Originally Posted 1/23/15
Last night, every other mom on my friend's list started sharing this new video from Similac. At first glance, it appears to be a statement pleading for moms to stand in support of one another. But I have a few additional thoughts on this. Watch the video, and then we can discuss in the comments.
So here's the deal. This is funny. It made me laugh.There are some funny one-liners and the dads arguing over whether or not "it's all about the breasts" is hilarious. And it does end on a very emotional note - we're all in this together, even if we make different decisions. It gave me the warm fuzzies.
After sleeping on it, though, I realize I have a couple issues with this video.
#1 - Motherhood is being depicted in such a way that perpetuates the myth of the so called Mommy Wars. Which, quite frankly, I'm tired of. I'm tired of worrying about offending someone every time I share a research article about birth on my personal Facebook page. My heart says it's in the spirit of sharing information, but my head tells me SOMEONE is going to be offended. They're going to think it's a passive aggressive attempt to call them out as a bad mom. And that's stupid and not true. My heart says it's in the spirit of providing other moms with information I wish I had known YEARS earlier in my motherhood journey.
#2 - Moms don't really say this bunk to each other. Not moms who actually know and care for each other at least. And if you come across this with real life friends they aren't a real friend to begin with. Are there crazy internet trolls out there? Absolutely!
But real friends don't do this in real life. You know what DOES happen in real life? Moms playing out imaginary conversations in their heads. When we read something that makes us question our own parenting decisions, we naturally get defensive and picture the commentary we'd have with this so-called friend. Eventually we start believing that they're judging us. It's one of the many Mommy War Battles.
Here's the thing, though. It never happened. Therefore, there was no battle. Therefore, there is no Mommy War.
Like I said, are there jerks in the world? Yes. There are people who hide behind computer screens looking to poke at people. These aren't real people in the grand scheme of life. And the imaginary conversations we have where we confront someone for hypothetically questioning our parenting decisions - those aren't real either.
Moms, lets continue supporting each other. Let's do it without being manipulated into thinking others are judging us and causing us to get down on ourselves. We are fierce mothers. We make the best choices for our children with our whole hearts and with the information, support and circumstances we are given. THAT is what it's like to be in the real Sisterhood of Motherhood. It existed long before Similac made their video.
Interested in taking online birth classes? CLICK HERE!
Interested in becoming a Birth Boot Camp Instructor or DOULA? Tell them I sent you!!!
Originally Posted 1/28/2015
If you are having a baby, or have had a baby, it's likely that you've come across the term "VBAC". It's the well known acronym that stands for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. This carries heavy meaning for many women, but what does it mean specifically to women in the Big Country?
Child bearing women in the Abilene area need to know where our hospitals stand as it relates to women avoiding unnecessary surgeries that may come with life altering risks. I've been trying to work my magic in the Google machine, but recent data and statistics are hard to come by.
Here is the data I've collected:
One of the biggest influences on VBAC is the primary cesarean rate. If we can avoid an unnecessary primary (first) cesarean, then we can avoid the need for a VBAC in future pregnancies.
According to the 2010 Primary Cesarean Rates in Texas, the primary cesarean rate is 17.69% at Abilene Regional Medical Center. According to the same source, Hendrick Medical Center had a primary cesarean rate of 19.01%. Though far from being the best in the state, the rates are close to the state average of of 19.56%. It is worth noting, however, that the World Health Organization states that cesarean rates for both primary and repeat cesareans combined should fall somewhere between 5-15%, with 20% being considered "overuse".
Obviously, sometimes cesareans are going to be needed. But what is a mom to do after that first cesarean? Contrary to popular belief, once a cesarean does NOT always mean a cesarean. If a care provider is truly VBAC supportive, their VBAC success rate should be somewhere around 75%. This means that if you take 100 women who have had a previous cesarean, 75 of them should deliver vaginally and 25 will have a repeat cesarean (CBAC).
Where does Abilene stand? According to the data, the 2010 VBAC Success Rates in Abilene are as follows:
Abilene Regional Medical Center: 4.00%
Hendrick Medical Center: 0.92%
This data reflects the percentage of VBACs among ALL births in the hospital in that year, not just attempted VBACs.
Again, let's keep in mind that these figures are four years old, so perhaps they have improved since 2010. I would love to see where they stand now.
Now, let's get to our overall cesarean rates. The most recent data I was able to find came from CesareanRates.com in 2011. At that time, it was found that Abilene Regional Medical Center's cesarean rate was 37.5%. At Hendrick it was 37.2%.
It's hard to say where we should be when the data I'm looking at comes from different years, but if I just use what I've got, this is a relative approximation of the prevalence of VBAC in our area:
At ARMC, if we take the total cesarean rate at 37.50% and subtract 17.69% (the percentage that are primary cesareans) that gives us 19.51% repeat cesarean. Let's round it to 20% to make the math easier and add in the 4% of reported successful VBACS; this gives us a 24% baseline for the total number of women who could potentially be considered for VBAC. If only 4 out of 24 are having a successful VBAC, that means that 83% of the women from this pool had either a repeat cesarean or an unsuccessful VBAC.
