Friday, December 31, 2010

Born in the Sac (or Caul)

A really cool video of a baby born in the caul. We don't see this often because so many care providers rupture membranes during or prior to labor.

This is marked with an advisory that it's for mature audiences only, but I would let my kids watch it. That's just me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Articles About Breastfeeding and VBAC

Here are my four latest articles published on Pampers:

Breastfeeding While Pregnant - My personal struggle with this, and what I learned.

Thinking About Stopping Breastfeeding? - Common breastfeeding pitfalls and how I got through them.

Breast Pumps: Different Options for Different Situations - Personal observations about breast pumps.

Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) - The beautiful option that many aren't aware of.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post-Miscarriage Healing

My first miscarriage was nothing compared to the second one in terms of the physical toll on my body. I suspect the first one happened so early in the pregnancy that there wasn't much blood or tissue to expel. Indeed, the 5 week ultrasound had shown nothing, not even a sac, and I only bled moderately for a week. It was much like a period, and that was it. My cycle returned immediately and I conceived again right away. While the emotional impact was huge, the physical impact seemed minimal.

My second miscarriage happened later in the pregnancy and there was a lot of blood, clots, and tissue that I passed. I was amazed at the similarities between miscarriage and birth itself. Even the recovery period after miscarriage is very much like postpartum recovery, with continued bleeding for a few weeks and physical healing. 

I want to share some of the post-miscarriage healing aids I discovered. I found them to be helpful with both the emotional and physical aspects of recovery.

Homeopathy: After my day in the emergency room with my miscarriage I came home exhausted and coming down with a cold. I knew that the miscarriage put me at a risk of infection as well, so I took aconitum napellus to counteract that. I also took arnica for the bleeding. I took them in conjunction with using the essential oils.

Diet: For me personally this made a difference. My diet had included a lot of proteins and starches, and I decided to make a focused effort to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, focusing mostly on fruits and juices. I was skeptical when I started, but as I seriously followed this I noticed results immediately. I had more energy and I was happier in general. I handled stress a lot better. The timing of this coincided with a day of rest, and it was the perfect combination for me. I was more relaxed and energetic at the same time. I think it was a way for my body to cleanse after what I'd been through, and I decided to adopt this diet regularly in an effort to become healthier before trying to conceive again.

Rest: This is really important to do, as needed. I was exhausted for days after my miscarriage, and I found hot baths and naps to be really helpful. I couldn't lie around all day because I had a family to take care of, but I did what I could to get as much rest as possible.

I also had a headache for days after my miscarriage, and I've read that this is common. I relied on my old headache tricks of applying ice to my head and neck, taking molasses each day, and making sure I got enough rest.

Talking and writing: This was essential for me. I've learned that I process and heal much better if I can talk things through, repeatedly. For me this meant talking with several friends on the phone as well as writing and blogging about what happened, and chatting online when possible. It was important for me to go through the events and feelings of my miscarriage many times so I could make some sense of it and resolve my conflicting emotions. I also found the interactions in person and online to be uplifting, as I received much-needed support and love from others. The most reassuring thing anyone could say to me was that they understood how I felt.

Everyone grieves differently: This is really important to remember. I'm a talker, but some people handle things better by internalizing and not talking about it for a while. Grief is a very appropriate thing to feel after a loss such as miscarriage, and it's not to be trivialized. It's important to recognize the difficulty of the situation and allow the grieving person space to grieve in their own ways, but let them know you're there and you love them and support them. I found that my husband grieves very differently than I do, and I had to learn how to respect his methods while still nurturing my own.

Friday, December 24, 2010

El Parto Natural / The Natural Birth

© 2009 Lourdes Santaballa Mora
Published with permission

Ella fue a caminar y cuando llegó al lugar se mantuvo de pie. La llamaban virgen, que en el idioma antiguo significa mujer Libre, no propiedad de ningún hombre. Con el respaldo de su esposo, sin doctores o medicamentos, sintió las contracciones. No le pusieron pitocina, cytotec, o prostaglandina, y no había suero en su brazo. No la amarraron a la burra, y ella parió fácilmente, sin gritar que le administraran la epidural. Nació el niño sin episiotomía o puntos perineos, y mucho menos el corte horizontal bikini de una cesárea. Y lo vistió en paños. No había necesidad de Huggies o Pampers ni sus marcas genéricas equivalentes. Se lo pegó de la teta y le dio de tomar de su propia leche. Y aunque algunos justifiquen que aún no habían inventado el Similac, Enfamil o Good Start, pues tampoco fue leche de cabra ni del seno de una nodriza, sino la leche real del pecho de su madre. Y así es que empieza el parto natural y una crianza natural, en un pesebre en Belén, digna del Rey del mundo, y digna de toda la humanidad.

