Tag Archives: birth

A Journey to Home Birth

When I was pregnant with my first in 2009, I had this idea that women who have their babies at home had some exceptional birthing abilities (or just couldn’t get in the car fast enough). Maybe they had really large pelvises, or were skilled in hypno-birthing, or were just uberconfident. I didn’t fit into any of those categories, and thought perhaps the hospital was the best place for your average Betty Birther like me, who felt pain, had no patience for imagining I was on a beach, and yelled a lot during my first birth. I felt like I had no place having my baby at home–and I wasn’t even really sure I wanted to. My birthing mojo had been stolen, and I had to find a way to get it back…

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Serafina’s homebirth, 2/2014

You could say I was a reluctant home birther. I always assumed women who have their babies at home just know that they know that they know. I didn’t. My first birth was in a hospital, and though there was plenty I could grumble about (you want to take my baby for a hearing test at 3am, really?!), I felt comfortable with the decision after considering both a birth center and briefly, a home birth. The idea of a home birth appealed to me on a visceral level – it felt like the most natural thing to do. Yet, I knew plenty of moms, and they all delivered their babies in hospitals, so how could bad could institutionalized birth be?! Plus, my husband and mother, the two most important people in my life, didn’t support it. At all. It was the “What-if-something-goes-wrong” argument. No amount of Ricki Lake could convince either of them otherwise, and it didn’t seem worth the effort. (I won’t spend time here talking about the safety of home birth, but feel free to check out some studies yourself!)

And really, my hospital birth wasn’t all that bad. It was pretty ordinary, and maybe a little boring for the doctor waiting in the wings, in case the midwife needed support. I didn’t get an epidural, wasn’t induced, wasn’t monitored very frequently. One of the nurses even said in a quiet tone, “We love these kinds of births. We hardly ever get to see them and they seem so real!” (Yes, as I am screaming, I mentally note that there is nothing fake about the intensity of a contraction.) After my baby was born, I requested they not cut the cord, not administer eye drops, or a Vitamin K shot, or bathe the baby, or vaccinate…needless to say, my “birth plan” was pored over by everyone who came in the room, just to make sure they got it all right.

I’ll admit – it was tiring to continually say, “Yes, you read that right. No, no Hep B. No, please don’t wash off the vernix.” And although at firstI chuckled, I got tired of seeing the biohazard symbol on my baby’s little plastic box, just because I refused her bath. (The plastic box is a whole different issue.)

Fast forward 3 years, and despite an enormous amount of research, interviews, and meeting homebirthing moms through writing The Other Baby Book, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to go the home birth route during my second pregnancy. I truly supported and encouraged homebirth as an option for pregnant moms, but still had some hard-to-articulate concerns about the pain (was I prepared to handle another birth like my first again??). I knew at that point a home birth was likely going to be a much better overall experience than a hospital birth, but I also knew my husband’s stance, and didn’t look forward to the push back I thought I’d get from the rest of our family. So, I decided to find a new midwife (mine had moved on from the practice), go back to the hospital, and suck up the emotional drain of explaining myself to each new nurse on shift.

But my first appointment with a hospital midwife was disappointing enough to be my last. After waiting an hour (HOUR!), only to talk about testing, and percentiles, and risks for 30 minutes, I had a sour taste in my mouth. The midwife I met with was supposed to be one of the most sympathetic to natural birth, and yet I didn’t get that impression at all. It felt much more like pregnancy was one big “What if?” The last thing I wanted was for someone else to be casting doubts about the next nine months, and about birth in general. I wanted a birth provider who was knowledgable enough to provide excellent care, who shared the same birth philosophy with me – that birth is a natural, normal occurrence. I felt really discouraged after my appointment, and my thoughts kept drifting back to a home birth. I called a friend who recently had her baby at home, and she came right over to talk me through some of my concerns. I’ll never forget her words.

There are risks no matter where you birth. Do you trust God with the outcome of your birth, no matter where it is and what happens?” I nodded, though I pondered those words for the days and months to come. “Then have your baby where you have the most peace, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. Even me.” It’s amazing how friends can speak the words we most need to hear, but don’t have courage enough to speak to ourselves.

The more I thought about birthing at home, the more excited I became. I had moved on from just not wanting to be in a hospital, to embracing the idea of being at home. So, I cautiously brought up the idea of a home birth to my husband, and he agreed to meet a few midwives. It helped that by this time, Miriam and another dear friend had both had positive home birth experiences.

We started by meeting a very experienced midwife, who I knew had an answer for every question under the sun. Mark was impressed. I liked her, but wasn’t sure it was the best fit…especially for over $5,000! From there, I dug through a local list serv and got recommendations for other midwives. I called a few, but when I met Sarafina, I knew she’d be the one. She has a presence about her–calming, empowering, and someone I’d be OK with seeing me naked. Seriously. That’s a factor. In other words, I felt totally at ease around her. Sarafina’s partner, Jessica, has this quiet strength, and bonus: they have an amazing student midwife, Kara, who never stopped smiling, and always complemented whatever I was cooking when she came over (way to my heart – love my food)!

The entire experience went beyond my expectations. What stands out though, is the quality of prenatal and postpartum care. I looked forward to every appointment–and not just to hear the baby’s heartbeat, but to have a conversation about what was going on in all aspects of my life. It felt like a very holistic model of care, rather than a fractionated, numbers driven model. They always presented my options, but never once did I feel like there was any agenda. I could chose what testing I wanted, or how to approach certain issues. I didn’t feel pressured, coerced, or belittled for my choices. I felt informed, and encouraged to make my own best decision. Barring some of my physical discomforts, I was at peace with my pregnancy in a way that I wasn’t for my first.

It’s the little things that make a difference too – Sarafina and Jessica came to my house for the third trimester (rather than me driving to their office), and I can’t tell you how fantastic that was. I didn’t have to disturb Anabella, or rush around in traffic, in snow, to make an appointment on time. I could be in my pajamas, or eating breakfast. There are five (!) postpartum visits to boot. I was so surprised to learn that. Sarafina gave me a great hip massage on day 3, Jessica did some breastfeeding troubleshooting, laundry lugging and folding, and general encouragement on day 7, and all along the way, they were available for any questions I’ve had. I’m going to miss our times together. I may just have to have another baby…

What about you? Where did you birth? What was the decision-making process like?

You can read more about my actual birth here, and if you’re in the MA/Boston area, you can find BirthMatters, Jessica and Sarafina’s practice, here. 

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Surviving the Stomach Bug During Pregnancy

NOTE: This post is about the stomach bug. I use words like vomit and diarrhea frequently. You’ve been warned!

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Well here’s a post I hadn’t intended to write at 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant! Just six days before my estimated due date, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I thought I was getting ready to go into labor. My body was cleaning itself out. I woke up my  husband to give him a heads up…but about an hour later I realized this was not labor. It was viral gastroenteritis–aka, the stomach bug.

I made preparations for illness prevention this winter by praying for health each day, drinking elderberry syrup each morning, washing my hands almost excessively, eating a clean diet, and diffusing thieves oil throughout my home. But despite my best efforts, I couldn’t predict that a small child in my daughter’s gymnastics class would get sick within a few feet of me. (Thankfully, the little girl was late to class, so she was next to the bleachers where the moms sat, and not on the mat with our girls!) I’m nearly certain that’s where it came from, and it was a good reminder to me that you can’t control life!

Because we had so many friends who were sick, weeks earlier I had talked to my midwives and done research on what happens when a mother has a virus during labor. The vast majority of cases said that our bodies suppress labor until mom is better, and that when in labor, our symptoms often disappear as our bodies put all our energy into birthing the baby. I came across so many interesting stories of women who had respiratory illnesses, broken ankles or bloodied knees, and didn’t even know it while they were in labor. Just hearing this helped me to stay calm. I had a deep sense the baby would not be coming at least until the worst was over.

