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Repressed Birth Story Memories?

Is it possible that I may have conveniently left out parts of my last birth story when I wrote it nine years ago? Things that I didn’t write down at the time because maybe I didn’t think were significant? Things that I only lately have begun to remember due to all the reading I’ve been doing?

Nine years ago, I didn’t know anything about the birth process. I didn’t know anything about inductions or drugs that were used other than there were things that could take the pain away. I didn’t research the side-effects of any interventions and I completely trusted medical professionals to watch out for my best interests. I was so young, so naive!

Reading back on my birth story, the only things I noticed as interventions were the artificial breaking of my water and the vacuum-assisted delivery (due to almost three hours of pushing because I couldn’t feel anything due to the high dose on the epidural). But the more I read the word “pitocin” the more I remember it being a part of my labor with Kiddo1.

I remember a conversation occurring upon my admittance to the hospital that went something like this:

Nurse: We can give you some pitocin to speed things up if you’d like.
Me, shrugging: Well that sounds pretty cool.
Nurse: Okay.

I don’t remember a conversation about side effects or risks (although, to their credit, we didn’t ask either). I don’t remember advisories about the strength of dose and the fact that the dosage could be adjusted. I don’t remember basically having my labor induced, even though I was progressing normally (or at least I’m pretty sure I was, at the time, since I admitted at 5 cm). I only remember having the drug suggested and then contractions TAKING OFF. I also now remember the constant monitoring of the “belly belt” and how I was confined to a bed but didn’t complain at all, really (unless you count the crying and screaming, but that was due to pain of constant contractions more than anything else). As far as I can remember, I was a model patient and, frankly, those nurses were lucky to have me!

I feel two things about this memory of receiving pitocin.

On the one hand, I feel upset at the hospital. I feel like speed and convenience were more of a priority than my and my unborn child’s well-being. As far as I can remember, this drug was offered and given very soon after I was admitted, so the hospital staff didn’t even wait to see how I was progressing before wanting to speed things up. I wonder how my labor and delivery would have been different had I been more educated and refused the offer for the drug.

On the other hand, I feel encouraged for this upcoming birth. Knowing what I know now about pitocin, my contractions shouldn’t be on top off each other like they were last time. They shouldn’t be as painful either. Bonus! However, my labor could progress a bit slower. Here’s how I’m altering my expectations:

  • Expect a longer labor this time.
  • Expect a labor with a more natural progression.
  • Expect to be able to rest between contractions, at least at the beginning.
  • Expect different feelings, perhaps with less pain or more manageable pain.
  • In short, expect an entirely different experience.

This memory makes me so happy to have chosen to educate myself this time around. I’m happy that Mr. Handsome and I have picked a hospital and care group in my midwifes that backs my decision to labor and deliver without interventions of drugs, artificial induction techniques, constant monitoring and other “modern conveniences.” I’m happy that I am approaching this labor with an entirely new attitude and set of expectations. I will not fear pain. I will submit to the natural process and allow my body to guide me. Above all, I will learn from my previous experiences and be grateful for this second chance at an empowering birth!

Sure, a circumstance my arise that would warrant the use of drugs, monitoring, etc. but I will be able to make the right decisions this time. If anything, this memory is encouraging me to get what I want this time around!

Book Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

PhotobucketIna May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin has two parts. The first half is a collection of positive birth stories from women who conquered childbirth without the use of pharmaceutical aids like an epidural. The second half is called “The Essentials of Birth” and basically goes over the capabilities and power the body contains and can use during childbirth.

This is a great book for those contemplating a drug-free childbirth. The birth stories alone are inspiring and even empowering. The accompanying pictures are a little, well, unconventional (ie, revealing) and there’s certainly a surprise at some turns of the page! But hey, you’ve got to get past that soon enough anyway right? Plus it’s always good to be prepared!