She took a walk, and when she arrived at the place she remained standing. They called her virgin, which in the ancient language meant free woman, not the property of any man. With the support of her husband, without doctors or medication, she felt the contractions. They did not give her pitocin, cytotec or prostaglandin, and there was no IV in her arm. They did not tie her to the stirrups, and she gave birth easily, without screaming that they administer the epidural. The boy was born without an episiotomy or perineal stitching, and much less the horizontal bikini cut of a caesaren. And she dressed him in cloths. There was no need for Huggies or Pampers or their generic equivalent brands. She latched him to her breast and gave him to drink of her own milk. And although some may justify that they hadn't yet invented Similac, Enfamil or Good Start, it was not even goat's milk or from the breast of a wetnurse, but rather the royal (real) milk from the breast of his mother. And thus the story begins, in a manger in Bethlehem, of a natural birth and natural parenting, worthy of the King of the World, and worthy of all humanity.
("They said they don't need us")

[© Se puede reproducir con el permiso escrito de y dándole crédito a la autora o dando referencia al enlace de la nota en facebook./May be reproduced with the written permission of and giving credit to the author or by providing the link to this note in facebook.]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Second Miscarriage: Reflections

(Part 3 of 3)

While the circumstances of my miscarriage were in no way ideal, I don't think there's any ideal way for a miscarriage to happen.

There are things I think back on and am grateful for. I'm grateful for the main ER nurse who was generally very kind. I'm glad that the ER was too busy for any of the staff to bother me while I was going through something so personal. Although I had to take care of myself, I'm glad they weren't sticking their heads into my room while I was actually miscarrying. I'm also glad I didn't miscarry at home in the bathroom with my children pounding on the door and crying for mommy. Even though the nurses laughed behind my back about me refusing a D&C, I'm really glad no one tried to pressure me into interventions I didn't want or need. I'm also very thankful that the OB was thoughtful and listened to what I had to say. I'm glad I stood up for myself and made my intentions and my needs clear. Looking back on the situation, I think it would have been really nice to have had a doula with me, but overall things went smoothly.

I'm really happy that I got the ultrasound. The image of an empty sac was so clear to me that I no longer had any doubt about what was happening in my body. It was as though this conscious realization is what allowed my body to finally release everything, and release it did! Blood, clots, and tissue were all released very efficiently in the matter of about 2 hours, and that was a good thing. I didn't need any surgical procedures or medications. And even though the initial sight of the sac and placenta were disturbing, I feel that being able to see and feel the tangible reality of what had been inside of me gave me a sense of closure.

I'm thankful for unexpected happenstance. I had been planning to wait at least until Christmas to tell anyone about the pregnancy. I was worried about miscarrying again, and I wanted to be able to hear a heart beat before sharing the happy news. In uncanny fashion, however, my family all figured it out. My sister was the only member of the family I told about my pregnancy, and she didn't say a word to anyone. One by one each of my siblings figured it out, and the ultimate slip was through my maternal grandmother at Thanksgiving dinner who, in her aging years and dimensia asked me if I was having a boy or a girl this time. I couldn't lie to my family's faces, and so my secret was out! It was because of this exposure that I had the amazing support of my mom. She rearranged her whole day to watch my kids, finished putting faces on some homemade dolls I needed to finish that day, fed me, helped me take my IV out, gave me a place of refuge and safety, and most importantly gave me love and emotional support.

I have an amazing support network of friends. Whatever the situation, there is always someone I can call or email and find the support I need, online or in person. I cope and heal by talking through things, sharing my experiences with others, and writing. I've realized that I make a habit of surrounding myself with people I feel I can trust and confide in, and that is a huge comfort. Many friends kept my secret when I didn't want people to know of my pregnancy but I needed someone to vent to. I feel very blessed to have so many loving people in my life.

I was severely depressed during this past pregnancy. I had a deep desire to be left completely alone. I didn't want to see a doctor, and not even a midwife. I didn't even want to tell my midwife about my pregnancy, and I wondered if these feelings were an indication that I should plan an unassisted birth. I decided to take some time and figure out where these feelings were coming from. As I did so, I found myself falling deeper into depression and I was at a loss as to what to do. I finally confided in my midwife and told her how I'd been feeling, and she told me that my feelings of wanting to be left alone and isolate myself were actually a symptom of depression. Coupled with the other symptoms I'd been noticing, I realized the truth in her words. I didn't like it at all, but I had to face the fact that I was depressed.

