Monday, May 24, 2010

Trying to Put My Feet UP!

I have in my possession a really wonderful book called, Natural Health after Birth, the complete guide to postpartum wellness by Aviva Jill Romm. My friend Sabrina dropped it off with a bunch of teas and pork chops last week. I have actually never read this book and have not finished it, but I picked it up and realized that it is a wonderful little book of motherly wisdom. I have always told my clients, half joking, that while birth is important to learn about and take seriously, postpartum is what you should spend your time actually preparing for. If there is any fear involved in the process of having a baby, don't waste it on labor pains, invest it in the post-birth time. I'm not trying to be cynical but for most women (and men) the period after the baby is born lasts a lot longer than the birth actually did. But people don't often talk about the longevity of the postpartum time. According the most obstetric definitions, its the six week period after the birth and involves your reproductive organs getting back to their non-pregnant state. However Romm quotes Midwife Raven Lang as saying "As long as the baby is still in diapers and you are up in the night, you are postpartum." Our medical culture does not allow for the holistic view of this precious time. Its does not take into account the psychological, social, emotional and spiritual experience women go through after the baby comes out. Especially for first time mothers. And maybe this is not the job of the medical world, maybe its the job of the postpartum mother's community, her postpartum doula, her family and religious community to take seriously this time in a family's life, to take seriously the post-birth mother, to nurture her, support her and love her.

First time mothers, have a lot to figure out, mainly what does my new roll as a mother look like? What does my career look like with a baby in the middle? Am I still going to have a career, or be a career mom? How does having a baby change the relationship I have with my spouse or partner? Romm writes about the relationship the new mom has with her own mother. This can become complicated if new mom makes different choices or parents differently than her own mother. For example if the new mom's mother was a "stay-at-home-mom" and the new mom decides to continue pursuing her career, or the other way around. I personally have decided that spanking is not for us, we are followers of the gentle discipline philosophy and when my mother found out she was somewhat defensive about spanking. Either way a lot of things change with the first child and all of this gets sorted out in a sleep deprived, raging hormone, muddled brain. Somehow on top of figuring out our new roll as a mother, and what that looks like in our world, we are learning how to nurse, recovering from birth, producing milk (my current super power), trying to figure out what is making the baby cry, why the umbilical stub is bleeding, and is this color of poo normal? All this while being in complete awe if this beautiful baby who is so amazing it makes you cry every time you look at its pink little face.

I just had my second baby last week. In some ways this postpartum is much easier than the first. For starters I'm not so anxious about everything. I'm not loosing sleep to watch the baby sleep (yes I did this with my first, I would just lay awake watching her breath... and I wonder why I had so much anxiety!), my hormones are much less dramatic this time (probably because I am sleeping a bit more), nursing is a bit easier this time around (and this kid was not born with teeth so that's already an improvement from the first) and because of all the above I'm having a lot more fun with the baby. On the other hand its got its difficulties too. I have a three (and a half if you ask her) year old who still needs me to be her mother, I can't just say "I'm on bed rest fix your own lunch" or just hold off our bedtime routine and skip snuggling and prayers while I heal. I'm not spending time in bed healing like I did the first time, and I'm paying for it. My firstborn and I have a relationship that still needs tending to, it cannot be set aside until the baby is a month old. For her I set everything aside for the first month, maybe longer time had no meaning after she was born. I deal with a little guilt for being frustrated with her when she gets bored and does something naughty to get my attention. I feel like I need to do something to entertain her, keep her busy. But then I'm not resting or really doing anything to make progress healing. I also have a little guilt that I cannot be everything I was for her less than two weeks ago, that there is this new little person in the middle that gets in the way of her needs or wants sometimes. And while I know she loves her new baby brother and I want to nurture that relationship between them, she is not old enough to carry him around like she wants to and thus hears "no he's too little" or "please be gentle with the baby" about half the day.

One of the things I really appreciate about the book is that Romm gives us mothers the permission to not have our act together. There is no way to predict which mothers will "have it together" fairly quickly and which ones need more time to sort out the details of mothering... hey if we had to have the details sorted out ever, then most mother's I know would say they never have it all together. Either way I think the point of the book is to let women know that the postpartum period is not easy, its got its bumps and pot-holes, and without a good nights rest you cannot expect yourself to have "your act together". Give yourself time to stumble down your new road and give yourself grace. Don't get upset if you didn't get the laundry done because the baby was up half the night and you chose to nap with the baby instead of having clean underwear and socks. My house has piles of cloths in just about every room, baby stuff that is getting sorted through, clean piles that need to be put away, dirty piles that need washed, and then there's the cloth diapers and borrowed maternity cloths. This morning I woke up and felt like the piles were caving in on me. Tonight they are still lurking around. Spouses don't act shocked if you leave the house and return and the postpartum mama is still in the same spot doing the same thing, even if its been 8 hours. The past few several days my husband has left for work and kissed me good bye at the couch nursing our newborn only to come home 8 hours later and find me in the same spot nursing again! Its kind of comical when he says, "So what did you do today?" to which I say, "Nursed."

