Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Family Fights for the Birth They Want

After having a successful vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) at her local hospital a few years ago, Joy Szabo was denied the option of having another VBAC at the very same hospital.

Due to an erroneous interpretation of ACOG guidelines, the hospital changed its policy on VBAC births, and no longer allows them.

"After they lost that fight, Szabo and her husband, Jeff, made an unusual decision. About three weeks before her due date, Szabo moved nearly six hours away from their home in Page, Arizona, to Phoenix to give birth at a hospital that does permit women to have VBACs.

"In the end, the Szabos got the birth they wanted. On December 5, their son Marcus Anthony was born in Phoenix via an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, weighing seven pounds and 13 ounces.

"'It was such an easy birth,' Szabo says. 'I was in the pains of labor for about four or five hours, then I pushed once, and he popped out.'

"The Szabos' story has a happy ending, but it shows that with the rising C-section rate -- now one in three babies is born via Caesarean -- women who want vaginal births sometimes have to fight to get them." (italics added)

What can women do to help ensure that they are given their rights? This article gives some good advice about asking questions, being specific and keeping open communication with your care givers:

I love this story, because it shows what we can do when we know our rights and insist on them. It also shows that hospital policy is not always what's best for mothers and babies. This woman avoided an unnecessary c-section, and even though it meant temporarily moving her family 6 hours away from their home, she got the birth she wanted. The local hospital refused to let her have a VBAC because of a policy change, even though she had already had a successful VBAC in that same hospital just a few years earlier. I think more women should know their rights, and I'm really glad this story is getting nationwide coverage.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Perineum's Vital Role in Female Health and Birth

"You know that thong of tissue that keeps your tongue anchored to the floor of your mouth? It’s your frenum. And the translucent cartilage between your nostrils is your septum. And the flesh that stretches like a hammock between your vagina and your rectum is your perineum, and you and it are going to have a special relationship in the childbearing year.

"You will want to be on good terms with this most tender of tissues. You will want to get to know it well. You will want to become, in fact, your perineum’s pal."

My Perineum, My Pal

This is an informative article which explains the function and importance of the perineum in female health and childbirth, as well as detailed ways you can strengthen your perineum, prepare yourself for birth and take care of yourself postpartum. This is information I believe every woman should know.

I also found a video all about incontinence (bladder control) problems during pregnancy. It's really interesting, and it explains why it happens and what you can do to minimize such problems:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cloth Diaper "Try It Kit"

I've posted about cloth diapers before:

All About Cloth Diapers

More About Cloth Diapers - Plus Some of My Favorite Links

Cloth Diapers I've Sewn

Click here to see all 3 of the above posts in the same window

I've been very, very happy with my cloth diaper experience so far. I use prefolds and covers. I'm ordering new prefolds from here and I'm still using the covers that I made, and I love them!

I also found a great cloth diaper kit that you can order online: The "Try It Kit"

This kit allows you to try cloth diapering without investing a lot of money in the process. It supplies enough cloth diapers to get you through one day of cloth diapering your baby. The kit includes 6 prefolds, 2 covers, and a snappi fastener.

For anyone who is curious about trying cloth diapers, but unsure whether or not to invest in a full stash, this is a great way to try out cloth diapers and see if you like them! If you decide not to continue using cloth, the prefolds can easily be used as burp cloths, and it never hurts to have a few extra diapers on hand in case you run out of disposables!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Why Choose Cloth Diapers?

This article, posted by the Real Diaper Association, is a really good reference about cloth diapers. It explains the reasons for choosing cloth diapers, including cost, health, environmental, and avoiding rash and skin problems.

The logo above is from Miracle Diapers, a non-profit organization that helps provide cloth diapers to qualifying families nationwide. I am so grateful for their services, because they helped provide me with enough cloth diapers to get started while I worked on building my own stash.

I'm really glad I made the choice to switch to cloth. My only regret is that I used disposable diapers for over 9 years before making the switch.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Labor Induction Overused and Puts Mothers and Babies at Risk

My labor was induced with pitocin for the first 2 of my 5 children. After my second child was born I made the conscious decision that I didn't want to be induced again. I didn't like being hooked up to the IV and monitors for the entire labor and being confined to bed, as well as the lack of control over the process of birth itself. I felt that induction was unnatural, and I wanted to see what my body could do on its own with no medical induction or augmentation. That decision played a big part in my birthing journey, which has helped me learn to honor, work with, and trust my body, and has given me greater confidence in myself and faith in the natural order of life.

"In his classic book Husband-Coached Childbirth, Robert Bradley, MD, compares the arrival of human babies by nature's schedule to fruit ripening on a tree. Some apples ripen early, some late, but most show up right in season. Along with Grantley Dick-Read, the father of what we now call 'natural childbirth,' Bradley advocated relaxation, trusting nature, and allowing babies to show up when nature intended."

Let The Baby Decide: The Case Against Inducing Labor

This article goes into great detail in explaining the medical and cultural reasons and ramifications of inducing labor, and it touches on some of the same reasons I chose not to be medically induced again. There are so many reasons women and their care givers choose medical induction, and I think that expectant couples should understand the risks involved with those choices so they can make an active, informed choice in their own care.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Modern Day Wet Nurses - Touching & Beautiful

Yes, formula would be much easier, but it wouldn't give this baby the best nutrition for his physical growth, and it certainly couldn't provide the emotional well-being and sense of family that this group of women have provided for the infant's entire family.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It Feels Good to Feel: The Pain and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth

It Feels Good to Feel: The Pain and Pleasure of Natural Childbirth
by Kaitlin Rose

There are many confident women who say they are simply too afraid of the pain to have a natural birth.

