Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. --John Milton

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Let's talk Birth over Tea

Good tea is too hot to gulp. A steaming cup invites me to sip this moment.

Birth too, can be like a steeping chai spice. I get to let go and enjoy it. 

Blogging helps me do just that - savor this pregnancy, marvel at birth.

Tea is also best shared. A tea kettle pours into mugs, and hearts pour into each other's. 

We share this experience with women throughout the ages and with one another. We celebrate birth with family and friends. 

So grab a cup of tea or coffee?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Think Comfort

Talking with a friend, I realized my advice to pregnant mamas is pretty simple.

1. Choose a place where you feel comfortable.
2. Choose people who make you feel comfortable.

I think the more you can do this, the more satisfying your birth experience.

By comfortable, I mean what place and what people put you at ease. A laboring woman who is comfortable can focus on the task of bringing her baby into the world. A laboring woman who is uncomfortable is distracted by external stress and finds her work more difficult.

Comfort is why I chose a birth center and I had a marvelous experience. I was even more comfortable delivering at home. Although if I had gone to the hospital, my doula and birth plan would have partly compensated for discomfort there. It seems most hospital personnel have yet to realize that the number one medical necessity for a laboring woman is her comfort (physically and emotionally). I do realize there are many mamas who feel put at ease walking through hospital doors. Feeling cared for by the nurses may help her relax. Or sometimes there are pressures at home. And for many, delivering away from ready access to medical equipment alarms her.

So rather than advising a home birth for everyone, I advise thinking where do you already feel comfortable? Ask yourself what place relaxes you, not where you think you would feel relaxed when it's time to give birth (especially if this is your first pregnancy). So if the yoga atmosphere of a birth center weirds you out, it's probably not the ideal place. If you're saying, "I don't like it there, but I hear it's the best place," you should either resolve why the place makes you uneasy or choose a different place.

Also think about if you are making the decision out of fear or out of confidence. Are you afraid of labor and delivery? I understand, but don't let that fear make your decision for you. Learn about birth and research your options until you find confidence, confidence in the marvelous design of your body and Baby working together to bring life. So when I say comfort, I mean more than simply not feeling terrified, more than appeasing fears. Comfort is soaking in Love.

Your ideal place may or may not work out, right? Just be aware that the place makes a big difference on your experience and Baby's experience. Knowing this can even help you deal with the discomforts that come up. For example, when the glare of a sterile room and interrupting nurses throws off your focus, you can close your eyes and ignore them (rather than feel obligated to acknowledge it all). Also, knowing this can help you sort through and and make sense of feelings of fear and depression postnatal, as the discomfort of a place may have contributed to those feelings.

I could say pretty much the same things about choosing the people around you as I just did about the place. Did you know you are likely to have an emotional connection to the person who catches your baby? So that you don't resent that connection, choose carefully. (An example of resentment that I've been told is when the doctor barely makes it in time; another is having a midwife who's a complete stranger). Often there is a team of midwives or doctors and you don't know which one will attend your birth. I've noticed that pregnant mamas typically have a preference who they hope will be there and often have some anxiety about one she hopes is not there to catch baby.

Who attends your birth will affect your emotions. And your emotions will affect your comfort. And your comfort will affect your labor and delivery.

This goes for all individuals who show up to your birth - nurses, husband, doula, friend, mother-in-law. Each person will affect (positively or negatively) your ability to bring Baby into the world.

Of course the effect can be mild or staggering and certainly varies based on the individuals attending and the laboring mama. Ignoring the emotional impact of place and people doesn't make it go away. Being aware helps you make healthy choices for you and Baby.

Birth is about comfort - not pain. So rather than ask, "How can I avoid pain?" ask, "How can I be comfortable?"

More from a Doula: "Why My Work as Doula Requires Emotional Connection" 
And more on the labor experience: "Understanding and Assessing Labor Progress"
Practical ways to find Comfort: A Guide to Comfort in Labor plus a slideshow of pregnancy

Monday, February 6, 2017

Mama in Labor: What's Happening?

Would you like to understand what your marvelous body and your amazing baby do during labor? Read this, dear mama, from a midwife with a PhD.

Assessment (what you might see)
  • Her contraction pattern becomes increasingly stronger (based on her response to them). Note that contractions may not necessarily become closer, but they will become increasingly powerful. There should be a shift in the pattern/power every 2 hours (as a general rule)

  • She will be in ‘her own world’ – she may have her eyes closed and doze off between contractions ie. look stoned. She may cover her eyes with a cloth or bury her head into something (eg. pillow).

  • She is less able to respond to questions or anything else that requires her neocortex to function. Her communication (if there is any) will be short and to the point eg. ‘water!’ rather than ‘Can you please pass me the water’. If you ask a question (best not to) it might take a while for her to answer and she will not speak during a contraction.

  • Her movements and sounds will be instinctive and rhythmical. She is likely to vocalise during contractions – often the same noise with each one, and/or make the same movements each time.

