Sunday, May 18, 2014

What has happened during my week off of Facebook.

A week ago I signed off from Facebook and deleted my shortcuts and bookmarks. It was kind of a mental health break for myself, I'd started to not like the person I was turning into as I peeked into other people's lives on Facebook and almost started to judge myself through the perspective of other people in other situations.

Now, a week later, I'm looking at a lot of things from a much more balanced and healthy perspective. It's been a busy week in many ways, and stressful things have happened, but without having the crutch of being able to vent about my stress on Facebook, I've been getting back in touch with some of my favorite (and healthier) ways to regain balance and peace when things get chaotic. Even just little things like a nice cup of herbal tea or reading a couple of paragraphs in a good book. Things that feel REAL, instead of that kind of creepy feeling of living vicariously through other people's experiences.

Here are some of the things that have happened in my life over the past week.

  • I've read a LOT of books. Mostly to my kids, but I've been turning to my books more and more, which is nice because I've always been a bookworm and I've come to believe that I "don't have time" to read. But even just sitting down to read with my kids more often has been really nice, for all of us.
  • My phone has needed to be charged every day. This is new to me! Normally I charge it every 3 or 4 days. It's getting a lot more use, since being off Facebook means a lot more texting and calling to keep in touch with people! And there are still more people I'm wanting to check in with.
  • I've written. Not blog posts, in particular, but actual work. Chapters of books I started months ago that have been sitting untouched, and very early work (outlines, mostly) of articles that I plan to finish writing and actually try to sell. Like a real grown up writer. It's been over two years since I had any paid writing work, so it feels a little awkward as I ease back into it but I'll get there.
  • We've done a lot with organizing the house to be baby safe, because our little Baby Bear started crawling and hasn't stopped moving since then. She took a few tentative paces forward, and then did it again, and then woke up the next morning crawling EVERYWHERE. Nothing holds this little girl back. So we've been working on setting up "baby stations" all around the house, while getting things that are unsafe up and out of her reach. The boys are so protective of her, so this is a project they've helped with very willingly.
  • We've had some unexpected days off from school for Bug. It was for a scary reason (wildfires, near our part of the county but thankfully still some distance from our town) but it was still nice to have him home and have that time with him. This mama is so ready for summer break to start!!
  • I've spent a lot more time being in touch with a good friend of mine here in town, an absolutely wonderful woman whom I've known since our oldest kids were in kindergarten, but who has more recently become a very dear friend of mine. Words can't even express how much she has meant to me! When I was struggling with depression on and off over the past few months, leading up to this time when I've decided to sort of hit the "reset" button and step back into my bubble, she has always been there reaching out to me and offering friendship and a helping hand and love, and that has helped so much!
  • Cooking! So much cooking!! I've taken away the temptation for myself to go "grumble grumble grumble, I just made dinner last night for these people and I've cooked them meals all day and I've got to feed them again?? Hey, what's your family having for dinner? Oh that looks good. Hey, you get to eat shrimp and I've had a craving for shrimp for weeks but it hasn't gone on sale, now I'm kind of jealous that you get to eat what I want. Hey, why do YOU get to have takeout? I want to have takeout. Grumble grumble grumble." You know?? I know you feel me, we've all been there on some level. I hope. Please tell me I'm not the only one. Anyway, so much cooking! I've made a lot of yummy dinners lately and I've been proud of the way I've been stretching food, using leftovers, planning several meals at once, budget shopping and so on. Amazing what I can accomplish when I put my full energy into our meals, instead of putting half of that energy towards procrastinating and wishing I was eating other people's food!
  • We've spent a LOT of time hashing out this car situation and trying to make a decision. Something needs to happen, because our old Subaru has so many things going on with it that it either needs to be retired or have an enormous amount of work put into it, and one of those things needs to happen NOW. We got an incredibly generous offer from my dad, who said that he wants to add to our car budget. He thinks that the plan that makes the most sense is to get a second vehicle, so that we can stop this terrifying juggling of one old and very tired car that is threatening to die completely, and he said that he wants to help make that happen for us. We were shocked and surprised and overjoyed, because this is something that will make a HUGE difference for our family. So we're back to shopping for a second car, with the plan that as soon as we find one, we'll start looking for another one so we can retire this poor old Subaru. It's going to be a big year for cars in our household! And I'll be honest, shopping for two new cars back to back and all of the change that is going to bring about, is kind of wreaking havoc with my anxiety. But I feel like I'm managing it much better than I have for a long time.
  • Baby Bear and I went up together to tell the "Time for all ages" story during the church service this morning. It was so sweet to talk to all the kids as they gathered around us, and it really touched my heart how many people told me afterward that they love watching her and our older kids growing up in the congregation. The connections we're making at our church really make it feel like home, and from my own perspective of remembering how much my high school youth group and the rest of the congregation meant to me, and how influential some of them were in my life, it makes me feel deeply thankful to have found this kind of spiritual home for our family.
I think that's about it, as far as major events. I'm missing the friends I keep in touch with only on Facebook, so definitely planning to sign on to go through my notifications soon and see what people are up to, but I have to be careful because it still feels too easy to get back into the habit of being on there way too much. It snuck up on me, I used to be much busier outside of the house and I don't have a "smart phone" so naturally I wasn't online as much, but since we've moved farther away from town and I'm spending much more time at home than I used to, it's been too easy for me to keep going back to the screen. Just to see that picture, just to check that notification, just to see the latest things in the news feed - well, it all adds up, not only in terms of time in a day but also in terms of my personal energy. It had become an energy drain, so that I had less to give to other areas of my life.