While this may seem obvious, please do contact your care provider if you get sick. While it’s generally a fast illness, it’s important that they are up to speed on what’s going on, to keep an eye on any issues that may arise.

After about 18 hours I felt better, and 30 hours into the virus, I was out of bed and free of aches and pains. By 48 hours, I had eaten egg pancakes, mashed potatoes, chicken soup and bacon! While I’m certainly not a doctor, I’d like to offer you some strategies I used to feel better fast.

Drinks

I didn’t drink anything for an hour or two after the vomiting stopped. By that time, I was pretty parched, and knew water was not a good solution (despite common practice). If you’ve had several bouts of vomiting, you’ll have lost a good supply of electrolytes, so a rehydration drink is best. You can add some sugar or honey and sea salt to regular water to make a simple drink, but that didn’t really sound appealing to me. I just happen to have lots of coconut water around the house, and it’s been amazing. At first I drank it straight, and then I added a little sea salt, honey, and fresh lemon to it. It tastes delicious, and has really replenished me. I’d caution against commercial electrolyte drinks and flat soda, as they almost always have yucky additives that you don’t want in your body when you’re trying to heal!

I also sipped peppermint, chamomile and ginger tea. The peppermint helps to reduce your fever and soothe your belly, and the chamomile is an anti-spasmodic, helping to reduce stomach cramps. I also had pretty bad nausea on and off for the 12 hours after I got sick, so ginger was a must-have to keep that at bay. Once I moved into the diarrhea phase, I switched to an elder flower and red raspberry leaf tea, both of which are helpful for regulating digestion and improving diarrhea. (Here’s a great list of different herbs and how they can help during cold and flu season.)

While it’s important not to push yourself, dehydration can be dangerous to a mama and her baby, so make drinking a priority! The last thing I wanted was to have to go into the hospital for an IV, so I kept the coconut water, tea, and plain water, (which I actually didn’t touch) next to my bed, each with straws, to make sipping from a reclined position easier. Room temperature or warm drinks are much easier on the belly but if the only way to get it in you is chilled, do what you need to do to amp up your fluids!

Baths

Once I felt well enough to get out of bed (about 24 hours later), I took warm baths with 2 cups of the elder flower and raspberry tea, to help with the diarrhea. If you have a fever but are still up for a bath, make sure it is lukewarm! You can do a lemon foot bath to reduce fever. Just place slices of lemon the bath or a large pot and soak your piggies for about 20 minutes. You can also take a relaxing bath with a bit of peppermint oil to reduce fever.

Food/Supplements

While technically not a food, I have been taking a triple dose of my probiotic to replace the good bacteria in my gut that’s been swept away. I have no affiliation with this company, but I LOVE GutPro. (It seems a bit pricey, but I still have 1/3 of the bottle and it’s been over a year, so it’s actually really economical and recommended by Natasha McBride, founder of the GAPS diet.) It’s unlikely you’ll be eager to eat much in the first few days, but I found it helpful to start with bone broth, homemade applesauce made with just apples and some cinnamon, bananas and fresh pressed juices. I’m steering clear of bottled juices as they have a very high sugar content, which exacerbates diarrhea!

I’m also taking 1 T of elderberry syrup several times a day. Two other options that I have not tried, but seem to work well for others are: Diatomaceous Earth and Activated Charcoal.

Rest

This was a little easier before kids. And nearly impossible at 39 weeks pregnant. Just rolling over hurt. Talking, opening my eyes, having the lights on–it was brutal for a few hours. I didn’t sleep at all that first night, but I stayed in bed for the first 18 hours (really, what else could I do?!) Thankfully, viral gastroenteritis is a self-limiting illness which means it gets better on its own. In other words, this too shall pass! Resting your body is so, so important, especially if you are primed for labor in the near future. I’ll admit, it’s been a bit painful to see my perfectly set up homebirth room turn into a recovery room. My kitchen was meticulous the night I got sick, because just in case I went into labor, I didn’t want anyone to have to deal with a mess. Now…well, let’s just say my 3 year old poured the milk from her cereal all over the floor this morning. Gleefully. But, I have to let go of these things, because a healthy body is far more important than a clean house!

Rest isn’t just for our bodies though. Give your mind a rest too. Stress is powerful, and can completely deplete our energy even when we’re well. So grab a book, that magazine you’ve been wanting to read, or call your mother-in-law to clean or watch the kids if you really have to. Relapses, unfortunately, are common when we push too soon, so do whatever it takes to give yourself ample time to recover and regain your strength! You’ve got this, Mama!

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Mama Musings: The Home Birth of Auden

It’s boggling to realize that it’s been over nine weeks since the birth of my second child, Auden. I marvel at this stunning little person, so easily distracted by her hair, her cat-like stretches, the downy fuzz on her ears and the way she purses her lips in a way that instantly recalls memories of her brother at this age.  In the span of her little life, parenting has become a strange experience of contradictions. Life is both easier and harder; clearer, yet more disorderly; more expansive, yet also very limiting. My days are measured in moments of undiluted joy and blinding exasperation. Now that I think of it, these are all ways in which I would also describe her birth.

The evening before Audie’s birth, my husband took our toddler son to our local children’s museum for the evening. I decided to use the time alone to indulge in some needed solitude. I poured some tea and a bath and read a little in the tub. I got lost in the quiet, watching my belly thump and stretch to the rhythm of the one-girl dance party inside.  I took my time shaving my legs. A friend had given me lovely handmade lotion bar, and I used it generously afterwards. I blow-dried my hair and dabbed on a little perfume. It occurred to me that I was behaving as if I were getting ready for a date. Maybe I kind of knew on some level she was coming, I remarked to my husband later the following day as we lay next to each other for a nap in our bed, a freshly born daughter dozing serenely between us.

I had woken up around 3am on my due date with contractions. This was not a new experience; I’d been awoken numerous times by similar sensations over the course of the previous weeks. I laid in the bed watching my husband and son sleep for a few moments, realizing that these contractions were coming pretty regularly. I got up to use the bathroom, thinking, If I could just go to the bathroom I’d feel better. But I didn’t feel better. For about an hour, I used an app on my phone to time the contractions while I stayed in bed, unconvinced that these were the ticket to the big show.

With my son’s birth, I lost my mucous plug early one morning, had bloody show that evening, and about 5 minutes after that my water broke. Contractions started within the hour. That was my only frame of reference for how my body managed birth, so this is what I expected to unfold again. But I hadn’t lost my mucous plug; I’d had no bloody show; my water had not broken. The contractions were lasting anywhere from 50 seconds to a minute, coming every 4 – 5 minutes. When I was no longer comfortable laying in the bed, I crawled out of the covers and creeped over to my husband’s side of the bed. I told him in a whisper that I was having regular contractions and was going downstairs to take care of a few things. I encouraged him to stay in bed and told him I’d let him know if I needed anything.

Just after 4am, I went to the kitchen and brewed some coffee, but no sooner than the pot had filled, coffee suddenly seemed like a terrible idea. Feeling a little hungry, I pulled out a sauce pan and started gathering ingredients to make oatmeal, but no sooner were the ingredients all collected, oatmeal suddenly seemed similarly disgusting. The contractions still continued to come, and I braced myself on my cold granite countertop until each one receded. There was a fresh pineapple in our fruit bowl on the counter in front of me, and it was all I could smell. I took deep breaths of pineapple and swayed through a few more contractions. I swept the kitchen floor and wiped down my stove top in between contractions that made me feel increasingly unsteady. You know, because insignificant chores are what all ladies who are in slight denial that they are about to have a baby do. In hindsight, I think I was desperately trying to distract myself from from the intensity of it all.