Postpartum while it does have its downs can have some really great ups too. I have enjoyed getting to lay on the couch with both of my babies reading good stories and laughing at my firstborns silly stories and songs. I have enjoyed watching Curious George at 4:30 every afternoon, and eating snacks together on the front porch. I have gotten to watch the foot and bike traffic leaving for work or school at the university and then watching those same people walk or ride home at the end of the day. Marin and I have enjoyed watching the cardinals in our back yard during breakfast, and the crazy squirrels digging up who knows what. I have really enjoyed watching my husband take seriously each of the children and making a point to have one-on-one time each day. Now after reading through most of Romm's book while I am still going to try and get rid of some of those pesky piles, at the end of the day if I was needed more on the couch reading or nursing I'm going to let myself off the hook and not be so harsh with myself. I'm trying to take seriously the relationship I have with Marin and the new relationship with Owen, and save some energy for night time conversations with my husband too, if I can find him among the piles.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Little Owen's Birth Story

I wrote the post below a week ago when my labor had indeed started. However at the time I was in denial because of one major factor, my client who's birth I was attending still had not had her baby. She was supposed to go first, give me at least two weeks to really concentrate on my labor, birth and preparing for postpartum and then all would be well. But that is not the way this story would go.

I'm going to start this birth story on a Thursday, the Thursday before our baby would arrive. Thursday was a crazy day, my midwives had an appointment planned, a friend would be joining me, and another friend needed me to watch her daughter. At the end of this Thursday I was teaching a birth education class to some friends from our church. I had been preparing for their class for a few days, reading up on birth stuff, and watching Lamaze birth prep videos. The class was fun and I think we all enjoyed the content and discussions. I'm including this in my story because it will be part of the actual labor story.

The following day we were headed to the beach for two nights! Yeah! While I was still waiting on my client to have her baby it was only an hour and a half away and so the plan was that if she went into labor we would just come back. As soon as Todd got home from work we headed to the beach. Everything went well, but at some point in the early morning, I think around 3am. I started having contractions, only I thought it was the baby moving a lot, but it woke me up and I lay awake for about two hours worrying about different things, and fighting the voice in me saying this might be early labor. The next morning I told Todd I didn't want to stay through the next night, that we should spend the day doing what we had planned but I wanted to be in my own bed that night. I just wanted to be in my own house. We had a wonderful day! I felt really emotional watching Marin and Todd play in the waves, and hearing her laugh, and thinking about how much I loved them... this should have been my first sign that something was about to happen. I mean I really to love them, but hearing them laugh was bringing tears to my eyes (good sign your hormones have really kicked in!)

We headed home and spent the evening at home, and got to go to our church on Sunday, which happened to be our first Sunday in our new building.

Monday we had preschool, and while Marin was at school I picked up some needed things for our home birth and her teacher appreciation gifts (I guess this is teacher appreciation month, its our first year at this school thing so I really have no idea what is going on). I picked Marin up at school and she and I went to the library and got her some books and she chose several ballet DVD's that I could not talk her out of. While we were at the library my friend Megan called and said she had some baby things for us, did we want to pick them up while we were near her house? I agreed and so by 3pm we were loading the car with some baby things. While I was there she said, "its a good thing you got this stuff now, you might have this baby soon." I informed her I still had almost two weeks before my actual due date. Marin and I got home, unloaded the car, did a quick house pick up, and the started dinner. During this time I had a few contractions but thought it was once again the baby moving and crowding me out. I kept saying, "baby give me room!" and Marin would say "yeah baby" or "mommy the baby in my tummy is moving a lot today".

