Home Birth Rights

@Mom101 said it best:

I’m still amazed that my own uterus is a bigger concern to American voters than oh, say…everything in the world.

A lot of people are probably wondering why I’ve been so forthcoming with the details of my recent home birth. On one side, I’m sharing because I had a great experience and I hope other healthy mothers will consider this option for their births. However, it’s more important for me to share merely so that this stays an option for mothers. In this era when politicians batter women’s rights by making ill-educated statements and judgements on both sides of the spectrum, it should come as no surprise that the very right to choose home birth is under attack in certain jurisdictions. Not only do we often pay for these expenses out of pocket while the costlier and more invasive hospital alternatives are covered, but certain states bar the right to a home birth altogether. The unfortunate thing is that no one has turned home birthing into a large corporate practice that funds study after study to prove the benefits of the practice. You merely have to take my word for it and the word of others willing to share. (Although compelling research is beginning to come forth comparing home birth to hospital birth, it is slow in reaching the masses.)

You may not agree that a home is the best place to give birth for some mothers, but I can tell you it was 100% for us. I had an empowering labor, followed by two restful weeks of bonding with my baby. Now I’m nearly fully recovered and getting back into the swing of Motherhood with both my girls. Because of this, it was the best choice for our whole family.

The reason why any mother should feel comfortable considering a midwife to be the prenatal care provider is that midwives are able to recognize and test for issues that might inhibit a safe home birth. In rare cases, they can even facilitate a transfer to a hospital. You can hire a doula for post partum care if you’re concerned how you would function without a nurse.

Once you take the time to understand the benefits of natural labor and home birth, it’s hard to argue that there is a better way to have a baby. However, it is important for Mothers to have access to hospitals for emergency situations. Unfortunately, the tradeoff for having access to important, life saving, procedures is that hospitals can’t accommodate the needs of a mother who desires to labor at her own pace without interference; the way nature intended.

The trouble with the male-influenced practice of obstetrics is that the primary goal is to eliminate pain in labor. However, pain is what opens our body and moves the baby through it. When given the freedom to work through contractions and harness the effects of the pain for the relatively short duration of active labor, a woman will benefit from a less painful and potentially shorter recovery period. I chose to labor without fear, without a restrictive “birth plan,” and without medication in order to reap the benefits for my baby and myself. I’ve learned so much about childbirth and my body over the past two years, but the most important thing I learned is to trust myself. We can appreciate science for skillful doctors, but we should trust that all mothers are miracle workers. Why else would we be built to do such great work?

A Sign of Success

As a child, I grew up on a steady diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Fearing Karma, I’ve diligently tried to make Hannah’s mealtimes pleasant, fulfilling, and filled with variety. She’s only 14 months now, so there is plenty of time for her to change her palate. However, I think we’re off to a really great start. Since I’ve been back on my feet, we’ve shared several delightful family meals.

With the exception of applesauce and mashed potatoes (or yams) we’re out of the puree phase completely. In fact, she generally eats exactly what we eat since I try to provide a healthy menu for the family all the time. If necessary, I’ll leave the seasonings out of her meal or sub a side dish with a piece of cheese. Hannah has been finger feeding since about 9 months and is now making attempts to use silverware. It is so exciting to watch her learn this important skill! Even though the puree phase passed quickly, I’m still making use of my Baby Bullet gear because the cups are still useful for measuring portions, storing extras, or serving her drinks. When her little hands grab the cup for a sip of water it makes my heart melt.

Originally, I could give Hannah a prepared snack like cheerios and then make the rest of her meal. About two months ago, she started throwing food out of boredom so I made it a point to fully prepare both our meals and then sit with her while she eats. This took some additional planning in the house to set up a baby-proofed playroom where she can wander, but it has been so worthwhile. Now, she plays with her toys and has a sippy cup while I cook. She still tries to feed the dog at the end of her meal and will throw food after she’s full, but I just tell her a stern “No Ma’am” and remove the tray because the meal is finished.

At the end of the meal, I bring over a washcloth to wipe her face, hands and tray. When learning Montessori based skills, it’s important for children to see how to clean. I slowly wipe across and down so that she can understand what I’m doing and learn the skill herself. It’s working because the other day she grabbed a bib off the back of her chair, wiped her face and hands and then dabbed the cloth over her tray. I am so inspired by little acts like this because it shows that she is a careful observer and is ready to learn more and more skills.