I texted my midwife, Linsey: 4:16AM, Feb 9: Having regular contractions this a.m. since about 3am. About 50sec-1min long every 5min or so. Feeling ok, trying to rest. Will check in again soon. 

A minute later, she responded: 4:17am, Feb 9: Ok. Thx.

I pulled some bagels out of the freezer and gathered some apples and bananas. I grabbed the pineapple, thinking I might slice it, too, but just the thought of that suddenly seemed like way too much effort.  I plucked a sampling of tea bags from the cabinet and arranged them next to a jar of honey, some lemons and a few mugs. You know, just in case we’d be having guests–the kind who birth babies for a living–for breakfast.

I texted my in-laws, who were on-call for birthing day toddler duty: 4:40am, Feb 9: We might be having a baby today. Will keep you posted. Reg contractions since 3am. Everyone here still asleep. XO

My husband came downstairs briefly to check on me a few moments later. I told him that I was managing, that I might try to sit in the bath for a little bit. He asked if he should get the birthing pool ready. Fearful that a poorly rested toddler might present some challenges for us as the morning wore on, I told him that we should probably let our still-snoozing son sleep as long as possible. The plan had been to inflate the pool in our bedroom, but I worried the pump for the pool would likely wake him. If that didn’t, our scurrying in and out of the room surely would.

I went back upstairs and poured a bath. I couldn’t get comfortable in the bathtub. I weathered just a couple of contractions there, got out, dried off, and put my pajamas back on. Apparently the idea that a baby was on her way was beginning to sink in because I didn’t bother putting my underwear on under my yoga pants.

My head started to feel a little fuzzy. I’d been listening to Hypnobabies scripts for the last half of my pregnancy, but suddenly couldn’t remember which script I needed to listen to at this point.  I went to our tv/playroom and rifled through my Hypnobabies home study book trying to find the answer, but I couldn’t focus on the words and quickly gave up and laid down on the couch. (I had a great Hypnobabies birth with my son, and I knew these scripts by heart–I think my gridlocked brain had everything to do with the tsunami of intensity of this fastly unfolding birthing.) I tried to breathe through a few more contractions, but my breaths involuntarily came out as groans. I was toppled by a wave of nausea. I grabbed a bowl from my my birth supply basket, convinced I was about to vomit. I felt like I was on fire and started profusely sweating. I opened the door from our tv room that leads out to our front balcony and stood in the doorway taking in the winter morning breeze. When another contraction came, I braced myself on a nearby rocking chair. The contractions were so powerful, almost paralyzingly so.

I started to feel my composure slip away; I started to vocalize a lot. It came reflexively, the loudness. The I-don’t-care-who-hears-me-ness. My husband came into the tv room and closed the balcony door. I thought he’d done it so that neighbors wouldn’t hear me. Later he told me that he’d actually closed the door because the room was freezing in the 30 degree breeze. The chill never registered to me. I was somewhere else.

I texted my midwife: 5:39AM, Feb 9: I think I forgot how intense this can be. Got in my bathtub for a bit but could not get comfortable. frequency is slowing some but each wave feels harder. 

She messaged back: 5:41AM, Feb 9: It is intense but its manageable. 🙂 Let us know when you’re ready for us. We can come any time. Sounds like you must be having some nice alone time right now. 

With one of the following contractions, I sank to my knees. I was kneeling in front of my couch, prayer-like. My husband kneeled down beside me, and I started to openly sob. This hurts. I am struggling. I don’t remember it being this hard.  It wasn’t like this with Arlo. Oh god, this is awful. He would whisper, You’re doing great. And I would breathlessly say, But you don’t understand. 

Oh, transition, you wicked, wicked thing. 

I could feel everything shifting between my legs. There was this uncontrollable force of downward motion in my body. My body was moving the baby. I tugged down my pants, but couldn’t get them all the way off. I was frozen in that kneeling position and could not pull the waist of my pants beyond my knees.

My husband scuttled between the bedroom, checking on a sleeping Arlo, and the tv room, checking on me. I was still kneeling on the floor in front of my couch, burying my head into the cushion and reflexively vocalizing with each contraction. I tried to be quieter, but my body was in control, not my mind. In my head I kept repeating, This is only temporary. Listen to your body. This is only temporary. Listen to your body. 

At some point my husband had returned to my side, and I heard him say, Hey, buddy. Our two year old was standing in the doorway. He’d woken up, padded down the hall to the tv room and was surveying the scene. As my husband scooped our toddler up, I said, Call Linsey. Call her now. It was just a few minutes before 6am.

My back was to the door, so I didn’t realize that Linsey, my midwife,  had arrived until she was suddenly kneeling next to me. She listened to the baby quickly with the doppler and then began gently placing big waterproof pads under me. She was quietly empathetic and encouraging.

I felt my body pushing again, and I joined with it, pushing a little too. I had one of my hands between my legs, and with that little push I felt a trickle of water on my hands. My bag of waters. Good, Linsey encouragingly said to me.

My husband was out of the room with Arlo, who was protesting his ban from the room. He began to cry.  I was so worried about scaring my toddler. I don’t want him to see me like this, I said to my midwife. She said, He’s okay. He just wants to be with you. I needed my husband, and I was worried he’d miss something. I asked for him to come back into the room, and with him came my happy, unfazed toddler, who hopped up on the couch next to where I was resting my head between contractions. He gave me a bubbly greeting, Hi, Mommy!

I buried my face into my folded forearms with the next contraction, and Arlo said, I hide too! and he buried his face similarly. He handed me a book, Mommy, read? We all laughed. 

The baby will be here very soon, Linsey said. My in-laws still hadn’t received our texts and calls. Arlo, it appeared, would be there to see his sister born.

She checked the baby with the doppler again. I pushed when my body pushed, and a gush of water came with it. With the next push, the baby was crowning.  I could feel that she had hair on her squishy head. Keep your hand down there, Linsey encouraged. I think it’s helpful.

I pushed carefully with the next couple of contractions, fearful of repeating the third degree tear I’d had with Arlo. It was so hard to be patient–it burned to hold her there like that. Her head was nearly out.

And with the next push, her head was out. From behind me, I heard Arlo chirp, Hi, Baby! I later learned that Arlo had been very interested in one of Linsey’s flashlights, so she had given it to him to play with. The kid I was so worried about scaring was actually standing behind me with a midwife’s flashlight taking the scene in like it was zero amounts of a big deal. So incredible.

We were so blitzed by this labor that we’d completely forgotten to call our birth photographer. Our midwife snapped a few pictures with her phone for us, and there is one particular shot that absolutely steals my breath. It’s grainy and dim, which adds to its magic. Audie’s head had just emerged, and there is her face, so perfect, peaceful, and recognizable. Beneath her head is my hand, cradling her head, and under my hands are my husband’s two hands, open and ready to catch her.  Oh, how I love it: that perfect face, those three eager hands. 

I held her there again, waiting for my body to guide me through the next push. And then she was out, into my husband’s hands, with a big gurgly cry. My husband was positioned behind me and passed her to me back through my legs, and there she was, the baby I never expected, but wanted so much: slick, pink, whole and perfect. Lots of hair. Long fingers. I sat back on my heels, admired my daughter, and clutched her to my chest in relief. And joy. But lots of relief.

And there was our birth photographer, quietly on the scene after finally being summoned by our mindful midwife, snapping pictures of these first few minutes of our daughter’s life.

I nursed Audie briefly and marveled again at her features. She reminded me so much of Arlo. I handed her to my husband, and with my midwife’s assistance I stood and delivered my placenta with ease.

