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Mind Over Matter

Yesterday, my frustration with Babywatch came to a head. My controlling self just can’t seem to get over the fact that childbirth, particularly waiting for childbirth, is not something I can command.

Today, I’m doing a bit better. I’m trying to relax and shift my focus. The fam and I went out to the science museum yesterday afternoon to entertain Kiddo1 and for me to walk around a whole lot. We were there for about two and a half hours and I pretty much walked the entire time, pacing around Kiddo1 and Mr. Handsome as they stopped at various exhibits. That made me feel productive.

Baby2 has been kicking around a whole bunch lately. She pushes her little feet farther and farther out at my side. I love to tickle her feet and watch her pull them back. She flips between right- and left-facing once a day, too. Every morning she’s on a different side (she only seems to flip at night) and I rediscover where her feet are to know where she is. It’s a fun little game.

I scheduled an appointment with my midwife for tomorrow morning, which will hopefully give me some peace of mind. I’m asking for a cervical check which will either confirm that things are moving or confirm that I just need to wait it out. And you know what? If my parents get here (in six days) and there is no baby or I haven’t had my recovery time, they’ll just have to wait too. It is what it is.

Playing soccer: Mr. Handsome likes to take action shots

In the evening we all took Max to the park and played soccer. The running and kicking made me feel more productive, plus it was another good time with the fam that got my mind off things.

I think part of my frustration comes from the fact that I’m not at work. Not only do I feel shitty because I’m not getting paid for this time off (until the delivery date, then my six weeks of maternity leave pay kicks in), but my mind seems to have no focus. I’m not in my normal routine. I’m not getting up early (although the sleeping until 8 has been fantastic!) I’m going to bed super late because I can’t sleep anyway (still no improvement on that front) and I have no set tasks for the day, no projects to finish, no schedule to keep. Sure, I like to be lazy as much the next guy, and I’ve spent a few mornings lounging on the sofa for a couple hours, but I like to have something to accomplish each day and right now I don’t have that.

With that recognition and the determination to do something each day, I’m feeling a little better. This morning, while it was still cool in the house, I made another batch of labor cookies. Baking usually relaxes me a little, in that it gives me something to focus on. This afternoon I’ll need to come up with an outside-the-house activity to do with the fam. I believe getting out of the house helps tremendously.

I’m feeling better today knowing that my sanity endures as long as I forget about the calendar and focus on what’s important: loving this pregnancy and my awesome family!

Mind Games

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love being pregnant and will miss it horribly when it’s over. At the same time, I know all good things must come to an end. Life must go on.

Things are coming up on the calendar that somewhat require me not being pregnant any more. I say somewhat because I suppose I could still be pregnant but some people might be disappointed. Specifically my parents as they are driving up to the PacNW in just a few short days, arriving one week from today.

When I initially conceded to their travel plans, I honestly thought this baby would arrive a little early. Kiddo1 was two weeks early and they say the second is supposed to come faster, right? Wrong. Fucking wrong!!

See, all I’ve wanted for the early postpartum period is to be left alone with Mr. Handsome, Kiddo1 and Baby2 for just a few days. A few days to bond, to sleep, to breastfeed and to generally recover. And with each passing day, I feel like my wish is slipping away from me.

This leaves me with the mind game of feeling incredibly frustrated and impatient yet trying to fight it because part of me does want to hold on to every last pregnant moment. I think I’ve been handling it fairly well (I’ve only snapped at Mr. Handsome a couple times!) but my anxiety is leading me to try more induction tactics than I wanted and just not having a very cheery disposition.

Some things I’ve tried have started to feel successful but then fizzled. Great, so now the calendar and my body have teamed up to play against my mind. Just when I think, “This could be it!” the feelings pass and my thoughts return to frustration.

I started with labor cookies last week just for fun, before I started going crazy. They brought on some Braxton-Hicks contractions, but nothing serious. I’d love to make some more cookies but it is super hot this week, we don’t have air conditioning and I don’t want to turn on my oven. So, there that.

On Sunday, I drank this soda that usually gives me some… bowel movements (partially because I love this soda, partially because I haven’t pooped in days and partially because intestinal movement can trigger contractions). I had some contractions around dinner, they got up to five minutes apart for an hour, but then they just stopped. I didn’t even poop, damn it.

Looks yummy huh? Yes, I strain the shit out of it before I chug it.

On Monday I started drinking a concoction of red raspberry leaf tea, basil and oregano three times thought the day (basil and oregano are helpful herbs). I did a bunch of yoga in the morning to loosen things up and had some spicy BBQ chicken for dinner. Again, around dinner time, the contractions heated up but cooled off around bedtime.

Speaking of bedtime, getting to sleep is suddenly a total nightmare! I’ve been trying to go to bed early, around 9, but it will be 12, 1, once even 2 AM before I could nod off. This never happens to me! I’m a great sleeper! But since Sunday things have been different.

