Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thoughts on Ultrasounds

These are some pictures of our baby who is due in May. We did not do an ultrasound with our daughter. I know many of you are thinking we are crazy. But we did not feel there was any reason to have an ultrasound done, there were no signs of stress, or potential problems with my pregnancy or the baby, and we didn't want to know what the gender was, so we waited to meet our baby.

Because we did not see the pictures of our daughter we had a deep understanding that she may not have been OK. Meaning she may not have formed "normally", and we believed that whatever baby was inside of me growing was meant for our family and that we loved this child just as it was. Many people think this is totally wrong, and that we have the technology to see babies and make sure they are OK so we just do that. However on the other side of things, many people are told that an abnormality has been found and they also love and accept their baby, so its not like we are heroic for not seeing our baby.

Because we did not see that our baby was OK, each time the midwifes would tell me, "Oh there's a knee" "There's an elbow" I would get so excited, "My baby has a KNEE! An Elbow!!!" I remember the last appointment I had before I gave birth, the midwife telling me that my baby would be a thumb sucker because she could feel its hand by its face. "My baby has a hand, probably with fingers!!!" I loved these updates with body parts because I had never seen them and had to just guess they were there, but we did not KNOW they were there. When my daughter was born I remember, after discovering that she had red hair, being so surprised that she did indeed have all her limbs, digits, a face intact with eyes, lips, ears, they were all there, she was just fine. And that was a surprise to us. We got a healthy baby girl, and we were surprised.

With this baby we did have an ultrasound, two in fact because we were using the midwifes at the hospital (we have since switched to home birth midwifes) and hospital protocol is to have one at 11-13 weeks for viability (or earlier if you have any problems, or just want to see the heart beat). I wanted an ultrasound because our last pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and this time I really wanted to see the heartbeat before we told Marin. Anyways we also had the 20 week ultrasound where they measure all the body parts, count each of them, make sure your baby has no "abnormalities". Ours checked out fine. And we are grateful for this, but both my husband and I left with a feeling of disappointment. Why, well for me I had this realization that I was just told my baby was perfect (everyone reading this is thinking what the hell is wrong with you lady, that's wonderful news) and I was totally excited about that. However, I now am in love with a perfect baby, not whatever comes out. I expect a baby with no problems, a healthy baby, why should I expect anything else. However, ultrasounds do not tell you your baby has colic, asthma, allergies, autism, dyslexia, could develop cancer, I could go on and get more morbid but that is unnecessary, you get the point. The point is, I have been given hope, some "solid evidence" that my baby is OK, this was not given to me with my first birth. If something had happened to my first child or she had been born with some "abnormality" we would have dealt with it like most all parents, but at the same time I feel we would have also been more prepared for it, because we did not expect to have perfection, we expected to love and welcome into our lives whatever little baby came out of me. However I have given over that feeling of "acceptance" because I have been told my baby is perfect. I have seen that my baby has all of its body parts, it does not have a cleft lip, it has every bone and so why should I expect my baby to be anything by perfect.

My thoughts on this experience have led me to think that I believe for the most part modern technology is a wonderful tool. It saves many lives, all the time. But how often does it give us false hope that everything is going to be OK. Or on the other side of things, that something is wrong, and it turns out to be OK. I wonder how often our expectations are based on a machine, how much of our shock at "abnormalities" comes from being told our babies have all their necessary bones, when in fact something that cannot show up on a machine fails to tell us something else is wrong. Several decades ago women were not told their babies were going to be just fine, they had to wait just like we did the first time to find out. Were those families more prepared for children who were not "normal" because they were not told "your baby is perfect". How much of modern medicine lead us to expect perfect children because we see perfect babies? I don't know. But I know that this time around, after seeing my "healthy" baby through ultrasound, I have not put much thought into "I wonder if my baby is OK?", my thoughts have been more focused on petty things, like stains in my newborn clothing, how to arrange the kid's room, and what kind of stroller I want. Many people are happy to not wonder if their child is going to be fine, once they are told the baby is fine they go on with their life and figure out all the other details. But looking back, the joy of hearing the midwifes tell us about the different body parts they could feel through my growing belly was wonderful. I loved the expectation of waiting for that little child we had never met before. I am of course looking forward to our second baby, its really fun to go through this with my daughter who cannot wait until she gets her hands on this little baby. But I have, in all honestly, lost some of the excitement of hearing about each body part my midwife discovers as the baby grows, because I know its there.