In reflecting on my feelings, I realized something. If my depression was causing me to want to isolate myself, I needed to do the opposite. I needed to reach out for support from people I felt safe and comfortable confiding in. I chose specific people and I opened up to them. I told them I'd been depressed for weeks and was really struggling. I thought the depression was due to hormonal imbalance as a result of pregnancy, breastfeeding, and miscarriage, the last one having a particularly strong influence. I was afraid of losing another pregnancy, and I thought that was the root of my depression. I adjusted my diet according to the suggestions from my midwife and did lots of other little things each day to try to improve my mood and combat the negativity and mood swings.

After the miscarriage I've made another connection. The depression really hit me the hardest at the same point in time when the egg sac within me stopped growing. I can't help but wonder if there was some kind of imbalance triggered by that loss of pregnancy and the tissue still remaining in my body. The day after my emergency room miscarriage it felt as though a dark cloud had lifted. I felt relieved to have it done with and able to look forward to the future and move on. The emotional impact will never completely go away and I never want to forget what I went through, but my hope is that my whole being will be able to heal and move on from this experience.

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Second Miscarriage: Unfamiliar Territory

(Part 2 of 3)
TMI warning: I've included some gory details and some people might be uncomfortable with my candor.

I prayed Sunday night and made the decision to call the OB's office in the morning and see if I could schedule an ultrasound. When I woke up Monday morning I felt peace about getting an ultrasound, so I made the phone call.

The receptionist never asked for my name or any personal information, only listened to my explanation that I was 10 weeks along and bleeding. She informed me that since their office hadn't seen me for this pregnancy and I didn't have any appointments scheduled, I would need to go to the emergency room. She said they would need to rule out ectopic pregnancy, which was something I wasn't concerned about at all, but she also said they would have access to everything I might need in any eventuality.

I wasn't very happy with this option, so I took some time to think about it. I realized how peaceful I felt about getting an ultrasound, when before praying about it I had been so conflicted. I realized it was what I needed, and that the ER was the only way I was going to get that. I didn't know why, but it felt right to me.

I called my midwife, thanking her for the offer to check with the doppler, but told her I'd be going to the hospital for an ultrasound instead. She asked me to keep her updated, and said that she'd be thinking of me.

I then called my mom and asked if she could take my kids while I took myself to the hospital. She had a full day scheduled but she rearranged her schedule completely so she could help me out. I was really glad she lived only a mile or so from the hospital, and I was able to drop the kids off and head over.

The ER was a mess. They had every bed full and it took quite a while to even get into a room. I cried uncontrollably while sitting in the waiting room. My emotions were so close to the surface, and I felt nervous and alone. The nurse who took me back to my room obviously saw my tears and didn't say anything other than to direct me where to go. Once I was in the room it was waiting, waiting, and more waiting for every step for everything the whole time I was there. My room was right next to the nurse's station and I could overhear them talking about how the doctor was facing his first shift in the emergency room with a full load to handle. They teased the doctor about it being the perfect initiation for him.

A different nurse was sent in to take my vitals and draw some blood. She explained that they'd do some blood work, which I was fine with, until I realized she was also inserting an IV into my arm! I said “I didn't know you were going to put in an IV!” She casually brushed it off, saying that it was there “just in case” they decided to give me fluids or medication. I thought “I'm here for an ultrasound, and I don't need any medication!” She left and I never saw her again.

There was a PR lady whose job it seemed was to keep everyone happy. She checked on me every once in a while, which turned out to be about three times in the several hours I was in the hospital that day.

It seemed to take forever for the ultrasound technician to come get me. I laid in the bed with my eyes closed, trying to tune out the chatter from the nurses just outside my curtained doorway. The tech poked her head in and asked if I had a full bladder. I didn't think so, and I offered to drink some water or juice to help the situation. I was really thirsty and had nothing to drink, but she didn't bite. She said she'd try and see what she could see with the ultrasound anyway.

The ride in the wheelchair to the radiology department was probably the best part of my hospital stay that day. It may sound odd, but it felt like I was being taken care of, and the chair was comfortable. I enjoyed the little bumps and bends along the way. It was almost like being a kid enjoying something so simple.

