1. recognize the full worth of.
2. understand (a situation) fully; recognize the full implications of.

1. the state of being a mother; maternity.
2. the qualities or spirit of a mother.
3. mothers collectively.
4. having or relating to an inherent worthiness, justness, or goodness
that is obvious or unarguable.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Listen to your babies

This is the promised follow-up! I am going to share my philosophy on how to help your children to trust you, and it’s basically going to involve a lot of information about Attachment Parenting (learn more at http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles). Some people criticize this method and its effectiveness, but I love it and so did my professors in college. The classes I took were based off of expert opinions and solid research and are the best time-tested, proven methods out there. (And we're talking about more than “effective” in the short-term, but with the best short- and long-term benefits.) It honestly is one of the main ways I feel I am able to appreciate being a mother so much.  I truly feel that more people would be better off from knowing this information and that too few people know about it, and so I hope you will give this a chance so that you might benefit from this as much as I have.

Before I get started, I just want to say that I am not writing all this to say, "I'm right, you're wrong." Rather I say it out of anxious concern and love for all of God's children - both your kids and you parents. I want to give you information that I feel will help you and be beneficial for all involved.

In my child development class, I distinctly remember our professor teaching about infants. He taught (as is explained in the attachment theory) that infants are wired to attach, particularly to their caregivers. One of the ways this happens is when babies cry. Not the crying itself, but what happens in response to the crying. When babies are responded to promptly, the baby learns that their crying elicits a response. Now lest you think that babies manipulate you with their crying, you should know that babies only cry when they have a real need or concern. They often even show signs of that need in other ways before getting to a full-blown cry. “Rooting” is seen in infants looking for food, yawning can be a sign of sleepiness, and making little noises could be there way of wanting to interact. For the purposes of this post today though, we will just jump to the point of crying and focus on that.

It is very important to respond quickly to baby’s cries for many reasons. One is that whatever their need is will likely be able to be identified and responded to quicker. They could be hungry, messy, tired or startled themselves awake and still tired, or even just want to be held by you. Respond to that need. That may seem obvious, but depending on the parenting method you subscribe to, some may convince you to ignore the crying or the need if it is seen as frivolous (e.g. being held). I am going to do my best to explain why I think it is a bad idea to ignore your child (which will lead us to the other reason’s you want to respond to baby’s cries quickly).

Like I said before, when baby’s cries are answered, babies learn that they elicit a response from their caregivers from their cries. This does not mean the child will learn to cry for everything. Some “experts” will try to convince you that always responding to your baby’s cries will “spoil” them and that they will never learn to not cry to get things. This is wrong for many reasons. The first of which is that crying is one of the only mechanisms babies have to get your attention. Again, they do not do this to annoy or manipulate you. They do this to let you know that they have a need that requires someone else to meet it. Babies cannot meet their own needs. People recognize that when it comes to feeding and changing, but somehow they convince themselves that babies can self-soothe or put themselves to sleep. Babies are developmentally incapable of these tasks.

Let me tell you what does happen as you respond faithfully to your baby’s cries. Instead of being spoiled, your baby will learn that they can trust you! I cannot emphasize that enough: as you respond promptly to your baby’s cries, they will trust that their needs will be taken care of by you. And instead of crying more, they actually start to cry less. This is because as the relationship of trust builds, they start to give you earlier signs of their needs and as you learn to recognize those (and continue to respond promptly) the baby will cry less and less. This article (http://www.parentingscience.com/infant-crying.html) is a great description of what responding to crying does and does not do, and cites studies to back it up (in case you are doubting what I am saying). It also talks about persistent crying (commonly known as colic) and its role in this responsiveness debate.

For those wondering what happens when you don’t cry-it-out to get babies to sleep, ultimately these babies will learn (more likely as older children) to fall asleep without help and to self-soothe. Even toddlers often need the responsive care we are talking about today. This does not make them “needy” or “clingy,” but rather if this relationship of trust has been established from the beginning, they will slowly start to meet their own needs as they are able and when they are ready, just as they achieve any other developmental milestone. This method truly fosters greater independence while maintaining trust.

