor.

She e-mailed me later in the morning letting me know that her midwife was on her way over "just to check on me." What a dream! Your midwife coming to your house just to see how you're doing? So cool.

And obviously, the biggest shocker of all, that she made the decision, while she was in labor, to have this baby at home!! What an absolute privilege to have that kind of flexibility with her midwives. She actually called me about a week before her due date asking me what I thought about homebirth, saying that she and Clinton were considering it, but would probably stick with the hospital. The fact that she had the ability to make that kind of a decision so close to the end of her pregnancy (let alone in the middle of labor!) astounded me.

Just hearing about how encouraging everyone was to her, how each member of her birth team had just the right words at just the right time, was so incredible. I truly believe that everything that was orchestrated together for her birth contributed to her smooth, fast, labor, and her ability to cope with it so well. I could not be more happy for Tara and the beautiful, peaceful birth she was blessed with.

And as for our next birth, someone box me up and ship me to Canada ;)

A Summer in the Life of a Doula

Wow!  It's been a long time since I've posted here... probably because I've been at BIRTHS all summer!!  I had a wonderful three months of doula-ing, and last week was my final follow-visit for my last birth of the summer.  Here's a recap of what I've been up to (with names changed) ...

May's birth
In April (I know that's not technically summer, but it was such an awesome birth that I wanted to throw it in :), I had the privilege of attending an incredible and insanely FAST vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean)!!  May had gone into her first birth as most moms do, not really educating herself about labor and birth, and she ended up having "the works" in the hospital.  Pitocin, epidural, c-section.  I loved May so much because she took the traumatic experience of her first birth and used it to change and grow and become a stronger woman.  And let me tell you--she is strong.  Her entire labor was LESS THAN THREE HOURS and completely intense the ENTIRE time.  It was actually kind of funny, because we had spent so much time prenatally preparing for a totally "zen" type of labor, with calming visualization and relaxation techniques, and we used absolutely none of it.  But it was awesome.  She called me at about 1pm, saying that her water broke, I met them at the hospital at about 3pm, and baby was born at 3:22.  It. Was. Insane.  And completely beautiful. 

Christine's birth
Christine's water broke at 10pm about a week before her due date--the first week of May.  She and her husband, Jeremy, worked through early labor at home for most of the night, and met me at the hospital at 8am.  She was definitely in early active labor, having to concentrate through each contraction.  I loved supporting this couple because they worked so well together, Jeremy supporting Christine with the relaxation exercises they had been practicing at home during her pregnancy.  As labor got more intense, it took everything she had to make it through each contraction.  It was an incredible effort for her to even speak, she kept alternating between too hot and too cold, and was nauseous the entire time.  She experienced several moments of self-doubt ("I can't do this for hours and hours!), but pushed through it all with incredible endurance.  Early in pushing, the doctor took a look at her perineum and told us, "Look how tight this is, we are going to need to cut this."  Nevertheless, I coached Christine to keep all those muscles down there relaxed, and to keep her jaws and hands open (per Ina May's "Sphincter Law").  And wouldn't you know it, she opened up just fine, and birthed her baby without even a tear!!  The whole birth was just so rewarding.

Julie's birth
In early July, I had the amazing privilege of attending the second birth of my very first clients!  Julie's first birth was incredibly long (water broke, no contractions, pitocin, hard labor for 8 hours, only 1cm dilated, epidural, rest, FULL DILATION, and two hours of pushing!), and quite the initation to being a doula!  But while spending all that time with her we bonded quite a bit, and became good friends after that.  She was SO hoping to go into labor naturally this time around, but due to some complications in her pregnancy, her doctor wanted to induce her early.  This was my first planned induction, and it was quite different.  The pitocin didn't really do anything the first day, so they turned it off at night and gave it a go again in the morning, this time breaking her water.  That got things moving along, and soon contractions became really painful.  It was such a cool experience coaching her through these contractions, knowing what worked well for her with her first labor.  She eventually opted for the epidural again, knowing firsthand how difficult labor was for her with a broken water bag and pitocin.  Pushing went much smoother this time, and she pushed her second baby boy out in to the hands of his daddy!!  (The doctor had him put on gloves to catch the baby!  So crazy!)  In spite of all the unwanted interventions, it was so good to support Julie and Kevin through their second birth.  What an honor!

Nola's birth
This was probably my favorite birth yet.  It was also my longest (second only to Julie's first!), and most challenging.  Actually, there is so much that I want to say about it that I'll save it for another entry.  Stay posted!  It's a good one!