Then it was time for the ultrasound. It turned out my bladder was actually very full, which was good for the ultrasound, except that she still had a hard time finding what she was looking for. She located a cyst on my left ovary, which she assured me was a normal part of early pregnancy, as it served to protect the fetus as the placenta was formed. She measured my ovaries and then looked in the uterus and found... an empty sac. She wouldn't tell me outright, but I could clearly see that's what it was. She measured the sac at about 6 weeks, which was over 4 weeks shy of my calculated gestation. A big gap. She tried to reassure me by saying it could just be “too early to tell”, but in my heart I knew exactly what had happened, and I knew that the ultrasound technician wasn't legally allowed to tell me.

I was taken back to my room and sat alone for quite a long time. At some point the PR lady came in to talk with me. She said there was a possibility I could be miscarrying (no duh lady). I told her that I needed some juice and crackers, or something to eat. She said she would bring me some, and came back about 20 minutes later without anything. She explained that the doctor didn't want me to eat or drink anything in case they decided to do a D&C. I told her I didn't want a D&C and she very diplomatically left, never to be seen again.

I thought over everything and it was clear to me that the sac had stopped growing at about 6 weeks and my body needed to get it out. I prayed and asked “Heavenly Father, if I'm really to miscarry, then please let it happen quickly.” I didn't want to bleed continually or feel like this for days, and I wanted a resolution to the situation. I also didn't want any medical intervention for something my body should be able to do itself.

Shortly after that I started to bleed, and I mean REALLY bleed. It started and wouldn't stop. I was glad to have a chux pad on the bed under me to catch it, but soon I found I needed to run to the bathroom across the hall. I started passing clots and asked the nurses to check them. The main nurse told me that they were “only blood” and not tissue, so that was a “good thing”. I wondered who that was a good thing for. Certainly not for someone in my situation who NEEDED to get dead tissue out!

The doctor finally came in to discuss the ultrasound with me, and I informed him that my bleeding had increased and I was passing clots. He was extremely dry and had no bedside manner, but his diagnosis was exactly what I had expected. I was miscarrying. He was going to consult with my OB on what to do next. Thanks for the info doc, now get out of my room so I can get this over with!

I sat up in the hospital bed watching some TV to distract myself, but it wasn't working. My mind was on one thing only. I found if I changed my position ever so slightly it affected the blood flow, and I used these shifts in position to help encourage the flow to increase. I was getting my own chux pads from the cabinets and cleaning up my own blood because the staff were too busy to notice and I didn't want them sticking their heads in anyway. I got some blood on my sock and I was frustrated with myself for wearing my own socks.

I called the main nurse in and asked her if someone could assess my blood loss to make sure I wasn't losing too much blood. She said someone would come back in to take more blood to check my iron levels, but they never did. She hooked me up to the blood pressure cuff to check my vitals and make sure it wasn't dropping too fast. I told her I was weak and hungry, and that I needed something to eat. She said she would order me a lunch tray, which never came.

I was having cramps, and some of them were severe enough that I used focused breathing through them. They weren't regular, but they were definitely increasing in intensity. Then I felt something pass. I lifted my gown and looked at the bed under me, tore the blood pressure cuff off my arm, and I jumped out of bed in shock. I yelled “I need some help in here!” several times, and no one came.

It looked like a body! I grabbed a fresh chux pad from the cabinet and stuffed it between my legs and got some latex gloves from the box on the wall. I needed to look at this and figure out what it was! I was so shaky from exhaustion and adrenaline that I couldn't pick it up. I took the gloves off and walked into the hallway to the nurse's station and told the nurse I needed her.

I showed her the bloody tissue on the bed and she said she needed to put it in a specimen jar and send it to the lab to be analyzed. She must have sensed my hesitance because she then said “...if that's OK with you”. I told her I wanted to look at it more closely but I couldn't because I was too shaky. She put on some gloves and sat down to show me what it was I was looking at. She explained the round part was the egg sac which had never developed into a fetus. Attached to the sac was the cord, and on the other end of the cord was the placenta. I breathed a huge sigh of relief! The way it had been sitting on my bed, the sac had looked like a head, the cord like a neck, and the placenta like a body. I knew it was far too big to be a 6 week fetus, but until she explained it to me I didn't understand what any of it was. I was relieved, and the nurse left me alone with the sac and placenta. I was grateful for her sensitivity, and I let the tears flow. I prayed and after several minutes I calmed down.

I called the nurse back in to take the tissue and send it to the lab. I was no longer attached to it, and I was DONE. I told her I wanted to go home. She told me that I would need to follow up immediately with my OB and that they might want to do a D&C which “for you is probably a really good idea”. I said “I don't want a D&C” and she said something about how it was really my choice, but I would have to talk with my doctor about that. She went back to the nurse's station and I could hear her telling them about my refusing the D&C, laughing about it in a way that it seemed she thought my doctor would have the final say in the matter.

