Tuesday, December 26, 2006


While we were sitting around the dinner table on Christmas Eve, we got onto the topic of my blog. My siblings have read it and commented occasionally, but I don’t think my mom has ever read my blog. When I had asked her why not, she made comments like, “I don’t like blogs.” But that evening, she told me the real reason why she hasn’t read it—she thinks that the pictures I posted are inappropriate. She is ashamed that I have made them public and refuses to look at my blog because she can’t stand the thought of others seeing things that should be “private and sacred.” Another person at the table remarked that “anyone could take those pictures and put them on a porn site.”

Those pictures. What are they referring to, anyway? I they assume mean the picture of me and Zari immediately after the birth, and the three nursing pictures I have posted.

I agree that birth is a very private, sacred event. That’s exactly why I chose to give birth with no one but my husband in attendance, and even he remained in the other room until I called him in at the very end. But sharing my experiences does not detract from the beauty of the experience. I want others to read my story and know why I chose this path.

In addition, I find the picture of me holding my freshly-born daughter incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Whenever I look at it, I feel the elation and joy all over again. To say that this picture is degrading—simply because there is nudity—is like equating Michelangelo’s “David” or Mary Cassatt’s “Mother and Child” with an x-rated video or centerfold. Nudity does not pornography make.

For being completely naked, I expose remarkably little in that picture. All you can really see is one breast, camouflaged by blood smears. Everything else is covered by the baby or in shadow.

And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding being considered objectionable!

I am sad that my mom cannot see beyond the images. I don’t think she has ever read my birth story, and I wonder if she ever will. This blog contains intimate, heartfelt posts about things that are the most important to me--things that are part of my core identity as a woman and a mother.

So, dear readers, would you be ashamed if your own daughter posted similar pictures? Please share your thoughts.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Get your pens out

On the topic of breastfeeding, You Tube just removed my video because of "inappropriate content" or other such nonsense. Yep, seeing a baby latch on is considered sexually explicit content. I am going to petition the decision, but I don't know if I'll get anywhere. Grrrrrr....

Here is what the You Tube website says about videos that are removed: "When a video gets flagged as inappropriate, we review the video to determine whether it violates our Terms of Use—flagged videos are not automatically taken down by the system. If we remove your video after reviewing it, you can assume that we removed it purposefully, and you should take our warning notification seriously."

I will of course be writing them a very eloquent letter explaining why breastfeeding is NOT sexually explicit and should be allowed on their site.

FYI, here are the standards for posting videos on You Tube:
  • it can't show pornography or sexually explicit content
  • it can't show a dangerous or illegal act, or real violence
  • it's not a shock site (like showing dead bodies, war footage, etc)
  • it can't post copyrighted material
  • no hate speech, predatory behavior, stalking, threats, etc...
Did my video violate any of these standards?? I don't think so!

So, if you have a spare moment, write to You Tube and ask them to reinstate my video. It's called "Latching On" and my username is rixaf.
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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Latching on

Speaking of nursing, here's a video of Zari latching on when she was around 3 weeks old. She still likes to get her hands in the way!

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Nurse Here Now

I just came across the Nurse Here Now site. I would like to add a resounding "AMEN!"

I breastfeed openly whenever Zari needs to eat. So far, I have nursed:
  • In the hospital lobby waiting to get her PKU test done
  • On a display couch in World Market. When I said I was going to nurse her, Eric said, "But what if they ask you to leave?" I said, "Then they better be prepared for a nurse-in and national publicity about kicking a breastfeeding mother out of their store." Fortunately I got no hassles there. I give the couch an A+ after its test run. It was very comfortable.
  • While watching Casino Royale at the movie theater. She was an angel!
  • At the annual holiday dinner for the liberal arts college where Eric works
  • At a humanities division social
  • In the pews during our church's sacrament meeting
  • In the lobby of our church during the meeting (she was being loud and fussy) and after church, when everyone was milling around
  • During our church's Christmas party & dinner, while I was eating. Talk about multi-tasking, eh?
  • At various church youth functions (I am involved with the teenaged girls)
When I was shopping at the mall a few days ago, I saw those leather massage recliners you pay to use. I soooo wanted to nurse there, but Zari wasn't hungry. Maybe next time.

It's fine if women want to cover up, but I don't and I won't. Sorry Mom, but I will not force my daughter to endure the indiginity of eating with a blanket over her head. My mom is a big proponent of breastfeeding, but thinks that women ought to cover up while in public.

By the way, I really really really want this Breastfeeding Goddess Calendar. Hint hint for you procrastinators out there! Also, here are links to more of her breastfeeding and cesarean artwork.
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Wish-I-Had and Glad-I-Did

Things I wish I had done differently during this pregnancy and birth:

1. I wish I had done my bellycasting sooner. I had everything on hand and had planned on doing the bellycast some time during the 38th week. Well, that obviously did not happen!

2. Ditto on taking artistic pregnancy pictures. I have weekly pictures of my growing belly, but nothing more aesthetic.

3. Next time, I will be more pro-active in treating my perineum and vaginal area after the birth. I had some pretty serious swelling and pain, and I realize now I should have started ice packs and warm herbal baths right away. I didn’t do any of these things until the fourth day after the birth.

4. Made sure our camera was on the right setting (5 megapixels). It was on a very low resolution when Eric snapped the picture of me and Zari immediately after she was born. I am sad because it is too grainy for anything but a very small print. I don’t suppose there’s a magic way to remedy this...anyone?

Things I am very glad I did:

1. Read Jack Newman’s Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers about 2 times from cover to cover, and watched several video clips on his website. I firmly believe that educating myself before the birth enabled breastfeeding go without a hitch. Knowing exactly what a good latch looks and feels like, and how to get it right, made all the difference.

2. Bought a fetoscope. Eric and I enjoyed listening to the baby’s heart beat, and when I had occasional “hmmmm, I haven’t felt the baby move in a while” moments, I could reassure myself that the baby was fine. The best $13 I ever spent. I didn’t use it all during labor though, nor was I planning to. The thought crossed my mind once, but as the intensity mounted, I didn’t think of it again.

3. Had a 12-day "babymoon" before I allowed any visitors (my mom) to come. It was a magical time, with just me, Eric, and the new baby. We spent most of the time upstairs in our master suite. Eric brought the laptop up, and we ate our meals on my sewing table. Church members supplied most of our dinners during that time, so Eric only had minimal cooking duties. Then, right when I was starting to feel a little stir-crazy, my mom arrived. It was perfect.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Many Faces of Zari

Our laptop is back! Here are several pictures of Zari I took over the past week:

This one makes me laugh every time I see it

At night we bundle her up in a blanket (aka her "baby burrito") and a hat.

She had her hand up by her chin, like Rodin's "Thinker," but she moved before I could take the picture.

She always nurses with her hands up by her face. Cute, but those hands are sure pesky when I'm trying to get her to latch on!

Zoned Out
Showering with her dad


Zonked Out
My mom calls this her "cello player" pose.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Technical difficulties

Holding a sleeping baby and typing one-handed...

Our laptop is in for repairs so I have limited internet access. Expect posts to resume in 1-2 weeks.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006


At 5 weeks old, Zari has grown between 2-3" (it's hard to get an exact measurement on babies) and gained 2 1/2 pounds. All on her mama's milk! Her current measurements:

22" long
9 1/2 pounds

She also has quite a few zits on her face right now. I guess it's her "teenage phase," just a tad early.
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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Souviens-toi, mon enfant (Remember, My Child)

This is a song from the French LDS hymnal--it is my favorite. I am not sure why our English version does not have it. It is sung to the melody from Dvorak's "New World Symphony." The English translation is courtesy of yours truly.