There are some great tips embedded within the birth stories – stuff to help deal with “the rushes,” which is what the group of midwives call contractions, such as walking, leaning on a helper, squatting, etc. The stories don’t really focus on the pain of childbirth. Rather, the focus is overcoming the pain and finding the strength within oneself to not only survive but enjoy the birth experience. After reading these stories I know that it is certainly possible for this to be a positive, even enlightening, experience!

The second half of the book explains some of the pointers from the birth stories in more detail. At times it seems like the chapters are geared toward students of midwifery, and I’m sure they use this book too (a Doula friend of mine who is studying midwifery saw that I was reading it and commented that it’s a really great book, so I know the students are reading it!). However, most of the time when Ina May is addressing the reader she is obviously envisioning a pregnant woman as her target.

This book very much has a home birth or birth center slant. Ina May is the principal midwife in a community known as “The Farm” located in rural Tennessee. People live on The Farm in what I can imagine is a sort of sustainable community (grow their own organic food, help each other out, that sort of thing) and people also come to The Farm specifically to give birth with the awesome staff of very knowledgeable midwives. The statistics they’ve accumulated are impressive, such as a very low two percent c-section rate (the national average is about 30%). Home birth is very much the preferred environment to Ina May, so be prepared for that if your plan does not (or cannot due to insurance reasons) include home birth.

The varieties of drugs for reducing pain and inducing labor are also discussed. This is the one area of the book that I felt was a bit frightening (none of the birth stories were as scary as the drugs!). I understand that these drugs do have side effects and really aren’t idea for the mother or baby, but if I do have to have them for some reason I think all the knowledge I now have about them (between this book and Hey!LINK) could cause some anxiety.

The rest of the information more than makes up for the scary drug parts, though. Positions for productive labor and pushing are taught. The uselessness of episiotmies is reviewed. Even the orgasmic powers of birth are disclosed! All of this is motivating enough to want to give natural childbirth a try!

I checked this book out from my local library but I will probably either check it out again or see if I can get a cheap used copy somewhere. Mr. Handsome just started reading it when I had to take it back (it was on hold by others so I couldn’t renew – sad face) and all the information would be very useful for him too so I’ll definitely get it again somehow. I have a feeling that I’ll forget all this great info in the heat of the moment so I’ll need him to be armed with it too!

Overall, this is an excellent book and a must-read for those contemplating or dead-set on a drug-free and positive birth experience.

Next review: Choosing Waterbirth by Lakshmi Bertram

Book Review: Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway?

PhotobucketThis review is for Hey! Who’s Having This Baby Anyway? by Breck Hawk. I thought it was a great title so I picked it right up!

At first, this book seemed like it would be all about home births. I have nothing against this option, but it isn’t what we’ve chosen so I didn’t want to read a whole book that doesn’t apply to me.

However, I was pleased to find that only the first chapter really dealt with home birth, and the issues presented could be applied to hospital births too, such as learning all you can about the “physical, psychological and emotional process of labor, birth and postpartum recovery.” The following chapters were great surveys of things like labor pain medications, herbs, natural labor and pain management, VBAC, homebirth (okay I guess there’s one more chapter on this but I skipped it), waterbirth, birth plans and breastfeeding. Lots of information!

The book doesn’t go too in depth about any one subject in particular (although the chapter on waterbirth was excellent and information). Rather, each chapter brings up the many subtopics with some high-level information on each and encouragement for the reader to research further if desired.

PhotobucketSome chapters have workbooks at the end to help you have a quick glance and checklist to questions to ask a potential physician or midwife and all the things you need to include in a birth plan. Since this book has so much information (over 300 pages worth!) it helps to have these quick-reference pages so that you don’t have to read the entire chapter over again in order to get your checklist.