Now let's look at Hendrick. If the overall cesarean rate is at 37.20% and we take away the primary 19.01 percent of primary cesareans, that gives us 18.19% potential VBAC'ers. Let's use 18% for easier math and add in the 1% VBACs that occured in 2010. This means the total pool of repeat cesareans and VBACs make up 19% of the births. If we isolate that 19%, and we know that only 1% of the whole are having succesful VBACs, that means that 99.95% of the women who have had a prior cesarean are having another cesarean.
It is not possible to see the actual VBAC success rate because we don't have a figure for the percentage of women who actually attempted to have a VBAC. The VBAC success rate could be good. But the fact that such a large percentage of the women are having repeat cesareans should show us that not ENOUGH women are attempting a VBAC.
Why aren't they? That's another blog for another day, I guess.
In 2012, the NATIONAL cesarean rate stood at 32.8%. Do you see what this means? Just a year earlier, our hospitals were already well over the national average and our VBAC rates fell miserably below the mark. This does not necessarily mean that we don't have good hospitals or providers, but it IS an indication that our birth community needs some work.
Birthing mothers in our community should know ACOG's recommendation about VBAC: "Attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is a safe and appropriate choice for most women who have had a prior cesarean delivery, including for some women who have had two previous cesareans, according to guidelines released today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."
I strongly recommend birth classes to ALL women, but especially moms who are seeking to have a VBAC. It takes a lot of commitment on behalf of the physicians who are willing to take VBAC patients. Mothers need to have the same level of commitment so that we can create a healthier, safer birth community here in the Big Country.
For more information about VBAC, check out VBACFacts.com.
Here's what providers are saying about Birth Boot Camp and how we help moms have successful VBACs:
If you are interested in learning more about preparing for a successful VBAC, feel free to email me at CountryBumpkinDoula@Gmail.com. You can also message me on Facebook.
Originally Posted 2/9/15
I've been bugging my husband for a year to write this blog. However, he's been busy - working on his master's degree, leading our oldest son's Cub Scout den and working full time to support our family of seven takes up a lot of time. We finally sat down and had a formal conversation (and by formal I mean in our pajamas on our couch eating nachos) about the topic so that I could take notes and write the blog myself. Here goes nothin'!!
I think his thoughts are pretty compelling considering that he is not the "birthy" kind of husband you expect to see when you watch homebirth videos. He does not do blood. He does not do placentas. He was a big fan of the show Nip-Tuck, but would close his eyes during surgical scenes. And somehow, he still loved our homebirth.
1. Intimacy - He actually used that word - intimacy! The feel of the birth was just a lot more loving in nature than what we had experienced at our hospital births. There was more gentleness and an emphasis on the relationships of our family. The clinical aspect was there, but muted. Our memories include more about love and adding to our family than blood pressures and IV placement, which had been our previous experiences.
2. No Scary Machines - He laughed when I wrote those words, but they were his! We don't think hospital machines are scary, but probably because we've seen them enough times that we're just desensitized to them. The machines in a hospital can be intimidating and can make you feel like something is going to go wrong... because something MUST be going wrong if we need all the "scary machines".
3. Familiar Surroundings - Instead of a foreign room with "scary machines" we were in our own surroundings... our own habitat. I was able to labor in the same bed where the baby was made. It was familiar. On our birth plan, my husband had a honey-do list. Seriously, that was his job - work on the honey-do list. Because we were in our own home, he could do things he was confident in doing which we had discussed and agreed upon beforehand.
4. Familiar Faces - In addition to being in our own familiar environment, my husband also enjoyed the fact that we were working with familiar people who we had previously met on multiple occasions. There was no worry about whether or not we would have a nice nurse or if our doctor was on call or not. We knew ahead of time who would be in the room and had built trusting relationships with them. Having a midwife and a doula was awesome!
5. Quiet & Calm - My husband liked that there was limited talking and if there was talking, it was to us. This supported our sense of ownership over the process. Things were calm and we were in control. At the hospital it had felt like there was a room full of people talking loudly about what they were going to do to us to one another - we weren't really included in discussions among the nurses as they worked together, so we felt more disconnected.
6. Convenient - He really loved the fact that he didn't have to load a car, prepare childcare or drive a moaning fat lady to the hospital (don't worry, I called myself a moaning fat lady - he knows better). Everyone came to US! Clean up had been a concern for him, but that was also conveniently taken care of by our birth team - he was so relieved!
7. Sleeping in Our Own Bed - It may sound silly, but this was actually the number one favorite part for both of us. We often reminisce about how great it was that we got to snuggle with each other the night our baby was born. Being able to lay in bed together was wonderful - to actually be able to hold each other close (without a giant belly between us) while we were coming down from an Oxytocin induced birth high is something we'll both cherish forever. And we slept so great. No interruptions. Just us and our baby and sweet sleep!