Jamie's birth
Finally, in August, I had my last birth of the summer.  Jamie had been hoping and preparing for a natural birth, staying at home for as long as possible, and laboring in their secluded outdoor hot tub.  Unfortunately, she had tested positive for Group B Strep, which meant that if her water broke, they would want her to get to this hospital right away.  Which is what happened.  When they got to the hospital, the nurse started pitocin, and I arrived shortly thereafter.  Labor wasn't too painful at first, but quickly intensified and she needed lots of support.  We tried different positions and relaxation techniques, and definitely utilized the shower a few times.  She was laboring beautifully, and was doing a great job with her relaxation, and getting into a rhythm as labor got more difficult.  She made it to 6cm, labored for a couple of more hours, and was still at 6cm.  She had had enough, and chose to get an epidural.  This allowed her to get some rest (it was about 11pm and she had been in pitocin-induced labor ALL day), and was completely dilated at around 3 in the morning.  She pushed like a CHAMP for 2 hours in all different positions, but the baby was not budging.  The doctor recommended a c-setion, which she agreed to, and after quite a rough procedure her baby boy was born (they discovered that he was OP, or "sunny-side up," which is why he wasn't moving through the birth canal.  Babies can definitely be born in this position, but this little guy didn't want to budge).  The doctor had arranged for me to go into the operating room to sit with Jamie while they stiched her up (since dad would go with baby to the nursery).  This was a very cool experience, as I got to be with her as she saw her baby and kissed him for the first time, and as dad got to hold him.  It was such a surreal and sweet moment.  And it was such a joy that I was able to be with her for the next few hours, rubbing her shoulders and neck, and just making sure that she knew she was cared for even though things obviously didn't turn out as planned. 

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty awesome summer in the birth department.  I don't have any clients lined up for the immediate future, and I have to say that it feels AMAZING to not be on call.  And while I'm taking a litttle break from births, I'm working together with some very talented friends on a super-amazing, top secret project, that will hopefully be ready for the public sometime late this fall...  I can't wait to show you!

The Big Nurse-In and Other Thoughts

Last week, a friend of mine was harassed and kicked out of a local resale shop for breastfeeding her baby.

In response, the Crunchy Moms of DeKalb (a local mothering group I helped pioneer last summer), organized a "nurse-in." (Just typing those two words together makes me smile :). Unfortunately, Greg and I had already made plans and were on our way out-of-town Thursday morning, the day of the nurse-in, but I was cheering all those mamas on in spirit, and through facebook.

Driving along Rte 64, I called my mom to check in about a few things, and to share the excitement of the impending nurse-in with her. I was laughing with excitement and just the pure hilarity of it all, but quickly sobered up as she expressed concern and even mild disgust about the whole thing (she had read the article about it in the paper that morning)...

My mom. MY mom was on the other end of the line tell me how inappropriate it is for a mom to nurse uncovered in a public place. My mom, who was with me when I nursed Lucy for the first time in the hospital. My mom, who watched me nurse (covered) in her home, at coffee-shops, and at restaurants. My mom, who cheered me on as I put together our nursing pumpkin display at Pumpkinfest last fall. MY mom, who nursed ME when I was a baby!

Now, don't get my wrong--my mom is an awesome lady. Actually, the fact that she is awesome and has a problem with open nursing got me thinking. That the mother of a crunchy-granola-lovin', tree-hugging, garden-growing, nature-loving, one-grain-short-of-a-hippie daughter would still have a problem with this sort of thing.

And it got me thinking about my pre-mommy days, when I, too, was a little appalled when I saw or heard of a mother nursing her baby without a cover. Even after I had Lucy, though I had no problem nursing her in public, I always did it with my trusty hooter-hider covering me and my tiny baby. At church, I even retreated to the sectioned-off area in the nursery designated for nursing moms only. (Why I felt comfortable nursing Lucy at Borders but not at church is beyond me, and probably worthy of its own blog post...).

I have really grown a lot in my understanding and appreciation of the breastfeeding relationship since becoming a mother, and especially since becoming a party of the Crunchy Moms. Just being around other moms nursing comfortably and openly around each other in a public place has been so liberating! I'm sure with our next child I'll be even more open and comfortable with nursing in public.

But then I think again about my mom, and so many others who have just not been exposed enough to breastfeeding as a beautiful, normal, and essential activity, and have been exposed too much to breasts as strictly sexual objects.

With Lucy, I used my cover for modesty, yes, but mainly for the benefit of others--to avoid awkwardness and making them feel uncomfortable. Really, the last thing I want is to cause a big scene or to be looked upon as some sort of lactation extremist who has no regard for others around her. But the first thing I want is for our community and our culture to look kindly upon breastfeeding mothers, even when the breastfeeding happens in public.

And what better way to influence our culture for the better than to be a living example of the beauty of the breastfeeding relationship, just like my friend was doing last week??

I have no idea. Thoughts?

A Week of Birthy Goodness

I have had the best week.

It started off Thursday evening with a panel discussion/presentation by five AMAZING women (including, hopefully, my future midwife!! I <3 her :). Saturday, I took part in "Birth Matters: A Whole Life Event" at The House Cafe where I was blessed with a looong but super fun day of great conversation, networking, and meeting other moms and moms-to-be in our community! DeKalb's little community of natural birth and holistic living professionals is definitely taking off, and it's so fun to be a part of it!