The chapter on labor pain medications was a bit hit-and-miss, to be honest. It is quite clear that the author is not a fan of the epidural or other serious pain management drugs. She frequently refers to the possibility of a “blue, floppy baby” as the result of using these types of medications. Now, I had already decided to do my absolute best to forgo these drugs this time and rely on natural methods exclusively. But if I hadn’t already made that choice I would probably be scared out of my mind at this point! I mean, the whole childbirth thing is terrifying enough as it is (that’s the only reason I had an epidural the first time around!) that it just seems wrong to add further anxiety. However, it is good to know your options and the benefits and risks of each choice, which I believe is the author’s only intent with the warnings in this chapter.

Overall this is a great book about all things birth. I’m glad I’ll have it around as a reference guide as childbirth looms in my future.

Next review: Before: Short Stories About Pregnancy from Our Top Writers

Friday Update: Week 19

PhotobucketYikes, week 19! The days seem so long but the weeks are SO short! Where is all this time going, honestly? Sheesh we’ll be a family of four before I know it.

At 19 weeks, baby is about 6 inches long which is the height of this 24 oz. box of raisins! Mmmm, raisins. Mr. Handsome loves ’em.

What I don’t love, on the other hand, is this freaking annoying-as-all-get-out abdomen pain that I keep experiencing. It’s been going on since just before my last midwife visit, so since about week 15.

What I’m experiencing is a stabbing, sharp pain about an inch or two to the right of my belly button. It isn’t very deep, I would say no more than an inch below my skin, but it’s sharp and it hurts. Okay, it doesn’t hurt so much that I’m doubled over, immobile, crying, etc. but it is annoying and I don’t like it.

What’s also super dumb is that it comes and goes, sometimes it shows up at the same time every day (for about a week it was 4:15 on the nose), it waves in and out of more or less painful and it sticks around for sometimes an hour or two and then peaces out til the next day. WTF?

So I called the midwife a week or two ago. She asked a bunch of questions about my appendix (because I’m a rare one that has all the parts I came with, except my baby and wisdom teeth) but then determined that since I’m not in a super duper amount of pain that it probably isn’t appendicitis. (Well thank goodness because abdominal surgery right now would freak the f outta me.) She ruled out critical conditions and that was about it.

I called again after Kiddo1’s birthday party last weekend because it was getting pretty painful. We talked more about my symptoms. She believes I may be experiencing round ligament pain (however from my research on this subject I believe what I’m feeling is far too high in my abdomen to be my round ligaments). This pain is caused my ligaments and tendons in the uterus and pelvic area which are stretching out due to the growing baby.

This type of pain is completely normal, especially in second pregnancies (and third, fourth, etc). It’s also most common to feel this “stretching” in the second trimester. Finally, the pain can be triggered by lots of activity (hence its onset at the end of my work day or after activities such as a four-hour birthday party) and/or light dehydration (so time to really focus on getting more than 60 oz of water per day).

So when I feel the pain now, I’m trying to slow down a bit and take it easy, but grab the water bottle first and suck up some hydration while I lounge. Things have been a bit better the last couple days, but I’m really hoping this subsides soon. It’s just annoying and causes unnecessary worry!

Here are a few other things going on:

  • Total weight gain: 14 pounds. What. The. Hell. That’s three pounds this week alone (and five pounds in the last two weeks!). I blame this on Mr. Handsome because he brought home a whole lotta candy for Valentine’s Day and I am powerless against it.
  • Cravings: Freaking Valentine’s Day chocolate is the death of me this week. I can’t stay away!
  • Coolest symptom: Yes, there have been some definite, very light but definite, baby kicks. I’ve been teased for what, maybe a month now, by little flutters that I think, maybe, aren’t gas or other tummy rumbles but little waves of somersaults and baby tae-bo. But lately, in the evening when I’m quiet and still, I feel things. I hope they get stronger soon so I can stop going crazy with second-guessing myself!
  • Lamest symptom: Same ol’ problems as of late (lower back pain, stabbing abdomen pain/round ligament pain that comes and goes, headaches aren’t as frequent but still annoying, inconsistent but daily-ish bowel movements). These are more annoying than anything, they don’t get in the way. Honestly, I don’t really mind because at this point they’re all I’ve got to remind me that, yes, there’s a baby growing in there!
  • Exercise this week: The goal is 210 minutes per week (that’s an average of 30 minutes per day). I started a brief (5 minutes a day) arm routine to compliment all the yoga and bits of cardio I’m doing. I hope to have nice-looking arms by baby time! So total exercise this week was 215 minutes! All yoga except for arms and 30 minutes of vigorous soccer practice with Kiddo1 (soccer season is just around the corner!). I have got to get back to the elliptical but it made my back hurt so much last time I used it that I’m scared off. I must get over myself!