Have you considered homebirth, and if so, what are your husband's thoughts? If you've already had a homebirth, what did your husband think about the experience?
Originally Shared 3/13/15
Many women go into childbirth thinking it’s cut and dry. You go to the hospital. You have a baby. Usually, though, women are taken aback by the happy, sad, good, bad, ugly or surprising things that happen with they give birth.
I thought I was just going to the hospital to have a baby, BUT
“I had a toddler! Nothing like hearing your doctor say "Whoa that's a big baby!" And then apologizing to you for not believing you when you said you were having a hard time walking!! I'm pretty sure you know how AMAZING my nurse was. Praise the Lord she could see past the "nothing to eat or drink" and snuck me some grape juice!!! She made my whole day better. I'm sure there were hard times that day, but I honestly can't remember any and I spent most of the time laughing and kidding around. Seriously who laughs out a nearly 10 pound baby!?!” Lex
“I found strength I never thought I had and pride in myself and my baby boy for pulling through a natural birth I really wanted but didn't know if I was strong enough to follow through with!” Joann
"I didn't realize it would be so hard to try to answer all the intake questions during transition. My doula really helped me balance staying in birth zone while I was providing my medical history to the nurse." Hailie
“I didn't know that he would be sick, and I had no idea that I took having a healthy baby for granted. His short 27 month life has taught me more than my 27 year life.” Meagan
“I decided I would get more of the natural experience I was looking for in an out of hospital setting.” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Melissa Meyer
“I told my husband about 15 seconds after having our second that I knew a third was in our future. The nurse said "You know you JUST gave birth right?!" Jessica
“Once we got there, we were treated like we were idiots for having attempted a home birth. They insulted us, ridiculed our decisions, I was threatened with a c-section and pitocin.” Claudia
“I had a life and career changing experience.” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Bekah Smith
“I got a shot of Stadol and started seeing lemons and thought they were attacking me.” Ashtin
"My empowering birth gave me the desire to become a doula." Kristi
"The experience was filled with fear, a time table, and unwarranted advice even though I had the support of a doula and a healthy 9 lb 5 oz beautiful baby girl. The stress and pressure for procedures and drugs were not necessary and will not be returning to a hospital for my 2nd child." Anonymous
“My night nurse! I'd have to look at our records to find her name. She was the oldest nurse I had. So kind and experienced. Every other nurse just walked in without a word and started poking me and had no interest in me. She always asked how breastfeeding was going and warned me before checking my uterus. I had had a cesarean.” Danielle
“I wound up in a battle of wits with a nitwit doctor. And the nurses forgot about us.” Bridget
“I left an empowered woman. Having my first baby naturally completely transformed my life.” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Kristi Keen
“Instead, I encountered God in a new way. Seeing my baby girl and feeling that instant love that is so pure and beautiful and without end really put into perspective for me the love of God. He loves me even more than I love Quinn and to know that is so incredible. What rest and joy I feel in this new place with HIM!” Britain
“My OB ruined my body because she didn't want to do her job.” Desiree
“I had an amazing baby nurse with my youngest. She was older than I think all of the other nurses but she was so encouraging on me trying to breastfeed, and she even wrapped my baby to my chest so we could spend time skin to skin without me being panicked about falling asleep. She prayed over my baby and just was SO pleasant and nurturing.” Jessica
“Remembered they treat MRSA and Ebola and stayed home.” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Ashlea Bruno
“My birthing nurse was phenomenal! She helped me get through my contractions and let me listen to my body and do what I thought I needed to get baby out! My husband came home from deployment two days before baby was born, so he was so out of the loop and had no idea what to do for me but stand by my side. She spoke encouraging words to me and used counter pressure to help with the pain, she was more like a Doula than a nurse!!!” Joann
“My doc said "this is what the epidural is for" when I was getting my stitches! I wanted to kick her in the face! I was amazed at how helpful my nurse was to get Aaron nursing. If I could find her I would thank her over and over because she made it possible, and then my other breastfeeding experiences with my other kids were amazing.” Whitney
“I didn't know I would barely make it and my husband would "catch" her in the lobby of the ER!” McKay
“When the Nurse Practitioner told me they didn't like working with doulas, I realized it was going to be "their way or the highway" so that's when I chose a home birth!” Emily
“I ended up finding a strength I didn't know I had.” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, D’Andra Parsons
“It happened 5 1/2 weeks early. I didn't realize I was in labor because I didn't have the "typical symptoms" and sure didn't want to be the patient the hospital birth class termed "crazies who come in 5 times not really in labor.” Sarah
“I was physically assaulted by a nurse and spent the next 24 hours faking a smile so I could get out of there as quickly as possible without having the medical staff call CPS on me for taking my baby home AMA.” Taleena
“I had an 11 lb baby. Vaginally. Easier than my first two. Haha. Surprises! But I didn't realize how much they would push formula to a "breastfeeding mother.” Tandalyn
“I knew as soon as they handed me Zarek that I wanted another baby.” Melissa
“I started to research and found out that I had options, and that the hospital wasn't necessarily the safest. I wanted to avoid interventions, and knew I didn't want to fight hospital protocols, so I chose a birth center. I'm so glad that I did!” Birth Boot Camp Instructor, Dani Satchwell
“I experienced a miracle. Childbirth is an awe filled, amazing, indescribable experience. I had no idea what I was capable of, and didn't understand how it would feel to hold that new life on my chest. God made childbirth a miraculous experience, and His Word became more alive to me through the struggle to bring the baby into the world.” Amanda
Thank you to all the moms who contributed their reflections about their birth experiences! You help change birth for the better!