I walked back to my bedroom so that I could get cleaned up and changed, and there at the foot of our bed was the half-inflated birthing pool. The limp sight conjured up a little sad trombone for a moment, but I could really only smirk at it–yet another thing that I’d ardently planned out, but went in a completely different direction. We’d planned a water birth, but instead my baby was born about two feet from a pile-up of Arlo’s matchbox cars. Hah! I never mourned the whole not-in-water thing; once I was down in that kneeling position, I knew that’s where my baby would be born. There really was no moving at that point, and it was a very easy thing to accept. I had no choice, really. I did what my body told me to do.

I changed, nursed and cuddled my gooey baby some more, and then turned her over to my midwife for her exam. Audie checked out beautifully. She measured two inches longer than Arlo and was nearly a pound heavier. My midwife checked me out. I had a tiny labial split (not significant enough for a stitch), and no tearing of my perineum this time. Huzzah.

My midwife and her assistant cleaned up where we’d birthed, took down the birthing pool, and completed paperwork. Linsey spent some time peeking at Audie’s latch, and she went over all my postpartum aftercare information.

It was a blessing that my son was present for the birth. I’d thought I was pretty certain I didn’t want Arlo there, and I am now so thankful and excited that he is a part of his sister’s birth story. I love that  he was the very first person to greet this little girl and that he took the whole birth in with curiosity and ease. He may not remember being present for her birth when he grows up, but he’s a charming part of the story of the beginning of their siblingship, a story that we will tell them both over and again. May it be just the beginning of the all the times they are there for each other. 

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Arlo and Audie

Rhianna, a former social worker and current stay-home parent/human napkin, blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis. She has a masters degree in social work and credits this education and experience for priming her to be a gentle, attached parent. You can read previous posts about her home birth experience here, here and here

Mama Musings: My Journey To Choosing Home Birth and a Provider

This post is the first in a series I hope to complete before the arrival of my second child, who I plan to birth in our home under the care of a midwife in the coming weeks.  I’m always a bit reticent and feel somewhat tender when discussing birth preferences and experiences (my own and those of others) because I full-heartedly feel that birth preferences and experiences are sacred things, things to be respected and honored, no matter what your birth looks like. It’s in that spirit that I compose these posts–in a spirit that respects and honors this milestone in my family’s life and in a spirit that perhaps respects and honors your curiosity and concerns about the processes involved in home birth.  These posts are not intended to be prescriptive, but rather as a peek into what has informed my decisions so far. Please tread gently.

A bit ago I wrote a post sharing my question about where to birth my daughter–in the hospital or in my home.   Several of you shared your insight and support on that matter, and I’m genuinely grateful for the time you took to lend some perspective. A couple of weeks after that post my husband and I came to our  decision: we chose to plan a home birth, and I transferred my records from my obstetrician to a midwife.

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photo credit: eyeliam, Flickr Creative Commons

Briefly, these are the factors that bolstered my interest in and my ultimate decision to pursue a home birth: I want to  have a birth experience that is inclusive and supportive of the whole family; I wanted a provider who felt more like an invested partner in my maternity care, rather than the commander-in-chief of my care; I had an unmedicated vaginal birth with my son, and I feel confident in my ability to do this again; my previous pregnancy was and my current pregnancy is healthy and low-risk; and my previous birth experience (in a hospital) was supportive and generally pretty positive, illustrating clearly to me how invaluable this amplitude of support can be during birthing. My decision to pursue home birth was never made from an anti-maternity establishment frame of mind, as some have assumed; it was my positive hospital birth experience with my first pregnancy, in fact, that underscored how invaluable and necessary respect, support, comfort, and confidence are in any birth experience.

There is an overwhelming amount of fear-mongering about birth out in the vast interwebz. Trust me, I stepped in a lot of steaming, fear-stoking crap as I forged my path to my birth choice both times.  You owe it to yourself and your baby to be thoroughly educated about your options and the procedures and processes involved in birthing, no matter where/how you plan to have your baby. You are not merely a passenger in your birth experience. And if you are reading this as someone, like me, who struggled to get and/or stay pregnant, you especially deserve to reclaim some power on your path to motherhood; there is much about the infertility and loss experience that erodes our sense of self-determination and our confidence in our body’s capacity to get things right.

There is a good amount of insightful, balanced reading out there for those seeking to shore up a decent perspective on birth options. My favorite book (I read it during my first  pregnancy and then revisited it for my current one) is The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer. I also enjoyed Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas. I read many others, but these were the standouts for me. Other very popular and instantly recommended books in the”natural” childbirth community are those written by renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin. (You can also find some additional birth education recommendations from TOBB here.)

Finding My Provider

My initial debate surrounding the venue of this birth had much to do with being in a brand new city with limited insight into community resources surrounding birth and a limited understanding of the  birth culture in this new locale. I’ve always been attracted to the midwifery model of care. It pretty much sounds like a dream come true, no? (I think this brochure is a perfect frame of reference for selecting any prenatal care provider, even if you feel more comfortable with or have a medical indication requiring obstetrical care.)

I had an OB for my first pregnancy because there were only two certified nurse midwives practicing in my small former home city, and both of them practiced in large OB practices. My professional experience as a hospital social worker on a women’s & children’s unit (L&D, mother-baby, NICU, pediatrics) gave me priceless perspective on the limitations of large OB practices, and  I knew I would not be pursing prenatal care with either of those big practices. Instead, I sought out an  OB who practiced independently, as I felt this would give me a better shot at individualized care. Sure, either of those midwives at the other practices would have been able to give me this kind of care…but only on their rotation. I knew that a merry-go-round of OBs (with several of whom I’d repeatedly had dissatisfied professional experiences) was not for me. I didn’t want to run the risk that one of these disliked OBs would be on call the day my birthing began, because that would have been my luck.

So, now here in St. Louis and apparently pregnant, I immediately began asking other moms for recommendations for prenatal care providers, hoping to find a certified nurse midwife this go ’round. I was advised that there is only ONE certified nurse midwife in all of St. Louis who delivers in the hospital. (How is that even possible in a city this size with not one, but TWO schools of medicine?) I belong to an attachment parenting group here, so I lobbed my prenatal care quandary at those moms, knowing that we likely shared some of the same gentle birth ideas and that these women have had broad birth experiences–hospital/birth center/home/high-risk/low-risk/vaginal/with pain support and without/emergency cesarean/planned cesarean. They were a wellspring of knowledge. And this is where I learned that the majority of the other midwives practicing in the STL area are certified professional midwives who deliver babies at home.

There is a difference between certified nurse midwives and certified professional midwives (and lay midwives and direct entry midwives, etc.). Did you know there were so many types? I didn’t. This explains the differences in experience, education and credentialing.

Many of the moms I talked to had birthed their babies at home, and while home birth wasn’t something I’d been considering at the time, I listened to their experiences with an open mind. And I jotted down their providers’ names, just in case.

As I mentioned, I began my prenatal care for this second pregnancy at a small “natural birth-friendly” OB office (with two OBs) in my insurance’s network while I continued to suss out additional resources. At this point in time I was planning to attempt to repeat my previous birth experience: an unmedicated, Hypnobabies-bolstered, doula-assisted hospital birth surrounded by caregivers who value individualized care and who are experienced in supporting mothers through this kind of birth. As my appointments ticked away from 8 weeks to 20 weeks, it became evident to me that my hopes were a little too high for this particular office. I was constantly being shuffled to the nurse practitioner instead of my OB for appointments, even when I had specifically requested to see the OB and had been told I would see the OB; the nurse practitioner told me she was unable to answer many of my birth-related questions because she was not the provider who would be attending my birth, and instead she gave me vague and contradicting answers. In the appointments I was able to have with my OB, she was non-committal and dodgy in her answers:

“I would really like to try a water birth; how do you help manage water births at your hospital?”