I called a few friends and family and told them what had happened.

It took forever to be discharged. I waited, waited, and waited, for over an hour just to get my discharge papers. I got dressed all the way to my bloody socks (which had dried by then) and shoes, opened the curtain so the nurses could see me, and sat on the doctor's stool with my purse in my lap. When I couldn't take it any longer I walked into the hallway and stood at the nurse's station until they got me my discharge papers. They insisted on getting another blood pressure reading, and then FINALLY let me go, with strict instructions to see my OB. I asked them to take out the IV and they refused, saying that my doctor might need to use it, and it was best to keep it in so they wouldn't have to poke me again, and that the doctor's office could remove it for me. I think they were assuming my doctor would order a D&C. My discharge papers said "Abortion".

The OB's office was in a building connected to the hospital, just a short walk away. I was grateful for that. It was the first time I'd gone to this particular office, and it was all shiny and new. There was even a camera crew in the lobby taking photographs of my doctor in his office with fake patients. “Very high profile”, I thought. I just wanted to go home.

The nurse took me into an exam room and took my blood pressure. The tears were flowing again, and I asked her why I was there. I told her I'd been in the ER for over 5 hours and I just wanted to pick my kids up and go home. She told me that the ER had said I wanted to see my doctor. I told her that no, the ER had told me the doctor wanted to see ME. I think the ER was trying to open up a bed. So, I asked the nurse why exactly I was there, and whether the doctor would want to do a pelvic exam. She said he might want to do one, and that she needed to talk with the doctor about what he wanted to do.

I heard chatting in the hallway and then a different nurse came in and talked with me. She asked more questions and told me she understood how I felt, and that she would need to check with the doctor as well.

The doctor came in with the second nurse. I recognized him from the one time I'd seen him when I had an ultrasound during my pregnancy with Liam. He didn't remember me. He sat down in his chair and just talked with me. He empathized with my situation, which was a relief. He understood that miscarriage was not to be trivialized. He mentioned the possibility of a D&C and I assured him that I'd passed everything in the ER and there was no need for it. He agreed. He also mentioned the possibility of giving me some medication which they sometimes use for miscarriage, and then quickly said “but you probably don't want that either”. I agreed, grateful that someone was finally listening to me. He asked if I had any questions, and gave me some information about recovery. He gave me a pamphlet about a study involving aspirin use in preventing miscarriage. I politely took the pamphlet with no intention of participating in the study. He also gave me a book about miscarriage, written by a woman who had gone through it herself. I was very grateful for that, and took it with plans to read it. The doctor then said goodbye, and as I walked out he told me that he wouldn't charge me for the visit. He said I'd gone through enough in the emergency room and that I didn't need to worry about another bill.

I was free! Exhausted and completely spent in every sense, I returned to my parents house and my sweet babies. They were just as happy to see me as I was to see them, and it was so nice to be somewhere familiar and comfortable. After I sat down on the couch I realized that in my rush to leave I'd forgotten to have the doctor's office take out my IV! It was still in my arm, pinching. It had never been used for anything except the initial blood draw. I asked my mom to get me a cotton ball and band-aid, and as I removed the tape from my arm the IV came right out with hardly a drop of blood. My mom got me some food and we talked about what had happened. She'd never had a miscarriage, so it was hard for her to imagine what it was like, but she was incredibly supportive. I spent a couple of hours there with her before returning home to the rest of my family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Second Miscarriage: De Ja Vu

(Part 1 of 3)

I was 10 ½ weeks along when the bleeding started. I was at my son's chess tournament and couldn't do anything about it at the time. Part of me wanted to rush to Instacare and ask them to schedule an ultrasound to check what was going on. It was a Saturday, of course, so the regular doctor's offices were closed for the weekend. I had promised myself I wouldn't see an obstetrician at all this pregnancy, and I really didn't want to deal with that. However, I knew the extent of my midwife's resources, and ultrasound for me at 10 ½ weeks was not going to be an option with her. I tried to push it all out of my mind and focus on my son's tournament and the rest of the kids while we waited the next few hours until we could go home.

By the time I got home I'd had some time to mull things over, and I no longer felt a need to rush off for an ultrasound, but I didn't know what to do. I decided to wait and see how I would feel and what would happen. The bleeding continued, and I was positive I was miscarrying. I was accepting it because I didn't want the emotional roller coaster of allowing myself to hope. I also felt a strange sense of peace when I accepted the possibility of another miscarriage. I called my midwife and told her what was happening. She tried to encourage me by reminding me that many women bleed during pregnancy and go on to have healthy full term babies. I couldn't believe I would be that lucky. After all, I'd just experienced a miscarriage less than four months earlier and apparently my body didn't want to carry another pregnancy to term anymore. At least that's how it felt. I felt broken.