But here’s the secret about that pain of childbirth that nobody tells you.
You may never have thought of this way: the pain of labor and childbirth is the only physical pain you will feel in your life that is not associated with something being wrong with your body. You are not hurt. You are not injured. It is the only constructive pain you will ever feel in your life.

I'm not trying to say that it was easy.
It was definitely the strongest, most intense pain I have ever felt. But I can tell you, like many women before me have said and many more to come are bound to say, the pain was worth every minute of it for the result.

I went into labor Tuesday morning. By 7 am Wednesday morning I was only dilated 5 cm.
Now I know I was in transition. I didn't know it then. I felt extremely tired. Fatigued. But I asked myself a very important question, which inevitably helped me move through my transition and be fully open just an hour and a half later.

I asked myself this: what would I do differently right now if I were in a hospital?
My answer was: NOTHING.

I would not get an epidural. I would not ask for pitocin to speed up my contractions. There would be nothing anyone could do for me, because I wouldn't let them. And that crossed my mind too. I was relieved to know I was still in control and I had to keep going for both of us.

The rewards of having a drug free labor and delivery are life-long lasting.
There was a moment during some of the hardest contractions that I had, (and I don't even really remember this, but my doula told me of it later) when my doula asked me, "aren't you glad you are feeling this?" And I said, "yes," in the midst of it all. It was true! I was so glad that I was 100% PRESENT during the experience of my labor and childbirth. I felt everything.

Natural childbirth is truly an empowering journey that you will never forget. You will come out feeling stronger than ever, the experience instilling in you a quiet confidence that will continue to build over time.

Pieces of my life started to come together in ways I could not have fathomed.
I felt a new respect for my mother, and even a different understanding and closeness with womankind in general. I actually had a very profound "ah-ha" moment the day Ella Rose was born. I was holding her, watching her sleep in my arms. That perfect little face, so worn out from the previous days of labor...

This is the closest I can come to describing it: It was as if everything finally made sense. I felt so connected to all living beings on earth. It was positively overwhelming; the grandness of it all.

Ella and I worked together for the first time of many in our lives together.
I am proud (and blessed) to have had a natural birth. And I am proud of my daughter too.

Wishing all of you a safe and blessed birth,

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Benefits of a Continuous Doula

Benefits of a Continuous Doula
compiled by Penny Simkin, PT, CD(DONA)

Obstetric Outcomes
In hospitals where intervention rates (epidurals, oxytocin, and cesarean deliveries) were very high, doula care lowered the intervention rates.1-6

The most dramatic improvements in obstetric outcomes came in those hospitals where:
• interventions were high
• women were not allowed to have a loved one present
• the doulas were not clinically trained (not nurses, midwives or students)

Psychological Outcomes
All six trials that investigated postpartum outcomes found that women who had doulas had these more positive outcomes 4 to 8 weeks later than those without doulas.1,7-11
• enhanced breastfeeding
• better maternal-infant interaction
• less postpartum depression, anxiety, and greater self-esteem
• higher maternal assessments of their baby when compared to the "standard baby"
• greater satisfaction with the birth experience

In summary, the doula is emerging as a positive contribution to the care of women in labor. By attending to the women's emotional needs, some obstetric outcomes are improved. Just as importantly, early mother-infant relationships and breastfeeding are enhanced. Women's satisfaction with their birth experiences and even their self-esteem appears to improve when a doula has assisted them through childbirth. 12 "Given the clear benefits and no known risks associated with intrapartum support, every effort should be made to ensure that all labouring women receive support, not only from those close to them but also from specially trained caregivers. This support should include continuous presence, the provision of hands-on comfort, and encouragement." 13
1 Sosa R, et al. "The effect of a supportive companion on perinatal problems, length of labor. and mother-infant interaction," N Eng J Med, 303:597-600, 1980.
2 Klaus MH. et al. "Effects of social support during parturition on maternal and infant morbidity." Br Med J. 293:585-587, 1986.
3 Kennel] JH. et al. "Continuous emotional support during labor in a US hospital: a randomized controlled trial." JAMA 265:2197-2201, 1991.
4 Hodnett ED, et al, "Effects of continuous intrapartum professional support on childbirth outcomes.-- Res in Vi-sing and Health . 12: 289-287, 1989.
5 Kennell JH et al. "Labor support by a doula for middle-income couples: the effect on cesarean rates." Pediatric Res. 32:12A, 1993.
6 McGrath SK. et al. "Induction of labor and doula support." Pediatric Res. 43:13A. 1998.
7 Garcia C. "The eighth doula study: social support during birth in Mexico.- Conference proceedings of Doulas of North America. Austin. TX, June 20. 1997. 89-93‑
8 Hofmeyr J. et al. Companionship to modify the clinical birth environment: effects on progress and perceptions of labour and breastfeeding." Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 98 756-764. 1991.
9 Landry SH, et al. "The effects of doula support during labor on mother-infant interaction at two months," Pediatric Res. 43:13A_ 1998.
10 Walton D. et al. "The impact of a hospital based doula program in a health maintenance organization setting.- Ain J Obstet Gynecol. 11. 1998.
11 Wolman WL,. et al. postpartum depression and companionship in the clinical birth environment a randomized. controlled study." Am J Obstet Gynecol. 168. 1388-1393. 1993.
12. Hodnett E, Gates S. Hofmeyr G. Sakala C Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003 Issue 3. Art No CD003766 DOI: 10 1002/14651858 CD003766.
13 DONA International position Paper The Birth Doula's Contribution to Modern Maternity Care DONA International: Jasper. IN- 2005

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is a DOULA?

The Greek word doula means woman caregiver. We now use the word to describe a trained and experienced labor companion who provides the woman and her husband or partner continuous emotional support, physical comfort and assistance in obtaining information before, during and just after childbirth.