One thing that has been really helpful for both of us is sign language. Hannah learned “All Done” several months ago and has used that to signal everything from a finished meal to boredom in the play room. Now that she knows “More” she is able to politely ask for extra helpings or a different food without screaming. I’m trying to teach her “Please” as well. There are many more signs that we could learn, but I’m satisfied with this small communication booster for now. Right now, even her Dad knows the signs and I’m happy that we can all understand one another during meals.

Hannah asks for more during lunch.

Mealtime Strategies

Earlier last week researchers published studies showing the alarming amount of food waste in America. This problem is bigger than just tossed leftovers because it runs rampant through wasteful supermarket practices and discards from oversized portions at restaurants. However, a little creativity at home can go a long way in making sure that each family does its part to limit the weekly landfill load.

Laziness has been a huge motivator for minimizing food waste in my house. Even though it takes more thinking in advance, extra prep work can simplify cooking additional meals or allow for tastier leftovers. Since cooking at home is the most economical way to provide my family with healthy meals, I’ve learned to stretch a dollar by stretching ingredients. I love to create a diverse menu simply by layering ingredients or repurposing them. My Pyrex food containers are the perfect kitchen tool for this because they are versatile for storage, cooking, and rewarming. By using glassware, I’m saving money versus the disposable storage counterparts.

My “kitchen mantra” is cook once, eat twice. Here’s an example of a weekly menu that uses every bite in the fridge:

Monday -Rotisserie Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Green beans

Tuesday – Steak with Portabella mushrooms, Mashed Potatoes, Corn

Wednesday – Chicken pot pie

Thursday – Sauteed Peppers and Onions on Sausage Sandwiches

Friday – Portabella, pepper and onion quesadillas (These are out of this world!!), Mexican Rice and Beans

Saturday – Rotini with sausage

Sunday – Burritos with rice and beans

These suit our tastes and the variations make it seem like we’re not having leftovers for every meal. Often, I do cook enough so that there are leftovers for lunch so it’s important to me that each dinner is unique. I rarely spend more than half an hour cooking, which gives me the time to keep up with my girls! I know that there are even more ways to save money and eat healthier, homemade foods. I’m consistently inspired to try new things, but I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by taking on too many kitchen challenges at once. What are some of your favorite ways to put a quick and economical meal on the table?

Back in Baby’s Arms

It’s been a great week, folks! I’m having a hard time believing that it has barely even been three weeks since I gave birth. Physically, I feel terrific in comparison to my first post-partum experience. The Babymoon was definitely a success in getting me back on my feet. More importantly, I am so happy because I got to spend the week with both my girls. On Monday Hannah walked into my lap and threw her arms around me for the best hug I’ve ever received.

It’s funny to call Hannah a Big Sister at such a young age, but there’s no denying that she is a great one for Audrey. From the first time she met Audrey and tried to put a hat back onto her head she has been alert and sensitive to our new family member. She’s very curious about the baby when she is within reach, but often she simply comes close for a kiss (which melts my heart.) Since Hannah is so good at independent play, she has been very understanding that the baby spends so much time in my arms. I’m having a lot of success with the K’tan baby carrier, with the exception of my husband’s concern that I’m squishing Audrey. I guess he forgot where she spent the last nine months?

Now that Audrey is getting more alert, I’m trying to make sure she gets some “playtime” during the day to help her sleep through the night. We’re slowly going to move towards the same EASY routine I used on Hannah. EASY stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your Time and it worked like a charm last year. Today I nursed Audrey and then the three of us laid down in the play room and Audrey squirmed on her back and her belly for a few minutes each. Hannah moved around freely with her toys, but paused for a minute in the middle to lay down and look at her sister. After that, Audrey got a new diaper and then I snuggled her into the carrier and she rocked right to sleep. I’m not anticipating that “My Time” will actually happen this year, but I love being able to give my undivided attention to Hannah for some stories and songs.

I’ve heard that I’d have my arms full like a broken record over the last year. It’s true that they’re always full with one baby or the other and sometimes both and that’s the way I’m starting to like it!

Why Birth at Home?

I haven’t always been a hippy. In fact, I’d hardly consider myself one now if not for the recent home birth endeavor. For most of my life I thought that I would have a c-section merely because that’s the way I was born. I heard bits and pieces about “being stuck” during an excruciatingly long labor and I assumed that since my Mom and I have a similar small frame that a cesarean would be the only way to extract a baby. It seemed much simpler to envision a small cut that produced a baby than to contemplate hours of pushing and pain. Plus, I was a wuss when pain was involved with anything.