Souviens-toi, mon enfant
Souviens-toi, mon enfant: Tes parents divins
te serraient dans leurs bras, ce temps ne’st pas loin.
Aujourd’hui, tu es là, présent merveilleux,
ton regard brille encore du reflet des cieux.
Parle-moi, mon enfant, de ces lieux bénis
car pour toi est léger le voile d’oubli.

Souviens-toi, mon enfant des bois, des cités.
Pouvons-nous ici-bas les imaginer?
Et le ciel jusqu’au soir, est-il rose ou gris ?
Le soleil attend-il la neige ou la pluie?
Conte-moi, mon enfant, la couleur des prés
et le chant des oiseaux d’un monde oublié.

Souviens-toi, mon enfant : A l’aube des temps,
nous étions des amis jouant dans le vent.
Puis un jour, dans la joie nous avons choisi
d’accepter du Seigneur le grand plan de vie.
Ce soir-là, mon enfant, nous avons promis
par l’amour, par la foi, d’être réunis.

Remember, My Child
Remember, my child : not long ago,
your divine parents held you in their arms.
Today you are here, marvelously present.
Your gaze still shines with the reflection of heaven.
Talk to me, my child, about that blessed place,
because for you the veil is still thin.

Remember, my child, the forests, the cities.
Can we down here imagine them?
And the night sky, is it rosy or gray?
Is the sun waiting for snow or rain?
Describe to me, my child, the color of the meadows
and the birdsongs of a forgotten world.

Remember, my child: at the dawn of time,
we were friends playing in the wind.
Then one day in joy we chose to accept
the Lord’s grand plan of life.
That night, my child, we promised through love,
and through faith, to be reunited.

To those who are unfamiliar with LDS (Latter-Day Saint, aka Mormon) theology, I'll briefly explain a few things that this hymn mentions:
1: Pre-mortal existence: we believe that we are eternal beings and that we existed before earth life. We chose to come to earth to obtain physical bodies, to gain experience and knowledge, and to prove to God whether or not we would remain true to the things we had accepted in our premortal existence. Hence the references to knowing our earthly children before this life and the wistful yearning for the world in which we used to live.
2: Heavenly Parents: unlike other Christian faiths, we believe that we also have a Heavenly Mother, that God does not exist without a Goddess alongside him. Eliza R. Snow, one of the most well-known LDS poets, penned these lines that summarize our idea of a Heavenly Mother. (The poem was later set to music and included in the LDS hymnal):
“In the heavens are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare.
Truth is reason, truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a Mother there.”
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Friday, December 01, 2006

A Father's Perspective

This is what Eric wrote in his journal the day Zari was born:

So. I am a father. As of 11:23 this morning, I have earthly posterity, a beautiful daughter. We haven’t named her yet, probably won’t until we find something that suits her. What an experience! I think this calls for exclamation points! Rixa woke me up around 6:30 this morning saying that she had been having regular contractions since about 1:30. She told me to cancel my classes, which I did. And take out Zeke, which I did. After a brisk run, Rixa continued to have regular contractions and they got stronger and stronger until about 9:30 when she started pushing.

Pushing took much longer than she thought it would—the baby’s head took a while to mold and move down the birth canal. I did my part by giving Rixa a blessing when she needed it and basically by staying out of the way and helping only when she needed it. She really was amazing. Rixa spent most of her time on the toilet but she also went on the floor and used the birth ball for stability or she went in the tub. I was sitting in the bedroom most of the time, trying not to focus too much on the loud vocalizing that Rixa was doing. Like from the belly of the beast. They were about a minute apart for most of it and when she got close to the end I thought labor was stalling. She wasn’t making as much noise but breathing heavily. Then I heard, “OK, the head is out” and I came in to help catch the baby. She came out smooth and slick, bright pink with a full set of lungs. She cried for about a minute or so but calmed right down when we put her on Rixa. Her head was very molded from the birth but already it looks round and normal. She has a full head of hair and the little Freeze nose crinkle. She looks very much like Freeze babies usually do. Same eyes and forehead going on. Still, it is hard to distinguish characteristics from newborns.

After she was born we took pictures and a couple videos. Rixa went probably prematurely to the bed because it took her a couple hours to get the placenta out. She continued to have strong contractions like she did during labor, but these were for the placenta which stubbornly would not come out. Rixa didn’t want to force it because that could cause unnecessary hemorrhaging so we waited it out. We decided to cut the cord and then Rixa went to the bathroom to labor and get it out, which she did after a short prayer. She even had a small chunk of it to chew on to help stop the bleeding, etc. She really felt great, looks great, and has been recovering nicely. We had Bernice over at the end to help stitch Rixa up and do some blood work. It was very nice to have her just to verify that we did everything right (which we did). Rixa has had pretty minimal bleeding and she can walk, etc. Very functional for a woman who just gave birth.

We put pictures on the family site and we had phone calls all afternoon and evening. We’re dead tired. Right now it’s about 10:45 p.m. and we’re sitting with the girl (still not sure what to call her—Jezebel was the winning vote on the family site and that isn’t going to cut it for long) and changing her diaper. She has already had a couple good meconium poops. Slick and black as fresh tar. We’re just so happy that everything went so smoothly. I gave Rixa a couple blessings that helped both of us feel comfortable and happy about going forward. She is such a beautiful baby and her whole body turns beet red whenever she cries. Now all we need is a name. A NAME! Bonne nuit.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Zari's fourth week

Zari is filling out--her cheeks, stomach, and thighs especially! It's amazing that she was actually inside of me. She seems a very different creature than the baby whose squirms and kicks I grew to love.

Sleeping with her Grandpa Spencer during Thanksgiving break.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Some Numbers

Weeks gestation (from known date of conception): 36
Pounds gained during pregnancy: 26
Pounds lost immediately after the birth: 13
Pounds lost at 4 weeks postpartum: 16
Day my milk came in: 2-5 (the colostrum started turning milky the evening of day 2, but my milk was not in full force until about day 5)
Days of postpartum bleeding: 8 or 9
Average length of a nursing session: 45 minutes
Average length between nursing: 3 hours
Time between Zari’s birth and the birth of the placenta: 2 ½ hours
Total length of labor: 10 hours
Length of pushing stage: 2 hours (or 3 if you include the hour of “nudging”)
Zari’s weight at birth: 7 lbs
Weight at 8 days: 6 lbs 14 oz
Weight at 19 days: 8 lbs
Zari’s length: 19 ½” (nurse’s 8-day measurement) or 20” (my measurement)
Duration of my “babymoon”: 11 days
Number of meals provided by church friends: 9
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sobering News

The United States' cesarean rate has risen yet again to a record high of 30.2% in 2005, according to preliminary data from the CDC. Sigh....

I wish for the day when scalpels become almost obsolete in birth, and when we will look at the cesarean epidemic as a barbaric and tragic episode in the history of childbirth.
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Zari's first day (movies)

Eric took these short movies with our digital camera about five minutes after Zari was born, right after we left the bathroom. Check out her major conehead! Towards the end of the video, there's a short glimpse of her umbilical cord, which is still blue and pulsing.

This was a few minutes later after she latched on. I was having MAJOR afterbirth pains because her placenta was still inside. You'll hear me say "ow, cramp!" as Zari is nursing. (No, we did not seriously think of naming her Jezebel--it was a joke among Eric's family and worked as a temporary name until we decided on Zari.)

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flying baby and other pictures

These pictures represent Zari's two main states of existence: zonked out or wide awake and wiggly.

Fly Zari, fly!