–Well, I can’t say right now that you can have a water birth. There are lots of things that could happen that might prohibit that. You just never know. 

Ummm-hmmm. While this is clearly true–you simply can’t guarantee how a birth will unfold–an ongoing pattern of this kind of answer and attitude made my care feel like a bait-and-switch deal. There are better/kinder/gentler ways to convey the message that birthing is not predictable and that perhaps we might discover that I am not a good candidate for this means of birthing support. All of my questions were met with these evasive and glass-half-empty answers. It made me uncomfortable, to say the least. Especially coming from a provider who described herself as “natural birth-friendly.” If *this* was friendly…

Maybe this sounds nit-pitcky. Perhaps to some it is. But what I deeply felt is that I did not want to approach my birth with apprehension about a lack of support or with a foreboding expectation that I’d have to arm wrestle my OB and nurses for consideration of my birth preferences…while laboring.

I began interviewing recommended area midwives, one of which is heading up the opening of a birth center about an hour outside of the city. She was warm, encouraging, and insightful. The birth center’s opening had been pushed back again–this has been an ongoing three-year effort, apparently–and this midwife (a certified nurse midwife) was still delivering babies at home in the meantime. She (and the birth center) are located about an hour from where I live. Not exactly ideal. She casually said, “You do know that you have a couple of exceptional midwives in your very own neighborhood, don’t you?” And she specifically recommended one of these midwives to me. (This particular midwife had also been recommended repeatedly by other mamas in that AP group.)

I interviewed her next. I was instantly comfortable with her–her style, her personality, her frank and articulate answers to my questions, even her office environment. And I especially liked that she was trained/experienced in two skills that were non-negotiable for me: neonatal resuscitation and  stitching. I had a third degree tear with my son, who was both posterior and compound. I recognize it’s likely that I will tear again. And I am not a “let it heal naturally” kind of girl if the tear is significant.

I combed the interwebz for interview questions for my midwife interviews, and culled a list of questions from here and here. Our interview (because, yes, she was also interviewing me–was *I* a good candidate for homebirth?) was more of a comfortable conversation, and halfway through, this midwife asked for my list of questions and just went down the list, answering completely each and every question I’d brought. This was such a contrast to my OB experience, where the answers to my questions were foggy, and where questions, in general, felt like an intrusion on her time.

A few weeks passed before I made the switch from my OB to my midwife. I am an over-processor by nature, constantly turning something over in my hands to an anxious, nauseating fault. For me, historically, it’s the process of making the decision that overwhelms me.  And then, one morning, I woke up and realized, This is what I want and need to do. Once I filtered out all the static, the picture was clear. And when I walked into my OB’s office to fill out paperwork to transfer my records to my new provider, I did it confidently and comfortably and with a great measure of relief. Listening to your gut–honoring your instincts–is a feeling that can’t be overstated.

In the term of my care under my midwife, I’ve done the same kinds of tests that I would have received under my OB’s care, such as a glucose tolerance  and GBS tests. She takes my blood pressure and pulse, checks my urine and weighs me, and listens to the baby with either a fetoscope or doppler. She measures my fundal height and palpates to determine the baby’s position. The difference in the care, wholly, is the quality of the interaction. This kind of maternity care has been a good fit for me.

And that’s ultimately what it comes down to–what feels like a good fit for you? What kind/venue of care makes you feel more supported about birth? Because if giving birth in your home feels scary or uncertain, it’s not for you. You need to feel confident, and sometimes that confidence comes from knowing you can deliver in home-like environment (a birth center) or within the structure of the medical model (hospital). Wherever makes you feel emboldened and safe about birthing is where you need to be.   If home birth is something that appeals to you here are a couple of  posts written by other home birth mamas about their experiences: here and here and here.

Tell us about your birth experience: Where did you birth/where are you planning to birth? What informed your decision? How did you find your provider? Do you have any suggestions for handy resources for informing yourself about birthing? 

Rhianna's biopic

Rhianna is currently 39 weeks pregnant and feeling every bit of it. There’s an inflatable birth pool in her closet and a length of hose coiled next to her bathroom sink, and she is ready to put them to use. Stay tuned for her next post on home birth supplies and her home birth to-do list. She lives in St. Louis with her husband and two-year old.

Hospital or Home: How Did You Decide Where to Birth Your Baby?

As I creep towards the halfway mark of my second pregnancy, I’m confronted by questions around which I’ve been tip-toeing: Where, oh where, will my baby be born? Should I go the hospital route again? Should I get my homebirth on this time?

Between my heavy crush on the idea of birthing my baby in the intimacy of my own home and the biting admonitions of a certain blogging skeptical obstetrician, I’m kind of, well, lost. I know what I want, and I know what I absolutely do not want, and I’m feeling a bit uptight and weary about the ability to marry the two.

You see, I got a whole lotta love for my first birthing experience. It was  empowering, awe-stoking, and filled with support and respect. My birth plan was honored nearly to the letter (there was a small hiccup with my request for delayed cord clamping), and even if I could I wouldn’t change a single thing about how my unmedicated, doula-assisted, Hypnobabies-bolstered hospital birth unfolded. (Okay, maybe I could have done without the stubbornly posterior bebe and the third degree tear.)

2012 National Rally for Change in St. Louis, MO, advocating for informed consent and evidence-based maternity care.*

But what I recognize about my hospital birth is this: the circumstances of my hospital birth experience aren’t du jour. In fact, I don’t think it’d be improper to describe those circumstances as exceptional. I worked in the women’s and children’s care center in the hospital where I delivered my son. Day in and day out for years preceeding my pregnancy and my son’s birth, I worked elbow-to-elbow with those professionals–the L&D/postpartum care/NICU nurses, lactation consultants, obstetricians, neonatologists, and pediatricians– in the position to care for me and my baby.

When the time came for me to choose an OB, I already had a pretty sound understanding, based on my professional experience, of which ones I didn’t want anywhere near my vag. When I had questions about how experienced my nurse co-workers were in supporting a patient aiming for an unmedicated birth, or how receptive they would be to the presence of my doula, or if I would be able to take my placenta home with me, I simply walked a few short strides from my office to that of the L&D nurse manager, plopped my pregnant rump down across from her, and asked my questions. When I had questions about breastfeeding resources and support, all I had to do was wave over one of my fantastic lactation consultant colleagues, and they eagerly shared their insight. I had a ton of support and intel at my fingertips long before I was wheeled up to L&D rockin’ 9cm of righteous dilation in my amniotic fluid-soaked yoga pants.

I will openly admit that I enjoyed an uncommon measure of comfort, privilege and preferential treatment birthing my baby and recovering amongst my hospital friends and co-workers. I do not hesitate to credit my unique circumstances for much of the ease I experienced navigating hospital birthing care. The biggest takeaway from my birth experience was this: the relationship you have with your care providers is integral, immeasurable, and irreplaceable.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy

I left that employment for stay-home mamahood, and our family has since relocated out of state to St. Louis. While I understand that each pregnancy and birthing experience is unique, I am acutely aware that the level of care and support I received in the past simply cannot be replicated here. And I have deeply felt reservations about a hospital birth this go ’round.

I’m currently under the care of an OB who as a reputation for supporting patients who desire a less interventive birthing, but I’m full of uncertainty about the hospital where she delivers. Sure, I could switch care providers; I could select an OB who delivers at a hospital with a better rep. Even still, I am nail-biting my way around the implicit fact that a hospital birth here would involve a few things on which I do not wish to compromise. (For example, I want my son to be integrated, when appropriate, into the birth experience of his sibling. And I do not want to be seperated from him for any great length of time, and especially not overnight. We’ve never spent a night apart.)