Yesterday, Tuesday, I pulled out all the stops. Three more tea drinks throughout the day plus some acupuncture in the morning and a ton of walking. I’d never had acupuncture before, so I was excited. It felt like it was working, and the contractions came intermittently throughout the day at a stronger intensity than I had felt so far. I even took another shower and did my hair after dinner because I was convinced that was it. But here I am, not in labor and no baby.

Basil-oregano deliciousness

Today I’m still trying. Instead of making tea (that stuff is gross), I had some basil pasta from the farmers market with an extra teaspoon each of basil and oregano mixed in. I just finished that and we’re about to go out to the science museum for a bunch of walking.

I know I need to relax. I’m trying to, I swear. I’m such a control freak when it comes to these things. And I’ve struggled with this for a couple weeks now! I just want things to go my way, damnit! But there is no way to control these things. I need to remember that. Whatever happens, it will be awesome. It will work out just fine. Mind over matter!

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”

This quote is over-dramatizing my thoughts of today, as I don’t feel quite the heartache Robert Burns conveyed in To A Mouse, but it was the first thing I thought of upon receiving some test results today. The midwife says I’ve tested positive for Group B Strep – no big deal, really, but it does add a small wrinkle to my lovely birth plan.

I’ll step back a bit. What is Group B Strep? The midwife has brought it up a few times in our group appointments, but of course I scoffed at it completely because I’m always thinking that kind of stuff doesn’t apply to me. “No, no; my labor and delivery will be smooth and perfect with no complications whatsoever,” I say inside my head. Sigh. I am a naive one sometimes! Here’s what I remember, with a little help from the American Pregnancy Association:

  • Group B Strep is a bacterial infection found in the vagina or rectum (it was a fun test to find it, let me tell you). It affects about 25% of healthy adult women.
  • It isn’t an STD or a hygiene thing or anything; apparently the bacteria can come and go (it just happened to be present in me on the day of my test!). There are no symptoms – anyone can be a carrier.
  • As a precaution, to combat the chance that Baby2 could develop an infection as a result of being exposed to Group B Strep, antibiotics are delivered during labor every four hours.

So no big deal, really, as long as precautions are taken to prevent Baby2 from getting sick (those precautions are the antibiotics).

What does this mean for my lovely birth plan? Not much, thank goodness.

  • First, things first, I can still labor and deliver in the water, if I so choose.
  • Second, I have to come in to the hospital a little earlier than I may have wanted to (as soon as my water breaks, if that happens; otherwise, call the midwives when I think early labor has been established so they can direct me from there).
  • I’ll have to be hooked up to an IV every four hours for the duration of my labor. Luckily my hospital is cool and I can have a hep-lock device so the IV tube can be taken in and out without me 1) having a constant drip in my arm or 2) having to get stabbed and re-stabbed to establish the IV line.
  • Most likely I’ll be able to move about while the IV is in and it shouldn’t take too long to administer the antibiotics, so I can still have an active labor.
  • Baby2 should only need monitoring for 12-24 hours post-delivery (assuming no other risk factors, like fever, are present) so we shouldn’t have to be prisoners guests in the hospital for too long.

Again, not so bad. (Does it sound like I’m trying to convince myself that this is No Big Deal? Because I think I am.)

All in all, this small set-back is kind of nice, in a way. It’s good to find these things out now while I can get over them rather than during the throws of labor when my emotional state is… compromised. Also, this small setback is helping to prepare me mentally that things *might not* go completely my way. There could be other things that happen to derail my lovely birth plan. And guess what? I’m not going to know what the hell those things are until they happen!

This stanza will most likely not “leave us nothing but grief and pain for promised joy.” It is but a wrinkle in my “best laid plan,” and nothing more.

Birth Fears, Expectations and A Plan

Apologies if you receive this post twice. It posted this morning before I was quite ready – oops! I added some things, but didn’t take away anything. Blog burp!

Apparently birth plans have become a controversial subject. Some of the books I’ve read completely support them (like Natural Hospital Birth) and some have basically said, “What’s the point?” (like Birthing From Within). I like to be a bit prepared AND our midwife recommends covering some basics in a written plan, such as if we want to breastfeed and how we want Vitamin K delivered (there are several options these days!).

I really liked the strategy suggested in Natural Hospital Birth about having three birth plans (fantasy, reality, abridged hospital version). I’m going to just stick with two, though: one that gets Mr. Handsome and I on the same page and one written version for the hospital staff to keep on file.

Before I get to our expectations for this birth, though, I thought I’d “talk” out some of my fears about birth. First off, I feel a thousand times better about this impending birth than I did in the weeks leading up to my first birth with Kiddo1. Nine years ago I was freaked out beyond comprehension! All I could focus on was how much it was going to hurt. Because of this, my birth plan was basically, “Give me the epidural as soon as humanly possible.” (Actually, my birth plan was pretty hilarious with lots of unnecessary stuff like, “I would like dim lights and soft music.” My OB even laughed at me a little bit.)