Some time soon I'll get a better sense of balance and I'll be on there more often again. But for now I'm giving much needed attention to many other areas of my life, and I'm feeling pretty good about that choice.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Period of introspection.

For almost the past week I've been taking a break from Facebook. It's been refreshing in a surprising kind of way. Since I'm cut off from being able to distract myself by peeking in on other peoples lives via my news feed, I've had to do some very real work looking at myself and my life and my own beliefs and priorities.

Six months ago we moved to a new home, and in almost every way it was a very positive move for our family. We're now in a much safer and more family friendly neighborhood, the children are growing up surrounded by animals and gardens and nature instead of pavement and dead grass, and they can run and play and use their imaginations and roam outside and do all of the wonderful things that little boys can do, without being limited by the restrictions where we used to live. Today while talking with a friend, I suddenly realized that here we feel comfortable sleeping with the windows open after a hot day, while at our old place I couldn't sleep without checking that they were all locked. So it's been a very positive thing for our family. But we have been a one car family for the past five years, and moving farther out from town to a nice rural area meant that I lost the ability to just load up the kids into the stroller and walk down Main Street to do whatever we felt like doing.

I'm a Sagittarius. I'm a wanderer, I can't help it, it's just who I am. I get terribly restless and require changes of scenery to keep my brain and my body active. A great deal of the support system I'd built for myself, building up our new home and new life out here in California, was based on what I was able to walk to, so within a mile and a half or so from where we lived. Not only was I the fittest I've been in my adult life, with all the walking, but I had a steady stream of stuff to keep us busy. Play dates at the playground, story and craft groups and children's yoga at the library, iced coffee and conversation at my favorite coffee shop, cheap produce-of-the-day at the little corner grocery store. You get the idea, it wasn't anything super exciting or elaborate, but it was what I kept myself and the kids busy with every day.

But out here at our new place, I've been busy for the past couple of months throwing myself a giant pity party. It's very quiet and peaceful out here, and there are gorgeous walks around the neighborhood and horses and dogs to visit and lots of wildlife to see, but I've let myself get stir crazy out of regret for what I don't have anymore. I miss the things that I used to do, but it's gotten to the point where that has interfered with my ability to be peaceful and present right here and now. So a few days ago I decided that I've had enough, and I cut myself off. I posted a status saying that I was taking a break, it was nothing personal to do with anybody, just something I needed to do, and I signed off. I deleted my shortcuts and deleted it from my frequent pages list. And it's been good for me.

Over the past few days I've been realizing that I often use negative words such as "boring" or "slow" or "same old" to describe my life and the things I do, but that's not true at all. However, when I spend my free time scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing posts about people traveling to interesting places, dining out at places that don't have a children's menu, or - to be perfectly honest - even just being able to load up in the car and go run errands without needing to wait for their significant other to get home, I can't help but start to compare what I'm doing with what they're doing. And it's not right, and not fair to myself or to my family and friends, so while I do miss seeing the updates about what my loved ones are doing, and all the beautiful photos of babies and special moments and loved ones, I realize that I truly needed this time to get myself in check.

This is MY journey, this is not anybody else's journey, and I can't compare myself to anyone else because this story is only our own. A year ago it was still a struggle to keep enough food in the house and we were still visiting the food pantry from time to time for some extra help, so to spend so much time feeling sorry for myself for not having a second car was unreasonable. We're finally in a position where, for the first time, all of The Man's income covers all of our expenses. We still have to be more tight in the grocery budget than I particularly care for, but we can feed ourselves without help. We don't have the fastest speed of internet available but we don't have to choose between paying the internet and paying the phones anymore. A couple of people I have great love and respect for have told me that I'm pushing too hard for something that's not ready to happen, and it's true. So even though on some level I truly believed that I needed to check in on Facebook every day to see all of the latest updates, I've discovered that life has gone on just fine without me knowing what's going on.