Did birth change you as a person? How did it influence your beliefs about birth or motherhood?
Interested in becoming a Birth Boot Camp Instructor? CLICK HERE and tell them I sent you!!
Interested in becoming a DOULA? CLICK HERE and tell them I sent you!!
Originally Shared 3/17/15
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, "You don't get a medal for having a natural birth," I wouldn't even need to be a doula or teach birth classes to earn an income. I'd be rich. Care providers, well-meaning friends and family members often use this go-to phrase when an expecting mother expresses her interest in planning a natural birth.
Why? I'm honestly not sure. I don't recall there EVER being a point in history when women expected a medal for giving birth. For many, natural birth is about optimal health and intrinsic rewards. It got me to thinking about times in our lives when we DO get medals. Specifically, it has me thinking about all of my friends who participate in athletic events such as marathons, decathlons, triathlons, or the popular CrossFit competitions. Do they do it for the medal?
The short answer is NO. They don't do it for the medal. And their reasons for attempting these physically demanding tasks sounded very familiar to me - and I'm not even an athlete. These words resonate for me... they echo what I hear from women planning a natural birth.
Here's what my friends had to say about why they do these athletic events:
"I like achieving "my goals" whether it is just doing 3 work outs a week or running a certain number of miles, it helps me tick. But of course, I like the bling at the end, ok that's a lie. I like the booze at the end of the race!" Kelly (Okay, this one was my favorite, because I'm the girl who asks for a margarita after giving birth)
"The first 5K after giving birth to my second gave me a very similar feeling to the birth high, although it didn't last nearly as long. It made me feel empowered and strong. I figured since I can't have a million babies, I should just run to capture that feeling again. I got a medal for my 10K. I had no idea I was getting one until close to race time. It actually means nothing to me. Everyone gets one just for finishing the race. I don't even know where it is. My kids got a hold of it. But I'll never forget the hard work I put into training for it and the satisfaction I feel for reaching goals. I don't need a medal for that." Kristi (she happens to be an awesome Birth Boot Camp DOULA and instructor out in Houston)
"It's not about the tangible reward. It's about your mind telling you to keep going, when all your body wants to do is stop. I personally love those first few minutes after the marathon is over that you swear you'll never do another...then by the end of the day you're planning your next one." Kori
"Just to see what I am capable of - same reason why I did natural childbirth. I knew in my races there was no way I would get a medal, but the chance to show mySELF I *can* do this was my motivation - to see how strong I can be." Amanda
"I love the feeling of self accomplishment in doing hard things. Feeling empowered and strong in body, mind, and spirit. Knowing that I can do more than what I ever thought I could." Britain
“We do it for personal victory. To know what our bodies are capable of.” Audra
Kelly also added, “As long as women have the proper knowledge and support and just weed out all the negative pressure, that’s what is really important.” I think this hits the nail on the head. It doesn’t matter if you’re preparing for a marathon or a natural birth. The naysayers have to be weeded out. Sometimes that means not posting your plans on Facebook so as to not give others the opportunity to bring you down. Sometimes it means firing your care provider.
Natural birth is not about medals. It is hard work that requires preparation and determination – just like many other physical feats in life. BUT, it is not about earning a medal. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous and is demeaning to women. It is condescending and rude. Society, let’s stop using this absurd phrase when talking about birth.
If you need help with this, here is a list of appropriate things to say (with a positive attitude) when a woman tells you she’s planning a natural birth:
Why did you choose natural birth? Leave a comment below!
Originally Posted 3/31/15
Before we dive in, I want to lay this out there. I'm not writing this to say one kind of birth is better than another kind of birth. Yes, I'm a natural child birth educator and I also doula for many women who want a natural birth. But, this blog isn't about natural birth. My goal is for women to be encouraged to find the information and resources needed to have THEIR better birth.
A better birth is one where the mom and her partner come out feeling like they had a positive experience. So many births can be made better by choosing a provider and birth location that will support you in your decisions and have the determination to do everything possible to help you have a safe and satisfying birth. This is called Mother Friendly Care, and all birthing women deserve it.
^That's me. The first picture was taken during the induction of my 3rd child. I was nauseous and feeling miserable - we were on the 5th or 6th poke trying to get my IV started. I didn't want an IV, but it was part of the induction process. The nurses were so kind, but they couldn't get the IV started and I ended up having a blown vein in that arm. The anesthesiologist finally came and got the IV started in my other arm. I couldn't have the blood pressure cuff on either of my arms, because the IV ordeal had made it much too painful. We eventually put the BP cuff on my leg.