To top off my awesome week, I'll be presenting at the Sycamore Library this Thursday at 6:30pm at a "Meet the Doulas" event, presented by the Whole Life Education Center (more on this center coming soon!). If you're free this Thursday, stop on by! I'd love to see you :)

Extremely Normal.

(names changed for the protection and privacy of the family and midwife)

Sometimes I wonder what runs through most people's minds when they hear of couples who choose homebirth.
Hippies.
Unsafe.
Reckless.
Selfish.
Extreme.

Those are certainly the kinds of thoughts I had long before my childbearing days. And my hunch is that the average person is quite similar. But while I was participating in my first homebirth this past weekend, I was struck by how normal it all seemed.

I was the first one to arrive at Mark and Karen's house at 12am Sunday morning. A post-it on the door read "come on in," and Mark came downstairs to greet me. It was dark, quiet, and peaceful. Karen was upstairs in their bedroom in early active labor (she had been contracting since 5am). She looked really good in-between contractions, and asked if she could get me anything (the true spirit of a mother!). I noticed her tensing up and straining her face during contractions, and my doula instincts kicked in as I encouraged relaxation, promising that it really would hurt less if she relaxed!

Thier midwife, Julie, arrived at around 12:30 with a calm and confident presence, and it was amazing how she blended seemlessly into this couple's labor. She got her things arranged on a chair in the bedroom, and showed me what each thing was in case she needed me to hand something to her (pitocin in case of hemmorage, suction tube for baby, oxygen tank, etc.). And then we waited. There was no unnecessary checking of the cervix, no hussle and bustle, no beeping machines.

Her mom and her sister arrived for help and support, and we filled the birth tub with warm water. Everyone was focused on helping Karen, and creating a comfortable and safe environment for her birth. Several hours later contractions started getting noticeably more difficult. At first, Karen would cope by stating simply "relax, relax"--almost as a reminder to herself. As it got more difficult to her, she would simply say "pain," or "hurt" as each contraction began, and then "relax." Since labor was obviously progressing, Julie decided to check her, and found that she was 7 centimeters! By this time the tub was full and warm, so Karen labored there for a long while. "It kills," "It's killing me," her chants shifted as she was deep into the hardest part of her labor. But it wasn't a cry of hopelessness or suffering. She remained present and in-the-moment, and was simply being raw and honest about the pain she was experiencing. We all empathized with her, and gently reminded her that it wasn't killing her, but bringing life. Her sister prayed for strength and comfort, and Karen called out to God as well.

Julie and I decided to leave the room and let Mark and Karen have some time to themselves before the birth of their baby. Thirty minutes later Julie decided to check her again, and found that she was completely dilated! Pushing was unusually long and difficult for a second-time mom, and after a while Julie wanted her to walk up and down the stairs a few times to encourage the baby's descent through her pelvis. She pushed in a variety of positions--lying on her side, squatting, and leaning on the bed. Finally the baby was close to being born, and Karen was lying on her side in her bed. During a particularly strong push, her water broke! Several contractions later, she pushed her baby down, and the head emerged! It was an exciting moment, but after a few more strong pushes the rest of the baby's body did not come. "Hands and knees, hands and knees," Julie commanded, collected but urgently. Karen turned over as quickly as possible, and Julie used her hands to help rotate the baby's shoulders, and hooked her finger under the armpit to help bring the baby out.

Audra Joy was born safely at home at 5:30 am. She was placed under her mother, who was still on hands and knees, and immediately latched on to nurse! We cleaned up all around them as they got situated in the bed. There was no rush to clamp the cord, and Julie made sure it had finished pulsing before she did so. The placenta took a while to detach, but it finally did and came out intact (and I got to hold it!!)

Today Julie wrote in an e-mail to me, "You saw a shoulder dystocia handled just fine at home. Baby and mom just fine. It is always such a big hassle in the hosp because most times mom has an epidural that inhibits her from moving onto hand and knees if needed. These situations can be hairy but resolved safely without being rough with the baby." People assume that hospital birth is a much safer option, but I observed the opposite. If this mom was in the hospital and had an epidural, the outcome could have been dire.

Mark and Karen were anything but reckless, or selfish, or extreme people; they were a kind, loving, and educated couple. They worked beautifully together to bring life into the world in the comfort and safety of their home, with the help of their family and midwife. Driving home I realized that though viewed as a radical choice, homebirth truly is extraordinarily normal event.

My Dilemma

My daughter turned two just before Christmas, and I can just feel it. Everyone is waiting for another big announcement.

It's true that my husband and I are starting to think about number two. But ideally, before I get pregnant again, I'd like to know where and with whom I plan to give birth.

With my first pregnancy, it was a given. We chose OB's for our prenatal care and gave birth in a hospital--any other type of birth was just not on the radar. I used the nine months of my pregnancy to get informed about birth, and decided I wanted a natural birth for a slew of reasons... but I really didn't know a lot! I had no idea that the c-section rate for our country (and my chosen hospital) was over 30%. I didn't know what pitocin was. And I thought doulas were for women who weren't confident in their husbands ability to support them in labor.