Nine years later (haha, had to sneak that in!), I don’t really fear pain. Having made it through a birth before, I know more of what to expect which helps me feel way, WAY more comfortable. I believe that I have the power to make it through this time. I believe this because my last labor was assisted with Pitocin, making the contractions way more frequent and intense. Also, I made it to 9 cm before getting the epidural, so I know I can push (haha, pun intended) just past that mark this time. I also believe that the pushing phase will go faster because I’ll be able to feel what’s going on (I didn’t have any feeling whatsoever last time).

Despite the increased level of comfort and knowledge this time around, I still have fears. I fear that I won’t be in control. I fear that my wishes won’t be followed because I won’t be able to make them known. I fear the “fog of labor” which will impair my ability to communicate.

I know I can alleviate my fear, though. I can talk to Mr. Handsome, in depth, about my desires and his expectations. I know that Mr. Handsome will be a great supporter and will fulfill every need I have. He did an amazing job last time without any real direction from me whatsoever. I need to give up my need for control and allow him to take over. I need to trust him to do what’s best for me. I recognize that my fear lies with my own willingness to let go, not his capability to do what I need.

So what are my own expectations then? Well, I need to make myself move around, change positions, etc, but I expect myself to get lazy and fight that a bit (last time all I wanted to do was lay on my side and cry/scream). So I’ve asked Mr. Handsome to keep me moving. I want to get in the birth pool, but I don’t know when I’ll be ready for it. I’ve told Mr. Handsome that the pool should be filled when I’m able to get in (5-6 cm) but I may not want to get in right away.

As for everything else, I’m trying to just keep an open mind and not expect too much. I have ideas for birth positions but I don’t know which one I’ll like or will work best in the moment. I want to try to remain as relaxed as possible about the whole thing. We’ll see how that goes!

I’m keeping myself sane and giving myself license to relax because we have a birth plan. The hospital philosophies very much align with what I’m wanting, so my birth plan should cover any lingering questions the staff has. Also, I’ve been reading up on tips for the hospital birth plan. Here’s a couple things I’ve learned:

  • Keep it short. Nobody has time to read a twelve-page treatise – it’s more likely that things will get overlooked this way, too. But a short, well-organized plan will allow the staff to follow your wishes more closely.
  • Be nice! A negative plan that says “I don’t want this” and “I don’t want that” feels very, well, negative to the staff. Frame desires in a positive manner: instead of “I don’t want to be confined to a bed,” state, “I would like to be as mobile as possible during labor.” (There are a couple exceptions that our midwife told us to specifically add, such as declining an IV/hep lock and eye ointment.)
  • Don’t belittle the staff. Don’t tell them how to do their jobs.
  • Avoid ambiguous statements such as “I prefer” or “If necessary.” Be assertive! But still nice.
  • Customize it! Don’t just take one of those “form plans” off the internet and check some boxes and call it good. Really think about what you want, what is necessary to ask for and what your priorities are.

So here it is, the Hospital Birth Plan:

  • During labor:
    • I would like to be as mobile as possible.
    • I would like to avoid pain medication. Please do not ask about pain levels.
    • I would like to enter the birth pool when appropriate.
  • During delivery:
    • I would like to give birth in water.
    • I would like my husband to be in the pool, “catch” our baby and bring her to the surface.
  • Immediately after delivery:
    • I would like to donate cord blood and preserve the placenta (for encapsulation).
    • I would like to exclusively breast feed.
  • Infant care:
    • We prefer a family practice consult to evaluate our baby post-delivery.
    • Please administer Vitamin K via injection.
    • Please do not provide eye ointment.
    • We would like the Hepatitis B immunization. We were immunized for Whooping Cough (TDap) at 36 weeks gestation.

I think we’re ready for this. Mr. Handsome and I have talked about it (and will probably continue to talk about it here and there). We have everything written down. All the reading I’ve done has mentally prepared me very well. Now we just have to get down the aisle, so to speak.

To Do List: Mid-Third Trimester Update

We passed the “mid-third tri” mark two weeks ago, but better late than never, right? Obviously I’ve been procrastinating as I knock out some of the more fun tasks of nursery decoration. But normal things must get done nonetheless!
 
As I look at this list now, which I created way back in December, I remind myself that sometimes I add things to lists just for the sake of adding things to a list. Some of these tasks aren’t really do-or-die, you know?
 