Now let me explain what will happen if you do not respond promptly to your baby’s cries. And as we describe this, know that generally I am referring to a pattern of unresponsiveness, not being late to respond to your baby once or twice. That is important to keep in mind so parents don’t drive themselves crazy - if you mess up once or twice it’s definitely going to be okay. When baby’s cries are ignored and there is no caregiver present (that is critical, because even your presence makes a huge difference) your baby feels abandoned. When they can’t see you, they can only assume you are gone, and they do not have any concept that you are in the next room, or will be back soon (assuming you plan to do that, and are not intentionally ignoring your child). They feel abandoned. Stress levels rise, crying gets progressively frantic, and if left to continue (some children go hoarse) they will eventually give up (convinced that no one is there to help them), stop crying, and may fall asleep fitfully. (This is discussed more in depth here: http://evolutionaryparenting.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-crying-it-out/ it cites research that babies stop crying when not responded to and even fall asleep, but their levels of stress do not decrease and their attachment with their caregiver decreases. It also offers alternatives to those that are desperate in their attempts to get their child and themselves to sleep.)

If you wanted to develop a relationship of trust with your baby, is that how you would do it?

[Remember that this is in the context that the baby is completely left alone, not crying while you are trying to attend to them - again, your presence makes a huge difference. The mal-effects could still apply if you are present (in sight) but unresponsive.]

I’d like to address some of the objections of those that support “cry-it-out” techniques raise. These techniques are usually implemented to “teach” babies to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. (This article cites more findings of the actual effects of sleep training: http://evolutionaryparenting.com/proving-the-harm-in-early-sleep-training/.) Well, the study I cited earlier proves that babies are not soothed, and their stress levels remain high if the caregiver continues to leave the child alone. Those high stress levels return for the consecutive days, as found in the study. Those that have used cry-it-out believe that the babies are okay because they stop crying and eventually fall asleep, and even cry less for nights following. I would like to remind my audience though, that babies are incapable of self-soothing (and as the study found, are still experiencing high levels of stress even if not crying) - but they are resilient (and tired from crying so much) and do eventually fall asleep.

That is why they like to see their technique as effective because it does (eventually) reach that goal - the infant does indeed fall asleep “on their own.” But at what cost? While babies do fall asleep, they also experience that high level of stress and abandonment. So while they might think that they just taught your child how to fall asleep on their own, they often fail to realize that they also taught their child that they cannot trust their caregivers. Though this doesn’t mean children stop trying to attach to their caregiver. The parents that ignore or give minimal assistance at night but meet needs during the day (though it seems that sometimes these parents tend to delay daytime responses as well) leaves a child anxious and confused, making them more upset and often crying more than children that are repeatedly responded to promptly. This also can affect the baby’s development and growth, as stress inhibits healthy progression. For more details about how the child is affected, check this out: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out. It also gives lots of resources on how to soothe crying babies, and even how to prevent crying where possible.

Why is it that leaving children to cry would make them anxious and confused? It all comes down to what happens in the brain. As you've surely heard before, our brains are a series of connections, and new pathways are created as we learn or experience new things. When we experience something repeatedly or frequently (or study it more often, in the context of learning) then that pathway strengthens and can become a neural "highway." In the context of this discussion, when a baby is responded to repeatedly, it learns that they are a causal creature and that their caregivers can be trusted. When they are repeatedly ignored, they eventually become withdrawn and often quit seeking to get help, even when they still need it. If it's somewhere in the middle, that's where the confusion and anxiety would come in. Let's hear the experts say how this affects us for the rest of our life:
Here’s the zinger about all this. Any emotional-relational-social experiences that are processed before the brain structures that can process experience consciously are fully mature, before 2 ½ -3 years of age, those experiences are stored only in implicit memory, only outside of awareness. This includes ALL early patterns of attachment. The research has proven “beyond irrefutability” that attachment patterns stabilize in our neural circuitry by 12-18 months of age. They are stable and unconscious before we have any conscious choice in the matter and unless new experiences change them, will remain stable “rules” of relating well into adulthood. (Linda Graham, MFT: http://lindagraham-mft.net/resources/published-articles/the-neuroscience-of-attachment/)
Basically the way we become attached (or detached) to our parents as children will dictate how we interact with people for the rest of our lives unless the rules change. Mercifully, our brains are plastic and can change and so people can learn new ways, but our early experiences are very formative. Her article is a long one, but goes into even greater depth of how attachment affects our brains and more of what that means.