Against all odds, I was blessed with an amazing birth experience in the hospital, in spite of its routine procedures and distractions. My labor started spontaneously at 38 weeks on the nose, and I was able to stay at home until I was 7cm dilated, enabling me to have a truly intervention-free birth!

Since becomming a doula, though, I have realized many sad realities of the way birth is treated in our country--both through reading books and from firsthand experience as a doula. So despite my great experience in the hospital the first time around, I am plagued with the knowledge of what could happen should things not go as smoothly for me as they did the first time.

I've thought and thought about my options (and regretted the lack thereof), and I just cannot decide. Some days (usually after attending a hospital birth) I think, "No way. I am not doing that again." Other days, I feel like homebirth is just not worth the hassle.

So I thought it'd be helpful to write out a list of pros and cons. Here they are:

Hospital Birth.

Pros:

  • I've done it once and had a great experience. I could probably do it again.
  • I really do like my OB's, in spite of the way they sometimes practice.
  • The hospital is equipped with a level 2 nursery should my baby need immediate medical attention.
  • Both my doctor's office and the hospital are a mere 3-minute drive from my front door.
  • Insurance would undoubtedly cover our expenses.
  • Maid service.
  • Room service.

Cons:

  • One in three pregnant women who walks into our hospital walks out with a scar on her stomach. C-sections have many risks, the greatest of which is maternal death (which is why our nation's maternal mortality rate is shockingly high).
  • Pitocin (which is not even approved by the FDA for non-medical induction NOR have any studies been published on its long-term affects on mom or baby) is given without a second thought to a large majority of laboring women.
  • Because I will probably be diagnosed with gestational diabetes again, the doctors will threaten induction at 38 or 39 weeks. Now I know that I can refuse to be induced, (and I believe that in most cases induction is more risky than waiting for labor to begin on its own). But I've seen how much stress is caused by women butting heads with their doctors at the end of pregnancy. It can be so so stressful and terribly unhealthy.
  • If my water breaks before labor begins, I will be on the clock. (They say a woman has 24 hours to deliver after her water has broken because of "risk of infection.") What she usually doesn't know is that if she is at home, and there are no doctors sticking their fingers up her vagina, the risk of infection is next to nothing. AND labor almost always starts up naturally within 48 hours.
  • I will be cared for under the medical model of care as opposed to the midwifery model of care.

Homebirth.

Pros:

  • My primary caregiver will be a midwife. This in itself is a very enticing factor.
  • I will be cared for under the midwifery model of care as opposed to the medical model of care
  • Statistically, planned homebirths are just as safe for babies, and are actually safer for moms.
  • Countries where homebirth is normal and common have WAY better outcomes than we do in the United States.
  • I will be able to spend my entire labor in the comfort of my home.
  • Family members (my mom & my sister) will be able to be a huge support and help to me during my labor.
  • I could labor and/or give birth in a tub.
  • I will be in my own clothes.
  • I will be able to eat and drink freely.
  • My daughter could be involved with the birth, depending on the time of day.

Cons:

  • Having to deal with the hassle of well-meaning albeit ill-informed friends and family members.
  • If my baby needs intense and immediate medical care, I won't be at a hospital. (Although midwives are equipped to deal with most medical emergencies and our hospital is a mere three minutes away).
  • The closest legal midwife is about an hour away. That means driving an hour for each prenatal visit, and risking that she may not make it in time if I have a quick labor (which I likely will).
  • The closest "underground" midwife (that I know of) is about 30 minutes away. If I choose her, our chances of insurance covering the birth are slim to none. Plus my husband is uneasy about hiring an underground midwife (despite the fact that these midwives are legal in over half of the 50 states).

So there you have it. Honestly, I'm not 100% comfortable with either option, and ideally would choose a birth center for our next birth if it were an option. (The closest one is in Oak Park--an hour away, depending on traffic). There, I would be cared for by midwives in a home-like setting, in a facility that would be able to handle any unforseen medical emergencies. Another option would be seeing an OB in Sandwich (30 minutes away) who is not quite as intervention-happy as the OB's here in DeKalb, and would truly support me in my desires for a natural birth. (The C-section rate at his hospital is 24%). I could also see midwives who practice at a hospital in Aurora.

Aargh. I hate having to make this decision. I guess I'll do a little more reading and interview a few more midwives and that OB from Sandwich, and trust that my path will be made clear. There's really no rush to make a decision... at least not for now :)

 

 

 

I Think This is Why I Love Birth So Much

It's totally unpredictable. And you can't control it, no matter how hard you try.

I got a call last Sunday morning from a client's husband saying that his wife's water had broken. And she wasn't due until the end of September. Surprise! Luckily, I wasn't in Chicago visiting my sister, or in another state visiting friends. We were in town, so I dropped everything, grabbed my doula bag and put my DONA pin on my shirt, got my family situated with basic instructions and frozen pizza, and headed out the door. And despite the many interventions used to get this baby out, I loved it. It definitely wasn't an ideal birth, but I loved that I got called when I least expected it, and stayed up all night when I wasn't planning on it, and witnessed the absolute miracle of a child being born on a Monday morning when I otherwise would have been sleeping.