My midwife's advice was to rest. Yeah, right. I sarcastically wondered if she'd be willing to come take care of my house and family so I could get the rest she was suggesting. I cried softly as she spoke, slowly breaking down as she tried to give me advice and encouragement. She admitted to me that she'd never experienced a miscarriage herself, and I thought it was clear in the way she spoke of it that she hadn't. The empathy I wanted wasn't there. There was no depth of understanding, only superficial knowledge. While I loved her and cherished her wonderful midwifery gifts, I realized I needed more support than what she was giving.

After getting off the phone I cried more. Gradually I pulled myself together enough to tend to my kids. Cereal for dinner. Whatever worked. I was in no condition to be cooking. The house was a mess and I felt helpless to do anything about it. My body was aching and bleeding, and my spirit was crushed.

Later that evening I reached out to some friends. I called a friend who'd had a miscarriage just a month earlier, and we consoled each other. I also called one of my midwife's apprentices who had shown up just after Liam's birth and had done his newborn checkups and helped clean up (another story for another time). I knew she'd had trouble conceiving and that she was a fountain of knowledge. I told her the situation and asked for some advice and support. It turned out she'd had two miscarriages herself and completely understood what I was feeling and experiencing. Her expressions were so heartfelt, and it was what I needed to hear. Not the words, the feelings behind them.

The next day the bleeding continued, no less and no more. It was bright red with tiny clots in it. It wasn't like a period, and it didn't smell like a period. This may be strange to share, but the smell was closer to what postpartum bleeding smells like. I thought to myself that this must be fetal tissue because of the color and smell, but I really didn't know for sure.

I thought about my options all day long. My midwife had offered to check for a heart rate with the doppler on Monday, and I was unsure whether I wanted to do that. If we could check and get a heart beat right away it would be wonderful, but if for some reason she was unable to find the hear rate I knew I would be a mess, and would want an ultrasound immediately to double check. It seemed to make sense to skip right to the ultrasound, but in order to do that I would need to schedule it with a doctor's office or hospital. I didn't know which clinic I should call if I did want an ultrasound, and I wasn't even sure I wanted one to begin with.

Another option would be to get quantitative blood tests over the course of a few days to check my hormone levels and see if they were increasing or decreasing. Once again, this involved going to a clinic and seeing a doctor, and more waiting than would be necessary with an ultrasound.

There was also the option of simply waiting. I did that with my last miscarriage, and it was torturous. Weeks of wondering and waiting, but that was mainly because it was too early to even check with the doppler, and a conclusive ultrasound was questionable. No, in this case it was far enough along in the pregnancy that I had the options of doppler and ultrasound at my disposal if I so desired.

I was an emotional wreck the entire day. It was just like the violent mood swings I'd had with my previous miscarriage, and it was a nightmare. There were also various times during the day when I lost my breath and had to stop and sit for a minute and just breathe. I didn't feel like I'd lost very much blood, but I felt drained and devoid of energy. The mess in the house continued to grow, and I did what I could with the energy and motivation I had, which wasn't much. Dinner was sandwiches.

The apprentice and my midwife both called Sunday night to check in on me and see how things were going. There were no changes to report, only wondering what the next step would be.

Part 2: Unfamiliar Territory
Part 3: Reflections

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ectopic Pregnancy, Epidural Childbirth, and Doulas

I'd like to share three of my recent articles published on the Pampers website:

Ectopic Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms - My experience with an ectopic pregnancy scare.

Considering Natural and Epidural Childbirth - Personal observations and suggestions for when considering pain relief options for childbirth.

What are Doulas and What Do They Do? - How my doula transformed my birth experiences.

Please read and pass these articles on to those whom you feel might benefit from them. It's about empowering women to make informed choice in pregnancy and birth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Breast Milk Sharing Blesses Babies

Mother's breast is best, but any breast milk is better than a substitute
Dr. Jack Newman is an amazing breastfeeding expert and resource, and his book "The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers" is my favorite breastfeeding book because of its comprehensive information and expert advice.  His website: is also a wonderful resource for breastfeeding mothers, full of videos and supportive information, as well as personal email support.

One of the major things I learned from Dr. Newman is that formula should not be the second choice for infant feeding after the first choice of the mother's own milk.  In fact, Dr. Newman asserts that donated or shared human breast milk should be the next feeding option if for some reason the infant's mother is unable to provide it herself.