It's not permanent, but I'm not sure when I'll go back on and start reading my news feed and sharing posts again. There's not really a particular goal I'm striving for or any concrete way to measure the results of my Facebook hiatus, but I figure that as long as I'm content and able to distract myself out of the desire to sit and scroll through the latest posts, I'll just stick with it for another day. That's really where I am with it at this point, one day at a time. I'm remembering that my life isn't "boring" or "slow" or "same old" at all, and there are very important reasons why we've made the choices we've made along the way. Why we've decided that me being here with our kids right now is more important than having vacations or expensive dinners or new cars. And my wonderful husband has been here, while I've been in my funk feeling sorry for myself, pointing out that the things our kids have learned in their lives, they've learned from me. The way they are proud and confident, kind to animals and to other people, trusting, intelligent (and lots of questioning authority, does that sound like anyone you know?) And he's been reminding me that even though they haven't gotten to their playgroups or the playground for a few months now, they're still here with me and getting all of the care and love and nurturing in all of the ways that are very important to our family.

So this is me, retreating into my little bubble, focusing on my beautiful children and our home and my close circle of friends and family outside of Facebook. And our part of the state has been scorching with an intense and early start to wildfire season, so it's been tempting to go on there as an easy source for local news, but then at the same time I realize that my anxiety peaks during intense and scary situations where I keep on reading stories from other people who are freaked out. The hysteria builds easily, and just because it's over a social networking site doesn't make it any less of a crowd mentality situation. I've been getting my information about the fires directly from the Cal Fire website and sometimes going directly to the CBS website for news summaries, and keeping in touch by phone with local friends. My anxiety, after spending the past couple of months slowly building up as I spun around in frustration, is finally melting away and I'm finding my peaceful place again, so being aware of Facebook being a possible trigger for that is a huge deal for me.

This time has been helping me regain some much needed balance and grounding in my life. So while I am sending love to all of my friends and family, I'm still not quite in a place where I'm ready to get back into it, and I'm finding each day that I have plenty to do to keep myself very busy. This time has been good for me and it's been good for my kids, and at the end of the day, in my own life on my own journey, those are the things that matter the most.

Plus, I'm taking the time to work on my writing. Real writing, several different projects, and I'm feeling very fulfilled by that. And I had a great time organizing my Pinterest boards! You can't go wrong with productive writing sessions and Pinterest.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hmm, we need an accountant and a lawyer.

As I plug away working on the business plan for the holistic health center we're dreaming of, and study the rules for becoming a non-profit organization, I'm realizing two things - we need an accountant, and we need a lawyer. Handling money (and pretty much anything to do with numbers) is not my strong suit, so while I have the best of intentions and a clear vision for how this whole thing needs to be set up, somebody who is specifically trained in handling money should give their professional insight before we get started. Same thing goes for the lawyer. I want to make sure we're following the law along the way so we don't run into problems later, and especially where health care is concerned I just want to make sure we're doing everything the way we are required to. There will be a lot of legal documents along the way and I want to have someone who speaks that language on our team.

So just to put this out there, if you or someone you know has financial or legal expertise and an interest in holistic, natural health care, and would be willing to collaborate and share your insight on this project, we would be so very appreciative. It would have to be pro bono at this point but when we are up and functioning and have a budget to work with these will be available as paid positions! Nobody wants to work for free but maybe there are a couple of people out there with these qualifications who can share our vision for a beautiful, rural setting with several small, quaint office buildings where natural health practitioners such as naturopaths, massage therapists, midwives, counselors, and more can meet with their clients in a peaceful environment that is far from the typical medical office atmosphere. Surrounded by community gardens and areas for group events, where clients pay one low monthly co-op fee and have access to a wide variety of holistic practitioners, to promote a lifestyle of wellness and disease prevention, using more natural options when some kind of treatment is necessary. A birth center with full-time midwives and on-staff doulas, a center for pregnancy care, natural birth, and postpartum care for the mothers of Ramona and the surrounding communities. Sliding scale payment options to make natural health care an affordable choice for low income people, as well as a full time on-site case manager to help coordinate services and support for individuals and families who need it. If this is something you believe our community would benefit from, something you have an interest in and would like to help make it a reality, please take a moment to fill out this form and let us know how you'd like to help. Even if you don't know the first thing about accounting or legal documents, if you have an idea for how you can help with this, we'd really love to hear it.