I had planned on delivering my baby unmedicated, but coping with labor while being stuck in a bed with straps around my belly and being hooked up to equipment by the arms, belly and leg, and having a tube and cable coming out of my lady parts... well, I just couldn't do it. I asked - NO - I begged for an epidural. The delivery is still a blur of miserable memories.
After that experience, I decided I'd get a doula and wait for labor to start on its own with #4. Things went MUCH better, but I still ended up getting poked a bazillion times and having an anesthesiologist come do my IV (which was originally supposed to be a saline lock). I hadn't had this issue with my first two children, but going through it with the 3rd AND 4th made me realize I had to do something drastically different for a better birth. I had a natural birth and it was better. But for me, and what I wanted out of my birth, I knew it could be improved upon.
Baby #5 was eventually born at home. The picture on the right is of me laboring comfortably in my tub during transition. She was actually born less than 30 minutes later. No IVs. No tubes. No cords. No machines. No needles. And did I mention she was breech? She came out easily. My memories of her birth are so joyous. It was a positive experience where I felt safe and supported. It was my better birth. Finally.
I realize not all women are going to want to birth at home. It is not the "better" birth for everyone. But there is a better birth out there - yes, for everyone.
Here is a mom who had her better birth at the hospital. Her first meeting with her new baby was quite different. She was immediately placed on mom's chest for skin to skin and bonding. This mom also had two doulas with her. She says it was a better birth for her.
Here's another mom who gave birth in a hospital. Notice in the picture on the left she's on her back. She has support people there, but no doula. You can tell her support people love her, but don't really know there are things they can actively do to help mom. The picture on the right shows her laboring upright with both her doula and her husband. She says this was a better, more supported birth for her.
Here is another mom who had doula support with a subsequent birth. Feeling supported and having someone encourage optimal labor positions can be a real game changer for a mom's birth experience.
Women giving birth by cesarean also deserve better birth experiences. The mom above didn't meet her baby until quite a while after surgery. She got to meet her next baby immediately after birth and was allowed to have the skin to skin time right there in the operating room. This is called a Family Centered Cesarean. She says it was a much better experience. A cesarean birth IS a birth. Why not make it a little bit less like surgery? When possible, accommodations should be made so that they can experience those first special moments, even if the birth happens to take place in an OR.
What if the mom's idea of a better birth is giving birth vaginally after a cesarean (VBAC)? Boy, in those cases it matters even more about your care provider. You'd be surprised how many providers say they're VBAC friendly, but when it comes down it, they're scheduling your repeat c-section before you've even reached your due date. If your idea of a better birth is having a VBAC, I strongly urge you to carefully research your options for care provider and birth location. Take a birth class! Hire a doula! That's the kind of team it will take. The mom above, Caryn Westdyk, enjoyed her better birth so much that she became a Birth Boot Camp instructor.
Sometimes VBAC moms decide to look at options outside of the hospital in order to have their better birth. Melissa Kosloski, above, is a Birth Boot Camp instructor who achieved a VBAC with a supportive care provider, a midwife, right in the comfort of her own home.
This mom decided her better birth would take place at a birth center. After having a cesarean because of "failure to progress", she had a successful VBAC where she was able to labor and birth in positions that actually helped labor progress!
Here is a mom who changed things up to make things better with each subsequent birth. Her first was an unplanned cesarean. The birth of baby #2 was an attempted VBAC that ended with a family centered CBAC (cesarean birth after cesarean). Even though her VBAC plans changed with her circumstances, she was still able to have a better birth experience than she'd had with her first birth. After that, she went on to have a VBA2C with her 3rd baby.
The initiation of breastfeeding is often forgotten as being part of the birth experience.But, it can really set the stage for how and if the breastfeeding relationship will continue. Even something as trivial as monitor placement can impact that first meeting of mom and baby. Why not make things easier for them?
How women are treated and supported at the time of birth can make a huge impact on how they will recover, both physically AND emotionally after a birth. If a mom feels strong armed into a cesarean because her care provider does not respect her decisions, she is far more likely to carry this with her for a very long time - even for life. If a mom's decisions are supported, even if her plans don't quite turn out the way she'd hoped, being supported can make recovery so much better. It can be happy. Maybe even a little bit silly like my good friend above!
As much as we wish it were possible, we just can't control all of the circumstances surrounding birth. For example, a mom with a history of preterm labor may not be able to avoid an early birth and a NICU stay. However, how she is treated in those first hours, days and weeks matters. This is going to look different from one situation to the next. But, the take away should be that there is always something we can do to make a mother's experience better - whether it's how the first meeting is facilitated or how the mom is loved on and cared for after the birth. There is always a better, more loving way.