What are the options for obtaining human breast milk?  
  • There are milk banks that take donated breast milk, pasteurize it, and distribute it to babies who need it.  Unfortunately milk banks don't have a large supply, and can't meet the demand for human milk.  There are a handful of milk banks in the US and even fewer in Canada.  Another problem with milk banks is the cost: about $3-$4 per ounce, and the family receiving the milk has to pay for it.  Another thing I just learned is that HMBANA milk banks use a form of slow pasteurization that kills the lactoferin in breast milk.  Lactoferin is an important part of breast milk, and is key to providing healthy nutrition to infants, particularly preemies and sick babies.
  • Another option is milk sharing.  This is an old tradition, going back through the history of the world.  Have you ever heard of a "wet nurse"?  Women breastfed other women's babies if there was a need.  Our modern society frowns on this because we have other options, like formula, and the values of breast milk and dangers of formula are strongly down played in today's world.  We forget that breast milk is crucial to an infant's healthy growth and development, and we think that substitutions are just as good when they actually aren't.  Milk sharing still happens today, but until recently it's been a somewhat taboo subject.  I recently read that actress Jenna Elfman donated her extra breast milk to a sick baby.

Eats on Feets Global encourages informed breast milk sharing
Emma Kwasnica is a wonderful lady I know who is a strong advocate for women and babies.  She recently started a breast milk sharing network on facebook, and it has quickly become global!  There are facebook groups for local areas all over the world, including at least one group for each state in the US.  My local group is Eats on Feets Utah, and you can look up your own group if you're interested in donating or receiving breast milk, or even just finding out more about milk sharing.  The purpose of each group is to connect breast milk donors with recipients and educate about informed milk sharing.  Women are encouraged to share medical information and take precautions, but the emphasis is on helping babies who need breast milk.

Eats on Feets in the news
Eats on Feets has become such an instant success, that even the Canadian and US governments have recently issued statements about milk sharing!  The FDA warned that milk sharing may not be safe because unlike milk from banks, the milk is not screened and pasteurized.  The Canadian government expressed similar concerns, but Emma Kwasnica addressed each of their concerns in a rebuttal statement.  She maintains that milk sharing is safe, provided the parties involved are cautious and informed.  Many breastfeeding women have blood test results from their prenatal care which show if there are any risk factors including HIV, hepatitis, or STD's that might be carried through breast milk, and full disclosure should be made between donors and recipients.  The FDA also held a special meeting on December 6, 2010 to discuss the human milk exchange issue, and decided not to regulate milk banks in the US.

Emma also recently appeared on a Canadian radio show and dispelled many of the concerns regarding milk sharing.  Part 1 is a lead in to Part 2, in which she addressed the concerns.

Here are some recent news articles and video segments regarding milk sharing:

Flash heat pasteurization of breast milk
If you're concerned about the safety of feeding your infant someone else's breast milk, you can easily flash heat the milk in your own home to pasteurize it.  While pasteurization can kill viruses including HIV, it also changes some of the vitamins and enzymes in the milk.  This form of pasteurization does NOT kill the lactoferin in breast milk, and also increases the amount of vitamin C.  Here is a video that shows how flash heating is done, along with step-by-step detailed instructions on how to safely do it at home:

So there you have it.  What do you think of milk sharing?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cesarean and VBAC Resources and Links

I've got a few links to share on the topic of c-sections and vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC).  I'm not going to comment much, because I'd like you to read them and decide what you think.  Please feel free to post your opinions or questions in the comments below.  Here goes:

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Illusion of Birth Control

I started taking birth control pills shortly before I was married.  I took them for 2 months leading up to my wedding so they would be effective in time for the wedding night.  I gained some weight and my mom commented that I might not fit into the dress we were making, but other than the slight weight gain I didn't notice any undesirable side effects.  I took my pills religiously every morning, and as long as I was taking them I didn't get pregnant.

I had done some research about the various forms of birth control before I chose the pill.  The pamphlets I was given at doctors offices and other clinics listed many different types of pregnancy prevention, and they all involved some sort of hormones.  I didn't want to have something inserted that would need to be removed by a medical professional when we decided to start trying to conceive.  I felt that was an intrusion of privacy, and I wanted the freedom of being able to start trying without having a doctor visit.  Likewise, a series of regular shots was not appealing to me at all.  I don't like needles to begin with, and having to see a medical professional on a regular basis for a shot to prevent pregnancy was not my idea of a good thing.  The side effects also scared me!  It seemed to me that the pill was the least invasive method with the fewest and least severe side effects.  I didn't have any of the risk factors which would put me at increased risk, and I felt it was safe.  I also wanted to be spontaneous and not have to worry about inserting anything or putting something on in the heat of the moment, possibly spoiling the mood.  It seemed like a good choice.