Anyway, let’s review what’s been done and what I have four (or less?!) short weeks to accomplish…
 
A recap of the First Trimester list, all complete:
  • Research hospitals and choose a midwife, with birth plan in mind COMPLETE, and I’ll post about it in a couple weeks once my regular appointments begin (I finally posted about group appointments just a few weeks ago.)
  • Start a pregnancy journal STARTED, and this Sunday I’ll post about the journal I selected
  • Start a photo journal STARTED
  • Find a social pregnancy group FORMED MY OWN
  • Download pregnancy apps for iphone DOWNLOADED (three!)
  • Schedule first appointment/ultrasound FINISHED
  • Write down questions for midwife QUESTIONS ASKED AND ANSWERED
  • Get on a kegel schedule SQUEEZING CONTINUES FROM TTC
  • Get on an exercise schedule (cardio) COMPLETE (although I’m struggling to stick to it, but I cardio it up when I can)
  • Plan meals/eat well A WORK IN PROGRESS (but I’ve made vast improvements over my pre-pregnancy habits)
  • Start a blog COMPLETE!
  • Decide whether or not to do the NT scan COMPLETE (and we declined)
  • Find some books about the next few months/year COMPLETE (and book reviews will begin on Sunday)
  • Start a name list BEGUN

The Second Trimester list:

  • Budget evaluation (let’s make adjustments now where needed) COMPLETE, plus we figured out how much money we need to save between now and July so we can pay hospital bills and make up for my company’s disappointing maternity policy (see below) so that I can take at least 10 weeks off work.
  • More diverse exercises (yoga, swimming) STARTED, I love prenatal yoga and I love water aerobics!
  • Research childbirth class and sign up – We’re being major rebels here and opting out of a class entirely. We’re reading so many dang books and we’ve been through this before. I understand that a class would help, but I see it more as icing on the cake than a fundamental piece of the puzzle. Controversial!
  • Evaluate maternity wardrobe COMPLETE and I think I’m set for a least another couple months. I’m only nervous about the last month or so because I know I’ll be absolutely huge then.
  • Prevent stretch marks PREVENTING AS BEST I CAN
  • Check out classes such as bf, baby wearing, cloth diapering, etc. – Cloth diapering COMPLETE, breastfeeding and baby wearing classes are coming up in late May (we’ll miss the April classes, sad face). Update: we had to miss the May classes too, so I’m hoping the June classes will fit our schedules!
  • Brush up my knit and crochet skills and start some projects STARTED some ideas. Projects pending. Currently they’ve been tabled due to all the nursery prep I’ve been doing; I didn’t anticipate getting into it so much!
  • Research maternity leave policy COMPLETE but the policy is pretty disappointing. I get six weeks paid 100%. I could get up to 13 weeks paid but I’d have to have a medical excuse. Lame! I’m going to take 10 weeks regardless, though.
  • Dog training (stop jumping, door management) STARTED, Max is getting used to going to his crate when the doorbell rings (his crate is right by the door) but we do need to work on his responsiveness to “come.” It’s a safety thing at this point.
  • Learn the sex of our baby! GIRL!
  • Doula? COMPLETE; we had a lot of good conversations about this and how we both felt about what we need and want. Ultimately we’ve decided not to use a doula. Mr. Handsome is an amazing coach and I am a very independent personality. I know we’ll have to be our own advocates in the hospital this way, but we know what we want and don’t want and aren’t afraid to ask for it.
  • Register COMPLETE! We’re on Target and Amazon to appease our families, which are all out-of-state.
  • Nursery Ideas COMPLETE, projects started and quickly snowballing out of control.
  • Living Will IN PROGRESS! I’m so glad we got started. We outlined our final wills, we just have to fill in Baby2’s name and birthdate, once we have those, finalize who our executors will be if we’re both deceased (is it okay to use the guardian we’ve selected as executor, too?) and get a witness, sign and notarize. Then we need to start the living wills, too. Progress!
On to the Third Trimester list:
  • Finalize birth plan
  • Hospital tour, preregister COMPLETE! We took the tour on Tuesday and completed our waterbirth class the week before. We’ll fill out preregistration paperwork at our next group appointment on Tuesday.
  • Plan for when labor starts How much can you plan for this, really? Hopefully I’m out of work by then, but if I’m not I need to just get out of there as soon as I can as I’ll likely be driving myself 15 miles back home.
  • Plan for Kiddo1 and Max while we’re at the hospital
  • Find out what the grandparents’ travel plans are COMPLETE! My parents arrive July 18th and it looks like Mr. Handsome’s have delayed until the 23rd (the day my parents leave) because his two older brothers will be coming then as well. I’m looking at, like, three solid weeks of family time.
  • Baby Gear, clothes COMPLETE! We’re covered for cloth diapers, that’s for sure! I’m not too worried about newborn-sized clothes because it’ll be hot so she’ll probably hang in diapers, light t-shirts and swaddle blankets for awhile. We’ve got our essential gear covered, too – car seat, crib, changing table (dresser), etc. I think we’re ready in this department!
  • Baby book I’m struggling finding one – I have too many requirements! When I find it I’ll review it. You can be sure about that!
  • Decide if we want pregnancy photos We’re not taking any official photos for a couple reasons, mostly because we didn’t take any with my first pregnancy and I don’t want Kiddo1 to think that pregnancy was any less important. Also, we’ve been taking a lot of just regular pictures now that we’re out and about in the fabulous weather. I don’t think we’re really missing out on anything. I do want to take a bunch of nice family pictures once Baby2 arrives though!
  • Fill out cord blood donation paperwork/register COMPLETE! The paperwork came in the mail the other day and we turned it in at the hospital when we went on the tour.
  • Install car seat We need to do this this weekend I think.
  • Pediatrician COMPLETE! We have a pediatrician for Kiddo1, of course, but I haven’t been all that impressed lately. I found a new one who has great reviews and is pretty close to us. I’m excited to meet her!
  • Make some frozen dinners Eh, whatever.
  • Wash baby clothes, blankets/sheets, prep diapers IN PROGRESS; I have put my cotton prefolds through a couple loads already (they say you should wash your natural fibers five or more times, with drying each time, before you use them for maximum fluffiness and absorbency). I’ll do a couple more loads today and a load of newborn clothes too. The blankets that we have are washed and ready.
  • Set up nursery/baby spaces COMPLETE!
  • Prep Kiddo1 for “culture shift” We’ve been talking him up about all the changes and I think he’s ready. We won’t know for sure until it happens but I’m confident. We ran into his second grade teacher last week and she just gushed about how great of a big brother he’s going to be. I agree – he’s going to be awesome.
  • Plan baby welcoming party for mid-August Looks like this is still the plan. We have to decide it we want it at our house/backyard or out in a nearby park. I can see the benefits of both and I’m having a very difficult time making solid decisions lately. Luckily this one doesn’t have to get done until after Baby2’s arrival.
  • Research c-sections and inductions, just in case COMPLETE and I’m ready to deviate from my birth plan if needed (but I don’t want to!)
  • Birth announcement (email, mail?) COMPLETE! We’ll send formal announcements to family while friends will get the typical Facebook update. I’ve already got the design queued up I just need a picture and some stats for our little girl!
  • Familiarize myself with contraction-timing apps
  • Pack hospital bag
  • Trial run to hospital COMPLETE! Mr. Handsome has got it down – stay left, follow the hospital signs and turn left at the gas station!
  • Clean house/have cleaned SCHEDULED! I found a couple Groupon-type deals so we’ll have the house cleaned and carpets shampooed in early July and then a cleaning again the day before our families arrive. They’re going to do our windows too! I’m so excited!