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Trusting Birth Even More

This essay was written on November 6, 2006 by Carla Hartley, director of the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. Begun in 1981, AAMI is a distance learning program for direct-entry midwives. Carla also founded the Trust Birth Initiative, a grassroots movement that inspires women to trust in the birth process. Many thanks to Carla for giving me permission to post her essay here!

I hear lots of birth stories. Most of them are wonderful. Today a friend emailed a very tragic story of loss and despair. A mom going in for her second cesarean suffered a massive rupture and lost her baby and her ability to have another. It shook my friend to the core and I certainly understand why. I have been in similar situations and know how desperately everyone involved wants answers. I wish I had them.

When tragedy strikes sometimes there are no answers. I do not know if it was attributable to induction or pitocin and know nothing about the previous cesarean. But even if this mom had been just walking down the street when this catastrophe happened, it doesn’t affect my faith in the intrinsic safety of birth. I am terribly sad for them but I still believe that birth is safe.

Living is synonymous with risk. There is no escaping it. Everything we do carries some risk and there are many reminders of the fragility of life. Some years ago a young friend of mine died just moments after she had given a presentation at a summer church camp where she was a counselor. I had known her for more than 7 years. She was a beautiful, vivacious girl. The autopsy report could not tell her parents why their child died. At 16, she just sat down on a bench and her heart stopped beating.

Just this last week I have learned four people I know have died very recently. One was an apparent SIDS death of a 6 month old. A few months ago a family friend, who was only 18, ran a stop sign and was killed. So many people in my life have been killed in car wrecks that I am absolutely convinced that driving is a considerably riskier than we do on a regular basis. That is why I made Jessie take her driving course twice.

In fact, there are many, many things riskier than birth. I am positive that unhindered, unmanaged birth is really, really safe . . . as safe as breathing. I did not believe birth was as safe in 1975 as I do today. I wasn’t scared of birth as far as I knew, but I thought I needed an authority, and an expert or something bad might happen. That birth, and everything that has happened concerning birth in my life since, has taught me that if something bad does happen it is more likely to be due to interference with birth, rather than a flaw with the design or deficiency in the process.

I preach to all who will listen that the best way to serve a woman during her pregnancy is to help her to realize that she is her own authority and that a midwife or doctor or doula is ONLY a paid consultant. A consultant may be an expert about birth, but I believe that a woman is her own best expert for her birth, and that her body knows EXACTLY what to do if given the chance.

Some of you know about the June twelfth birth of my namesake, Carla Rae. I attended as Baba only. I toted water to the tub as the hose was too short to reach the spot where the kiddie pool was. I also handed the mom the honey spoon from time to time. I said almost nothing. I did not do anything midwifey. The mother had a previous section 3 years prior almost to the day. She knew nothing about birth then but afterwards was sure that she wanted something different. She wanted a home birth. She had watched What Babies Want at my house and it “opened the curtain.” From that point on, my daughter-in-law read and watched everything she could. Her favorite book was The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth. She loved hearing my birth stories and especially my “did not push, just let my body do it birth.” And Marcela did just that with the birth of Carla Rae. If I had been her midwife I would have suggested that she do some things differently. As her mother in law, I suggested nothing, did nothing. I just loved her and did what she asked.

If I had been her midwife I would have most assuredly said something when it took soooooo long for another contraction after the head was out. As the mother in law, I said nothing. And after what seemed an eternity to the midwife in me, I observed her powerful uterus rise up and push that baby out in one contraction, with no assistance from the mother. Truly, as many of you have heard me preach, the body that managed conception, and pretty much grew a healthy baby with little assistance or direction, did not forget what to do at the end. In fact, it was quite efficient in ejecting that baby.

Last Monday, I observed this amazing phenomenon again as I was with my first home born baby as she gave birth to her second child. Heather’s first birth was a lovely midwife attended water birth. Excruciatingly painful for my daughter but a beautiful birth, nonetheless. This time, she prepared the same way in terms of nutrition, labor prep and daily chlorophyll, with a few additions. She did a lot more kegels this time. She went to the chiropractor regularly because of her incredibly uneven pelvis due to scoliosis. She took arnica in the last three weeks to help with the hip pain. The difference that made the difference, in my humble opinion, was that she determined she was not going to call the midwife this time. Heather adores her midwife and was very happy with how she assisted in the first birth. This time, though, she wanted to “do it herself.” She read everything she could find about unassisted birth and she read Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering repeatedly. She read it so often that she could quote long passages of Sarah’s take on the wisdom on the body.

In spite of the fact that Heather had almost no sleep in the last month and was totally exhausted, once real labor started, it lasted just under two hours. She had a lot of back labor and she and her husband were alone almost all of those two hours as I was out running errands for them. I got back less than a half hour before the birth. Once again I spent most of that time toting water, but this time because the hose was just not filling fast enough. Heather stood up out of the birthing tub and leaned on me while her husband continued to try to get more air into the blow up pool. During her last water birth, the sides had been under inflated and there was considerable water spillage. Her husband is somewhat of an efficiency expert and did not want a repeat of that. (That is funny to us now, that he just would not fit it in his head that the birth was imminent. I can assure you though, that at the time it was very irritating to Heather. The speed at which this labor progressed was a shock to both of them. In fact when she stood up and felt the baby move down dramatically, she asked in disbelief how it could be happening so soon as she had not had time to dilate. There had been no exams but she was comparing it to her 21 hour labor the first time!)

The water broke just before the baby was born. Much to my surprise, I heard a gurgly inspiration and cry immediately after that. I have never heard a baby cry before the head was out. Heather had just asked me to confirm that was indeed the baby’s head emerging between her legs so I could tell her husband that now was the time for him to get in position! The water broke on my hand. After I heard the cry, the midwife in me wanted that baby to be born pretty quickly, but Heather’s body, being much wiser than I, waited a bit. And that was a good thing in the end as it gave her husband time to turn off the air compressor, put down the air hose, get into the tub and get behind her to catch his baby. In the position I was in, supporting her front to front I was able to literally feel her amazingly powerful uterus bring her baby into the world. It was incredible to feel my daughter’s body doing its job for her. Heather did NOT push, even once. It took 3 or 4 contractions from the time she stood up until the time her baby was born. She told me later that once she realized her body was doing it, she literally could not have pushed if she had wanted to. She had given her body permission to do it’s job with no interference from her and there was no going back.

Heather is convinced that not pushing was beneficial in other ways. She had no trauma to her perineum or vagina whatsoever. No swelling, tears or skidmarks. Honestly, she did not look like she had had a baby ever. She bled very little and her lochia is almost completely gone at 6 days. She feels great. She is in a perpetual state of awe when she talks about her birth. In spite of the pain, she would love to do it again today. I can completely identify with the feeling. After Jessie was born I had the incredible desire to put her back in and do it again. It was the most amazing feeling I can imagine. For Heather, the sensual, powerful feeling of allowing her body to do what it was designed to do has changed her life as well. She has always been a committed believer in the safety of birth, but now she has experienced a whole new level of trusting her own body to give birth, as well.

My wish for every woman would be to experience the power of unhindered birth as I have, and as Marcela and Heather and many others I know have experienced. We are so conditioned to believe that we have to work hard to push babies out, when more likely, most would come out better if we just allow our bodies to do their job.

So, once again, I find myself trusting birth more than I did last week!
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More pictures: cradles and baths

My mom is visiting us right now, and she brought a wooden cradle that my dad made for me when I was born. Zari sleeps in bed with us at night, but it is nice to have a place to put her when I am showering or running downstairs for a few minutes. I love having a handmade object that many generations will use.

