A Peaceful Homebirth at 39 Weeks Pregnant

There’s no place like home for a birth. On August 5 we welcomed Audrey into the world at home with the help of a skilled Midwife. It was an amazing, challenging, and peaceful experience that went exactly as planned. Although she won’t remember it, Audrey is truly lucky to be Born at Home.

My contractions began early Saturday afternoon. After a walk they reached a regular and consistent pattern for about two hours so we called my mother to pick up my 1 year old, Hannah. I called my midwife and she suggested I eat and rest, so I did just that. The contractions subsided through the evening and my husband and I both got plenty of sleep.

We woke up in the morning determined to restart labor 😉 and headed out for breakfast at a nice little cafe. Mild contractions started again on the ride, but they weren’t unsettling. I startled the waitress by questioning if our food arrived so quickly because my husband told her I was in labor. A few patrons congratulated us and we headed back home to take a short walk. We were beginning to make progress with stronger and faster contractions, but they eased up each time I stopped moving. I continued the delicate balance of trying to facilitate labor while not exerting myself until the early afternoon.

At two, we decided with the Midwives that I would go for a walk, take a nap, and after a meal they would break my water to help speed things along. The energy from my husband’s delicious pancakes was exactly what I needed as my labor immediately became stronger. I eased the pain by managing my breathing and took Tylenol. Relaxing between each contraction helped me conserve energy and the Midwives offered gentle massage and encouragement to help me through the more challenging pain. It was clear that I was making progress, but laying down was hindering Audrey’s passage.

I took a shower with my husband’s support and bore through three strong contractions. Afterwards I returned to bed and rested briefly before choosing an exercise ball for support to keep me more upright. I cried and whined like a baby. Well, not like Audrey because she rarely cries. The midwives encouraged me to use deeper sounds to redirect the energy down through my body. Cue tribal chanting sounds. It worked because the pain reached a plateau and I gathered the last of my strength to perch on a birthing stool. I felt the “ring of fire” and knew all the work was about to pay off. After strong pushes through three contractions Audrey was born into the hands of a midwife. I held her immediately and watched as she delicately opened her eyes for the first time. With newfound energy, I laid on the bed with her on my chest for several minutes. She was so willful as she moved her head and reached higher towards her first meal. I waited impatiently to deliver the placenta, but it finally came out during a contraction and I felt immediate relief as I nursed Audrey. She got cleaned up while I ate steak and mashed potatoes and then relaxed and bonded with her Dad during my shower.

The three of us fell asleep together and had no troubles meeting Audrey’s first needs of rest and milk. I relaxed and excitedly waited for the morning to introduce Audrey to her new best friend, Hannah. We’re all blessed to have Audrey in our home and our hearts, but her true gift in this world is being a sister.

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Baby Laundry Advice

My Aunt is arguably the laundry pro in the family. She can get a stain out of anything and she fits her daily laundry loads into her schedule with ease. I’ve learned a thing or twenty from her, but I hadn’t seen her wash very many baby clothes so I had to figure out a bunch of that process from scratch. These are a few of the things I’ve learned (most the hard way.) I’m hoping that both she and Martha Stewart would be proud:

  • Save trouble later: Fasten all velcro when it comes off the baby
  • Got a tricky or stinky stain? Wash first, then hang in the sun for about 3 hours
  • Secure socks and other mini items into a delicate lingerie bag
  • Use half to a quarter of the recommended amount of laundry detergent
    • Check your load when the basin fills; there should only be a few bubbles breaking the surface, no super suds.
  • Don’t use fabric softener on baby clothes
    • If you’re doing cloth diapers don’t use fabric softener with any loads. The residue stays in the dryer and coats your items, making them water repellant instead of absorbent.
  • Dry on low to avoid shrinking

“Should we get some Formula?” he asked.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and a quick stomp around the internet will show you news about “Latch On NYC,” a myriad of Mother’s tales of breastfeeding woes, 100 ways breastfeeding is great, and (of course) nursing bra sales. I’ve shied away from blogging about the topic because my husband and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the importance. As quick as he was to support cloth diapering because that’s how he was raised, he’s also holding onto his lingering support of formula because he “turned out fine.” It’s not my intention to share this to bad-mouth my husband, but rather to let other mothers who may encounter the same resistance know that they are not alone. If you’d rather read about David Beckham literally supporting VB while breastfeeding, I would encourage you to do that here. The story (and image) got me through many wee hours.