I walked into my first prenatal visit with Hannah practically ready to schedule my c-section. However, the nurse put that plan on hold by letting me know that all women and all pregnancies are different. I left with my fears slightly eased since I knew that the c-section recovery was not something to look forward to. That was the kickoff of my quest for knowledge about how to give birth and become a super Mom. I started to read What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but quickly swapped over to books about baby care because I couldn’t stomach the birth stories with my morning sickness. Over the Holidays a series of events unfolded that got me thinking.

First, I sat next to a Father of 3 on a flight who tolerated my frequent use of the sick bag and eased my nausea by sharing his wife’s birth stories. I listened in shock about the hospital birth, then unmedicated birth, and finally their birth at home. The man reminded me a little too much of my husband, especially when he started to equate the home birth to a challenge like climbing Everest. I began to realize that the baby I carried was just as much my husband’s child and I could hardly imagine that if given the opportunity to have a baby he would take the challenge lying down.

Coincidentally, I spent the vacation lying down reading. After racing through my baby books, I raided my Mother-In-Law’s bookshelf and read a book about a young pioneer woman who gave birth on her own in the kitchen. It blew my mind and when I brought it up I was surprised to find out that Moms I knew (including my husband’s) had also had natural deliveries.

When I reached the second trimester, my renewed energy allowed me to exercise, eat well, and connect with my baby by being healthy. I began to feel Hannah’s strong kicks and I quickly realized how much she would be like my husband. I wanted to do everything to help her be strong and energetic throughout her life. I was beginning to look into cloth diapering because I found out it could save us thousands of dollars. All of a sudden, I was learning about the benefits of avoiding modern conveniences and natural childbirth kept popping up.

I finally rented a video (Laugh and Learn about Childbirth) to help decide our birth plan. I loved the nurse’s suggestion to relax in between the contractions. I had no idea that you got breaks in the pain, so birth seemed totally manageable if I could just breathe through the hard parts and then rest. After all, I’d been a yoga devotee for years and they weren’t asking me to last through a contraction any longer than some of the poses in class. However, the information about the epidural was a total turn-off. A huge needle to the back that doesn’t always work. It could result in a longer birth and I’d have to decide when to get it. Trying to figure out the magic point at which I would ask for an epidural was mind boggling. Plus, what if I couldn’t get to the hospital in time or it didn’t work. How was I going to get that baby out?

I tried to encourage my husband’s participation in the birth by getting him the book Husband Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley. He didn’t read too much of it, but I pored through it. For the first time, I was enjoying reading birth stories. The birth methods made sense and many of the preparations leading up to birth were things I was already doing. When I read that swimmers have a strong advantage during birth, I knew that with my husband’s help, that would be the best way for me to have Hannah. I let him coach me on swimming for the final months of the pregnancy and entered the hospital with the courage to have a natural birth five weeks before our expected due date. I’m so happy to have made that choice because an early baby is a fearful experience to begin with. Knowing that she would not be impacted by any medications made it much easier to welcome her into my arms.

Still, it wasn’t a “perfect birth” and there were things about being in the hospital that just didn’t seem right. After all, the cardinal rules of a healthy pregnancy are to avoid lying on your back, hydrate, eat healthy foods, and don’t use drugs. Why was a place that inhibited all those rules the “best” place to give birth? I learned that it is just as safe for a healthy mother to have a healthy baby under the care of a midwife and chose that for Audrey’s birth. If you read “There’s No Place Like Home,” then you already know it was the best choice I ever made.

The Babymoon

Lots of couples take a Babymoon during pregnancy to enjoy one last vacation before Baby arrives. Feet up, no chores, relaxation, and maybe even a prenatal massage. It’s easy to think of a weekend getaway as a vacation. But did you ever think of the first weeks of your infant’s life as a vacation, too? Maybe it’s easier for me to think of it this way with a toddler in the house. I made the mistake of not resting enough my first time around, so I made a bigger effort to get the house prepped and my husband and some helpers on board to get through the first two weeks. Now, it’s drawing to a close and I know how much of a difference it made for everyone.

After my first pregnancy, I really struggled with my recovery because I didn’t feel that bad. I felt better than I thought I would after giving birth and truly empowered by the experience of a natural, non-medicated delivery. I started walking right away, not realizing the strain my body was going through trying to heal. In fact, it felt better to walk than to sit because of my episiotomy, so I figured I was just making progress toward getting better. Since Hannah was early I didn’t have as much time to prepare the house. We were the lucky recipients of a handful of meals to get us through, but I found myself in the kitchen more often than not because I didn’t have easily available snacks. Plus, I was so burnt out from the breast feeding/pumping/supplementing round-the-clock baby meals that I welcomed any help with those to give my weak arms and back a rest. Apparently the Lindsay Brin prenatal exercise series was helpful in developing arm strength, but no match for holding a 5 pound 13 oz infant all day. (Yes, my triceps were that sad.) So I sucked it up and plugged through 8 long weeks before I ultimately started to feel “normal.” I battled serious nursing issues and concerns with milk supply, not to mention the up and downs from the hormones. On top of that, I struggled with dreams that I couldn’t find the baby who was sleeping merely feet away. Plus, I regularly missed her kicks and the closeness we shared during the pregnancy. I could have chocked all this up to mild PPD and done everything the same this time around, but I changed the whole plan instead.