  • Her inhibitions reduce. It is during this phase that the previously shy woman rips all her clothes off and crawls about naked.

  • At this point the hormonal symphony is in full swing and it is very, very difficult to stop or slow contractions. A significant stress at this point may generate a fetal ejection reflex but it is unlikely to stop contractions.

  • As the baby moves downwards and her pelvis becomes less stable (opening), her posture will change. She will want to hold onto things (and people) when standing/walking. She will not be able to sit directly on her bottom. She will walk leaning slightly with a ‘waddle’ as the pelvis tips.

  • If she is in an upright/ forward leaning position, you may be able to see / feel the ‘opening of her back’ as the Rhombus of Michaelis moves.

  • A purple line might be visible between the woman’s buttocks as the baby’s head descends.

  • During transition you may see fear as she reaches out for reassurance and support. However, some women do not, and instead feel this on the inside without their care provider being aware of it.

  • During transition E-EN can cause a dry mouth and she might suddenly be very thirsty. High levels can also cause vomiting as the stomach empties in the fight or flight response.

  • As the cervix opens to its full capacity you might see a bloody/mucous show and the waters break.

  • There may be a ‘rest and be thankful’ phase after transition where contractions slow and the woman rests as the baby descends into her pelvis.

  • She might mention pressure in her bottom, or that she need’s to poo. And you may see poo as the baby compresses the rectum and squeezes it out.

  • Contractions become expulsive and the pattern will change. Her noises and behaviour will also change.

  • If you are able to visualise her perineum (and you really don’t need to) you will see signs of the baby’s head descending through the vagina – gaping anus and vulva, flattened perineum, bulging bag of waters (if still intact), the baby’s hair/head, etc.

  • As the baby’s head stretches her perineal tissue she will hold back her pushes, gasp, scream, close her legs, and/or hold her baby’s head in – protecting her perineum.

  • One the baby’s head is born you may see him/her rotate or wriggle then be born with the next contraction (there should be some movement or change with the next contraction).

Read more of this phenomenally researched article.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

10 Items I didn't need on my Baby Registry (well, mostly)

I've mentioned the items I've used most from my registry. What about things I haven't used (much)? What would you add to this list? What here has actually been really helpful?

1. Stroller. A carrier has been best to use for walks. While vacationing in sidewalked suburbs though, we had fun trying out a stroller. And when we explored Magic Kingdom, we rented a stroller. So I see how a mom might be glad to have a stroller.

2. Socks and shoes. I don't bother with them until Baby is walking.

3. Baby food. About six months, we start on mashable veggies and fruit. Then it's egg yolks and yogurt.

4. Humidifier. Sounds like a good idea. I just haven't had one.

5. Bouncer/ Swing/ Jumper. This is mostly because I don't like having several things around to stub my toe on. Still when our Chubby Bear was quickly getting heavy to carry around, I cleaned up a used bouncer. It was wonderful to have. But now our little Friar Tuck is happy to play on a quilt.

6. Wash cloths. I've used them. But more often I forget and just use my hand to cup water. I do love the cute ducky towel (even though Baby's toes stick out when wrapped after about seven months!). I've wrapped each Baby Boy in the ducky towel. Some things become precious to me like that.

7. Boppy pillow. I like how you could tuck baby in it! I've just used various pillows around the house for nursing.

8. Baby monitor. I used one until I realized I could hear Baby just fine in our small house without it.

9. Nursing bra. I prefer I regular brassiere (just slide the strap over the shoulder). Nursing pads are helpful for the first weeks though!

10. Jackets for Baby. I wrap him in a blanket and strap a winter cap on his sweet head.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

No Way But Through

My first time being split open with pushing contractions - I was terrified. Screaming and exhaustion and doubting and then the gift of a single thought: the only way, is through this.

Here's an insightful post from a mom who speaks to laboring moms, disheartened in the pain.
It wasn’t that she had figured out how to not think about the hard things anymore; it was that she had gotten through to the other side. At the moment she believed she couldn’t push through another second, she suddenly did and found new life.
There was no way out but through.
Childbirth is used in Scripture as a metaphor for the suffering of God’s people as they await delivery in hope.
Various biblical writers often speak of trials and persecutions in terms of labor, like contractions that squeeze and push and cause anxiety. But the point of these passages is that the Day of the Lord is coming, that these sufferings result in new life being born from the old.
There's more! keep reading ...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

10 Essentials to put on your Registry for Baby's First Year

So, Little One nestles within. You wish to be ready to receive her, to hold him in your arms. I've been looking at baby boy three and thinking what was most helpful? The list varies mom to mom, even baby to baby. I'm curious what you would put on this list. Please share!

Most of all, do you have arms to wrap around her and pull her close? Love, expressed in touch and words, eye contact and smiles, grows babies. As you peruse items to add to your Amazon registry, keep in mind that the Maker is gifting you with what Baby needs most. Your love.

Of course, that love also wants to keep baby warm and fed and diapered and entertained. Here's my essentials list.