All signs seem to point to homebirth. Except, you know, those angrily flashing ones on the blog of a certain skeptical obstetrician. I fell down that rabbit hole, reading post after post about the inherent irresponsibility and acute risk of birthing your baby anywhere but a hospital. My cage? Rattled.

I interviewed a highly and repeatedly recommended certified professional midwife here in my neighhborhood, and I left feeling a bit lighter about the prospect of a homebirth. I am considering transferring to her care. In the coming days I will be following up with my insurance company to ascertain the extent of my benefits for an out-of-hospital birth. If nothing was covered at all and I needed to pay the full cost out of pocket, the math shows that I’d be spending just a couple of hundred dollars more than what I paid for my OB and hospital birth with my son. Cost, as I understand it at this point, is not a deterrent.

There is a birthing center scheduled to open this fall about an hour’s drive from where I live in the city. I’ve spoken with the certified nurse midwife heading up that effort, and she, too, was lovely and resourceful. Still, I’m uncertain about the idea of driving an hour away to have my baby. But maybe it’d be worth it?

Help a hormotional pregnant lady out: Did you struggle with the question of where to birth your baby/ies? What helped you confidently forge a decision? What resources/reading did you find particularly helpful?

*Wanna know more about informed consent and evidence-based maternity care? Check it out here.

Rhianna blogs from her adopted hometown of St. Louis, and never before has she missed her former hometown (and its awesome nurses) as much as she does right now. Things keeping her awake at night: crane-kicks to the kidneys courtesy of her bedsharing toddler; in utero dance party courtesy of wiggly fetus; and the anxiety surrounding the place in which the two will meet for the first time.

Carnival: Embracing Your Birth Experience.

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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Photo credit: S. Kuster 2010

“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity”

-from the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

Giving birth is extraordinary. On the ever-changing evolutionary tree, it is one of the characteristics that binds us Mammals together. We are different. We are wonderful. On the moment that new life emerges from our womb, we can connect, suckle, soothe, and bond. There is no time for sitting on the nest. There is no room for laying eggs only to go on our way to leave them to the fate of the world. Each mammal from the tiniest mouse to the largest elephant shares a kinship in live birth and we each have our own birth story to tell.

Humans have a special place in the mammalian world. Over the course of a few million years (2Ma to present) there have been approximately 12 species of human prior to modern Homo sapiens sapiens (i.e., you and me!). How do we know this? Paleoanthropologists (the scientists that study human evolution) have examined prehistoric skeletal specimens from around the world and painstakingly put the pieces together on how humans have evolved through time. Each new skeletal find yields exciting additions to the always-developing human story. As we look at the course of human evolution from 2 million years ago to the moment that you are reading this post, there are two characteristics that stand out above all others concerning the birth process: increase in brain size and the narrowing of the pelvis.

What a combo! Homo sapiens sapiens have huge brains compared to their body size (and our brains are getting bigger!). If you look around you, this is major plus. Our technological advances are beyond compare. We have culture, computers (and, thus, The Other Baby Blog), and can fly to the moon. However, if we look at our skeletons, a problem begins to emerge. Whereas our brains have gotten larger (and, thus, our skulls as well), our pelves have not. As humans began to walk upright (on two legs), the mechanical changes required a narrowing of the pelvis (for more information on the Obstetrical Dilemma click here) for more efficient locomtion. However, if you cannot fit a fetus’ head through the birth canal, you cannot give birth (until recently, of course), and species population suffers.

The pelves of other mammals are large in comparison to the head size of the emerging baby, whereas human baby heads completely fill and expand the birth canal an astounding amount. The message is clear. Compared to the rest of the mammal world, humans have a painful and sometimes dangerous disadvantage for giving birth successfully.

But, we do it! And we do it with vigor and a primal excitement unlike any other we will ever experience. There is no perfect birth. All labor is work. It’s hard. We do our work as the Tao Te Ching suggests. No matter what happens during the journey of birth, whether you manage completely unaided or have to receive an epidural or cesearean section, we all strive towards one outcome: a healthy baby and a healthy momma at the other end. Be flexible! We are all in the trenches!

Wonderful women! Stand back from your work and embrace what you have accomplished. I have. Thank the people who have helped you through your birthing journey. You and I are now part of a long lineage of Homo sapiens who have taken part in an extraordinary (and anatomically amazing!) feat. And it feels amazing.

As you hold your newborn baby, put your toddler to sleep, or smile at your teenager from across the dinner table, it gives you a chance every day to stand back from your work and feel the serenity of what you have accomplished. Birth is just the beginning.

Stephanie’s favorite field seasons were spent at the Olorgesailie prehistoric site in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. She studied the geology of an ancient lake littered with stone tools created by our ancestor, Homo Erectus, about 1 million years ago. 

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Stop the Pregnancy Hazing Already!

Are you pregnant now? Have you ever been pregnant? Chances are, if you fall into one of the those two categories, some well-meaning person has decided it was their duty to tell you some childbirth horror stories. Or to tell you that you’ll catch up on your sleep in about twenty years. Or to remind you that your body will never, ever look the same as it did pre-pregnancy. Even celebrities, such as Jessica Simpson, cave to fear-based decision-making in the last moments of pregnancy. Negativity, more often than not, surrounds what should be a happy and joyous experience.

And really, who is to blame for our society’s often negative view of childbirth? We could certainly blame it on the media. Childbirth and motherhood are sensationalized, and TV shows portray pregnant women being rushed to the ER, babies in distress, and slovenly and exhausted moms with a bunch of bratty kids in tow. If we truly believed the negative press on childbirth and motherhood, who would ever have kids?

So let’s get a few things straight and talk about it honestly. Yes, childbirth can be painful. Yes, parenting is a tough 24/7 job that lasts a lifetime. But to focus solely on those two points to the exclusion of everything else is an exercise in emotional and mental hazing.

What would it take to change our societal view of childbirth and parenthood? What would it take to stop the ritualized “hazing” that takes places in the supermarket, at the park, and from your co-workers, friends, family, even strangers? A few months ago, a pregnant acquaintance of mine told me of how many people criticized her decision to homebirth. Yet no one stepped forward to tell this first time mama what a joy it is to give birth naturally and to feel the harmonious sensation of your little one skin to skin for the first time. No one told her to follow her instinct to birth at home. And certainly, no one trusted her instincts either.

My experience was no different. I had a “well-meaning” co-worker (whom I wasn’t even close with) debate my decision to birth naturally in front of other faculty at a holiday party. Multiple people told me that I would be begging for an epidural and questioned my decision to use a midwife rather than an OB/GYN. If not for the support of my classmates from a Bradley Method childbirth class, I might not have stayed true to my instincts.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the media to change the way childbirth and motherhood are portrayed. But we, the mothers and fathers who have experienced it, can. No matter how you gave birth or where, support a pregnant friend in her decision-making. Encourage her to trust her instinct. Give her (and her partner) what the media cannot: a positive, supportive experience based in love, not fear.

Kate is a first-time mama who experienced her fair share of pregnancy hazing, including a stranger in the grocery line encouraging her husband to “force her to get an epidural.” When she’s not advocating for others’ childbirth and parenting decisions, she enjoys sewing, researching different parenting philosophies, and playing “animals” with her sweet little girl.

Super Moon……Super Delivery

Hello Friends!

My name is Molly. I’ve been eager to write my first posts for The Other Baby Blog, and was sure that it would be about breastfeeding advice (I’ll be the Ask the LC expert in the coming weeks). But I’m starting with my son’s birth story instead! My husband and I wrote it from each of our perspectives. Throughout the entire pregnancy we had a feeling that this baby would come on a full moon, low and behold exactly 1 week and 1 day “late,” Montgomery Charles made his entry into the world under the light of the moon. Enjoy!