Click here for the form where you can enter your contact info and what you want to help with. So far everyone we've talked to about this idea has been very supportive and positive, and I truly believe that we can make this happen!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My dream - a health care and birth co-operative.

For years now, since my pregnancy with our second child, I have had this little idea in the back of my brain that has grown and taken different shapes and forms, and sometimes I haven't thought much of it for long stretches of time but it's always there. It's a combination of some of my biggest passions - holistic health, natural birth, community-style living and work, family support, good quality health care available to ALL people - and the best part is that my husband is fully on board and supportive of this plan. So after a great deal of discussion and brainstorming, we've decided that it's time to put one foot in front of the other and start moving forward towards this plan, even if it's at a snails pace. We have a name and a vision and even a pretty solid plan that we've talked out, so I don't feel like we're flying blind. I'm not fooling myself into thinking it will be easy - in fact I think it will be a ton of very hard work. But we're ready to try!

What I'm envisioning is a large piece of land where we can set up multiple buildings, where we can live and also where we can have office space to rent out. My main vision is of a health center with a focus on pregnancy and birth, but I'd love to be able to offer whole life services if we can get enough interest and participation from providers. We would provide a beautiful space - complete with community vegetable gardens, workshops, and other activities to get people together and helping each other - where natural health care providers can come together to serve clients, outside of the standard idea of a hospital or clinic. A place where we can come together to promote wellness and good health, and take a holistic approach to managing health care by making it easy for the entire team to come together to help the ENTIRE client. Are you feeling me? I'm very excited about this, and I'm even more excited about how into it my husband is! I can see this being something our whole family would work together on.

One place for your natural health care. This plan originated when I learned about The Farm in Tennessee, the midwifery center which was started by the wonderful Ina May Gaskin, a pioneer in modern midwifery in the US. As soon as I learned about what she does, I wanted to create a place similar to that where women and their families could come to ease into a comfortable and safe place for birth, a haven where they would have access to midwives, doulas, maybe aromatherapists, massage therapists, counselors, and more. And yes, recently I've gotten into the show Private Practice (late to the party, as usual!) and I love the idea of a health care co-operative. Expanding beyond pregnancy and birth services and offering options to all age ranges - pediatrics, family practice, in my wildest dreams even hospice services, because I believe that we all deserve a peaceful birth and a peaceful death.

Services to support the entire life span. Workshops, not only about health and wellness related topics, but also about good old fashioned life skills. Community gardens, and workshops where we can learn how to work in the gardens and what to do with the food we harvest from them. Cottage style homes so that we could offer the different practitioners an on-site place to live, or at least a comfortable place to stay while waiting on a laboring mama. Birthing rooms, or birthing cottages, where the entire family can be comfortable for the whole duration of labor, where supportive and safe people are on premises to help care for the older children while the parents work through labor and birth together. The ability to have sliding scale payments or bartering services so that low income families can have access to the same good quality health services. 

This is an enormous plan and feels overwhelming, but we'll never get anywhere by sitting and thinking about it, so after a great deal of discussion we've decided to go for it. And it still feels overwhelming, and I'm still not quite sure how to get it going, but we've been gathering lots of information about how to create a nonprofit organization and we're slowly heading down that path.

What we need now is to know who will be enthusiastic and supportive of this plan with us. Who will our supporters be? Anyone who would want to be involved with a project like this. A practitioner, a client, a lawyer, an activist, or "just" a caring community member. And ultimately we'll need to start fundraising. It will be slow going because I will be carefully looking into laws and regulations at each step along the way to make sure that we're doing things properly right from the start. But I believe in this plan. I believe that this is something that will fulfill a major need, and I believe that it is possible to make this happen. I believe that it will be a TON of work, but that it will be well worth it when we see it take shape.

Friday, April 11, 2014

21 reasons to say NO to Pitocin.

Here's one that I've seen shared on many different sites over the past couple of years. Very proud to say that I was the original author of this one. :)

* * * * *

Have you ever read the package insert for Pitocin? It’s a fascinating read. Did you know that the manufacturer of Pitocin, JHP Pharmaceuticals, actually wrote a really sensible list of recommendations and warnings for the use of this drug?

Given the current nationwide epidemic of Pitocin abuse, I started reading this document with my hackles up, expecting to be annoyed - but it wasn’t long before I became surprised by what I was reading. JHP Pharmaceuticals didn’t create this drug to hurry up the labor experience for normal, healthy women. In fact, the package insert warns against the use of Pitocin induction when it’s not medically indicated. The Indications and Usage section opens with a framed important notice that reads “Elective induction of labor is defined as the initiation of labor in a pregnant individual who has no medical indications for induction. Since the available data are inadequate to evaluate the benefits-to-risks considerations, Pitocin is not indicated for elective induction of labor.