Now let’s check in with baby’s growth, courtesy babycenter.com:

Your baby’s sensory development is exploding! His or her brain is designating specialized areas for smell, taste, hearing, vision, and touch. Some research suggests that your baby may be able to hear your voice now, so don’t be shy about reading aloud, talking to him or her, or singing a happy tune if the mood strikes you. Your baby weighs about 8 1/2 ounces and measures 6 inches, head to bottom – about the size of a large heirloom tomato. The arms and legs are in the right proportions to each other and the rest of the body now. Your baby’s kidneys continue to make urine and the hair on his or her scalp is sprouting. A waxy protective coating called the vernix caseosa is forming on the skin to prevent it from pickling in your amniotic fluid.

Hospital/Midwife Choice

Yesterday, Mr. Handsome and I finally had our first official appointment with the midwife group that we’ve chosen. It feels like we’re making some real progress now!

It’s taken us awhile to get here because we had a hard time finding the perfect place. We were all set to go with the ob/midwife office that I had been seeing for the last couple years. They seemed good enough – perfectly competent, at least. But the more we looked into the hospital they’re affiliated with, the less impressed I was. The hospital just didn’t have the amenities that we were looking for, specifically the waterbirth option (long story short about that choice: a few years ago we were talking to a friend who had a waterbirth and she described the most amazing experience. We knew that would be part of our plan if/when we were to have another baby).

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Regardless of the misgivings, we went ahead and had our first appointment at my fallback office. During that appointment, we learned that the only midwife in the practice is pregnant herself and would not be able to attend our birth. An OB would take over for her, but that’s not the path we want to take this time. We had an OB with our son, and it was a fine experience. We just want something different for this round. (Plus our decision is really validated by the stuff I read on the “My OB said what?!” blog – link in the blog roll at right.) Having a pregnant midwife gave us the excuse we needed to start shopping.

I went on a quick interview with one of the midwives at the university hospital (Mr. Handsome couldn’t go and he was pretty bummed – he really digs this stuff!). I was fairly certain that this was the place for us, so I talked about it with Mr. Handsome and we went over all the paraphernalia at home. We agreed that both the hospital and the midwives had what we were looking for, so we booked a first visit., which we finally had yesterday.

The appointment went great! It’s a group practice so we get a different midwife sometimes but that way we get to know more of the ladies so that we might be familiar with whomever we get come delivery time. Both yesterday’s midwife and the one I met with a few weeks ago were fantastic. Super laid back and easy to talk to. They took plenty of time for questions and didn’t brush off anything (like my OB sometimes did!). No question was silly or seemingly unimportant to them.

I also like the university hospital because we can help people learn! There was a student midwife with us at yesterday’s appointment and I completely expect to see another one in the delivery room (which is more than fine with me – I remember not really caring about “strangers” in the room after a couple hours in labor with our son).

In addition, the facilities are beautiful, the amenities are plentiful (yummy food!) and all the perks that I’m looking for are there (specifically the waterbirth and cord blood donation, which I’ll talk about in a later post).

In March we start group appointments, too, which are regular midwife visits except with several other women/couples who are due around the same time. I’ve heard great things about this method and Mr. Handsome and I are excited to see how it goes! I’ll post updates about how those are working later on the spring/early summer. Today I get to call to schedule our ultrasound too!

Overall, I’m just super happy that we’re finally on track and are feeling good about at least one of the major decisions we have made!