Monday, July 30, 2012

7 Things That Surprised Me About Natural Childbirth

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1. I did it. I'll be honest. I had my doubts. I didn't think I would do it. I think everyone that knew me, mainly my friends and family, didn't think I would do it either. I don't recall getting a single bit of encouragement from anyone other than my husband. Most of the time I got responses such as, "Just wait until you feel that first contraction. You'll be begging for the epidural."

I never asked for the epidural, but at the very end, not knowing it was the very end, I started to think about asking for the epidural. I thought, "I can see why women want relief." Luckily, once that thought crossed my mind, I was being pulled out of the birth tub, feeling that need to poop that you hear about, and got my first cervical check by my midwife. I was completely dilated. 30 minutes later I was holding my baby.

2. The pain really does go away immediately. Once I had Lily in my arms, that tempest I has just been experiencing seconds before immediately stopped. I no longer felt any contractions. I'm sure my body was doing the necessary work to help birth the placenta, but I didn't notice it. There were a few things that happened that I did notice, such as the first poke of local anesthetic for a few minor repairs and the vigorous massage of my uterus after the birth. Other than that, I just noticed my sweet little baby and was basking in her entrance into the world.

3. It hurt, but it was not the worst pain imaginable. At least it wasn't for me, thank goodness. And I have a pretty low tolerance of pain.

I grew up hearing childbirth described as the worst pain imaginable, so I had an expectation that labor was going to be pretty miserable. It really got intense for awhile. I had a fairly quick labor for a first time mom. The entire process lasted about 4.5 hours, from the start of the first contraction that I felt, to Lily being in my arms. Once I started feeling contractions, I didn't get that break in between that I heard about. It was fast and furious, one on top of the other. They never completely went away. It wasn't a walk in the park by any means, but it's hard thinking back on the process and describe it as painful. But it didn't really feel good or anything. There was something about that pain that made it bearable. I knew it served a purpose. I knew that my body was supposed to feel like that and that what I was feeling was normal. That it was part of the process. It wasn't pointless pain-in-the-butt pain like a headache or toothache or a migraine. Now what is the point of that pain? Honestly, I can think of things that would hurt worse than childbirth. Like...getting a limb chopped off in an accident or being burned alive. I've never broken a limb, but that seems like it would hurt really bad too. Childbirth is not the worst pain that I can imagine, but I really hope that it is the worst pain I ever experience. I don't want to go through the things that I can think of that are worse than that. Like, ya know, a kidney stone. That is definitely pointless pain-in-the-butt kind of pain.

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4. I am stronger than I realized. There was a place I had to reach inside of myself in order to go through labor. It's hard to describe this place, so I call it "the labor place." I never reached this place before labor, no matter what challenges I needed to overcome, and I haven't been back since. It's an instinctual place, a primitive place. A place full of power that I didn't know I had and that I could never recreate without being in labor. Being able to reach that place is what helped me get through and helped me to discover what I am really made of.

5. The birth high. I honestly did not expect to feel the way I felt after having a baby. I felt so energized, excited and empowered. You see that word everywhere on natural childbirth websites. I see it on just about every doula's website. It makes me chuckle every time I see it because I will never look at the word empower the same way after reading this post.

I felt beautiful. Even with my stretched out skin, jiggly belly, stretch marks, leaky boobs, sweaty skin and all, I still felt beautiful. I had a sincere and deep appreciation for what my body could do. I was in awe, and I respected my body. I wanted to treat it better for what it was able to do for me and my little baby.

I wanted every woman to feel like I did after giving birth, so eventually it led me to want to be a doula. Here I am!

Any time I feel discouraged about motherhood, which I honestly think is harder than giving birth at this point, I think, "I did that? I can do anything!" I will draw on that experience for the rest of my life when I need a boost of strength.

6. The animosity. I think this was the biggest thing I didn't expect. I can't really describe the feeling I got when people found out I gave birth without pain medications, but it wasn't what I expected. It seems like some people who liked me before no longer did. It seems like there were some people who tried to belittle the experience. Yes, I felt proud of myself for giving birth, but I didn't go around bragging about myself. That's not my style! It seems like the mere mention of, "I had a natural childbirth," elicits responses along the lines of, "That doesn't make you better than me." No. I never said I was better than anyone. Really, the only ones I told that I had a natural childbirth were the ones who knew I was trying and asked, "So, did you do it?" Other people were told by my totally-proud-of-me husband. He would volunteer that information, and I could tell he was proud of me. I won't lie. I liked it. It felt good. Who wouldn't like hearing their husband speak of them with pride?