My mom gave Zari her first kitchen sink bath the other day. I have memories of my mom doing this same thing with my sisters and brother.

Zari is more awake and alert every day.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some thoughts about a four-letter word


I hesitate to even write this post, because it gives pain a privileged position in childbirth. We all know how pain and birth are talked about: birth as the most excruciating pain a woman will ever endure, pain management in labor (a euphemism for drugs), getting a pain-free labor with hypnosis...

But now that I have been there done that, I feel the need to share my experience of pain. Not because it was awful or excruciating, but because it was one of many, many sensations that made up the entirety of labor.

Before my labor began, even before I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to experience labor in its fullness. I wanted to feel every sensation, pleasant or not. I firmly believed—and still do—that by numbing myself to the painful parts of labor, I would also miss out on the bliss and the ecstasy as well. I wouldn’t be pain-free by taking drugs or having anesthesia; I would be sensation-free. I didn’t like that idea.

I wasn’t wedded to the idea that labor had to feel a certain way. I didn’t expect pain, but I also didn’t expect its absence. Honestly, I expected to feel a great many sensations as I labored, and I knew that pain might be one of them. I loved reading stories of painless births, ones that take a woman by surprise because she doesn’t realize she is in labor, or the ones where a woman experiences bliss and waves of pleasure. I listened to Marie Mongan’s Hypnobirthing CD and read her book. The CD was incredibly useful for relaxation during pregnancy and helping me sleep when nothing else could, but I resisted her assertion that if you relax the right way, you will not feel pain. I think that often is the case, but I didn’t want to be so dogmatic about my own labor and feel that I somehow failed if I experienced a sensation as painful.

My contractions felt like sharp, intense menstrual cramps, all entirely in the front of my abdomen close to my pubic bone. I can only say they were “like” menstrual cramps because cramps for me don’t come and go like contractions—they are a slow, dull, relentless ache, almost in my pelvic bones. The contractions became more intense and more painful as labor progressed. Pushing brought on a different kind of pain. I think the ferocity of the contractions and the uncontrollable urge to push made the sensations a bit more difficult to integrate. All I had to do during the labor contractions was relax and let everything happen, keeping my body totally loose. During pushing, however, I HAD to actively participate even though I sometimes didn’t want to, because it was so intense.

The funny thing about pain is that it fills any given space. It’s like a gas—no matter how small the amount, it will completely fill the volume it occupies. That’s why I hesitate to say something like “it was the worst pain I have ever felt.” Heck, even a paper cut, at the moment it happens, can be the worst pain ever!

The pain I felt in labor was clean and finite: as soon as it was over, it was over. Completely gone. I calculate that I spent far more time feeling pleasure during the rest periods, than I did feeling pain during the contractions. Except for a few short moments when I became discouraged during pushing, I never felt like I was suffering or in distress. Just very focused on the task ahead of me.

A few times during my labor, I was able to alter the sensations from being painful to pleasurable. During the early morning hours while I was leaning over the kitchen countertop and breathing deeply, I started smiling and making my face look blissful. Another time, soon before I started pushing, I said to myself mentally, “breathe in comfort, breathe in relaxation” (a phrase from the Hypnobirthing CDs). Both times, the pain altered itself instantly into a rushing kind of pleasure, kind of like the dizzy tingly feeling you get before you faint.

One of the best ways I have found to approach labor pain is with this acronym:


Labor pain indicates that your body is working. You know it will come and then it will disappear completely (unless you are having back labor because of a posterior presentation, but that is another story). It is not a signal that anything is injured; instead, it comes from muscles working incredibly hard and from tissues stretching and expanding—as they are meant to do.

Pain was one of many sensations I felt during labor. It was strong when it was present, but it did not dominate the experience. Almost all of the time I was able to integrate it without judgment. Instead of thinking oh no this hurts, I am suffering, make it stop, I was able to think this way: another contraction, the pain is building, inhale, exhale, sway my hips, the pain is ending, now I can rest. I had awareness of pain without labeling it as good or bad. It just was.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Hooray for CD and EC!

(cloth diapers and elimination communication)

I am pleased as punch with my little girl. Once her meconium cleared out, I noticed that she peed and pooped with nearly every feeding, usually after finishing the first side. She also likes to take a 15 minute snooze between sides, unless she is desperately hungry. So five days after she was born, I had the bright idea to take off her diaper after she ate on the first side, hold her over a little Tupperware container, and see if I could make a “catch.” Sure enough, out it came. Is that cool or what?

Since then I’ve gotten between 50-75% of her eliminations, depending on the day. Sometimes she goes right when she starts eating, sometimes she doesn’t go at all until the next feeding. But most of the time I get something. I’ve started making a “psssssss” sound when I notice her going, in the hopes that she will learn to associate the position and the sound with elimination. To learn more about elimination communication, I suggest reading Infant Potty Training or Diaper Free!

She pees a lot, so she often has a wet diaper by time she wants to eat again. But most of the time, all of her poops have gone in the bowl (and soon thereafter into the toilet), rather than in her diaper.

While she is sitting over her little chamber pot, I hold her with one hand and use the other to write in my journal or check my email, since I keep the laptop on the bed with me. I snapped a picture this morning. You can’t see the Tupperware, but it is between my legs. She is suspended over it, held up by my legs and my one arm:

On another note, I just ordered a new sewing machine!! My old one is giving me a lot of grief with the upper tension adjuster. I can’t get any tension on the thread at all, no matter how high I turn the dial. It might be a simple repair, but I’ve had this beauty for almost 8 years, and it only cost me $4 at a thrift shop. So I decided to treat myself to a swanky new machine, rather than running around trying to get it fixed. I purchased a Brother CS 6000T. It’s reconditioned, but still has the same 25 year warranty as the brand new models.

To learn more about EC, visit these sites:
"Infant Potty Training and Elimination Communication" by Laurie Boucke
"Natural Infant Hygeine or Elimiation Communication" by Ingrid Bauer
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Baby pictures: Nov 9th

We are all doing our best to get as much sleep as possible. Zari is definitely the winner though. She even likes to take a nap in the middle of feeding, unless she is desperately hungry. This works out well, though, because it gives me some time to check my email (I keep the laptop on bed next to me) or write in my journal.

Eric took this picture before going to class this morning:

Zari has inherited my serious look. It always throws people for a loop--they think I'm mad when in fact I am just fine. I remember when I was engaged, people at church were concerned about me because "Rixa just isn't glowing enough." I was perfectly happy; I just didn't feel the need to plaster on a fake smile all the time.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Some reflections

A week ago I gave birth to my daughter, a glorious culmination of years of research and preparation. Here are some reflections on the labor and birth:

1. Nearly everything I had specifically visualized about the birth came to pass. I was careful not to put time restrictions on my birth affirmations. For example, I would say to myself, “my birth will go smoothly and at just the right pace” rather than “my labor will last 5 hours.” Here are some of the affirmations and visualizations I used. I didn’t ever write them down or say them out loud; I would just let them play through in my mind:

- My body will go into labor when the baby is ready.
- The baby will get into the perfect position for birth: head down, chin tucked into her chest, her back facing my stomach, and the umbilical cord tucked safely out of the way.
- I will move my body to help the labor progress smoothly and to help the baby get into the best position.
- I will feel joy, anticipation, and excitement as my labor begins.
- My husband will be exactly what I need him to be during labor. He will be calm and collected, and be able to watch me labor without feeling fearful or anxious.
- I will embrace every sensation of labor, without judging them. I will also let go of the sensations once they are finished.
- I will take one contraction at a time, and will remember that “I can do anything for one minute!”
- My cervix will thin and open at just the right pace.
- I will enjoy the rest periods in between contractions.
- I will ease the baby’s head out with my hand as it emerges.
- I will give birth to my baby kneeling down, cradling her head and body with my hands as they emerge.
- After the baby’s head is born, her head will rotate and her shoulders will slip out easily with the next contraction.
- My uterus will clamp down quickly and firmly after the birth.
- My placenta will release cleanly and all in one piece. After the placenta is out, my uterus will continue to clamp down.