When people ask me why I am a doula, or why I love birth so much, I usually say something like, "I just love to push my body--it's such an empowering accomplishment!" or "I love trusting that my body can do what it was created to do!" But last night I was lying in bed thinking about it, and I realized that the real reason I love birth so much is because you can't control it. Unlike almost everything else in this on-demand culture, labor and birth cannot be manipulated to happen when and how we want it to. Not that people don't try, but when they do, a less-than-ideal outcome usually results.

Labor connects us with our bodies in a very unusual way. It just happens, and it doesn't stop until the baby is born! It takes a great deal of determination, focus, and self-discipline to come to grips with this fact, to turn inward, and let your body do what it was made to do. No matter how little sleep you're running on. No matter what time of day or night. No matter if you had plans to go shopping that day. Birth demands that you drop absolutely everything and come face to face with who you are in your deepest, most intimate parts.

At the birth last week, the mom said, "I wish I could just take a break from labor for a little bit, go out and grab some dinner, and then come back." I totally empathized with her, but the reality is that she couldn't! And that's the beauty of it.

There is a power in being powerless. In trusting that someone much greater than you has you in his hands. There is a beauty in giving up the control that we so desperately struggle to have every single day--in joyfully submitting to the power of labor and the divinely inspired design for birth. It is so empowering to be free of fear, in spite of the pain and your lack of control, and to embrace every single moment with thankfulness and trust.

And this is why I love birth so much.

A Birth Story

Madeleine’s Birth, written by Kim
28 June 2010


I got a call at around 5:45 on the morning of June 27th, saying that you had been having some consistent, albeit not too painful contractions since 2:30! You and Rob were both taken off guard because you were expecting the contractions to be coming more like 20 to 30 minutes apart, as opposed to the 5-6 minutes apart that you were experiencing. Since it was obviously early labor (and would be for a long time!), you labored at home with Rob all day.

I got another call that evening a little after 5. You said the contractions were becoming more uncomfortable, and we decided that I should come to your house in a half-hour or so. Christina (the doula-in-training) and I arrived there at around 5:45, and your contractions became more spaced out—up to nine minutes apart! We had a hunch that the new people in the room caused your body to slow down a bit, so you and Rob went for a walk at around 6:30 to try and get things moving again. It seemed to work, because when you got back at around 7:30 you were saying that your contractions were “not fun.” You were coping very well, though, standing up and pacing through each one, sometimes leaning on Rob or against a wall. You also started experiencing nausea around this time. Rob offered to get a saucepan in case you had to throw up. :)

At around 9:00 the contractions were getting more painful and closer together, so we decided to head to the hospital. We walked into the emergency room entrance, and the guy at the front desk tried to make you sit down in a wheelchair to go up to the maternity ward, but your contractions were much more painful when you were sitting, so you fought it. He eventually gave in and let you walk. When we got upstairs, they checked you in to triage, and our nurse, Gina, checked your cervix. Unfortunately and surprisingly you were only 1 to 2 centimeters dilated. This was super discouraging news, but you took it really well. After talking it over with Rob, you decided that you wanted to go back home to continue laboring there.

Shortly after we returned home, your body decided it was time to get down to business. Your contractions almost immediately picked up in both intensity and frequency (though they were never a consistent amount of minutes apart). At around 11 pm you noticed some bleeding when you went to the bathroom. Rob called Dr. Kruskol, who reassured you that it was most likely from the vaginal check at the hospital. You continued laboring upstairs with a fan blowing on you, while munching on frozen blackberries—it was HOT! We placed the exercise ball, which Rob had thankfully blown up earlier in the day, on the end of the futon. You got into a rhythm of lying down on the futon between contractions, and standing up and leaning over the ball during them. You and Rob were both so very tired, since you had been awake and in labor for almost 24 hours. You wanted so badly to be able to lie down during the contractions, but the pain was just too much! You had to stand up in spite of your exhaustion. You were also struggling with nausea, but were never able to throw up and relieve the sickness you were feeling. This was definitely active labor, and you were handling it so well in spite of the heat, your tiredness, feeling sick, and the intense pain.

At around 1 am, I suggested a shower to try and help with the pain, and you reluctantly agreed, but because of the heat it wasn’t much of a help. You and Rob got out after a short 10 minutes or so, and your contractions were becoming closer together, averaging at 4 to 6 minutes apart. We headed back upstairs, but after a several minutes of very frequent and intense contractions, we decided it was time to head back to the hospital.

We entered the emergency room entrance for a second time, and this time you could not talk them out of making you use a wheelchair. So you sat down, but every time a contraction hit, you made the guy pushing you stop the chair so you could stand up and lean on one of us for support. At around 2am, we arrived in triage and Gina checked you again—you had progressed to 7 to 8 centimeters dilated!!! There was a lot of blood, and your very intense contractions were right on top of each other. Your body was quickly approaching full dilation!