Another objection I typically hear from cry-it-out proponents is they say, “I let my kids cry-it-out and they are all fine. They are straight-A students and have self confidence.” As I said before, kids are resilient (and can learn new patterns, as just discussed). Many of them do make it out “okay,” and many of you reading today are likely examples of that, having cried-it-out as a baby but are “fine” now. (Though some do not, as seen in more research here: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/science-says-excessive-crying-could-be-harmful) But what I do wish to say is that even if we turned out alright, is there not a better way to parent? Should we not give the most vulnerable people in our lives the greatest amount of love and nurturing? I heard one parent claim (paraphrased), “You have to let your babies cry-it-out from day one to teach them how to deal with hard things. Life is hard, and you will only make it harder for them by babying them.” Uh, really? I agree that we need to teach our children how to deal with the difficulties of life, but I am going to have to disagree on the method there. Are we really supposed to let our innocent little infants handle the hardship of life on their own? I should think not.

In fact, I believe God gave us each other, parents, siblings, friends, to help each other through life. If you really do that to your child, you are right, they will learn to handle life on their own. But if, like me, you want your children to go to you with their struggles and confide in you their deepest desires and wishes, then try listening to them as babies. They may not be speaking English, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t speaking.

So not only when my baby cries do I feed, hold, or otherwise attend to him; but when he coos I talk back, when he reaches out for me I hold him, and when he holds me tight I hold even tighter. That is what I did from day one. And personally, I find all of that rather instinctual. Our bodies as mothers are made to respond to our babies (See more on that here: http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com/baby/articles/940433/crying-its-good-for-their-lungs). Their cries are uniquely manufactured so that we will respond quickly. That is why I could never cry-it-out with my baby. It is too important to me that my baby knows that I will always be there for him when he reaches for me -- because I am supposed to be.

What is an alternative to crying-it-out? For me it meant nursing my baby to sleep each night, and often that even meant that he ended up sleeping in the bed with us when he woke for night feedings. In another post I plan on talking about how co-sleeping can be done safely (and be very beneficial!), but for now, know that that worked for us. This article (http://kellymom.com/bf/normal/comfortnursing/) does a great job of explaining how nursing to sleep is perfectly normal and how to deal with common problems you may experience doing that. For me it was the best way to respond to my baby both day and night. He did this through 17 months, and since then he's still been sleeping with us as weaning was pretty rough on him. Next time around we plan to alternate this with other methods (rocking, singing). One of the articles I cited earlier gives other alternatives.

I get that it’s hard - I never claimed what I did was easy. But what I do find “easy” is the child I am raising now - he is trusting of me and is very bonded to me (many people comment to me that they can tell he loves me) and that to me is worth more than the sleep that I lost (and still lose) getting up with him, the tired arms I get for holding him endlessly at times, or the tasks left undone because he needed my undivided attention on a given day (most often when he’s teething).

Is this the perfect formula? Maybe not, maybe you feel you did these things and it didn’t work for you or wore you out too much (though attachment parenting does include reaching out and getting help from others when needed, which is also VERY important so that you don’t experience burn-out and ignore your children due to mere exhaustion). Maybe learning about and applying more of the other principles in attachment parenting will help you more than this one. But it has worked for me and I would encourage any parents out there not already practicing these things to give them a try. Literally nothing would make me happier than to know that more parents were responding to their children and helping them bond and grow and be emotionally secure.

I get that it’s hard, parents. I really do. If you are struggling to take care of your baby/children then by all means call on others for some help. You will be a better parent the more emotionally stable you are. If I am in your area I will gladly help you out. (Or here is a quick article on why your baby may be crying: http://www.babycenter.com/0_12-reasons-babies-cry-and-how-to-soothe-them_9790.bc?showAll=true)

So please, listen to your babies - you won’t regret it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

He knows I’m there for him

One day we were playing outside with a little boy my son’s age when a garbage truck came along. You probably know the loud noises these things produce, and some kids even get excited at their approach and watching them at work. But not my boy. Once its growling was in earshot he instantly became fearful and ran to me. He jumped in my arms and nuzzled his face into my shoulder, arms wrapped tightly around me. I returned the embrace, and whispered (what I hope were) comforting statements in his ear: “Is that garbage truck loud? Don’t worry, I’m right here, I’ve got you.”