There you have it, straight from the manufacturer. Pitocin isn’t even meant to be used for induction when there’s not a medical need for it. According to these instructions, there are specific situations which warrant the use of Pitocin. Maternal diabetes, Rh problems, preeclampsia at or near term, certain cases of uterine inertia (ineffective contractions during true labor), or situations where the water has already broken are listed as examples when Pitocin may be used appropriately.

Here’s another warning from the package insert that caught my eye. “When properly administered, oxytocin should stimulate uterine contractions comparable to those seen in normal labor.” That was really surprising to me. I thought it was an unavoidable fact, that Pitocin-induced contractions are simply longer and stronger than naturally occurring contractions. That’s been the common knowledge among women I’ve spoken to about this subject. A huge percentage of women who have given birth naturally and also with Pitocin say that their Pitocin births were more painful. As it turns out, artificially long or strong contractions are associated with overdose of this drug, not the recommended dosage.

Here are 21 more reasons why most women should say no to Pitocin, brought to you by - the manufacturers of Pitocin. Each of these warnings comes from the package insert.

21. Induction with Pitocin requires constant fetal monitoring, but external monitoring is inaccurate. The best way to monitor the baby’s heart rate is by using an internal monitor called a Fetal Scalp Electrode that is attached the top of the head, through the cervix. It’s very invasive and can be quite painful (for mother AND for baby) to have one of these inserted, and there have been reports of babies being cut, scraped, and even receiving eye injuries from the device. Either form of fetal monitoring limits the laboring woman's ability to move as needed.

20. Pitocin should not be used when there is a predisposition to uterine rupture, as is the case when a woman has had uterine surgery such as a prior c-section. The sad fact, though, is that there are many hospitals and OBs that will not “allow” a woman to attempt a VBAC unless she agrees to an induction and close monitoring.

19. Nausea and vomiting are some of the most minor symptoms on the manufacturer’s list of possible drug reactions.

18. Pitocin, just like any drug, can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes hives, difficulty breathing and swallowing, heart palpitations, and can lead to death.

17. There is an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage after Pitocin-augmented births.

16. Pitocin can disrupt the normal heartbeat of the mother, causing reactions such as cardiac arrhythmia or premature ventricular contractions.

15. Another risk of Pitocin is pelvic hematoma, a blood clot or even larger area of blood in the soft tissue of the pelvis.

14. Pitocin has an antidiuretic effect on the body, meaning it increases the absorption of water. This leads to the risk of water intoxication, especially when there are additional fluids such as saline in the IV or lots of water to drink. There have been cases of women suffering severe cases, including coma and even death, during labor.

13. Pitocin can cause a hypertensive episode in the mother. This basically means a sudden surge in blood pressure,and if the elevation is severe it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

12. Fatal afibrinogenemia is another listed side effect of Pitocin. In everyday language, this translates to slow, uncontrollable bleeding that results in death.

11. Women have died from uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding on the brain, water intoxication, hemorrhage, and uterine rupture after the use of Pitocin during the first and second stages of labor.

10. There have been no studies to examine the carcinogenicity or mutagenicity of Pitocin. In layman’s terms, we have no idea if this drug causes cancer or causes cells to change in any way.

9. We have no idea what kind of effect Pitocin has on a woman’s future fertility, let alone the fertility of her newborn baby.

8. The deaths of babies, for a variety of reasons, have been associated with the use of Pitocin during labor.

7. Pitocin has been associated with heart problems in the newborn, such as bradycardia (slow heartbeat), premature ventricular contractions, and other arrhythmias.

6. Cases of permanent damage to the newborn’s brain or central nervous system have been documented as a result of Pitocin-induced births.

5. Pitocin during labor is associated with low scores on the five minute Apgar test, the newborn exam that looks at alertness, respiratory, and circulatory health.

4. Retinal hemorrhage, a common symptom of shaken baby syndrome, can be caused by the physical force of a Pitocin-induced birth.

3. Increased risk of newborn jaundice is associated with Pitocin.

2. Hypertonic (excessively strong) contractions, and tetanic (prolonged) contractions are some of the most common side effects of Pitocin overdose. If the contractions are coming so fast that there’s no resting time in between, the dose is too high. And this leads to my number 1 reason to say no to this drug, because it seems that far too often an inappropriately high dosage is given.