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7. I'm scared to do it again. I did it once. Can I do it again? I won't lie, I feel like I am going to have to start all over again with my childbirth preparations. I will still have to process fears. I have new ones this time, now that I have a better idea of what to expect. I still don't know how I will react to being in labor. How long will my labor last this time? I think my biggest fear this time is that labor will last for 24 hours or more. That really scares me because my first one was so fast and I was thisclose to asking for the epidural. I'm also scared of having a posterior baby and experiencing back labor. I have other fears that I'll share with my husband, midwife and doula as I continue to discover exactly how I am feeling about this pregnancy and upcoming birth. Any time I mention to my husband that I am scared to give birth again, he says, "You'll be fine." I hope he's right!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I am training for a marathon

Nope. Not this kind....


This kind....


It was not the first time that I had heard this, but at my visit with my midwife on Monday, she reminded me that preparing to give birth is like training for a marathon. I started to ease back into exercising last week after a long nine weeks of morning all-day sickness. Towards the end of my first trimester, I was chomping at the bit to get back in the gym. I knew I had work to do!

The end of the first trimester came and went, and the morning sickness remained. Wait? Huh? I am supposed to feel better now! Thankfully, last week at nearly 15 weeks I started feeling good enough. Now at nearly 16 weeks, I feel pretty good. I am thankful that the nausea and vomiting are taking their leave. Hopefully. Fingers crossed. Not getting my hopes up yet.

With my first pregnancy, I walked 30 minutes every day on the treadmill. I walked until the very end. I also did squats, but not all the time. Toward the end of my pregnancy, I mean the last few days, it just felt really good to be in a squatting position, so I would just sit there like that. Squatting. Must have looked really silly. I think my husband asked me once, "What are you doing over there? You're not trying to have a baby are you? Is there something you need to tell me?" Ha ha!

After I felt recovered enough to start exercising again after birth, I started trying to "become a runner." I don't know why, but I admire runners and I'd really like to become one. But running is hard! I hate that feeling of being out of breath. I've spent 19 years learning how to NOT run out of breath and to control my breathing (I'm a flutist), so huffing and puffing and being winded is very uncomfortable.

So anyway, a year ago I was training to run my first 5K. This year I am training to give birth. I think I am in better shape going into this pregnancy than I was last pregnancy. I'm still not some super athlete, but I've decided I want to give the elliptical a try during this pregnancy. Last week I went to the gym and eased into doing the elliptical. Yesterday I went swimming, and today, while using the elliptical, I thought, "I wonder what it would feel like to run again." So after I was done, I hopped on the treadmill and just did a teeny tiny one minute jog. It felt pretty good, so I quit while I was still thinking happy thoughts. Probably another two or three seconds and I would have hated it.

I know for sure that I want to use the elliptical throughout the pregnancy, but I think I would like to incorporate a little bit of running again until I can't do it anymore. It's not as if it's new to my body. I have just been out of commission for nine weeks. Which to my mind felt like an eternity, but to my body, it was like, "Oh yeah. I remember this! Let's do it! Weeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!"

Because I live in a second story apartment, my midwife encouraged me to climb the stairs. A lot. 50 times a day wouldn't be too much, she said.

And to those who have run actual honest to goodness marathons? You rock! I admire you! Way to go! Maybe one day, but for now, I'll focus on training for my marathon. My giving birth marathon.

What exercises are you doing/did you do to train for your birth marathon? Do you feel it helped?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Does the birth experience matter?

It's no secret that I spend some time on a few birth related facebook pages each day. One of my favorite birth bloggers asked the question, "What is the point of a "good" birth experience? Is there one?"

Still enjoying my birth high: Lily is two days old
As can happen sometimes, this question got me to thinking. What is the point of a good birth experience? Why do so many women seek to enjoy their birth experiences? Does it really matter? I mean, really really

A common criticism of natural and/or out-of-hospital births is that women who choose to birth this way are putting their babies' lives at risk just so they can "enjoy the experience." You can just feel the disdain oozing out of the computer screen when reading those words. Most of the time the spiel ends with, "All that matters is a healthy baby." 

I don't disagree with that. I don't entirely agree with it either. I do believe that the ultimate goal is to have both mom and baby come out at the other end of the birth experience safely and soundly. Healthy? Well, unfortunately not all babies come out healthy even under the best conditions, but that is another story for another day. But is this all that matters? 

Even though many women choose natural birth and/or out-of-hospital birth for what they feel is a better experience than what they would receive in the hospital, they will do anything to ensure that their babies enter this world safely. Anything. Even if that means loss of a certain hoped-for experience. 

On the other end of the spectrum, many women decide not to choose natural childbirth because, again, they want to enjoy the experience of birth. By choosing an epidural or other pain medications to cope with labor, they feel like they can be more present in the experience and enjoy it much more than if they went without. Is this wrong? Epidurals, and any other chemical we put into our bodies, heck, even food, and sometimes even water, and just about anything nowadays, carry risks. You can't even breathe without risk. There are some huge risks associated with epidurals, however rare. Just look them up, but it's obvious that it's a risk most women are willing to take in order to enjoy their birth experiences. 