We were sent to room 2606, and you were hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor and a capped IV was put in your arm. You were feeling a lot of pressure and shortly thereafter you began to feel an urge to push. Gina checked you and you were at 9cm. She told you not to push, but you couldn’t help it! I helped coach you through those contractions with light breaths, and finally, at around 3am, you were given the go-ahead to start pushing! That strong urge to push had gone away, though, and you were unsure about how to do it. But after a few good tries you were really making progress. Gina was checking you during one of those initial pushes, and she said she felt the baby’s head move down over an inch! Despite your tiredness and the extreme pain, you had so much power and strength!! The pain of pushing actually seemed to frighten you, but the nurse and I assured you that it was normal, and you buckled down to get your baby out.

At 3:12am Dr. Kruskol checked you and confirmed that you were fully dilated, and the baby’s head was moving down through your pubic bone. We could see her hair and her wrinkly little scalp! You were so focused and determined. Finally, at 3:36am Madeleine was born into the world, and was placed on your chest right away. All the pain and pressure of labor was immediately gone, and you were completely enraptured in your new little one. “Oh my god, she’s so little!” were your first words after seeing her. Rob cut her cord, and you and Madeleine were both anxious to breastfeed as the doctor was stitching you up. When he was finally through, you and Madeleine settled in for a nice, long nursing session. She latched on immediately and nursed contentedly for at least an hour—the first hour of your family’s new life together.

One more reason not to get induced...

Today I received the latest edition of DONA's International Doula publication, which I love. So I gave myself a much-needed break from mommy-hood (while Lucy was napping, of course) and sat out on the back deck with a glass of water and my new magazine, for what I thought would be a nice, relaxing little respite.

But after skimming through the opening pages, I came to the cover story, "Is Pitocin Associated with Childhood Autism?" and my mental state of relaxation quickly shifted to shock and alarm, and increased with each paragraph as I read.

I learned that in 1980, only one in 5,000 children was diagnosed with autism. Each year, this number has been climbing rapidly until today, when one in 110 children are diagnosed with the disorder. Shocking, I know. Extensive studies have been done on the possibility of a connection between vaccines, genetics, and environmental toxins and autism, but only recently have they begun to address the possibility that autism could be caused or triggered by the ever-increasing medical management of birth.

A letter written by an association of midwives was published in Autism Today, which stated that "...virtually 100% of medically managed births are subjected to a high level of pharmaceutical interventions that have never been approved for use in fetuses. It seems prudent to research the possible association with pharmaceutically augmented labors [with Pitocin] in an attempt to discover the cause of the rising tide of autistic disorders. It may be necessary to amend our current obstetrical practices..." Ya think!?

Also in the letter was cited the complete nonexistence of autism in children who were born under the midwives' care, with no medication during their mothers' labors (the practice is 20-years old).

The article went on to discuss further the probable connection between Pitocin and autism by addressing the fact that natural oxytocin is also called the "love hormone," and autism seems to be the absence of the ability to express or experience feeling, empathy, etc. In an article published in Newsweek in 1996, Dr. Eric Hollander (Director of an Autism Disorder program in NY) says that "Most of the mothers of patients we see have had Pitocin-induced labor," and that "Pitocin somehow messes up the newborn's oxytocin system, producing the social phobias of autism."

Actually, oxytocin is currently being used in autistic adult patients in a nasal spray. Benefits of the medication are an increase in "sensitivity, generosity, and trust," as well as inscreased "eye contact, facial recognition, social cues, and identification of emotions," which further demonstrates the hormone's connection with emotion and love. Research has already proven that autistic people have lower levels of oxytocin than normal.

Here's one more quote and then I'll wrap this up... Dr. Michel Odent, author and childbirth expert, states "we are learning that, among humans, the period surrounding birth is a period of dramatic reorganization of central oxytocin binding. Artificial induction of labour creates situations that undoubtedly interfere with the development and the reorganization of the oxytocin system in such a critical period." The information we glean from this quote, and the countless other studies and statistics on interventions during labor and birth, should be a serious reminder to us all that the natural birth process should not be tampered with unless absolutely necessary.

Now I know that this is pretty scary information, and probably almost every mother reading this has had Pitocin given intravenously at some point in her labor, either during or after birth. I also know that sometimes the use of Pitocin is necessary for a healthy outcome, and by all means the benefits of its use sometimes outweigh the risks. The last thing I want is for you mothers to feel bad, or guilty, or fearful for your child's future. But I DO hope that this encourages you to continue becoming informed and empowered for future births, and that you'll be able to spread the word to other mamas-to-be so that they can make the best choices for themselves and their babies. And by all means, get a doula, as their presence during labor has been proven to make labor progress more rapidly, minimizing the risk of your need for augmentation by Pitocin.

Crunchy Moms


Last night, I met with friend and former client, Natasha Gidaszewski, to discuss a new group we're launching--Crunchy Moms of DeKalb! How exciting!!