Monty’s Birth 5/6/2012

From Dad’s view

Written 5/9/2012

Snuggling skin to skin with Daddy……check out the moon!

It all started at almost exactly midnight.  I came in to bed and Molly said that she was having a contraction.  She got up to go to the bathroom and had another contraction while she was there.  She then stated that if she had another contraction like the last two that it would be it.  I asked her if I should get up and make myself some coffee and she said no, that we would try to go back to sleep.   The next thing I kew, Molly announced, “I am in labor”.

I got the Kindle which had a contraction timer app and started recording her contractions.  The first two contractions came around 4 minutes apart.  I ran to get some coffee started and she had a contraction before I could get back.  I guess the next one was between 3 and 4 minutes apart.  I got dressed and missed another contraction and realized that the contractions were consistently close together.   I kept expecting that the contractions would vary in their timing since it was so quick, but they never wavered from the 3-4 minute spacing.

Molly wanted to labor for a while in the bath.  After her bath, she came out to the front room in her robe and rocked back and forth on the exercise ball for a couple of minutes.  She asked me to make her some hot water, so I put on the kettle.  During this time I loaded the suitcase into the car.  Molly never touched the hot water (big surprise).  This whole time she kept contracting at around 3 minutes apart.  I asked her a couple of times if we could get moving to the hospital.  She was worried that we would get there and they would say she was only 4 cm and overly dramatic.  She ended up being pretty dramatic anyways.

The moon that night was called a “Super Moon.” It was a full moon and also much closer than usual.  We thought that the moon might have an impact on when we gave birth, and it might have.

Molly walked outside to see the moon in her robe and stood there swaying beautiful below the moon for a minute.  Then all at once her water broke outside under the moon.  The image of her under the moon is one of the images that I will always remember from that night.   I wanted to get directly into the car and drive to the hospital but Molly was sure she wanted to take a shower and get cleaned up before we got there.  She did okay me to call in to the hospital and get Gretchen there.  I was so nervous when I called it took me two tries to get my information across to the person on the other line.  Almost immediately after the call Molly changed her mind about having time for the shower.  She did want to get dressed though and I tried my best to help but I was getting more and more nervous and fumbled a bit.

Then we were out the door as quickly as possible.  I took a second to scoop up our music and my coffee.  Then we were in the car but I didn’t have keys and had to run back to grab them.  As we pulled down the driveway, Molly said “Pushing!” and I stopped for a second to ask should I pull over.  She said, “Just get there!” and I was off.  I probably could have gone faster but I did not want to jostle her around the turns.  I think I was going 40 or so through the subdivision and just rolled right through the stop signs.  Once I got onto Crystal Lake Road, I pushed it up to around 70 or so.  I remember that the music was on and I remember how hard my heart was beating in my chest.  I don’t think that I was scared but whatever I was feeling it was pretty close.  I do remember that I was conscious to drink some of my coffee (which was probably pretty silly) so that I would not be too tired it we had a very long night.  When we got to the Bull Valley light I had to wait for a car to cross the intersection and then I blew the red light.  I kept expecting to see police lights behind me especially after I rolled the light.  Molly said that I should pull into the emergency room entrance and I managed to pass the first entrance (damn!) but then we were there.

The whole time I was driving I could tell that Molly was in active labor.  She told me that she was pushing sometime during the middle of the trip and I did offer to pull over but she told me no.  During most of the time Molly had her head out the window letting the wind wash over her.

As we pulled up to the emergency room entrance, Molly exclaimed “It’s the ring of fire!” since Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire had just started playing on the radio (which can mean that a baby is crowning).  Molly tried to get up and I told her to sit down and I would grab a wheel chair.  I ran around the car and was relieved to see wheelchairs just inside the entrance but when I got back to the car Molly looked like she definitely did not want to get in the wheelchair.  I learned later that was probably due to the baby basically crowning at that time.  After looking at the chair for a couple of seconds I got the attention of a young girl in the ER and told her to alert the ER of a labor patient.  Molly ditched the chair and we walked carefully into the ER.

The crazy lady at the ER reception area started asking us a lot of basic questions that we truly did not have time for.  Questions like  “Who is your doctor?” etc.  Then all at once Gretchen was there along with some of the OB nurses and they whisked Molly off.  They led her to the nearest room and Molly quickly stripped her pants.  I handed off the camera to a nurse and Molly yelled, “I feel the head!”  Molly had positioned herself with just one leg on the bed.  Gretchen ran over and started to catch the baby.  She called me over but due to the position we were in, I was unable to catch the baby.  When Monty came out he had his umbilical cord across his shoulder and I was afraid for his neck.  To get the baby untangled Gretchen rotated the baby and passed him forward directly under Molly. I was so relieved to hear the baby start to cry almost immediately.  The next thing I remember hearing is Molly saying.  “Hi Baby!  It’s a boy!”  After that it was much more relaxed.  Molly put the baby directly on her chest and the baby stayed there for an hour or two more.

After the actual delivery around 1:10 am things were more or less normal.  Nobody ever tried to take him away from us and he was perfect.  The doctors let us go within the day and we were home around 3:00 pm.   Thank you Monty for giving us this wonderful adventure and showing people how to come into the world in style.

Mom’s Side of the Story…………….

While sitting at Veteran Acres watching Oliver play in the splash park on a hot August afternoon, I had a very special secret. I was going to have a baby! That night I came home and told your daddy and he was very excited! We shared the news with the rest of the family over the next several days and everyone was thrilled. For 13 people on the Wallin side of the family the pattern was girl, boy, girl, boy ending with Perry so we all assumed that you would be a girl, daddy and I wanted to keep it a surprise.

Over the next 8 months you grew and grew and grew inside of me. We liked imagining what you would look like, feeling your kicks and hiccoughs and what your name would be. April 28,  your due date, came and went with no signs of you. We all thought you might come on Cinco de Mayo since we all like to celebrate this day and we were planning your birth party. Saturday May 5th we woke up and went to the farmers market. We walked all around and you stayed safe inside my tummy. My friends from work called and said we should get things started, so Avery and Oliver went with Gi Gi for the night and Daddy and I went to the hospital to meet Gretchen she stripped my membranes with the hope of getting you to come out! Then Daddy and I went to the library to look around and pick out some music to listen to. We came home and watched a little t.v. before going out for Cinco de Mayo dinner. It was a beautiful night so we went for a walk. It felt so great so we kept on walking all around the neighborhood. I had a few contractions but nothing too intense. At about 10:45 I went to sleep, sure that another day had come and gone and you stayed put inside my belly!

Daddy stayed up and played some video games but came to bed around midnight. I decided that since I wasn’t quite asleep, I’dget up and go potty. I had a contraction on my way to the bathroom that was stronger than what I’d had before so I decide to try and get some rest and go back to bed. I crawled into bed to have another very strong contraction. It didn’t feel good to lay in bed so Daddy made me a warm bath to relax in and turned on some music. It didn’t feel very good in the bath either so Daddy helped me out and put on my robe. Daddy timed my contractions and rubbed my back. He made some coffee because we thought we were in for a long night of labor and put the suitcase in the car so we would be ready. The ball felt better than the tub, but I was so hot and everyone had been talking about the super moon that was expected to be beautiful and bright, so I went outside to look at it.