Friday Update: Week 36

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppThey say baby is about 18-1/2 inches long this week – the width of the lid on my washing machine!

This week we’ve really been cleaning up on the to-do list and I’m starting to feel ready. I’ve crossed a whole bunch of items off my to-do list (which I’ll post tomorrow). The nursery is all finished, although my mind is still obsessing over ways to improve my giant mobile (I’m sure some things will happen to it with it in the next couple weeks. I can’t let this stuff go!).

We have acquired all the essential baby gear: the car seat and a Moby wrap carrier from my transportation gear post, a breast pump and pillow from my feeding gear post and a crib, dresser, play mat and some blankets from my home gear post.

We’ve taken our waterbirth class, taken a tour of the hospital birth center (enlightening! The recovery rooms are so much bigger than they were nine years ago!), I’ve read seven books about birth and I’ve written down a bunch of birth plan thoughts that Mr. Handsome and I will go over this weekend. We’ve talked about it on and off but it’s time to really get down to business about it!

Despite all this work that has been done and as ready things seem, every time I look at the calendar and realize how close we are I am both excited and freaked out at the same time. I’m pretty sure Mr. Handsome feels the same way. When I remind him how many weeks are left he just kind of repeats the number I quoted and gets quiet. It’s just like, whoa! We’re super close to being a family of four instead of three! Three is all we’ve known for nine whole years!

Still super excited more than freaked out, though. I’ve started to think about upcoming events with this new little one in mind. We’ll have a little bundle in tow everywhere we go! So awesome to think about!

Other awesomeness of the week:

  • Total weight gain: 30 pounds. An unfortunate combination of not meeting my exercise goals (for several weeks in a row), relaxing my diet (damn you Snickers Blizzards!) and Baby2’s own half-pound-per-week gain is wreaking havoc on my pound-a-week goal! The pregnant part of my brain is totally okay with this but the non-pregnant part is a little in shock when the number comes up on the scale.
  • Cravings: A whole bunch of sweet stuff that I’m trying not to pay attention to. I’ve been sticking to my daily salad but ice cream is just so fantasically amazing. It’s not fair that there are so many forms of chocolate in the world.
  • Coolest symptom: She’s moving around super low and I can feel her push against my cervix, especially when I’m walking around. I remember these senstations becoming more and more frequent leading up to the day Kiddo1 was born. Although this “pinching” of my cervix is slightly uncomfortable, it makes me feel like things are starting to happen. I can’t get too ahead of myself though! She hasn’t dropped or anything, though. Her kicks still push up my boobs when I’m sitting!
  • Lamest symptom: A byproduct of the super low movement is that I have to pee all the time. ALL the time. At work, I swear I’m in the bathroom 20 times a day at least. At night I’m up three or four times at least. I am trying to stay extra hydrated lately so I’m sure that doesn’t help but STILL. It’s a lot of bathroom time.
  • Exercise this week (the goal is 210 minutes 180 minutes): I’m dropping the goal down a bit since I suppose I should be taking it easy — no, that’s just a excuse to drop my goal because I haven’t made it the last four or five weeks so might as well right?! This week I did pretty well but mostly because we were out and about around town most of Sunday. I’m going to count 60 minutes of walking for that (even though we did way more, but it was intermittent). Plus 60 minutes of water aerobics and 75 of yoga means I made the goal this week with 195 minutes!