Natasha came up with the idea for the group, because as a "crunchy" mommy herself, she wanted a supportive group of moms to learn from and have fun with. She said that everything she had learned about natural parenting (ie cloth diapering, baby-wearing, breastfeeding, etc.)she had gleaned from forums and websites online, and she decided that we need a local resource for all this stuff! And I agreed.

So here we go! We have so many ideas and visions for the group it's almost too much! A big part of Crunchy Moms is the play group, so once or twice a week, at different locations, we'll have that. Sometimes there will be a theme or lesson for the moms to go along with the group, like making your own cleaning supplies, taking creative photographs of your families, budget home-decorating, cloth diapering, being a green mother, and more! Natasha says, "there will definitely be a healthy mix of child-focused things and mother-focused things."

Occassionally we'll line up a guest speaker for a more in-depth evening session/discussion sans children (topics could include breastfeeding, babywearing, natural childbirth, etc). And we're tossing around the idea of a book club, too!

Philanthropy, or "giving back," will also be a part of the group. We've discussed volunteering at We Care Pregnancy Clinic and providing meals for new mamas in need. Other ideas?

And yet another inspiration we have is to do a "Mama's Night In," where we'll congregate at someone's house, make granola, bake bread, have a potluck, have a crunchy movie night, or learn to crochet. Sound good?

Now by no means do you have to be a one-hundred percent certified organic crunchy granola mom to join the group. Heck, I'm not, and I don't really know anyone who is. But if you're at all interested in living life and mothering more naturally, then this group is for you. To stay informed and updated on all events and happenings, join us on Facebook. And don't forget to add your input on the discussion "First meeting/playdate!" See you there!

You Can Do It.

Let's face it: birth is scary. It's unknown. If you've never given birth before, and you live in America, you will, without a doubt, have apprehensions about your ability to birth your baby. I did, for sure. And I don't know any other mom who didn't question herself as she approached her due date.

Why is this? Why do we question our bodies' abilities to give birth, when millions of other women have gone before us and have done just fine?

There are lots of reasons, I think. There are the notorious and unhelpful horror stories told to us as pregnant women, about how unbearably painful labor is. There is the media. The countless pictures of "perfect" bodies we encounter every day certainly do not serve to help our self-images or to boost our confidence in our bodies. There are our doctors, who treat us as if we were a problem to be managed medically, and not as the powerful and truly capable women we are. And the list goes on...

But here's the good news--what no one tells you and what they don't want you to know:

YOU CAN TOTALLY DO IT!!!

If you're educated about the process, well prepared, and have a good support system (doula!), it's not nearly as scary as they say it is. Labor is totally manageable.

I was talking to our local Bradley Method instructor, Susan Booker, about it after observing one of her classes. During the class, she walked us through an average labor--how long your contractions are compared to the amount of resting in-between. I learned that in the typical labor, your uterus is contracting only 11% of the time. ELEVEN PERCENT! So when you hear one of those horror stories about the 20-hour-long labor, she was actually only having contractions for a little over two hours. The early ones don't even hurt! And by the time your labor is really getting going, you have hopefully gotten yourself into a good rhythm and wonderful endorphins are pumping through your veins. You've had a chance in early labor to experiment with what feels good and what makes it worse. And your loving and supportive partners are surrounding you, helping you get through every second.

And contractions aren't normal pain. As many natural childbirth advocates say--it's "pain with a purpose." Labor pain is not sudden or severe, like getting your hand smashed with a hammer or stubbing your toe. It is intense, and in the heat of labor it's honestly quite crazy. But your contractions ebb and flow like a wave. They start soft, build up and then peak, and once you've made it over the top, you sort of float back down to several more minutes of rest and relaxation as you prepare for the next one. As your labor progesses, the contractions get "longer, stronger, and closer together" (as my childbirth ed teacher, Beth, always said), and you get less time to rest. It gets so, sooo hard. But that means it's almost over :) As soon as a laboring mom feels like she doesn't know how much longer she can go on, she's usually minutes away from pushing her baby into the world.

I remember when I was pregnant, worrying about whether or not I would be able to give birth without an epidural or other interventions, talking with my good friend, Lauren (seasoned momma of 4). I told her that Greg and I were going through the Bradley book together, and had been practicing relaxation every night before bed. She said casually, "Oh, you're gonna be fine." I was so surprised at her surety! Her almost nonchalant confidence completely went against all the doubt that had been instilled in me, and gave me that much more belief in my body's truly awesome design.

And I did it. I totally did it! And it was AMAZING!! I have never experienced a higher high than what I felt after going through labor and giving birth to our beautiful daughter.

So don't listen to the doubters and the nay-sayers. Our bodies are powerful and beautiful and totally capable.

You can do it!