As I said, the pill worked well to prevent pregnancy as long as I took it.  Our first three babies were carefully planned and conceived within a few months of stopping the pill.  Whenever I was breastfeeding I would take the "mini pill" and it seemed to work until my baby was weaned and I was ready for the full pill again.

While I was breastfeeding my third baby something shifted.  I don't know what prompted it, or why it happened when it did.  I suddenly hated the pill.  There was nothing logical about it, but I just couldn't stand taking it anymore.  The only thing I could think of was that it must not be good for my body to be getting unnecessary hormones, and if I were to continue taking the pill regularly it could potentially cause some long term problems.  I had no proof of this, but it was a very strong feeling.  I talked with my husband about my feelings and he was very supportive of my choice to stop taking birth control pills.  I must have prayed about it, because I remember reflecting about my dilemma for a few weeks before making a firm decision.  Since none of the other hormonal contraceptives seemed like a good choice, we decided to use condoms.

My fourth child was a surprise pregnancy.  While we weren't planning on conceiving that soon, we accepted that it must have been the right time for her to be born, and we were thrilled to be having another baby.  We had new emotions at the beginning of the pregnancy compared to the first three, simply because it felt the situation was thrust upon us without our planning it, and it took some time to get over the initial shock and embrace the pregnancy.  I still felt very strongly that I should not change our contraceptive methods, and felt that we had made the right choice.

My fifth pregnancy was likewise a surprise, and this was the hardest one to swallow.  My baby was only 9 months old and still very much a baby herself.  Our youngest two of five would be only 18 months apart, and my little girl had strong emotional needs and was very attached to me, quite literally, most of the time.  I told my husband that the new baby had better be mellow and easy-going, because I couldn't handle two clingy babies at the same time.

I learned to have one child on each hip, and make sure there was a place for both the youngest two to sit with me and get the attention from me that they needed.  It really was like having two babies, but I loved my children so much and would never have changed anything about the timing of their births.  I saw the two little ones bonding in different ways than our older children had, and I felt this was partly because of how close they were in age.  It was really fun to watch their interactions and see my little girl learn to share mommy with her little brother, even though it was hard for her at times.

After my fifth child's birth I decided to try natural family planning, otherwise known as the fertility awareness method.  I had read the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and I felt it had solid foundations and could really work.  I also really liked the idea of learning my body more deeply and watching for its cues to either achieve or avoid pregnancy.  I felt like I was practicing for quite a while as I was breastfeeding my baby and trying to learn my body's pattern and cues.  I was charting and marking things on the calendar, and I would let my husband know when we needed to use protection and when we didn't.

My husband would say that natural family planning didn't work, because once again I got pregnant unexpectedly.  I disagree, and here's why.  I had marked my dates on the calendar, and in the heat of the moment when my husband asked if we needed to put something on I miscalculated in my head how long it had been since my period, and I said we were fine.  If I'd actually checked the calendar I would have known I was wrong and could have told him otherwise.  One thing I've learned about fertility awareness is that it works, as long as the people using the method are doing it right.  Just as the birth control pill only works if you take it regularly, natural family planning requires you to pay close attention and not guess.  Although that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, I had no regrets about my decisions.

So here I am, not knowing how to approach this.  I'm not sure I want to use fertility awareness, but I know for sure I'm not going to take extra hormones ever again unless there's a medical need other than contraception.  If I've learned anything from my birth control experiences, it's that I'm not the one in control.  I really feel that "birth control" only provides the illusion of control.  

I've known women who repeatedly got pregnant while on multiple forms of birth control, and on the contrary I've also know women who stopped taking their birth control only to find they couldn't conceive when they wanted to.  Some needed additional help conceiving, and some just took longer, sometimes much longer, than they'd hoped.  What it comes down to is that we try to control our bodies, many times unsuccessfully.  

I no longer feel the need to control this aspect of my life, and I'm finding I'm much more willing to leave it in God's hands now.  If things had gone according to plan I wouldn't have the beautiful children I have now, and for that I'm really glad I wasn't in control.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twins and Triplets Born Vaginally

Twins have to be born by c-section, right?

Thank again.

Pay close attention to the sizes of the babies.  Many of the multiples shown were full term and bigger babies.