Here’s what’s new with Baby2, courtesy babycenter.com:

Your baby is still packing on the pounds – at the rate of about an ounce a day. He or she now weighs almost 6 pounds (like a crenshaw melon) and is more than 18 1/2 inches long. Your baby is shedding most of the downy hair that covered his or her body, as well as the vernix caseosa – a waxy substance that protects the skin during its nine-month bath in amniotic fluid. Your baby swallows these substances, along with other secretions, and they form a tar-like black substance called meconium which your baby passes in his or her first bowel movements. At the end of this week, your baby will be considered full term. (Full term is 37 to 42 weeks; babies born before 37 weeks are preterm and those born after 42 are post term.) Most likely he or she is in a head-down position. But if not, your practitioner may suggest scheduling an external cephalic version. (This is a fancy way of saying that your caregiver will try to coax your baby into a head-down position by manipulating him or her from the outside of your belly.)

Book Review: Birthing From Within

PhotobucketBirthing From Within is the lucky number seventh book about birth that I’ve read during this pregnancy.

It took me awhile to get through this book, for two reasons. One, being that this is the seventh birth book I’ve read, I’m getting a little restless with birthing so I took my time reading. Two, this isn’t a book you can just whip right through – it requires you to stop and think, reflect, visualize, etc. This latter reason for delay is also what makes this book so great.

I almost felt like I went through a little workshop in the experience of this book. Ms. England speaks of her experiences with leading childbirth classes. One of her favorite ways to help women and couples cope with fears about childbirth and all related things is to make art. She recommends all kinds of subjects for art but mostly about perceptions and expectations of birth. While I didn’t actually make any art, I did take the time to visualize what my art would be like and envision what I thought this birth would be like. I think that alone has helped in working through some of my fears for this birth.

One of my favorite tid-bits from this book was the concept of having a labor project. If you’ve been a reader of my blog you’d know that I love to have a project! Well, Ms. England describes this great birth story of an Amish couple. The Mrs. is basically going about her daily tasks, plus refinishing a rocking chair, while she’s in labor. I love the idea of immersing yourself in some distracting project while allowing your labor to just do its thing. Sure, this isn’t possible in all labors, but I’m willing to give it a try. I need to come up with something to do as a labor project now!

I also like that the benefits of active birth are discussed; very similar concepts that I read in the book Active Birth. I love when a concept shows up in more than one of the books that I read. It gives me the sense that the point is something to really pay attention to, that it has real value.

The section about pain management is great, including the chapter about “surrendering to pain” which kind of sounds easy but, of course, isn’t. It is not about forgetting about the pain or making it go away but rather about working with the pain, being part of it, giving up control and surrendering to what the body needs to do to make it through. Other chapters in this section explain practical techniques such as “Non-Focused Awareness,” breathing exercises, vocalizing, etc.

Honestly, if this book wasn’t good I wouldn’t have made it through because, like I said, I’m tired of reading birthing books! It took me awhile to get into the book but I’m really glad I read it all. I think it helped me to really think about some of my fears, think about letting go of my control issues and giving me productive things to do and think during labor.

Next review: The Everything Breastfeeding Book by Suzanne Fredregill and Ray Fredregill

Group Appointments and Interventions

Mr. Handsome and I have taken the group appointments route for maternity care. We see a midwife along with five to seven other couples in one visit. It sounds a little strange, and we had some reservations at first, but now that we’ve had three appointments I’ve started to really enjoy and even look forward to them.

There are pros and cons to this style of care, of course. The biggest con is that the appointments take two hours (or more) where regular non-group appointments can be as short as 20 minutes. We can’t bring Kiddo1 with us so we have to ask someone to watch him for about three hours (with travel time).

However, a lot gets discussed during those two hours. Every session has had a focus. During the second session we focused a lot on nutrition. I learned a little too much about how many calories and carbs are in my favorite foods. We were all advised to keep our carbs to 30 grams per meal (three meals a day) and 15 per snack (two snacks a day) – that’s only 120 grams of carbs per day which may sound like a lot but when you realize your favorite bagel has 65 grams of carbs… it’s sobering. Even to a person who is stone-cold sober, like the pregnant.