I hope you all don't think I am a crazy lady, or that I look down on people who get ultrasounds. I am just reflecting on something that my husband and I have experienced. Not having an ultrasound is not for everyone, the stress and worry some people would have over 9 months would probably cause more harm to the baby and mother (and father if the mother is really going nuts) than necessary. But its what we did. And I will admit I do enjoy looking at that little foot over and over, and knowing that in a few months we are going to meet that little baby.
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Baby Nurse VS Post-Birth Doula

This is my newborn baby the day after she was born. I remember driving home from the birth center where she had been born just a few hours earlier, she was in her car seat that the midwife had installed for us because we had not yet done that yet. Four hours after our little girl arrived into this world with a room full of women there to support my husband and I we were home tucked into bed alone with our new child. There was no sleep that night. I sat and watched her breath, tried to nurse when she let out any sort of a noise, and cried when she did. Both my husband and I were terrified, joyful that things were OK, that we had a healthy baby girl, but we were scared. What now? How does she know how to breath? How does she know how to nurse? I don't know how to nurse. What is the red spot on her face? Does she have a fever? She feels warm. Do all babies make that noise and what do I do with that sump on her belly left over from where she was once connected to me?

These are all normal feelings for new parents. Our child made it through the night and so did we, and so do many other parents. I wish we had not been alone, I wish I had a post-birth doula go home with me after my birth and get us through that first night. Letting us know that our child was fine, walking along-side me as I nursed my newborn, and allowing us to be calm and restful.

This is the job of a post-birth doula. This is my job. I have been a birth and post-birth doula for about five years now. My practice has had one major change, and it was after experiencing the birth of my daughter. I now put a lot more focus on post-birth care. So what does a postpartum doula do for a new family?
A postpartum doula is a woman who walks along side the family as they welcome in their newborn child, and adjust to this new human, meet its needs and figure out how to care for this tiny new creature. Post-birth doulas prioritize caring for the needs of the mother so that she can care for her new baby. The doula helps the mother recover from birth (this is a particularly helpful service to mothers who had traumatic births such as cesarean sections) by providing a restful atmosphere, making teas, and drawing baths. I do what ever the mother needs done, many times this looks different for each mother. I change bed sheets, wash dishes, soothe crying toddlers who are adjusting, rock newborns so that mommy can take a long hot bath, cook meals, arrange food trees. I assist with breastfeeding, encourage new techniques, help mom learn how to use a breast pump. I have spent the night with mothers so that she can get rest in between feedings and know that if her baby wakes its being soothed, rocked, and cared for and she can rest until she is needed again. I recently attended a Jewish Bris and according to the mother, brought calm to her during the ceremony. I helped settle the baby, the mother and helped the grandmothers put the house back together after the event. I help mothers learn to swaddle, and use baby slings. I also find resources for the mother if she or her baby have a specific need. Post-birth doulas tailor each job to the individual needs of the mother. This is not a job that has a specific job title, I change it each time a mother hires me, because her needs are not the same as the other mothers' I have cared for. Each woman deserves to be cared for after giving birth in her own home, in a way that makes her feel safe, respected and encouraged. I do not train the mother for specific parenting philosophies, I help her learn to listen to her own instincts and do what is best for her baby, her body and her family. 

A baby nurse focuses solely on the baby. They do not care for the mother's needs, they do not have education on breastfeeding support. They are trained in baby care only, and while they are wonderful people who love babies, they are not trained in looking at the family as a whole, and meeting the needs of the family as a whole. I recently cared for a mother who was originally looking for a baby nurse, after being in her home caring for her and her child for 3 nights, she said to me, " Now I know why you prioritize caring for me. I feel so good having you here to care for me, the teas you bring and the baths you prepare for me make me feel so much better. I feel better caring for by baby because you encourage me and that gives me confidence."     

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bath Toys

I bought this little red kitchen collander about 2 years ago to put in our bath tub as a toy strainer. I wanted to share this fun little idea with you all because it cuter than those mesh bags that hang in the shower, and it collects a lot less mold. The fabric toy tub bags take a long time to dry because they are, well fabric. And if you have tile as the fabric and toys dry and build up mold so will your tile grout. Now my version is not mold free, but I have not washed mine in about 2 years and just noticed a little mold on the bottom (the dark spots you see on the rim is the beginning of rust, so that might be another issue to deal with, but had I chosed a stainless steel it would not be a problem at all).

To add one more comment we do not have a kids bathroom, we all share the bathroom, so its nice to have my little red collander in the corner of the bathroom or tub and see it more as a decoration rather then having our bathroom taken over by kid stuff. I mean having her steal my lip gloss, take all the hair ties, and always join me when I shower is enough kid over-crowding my bathroom time.
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Monday, February 1, 2010

Small Reward

Todd sent me a link to Katy Bowser's blog. Its a fun read, she has a post on making pretzels, that is really interesting. Basically she writes that the Latin word for pretzel means "a small reward" they were made by monks as a small reward for children who learned their prayers. They represent a child praying, with arms crossed and palms on shoulders.
Pretzels can be eaten during lent because they do not have fats and eggs in them (Katy has the recipe on her site). I tried to explain all of this to Marin. Mainly the part about kids memorizing prayers.

She calls them prayer pretzels. After making a few she said, "These prayer pretzels can be for the little kids in Haiti." Some days she just breaks my heart.
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