By the time Todd got home around 5:30pm I was feeling crunchy. Not in labor, but hungry, and a little on edge. I was sure that my client was still going to have her baby first so there was no way I was in labor. However at dinner I told Todd he needed to take Marin to get some groceries after dinner. Whatever our dinner conversation was it led Todd to ask me is something felt different. I told him, no I was just feeling really tight today. As soon as they left I got in the bath and laid there watching my belly have contractions every ten minutes or so. Hmmm this might actually be labor. Around 7:30 I called my midwives to let them know I "MIGHT" be in labor but probably wasn't but just in case I wanted to give them a heads up. At 9pm I called my two girlfriends who were coming to the birth to help out, just to let them know something might be going on. I then laid down on the couch asked for my phone so I could time the contractions and fell asleep waking every 10 minutes. I saw the 12, 22, 32... and still didn't want to admit I was in actual labor, mainly because I can't go first. At midnight I decided to go to my bed and before I got in bed I had to go to the bathroom, ohhhhh big mistake, this really kicked labor in, those contractions started coming right on top of each other. They were still really short, but that's the way they were with Marin, strong and short. I never had a contraction over 35 seconds with Marin's birth, and so I never really thought I was very far along, only to arrive at the birth center to find out I was ready to push. I called back my midwife and asked if one of them come over and check me, tell me I was in labor or not and if so set up camp. When I got checked I was at at 5, I think it was then that I admitted I was going to have this baby tonight, but I probably knew all along.

As soon as my friend arrived at 1:20am I started shaking and said "Oh great this is the beginning of transition!" (I had just taught this on Thursday!) I got in the birth tub and labor really kicked in. If I stayed forward through each contraction the pressure on my lower back shifted to my belly and somehow that was better. Several times someone in the room would ask me if I wanted to stay in that position or move around and I said, it just seems to be working this way. I did try a few other positions hoping to decrease the pressure on my lower belly, but nothing felt right, just being upright.
I remember everyone saying I was so calm, and all I could think about was what was happening next, like I was teaching a class as I was going through each "stage" of labor.
*Chills--check, done *Shakes--check, done *Nauseous--check, but not done *Baby really low--check!
As soon as I threw up I informed everyone I was going to get a long break and then start pushing. I hung there on the side of the pool enjoying my "long break" thinking, "I'm not really ready to push"

When I had Marin I wanted nothing to do with feeling my progress, my midwife tried to talk me into feeling her head after each series of pushing so that it would encourage me. But at the time that did not seem encouraging, I informed her "when that head is out of me then I'll touch it." This time was different, all I could think about was holding myself as I pushed the head out. My pushing contractions were coming in series of threes, push, push, push rest... The breaks were very strange in my memory, there was nothing happening, just waiting. This is the wonderful part about labor, while it is intense, the breaks can be really calm and painless if you really take advantage of your rests. I wasn't scared this time so my breaks were so peaceful. Every now and then Todd would ask me if I was OK, I don't think I had an answer. And Meredith kept laughing about how calm I was. And I asked the midwives if I need to be checked or not, they said that they would wait for me to tell them if I was needing something like that.

Each time I pushed I tried to focus on pushing down towards the bottom of the pool. I was also the only one guiding my pushing, no one was telling me how to push or how long to push I was guiding myself through it. In one series of pushes my water broke and burst through my fingers, and the whole contraction completely stopped and all the pressure immediately let up. I said something like, "Oh wow! My water just broke, that was so cool!"  I don't know the time between my water breaking and the baby actually being born, but I did have my hand on his little head as it came out. My contractions were still coming in series of three and his head came out on number three, which meant that I had to wait through the rest period to finish pushing him out. This sort of freaked me out because I could feel his shoulders just there inside of me waiting and I said something to my midwife like "You need to get this baby out, I don't have any more pushes" she said to just wait. But I was sure that labor was over and the baby would just be stuck in me forever. But she was right and with the next series he came right out.
And there he was, in my arms at 3:12am. I asked Meredith to run and get Marin. Marin was already awake and waiting at the door, like she already knew he was here.
Marin and Todd took care of little Owen while I got out and cleaned up and dried. And that's the end! The little family was tucked in bed and put to sleep and we all got a little rest. Owen is really wonderful, he's just so tiny and cute (he was 6 pounds 11 ounces). Todd was a wonderful birth partner again. And Marin is learning to be a really great big sister. I'm sure once I'm not so paranoid about Owen getting kissed to death she will be an even better sister.
OK I'll write more about home birth and new babies and postpartum and all of those things as they pop into my blurry head. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and thoughts, thanks for the meals that have come or have been offered and will come.

What is Labor Like?

I've only been through labor one time. I might be in labor right now for my second time. But who knows, in a hour I could lay down, go to bed and wake up in the morning and still be prego. Or in an hour I could be calling my midwives, birth team women, and hoping Marin is asleep enough to not hear the action for a while.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Happy mom's day. I wish I was one of those cool blog sites that had giveaways for things like Mother's Day. But I don't have my act together to do things like that yet. Someday...  yeah right I'm not one of those kinds of have it together people that could ever organize something like that. Either way Here is my firstborn, who made me a mom, in all her glory and weirdness. We took her to the beach yesterday to spend sometime together as the three of us before our new baby arrives. Its weird to look at your oldest who still seems so small, and who you still call "baby" (who reminds us she is not a baby) and realize she will no longer be the smallest person in our family anymore. I just love this kid.