I imagine that my DH loves breasts just as much as the average man, but he cannot wrap his head around the value of their intended purpose. Unfortunately for my cause, the nurses at the hospital chose to immediately offer my daughter a bottle due to her early delivery. It’s questionable whether this was necessary, and it is absolutely the route cause of many of my early difficulties with nursing and post-partum recovery. However, my husband relished the opportunity to feed our daughter her bottles in the early days since I was often hooked up to a breast pump. Who was I to take that bonding experience away from them? When we got home, my days were ruled by the cycle of nursing, pumping, feeding Hannah a bottle of formula, feeding Hannah expressed milk, and then the general newborn care. It was insanity and I can understand now why my husband pleaded with me to just give her the bottle time and again. Throughout the months I nursed, I spewed off La Leche League facts by the dozens and reminded him how quickly I lost the baby weight, but he countered all of them with support of the powdered alternative. The same man who glared at me each time I asked for a glass of water while stationed in my nursing chair, handwashed bottle after bottle so that I’d never be able to complain that I didn’t have a clean set.

It took over a month to begin exclusively breastfeeding Hannah, and then several more months to find “our groove.” Almost as quickly as I joined a support group and began to really enjoy nursing Hannah and feeling its benefits, I got pregnant again and everything changed. The physical demands of both babies resulted in me being constantly tired and hungry. It didn’t help that Hannah wasn’t sleeping through the night either. When I began to notice weight loss towards the end of my first trimester I started to wean her. Let me tell you, that pro-bottle husband of mine was the first person to run to the grocery store to buy formula, but the last person to hold our squirming, howling daughter as she fought the transition to a new meal. In general, weaning was awful. Although I did get my energy back, my breasts hurt to the point that I could barely lift Hannah for the first week after her last meal. On top of that, I felt guilty about weaning and I was no longer getting the reassuring oxytocin high from my body that I apparently really needed. Plus, Hannah didn’t sleep through the night any easier in the long run. I finally understood PPD and learned that many Moms experience similar symptoms when they wean even if it didn’t affect them post partum. Shortly after all this, the breastfeeding cover on the Times rocked the world and I immediately sided with the AP parents. Had I known earlier what I know now, I would have tried everything imaginable to continue nursing Hannah through this pregnancy and into the next years.

If you’re lucky enough to have a husband that pampers you while nursing, offers continuous support through the nighttime feedings, and rubs your back to ease the pain in the early days, I salute you. But if you don’t, you can still find success in nursing. Seek out a nursing mothers group or hang out at the Mother’s Room in Toys R Us or Nordstrom until another woman arrives with her baby so you can talk to someone else. Just being in the presence of others who share their bodies with their babies can be a true comfort. Most importantly, as Mothers, we should never judge others for the way they choose to nourish their children. The people who breastfeed for 3 days deserve just as much respect as those who breastfeed for 3 years and everything in between. By supporting one another, we’ll make a more welcoming environment for nursing.

Who’s Elmo?

By today’s standards I’m guessing nearly any other kid would consider me a mean Mommy. I don’t let my daughter watch TV. But, at 13 months, she hasn’t asked and we’ve been really busy. Don’t get me wrong- I love kid’s TV shows more than the average adult, but I planned for a TV free year before she was born and we’re going to keep it up for her little sister that’s on the way.

Avoiding the tube works for us because Hannah is a spirited baby with loads of opinions. We keep a pretty tight schedule each day because she blows the whistle to ensure I stay on track. I’m pretty sure that if she got in the habit of watching a half hour of Disney Jr. in the morning, a trip to the grocery store would be out of the question until the show’s over.

Being 9 1/2 months pregnant and cutting back to one nap a day has made turning on the TV very enticing. Luckily I cancelled Netflix and our cable isn’t due to arrive until the baby’s due date, so I haven’t given in to the “Babysitter.” When I do need a break, I sit down in Hannah’s room while she entertains herself with her toys. Unfortunately, if I lay on the floor I become a jungle gym, so I’m really glad we asked for the splurge glider since I spend HOURS in it.

Now that Hannah is listening and learning, it’s really fun to help her explore her toys in new ways. She’s got a neat set of boxes with color coordinated toys inside. As she opens them, I narrate her actions and ask her questions. She is best at answering “Ba(ll)”! The other day, we sang a song about Bears, so I let her stuffed Bear raid all the boxes in search of food. She laughed and laughed as he turned his nose up at the balls and crayons and then “devoured” the foods. When she finished playing, I sang the clean up song, picked up her toys, and commended her for making an attempt to put something away. We had a great time!