1. Overdose of Pitocin is characterized by an even more frightening list of symptoms, including cervical and vaginal lacerations, deceleration of the baby’s heart rate, postpartum hemorrhage, fetal hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), and even organ failure and death in the mother or baby. It’s chilling to me, to realize that the long list of complications before this paragraph are in regards to normal doses of Pitocin, and there is a separate section to discuss the problems with overdosing.

Pitocin, just like any of the pharmacological drugs we have available to us, is an important and sometimes lifesaving tool, but like any drug or medical procedure, it must be used with caution. The list of dangerous or even fatal complications is very long, and this list doesn’t even mention some possible lifelong implications of this drug, such as the suggested link between Pitocin and autism. There are always risks when we interfere with the natural process of pregnancy and birth, and these risks must be considered carefully when an option like Pitocin induction is on the table. It’s almost always possible to wait a while longer to let nature take its course, but once the induction is underway the options become more and more limited as the urgency of the situation grows.

Was Pitocin involved in any of your births? Do you feel you were well aware of the risks associated with it?

image credit: timsamoff/flickr.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The beauty of having a couple of kids.

Seriously. No sarcasm, no complaining, no lamenting. This post is just about how incredibly beautiful it is to have more than one child and to see the loving relationship they develop. While I don't think it's fair to put children into a position of NEEDING to take care of their siblings, as I watch my three little munchkins growing up together I realize that they will take care of each other because they love to do it, and it's the most precious thing to witness.

I'm talking about when my 7 year old spontaneously asks if he can wear his baby sister in the Ergo carrier, or when she's fussy while I'm running around during their bedtime routine so he takes her from me and gets her to smile and coo.

Or when my 4 year old pauses during his day, EVERY single time he passes by her, to say hi and give her some snuggles and playtime.

It's seeing the way her eyes light up when one of her brothers comes into her sight.

Or when I check on the boys before I go to bed at night, and find them tucked in next to each other (yes, they each have their own bed, believe it or not) sometimes even holding each other in a gentle hug. My 4 year old ALWAYS has his hand on his brother while they sleep, it's the cutest thing ever. Sometimes he's sleeping in the crook of his arm, sometimes they're actually sleeping apart from each other but BooBoo's hand is stretched across and resting on Bug's shoulder or hair.

Or when I hear the older one reading a book to the younger one.

Or when he brings home a reward from school and tells BooBoo he brought it home for him.

It's seeing Baby Girl roll over for the first time while BooBoo is sitting next to her cheering her on. "Come on! You're almost there! You're doing it!!"

It's the incredible feeling that rushes over you and would knock you onto your ass if you weren't already sitting in a bed, the first time your older child (or older children, if you have more than two) meets the new baby. Just thinking about it makes me erupt in goosebumps. We didn't know whether we were having a boy or a girl, so it was an extra big surprise for our boys the morning Baby Girl was born. Seeing their faces as they tiptoed out of their room to see me with the new baby was like seeing them on Christmas morning.

Where there used to be this enormous and sometimes overwhelming pressure on just my husband and myself to be EVERY interaction for our one young child, we've created this magical, loving little tribe of people who love to be together. Of course the kids have their fights and their "moments" and sometimes their entire days of terror, the big picture is an incredible image of fierce love that is beautiful and humbling. They are young (almost 8, 4, and 5 months) so there is still an awful lot of demanding daily care involved, of course. But being the person to witness all of them growing and learning together, loving each other more and more each day and building these relationships that will exist longer than the relationships they have with their Daddy and me, it's simply amazing. I never really considered this aspect of it when we were first deciding to take the leap and become parents, but it turns out it's one of my favorite parts of this whole mothering gig.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My birth journey, part 3 - my second home birth

And here, in its raw original form just as I wrote it about 12 hours after her birth, the story of the birth of our Baby Girl. My birth story comes full circle, from an unplanned c-section to an unplanned "unassisted" birth. What a powerful experience, to birth a baby with only ourselves in attendance! The Man said that it was sort of funny to be there with me as I went back and forth between "midwife mode" and "mother mode" as I barked out random things like "Skin to skin now" and "don't touch the cord!" Many people jokingly asked if we got a refund from the midwife, but I'll tell you what, the way she and her student came in and did all of the after-care and my postpartum followup care was worth every penny!


The changeover, from the prodromal labor I’d had for a couple of weeks to true early labor, started on Tuesday evening when I was 40 weeks 3 days. That was when I started having strong and sometimes-regular contractions, with increasing cramping and back pain. I started needing to use my meditations and did my breathing “techniques” through them when they got very strong. They usually weren’t regular, but they would become regular sometimes, and I only got them in the evening. I woke up a few times and walked through contractions during the night, but they weren’t incredibly strong and I was able to rest through most of them, and got a good stretch of sleep.