A postpartum doula provides care to a family with a newborn baby.

A birth doula...

...recognizes birth as a key life experience that the mother will remember all her life...

...understands the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of a woman in labor...

...assists the woman and her partner in preparing for and carrying out their plans for the birth...

...stays by the side of the laboring woman throughout the entire labor...

...provides emotional support, physical comfort measures, an objective viewpoint, and assistance to the
woman in getting the information she needs to make good decisions...

...facilitates communication between the laboring woman, her partner, and clinical care providers...

...perceives her role as one who nurtures and protects the woman's memory of her birth experience.

The acceptance of doulas in maternity care is growing rapidly with the recognition of their important contribution to the improved physical outcomes and emotional well being of mothers and infants.

Definition from the DONA International approved Doula training manual.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Unique Gifts That Help People in Need

"Support women and children from the very start.
Help train a midwife working in rural communities to provide prenatal care and birthing support to pregnant women. It’s this simple: when you educate a woman, your gift grows. She’ll help keep women healthy and enable mothers to give their children the best possible start in life."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Home Birth Photo Slide

A fellow blogger has shared the photos from her recent home birth. The more of these photo slideshows I find, the more I wish I'd had a professional photographer for my own home birth - just amazing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Birth in Slovenia

"I am from Slovenia (neighbour country to Italy and Croatia....).

"We dont talk about giving a birth in that "pain" way. We are talking regarding what is the most natural and normal way of giving birth for mother and for baby. That is why we do not have so many epidurals, as they are saying that a lot of babies are then being born with a help of vacuum....possible complications...

"My both grandmothers are still alive and one of them had 11 children and the other had 9 childer. They all gave birth at their home, alone, no midwifes....nothing....and all of my aunts and uncles are normal, succesfull people. So we all believe that womens body is "designed" to carry a baby and to give a birth and we shouldnt make out of that experience a mediacal procedure. In Slovenia, you can not have scheduled c-section, unless there is a medical health reason for it. A group of doctors, beside yours, will decide, if you need c-section or not. And it is really rare.

"You are talking about mortality of babies...I dont remember if i have heard of maybe 2-3 babies in last 15 years, being born dead or died right after birth in Slovenia.

"And another very important thing that my grandmothers told to me....lets say advices: when you feel that the proces of birthing had begun sit on a hot will help you open more easily, warm showers; move, move and move - walk.....; and for the last part of the birth, when you feel urge to push...go into sitting position, hold your self to something solid, and then push. They dont understand how a woman can give birth by lying in bed.

"All of my girlfriends and the other women that I know, have given birth in hosptital, totally naturally, or in our meaning normally, with their housbant at their side and midwife. When you see a doctor during birthing process you know that there is something really wrong. Even when you have induced contractions, they dont give a women epidural.

"When I was talking to a few friends and my mom that I am thinking about epidural...she told me why? Birthing a baby is a normal end of a carriing process, and why would I like to robb myself from that wonderful experience, of baby being put to your chest right after birth, and of knowing that you did your own birth. She sais that it is very empowering feeling at the end, and that she feels "sorry" for the man, that they do not have privilege to feel that, like we do. And my mom was under induced contractions for 12 hours with me.

"And another thing. We also do not have a mesaument for "timing" a normal birth. If a women is not dialeted at least 4-5 cm, they wont accept you into the hospital.....unless they diagnose, that something is not ok while checking you.

"Best to you all......:)"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Does Elective Cesarean Surgery Improve Newborn Outcomes in Ultra-Low-Risk First-Time Moms?

"Henci Goer is an award winning medical writer and speaker. She has published two books: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth and Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities (a new edition of which is in press)"

In her guest blog post on the International Cesarean Awareness Network blog, Henci Goer scrutinizes a medical study that supports elective cesarean section.

I've read her book "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth", and I've been very impressed with her intelligent evaluation of the modern medical maternity system. She provides sound perspective amid the confusing debates surrounding pregnancy and birth.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Birth Transformation

I credit my mother for instilling in me a desire to give birth naturally, without pain medication. She was having babies in a time when women were being confined to bed and separated from their husbands, and even being knocked out with ether or chloroform during labor and having their babies delivered by doctors with forceps. Often they would wake with no memory of birth and wonder if they had a boy or a girl. My mom felt strongly that birth is a natural process and she could do this without the medical interventions of the day. She took Lamaze classes with my dad and went on to give birth to 6 healthy babies, each without pain medication other than a paracervical injection to numb the cervix for the pushing stage. She spoke openly about this with me and my sister when we were growing up, and I wanted to have that experience for myself.

When I was pregnant with my first baby my husband and I took a childbirth class at the local county health department and they taught us some basic breathing techniques and comfort measures. However, the majority of the class was dedicated to educating us about the actual function of birth, complete with diagrams and charts and explanations of the stages of labor and when to go to the hospital. I joined online birthing websites and read books and tried to educate myself as much as possible about birth. I felt if I could be well-informed then there was no need to be afraid. Unfortunately, I was still not prepared for what I would experience.

My water broke spontaneously and I had no noticeable contractions. Of course, I had been told to immediately go to the hospital if my water broke, so I did as I had been told to do. The hospital staff immediately started me on pitocin to get my labor going. It was a long, hard battle. The pitocin did indeed get my labor going, but it also made the labor so intense and difficult that I didn't know how to handle it. I forgot everything I had learned in our childbirth class about breathing and working with the contractions. I had told myself that I wanted to birth naturally, but if it got too hard then I would get the epidural, and that's exactly what happened. The epidural slowed my labor, and then the baby's heartbeat was erratic. The doctor explained that they would stop the pitocin to give the baby a break from the onslaught of contractions and give him some time to recover. They would then start the pitocin again and see if my labor would progress after that. He used the dreaded c-word and explained that if my labor did not progress at that point, they would do surgery. My greatest fear was materializing and I was terrified. I cried, and my family comforted me.