Another con would be that there isn’t a lot of privacy when it comes to discussions (the part during which the belly is measured, heart rate monitored, etc is done in privacy). But, honestly, the fact is that we (the couples) don’t know each other and don’t know each others’ friends so what are we going to say about each other? We might as well commiserate on the what’s what. Plus, once we get going, things start to come out and we begin identifying with each other really well. It just takes a bit to get comfortable and get things rolling.

So other than great discussion and comradery, the main pro is that you don’t have to go through the same crap that you do during an OB appointment. I hear ladies in my mom’s group complain about how their OBs spend more time reading their chart than listening to them, that there isn’t time to bring up their questions or really get to the root of their concerns, that they analyze their urine sample more than their simple “symptoms” like leg cramps, indigestion, etc, which I’ve learned in my group appointments can be indicative of or adjusted by diet, exercise or vitamins. Simple fixes to annoying problems, which an OB usually doesn’t bring up.

I don’t mean to bad-mouth OBs at all. There are a lot of good ones out there. I’m simply reacting to feedback from fellow pregnants. The OB I had with my first pregnancy was great and a good listener, but this experience with the midwives is SO much more fulfilling.

I wanted to write about these group appointments today because during last night’s session we talked a little about our fears about childbirth (which I’ll write about more specifically in a later post). Our questions, however, led to a much larger discussion/overview of hospital policies.

I admit, after reading Natural Hospital Birth I started to focus my fears a lot on how the hospital could screw up my birth experience… After last night’s appointment I feel a lot better. The policies of the midwives very much align with my expectations and desires for this birth. This is why I chose this hospital and group of midwives, after all, so I shouldn’t be surprised!

The “24-hour countdown” of labor-to-delivery isn’t nearly as rigid with the midwives. They’ll pretty much let you take your time, but they say do yourself a favor and labor as much as you can at home (which won’t count on the clock). They only want to see you if your water breaks early AND there’s a risk factor (such as colored fluid or you tested positive for Group B Strep, the latter will cause a need for antibiotics via IV). Also, eating and drinking during labor is encouraged by the midwives but the OB-side of the hospital strictly prohibits it (the midwives will cut you off if you have Pitocin or an Epidural, though). Speaking of Pitocin, the midwives discourage it, which I am delighted to hear! Fetal monitoring is done via a doppler-like device and it is not constant, so it’s as non-invasive as possible. It still has to be done, but intermittently. As soon as you arrive at the hospital you are monitored for 30 minutes continuously so they can get a good idea of how the baby is doing. Then doppler monitoring will occur for about a minute every 30 minutes or so. For a hospital, that’s really not so bad.

We also talked about all the post-birth procedures that are generally required at most hospitals but are elective at the university. First off, as soon as baby is born she is placed on your chest and you are encouraged to breast feed within the first hour. All baby check-ups can take place right there on your chest. They even prefer to administer the vitamin K shot while you’re breast feeding (it distracts the baby from the shot). You can forgo the baby’s vitamin K if you want, or choose a gradual method instead of the shot (I think we’ll just get it over with with the shot though). You can decline the eye ointment if there’s no risk of infection. If your pediatrician is not affiliated with the hospital you can choose from a pediatric or family practice consult – the midwives recommend the family practice because they are “a lot more flexible” than the peds and will require a lot less monitoring if the birth was healthy and there’s no risk of infection. All this sounds great to me!

I got some great news on my stats, too:

  • I only gained three pounds since the last visit, which is consistent with my home-based weight check-ins. The midwife is happy with my weight gain, diet and exercise.
  • My fundal height (uterus size) is 32 cm which is also right on target. Baby’s heartbeat is an excellent 140 bpm.
  • My blood pressure is 118/70, most excellent. Apparently I am quite calm.
  • My glucose test (which I really tried to reject but apparently this midwife’s study focus is gestational diabetes so there was no getting out of it) showed my blood sugar level at 53 which the student midwife said is the lowest she’s ever seen. Not dangerously low, but low enough that – get this, GET THIS – the midwife says I have (basically) free reign on eating carbs and sugar. I CAN EAT CARBS AND SUGAR! I will still keep this manageable but I won’t be as restrictive as I have been. For example, that night I ate a sensible chicken dinner. And a cheese roll. … And some ice cream.
  • Baby is positioned the same as our last appointment – head down, butt on the right and feet to the left. She is awesome. Stay in that position baby! The midwife says it’s the best position for an easy, quick birth. Fingers crossed!

We have only two more appointments left until the due date! One in late June and one in early July. Unless a complication arises that’s all we’ll have to do! No weekly appointments, no constant check-ins. I’m loving the midwives at my hospital!

Book Review: Natural Hospital Birth

PhotobucketThis book was recommended to me by a member of my Moms Group. When I heard the title I knew I had to read it, as I am planning a natural hospital birth myself.

I was a little afraid the book would make me start to feel really combative about how we would have to deal with the hospital in order to get our natural birth. Over the last few weeks, I have identified that my biggest fear about birth isn’t that I can’t do it, it’s that hospital staff will somehow mess it up for me by not following my wishes.