1. Breast pump plus Nursing Cover. I'm fortunate to enjoy breastfeeding with minimal challenges. For painfully sore nipples - coconut oil, olive oil, or lanolin oil is good (I didn't say it made the pain vanish.) I rely on my Medela Harmony Manuel Breast Pump to keep milk stocked in the freezer for date night. Muslin receiving blankets are good nursing covers. But my cover is like a dear friend after three babies.

2. Diapers, Walmart's plain Parent's Choice brand (Cloth diapering fizzled with my second infant. Sigh - I won't save the landfills.)

3. Clothing and Blankets. For the first three months, I combine a long-sleeved onesie and a swaddler OR a jumpsuit. Then when he pushes out of swaddlers, pretty much just jumpsuits. Easy and comfortable. I also tuck a crocheted or muslin receiving blanket over baby. (If you've figured out how keep Baby swaddled with a receiving blanket, scratch swaddlers off your list). I also have a strap-able infant winter hat I adore on Baby. Boxes of lightly used baby clothes have more than provided for the boys' clothing needs. I like to donate new outfits to the Pregnancy Care Center because we have plenty.

4. Removable Infant Carseat Carrier. One of two expensive things on this list, but it's a must have if you've got a car. I've used the detachable carrier much more than in the vehicle though. Little Professor slept in it next to our mattress, as a bassinet. My babies used it as an infant seat while I washed dishes (Our Friar Tuck happily pulls the vibrating toy clipped to the handle. First two babies were more fussy, not being on my hip).

5. Pack n Play crib. Once I became comfortable with Baby sleeping next to me, we all slept better (I said better, not well - but easy's not the goal right?). Each baby was different. I wearily fought to get the Little Professor to sleep in his pack n play crib before giving in to having him next to me. The Cowboy would bring me a bowl of cornflakes at 2:35 AM while I nursed and rocked and patted. So with Chubby Bear I immediately enjoyed restful nights, hearing his sweet breath beside me. This one didn't fight me about bedtime either. But he wiggled! Chubby Bear would snuggle his head under my chin. After a few months the Cowboy was tired of being kicked in the ribs. I tentatively placed him in his crib. Baby loved it! Plenty of space to roll around. And then our gentle Friar Tuck. He has slept sweetly next to us for over six months. I recently tried putting him in the pack n play, and he only gets up a couple times and easily goes back down. Wow! I still remember the sore knees as I patted and sang and prayed for sanity. Each baby, a different gift. (There is a nifty side sleeper for parents unsure about baby in bed.) Also, the pack n play has been helpful for trips. And by the way, I don't use the changing attachment any more - it's easier for me to change Baby on our bed. (PS: On nights of lifting Baby from the pack n play repeatedly, I wish for my poor back that I had a crib. Then I blink, and he's in a big boy bed.)

6. Booster Seat. We just purchased a second Safety 1st Booster Seat for our Friar Tuck (only $15 at our local Walmart). Four years ago we got one at a yardsale and have used it daily ever since. I've occasionally put it on the floor for Baby to play in. The tray is removable and washable.

7. Carrier. I was going to wear my baby 24-7. Our Little Professor squirmed in all four wrap/sling/carriers. Neither of us enjoyed it! Admittedly the carrier came to the rescue while grocery shopping. But he only stopped squirming and fussing if I was walking quickly or if he finally fell asleep. So yeah I guess it was helpful. Nonetheless, I was so aggravated that I gave them all away. When I was pregnant with Chubby Bear, I picked up a simple carrier for $5 at a yardsale. He liked being in it! We went for walks with brother in the woods. Very quickly, CB got too heavy for my back. Not so many walks after that. Our contented Friar Tuck likes the carrier too, but he's just as happy on the floor quilt. I pull out the carrier for occasional family walks. Oh, and lately I've used a sling a friend kindly let me borrow. It's made it possible to put supper on the table a couple of times. For choosing a carrier, I recommend to try out a friend's. Even better, borrow one. If you find one you love, then when someone asks what you still need, you've got an answer.

8. Floor Quilt. I didn't understand how a mom puts baby on a quilt on the floor for more than twenty seconds until our sweetie third baby. Now I use a floor quilt every day. My talented mother made an extra thick quilt with fun colors and varying textures. Also a friend gave me a used mobile gym, which Friar Tuck also likes.

9. Fan Heater. A little fan is a soothing background noisemaker, and on cool nights the heater keeps the nursery warm.

10. Cloth Diapers. Now I use my cloth diapers for changing pads. With my heavy drooler Chubby Bear, I pinned a cloth around him for a bib. I throw one over the shoulder at church because I can't run to my closet for a change of clothes. And for a while, I hung them on a drying rack to replenish the stack next to the changing table. (Notice that having a baby involves a lot of changing?)

That's about it for us (I've bought more, but this is what's been most helpful). I could add bibs, car mirror, diaper bag, simple teethers, and carseat cover. What about you?

What's on Baby's list? What would you recommend to other mamas?