Having a second baby is absolute Heaven. We spend hours in bed together getting to know each other and developing a comfort level. I’m memorizing her face and her coos and the little expressions she makes. When she opens her eyes, I share her excitement at learning about her surroundings. I tell her everything I’m doing and make gentle oooos and aaahhhhs when she’s really alert. She’s nursing really well, sleeping great, and I am making so much milk. Everything baby-related feels like a huge success. The only hard part is the Older Sibling Blues. Since Hannah is just 14 months and barely walking, her care is generally beyond my capabilities right now. Of course I’m excited that she has a sister and I know in the long run she’ll forgive me for these weeks in bed. I just can’t wait to get through the post-partum stage and back on my feet with my girls!

It hasn’t been easy to stay put, but it’s made a huge difference. I’ve walked past the dirty dishes in favor of sitting on the couch nursing while Hannah plays in the room. I’m not worried that the laundry doesn’t get folded the way I do it or that my husband throws bras in the dryer. Maybe they make nursing bras so ugly so that you don’t mind if they get ruined by others who help around the house. I know I have a big job ahead of me with two little girls, but I’m ready for it. All it took was a little rest to get there.

Thank you to all my friends and family who’ve extended a hand or a kind word to help us and especially my husband, who has fought me kicking and screaming on this but somehow managed to wrangle our family and keep the house from burning down.

 

Vitamin DD

I am enjoying breastfeeding. It’s not every day you get to say that and I may be jinxing myself, but it has really been a pleasure feeding Audrey this week. First of all, everything is easier the second time around. Plus, her home birth set us up for success by making the transition to nursing as simple as possible. One of the main reasons I chose a midwife was because I was determined to have a better experience than the first time around.

Last year, I repeated all the benefits of nursing to myself like a mantra. I had to in order to overcome the emotional and physical pain, but I stuck it out. Now all those same mantras are just icing on the cake, because feeding my hungry little angel baby is rewarding enough. Wonder why people do this until their kids are four? When it’s good, it’s that good.

For instance, the Mommy High of the oxytocin rush is incredible. As if it’s not already rewarding enough to stare at a little baby all day, she physically triggers a good feeling just by drinking her milk. A relaxed, happy Mom during postpartum is a good thing- even if it only lasts 5 minutes before the emotional roller coaster starts back up and the night sweats kick in.

My body feels exactly like it’s supposed to. A little beat up, but going through a healing process that is aided by my baby. Each time I feel contractions while nursing, I’m reminded that I’m one step closer to normal and that my belly is shrinking (woohoo!)

Having an enthusiastic eater is a delight. I’m feeding her on demand so that she gets what she wants when she wants it. She rarely cries, even during diaper changes, because I try to pace them just after a meal. This is the time when we’re finding our groove and both learning. I’m not worried if she falls asleep at the breast because I know she’ll wake in a half hour to finish. When she heartily drains every last drop a few times a day I breathe a sigh of relief.

There are a few things that are making this time around work so well besides just the on demand meals. I take a deep breath each time she latches and try to make eye contact whenever hers are open. I am also using Lanolin like it’s going out of style. Finally, I’m taking a hot shower each day and using the time to massage out any clogs. I don’t cry over milk down the drain because it just means there will be more tomorrow.

Sure, I knew all these things the first time around, but I didn’t have the experience or confidence to do them. I hid behind a breast pump, nipple shield, and TV remote waiting for my body to catch up and produce as much as the formula Hannah became accustomed to in the hospital. I had infections, clots, and pain that surpassed childbirth, but then it all cleared up and we enjoyed a few quick months of unhindered nursing. I know the highs and lows of breastfeeding, so I am not taking this for granted. Breast is best for babies, but it’s best for Moms, too. If you’re not feeling great about breastfeeding- ask an expert or sit and nurse with a Mom who is doing well. It is so worth it.

Full Disclosure:

Don’t let the title of this post mislead you. It’s important to let you Moms know that I was a small B pre-pregnancy. Production has more to do with rest, stimulation, nutrition and hydration than anything else.