2. I hate to give my birth experience a label, because it’s not just one of many ways to give birth. It is THE true standard of normal. There were no outside influences to disrupt or derail the physiological process. Just pure, raw, spontaneous, instinctive birth. This is a tricky thing to say without slipping into Mommy War mode: My birth was better than yours. Nah nah nah boo boo. The kind of birth a woman has is sometimes beyond her control, so I do not mean to say that a person is any less or more of a woman if she birthed unassisted, or via cesarean, or with an epidural. This is not about personal judgments. However, a spontaneous, autonomous birth is an unparalleled experience and should serve as the standard against which we judge and measure all other births. How can we know if a birth practice is healthy or harmful unless we know what birth REALLY looks like, stripped of all interference?

3. Giving birth seems like a dream. If there weren’t a beautiful little girl nestled on my chest (okay, and a sore bottom too), I would almost think it never happened. I wonder if the endorphins I felt played a role in making the memory hazy and distant. I have had a few times where I remembered the birth physically, in my body, almost as if I were reliving the sensations. Once I felt the endorphin-induced buzz. Another time I relived the sensations of pushing. What makes these windows of clarity appear?

4. While preparing to birth unassisted was definitely a difficult path, birthing the way I did was the easiest possible way. There was nothing any person or institution could have done to make it better or easier or more satisfying. I am willing to do the hard work of preparation and planning. I am NOT willing to make the labor unnecessarily difficult!

5. A perfect birth does not occur by accident. It is something you work for. I poured almost four years of my life into preparing for this birth. I have the luxury of being a PhD student in American Studies, which means I could choose my course of study. I focused on...big surprise...childbirth, and my dissertation is about unassisted birth. I have read hundreds of birth-related books, journal articles and birth stories; trained as a doula; apprenticed as a midwife; attended many home and a few hospital births; read tens of thousands of entries on various internet birth groups. I educated myself about variations of normal. I examined the assumptions I held about birth and found that many of them needed changing.
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Vive le Canada!

This is Zari's first day in her cloth diapers. I have only finished sewing half of them, since I thought I had several more weeks left! They are still too big for her, even though they are supposed to fit 6-13 lbs. Oh well, we couldn't resist.

There are 4 main styles: red Canadian diapers with white flags & trim, white with red flags & trim, Dalmatian spots with black trim, and mint green with white trim.

The Canadian diapers were my husband's request, since he comes from the Great White North. We are working on her Canadian citizenship paperwork, so she will soon be a dual citizen.

The diapers are a modified Chloe Toes all-in-one pattern. The insides are made of hemp fleece, which is deliciously soft. I made a flap soaker, rather than sewing it inside, to cut down on drying time.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

She has a name!

...and it is...

Zari Rose Freeze

Eric thought up Zari on his own after seeing the name Zariah. And it turns out it actually is a name--Arabic for "rose."

Interestingly enough, I made some placenta prints yesterday and they came out looking like a rose. So that sealed the deal for us. The brownish print on the right is made from the placenta's own blood. Then I rinsed it off and painted it with watercolors to make the print on the left and in the book.

We are going to plant a rose bush (and her placenta) in the spring.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Zari's birth story

Over the past few weeks I had been having some feelings of doubt about my birth plans. There was nothing specific I was worried about, just vague anxieties. We ate dinner on Sunday night with a family we know from church. The mom has always been completely supportive of my plans. While we were chatting after dinner, she reminded me that I would know what to do when the time came. I felt very reassured and confident after talking with her—I was not wrong for wanting to give birth the way I felt was right, even though most people view it as crazy or dangerous or both. I asked Eric for a blessing the next day. I have always felt peaceful about going without medical or midwifery care during the pregnancy, but I wanted reassurance as the birth drew nearer. After the blessing, I knew that this was the right choice and had no more doubts or fears.

Sunday night was completely sleepless (not pregnancy-related), so on Monday night I was really hoping that I would be able to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, I had a hard time falling asleep again, so at 1:30 am I went downstairs to listen to the Hypnobirthing CD. It always puts me to sleep when nothing else can. Soon after I put the CD in, I started noticing sharp menstrual-like cramps in my lower front abdomen. They were coming quite regularly. Hmmm...what was going on? When I went to the bathroom, I felt very wet and mucousy. About the third time I went to the bathroom I could see something faint on the toilet paper, so I turned on the light and sure enough, there was pink-tinged mucous. Then my bowels started emptying out—probably 4-5 times over the next few hours.

These are all signs of being in labor, but I didn’t want to take them too seriously at first. It was far enough from my “due date” that I knew this might just be a warmup session. I wanted to be open to it stopping, rather than get overly excited. After listening to the CD, I paced around downstairs for a while. I found that leaning over a table or countertop and swaying my hips felt right during a contraction. I did several laps around the house and remember noticing how squeaky the wood floors seemed in the wee hours of the morning. I turned on one of the lights in the inglenook, but it was too much so I turned it back off.

I listened to the CD again. This time, I wasn’t hoping for any sleep, but I still wanted to rest as much as possible. The CD really helped me relax and make up for 2 sleepless nights. When a contraction came, I took slow, deep breaths, as long as possible, and said to myself in my mind, “Thinning (while breathing in) and opening (while breathing out).” I found that I did about 3-4 breaths during one contraction. After the CD ended, I got up again and checked my email. The internet was a great labor distraction, because it put my focus and anticipation on the resting period, rather than the contraction—I wanted to get back to what I was doing! I posted a notice on c-birth that this might be the real thing. This was around 4:15 or 4:30 am.

I was pretty sure this was labor, but not entirely positive. I had all the signs that it was the real deal, but since it was 2 weeks before the earliest date I had mentally prepared for (wanting to avoid the trap of worrying about being “late”!) I was open to the possibility that this could be a practice session. That’s why I hesitated telling Eric for so long. I went upstairs a few times during the night and looked at him and Zeke (my dog) sleeping. Each time I mentally debated about waking him up. But I didn’t want him around and didn’t need any labor companionship, so each time I decided, why wake him up only to tell him to go back to sleep? Better to just leave him alone until morning.

At 6:30 am I woke him up and told him I thought I might be in labor, and that he should think about walking Zeke and canceling class. He brought Zeke down to the bike path and said “I will run the whole way!” By time he got back, I was more committed to thinking this was the real thing. And worst case, I thought, he cancels class and it turns out to be a false alarm. Next I sent him to the grocery store to get some labor drinks and snacks. I drank apple juice during the labor, plus ate a bowl of plain yogurt mixed with a little sugar. I was also downing water (and peeing) the whole time.

When Eric came back from running his errands, I asked him to give me a blessing. I had to stop him once in the middle to breathe through a contraction. It was very specific that everything would go smoothly, that the baby would be healthy, and that I could trust my body. I don’t remember any more specifics but that is not surprising! That blessing, plus the one he had given me the night before, gave me total confidence that everything would turn out perfectly. When I was a little discouraged during pushing, feeling that nothing was progressing, I thought back to what he had said and took courage, knowing that I just needed to do whatever my body wanted to.