Let's not leave out the experiences of birth partners. They may not be the ones giving birth, but there is no one else in the world who cares more deeply about mom and baby. And the experience belongs to them, too.
There are so many choices in birth. It's important to know them, because if you don't know what they are, then you don't have any choices at all. I urge every woman to ask their care providers the tough questions. Demand evidence based and gentle care. Invest in your births. Do these things so that you, too, can have your better birth - whatever that looks like for you <3
What was/is your ideal better birth experience? What did/will you do to try to set yourself up for a positive experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Originally Posted 12/15/2014
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a precious homebirth. I love December births. There is something that just feels so special about them. Christmas is the season of giving, and seeing a family bringing forth the gift of life just leaves me breathless. It stirs up visions of Mary and Joseph welcoming our saviour, Jesus Christ. It brings to mind a glorious nativity scene where His parents, surrounded by others, were consumed with love as they looked upon their perfect baby.
Being a doula has changed my picture of the nativity scene in a few ways. Well, it hasn't necessarily changed the nativity itself, but on Christmas, I am thinking about the birth a lot more than the classic nativity scene we see lit in people's yards or sympbolized on mantels. What's missing from the vision in my head? Primarily, the manger. I don't picture the manger at all.
History tells us that it would likely have taken a few months for the nativity attendants to arrive on the scene. Upon their arrival, a manger would have been a great place for baby Jesus to be swaddled and receive visitors. The actual night of His birth would have looked a lot different. On the night of His birth, instead of being placed in a manger, He would have been placed on His mother's chest.
Jesus didn't need a manger in the moments, or even days after his birth. But He would have required warmth - warmth from Mary. Mangers didn't come with warming lamps like the warmers in modern hospitals. Mangers would have been quite useless for a newborn. Before He was away in a manger, Jesus was away on his mother's chest. The safest and warmest place for Him, was right at Mary's breast.
The laboring mom I tended to last week reminded me of what Mary and Jesus' first moments must have been like. She cried and shouted to the Lord, "Thank you, GOD!" over and over. She wept at the sight of the perfect child our Father had sent to be placed on her chest. She didn't need a manger or a bassinet, and neither did her baby. Wrapped in God's love, all they needed was each other - skin-to-skin.
This Christmas, I am thankful that God sent Jesus to be safe and warm on Mary's chest. I loved the moments when my babies were placed on my chest. I bet Mary did, too.
My Reflections on the Way Birth Shapes Us
Originally Posted 12/9/2014
Working in birth is a funny thing. When you dive into it, you start seeing birth everywhere you go. Kind of like when you get a new car and suddenly you start seeing that kind of car all over town. I had my very first vegetable garden last summer and I was constantly finding birth in the flowers, and even in some of the fruit.
Here is a picture of a tomato birth. I thought it looked like a woman’s hiney if she were on all fours, with the baby's head out. My friends all thought it looked like a penis, but from the side, it really did look like a birth. Sorry if you see a penis and are offended.
The other night I saw a movie that, for me, was TOTALLY about birth. My husband had rented Hercules (not about birth) from the Red Box and he had forgotten we had JUST rented it just two weeks earlier - I hate when he does that, and he does it often. And it fills me with rage. Anyway, he took Hercules back and brought home The Giver. It was SO good!
Here’s the trailer:
From here on out, this blog may have some spoilers about the movie. So, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, consider yourself warned.
Basically, the movie is about a community that has created a perfect Utopia where there is complete order. To do this, the people in the community are stripped of their ability to experience emotions. They also have no memory of anything bad in the world – no pain, no war, no death. But there are good things missing too. They may feel pleased about certain ideas or people, but they lack the ability to experience overpowering emotions such as joy or love.
In my head, the correlation between The Giver and my feelings about birth are really, really, really deep. I’m not that great with words, though, so it may not be that deep to others. On a very personal level, this movie resonated with me. It took me back to some of the moments with my own births. My first two babies were born with the use of an epidural. When those slippery, wet babies came out of me, I loved them. Their actual births were numbed, so I don’t have any deep or intense emotions about their births, but I sure loved those babies. At that point in my life, I didn’t feel like the births were missing anything. I felt complete. Things were good.
For my third baby, I had played around with the idea of avoiding the epidural altogether. I didn't really do any preparation either. Big mistake. I hit a point in labor where the contractions were right on top of each other and they were HARD. I was struggling. I begged for an epidural and the hospital staff quickly obliged. Once the epidural was in, they checked me and I was 8cm - almost there. My baby was born 30 minutes later. Once I got my bearings, I realized I got the epidural during transition and that I was really close to that natural birth. I was mad that I hadn't hired a doula to help me get through that part.
Being so close to delivering my 3rd without an epidural, and then caving for it at the end made me feel terrible. I didn't feel like less of a woman; nothing like that. No one else made me feel terrible. No one was guilting me or making me feel like a failure, but man, I just felt like I had made a decision that prevented me from feeling something special. There’s a quote in the above trailer, “I know that there’s something more. Something that has been stolen.” I don’t blame anyone for stealing anything from me, but deep down, I just felt like I missed something. Something powerful and spiritual. I had a deep desire to feel all of what birth had to offer.