So, are women supposed to not enjoy the birth experience? Let's say a woman wants a natural birth. Is she supposed to purposely go get an epidural as soon as she arrives at the hospital to prevent enjoyment of the experience? Is a woman who is set on having an epidural supposed to purposely deny herself an epidural so she doesn't run the risk of enjoying the experience? 

We talk a lot about the birth experience from the perspective of the mother, and yes, the birth experience does matter to women whether they want to admit it or not. But why? Why does the birth experience matter so much? 

Just to illustrate my point a little further, I know a woman who has no desire to have natural childbirths. None. Her last birth went too fast for her to receive an epidural and she was traumatized. From her perspective, she did not enjoy that birth experience, although to me, that is the perfect hospital birth! Arrive at the hospital while pushing? Heck yeah!

Don't even get me started on the women who have been traumatized by their Cesarean births and are dismissed with, "At least you have a healthy baby. That's all that matters." 

So what about the baby? Does the birth experience matter to the baby? I wonder. Does a baby prefer to be put right on mama's chest after birth or immediately whisked away to a bassinet to be wiped down, tubes stuck down its throat and pokes and prods and bright lights and then finally given to mom? Or does the baby prefer to be observed for four hours away from mom before even meeting the woman whose body he inhabited for the previous nine months? Does the baby want to hear doctors and nurses chatting about their running adventures as he is making his entrance into the world (yes I have witnessed this) or does the baby prefer to hear mama's and daddy's soft voices first? Is the baby even coherent or smart enough to know the difference or even to care? Does a baby prefer to be born in a bright, cold and sterile room or a dimly lit, warm and home-like room? Does a baby prefer to be born in water or on land? Does it matter

What do you think? Does the birth experience matter? Does it matter just to mom, or does it matter to the baby too? Are we focused too much on the experience?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why didn't I think of this sooner? Using essential oils to relieve morning sickness

I started experiencing morning sickness symptoms at 6 weeks pregnant. I just turned 15 weeks and I am just starting to feel decent. It's been three days since having to hug the toilet. Yay!

A few days ago I had this genius idea. I decided to pull out my peppermint essential oils and my diffuser to help with nausea. I thought, "I use these for my clients in labor if they feel nauseous, so why not try them?" Usually around 5pm one of my neighbors starts cooking...something....stinky...which is when my morning sickness symptoms would begin. From 5pm until I passed out every night I would just be miserably nauseous and vomiting several times. I even took a trip home a few weeks ago so my mommy could take care of me.

So a few days ago, I got smart and decided to try the peppermint to cover up the stinky neighbor cooking. Miracle! It worked! I kicked myself for not thinking about it sooner. 

Other essential oils I have in my doula bag:

Lavender and Eucalyptus: for a calming influence and relieving stress

Lemon and Orange: to invigorate and provide energy

Cinnamon and Peppermint: to relieve nausea

My personal favorites are the Eucalyptus, Orange and Peppermint, which I plan to use at my own birth. 

What is your favorite essential oil? Do you see any that are missing that you'd recommend I add to my doula bag? Please share your experiences with essential oils. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012



What does this mean? There will be a few changes in my plans for the rest of this year. 

First, I will be accepting clients until the end of November. Because I am due sometime in January, I will begin my maternity leave beginning December 1st. At least this is the plan for now. Check back for updates!

Second, because our fabulous health insurance doesn't cover maternity, we are paying for the birth out of pocket. That means that every cent I earn from flute lessons, performances, and doula services goes towards paying for the birth. This includes paying my midwife and fantastic doula. I'll reveal who they are at a later date, but I am super excited about my birth team.

Because of this, I will not be able to attend the Birth Boot Camp childbirth educator training that I had my eye on. Not that it was even close to being a sure deal before, but it is definitely out of the question now. I'm pretty sad about this missed postponed opportunity, but hey, I'm getting a baby out of it. That's way better ANY day!

Who knows? Perhaps some miracle will happen where all of our money issues will be resolved and I can attend this training. `

I am still waiting to hear more about my DONA certification packet. I know they received it, but that's about it. I'm a little nervous, but what's done is done!

In order to keep up with my craft while I am baking a baby, I have decided to work on getting my Hypnobabies Hypno-doula certification. I received my certification packet in the mail earlier this week. What's crazy is that here it is almost the end of the week and I haven't opened the box yet. What in the world

I am also hoping to become more involved with the upcoming Improving Birth National Rally for Change that is happening in Houston on Labor Day. It seems like it will be fun. I haven't been able to attend a planning meeting yet, but I haven't been able to make some cute crocheted boobie hats for the upcoming online auction. Check out the Rally for Change facebook page for updates and info.