I did want to put a link on to a few other wonderful mother's blogs or writings out there that you all might just enjoy.

I love this essay by Jessica Melissa Griffin over at Image Journals webiste. She writes about her pregnancy and journey of motherhood using one of Margaret Wise Brown's books, The Little Island.

And I am making a link to a new blog I just came across that has one of the most lovely birth stories I have ever read. Kelly Hampton's story of her birth is just so beautiful and wonderful. I think we can all take some tips from the way she prepared to celebrate the birth of her baby too! Speaking of we need to get our birthday cake made for this new baby. There is some debate about the actual kind of cake. Marin wants this Strawberry Shortcake Cake and Todd wants me to make the same cake I made for Marin's birth, Brownie Ice Cream cake. It was a good cake, maybe I'll just make both, I'll be a nursing mom by the time we get around to eating them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


For starters I just want to say, sorry I have not been keeping up with my blog these days. I have been really busy with my postpartum family, helping out a friend who just adopted a little guy, and I just took on a birth!!! Its kind of funny actually, back in January I starting praying that I would get to have one more birth before our baby is born in May. Thinking that good timing would be sometime in March. Well March came and went and nothing came up, which is fine I figured that was the way it was supposed to be. But then mid-April I got a call from a woman who came across my card in a maternity store. She was interested in a doula attending her birth, was I taking any clients? Um, well I guess this is what I asked for. We met and I really like her and her partner, and I guess they liked me enough so we are ON! Yeah...

Her due date was yesterday, mine is in 3.5 weeks... You can see what is going on here.

Last night our family had dinner with another family and my friend S started asking when I was going to really start focusing on my birth. And I said, when my client has her baby, I don't want to induce myself! This conversation has made me nervous. I want to attend this birth, it will probably be my last in a while, and I really want to be present for this soon to be new mama and daddy. I really enjoy my work as a birth doula. Seeing babies arrive into the world is one of the most sacred human events and its such an honor to be a part of each one. I know once I have a newborn, and TWO children, arranging on-call childcare or being away from a nursing newborn will be difficult, or impossible. (I will keep up postpartum care to some extent).

So last night as Marin had a difficult time getting into a good sleep, maybe she was having bad dreams, she kept calling out to me. And as I was making the short walk from my bed to hers throughout the night. I found myself feeling really uneasy about the wait for both babies to be born. I know what it is like to be in my clients shoes, waiting for your baby to arrive, both she and I are carrying full little humans, ready to meet this world, hers before me, we hope, but still we are just right there, waiting. I always get a little anxious for my clients as they wait to go into labor. But this time, because I am close to her due date I seem to be more understanding of her waiting, because I'm doing my own I guess.

Henri Nouwen has an essay titled Waiting on God. In it he says,

"Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Maybe this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, "Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don't just sit there and wait!" For many people waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something."

This essay is from a book our family reads every Advent, Nouwen is writing about waiting on a specific child to be born, the Christ child. He continues,

"Waiting, as we see it in the people on the first pages of the Gospel, is waiting with a sense of promise. "Zachariah,... your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son." "Mary,...listen! You are to conceive and bear a son." People who wait have received a  promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow. This is very important. We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more." Mary and Elizabeth were waiting on the promise of the children that are in them, and this made them able to wait. They were waiting on the promise in them to grow and be delivered. He continues to explain that waiting is not passive, but active. We see waiting as a frustration that we can do nothing about. However these mothers we see in the Gospel pages are not passively waiting, there is action in their wait. "The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Actively waiting means being fully present to the moment, to the convection that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment. A waiting person is a patient person."

He continues to compare the action of waiting to the waiting of a mother who is nurturing a child as she waits for birth. She knows her waiting is open-ended and there is hope in the promise of a child.

I like this essay because while the overall theme is learning to be present in our spiritual lives, being able to develop and nurture the ability to wait on the promise of the return of Christ, or in the terms of Advent, the birth of Christ. Nouwen's words are encouraging for anyone waiting for anything, and very applicable for those of us waiting on our babies to be born. Especially sense he uses the example of two pregnant women!

Mary was able to wait because she trusted that something good was about to happen. After a night like last night, where I spent a lot of time putting worry into waiting, Nouwen's use of these Gospel stories is such a comfort. I can wait, my client can wait without anxiety because, we know something good is about to happen, however that looks, whenever these babies arrive, something good will happen, babies will be born.