The experience made me grateful for the trust this meant my son had in me. Other parents might have wondered why their kid was so scared and maybe even told them, “you’re fine, it’s just the garbage truck, you don’t need to be scared” or even, “stop freaking out!” but this would not validate their fear or comfort them and help them to feel safe. Instead this would force the kids to bury their fear and learn that their parent is not someone that they can go to when they are afraid.

My son, though, knows that I am here for him whenever he needs me. We have had many moments like this lately, whether it be garbage trucks, constructions trucks, loud motorcycles, or otherwise, and every time he has jumped in my arms and every time I am there for him. Someday these things will no longer make him afraid and he won’t need me anymore. But for now I cherish these moments as a chance to cuddle my son and be present for him. Because they certainly won’t last forever, and I’m going to enjoy them while they last.

What do I do so he knows he can trust me? Stay tuned and I’ll talk about what I believe helps children know they can trust their parents.

[Author's note: this post was written two months ago and already my son has gotten used to these loud noises and they no longer scare him. In fact, he usually calls them "choo-choos" (cute, I know). It just goes to show that he learned on his own (and in his own time) that there was nothing to be afraid of - I did not need to force him to "be fine."]

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Life with our one-year-old

Here is a snapshot of everyday life with our little boy.

We dance: lately when my boy hears music, he starts waving his arms and shaking or bouncing his body. It is SO cute. So we have dance parties -- and it rocks.

He conducts: related to above, other times when he hears music (most often at church) he starts waving his arms like he is conducting. When he was younger my husband would conduct his arms as we sang, so now he does it all the time. He is really smart and is usually able to distinguish between kinds of music that one normally conducts versus kinds one normally dances to.

He walks: our little guy has been walking around the house for a while, but only recently did that start to happen outdoors as well. He loves exploring outside (AKA find things to put in his mouth) and especially loves rocks (he calls them “Ba!” like he does for ball).

Shoes: when he was younger he hated shoes. Well, at least it seemed that way since he always kicked them off and protested us putting them on. Though of course he liked eating our shoes. Now he LOVES getting his shoes put on, though most often it’s because he knows that means we’re going outside. Outside of that though (see what I did there? Haha) he even loves to try on our shoes and try to put shoes on my feet. It’s pretty adorable.

Nuzzling: we’re not sure what he’s trying to do, but lately when either my husband or I do dishes at the sink, he’ll crawl around and between our legs while nuzzling his head against our legs. It’s kind of cat-like to be honest. But we prefer that to him banging his head against the wall or floor, which he also enjoys doing.

“Mum” and “Ba!” These are pretty much his two words for everything. “Mum” most often refers to food or drinks, but can refer to anything he wants or anyone he points to. And then “Ba!” is usually ball, or rocks as mentioned. He used to say “Da-da-da” a lot, but now he almost ever does. Sometimes he associates that with Dad, but other times he’ll just go off on a stream of “Da-da DA-da da-DA-da!” 

Waving: he has gotten to be such a good little waver. Though, ironically, he’s much better at doing it to strangers at a distance than to people we know and are talking to at a given moment. It is still so cute though, since it means he is making friends everywhere we go. He much prefers to initiate contact than to have interaction thrust upon him.

Prayers: when we bless the food we’ll tell him we’re going to pray and he’ll either fold his hands or his little arms. It is the cutest thing to watch. And then when the prayer ends and we say “Amen,” he claps. Yay! The prayer is over! Haha.

Hugs: we put stuffed animals in front of him and ask him to give them hugs and he lays his head/body on them. It is to die for. But to ask for hugs for us, he does it better if we say, “cuddles.” Probably because we always told him, “Thanks for the cuddles!” when he’d do it before. He is pretty much the most adorable kid.

We're very blessed to have such an adorable, loving, fun little boy!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Baby J's birth

When I found out I was pregnant, I was like what I think most pregnant women are like. I instantly was researching and reading about the progress of my baby and it became all I could think about. This was a slight problem seeing as I was in my last year of college, and while I was beyond suffering senioritis (more like senioritis and baby-itis combined. Babioritis?), I had every intention of doing well in my classes and my student teaching. But I will say I did spend some time at school looking up baby names and reading about pregnancy symptoms (e.g. IS ALL THIS GAS NORMAL?!?!?).