Much to my surprise, though, this book doesn’t encourage confrontation with staff. Ms. Gabriel emphasizes a calm but firm approach, one that allows the staff to see your confidence in and commitment to natural birth.

One of her biggest strategies for avoiding interventions is using the phrase, “I think we’ll wait an hour.” It isn’t rejecting the staff’s ideas or being combative, rather it’s a keen delay mechanism that often allows time for whatever they feel needs resolution to resolve itself. For example, if the staff is pushing Pitocin because of an inactive labor, one hour could be all you need to really get in the groove of things. And if one hour doesn’t work, ask for another. Staff may try to guilt-trip you into seeing things their way, but hold your ground and they’ll see your commitment to natural birth.

One of the great things about this book is the assistance in writing one’s birth plan. I had no idea that birth plans can be controversial: apparently some practitioners discourage them because they don’t want their patients to get “too attached” to a specific plan. Ms. Gabriel is a big advocate of plans, though, as long as you understand that plans change and you keep your “hospital version” short and sweet.

Ms. Gabriel recommends three versions of your plan: a dream version, a realistic version and a hospital version. The hospital version should basically say, “I want the most natural birth possible.” I’ve been inspired to finally start to writing down elements of my ideal plan and get working with Mr. Handsome, too, to make sure we’re on the same page.

Plus, I’m asking Mr. Handsome to read this book, too. It’s great that I have all the information about obtaining a natural birth in a hospital, but there’s only so much I’ll be able to do during “the throws” of labor. Mr. Handsome is my advocate so he not only needs to live and breathe our birth plan as much as me (maybe even more so!) but he needs to know the strategies presented in this book in order to get what we want out of this birth. Poor guy, his prescribed reading list is getting longer and longer!

I’m not as nervous about the hospital staff failing me after reading this book. I think there are things we need to do to prepare ourselves for trying to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting. I have confidence in myself and in Mr. Handsome that we can convey our commitment to natural birth and have things the way we want them. I know circumstances can change and some things are just out of our control, but I feel like we will have a handle on ensuring that we have the most natural (and enjoyable!) birth possible.

Book Review: The Waterbirth Book

As you may know, I’m very interested in pursuing a waterbirth so, naturally, I’m reading up about it in order to prepare myself and Mr. Handsome.

The first book I read, Choosing Waterbirth, was a great primer and helped prepare the emotional side of my brain for this experience. This next book, however, took my preparation to a whole new level.

PhotobucketMuch like her book Active Birth, The Waterbirth Book, by Janet Balaskas, is a comprehensive account of every detail of waterbirth that I could possible thing of, and then some.

Ms. Balaskas not only goes over a brief history of waterbirth, cultural uses of water during birth and pain management using water, but she also walks the reader through every stage of water labor and delivery. Any question that was lingering in my mind after reading Choosing Waterbirth has now been answered. Now I’m only left with a list of questions for the hospital about their policies. And an incredible excitement for what we could experience with this birth plan!

Here are some of my questions for the hospital after reading this book:

  • When do you fill up the pool? When we call to say we’re coming in (based on our assumed progress/timing of contractions)? When we get there and progress has been assessed?
  • How long does it take to fill the pool? How is water temperature regulated?
  • What does the pool look like/what is it made of? (Based on photos I’ve seen, our hospital uses inflatable pools that look about 5-6′ in diameter and maybe 2-1/3′ tall.)
  • At what point during labor is the appropriate time to get in the pool? (The book says 5-6 cm dilated, before transition.) Is there a point at which “the window closes” and it’s too late to get in?
  • What things would cause you to ask a woman to leave the pool?
  • How do you manage fetal monitoring? How often do you monitor?
  • Are partners allowed in the pool? During all stages?
  • Is there a time limit for being in the pool? (This book states most births occur within 3-4 hours of getting in the pool.)
  • Can the entire third stage (birth of the placenta) be done in the water or is it preferable that this is done on dry land? Will cord blood banking be effected? (We’re donating to a public bank.)
  • Finally, the big one, will you let Mr. Handsome “catch” and bring our baby up to the surface?!

See, Ms. Balaskas gives you a whole lot of ammo to make sure you’re fully comfortable with hospital policies regarding waterbirth. I’m totally going to rock our class (coming up in June).

There’s also some great tidbits in here from Active Birth; not so much from a physioloical perspective, more like the reiteration that movement and staying upright is helpful whether on “dry land” or in the water. She also points out that the pool actually facilitates movement as you’re less inclined to get into bed and have greater freedom of motion (one of the birth story quotes talked about being able to move quickly from an all-fours position to a squat which is quite a feat on dry land). Plus you’re in your own little bubble where you can be free to concentrate inward which is a major bonus for me.

Choosing Waterbirth was a great book but there’s nothing in it that The Waterbirth Book doesn’t have, plus it has a whole lot more. If you can only read one book about waterbirth, make it this one by Janet Balaskas!