Thankfully, the plan worked and a c-section was not necessary. My epidural wore off just in time to start pushing, and I went from feeling completely numb to feeling absolutely EVERYTHING. I was not prepared for that kind of pain, and I endured it for 90 minutes while I pushed my baby out. It was traumatic. He was born in the middle of the night, healthy, after a full day of hard labor, and we were both exhausted. The nurses told me they would take the baby to the nursery so that I could rest, and I complied because I thought they knew best. I slept fitfully, and then woke up around 6am in a panic without my baby! I paged the nurses and had them bring him in immediately, and I did not calm down until he was with me. Breastfeeding was a challenge because he was so sleepy. I hadn't had the chance to establish breastfeeding immediately after birth and the baby was tired and sluggish, and I didn't know what I was doing! The lactation consultant was not helpful, but thankfully we figured it out and I went on to breastfeed my son for over a year.

Three years later I was pregnant with my second child, and I had decided that childbirth was just too much for me to handle without an epidural. When my doctor told me we could schedule an induction, I thought it was wonderful that we could plan it out and know when the baby would be born! I didn't know anything other than induction and epidural, and this was my way of taking control of the situation. It was a wonderful experience, and I remember chatting and laughing with my husband and the obstetrician while I was pushing. It was 4 ½ hours from the time they started the pitocin until my beautiful baby boy was born, compared to over 14 hours with my first. I was in a smaller community hospital this time, and the atmosphere was calmer and I felt I got more attention from the staff. I was able to hold my baby very soon after he was born, after the staff had checked him out and weighed and measured him. I had him latched on and breastfeeding before the doctor even left the room. I didn't like how long it took for my epidural to wear off after he was born. I wanted to be able to move around and enjoy my baby and the birth being over, and that was an annoyance.

Two years passed and I was expecting our third baby. My husband, Matthew was in massage therapy school and he worked at the front desk of a massage clinic. He told me that one of the therapists there was a doula and she wanted to work with me and provide support for me at the baby's birth. I didn't know what a doula was, but I wanted to talk with her because I had many questions and I thought maybe she could help me. Mandy and I immediately bonded. I told her I had always wanted to give birth without medication but I didn't know how to do it! She told me she would help, and she answered all of my questions and helped me feel at ease about approaching birth in a new way. She helped me write a birth plan, outlining my wishes for childbirth. I realized that I had choices and could let the doctor and hospital staff know how I wanted to handle things rather than let them take the lead and tell me what to do. My obstetrician was very open to my wishes and willing to work with me, and I checked with hospital policies to ensure that my desires were feasible within their limitations.

I didn't know what to expect because I had never experienced my body starting labor on its own. I was sent home from the hospital three times because I wasn't progressing enough to be admitted, but I was determined not to be induced. I had early labor for about two days, and Mandy taught me how to breathe with the contractions and work with my body. The third time I was sent home from the hospital I decided to go home and sleep. My labor stopped for about a day, and I rested as much as I could. The next morning, my water broke while I was in bed, and Mandy met up with us at the hospital. It was beautiful! Because of the practice I'd had with my early labor, I knew how to breathe and focus.

Mandy and Matt worked together to provide comfort measures for me, including acupressure points and counter pressure on my hips, knees and lower back. I wasn't hooked up to an IV pole or monitors, and I could move around as I wanted to, leaning on the birth ball or walking around. I even got into the tub in my room for a little while, but it was too shallow to give me much comfort. I focused through the contractions and enjoyed the company of my husband and my doula between them. Only once during transition did I feel I couldn't do it, and Mandy told me “You ARE doing it!” She kept me focused and helped me through it all, and the hard part was relatively short. My healthy baby boy was born within a few hours of arriving at the hospital, and I felt like a super hero! I was energetic and happy, and I had never before experienced such euphoria after giving birth. I was able to breastfeed my baby immediately after his birth, and we spend some quiet time with him in our room without any interruptions from hospital staff. The nurses were very curious and asked me which birth method I preferred (epidural or no medication) and I told them I would do natural birth again without a doubt!

When I got pregnant with my fourth baby, I knew what I wanted. I had been permanently converted to unmedicated birth. My husband had a client who was a home birth midwife, and she offered her services if I wanted to have my baby at home. I politely declined, explaining that I had my OB, my doula, and my birth plan and I knew what I wanted. This time I was determined not to be sent home from the hospital, and I intentionally labored as long as possible at home. Again I had two days of early labor, and the labor stopped for a few hours while I attended my baby shower and then started up again later that night. My husband and I were watching TV, and when I got up to use the bathroom I felt a leak. I told him that either I had wet myself or my water had broken.

We called Mandy and made arrangements to meet her at the hospital. I was admitted in the middle of the night and labored for a few hours, using focused breathing and trying to rest between contractions. The doctor arrived in the morning and suggested that he could break my water to get labor going faster. It turned out the leaking I had was a fore-bag and not the actual bag of waters. I was ready to have a baby, so I agreed and he ruptured the bag. After that things went quickly and our beautiful baby girl was born within a few hours. Once again my husband and my doula worked together to give me the support I needed, and it was a wonderful, empowering experience. The baby latched on immediately and we bonded. My baby was beautiful, and I was thrilled to finally have a little girl, but there was a subtle nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I felt like something was missing.