This lasted for about 5-6 months. Then, suddenly, I had the dawning realization that every pregnant woman has of, "oh yeah, I have to get this baby out of me." I finally started looking more seriously at birthing methods and considered what I wanted to do. For many women, growing up with negative messages about birth and particularly labor, this causes them a great amount of anxiety. I remember one conversation I had with a friend who had a natural birth and telling her, "I'm not sure that I could handle the pain." But I looked into it anyway.

I don't think I could say with any certainty what I researched, but I remember natural birthing becoming more and more appealing to me everyday. One vivid memory I had going for me was the birth videos they show in child development classes of different kinds of births. They include an using an epidural, using forceps, a C-section, and finally a natural birth. That last one is so amazing. The woman is just breathing, and focusing, and by the time she's ready to push and the doctor shows up, the baby's head is already crowning (granted, it's like her fourth kid, but still). I remember being so impressed and thinking, "that's what I want."

Fortunately for me, when I mentioned this desire to by OBGYN, they were supportive, while recommending that I take some kind of class or learn a method to help me. The N.P. recommended "hypnobabies," saying the women she saw use that had the most success. Even more fortunately for me, a short time later I had a chat with a good friend and she had used hypnobabies for her birth AND was willing to let me borrow the book! I felt so blessed, because all the classes require a big time commitment (and ideally before you are too far along) and a bit of a monetary investment, so this was a much easier route for me.

At this point, I had graduated and only had about two months left in my pregnancy. Disclaimer: ideally you have much more time than this to prepare for a natural birth. But, SPOILER ALERT: I did have a successful natural birth with only that 6-8 weeks of preparation. And I did not take the class and had only the book. So it is possible, but I don't recommend waiting that long. Preparation for birth can start as early as when you find out you're pregnant. The more research (and with something like hypnobabies, time to practice), you can do before you give birth, the better.

Okay, now on to the fun stuff.

My mom flew into town on my 39 week mark (granted, they had changed my due date to a week later based on baby's size, so if you go by my original due date, I was 40 weeks) and at that appointment I decided to let them strip my membranes. They had asked to do it a week prior, but the hypnobabies book recommends avoiding that, so I'm glad I at least waited as long as I did before getting that done. Oh, also, I'd been dilated to 3 cm for 3 weeks at this point. While this is unusual for a first-time pregnant woman, it's not unheard of. And it does NOT mean that you are about to go into labor. The doctors thought that was possible when they first realized that. Nope. (Okay, it is possible, it just wasn't the case for me.)

The next day, I felt normal, except for some lower back pain. This was not unusual, as there is a lot of strain on your lower back as your belly grows, and so I figured that it was just intensifying. I was waiting to feel some contractions in my upper belly region because that was where I had felt Braxton Hicks contractions before (though they had been absent for a couple of weeks now), but they never came. While I was convinced I was just experiencing lower back pain, my mom recognized it for what it was: early labor. I felt it all day long. That night, we took my mom to her friend's where she was staying, and went to see one of my husband's friends who was in town. Before we went, we thought we might go mini-golfing or do something fun afterward. When we got there, I was stuck in the car for a minute due to the cramping I was experiencing. That was when I figured I was probably going into labor that night.

After seeing his friend and getting Subway (where a nice dad paid for our meal!!! Pretty sure it was because I was a huge preggo lady) we went home and . . . did chores. No joke, my husband did dishes and I was cutting out fabric for a dress to make for my pregnant sister. I was imminently going into labor and we were going about normal life. I loved it. Soon it was bedtime and I wondered, "can I sleep while I'm in labor?" Google was my friend. It said to try to sleep if I could, because being well-rested helps, but that it may not be possible. Well, the latter proved to be true for me, because my husband crawled into bed and conked out (unusual for him, he usually tosses and turns a bit first) while I lay awake and struggled to find a comfortable position.