Eco Baby’s Birth Story: Part 3

Eco Baby arrived in Part 2 of this series, so we’re done- right? Not even close!

A disappointing misconception within the general population is that the birth process ends when the baby arrives. Both neonatal care and maternal care would benefit from a huge overhaul within the hospital system. The main reason I’ve already decided that any future births for this family will take place with a midwife was the poor care we received directly after the birth and the non-existent follow-up care after leaving the hospital. Granted, this is not a decision I could have been confident about for my first birth because of nerves and a family history of c-sections. However, it’s one I will gladly make in the future. It’s because I’m selfish and I would like to have attentive, personalized care for both me and my baby. Call me crazy.

(Editor’s Note: Jeannette has the utmost respect for individuals in the health care profession. Many of the people she encountered during her stay were wonderful and professional. Her criticism is of the system that prevents personal attention. In general, I try to keep the messages on this blog light and positive. Unfortunately, this post will not have the same tone. I encourage you to read anyway because the more people are aware of this issue, the better chance there will be for change. After all, Maternal and Infant patients make up 38% of the healthcare industry’s yearly visitors. Don’t we deserve better?)

To be honest, it only hit me about 4 months ago that my maternity care was below par. I suppose I was living in “maternal bliss” and thinking about how wonderful it was to HAVE a baby! Who cared if I got off to a rough start with breast feeding? Did it matter that my recovery seemed to drag on longer than it should have? Would it really have helped to have a follow-up in-home visit to make sure I wasn’t at risk for some of the most painful nursing problems one can experience? Not in my mind! As long as I had a healthy baby, that was all that mattered. Looking back, I can’t help but feel mistreated and I found out I’m not alone. The CDC is pressing for improvements within the system. There’s even a group to establish the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. Everyone comes into this world the same way, so this affects us all. It is more important than any other political act- but we have yet to hear about it in the presidential debates.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this subject, or submit a 932 page proposal to congress for a complete overhaul of the system. It just seems that in a country that touts superiority in the world, we should be much higher on the patient satisfaction scale for this type of care and we’re not. Why am I dissatisfied? My visits from the nurses were few and far between. They were rushed, forgetful, and disorganized (presumably because there were too few nurses for the number of patients.) It was more difficult to get regular Tylenol because it wasn’t on a list of standard drugs that new mothers could receive. I didn’t receive any topical treatments for my “bottom” until the second day, because it wasn’t clear that this was something I could ask for. When the only positive things I can say regarding the maternity ward are about the hospital food, you have to wonder if this was really a decent situation.

Enough about me, let’s talk about Baby Eco’s care. We were at a “rooming-in” hospital that promotes closeness of the mother and baby by encouraging you to have your baby in the room as much as possible. I can’t imagine what it’s like at other hospitals, because I barely got to spend more than 2 hours at a time with her. It was really difficult because I had to attempt to nurse her for 20 minutes, then pump for 15 minutes, then feed her a bottle for about 20 minutes. By the time we changed a diaper and got her re-swaddled (another 20 minutes #newparenthood), it was practically time to get her back to the nursery and then start all over. Not only was the feeding process difficult and time consuming, but the assistance came in quick bursts of an overwhelming amount of information.

In my county, there are 5 hospitals. Only 2 still offer Lactation Consultant services (one is part time.) During my stay, I didn’t see a consultant until nearly 12 hours after Hannah’s birth. I also saw three different consultants, each with different suggestions. I was given hurried details about using a pump to stimulate production and a shield to better fit my nipple to Hannah’s mouth. It’s no wonder we weren’t able to get a proper latch without those items- they only spent 1/2 hour with me at a given time. There is also no follow up care available to nursing mothers through the hospital. If you need support (which we did), you must see a lactation consultant at the rate of $150 for one hour. Starting next year, this service will be mandatory for health care to cover. It’s good to know that issues like this are being addressed and improved for the future.

Thankfully I had the support of my husband through it all. He fed Baby Eco many times and immediately developed a wonderful bond with her. He is
totally onboard for taking a more natural approach to our next birth. In fact, because of his general loss of confidence in the political system
and his love of the outdoors he’s hopeful that Armegeddon is around the corner, and I think he would happily deliver our baby on his own.

I have to hope that better care is out there. If you had a great experience and you shared it on a blog, please post a link in the comments. I’m not discouraged from having another baby, and I still regard this as one of the best experiences of my life, but I think that Mothers should be treated less like surgery patients and given the option to blissfully bring new life into this world with positive care practices.