When my daughter was still a newborn I decided to become a birth doula. I wanted to help other women as my doula had helped me. I felt she was indispensable in my achieving the beautiful natural birth experience I had always wanted. I started reading all the required books and took the doula training. I couldn't get enough information about birth! I watched The Business of Being Born, and learned that some women still safely give birth at home rather than at a hospital. Within a year I found I was pregnant, expecting my fifth child. I felt that I had some different choices to make, and I started thinking about planning a home birth. I researched it and thought about it and prayed about it. I felt peace, and it was a wonderful overwhelming peace. I knew I wanted to have this baby at home.

I called the midwife whose services I had declined for my daughter's birth, and started going to regular prenatal visits with her. I went to my obstetrician's office a few times during the pregnancy for certain things like an ultrasound, blood work and screenings, but the rest of my prenatal care was provided by my midwife. I trusted her and her 15 years of experience with home birth. I also met her birth attendants who were all doulas and midwives.

I had early labor, on and off, for over a week. I was anxious to meet my baby, but I had to practice more patience than ever before. I used the time to prepare things in our home for the birth. Four days past the due date, my midwife brought the birthing tub to our house and did a brief check for the baby's heartbeat, with my four children watching. Later that evening, my contractions were coming closer together and stronger. My midwife came over and set things up and we settled in to have a baby. I was focusing and breathing through the contractions and leaning on my birth ball. I labored in the bed and rested between contractions, and in the birth tub immersed in water up to my neck. The water dissolved the discomfort of the contractions and my husband pressed acupressure points while I breathed through them. We chatted with the midwife and enjoyed the quiet and peaceful atmosphere. I have never experienced such peace in the hospital.

As things progressed, a second midwife came to assist, and she cleaned my kitchen and helped get the kids settled when they started waking up in the morning. At one point while I was resting in bed, my water broke in a small leak and my midwife ruptured the bag the rest of the way. The kids went to play at grandma's house and things really picked up! We called the two oldest boys to come home and as I was pushing we realized the baby was coming out breech! His bottom was coming out first. I was in the birth tub, and it felt really good to stretch my body out as I pushed. His bottom came out, then one leg, and then the other leg. Then his torso was delivered, followed by an arm, and then the other arm. And then, as my 6 year-old described it, “he put the hands and the feet on the bum cheeks, and he pushed his head out!” I only pushed for a few minutes, and my beautiful baby boy was here! He was healthy and perfect. I held him in the tub with me for a couple of minutes before the midwives helped me out to deliver the placenta, and then into bed. We cuddled and bonded as a family, and our oldest son cut the umbilical cord.

I've realized since my home birth that if I had planned a hospital birth for my breech baby, it would have ended in a cesarean section. If that was the only benefit of having him at home, it was definitely worth it, but there were many other blessings of having our baby at home as well.

I don't consider my home birth to have been a painful birth. I felt intense pain with my hospital births, and there were moments of discomfort during my home birth but never what I would describe as pain. I think it had to do with the peace I felt and the confidence I had gained from my previous birth experiences. I am no longer the meek woman willing to submit to whatever the doctor tells me I should do. I know exactly what I want and how to achieve my goals. I know what I am capable of, and I feel stronger than I ever have in my life.

I used to regret my earlier birth experiences, wishing I had experienced unmedicated birth from the first rather than the traumatic experience it was. Now I'm grateful for those earlier experiences for the way they've shaped me as a person and as a mother. My first birth experience was an important catalyst in motivating me to find a better way for me to give birth. I don't feel that there is one birth choice that is best for every woman, but I hope that each woman can know that birth is beautiful and empowering, and if you don't experience it that way then find out how you can.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Breast Crawl - Baby's First Meal

I had heard about a newborn's ability to find its way to the breast by crawling to it without assistance. This is the first video I've seen of it, and it's amazing. The video shows a fully exposed breast.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Honoring Our Cycles: Using Fertility Awareness to Achieve or Avoid Pregnancy

"Like the earth's surface, a woman of childbearing age moves through cycles of heating and cooling, which in turn create moistening and drying, which in turn provide a fertile environment for life to evolve. Rocks, glaciers, plants, and animals (including humans) all evolve in concert with these processes. Just as a meteorologist can observe and measure cycles in the earth's surface to determine weather patterns, a woman can observe her daily waking temperature, cervical fluid, and the cervix's changes to gauge her gynecological health and to determine when she can and cannot conceive. According to Leah Morton, an MD with a family practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 'The first step in being healthy is knowing about yourself and respecting nature. Fertility Awareness provides a way to learn these things.'"

"With Fertility Awareness, a woman can be in sync with her own cycles, and couples often experience enhanced communication and intimacy."

This article gives an introduction to Fertility Awareness and how it can be a benefit to couples. For more information about Fertility Awareness, please read the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, by Toni Weschler.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Fight Against Iatrogenic Prematurity

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

"Iatrogenic prematurity refers to the birth of a physiologically immature and/or low-weight infant who is delivered prematurely as a result of medical intervention."

The United States recently received a "D" on the March of Dimes 2009 Premature Birth Report Card. This is alarming, and raises some serious concerns. Much needed research is being done on the causes and possible prevention of preterm labor.

Monday, November 16, 2009

15 Breastfeeding Myths Explained

Does Breastfeeding hurt?

Are breastfed babies healthier than formula-fed babies?

Does food the mother eats affect the breastfed baby?

These questions, and more, are explained in this article:

It's a short article, clear and concise, and helps explain the truth about breastfeeding.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some thoughts about my breech baby

There was something I neglected to mention in my blog post about my home water birth. A few weeks before the baby's due date I went to my OB's office to get the Group Beta Strep screen. My midwife had recommended it and it was only the third time I'd been to the OB's office during my entire pregnancy because I had been seeing my home birth midwife for regular prenatal visits.