I told Eric that I didn’t need or want him in the same room. Just to stay in the other room and I would tell him if I needed anything. He tried once to rub my back and I told him it was distracting and that I was fine. Once or twice he stood in the room and watched me, and that was really distracting too. So I sent him back into the bedroom. At this point I decided to stay upstairs in the master bathroom.

I labored back and forth between the tub, toilet, and bathroom sink. When I was in the tub, I would rest between contractions and get very close to sleep. Actually I might even have slept; it was hard to tell for sure. The tub helped immensely with resting. I don’t think it changed how the contractions felt, as some women have experienced. But it was very useful for keeping rested in between. During a contraction, I would lift up my hips and sway them back and forth in the water, slowly breathing in and out. As labor progressed, I changed from breathing through my nose to through my mouth. It just felt right to breathe through my mouth, especially when I would exhale. I was saying a silent “haaaaaaaaaaahhhhh.” I didn’t make any laboring noises during the entire first stage. I just didn’t feel the need to vocalize.

When I was out of the tub, I rested on the toilet during the breaks. Then I rose to my feet (as quickly as possible!) when I felt another contraction coming and walked over to the sink. I placed my hands backwards on the edge of the counter and supported my weight with my hands and arms. I kept my mouth and bottom totally loose by exhaling slowly and swaying my hips back and forth. I noticed that I would sometimes stand on my toes as I swayed my hips to help enhance the movements. Then back to the toilet to rest.

Eric stayed in the bedroom and did...well I don’t know exactly what he was doing. I did hear him playing internet scrabble at one point! Anyway he got me things when I asked, usually more water or juice. Occasionally he’d pop in the bathroom. If I needed something, I’d ask, otherwise I’d ignore him and he’d go back in the bedroom.

I didn’t experience anything that I would label “transition.” I’ve read enough birth stories to know that some women have that freak-out period. That’s when they tend to say outrageous things like “take me to a hospital” or “give me drugs” or “hit me on the head with a hammer.” I never felt that way. The contractions did intensify all the way until the end, but never to the point that I lost my mind or thought I couldn’t do it. I do remember thinking very calmly at one point, “You know, it would be nice if I could just stop here and be done, but I know I can’t. I just have to keep going.” So I guess that would be transition for me.

And the endorphins...wow! After a few hours of labor I started noticing them, and they became progressively stronger throughout the labor. Basically during the rest periods I felt progressively more “high.” I’ve never been high before, but that’s what I imagine it’s like: a floaty, kind of dizzy, blissed-out feeling. I don’t think they lessened the intensity of the contractions, but they made the breaks progressively more pleasurable. It was almost like being in a dream; I think that’s why my memories of the birth already seem distant and surreal.

So many people had told me that I would need somebody else there during labor because “you just aren’t yourself” or “you really need an objective person to tell you what to do.” I didn’t believe them. I just knew that I would be fine by myself and that any other people present would make it worse for me, not better. And you know what? That was exactly what it was like during my labor. My husband even noticed this and talked about it a lot afterward. I was totally collected and clear-headed during the entire labor. Now granted, during contractions I had to put 100% of my focus on them. But as soon as they ended, I felt like my normal self.

About 8:30 am I started “nudging.” It wasn’t really pushing, at least not the full-on pushing that I experienced later on. It felt like little heaves working downward through my body very quickly. I didn’t make any noises, but it did change my breathing so that it sounded more pushy. I wondered if Eric noticed, but I was so quiet that I doubt he did. This continued for about an hour. I felt inside for the first time, and sure enough there was the baby’s head. I felt a small anterior lip of cervix the first time I checked. It felt like the collar of a t-shirt. I couldn’t feel anything else around the head, though. It was pretty cool. I didn’t worry about whether or not I was dilated enough, because these nudges were pretty mild. One thing that surprised me was how far back the head felt. I expected that I’d be reaching more upwards, but it was mostly backwards, right until the very end of pushing. Mental note to self: this is probably normal. I’ve just never felt a head in a vagina before!

About an hour after the nudges began, I suddenly started full-on pushing. I had no choice but to roar at the top of my lungs and push along with my body. It was wild. Lots more painful and challenging than I had imagined. I’ve been to so many births where the moms pushed for just 15 or 20 minutes, so I was a little surprised that my forceful pushing lasted almost 2 hours. I think that’s the only expectation I had of the birth that was off. I became somewhat discouraged about an hour or so into pushing. I kept feeling the head, and it seemed like it was making no progress. At this point I said a very earnest prayer to help this baby come OUT!!

I alternated between the tub and toilet several times. When I was in the tub, I rested lying down, then flipped over in about 1 millisecond onto my knees when a contraction began. Roar like a lion as I pushed. Lie down and relax until the next one. Repeat. When a contraction hit me on the toilet, I would usually drop to my knees on the floor. I leaned over my birth ball while I pushed. It was hard work. Pushing didn’t take away the sensations; it intensified them. Oh well, I guess I am not one of those lucky women who say pushing takes away the pain. For me, it hurt even more!

I really started feeling some progress about the last 20 or 30 minutes. I got back on the toilet and kept my hand inside or against myself for the rest of the time. It helped to feel what was happening. I didn’t tell Eric when the baby began crowning, even though I knew it would be out soon. (He said it got quieter right at the end, so that was probably when the baby started crowning.) Finally the head emerged! I said, “the head is out,” and Eric came into the room. I got off the toilet and knelt down on the towel in front of me, keeping my right hand on the baby’s head. I felt around and confirmed that it was anterior. Just perfect! I put my left food flat on the ground, so that I was half kneeling, half squatting. I talked to myself, “okay, now the shoulders will slip out with the next contraction.” And quite soon, that’s exactly what happened! It’s amazing really. I caught the baby as it came out and laid it on the towel underneath me.

The baby was covered in blood and vernix. I remember seeing a silky blue umbilical cord. I checked and discovered that we had a GIRL!! Wow! She cried immediately after coming out, but stopped as soon as I scooped her up to my chest. I had Eric snap a picture right then, which is my absolute favorite. It captures the elation and satisfaction I felt from planning and getting a perfect birth experience.  

Eric helped me get up and onto the bed. I shook a little, but it stopped as soon as he covered me up with blankets. She nursed for about 2 hours. The afterpains were killers—just as bad as the worst labor contractions. I had Eric give me some Placenta Out tincture to encourage the placenta to release. I also downed a ton of juice. It was so delicious.

About an hour and a half after the birth, I phoned a midwife I work with to see if she would come check for tears and do my Rhogam bloodwork. She said she’d be by in a few hours. She freaked out a little when I mentioned the placenta was still in. She said to squat with the next contraction and try to push it out. I tried, but my bottom was far too sore to squat, let alone to feel if I was pushing anything out. I did want to get it out, though. I was getting a little pale and was very uncomfortable with the afterpains. So we trooped back to the bathroom and I peed and tried to push the placenta out. But nothing happened. I tried again to squat but it was just not happening. I wasn’t having any visible bleeding or signs of shock, my uterus felt firm (I felt it very gently), and I was having strong afterpains. So I figured I was okay. I kept flexing my feet and legs to encourage better circulation, and it did seem to help me pink up a bit. Finally about 2 1/2 hours after the birth I decided to get serious. This placenta needed to come out. I couldn’t really relax with it in, because I had to be on guard in case I did start losing too much blood. Eric sterilized a serrated knife over a flame (probably not necessary at this point since the cord was totally limp and bloodless), clamped the cord about 10” from her navel, and cut the cord. We trimmed it down later.