40 weeks 4 days, I had them much more strongly throughout the day, and I was getting excited thinking it might be that night. I had some signs that I was starting to dilate a little bit. I made it through the day though, and as the afternoon and evening went on I started to contract less and be more energetic and social. By the time The Man came home that night he could tell it wasn’t going to be the night, and I knew it too. I was thankful for a night of having the energy to hang out with my kids and read bedtime stories and just have a somewhat normal evening, though. I got super hungry and ate a LOT - fueling up for the marathon, I think. I slept well and didn’t wake up with any contractions during the night.

As soon as I stood up the next morning, on the day I was 40 weeks 5 days, I was hit with an intense and fairly long one. I had a couple more before I stood in the kitchen making breakfast and sobbing to The Man while he got ready for the day. I was a disaster, and for the rest of the day I had contractions and sobbing episodes pretty regularly. I tried my best to keep BooBoo entertained with busy work like drawing or play-doh, and he thankfully got busy with his toy kitchen and other toys in his room. He watched a couple of movies. I did what had to be done to get through the day. ;-) I did a bunch of chores around the house, washed all the sheets and blankets, swept all the floors, caught up on dishes. The contractions got more intense all day but it helped so much to walk around, so I kept busy. I can’t remember what made my husband decide to come home but he called to check on me a couple of times and I burst into tears each time, so I guess finally he decided it was time to head over. He got home and immediately took the kids out and I laid down and rested the best I was able to.

I wasn’t hungry for dinner that night, I ate lightly and was really starting to become irritated with things like noise and light. I remember getting annoyed because I kept turning off all the lights and it felt like everyone else was on a mission to walk behind me and turn them back on, every time I got “comfortable” some random light would turn on. Of course our house is very tiny so light would shine into my “space” no matter where in the house it was turned on. He got the kids bathed and put to bed and I kept walking and moving. It hurt to sit down so I stayed upright, and sometimes squatted while holding on to something like the counter or the couch arm. I was listening to music, and since I felt such a powerful need to stay upright and keep moving around, the music helped a lot as I would rock and sway to the tunes.

The contractions were much stronger than they’d been but I still didn’t believe that they were the real thing. My husband was quietly timing them while I did my thing, and he didn’t think I was in active labor either. They were coming irregularly the whole time. Around 11 they slowed down and then stopped. I sobbed for a while thinking of another day of stalled out labor. He made me a bowl of yogurt and strawberries when I realized I felt a little hungry, and I ate the whole bowl. He convinced me to try to sleep. I insisted that it felt better to stay upright, and he pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to use gravity to force labor to start if it wasn’t time. I washed up and laid down for bed, but couldn’t sleep and was moving around like crazy every time I had another contraction. The couch is right at the foot of our bed and I’d get up and lean over the back of it, which helped a lot with the pain.

The Man was lying in bed trying to sleep too, and every time I got up with another contraction I’d see him with the light from his phone. For some reason I thought he was texting with my midwife, but he was just timing them again. When I asked him about it the next day he said they still weren’t coming regularly. They’d be 3 minutes apart and then 8 - 10 minutes apart. I remember checking the clock in the kitchen every hour or so, and I distinctly remember looking at the clock around 1:30 in the morning and having another round of crying because it was so late and I was thinking how exhausted I’d be the next day after a night of laboring and no sleep. When I got back to bed I laid down one last time and tried to sleep.

With the next contraction I was back out of bed and honestly I can’t remember why my husband followed me that time. Until then he’d been trying to sleep in between all of my commotion, thinking that they’d peter out yet again and he’d have another day of work in the morning. Suddenly everything that had been taking days to get started, started happening VERY quickly. It wasn’t too long after that, that I started uncontrollably starting to bear down at the end of the contractions. I was definitely making a different range of sounds than I was earlier, and I was moving like crazy around the living room. I’d find one position for one contraction, but then would be totally uncomfortable and would find a different position for the next one. The Man had my midwife on the phone at this point and he was running around putting chux pads down, and I spread out a towel.  She told him to have me check myself to tell her how far up I could feel the baby’s head. She told me later that she could tell by my sounds over the phone that it was pretty close to baby time. The only thing I could answer was the classic transition in labor phrase, “I don’t know, I don’t know.” I was finally lost in labor-land and was focused only on breathing and moving through each moment of it.