Eat Your Placenta

From experience, I know that the first few days post-partum can be crazy in every way. You've just gone through the most physically strenuous event OF YOUR LIFE. ALL your muscles are sore from labor and pushing. Your bottom is sore from all the stretching, tearing, or cutting that happened to make way for your baby. Your stomach went from cute, firm, pregnant belly to a squishy, blubber-like pouch. You are bleeding. You don't even want to think about trying to poop. Your boobs get HUGE, solid as a rock, and oh-so-sore (not to mention they're squirting milk everywhere). You don't get any sleep, because you're up all night trying to figure out the needs of your precious, albeit alien baby whose sudden arrival has thrown everything into utter chaos. And on top of all this, you're trying to figure out how to breastfeed, which is usually much more difficult and painful than expected.

And then there are your hormones. Your raging, out-of-control, PMS-times-ten hormones.

Three days after Lucy's birth, I remember coming home from her 3-day check-up, trying to pull up the driveway, and SCREAMING at my poor husband for not shovelling properly. Now I am usually a very reasonable and laid-back person. But something was happening inside of me that I couldn't control. My emotions were all over the charts, and I was not myself. And it's not just me--practically every mom I know has experienced some version of this emotional upheaval, without realizing that it's normal, and that it can actually be avoided...

I learned a few weeks ago (at the 1st Annual Chicago Doulas Conference!), that all mammals (except for humans) eat their placenta immediately after birth. I know. Gross, huh? But here's the scoop: while you're pregnant, your body, through your placenta, produces this incredible coctail of feel-good hormones that increases as your pregnancy progresses. After you give birth and your placenta is suddenly detached and thrown away, your body sort of comes crashing down. It's literally like going through withdrawal. So on top of everything else (see above), you have to deal with this.

Enter placenta encapsulation specialist! I know that this may seem incredibly gross, but once you get past that "eww" factor, it's really pretty cool.

The specialist will take your placenta, dry it out, and make it into a powder form. Then, she'll put it into little pills. That's it! Just take a couple each day postpartum, and you won't experience such extreme emotions--your body will have a much gentler transition to motherhood. There are other benefits, too. Moms who take their "placenta pills" have more energy postpartum, greater milk supply, and a faster recovery. And if you don't need them all, you can freeze them and use them for menopause!

There are many specialists in the Chicago area, and they usually charge around two hundred dollars. For more information, click here. Let me know if you'd like a referral!

I think those other mammals are on to something... When I'm pregnant with number two, sign me up!

A Natural Approach to Fertility!

My husband and I host an open mic at the Arcedium Coffeehouse in St. Charles once a month, and last month I was perusing the big bulletin board with posters and business cards. I came across one that caught my eye. It read, "Jennifer Mercier-Bone, Doctor of Integrative Holistic Medicine."

I was intrigued.

So I took one, brought it home, and ventured to her website. WOW! As I poked around, I couldn't help but become thrilled about her ideas and her practice! I was so excited, in fact, that I sent an e-mail AND a voicemail to her office right then and there. She got back to me the next day and offered to meet me at Arcedium for coffee!

So we met last Wednesday, and had a lovely time chatting about home decor, homebirth, fertility, medicine, babies, birth politics in our state, and all things chilbirth. Throughout our conversation, I just couldn't get over the fact that there was a fertility specialist like her so close to home! (She lives in S. Elgin).

She told me a little bit of her story, and how she used to work with Reproductive Endocrinologists and Gynecologists, observing all sorts of medical procedures, especially infertility treatments. She said that she noticed two things about each and every women who came for fertility treatment. One was stress & anxiety. The other was a misaligned uterus. The stress was obvious--women trying to get pregnant without success (which is much more emotionally difficult than most realize), and the cold, sterile environment in which they were being treated. And then there was the uterus. Since she has also had training in massage therapy, she began to come up with her own ideas about massage and how it could help women with their infertility, and she created Mercier Massage Therapy, which involves several sessions of massage around the uterus and in the pelvis region. Somehow, this helps to get everything in order down there, and makes conception much more likely. She had actually just finished a book on her techniques the night before! Her website says, "It is gentle and noninvasive and has a success rate of 71% (IVF's success rate is as low as 20%)." Again I say, WOW! Thank you, God, for a practice like this, so close to home!

I was just so thrilled about the fact that there is a doctor like her in our community. Not only is she gentle, caring, and compassionate toward women and their families, but she also knows her stuff. I was so impressed by her knowledge and insight, AND by her trust our bodies' design. How refreshing to find another like-minded soul! And what a blessing it is to have Dr. Jennifer's practice to refer future mommies to.

A Whole Life Event

"Birth Matters: A Whole Life Event" is coming up! On March 27th from 11-3, at The House Cafe in DeKalb, I am taking part in a birthing/holistic living open house! Greg (my husband) and I, along with another singer/songwriter, will be providing music throughout the day, and I'll be sharing a table with two other doulas. It should be a great day of communing with like-minded friends and professionals!

Stop by to meet me and other doulas, childbirth educators (including the Bradley Method!), yoga and pilates instructors, massage therapists, accupuncturists, photographers, breastfeeding specialists, members of our local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter, and more! I'll be giving away a gift certificate toward my doula services, and there will be other great prizes, too!

So come on out to The House (corner of Rte. 38 & 3rd St.) and enjoy good company, good food, and good music. :)