With my 4th baby, I made a plan. I read lots of books. I hired a doula. I looked up empowering birth stories to prepare my mind. I’d like to say I ate healthy to prepare my body, but nope – I’ll be honest and admit to the nightly bowls of ice cream. I picked a care provider I trusted, who patiently answered my 5 million questions at each visit.
I had an amazing birth. It was hard. There were moments I thought I would surely die. Birth was surely going to kill me. And when I was pushing him out, there were moments I wanted to tell everyone in the room that they were crazy to think I could actually get the baby out – in that moment, the fact that I’d previously birthed three babies was completely out the window. But I did. I got him out. And then there was this transformative moment in which I actually realized I had gotten him out. And these powerful feelings I can’t even put into words washed over my whole being. And I sobbed. And I told my baby “We did it!” over and over.
Numbing the pain in our lives sounds great. Who wants to feel pain? If we have the option to numb it, why not do that? The idea of a world without pain sounds fantastic. This is going to sound crazy, but does anyone else think it is possible that buried deep down in the ugly stuff in life, we can dig deeper and discover immense beauty? Pain, loss and trauma suck. Man, do they suck so badly. But is there beauty in the ashes? I think there is.
There is beauty in the mother working hard to bring her baby into the world. There is beauty in a mother celebrating her wonderful birth. There is beauty in a mother mourning a tragedy or a trauma. There is beauty when wars are ceased and sons and daughters are brought home. There is beauty when someone holds a loved one’s hand as they drift from this world to the next. There is even beauty in a woman's rage when her husband rents a freaking movie they watched just two weeks ago and she decides to let him live (that was a joke). These situations may be pretty or may not be pretty at all, but they are beautiful. They are life.
The valleys in life make the mountains so much higher. Joy, Despair, Love, Loss, Happiness, Pain, Exhilaration, Regret – they are all key players in the human experience. Collectively, they are what make life worth living. They shape who we are and how we choose to live out our futures. I guess the movie wasn’t JUST about birth for me. But, I do think birth can be a pretty good metaphor for how we can find beauty in this wonderful, messy life.
Originally Posted 11/7/2014
Okay folks. Something is really bothering me today and about any other day I’m on my Facebook. I know, I know - I need to just get off – distance myself that this universe of everyone sharing their opinions. But, alas, I’m on it regularly because I’m a stay at home mom and it’s one of my only connections with the outside world.
I keep seeing posts that are gradually making me want to gouge my eyes out with a grape-fruit spoon. If you understand that reference to Sons of Anarchy, look me up on Facebook, we could be friends.
This blog isn’t about whether or not I spend too much time on Facebook. I do, so I’m not even gonna argue that point. This is about the new trend of each and every freaking mom, including MYSELF (I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a self-conscious crazy person), thinking someone is shaming us because we did something different in the parenting world.
Seriously, this idea of the mom shaming crap is pretty much the new “Did you just call me fat?” conversation.
Woman: I’m so excited for our anniversary dinner. I think I’m going to wear my blue dress.
Man: I really think you look hot in the red one.
Woman: What’s wrong with the blue one? Does it make me look FAT? Did you just call me FAT???
Holy crap. No, he did not just call me fat, but because I’m really harsh on myself and super self-conscious about my appearance, I completely manipulated that conversation into him calling me fat. When in fact, he did nothing of the sort.
I think us women do this in MANY other situations!! Whether it’s the food we feed our family, our job (or lack of) or the way we birth our babies – we are ALWAYS on the defense about our choices.
Woman: I’m so excited to meet my baby. I can’t wait for induction day!
Woman’s Friend (probably on Facebook): Eeeek! I’m so excited for you! Have you thought about waiting for labor to start on its own?
Woman: What’s wrong with induction? Is it a BAD decision? Are you calling me a BAD mom???
AGAIN, holy crap! No, she did not just call me a bad mom, but because I’m really harsh on myself and super self-conscious about motherhood, I completely manipulated that conversation into her calling me a bad mom. When in fact, she did nothing of the sort.
Ladies, we need to stop jumping to conclusions and thinking that people are shaming us when all they are doing is having a conversation that includes their *GASP* opinion. We all know what opinions are like and how everyone’s got one. This is NOTHING new. Are there jerk-bag men out there flat out calling their woman fat? Yes, and they’re jerk bags. We should dump them and find someone who’ll treat us nicer. Are there ass-hat women out there who flat out call other women bad moms? Yes, they are ass-hats. We should have a friend-break-up and find a MORE supportive friend.
My point: when faced with a decision – red dress or blue dress? OR induction or spontaneous labor? -make your decisions with love, and take the information and opinion of other with a grain of salt (add a shot of tequila if necessary). Try on both dresses and see how you feel. Read some books to find out if induction is right for you. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. But make your decisions with love and do what you feel is right for YOU.