Daddy came out to see too, but was bustling about getting ready for the hospital and reminding me that the contractions were coming quick. He suggested we go to the hospital several times but I wasn’t convinced that you were coming quite yet. I rocked and swayed under the moon and my water bag broke. It felt very good and I had some relief from the pressure in my belly. I decided to come in and shower before heading to the hospital and Daddy called the unit to tell them we’d be on our way shortly. Before I could get into the shower my contractions became more intense so we decided to go then. Daddy helped me get dressed but I think he was a little nervous because he put my underpants on sideways. Once I was dressed, Daddy grabbed the camera and music and we were out the door. I got into the car and buckled my seatbelt and Daddy grabbed his coffee and we were out the door. We only made it to the end of the block before I felt myself starting to push. Uh-Oh, I’m pushing! I yelled to Daddy hurry! Dad offered to turn around or to pull over but I told him to drive FAST! I rolled down the window so that I could feel the air on my face.

I started pushing again right in front of the hospital. Daddy offered again to pull over but I told him to drive to the Emergency Room entrance. I waited through another contraction before I got out of the car but before getting out I hear the beginning of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire coming on to the radio…..a perfect song for the moment. I looked at the wheelchair and tried to sit down but it was just too uncomfortable! I held onto it for another contraction and thought that you might just come outside the ER because I didn’t see how I could walk one more step. Somehow Dad took my hand and we began walking inside. The admission lady asked me who I was and who my doctor was and lots of other questions but I just wanted to push. I looked up and saw Gretchen and she rubbed my back and asked me if I thought I could make it upstairs and I said no. So she asked the nurse for a room to put me in we went one way and then turned around and went to a corner room. Daddy threw his keys at the front desk and told them to move the car.

As soon as I was in the room I began taking off my pants, I wanted to climb into bed so that I could push again but was only able to put one leg up on the bed before I reached down and felt your head coming out. I calmly announced that you were ready and I was so HAPPY because I couldn’t wait to meet you! I pushed once strong and hard and felt your head deliver into my hands and felt Gretchen’s hand on my back coaching me to push the rest of your body out. In one more push I felt your body slide out from mine and you were on the bed in front of me. I kissed you and dried you off and then saw that you were a boy. I was so happy. I quickly took off my shirt and picked you up and put you on my warm skin. You looked perfect and you felt soooo good against me. Daddy was so happy too and was checking you over. The girls from OB had come down to help too and were congratulating me and covering me up with warm blankets and listening to your heart. Daddy was kissing you and me and we were all so thrilled that you had come. We had waited so long to meet you and then you came into our lives like lightning, about an hour after my first contraction!

You nursed for the first time in the elevator on the way up to the OB unit. They checked me over and you over again while you nursed and nursed. We could see the bright moon outside of our window. After you were done nursing I took a shower and Daddy held you on his skin while we called to share our news! No one could believe how quickly you came in to this world. I was completely euphoric. All the planning for your delivery, making the special song list and preparing special oils….no time for any of it! We did listen to music once we got to the OB unit and you seemed to enjoy it as much as me. That morning I snuck into the locker room before all of my nurse friends got there and shouted surprise. They couldn’t believe you were here! They all held you and loved you too! At lunch time after meeting your brother and sister and Gigi and Pops we decided it was time to bring you home.  I felt amazing. Really Amazing! Each time I tell this story or think of it I remember something new, I’m so proud of how you got here, it is exciting and fun and …words just can not describe! There was never any pain only this wonderful energy that helped me bring you here. Your Daddy was amazing, and calm and has been so wonderful in taking care of you and me and your brother and sister. We are all so excited that you are here Montgomery! Welcome and Thank you!

My husband also made a slideshow of the event which can be viewed at:

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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Part I–(Postpartum) Depression: Let’s Talk

Wordle: Let's Talk PPD

No one wants to talk about depression.  In all of my talking with other moms, in all of the threads on all of the mother- and baby-boards I’ve visited, I’ve encountered little discussion of depression of any sort.   Why don’t we talk about it?  Perhaps it is because depression has no measurable, tangible or visible symptoms, like high blood pressure, a cough or a rash, so why go to the doctor if you’re just in a funk?  Or maybe it’s because so many people, including some of those with depression, feel that it’s just a bad mood, and it should simply be a matter of “snapping out of it”.  But that just isn’t the case.  Depression (see also “clinical depression” or “major depressive disorder”) is a very real and very serious illness affecting millions of people around the world, and is especially prevalent among women.  For example, an estimated 13% of women will experience postpartum depression (PPD).  Think of all the women who gave birth in your town, on the same day that you (or your partner) did.  More than one out of every ten of those new mothers experienced PPD.

Postpartum depression is a particularly nasty bit of work.  Unlike “the baby blues”, which are comparatively mild and last only a few weeks, postpartum depression (or PPD) is an episode of true depression occurring in the first year after pregnancy and lasting more than two weeks.  In addition to the normal run of symptoms associated with depression, a woman experiencing PPD may also feel a lack of interest in her baby, or even have thoughts of hurting her baby!  Then there’s the guilt for feeling that way, or having those thoughts.  And all of this is at a time when the mother is already exhausted, drained, and sleep deprived.  It’s a nightmare, and can definitely interfere with the mother’s ability to care for her child.

I can tell you from first hand experience that depression is a bitch, and PPD is even worse.  I have struggled with depression intermittently since I was a pre-teen.  I can’t tell you how many trips we made from my small hometown to near-by Orlando, visiting different doctors: a child psychiatrist, a counselor, an eating disorder specialist. I’d been on three or four different antidepressants by the time I graduated high school, during which time I acquired a new doctor and a new therapist.  I went off the meds in college, but saw the on-campus counselor for several months.  I went back on the meds after moving to Germany with my husband,   but improved enough during my first pregnancy to leave off of the antidepressants completely. That only lasted until my baby was about a year old, at which point I had my doctor put me back on Zoloft.  A few months after that, I became pregnant with my second child and my doctor switched me to Prozac.  I had a bad spell during the pregnancy, but it was smooth sailing in the months after my second daughter was born.  I stayed on a low dose of Prozac throughout*.

Now, I’m still fighting it.  It can still creep up on me, slow and subtle and insidious.  Life will start to lose its luster, activities that I enjoy will start to lose their appeal.  I start letting the house work slide, and the meals that I prepare become simpler and simpler.  I play with my children less, and lose my temper more.  I lose the ability to moderate my emotions, so that I fall apart at the slightest bump in the road.  Even the simplest tasks begin seem overwhelming. I find myself ruled by lethargy, sadness, frustration, and guilt that I’m not doing what I know I should.  Then I start to realize that I’ve been living for weeks in a gray murk.  I begin to recognize that things are not as they should be, and at that point, I seek help.  That is the important thing, especially now that I’m a parent.  I go back on the meds, or I raise my dosage, or I go back to counseling, and the murk begins to clear.

That’s where I am now in my fight against depression.  I’m clearing the murk and wondering, how many other women are walking this path with me?  How many women are not seeking and receiving help, because they don’t know that they should, because they are ashamed, or because they don’t know who to turn to?  Those are the women who break my heart, and those are the women I want to be talking to right now.  Take a look at some of the links below for information about depression in general, and PPD in particular. Try to evaluate your recent feelings and behaviors.  If you are depressed, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  (Should a diabetic be ashamed that he needs a doctor to help him manage his blood sugar?)  If you don’t know where to start, ask your doctor or try talking to a loved one.  But please, do something.  There is no reason for you to suffer.

In addition to being a veteran of PPD, Adrienne is a craft junkie, Navy wife, and stay at home mother to two beautiful little girls near Norfolk, Virginia.  She blogs about it all at http://the-green-world.blogspot.com/ .

*According to the Ask Dr. Sears article on PPD, either Zoloft or Paxil would have been safer during breastfeeding, but I’d not heard that until now.  I plan to ask my current doctor about it at my next appointment.

Sources:

The Mayo Clinic on PPD

Dr. Sears on PPD

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!
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