I went back into the bathroom and sat on the toilet again. I peed, then said a very earnest prayer. I basically said, Heavenly Father, I need this placenta to come out with the next contraction. I don’t know if it’s separated and I know it’s not good to pull on the cord. But I need it to come out, so I am going to push and do some cord traction with the next contraction. I did, and sure enough out it came! It was actually an amazing witness of the power of prayer, because the placenta did not feel at all separated when I had VERY carefully tugged on the cord to see if the placenta might just be sitting there. Oh, it was so much better with it out! Eric cut me off a small piece of the placenta to eat. It had a very mild taste, much less strong than I had imagined. I was able to pee a whole bunch, and the afterpains became just mild cramps. I took a shower, which felt terrific, then settled into bed with my new baby girl. By this time she had fallen deeply asleep.

Bernice came over about 4:30 pm. I had a straightforward 2nd degree tear. She said it could go either way: leaving it alone, or stitching. She recommended stitching it. I decided to have stitches, and it wasn’t too bad. I think I had about 5 or 6. I am so glad that I didn’t have a really nasty tear, since that would have necessitated a hospital transfer right away before too much healing took place. Phew! She drew some blood for my Rhogam bloodwork and lent us her scale to weigh the baby: 7 pounds even. A good size for 38 weeks.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening talking to families. My voice was very hoarse by the end of the evening, especially with the roaring I did for 2 hours straight. I was so blissed out the whole day.
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Baby pictures: Nov 3rd

Father and daughter konked out

When she was nursing this afternoon, she threw her arms over her head, interlocked her fingers, and fell fast asleep.

The umbilical cord had a velamentous cord insertion, a fairly rare occurrence where the cord inserts in the membrances, rather than directly onto the placenta (1% of singleton pregnancies).
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Baby pictures: Nov 2nd

This girl loves being in the sling! When she isn't nursing or in the sling, she's on our chests. I'd say she spends about 5 minutes of every 24 hours not being held.

No names yet, but we've started to compile a list of ones we like. Stay tuned for updates...

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Baby pictures: Nov 1st

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

She is here!

I gave birth to a girl this morning at 11:23!! We weren't expecting her so early (she is 38 weeks on the nose) but we are thrilled. She weighs just shy of 7 lbs.

Labor lasted 10 hours. It was intense, challenging, and very fulfilling. She was born into my own hands in our master bathroom. Eric was a great help. Basically I labored on my own in another room and hollered if I needed anything. He respected my need for doing this without feeling watched. It was just what I wanted.

She's been nursing like a pro and cuddling up skin to skin the rest of the time. She has never left her parent's arms from the minute she was born.

Here she is less than 1 minute old:

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Wiped out

Today I can claim to be a miserable pregnant woman (although my complaint probably has nothing to do with pregnancy). Last night I slept a grand total of about 6 minutes. Every time I would start to fall asleep, I would suddenly wake up to the sound of a very loud snorting/gagging sound. How did such a ladylike sound come out of my own mouth? Then I would lie in bed for a half hour or so until my heart stopped racing and try to get to sleep again. Then the whole snorting/gagging thing would start up again as soon as I fell back asleep.

It was really weird. I've never had anything like that happen before.

I went downstairs from 1:30-3:30 am thinking that lying on the couch would help. It didn't. So I went back upstairs until 5:30 am, when I finally gave up and went back downstairs to waste some time on the internet.

It was as if I had stopped breathing each time, or had a really congested airway. Only I am not congested...what is up?

I have been able to get about an hour of sleep total today, thanks to my Hypnobirthing CDs. They put me out like a light. Let's just hope that there is no more snorting tonight, because I don't know if I can take another night of no sleep. I am okay with waking up 5-6 times a night to pee--I've been doing that since month 1. But no sleep at all? NOT GOOD.
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Saturday, October 28, 2006

35 weeks gestation

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preparing for Labor

A woman on one of my internet birth groups recently posted these thoughts about how she prepared for labor:
When we decided to have a homebirth with a midwife, I (being an intellectual) bought as many books as I could, went to my childbirth class very early, read the corresponding book to the class, went to homebirth meetups, watched every video I could, including the ones on TV with hospital births. I wanted every possible tool in my bag for when the time came, uncertain which method would ultimately prove beneficial once in labor.

The last video I watched was at my childbirth class. It was, yet again, another South American video. I was disappointed with this after so many videos, because I couldn't understand what was being said in labor. I knew everything I felt I needed to know about the actual birth by then, but I wanted to know more about a natural LABOR at that point.

Well, as was typical in the Latin videos, the woman had her family there with her, both in and out of the tub, and she QUIETLY gave birth to her baby while her children watched her normal, natural birth. Then suddenly the video switched to an American home birth in a blow-up pool in the family's living room. The woman moaned and cried and wailed and had that typical wild-eyed, American labor look of "Who Is Going to Rescue Me Now????"

The stark contrast was what helped me know that every tool in my bag was completely unnecessary and useless. I was looking to trust everything but my baby and my body. I threw away my bag of birthing tricks. I understood then that we Americans are heavily convinced that birth is super difficult and have been indoctrinated into the mindset of we weak women need to be saved by the knight in shining armor. I was NOT going to be that. I believed thoroughly in the natural process of birth. I believed that my body was made to give birth. And, most importantly, I believed that just as my baby and body knew when it was time for my body to labor, my baby knew how to be born.

I was very quiet during the three days I was in labor. My midwife did not even come over until late the third morning. By then I was finally in active labor. I was quiet throughout the entire day until transition. After an hour of transition, during the last 30 minutes of transition I began to ask if I could really do this. My husband and my midwife's apprentice talked to me after every contraction and reminded me that I could and to stick with just one contraction at a time. (The transition contractions were the worst for me, because I thought I would throw up. What they didn't know was that I would rather have contractions any ole day than be forced to vomit. Just a personal preference thing.)

All at once I felt a wave start from my head and flow through my body and out of my vagina, and my body pushed with it. It did it again on the next contraction, and I felt the ring of fire. I jumped up out of the bed and headed for the tub. My midwife reminded me that I didn't have to have a waterbirth just because that was what I had planned, but I didn't even listen for a second. I KNEW the water was where I needed to be.

The water eased the contractions remarkably. My friend, husband, midwife, and midwife's apprentice were all in the bathroom talking to each other while I was in the tub with my head at one end and my feet touching the other end. Absolutely NO ONE knew I was pushing (actually not even I knew). I asked for a rag that I instinctively held with my hand between my legs.

Suddenly I felt a "pop" and asked my midwife what it was. She turned around and looked down at me and said, "Oh! The head is out!!" She insisted that I pull my legs up then (my knees were still together when the head was pushed out), and Ania was born a few seconds after.

My point is that I turned into myself. I listened to my body. Found the position that worked for my body. Walked when my body knew I needed to walk.

It was the closest I've ever been to God. The world went quiet and faded away. I was in touch only with each breath of each second of each contraction. Two months of third trimester discomfort and swearing I would never ever never have a baby again had me wanting another almost immediately because of the childbirth.

Was it painful? Yes, in all honesty it was painful during that 1-1/2 of transition. Was it my mindset that got me through it? Absolutely. I welcomed the pain, knew it was natural, knew it was not permanent, knew labor pains would not be listed as the cause of my death. I just fell into labor, didn't fight it, didn't question it, didn't question the process. I trusted birth. THAT is the only real tool you need.

Posted with permission from M. Morrow.
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Monday, October 23, 2006

A beautiful poem

Silence (Ciúnas) by Biddy Jenkinson
Tranlated by Pádraigín Riggs

How I welcome you, little salmon
who leapt the womb, impatient to commence life.
I undertake to be a river to you
as you follow your course from the haven of
my belly to far distant seas.