As part of the visit, the nurse-practitioner checked the position of the baby. When she felt the large mass down near my cervix she looked confused and really started to feel around more. She told me she wasn't sure it was the baby's head that was down, and that I should have one of the OB's double-check the baby's position the next time I came in. I had no intention of returning to their office, so I brushed it off.

When I got into my car to head home I sat and thought for a moment. I remembered that my midwife had felt the baby at each prenatal visit and said he was head-down. I wondered "what if my baby is breech? Would it change my plans?" I realized that no, a breech position would not change any of my plans. I knew that my midwife had caught a surprise breech at a home birth just a few months before my baby was due, and I trusted my midwife to be able to handle any situation at our planned home birth.

If you've read my birth story then you know that my baby was indeed breech, and we didn't realize it until I had already started to push him out! At the time I was extremely grateful to be at home in the birthing tub with a wonderful support team, and all turned out beautifully well.

Since the birth I've come to realize that if I had planned a hospital birth with my breech baby it would have ended in a cesarean section. I know this without a doubt, and this knowledge has brought me greater gratitude and appreciation for my amazing birth experience. I'm so grateful that I was open to home birth and able to embrace it fully. I had peace with me throughout my pregnancy that home birth was exactly the right thing for this birth, and I also had peace knowing that my baby would be healthy and all would be well. For me this peace came as a result of much study, careful introspection, and prayer. I personally feel that God was loving and gracious in offering me a natural, peaceful means of bringing this precious baby boy into our family, and I am eternally thankful for that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


This is not specifically related to pregnancy or birth, but it's beautiful and uplifting, and I would like to share it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This is why I do this

The other day I was writing posts for my blog and I noticed the post count on the right side of the page. The number struck me, and I realized that I've been blogging for over a year now. Wow. I do this for myself, as an outlet, because I can't talk with just anyone about the things I'm passionate about. Sadly, a lot of my neighbors and close friends don't want to hear about natural approaches to pregnancy, birth and beyond. It can get pretty lonely at times when I feel like I have no one who understands how I feel or why I do the things I do.

I have a lot of friends and family members who don't understand why anyone would want to go through labor without pain medication, or in any setting other than a hospital. I'm guessing they haven't experienced the beauty of the ups and downs of labor with the intense focus through the strong waves of pressure, followed by a respite filled with both calm and excitement at the same time, all building toward the miraculous birth of a new life! For me, the experience was much more powerful and incredible when I didn't have pain medication compared to when I did. There is nothing in life that compares to the experiences I've had through embracing my body and everything it's made to do and learning how to work with it to achieve something truly amazing. It's something that simply cannot be accurately described in words. It's beautiful, miraculous, spiritual, empowering, and simple.

I also blog because I hope to spread the good word about things that are important to me. I hope to somehow reach others who could benefit from some of the information I've found as I've been on this amazing journey. I don't expect to convert everyone to home birth or even to unmedicated birth, but I do want every woman in the world to know that birth is an uplifting and wonderful experience. If you don't experience it that way, then find out what you can do to have that experience. I didn't have a blissful, peaceful experience with the birth of my first baby, but that experience was a catalyst that helped push me into action in finding a better way for me to give birth. I feel I've found that, and I want to share it with anyone who will listen.

I was on the phone with our family pediatrician's office recently, and the receptionist asked me about my home birth. She told me that her son and his wife want to have a water birth at home and she (the grandma) didn't know anything about water birth and how it's handled, or what precautions are taken to help ensure a positive outcome. She asked me if I would do it again, and I told her I absolutely would. She wanted to know about things like having a backup plan in case a transfer to the hospital is needed. It was so neat to talk with her and share some of my feelings about my home birth and some information to help put her mind at ease. I love those moments, and I'm so grateful for those times. This is why I do this!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beautiful Photo Depiction of Home Birth

I recently came across a photographer's blog post:

Welcoming Jakob Asher: Here Comes the Son!

It's an amazing photographic depiction of a home water birth. The mother is a doula, and she was able to have a pain -free birth at home with no medical interventions.

Please take a look.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Women Seek Humanistic Care in Pregnancy, Labor & Birth

"Women are not seeking “designer” births. They are looking for humanistic care during pregnancy, labor and birth and are increasingly having difficulty finding that in many hospitals."

Media out of focus on Midwifery - The New Haven Register

Monday, November 2, 2009

Advice regarding breastfeeding for mothers with possible H1N1 infection

"Advice regarding breastfeeding for mothers with possible H1N1 infection
Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., FAAP and John S. Bradley, M.D., FAAP

As published in AAP News - Official Magazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics

"Neonates and infants younger than 6 months of age are at risk for complications from seasonal influenza and presumably 2009 H1N1 influenza (swine flu), although the morbidity and mortality from this new virus have not yet been described.

"While the advantages of breastfeeding are well-known, this close interaction of mother and newborn also can facilitate transmission of influenza virus. The benefits and the risks of close contact must be considered carefully.

"To protect the infant from possible serious infection while allowing essential and encouraged mother-infant bonding to occur, a compromise is required until more data are available. The following precautions are suggested to minimize the risk of infection to the infant, particularly while still in the hospital and while the mother is symptomatic with fever and coryza:

"Pay careful attention to handwashing prior to any contact. Prior to breastfeeding, wash the breast with mild soap and water; rinse well The mother should wear a surgical mask to prevent nasal secretions and the spontaneous cough or sneeze from inoculating the infant. Use clean blankets and burp cloths for each contact. Monitor the maternal-infant interaction on perinatal floors for compliance with the above precautions. These precautions are designed to minimize the risk of transmission until mother’s immune response to H1N1 influenza is established, and increased, specific immune protection may be provided by breast milk. Note that influenza virus does not pass through breast milk.