Every position I tried would work for a while, but then I would have to do something else. I was on my birthing ball. Now I'm lying on the couch. Now I'm walking. Now I'm on the toilet. Oh yeah, I should throw in a disclaimer here: I spent way more time on the toilet during my labor than I could have ever anticipated. Not just because I just kept having to go (though that was true), but because once I was there some cramping would strike and I was stuck there until it passed. So, not to get too detailed, but after all that I felt confident that I would not be having a bowel movement on the birthing table.

At about 1:30 in the morning (my husband had gone to bed about 10:00 pm), I couldn't handle it anymore. I was kneeling next to the bed and wondering if I could really go through with this without an epidural. I started calling to my husband (who took a while to rouse, also unusual) and when he saw that I was having a rough go he jumped into action. I think we tried using ice and hot compresses to ease my muscle pain and I finally had my contractions timed. They were already three minutes apart! (Most people recommend going to the hospital when they are five minutes apart). So we called my mom and she made me take the shower test (if you get in the shower and your contractions stop, you aren't in labor. If they keep going, you are. It's a good way to avoid getting sent home from the hospital).

My contractions continued and were getting closer together. We were going to have a baby! We still had to pack the hospital bag (Mom hadn't let us do it before thanks to superstition) and pick up Mom before getting to the hospital. So my amazing husband was running around packing our stuff in my "breaks," and then during contractions was at my side, rubbing my lower back and using encouraging phrases. My only job was to alert him when a contraction started and let him go when it ended. Well, and I had to relax as well as I could too, I suppose. ;) It was so much easier with my husband by my side; I regained confidence that I could get through this.

If anything, I was grateful that this whole process took a while because I wanted to delay getting to the hospital for as long as possible. I just knew that I would be able to progress better at home, and that I would be allowed to eat and drink at home (which I did right up until we arrived at the hospital), and that there would be less chance of intervention the less that I was at the hospital. We didn't get there until about 4:00 in the morning.
My awesome husband supporting me every
step of the way!

When we were checking in, I was very calm. I think the lady was probably convinced that they would be sending me home since I seemingly wasn't very far into labor (AKA freaking out). We got into the room and I was finally checked. I was dilated to 7 cm!!!! (You don't go home if you are 5 cm or more.) I was beyond thrilled, and the nurses were impressed. They kept telling me, "You are doing so well" and they meant it. My mother and husband were troopers, they were constantly massaging by back and legs to help ease the pressure. I literally could not have done it without them.

All through this I had some music playing (but pretty much only I could hear it). The one song I remember coming on was "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw. Guys, I literally started singing. In the middle of my labor. It was epic.

I quickly progressed to 8 cm, but then I kind of plateaued. The nurses (with my approval) eventually sent for the doctor to break my water to try to help things along. The only problem was, it was the old guy, and right after we called for him, he promptly fell back asleep. A part of me was relieved because I knew it would get harder once my water broke, but another part of me was like, "Seriously, Doc?" He eventually arrived and once my water was broken it got way hard. The pressure was instantly that much more intense and, though my body wasn't ready, I was feeling the urge to push. This is not a good thing to do when your body is not ready, because it can cause a lot of tearing. Well, I did tear, but that's not what I felt when I was pushing; it was honestly relieving (though it was a false sense of relief). Later, when I discovered that I was still at 8 cm, I realized I needed to stop pushing and relax again so that things could progress.

On the left, the baby's smallest part of the head (AKA crown)
is exiting first, making for a nice, smooth arrival. On the right,
the baby is trying the head out broadside; with the largest
part of the head coming out first. This can slow progression,
cause the baby distress, and harm the mother unnecessarily.
At some point they also realized that the baby was posterior (baby is facing up instead of towards my back, the way he needs to be facing to more easily exit - see image), which also may have been hindering my progression. So I got on my hands and knees (something not possible to do when you have an epidural , btdubs) to encourage him to turn. This can help because the baby's spine tends to follow gravity's pull. I really enjoyed laboring in that position too.