Let yourself go, and drink up your fill.
Suck sleep from me. By the terms of the breast-contract
I'll suck back from your puckered lips
love, with which I'll suckle another time, and for that
I'm grateful.

How I welcome you, salmon of sleep
who made a tranquil pool in my life-stream.
In the rhythm of your heartbeat
I hear the music of the Heavens,
and it guides my way.

Born in 1949, Biddy Jenkinson (pen name) is an Irish poet and dramatist.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My hospital rant

Last week I visited a hospital with a friend who is 7 months pregnant. She had an okay birth with an OB a few years ago, but during this pregnancy has realized that she wants—and deserves—so much more. I’ve been providing her with information about all of her options, from unassisted birth to hospital birth with a CNM. I loaned her two of my favorite books, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, and several birth DVDs. She is most interested in homebirth but, like me, has had trouble finding an available midwife. So we took a trip to visit this hospital’s maternity wing and to chat with a CNM who comes highly recommended.

This hospital is one of two certified Baby Friendly facilities in the entire state, and its cesarean rate is half the national average. One of the on-call OB’s has a cesarean rate of 10%. (The other OB’s rates are around the national average of 30%.) If I had to go to a hospital, this is the one I would choose.

Still, what I saw was so disappointing. Not because I was expecting anything better—I am familiar enough with hospital birth rooms and routines—but because a hospital could easily offer an entirely different birth experience if they truly understood the physiology of birth. Michel Odent’s book Birth Reborn gives us a glimpse into what a hospital birth experience should be like, if a laboring women’s needs for privacy, security, warmth, darkness, and lack of feeling observed were truly understood and respected.

At this hospital was the standard high, narrow birth bed with stirrups and foot rests. Because women *still* give birth on their backs even though we know it’s a terrible position. There was the high-intensity spot light built into the ceiling so your perineum gets center stage (because of course you will be in bed on your back for the birth). Electronic fetal monitor—check. Never mind that every study done on fetal monitors has shown that they do NOT improve fetal outcomes at all. Their only documented effect is to dramatically raise the cesarean rate. Uncomfortable couch for the father—check. Lots of other medical equipment half-heartedly hidden by pastel wallpaper—check.

I asked the nurses what the standard admittance routine was: electronic fetal monitor strip, blood pressure, temperature, and IV. The nurses have NEVER seen a woman labor at this hospital without an IV or heplock. Never.

On the upside, they do have gigantic Jacuzzi tubs for laboring. I’d say they are even bigger than mine. They are actually so big and high that I don’t know how a pregnant woman would actually be able to climb in...

Like I mentioned, the hospital is Baby Friendly certified, which means it meets these 10 requirements as outlined by the WHO-UNICEF:
• Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff;
• Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy;
• Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding;
• Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour of birth;
• Show mothers how to breast feed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants;
• Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated;
• Practice rooming in: allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day;
• Encourage breastfeeding on demand;
• Give no artificial teat or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants;
• Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from hospitals or clinics.

The sad thing is that only two hospitals in the entire state meet these fairly minimal requirements. Every hospital should automatically do these things!

Even more dismal is the tiny number of hospitals nationwide that meet the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative, as outlined by the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. Here are the basic requirements to be certified as Mother-Friendly:

1. Offers all birthing mothers: unrestricted access to the birth companions of her choice, including fathers, partners, children, family members, and friends; unrestricted access to continuous emotional and physical support from a skilled woman-for example, a doula or labor-support professional; access to professional midwifery care.
2. Provides accurate descriptive and statistical information to the public about its practices and procedures for birth care, including measures of interventions and outcomes.
3. Provides culturally competent care -- that is, care that is sensitive and responsive to the specific beliefs, values, and customs of the mother's ethnicity and religion.
4. Provides the birthing woman with the freedom to walk, move about, and assume the positions of her choice during labor and birth (unless restriction is specifically required to correct a complication), and discourages the use of the lithotomy (flat on back with legs elevated) position.
5. Has clearly defined policies and procedures for collaborating and consulting throughout the perinatal period with other maternity services, including communicating with the original caregiver when transfer from one birth site to another is necessary; linking the mother and baby to appropriate community resources, including prenatal and post-discharge follow-up and breastfeeding support.
6. Does not routinely employ practices and procedures that are unsupported by scientific evidence, including but not limited to the following: shaving, enemas, IVs, withholding nourishment, early rupture of membranes, electronic fetal monitoring.
Other interventions are limited as follows: induction rate of 10% or less; episiotomy rate of 20% or less, with a goal of 5% or less; total cesarean rate of 10% or less in community hospitals, and 15% or less in tertiary care (high-risk) hospitals; VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) rate of 60% or more with a goal of 75% or more.
7. Educates staff in non-drug methods of pain relief and does not promote the use of analgesic or anesthetic drugs not specifically required to correct a complication.
8. Encourages all mothers and families, including those with sick or premature newborns or infants with congenital problems, to touch, hold, breastfeed, and care for their babies to the extent compatible with their conditions.
9. Discourages non-religious circumcision of the newborn.
10. Strives to achieve the WHO-UNICEF "Ten Steps of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative" to promote successful breastfeeding.

These elements should be a given in any hospital service! The hospital I visited, which is by far the least interventive in the entire area, fails miserably in at least 4 of the 10 requirements (#2, 4, 6 & 7). This is my best choice??

The final irony is the brochure the nurse gave me at the end of the tour. The front page proclaims in big letters: "Just Right In Every Way."
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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Nerve

Yesterday when I was at church an older woman asked to speak to me after the meeting. She had asked me last week to play my violin in church, so I assumed she wanted to talk more about what music I had picked out. Although I’ve been attending this congregation for a little over a year and know most of the people, I have never spoken with this particular woman until last week. I don’t even know her name.

After church she brought me into an empty classroom, sat me down, and said, “You probably have no idea why I wanted to talk to you.” Nope. She looked at me and said, “I want you to tell me why you are not seeing a doctor or going to a hospital for your birth.” She then proceeded to tell me several horror stories about things going wrong at the last minute during birth. Her daughter bled a lot after having her baby and “had to be sedated” because she started panicking when she saw all the people in the room and asked what was going on. (This daughter also had one kidney and "half a uterus," whatever that means). She knows of another woman who bled to death after giving birth in the hospital. Yeah—great advertisement for hospital birth! She told me that she’s been worried sick about me ever since she learned that I am not planning on seeing a doctor or going to a hospital, and that I should really reconsider my plans.

I calmly explained my choices to her (statistics of home vs. hospital birth for healthy women, the importance of not disturbing a natural process, and how many routine hospital procedures can often cause complications to occur). I talked about how I’ve been researching birth for close to 4 years now, and that I’ve made this decision with a lot of thought and prayer. I then told her: “Frankly, you should never say those kind of things to a pregnant woman, especially to someone so close to giving birth.”

The whole conversation took about half an hour, most of it with her talking.

On the way home from church, I told my husband about this strange experience. He became very upset that a woman I don’t even know had the nerve to pry into my life and tell me what to do. He said “you are the one who has done years of research into birth, not her!”

The more I have thought about this conversation, the more it bothers me. It’s one thing for a close friend to ask me what my birth plans are, because they care for me and want to know what I will be doing. But for a virtual stranger to demand that I justify a very personal decision to her and then to try and scare me into doing what SHE feels more comfortable with—that is completely unacceptable.

I wish I had known what she was about to ask when she sat me down. I should have ended the conversation right then by saying, “This is a very personal decision between me, my husband, and God. And it is none of your business.”

Thanks Ellen for the pep talk last night! I felt much better afterwards.
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