You're still probably going to have some kind of guilt, because that's what moms do - we put ourselves on guilt trips ALL.THE.TIME. Because we're women, which according to my husband, makes us crazy. Don't worry, he says it with love which makes it okay, okay?
And if someone is *REALLY * shaming you, then delete them from your Facebook.
Finding sUPPORT IN MOTHERHOOD
Originally Posted 9/15/2014
During pregnancy, we often invest hours and hours of time into preparing to care for a baby. We scour the internet for reviews to find the perfect car seat. We fine-tune our registries to make sure we have everything the baby will need. We search Etsy, Pinterest and thift shops for perfect little details to complete a lovely nursery. We prepare for our babies, but do we prepare ourselves to be mothers?
Preparing ourselves for motherhood - not just bringing a baby home - should be higher on our pregnancy to-do list. After five babies, I can attest to this. Becoming a mother means more than having all the right baby gear and the most beautiful nursery. It means taking on a whole slew of new responsibilities while making sure we stay on top of everything else. It is demanding. It can be HARD! And that’s why establishing a strong support system is an absolute necessity when preparing for motherhood.
The key to doing this is finding your “Mama Tribe”. There is a lot of truth to the saying “it takes a village”. This doesn’t mean that you need to take every piece of advice and/or help from every other mom out there. Quite the contrary. You need to find your tribe. You should be seeking out like minded mothers, those who share similar beliefs and values about motherhood. This will help you avoid more of the unwanted advice, and expose you to encouragement in areas where you’re looking for support.
Preparing to be the kind of mother you want to be can be compared to obtaining a desired level of fitness. If you are really trying to get in shape, who is going to be your gym buddy? Will you go with your friend who is content with dropping out in the middle of the hour-long body pump class to hit up Starbucks? That’s me, by the way – you don’t want me in your fitness tribe. Or do you want to buddy up with a friend who is going to stick through the whole thing even if it means modifying most of the exercises just to get through it? My guess is you want someone who is determined. Achieving your goals in motherhood means finding a tribe that will help you achieve your goals.
While it can be great to have well-meaning friends and family (some of which may fit perfectly into your tribe), they aren’t always going to offer the support that you may be looking for. Let’s take birth for example. When I had my first baby, I was curious to experience a natural birth, but I didn’t seek out a mama tribe that would be able to offer valuable information. Instead, I took advice from friends and family, none of whom had experienced natural birth. There were no moms telling me that I could do it – only those telling me that birth was painful and that an epidural is the right choice for every child bearing woman. Was it smart to take advice from women who had never experienced what I was interested in? No. I had 3 epidurals before I found a tribe that supported me towards natural birth.
Emotional support at the end of pregnancy is crucial to your goals. If you are trying to avoid induction, it is dang hard during those last 3-5 weeks. Shrugging off all those “you haven’t had that baby yet?” comments can feel impossible, especially if you’re getting the same vibe from your care provider. It is likely the most emotionally taxing part of pregnancy. A good tribe will wait for you to share where you’re at physically and offer encouragement from there. They will tell you how wonderful you’re doing and what an amazing baby machine you must have - EVEN when you’re feeling frustrated about your baby STILL being in there. They will support your mental and emotional stability and be your breath of fresh air.
Another example is breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is important to you and you want to make it a priority, it’s best to surround yourself with women who’ve done it themselves – preferably for an extended amount of time. If you want breastfeeding to work, you need encouragement from friends who’ve done it long term. While ANY length of breastfeeding is great, you’re going to get superior encouragement from those who’ve done it longer. This isn’t about bashing mothers who’ve used formula. Someone who has fought through the difficulties of breastfeeding will offer a lot more valuable support than a mom who found it necessary to stop at 6 weeks.
So how do you find your mama tribe? I personally found social media to be extremely helpful. Most cities have Facebook groups dedicated to different parenting styles/interests. In my small town, there are multiple breastfeeding support groups that meet online AND in person. I found most of my local mama tribe through a local cloth diapering group. If you can’t find a local group, YouTube is also a great place to find moms who share similar beliefs. And there are probably a million mommy forums throughout the interweb.
Birth professionals can also be a valuable resource. Not only can they offer you support, but they can usually direct you in where to look for a mama tribe that fits you! Doulas are often extremely plugged in to their local community. If you have a good care provider, they should be plugged in as well. Many lactation consultants participate in live support groups, so attending those can help you connect with other moms. And yes, you should attend the breastfeeding groups BEFORE your baby comes! Taking a birth class is also a wonderful way to connect with other moms and build community support. I love teaching Birth Boot Camp because dads are able to build the “Daddy Tribe” that they’ll need too!
If you’re an expecting mama, I implore you to find your tribe! Build bonds. These will not only help you through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, but they’ll also be your safe zone. They will be the ones you turn to when you feel like you’re failing at motherhood. And you can count on failing – we all fall short. But your tribe will pick you back up, dust you off and make you feel like the amazing mother you are. Every mom deserves a mama tribe.