Eventually, I was fully dilated and the baby was facing the right way! We were good to start pushing! They got the doctor there and I was on my back even though it's easier on a woman to be squatting or on hands and knees to push, but the good news was (thanks again to being sans-epidural) that I could curl around my baby in a semi-sitting position to help me push. The other good news was the nurses didn't direct my pushing like I was told they would. Your typical nurse will encourage "purple pushing," where they have-you-hold-your-breath-for-ten-seconds-and-push-as-hard-as-you-can and then breathe. And then do it two more times - all for one contraction. They typically have to direct it like that because most people that have epidurals can't feel what's going on and so they have to be told what to do. Mercifully, this did not happen to me. I got to push when I wanted, for how long I wanted, and guess what - I only pushed for about 10-15 minutes (you'll hear about people pushing for 1 hr+, not fun. For more information about the side effects of coached pushing, go to http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-push-should-your-body-be-your-guide_1745336.bc).

And he was here! Born just after 8:00 am. The relief you feel when the labor is done cannot be described. They placed him on me and I got to have him skin to skin and it was so beautiful. My birth really was one of my favorite experiences and even after it was over I felt excited to get to do that again. I felt so powerful, and also so blessed that I had such great supports by my side. I literally could not have done it without my mother or husband. So if you feel like you may want to have a natural birth, I highly encourage looking into it and learning about what your body can do! It really is incredible.

For unbiased information about natural birthing, go to http://www.babycenter.com/natural-childbirth?. For Hypnobirthing specifically, go to http://www.babycenter.com/0_hypnosis-for-labor-does-hypnobirthing-work_10351603.bc
For more information about Hypnobabies, their website is https://www.hypnobabies.com/ and you'll find lots of helpful information and inspiring birth stories too!
Side effects of epidurals: http://www.babycenter.com/0_epidural-pain-relief-for-labor_1489911.bc

If anyone cares, these are the interventions I had and how they went for me.
1. I was having internal checks (for dilation) from week 36. While I liked knowing my progress, there is increased risk of infection with each check, so if the suspense isn't killing you then waiting it out could be best.
2. I did have my membranes stripped at 39 (40 by old due date) weeks, and I did go into labor the next day. Note, however, that this is not always the case. In any case I recommend delaying this procedure or never having it done because it can be done improperly and cause damage. Or if you are Group B strep positive, then the earlier you have it done the more likely your baby can be infected. ALSO one of my nurses re-stripped my membranes while we were in the hospital during one of my checks WITHOUT my permission (and believe me, once you've felt that, you can tell what they're doing) which was very disappointing so be sure to have that in your birth plan if you don't want that.
3. I was Group B strep positive, and so they gave me an IV with penicillin. Honestly, the IV was one of the more irksome parts of my labor because the liquid going in is cool and it was hard for me to ignore at times. And it restricts movement, although admittedly once I was at the hospital I was mostly in bed laying down because that was easiest for me. More info here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_group-b-streptococcus-screening_1647.bc?
4. Monitoring. At first I was able to have just the two external bands: one for contractions and one for baby's heartbeat, and I mostly didn't mind them. Sometimes though, they lost signal and the nurse would have to come adjust them, which sometimes broke my relaxed state, so a bit irksome. Even worse though was later after my water broke they had a hard time getting his heartbeat, and so they were very insistent upon getting an internal monitor (the one that pokes the baby in the head). I delayed it as long as possible, but finally allowed it. Thankfully he didn't suffer any damage from it, but it's still something I hope to avoid in the future. More here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_fetal-monitoring_1451559.bc
5. Episiotomy. Thanks to the fact that I started pushing early, I had torn myself inside, and so my doctor told me as I was pushing that either the baby could take his time to stretch me out, or doc could give me a little snip and baby would be out quicker. So I did get snipped, and obviously required stitches. Thankfully, overall though, my healing went very well. I experienced very little pain, which I credit to going naturally because even if things hurt it was easy to relax and not notice it thanks to going through labor naturally. In the future I think I'll have us do more perineal massage next time around, and will also know better to delay pushing until I'm really ready to avoid having one in the future. More info about those here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_episiotomy_165.bc

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My voice

A while ago, both my husband and a friend of mine told me I should start a blog. I resisted, feeling that there were already others saying the things I would say. Now, while that still is the case for many of the things I may say, I feel it important to be able to express my views in this kind of venue. And even more I feel the desire to say these things to reach my (albeit small) sphere of influence. I hope that through this blog I may be able to enlighten others, create a dialogue, and share my innermost feelings.