The Man said that he knew things “got real” when I asked him to help me take off my pajama pants. Within a couple of minutes I felt like I had to pee, and I started to head towards the bathroom but didn’t get far before another big contraction, during which my water broke in a big gush. The only reason I know this is because my midwife told my husband to get a strip of the test paper to see what the fluid was, and it turned black which meant it was amniotic fluid. She was already grabbing her stuff to head our way, after we'd woken her in the middle of the night to tell her to COME QUICKLY! I was still on my hands and knees when the next contraction started, and he was in the kitchen washing his hands. I somehow managed to yell to him “Come help me” and he came running in just as I had another huge urge to bear down. He looked behind me and he realized about a second before I did that the baby was about to arrive. I don’t even know whether I actually had breaks between the pushing urges or if I was just making myself slow down every so often. I reached behind me and felt the head starting to crown, and I consciously told myself to slow down and stop pushing for a second because I didn’t want to tear like I did with BooBoo. The head rested there for a moment, I sort of held it in place with my hand and put pressure on myself to relieve the intense pressure from inside, which helped a lot. Very quickly I was ready to push again, the biggest part of the head was out and I felt the rest of the body slide out into my husbands hands.

He wrapped the baby immediately into a receiving blanket and put her on my chest, and helped me take off my shirt so we could have skin to skin contact right away. I piled a couple of other blankets and towels on top of us. I felt under the blanket and was shocked that I didn’t feel “boy parts” on her, which I was fully expecting. Since I couldn’t look at that angle to actually see, because of the umbilical cord and the way the towels and blankets were positioned, I asked him to look. He lifted up the blankets and with tears in his eyes he said to me “A girl. A girl!!” I cried, of course, like I cried about everything else in this labor. I told him I didn’t believe him and told him to look again, and he confirmed it. He called my midwife back and said “It’s a girl!” She gave him some quick tips about what to do with the placenta, not to touch the cord, and so on. She was already on her way to us.

The placenta took longer to deliver than it did after BooBoo’s birth, I’m not sure of the exact time but it was probably about 30 minutes. I remember that with BooBoo it just seemed to slide out, but this time I had a few strong contractions and then had to actually push a couple of times to deliver it. Once I delivered the placenta we put it into a bowl, and The Man laid down some pads on the bed and helped me over to lie down on it, while I held the baby who was attached to the placenta in a mixing bowl. I laid down in bed and drank my Vitalyte and nursed our little girl for the first time, until my midwife and her apprentice arrived.

The only “complication” if you can even call it a complication, was that she basically flew out of the amniotic sac when my water broke, and left the sac behind, and it “suctioned” shut and got wedged up by my cervix. When my midwife examined me she found that the shriveled amniotic sac was stuck up there and needed some help to be delivered. Massage and gentle pushing from my end with gentle tugging from her end wasn’t enough to get it down, so I ended up getting a couple of doses of herbal tinctures to help with expelling any remaining pieces. The placenta itself was very healthy and intact but Heather was afraid of a piece of this sac being left behind and causing infection, so she wanted to be very careful to get all of it. She sat with me for quite a while, massaging my belly and helping me ease it out, and eventually the whole thing came down. I laid back fairly comfortably on the bed and snuggled the baby while she took care of me, and it didn’t feel like a scary complication at all.

Our baby, our beautiful daughter, was 8 pounds 4 ounces, and 21 inches long. Her head circumference was 13 inches. When I was pregnant with her, her hands were ALWAYS up by her face, and one concern we had was that she’d be born with her hand up there, with more of a risk of tearing me on her way out. Sure enough, she had a pretty good scratch under her chin and distinct red markings on her face, which line up perfectly with her little hand when it’s positioned there. I didn’t have any tears (yay!) but there was some bruising up by my cervix that my midwife said she’s seen when baby is coming out with a hand by the face, so she was definitely trying to get through my pelvis with the hand there. Fortunately she wasn’t actually born in that position but the positioning of the hand was enough to make labor pretty drawn out and painful, and I’m sure that’s why I needed to do so much moving around to help with positioning her and opening up my pelvis. My midwife’s theory was that as I started to push her out she pulled the hand down at kind of the last minute.

The whole experience was absolutely wild and primal and beautiful. When I look back at the pictures from her first few minutes of life, I’m almost overcome with emotion from it! This time around I had very strong and classic feelings during the transition stage. “I’m never doing this again” and “I don’t think I can do this” and all kinds of other doubting kinds of statements, all in the 15 minutes or so before she arrived. It was a very painful labor and I had to work hard with my breathing and positioning to get through the contractions, but it was incredible the way I really felt like she and I were working together through it. In between contractions and even in between pushing I’d feel her moving and I’d rub her through my belly and talk to her as we got ready for the next one. We worked very hard and then it all happened so fast in the end. I felt so in tune with her and with my body. It was just the most incredible experience and I’m still so in awe of this little girl every time I look at her.