"Although the most effective way to prevent influenza transmission is complete separation from her infant when a mother is receiving antiviral treatment, separation may create more long-term problems in breastfeeding success and mother-infant bonding than any potential benefit achieved from avoiding infection in the newborn infant.

"For any mother with H1N1 influenza infection who presents in labor to a health care institution, testing and empirically starting therapy for influenza with an antiviral is suggested. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) will hasten resolution of symptoms and infectivity, particularly if treatment is started within 48 hours of onset of illness. Neonatal exposure to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) excreted in breast milk is extremely low.

"Immediately following delivery, the precautions listed above should be instituted as the newborn infant is first placed into mother’s arms. These precautions should be followed until mother’s illness is resolved, i.e., no fever, as measured without antipyretics, for 24 hours.

"While no data exist to support these suggestions, it is believed that these represent an appropriate balance between the benefits of mother-infant interaction and the risks of serious neonatal infection. Institutions may wish to modify of these suggestions to address their needs and medical practices.

"Dr. Lawrence is chair of the AAP Section on Breastfeeding executive committee. Dr. Bradley is a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Study on Health of Mothers and Newborns Throughout H1N1 and Cold/Flu Season

My friend Rachel, author of The Beginning of Motherhood blog and Labor and Delivery Nurse, is conducting a survey about the outcomes resulting from current CDC recommendations regarding H1N1 and new mothers and babies. She needs study participants from three groups of women:
  1. Those who have symptoms and have been isolated from their baby but continue to feed breast milk,
  2. Those who have had no symptoms, were given baby within 2 hours after birth and breastfed,
  3. Those who have no symptoms, but were not with baby within 2 hours after birth and breastfed or expressed milk for infants.
All of these should be full terms infants (37-42 weeks) . They can be born at the hospital, or alternative birthing area. She is hoping to follow these babies for six months to see who is getting sick.

For more information, please see Rachel's blog: The Beginning of Motherhood

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Father's Role in Breastfeeding

A friend of mine referred me to this wonderful blog post about the role of fathers in breastfeeding.

Fathers play a vital role in supporting the mother in breastfeeding. I know that my husband has been instrumental in helping me breastfeed our 5 babies successfully. His conviction that breastfeeding is best, along with the support he's given me to allow me to nurse our babies has made a huge impact for me.

Here are some tidbits from the post:

"Babies benefit just as well from close, personal and warm shirtless affection from dad too! This can be a crucial aid in helping babies "connect" so to speak, with their dads and learn to recognize him quicker than just by his voice"

"Many times, mothers and fathers underestimate the essential role of the partner. As the aforementioned demonstrated, a father's presence and support is one of the biggest determining factor on whether mom continues to breastfeed. What I find so lovely is when I do house visits by mothers experiencing breastfeeding problems, I sometimes hear "the baby's father said I must persevere with breastfeeding". This is not a harsh, domineering stand, rather it is a much needed "pillar of support" that comes from the man's side. These moms experience relief of having their partners back them up and may give them added determination when problems threaten the breastfeeding relationship."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Position Change, McRobert Maneuver, Corrects Shoulder Dystocia

The McRober Maneuver is a position change technique which is used when a baby's shoulders are stuck behind the pubic bone. The maneuver helps free the shoulders and allow the baby to be born. 

Saturday, October 24, 2009

10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed Your Baby

As published by the Public Health Agency of Canada

Click here to download or print a free pdf copy of this pamphlet

"Today, most mothers are choosing to breastfeed their babies. As more Canadians understand just how much of a difference breastfeeding makes to the health of both the mother and her baby, more families are supporting mothers to breastfeed longer, up to 2 years and beyond. Here are 10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed your Baby:

1. Nutrients and Protection

Nutrients and ProtectionBreast milk is the best food to help your baby to grow and develop. It is custom-made by each mother for her own baby, and contains the perfect amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. Remarkably, as your baby grows, your milk will also change to keep up with your baby’s needs. Human milk is also easier than formula for your baby to digest, which means less mess and fuss!

Breast milk contains valuable antibodies that help prevent disease and may reduce the risk of your baby developing allergies. After birth, your first milk, called Colostrum, offers vital early protection and helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria by coating your baby’s digestive system. This early protection is even more important if your baby is born prematurely – Colostrum protects!

2. Brain Power
There is strong evidence that children who were breastfed score higher on IQ tests, as well as on teacher ratings of their academic performance.

3. Convenient and Portable
Breast milk is always safe, fresh and exactly the right temperature. It’s ready for baby at a moment’s notice, and you don’t have to heat it, boil water, or sterilize bottles. This makes night time feedings a lot easier. Since breast milk is always with you, travelling and shopping with your baby is simpler, with no equipment to carry or refrigeration needed.

4. Size Doesn’t Matter
The size of your breasts doesn’t matter. Big or small, they will produce milk for your baby. Breasts begin to prepare for baby very early in pregnancy and are able to produce Colostrum (the first milk) from about 24 weeks of pregnancy. As soon as your baby is born, hormones begin to activate the breasts to make more milk for your baby. You will continue to produce milk through the wonderful partnership of supply and demand – the more your baby breastfeeds – the more milk you will produce!

5. Benefits Mothers Too
Research suggests that breastfeeding provides a measure of protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and weak bones later in life. Your body uses calories to produce milk, so breastfeeding can help you to gradually lose weight gained during pregnancy. Exclusive breastfeeding may also delay the return of menstruation for at least a little while.

6. Continues the Special Relationship
The closeness and comfort of breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby, as one part of all the things you can do to build a secure, loving relationship. Dads and moms can’t spoil a baby, so give your baby all the cuddling she or he wants.

7. Benefits Don’t Stop
Research shows that breast milk is so important that it is the only food or drink your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Beginning at 6 months of age babies need a variety of foods in addition to breast milk, which continues to provide nutrition and protection. Many mothers continue to breastfeed until their babies are two years old or more, as recommended by Health Canada – any amount of breastmilk is always good for babies.

8. Easy on the Budget
Breastfeeding saves you money! Without question, breastfeeding saves hundreds – even thousands – of dollars.

9. Works for Working Mothers
Your baby can have all the benefits of your milk even if you plan to go back to work or school. You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump and leave it with your caregiver to feed the baby. Breast milk can also be frozen for future use. Some mothers have childcare facilities at their place of work, school, or nearby, so they can breastfeed during their breaks.

10. Good for Environment
Breastfeeding is good for your baby, for you and the environment! Human milk is produced and delivered to the consumer – your baby - without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste.

Ask for Breastfeeding Advice and Support – it is worth it!

Breastfeeding is natural, but learning to breastfeed can sometimes take a little time and patience. There are many groups and individuals available to help you, including: public health nurses, lactation consultants, the La Leche League, your doctor, midwife, family members or friends who have breastfed.

For more information on where to get breastfeeding advice and support, please visit the Public Health Agency of Canada at the following web address: Also available on this website, is the 10 Valuable Tips for Successful Breastfeeding, a guide to help make your breastfeeding experience successful and enjoyable."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Do You Feel About Hospital Policies Regarding H1N1 (Swine Flu)?

The policy at some hospitals right now is to take the baby away from mom after they are born if the mom is showing symptoms of H1N1 (swine flu). They get the baby back if they have been on Tamiflu for 48 hours or if they get test results back that they are negative. They are allowing quarantined breastfeeding mothers to pump colostrum for the hospital staff to feed to the baby. I want to know what you think. Would you be mad, understanding, frustrated?

I would love to see what people think about this policy. I've posted a poll on the right side of this page where you can cast your vote anonymously, or please feel free to post your opinion in a comment on this post.


Recommended Breathing Techniques for Labor & Childbirth

Focused breathing helps a woman work with her body to birth her baby. In my 3 unmedicated births I have used focused deep breathing, in which I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth. As the contractions grow more intense, I give my breath a voice by moaning as I exhale. Giving your breath a voice is both comforting and empowering. It works wonders, and I recommend it for every woman, whether or not she plans to have medication during labor. It's a good idea to practice breathing throughout pregnancy. It helps relieve stress and prepares you for labor.

The following breathing techniques are also recommended for childbirth. I haven't tried these specific techniques, but many women have found them to be helpful during labor.

"There are three kinds of breathing exercises that you will want to practice during the last weeks of pregnancy and use during the first stage of labor. These are variations on the classic Lamaze-prepared childbirth breathing.
  • The deep cleansing breath. This is a simple breath. Sit with your spine comfortably straight. Put your hands on your abdomen. Slowly inhale as you watch your belly rise. Slowly exhale. Let out a sound as you exhale. Use this deep cleansing breath at the beginning of each contraction to help focus you and then begin the chu-chu or moan-pant.
  • The chu-chu breath. This breath begins to sound like a steam engine chugging along. Inhale and exhale slowly, then quicker and quicker. Breathe at a pace that parallels your contraction. Use this breath with early contractions. Some women prefer to go directly to the moan-pant.
  • The moan-pant. Begin using this breathing technique when you’re afraid you can’t stay on top of the contractions—when the big waves come and you just need to stay in the present moment—and use through the delivery, if you like. The moan-pant consists of three or four rhythmic pants followed by one blow, which can be a real release. As labor progresses and you get more focused, you can turn the pants into moans, and even into sounds that feel like singing."
As published in Mother Magazine: Body Wise: breathing exercises in labor

Monday, October 19, 2009

Co-Sleeping, Share Sleeping & Family Bed

C0-sleeping is when parents sleep in the same bed with their babies. It is also sometimes called share sleeping or family bed.

My husband and I have co-slept with each of our 5 children so far, and I would have it no other way. Our youngest is 2 months old and sleeps with me every day and night (including a nap each day, which I love). Particularly when the baby is very small, I find it very comforting to have my baby next to me where I can hear and feel his breathing and movements and know that all is well.

I've also breastfed all of my children, and night feedings are so much easier when I can just nurse the baby in bed with me. The baby never has to wake enough to actually cry because I am tuned in to his hungry cues even when we're both sleeping, and can simply put him to the breast and we both fall back asleep easily. I never have to get out of bed to go to the baby or prepare a bottle, and we both sleep better because of it. My baby nurses longer at night time feedings, but I think it's because he nurses less often during the night than during the day (about twice each night), and it doesn't bother me at all because we are usually just sleeping through the feedings anyway.

My babies have never slept well in cribs. They always sleep more soundly and longer when they sleep with me. On the few occasions I tried putting my baby in a crib with my first baby, I would wake up worrying about whether or not the baby was breathing, and would have to get up just to check, and it interrupted my own sleep quite a bit.

I've always been a deep sleeper, and as a teenager it took a huge amount of effort just to wake me. However, when I sleep with my baby I am always aware of where the baby is and instinctively know how to lie with him. I usually sleep on my side with the baby in front of me, and I feel like I'm being a protective shell as I can curl my body around him.

The following article in Mothering Magazine explores the cultural impact of co-sleeping:
The Complexity of Parent-Child Cosleeping: Researching Cultural Beliefs

An interesting discussion of individual viewpoints and the safety of co-sleeping:
Breastfeeding Discussion from Milkalicious on My Best Birth