Category Archives: Life

My Birth Story

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Jeremy, Sydney, and I went to Anchorage to pick up Papa and Nenaw (my parents) on August 11, 2012, which was our estimated due date for Baby August. We joked that it would be really awesome if we went out to dinner at the Moose’s Tooth and then just stopped off at the birth center to give birth, since we were right there by it. We were so thrilled to see my parents, and made it to the Moose’s Tooth, and all the way back home, without stopping off at the birth center. We had a great visit with them, even though they were exhausted and on North Carolina time.

We went to bed, and at about 2:05 am, I woke up and needed to poop, bad. My labor had started with Sydney in this way, but I’d had so many stops and starts with this baby, that I had put it out of my mind to consider labor until I couldn’t ignore the contractions. As soon as I was finished using the bathroom, I had a sudden feeling of not only was I in labor, but it was time to leave the house for the birth center, in an expedient fashion. I did not, however, voice this to Jeremy, and instead climbed back into bed, where Sydney had opted not to sleep that night, so I was free to paw and writhe about on the bed while making my labor sound of choice, an angry cat sound. Jeremy woke up, and asked me if I was ok. After I continued to make more sounds, he leaped out of bed, in a semi-calm fashion, and got dressed and brushed his teeth. Then he went into the room where my parents and Sydney were sleeping, and told them it was time to go.

Within 10-20 minutes, we were in the van, and on the way to the birth center. The midwives and our doula, Stella were called at some point, and I started timing my contractions. Less than 4 minutes apart. We weren’t very smart the night before, and had not filled the van up, so we had to stop for gas. While timing my contractions, I tapped on the glass to let Jeremy know they were 3 minutes apart, he got a bit freaked out. Because our midwife was at a birth at the hospital, a different midwife called me back, and I was talking to her, and was overheard by Jeremy, who was driving, and he thought I was saying I had the “urge to push”, and started to gun it, until he found out I was not feeling like I needed to push. We eventually made it to the birth center, where my cervix was checked by midwife Felicity, 5 and a half centimeters.

I began cruising the medical building where the birth center is housed, and ascending and descending the stairs, in individual steps and lunges, with Jeremy or Stella applying counter pressure. I was very happy that we had the entire building to ourselves, and we were the only people at the birth center. While I labored, Sydney toodled the building with Papa and Nenaw, and made great use of the elevators. Never had she been awakened at 2 something in the morning to play, so this was a real treat.

Stella applying counter pressure

My contractions were coming about a minute apart, and Stella said it might be a good idea to get them to be spaced a bit more, so I went to the bed, and got on all 4s, howling like an angry cat. At some point, I switched to the birth ball, which was awesome, and my hips could be free to move, and I could be supported. I opened my eyes, coming out of one contraction, and midwife Karen was there. In the quiet, respectful nature of my labor atmosphere, she had appeared, so gently, and I was greeted with a smile.

I need to take a moment to mention that while planning for this labor and birth, music was a huge consideration. Music, for me, is what makes life flow so nicely, music helps life make sense at times, and music has helped me carry on through some tough times. So, I knew that music should be strongly considered for this birth. At first, I began to put instrumental and relaxation music on my iPod, but then began to consider that there were other types of music I might like. I ended up with quite a bit of music, from different artists that help my days pass more smoothly at times, they included: John Mayer, Deathcab for Cutie, most of the Garden State soundtrack, The Fray, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. None of the songs were about birth, but they were all songs that I enjoy. The playlist was named Baby August, and at times during my labor, I was so very grateful for the music we had playing in the background. It added to the atmosphere, the ambiance, and really helped me to remain calm.

As labor progressed, I became increasingly more uncomfortable, but stayed fairly relaxed, with lots of vocalizations. I could feel my support system there, though my eyes were closed most of the time, their gentle, positive presence was ever present. It felt truly amazing. Most of the time, my parents were in the common area of the birth center with Sydney, keeping her entertained, and sometimes, they would enter the birth arena to quietly view what was taking place. I am so thankful, that though no expectations were discussed about them attending the birth, they were so peaceful and wonderful an addition to the birth environment.

Sydney in the common area

As labor progressed I had to use the bathroom, and asked for Jeremy to hold onto me. I was shaking and feeling increased pressure and my contractions were growing ever more effective. I knew I was in transition. I went to the bed to be checked and was 8 centimeters. I think I labored some more on the ball, then went to the bathroom again, and said I wanted to get in the tub, which was then filled, and I got in. Shortly after I got in the tub, Sydney entered the room, dressed in her swimsuit, and got in with me. She showered my belly and legs with water and love, and was just so peaceful and gentle and quiet. This is sort of a rare thing for Sydney-girl to be, and so that’s why I mention this. She realized the situation called for calm, and everyone else in the room was so calm and quiet, and she followed suit. I am so very proud of her. She stayed in the tub with me for a bit. Sydney was allowed to remain in the tub with me as long as I was not pushing.

Jeremy, Sydney and our midwife

Midwife Karin and me

I labored in there, sitting, working through contractions, becoming increasingly more uncomfortable, feeling like birth was right around the corner, and becoming a bit doubtful about whether I could give birth. I wanted to escape, and I began to feel like I could push, as my tones changed, and the midwife noticed. She checked me, and I had a cervical lip left along the front of my cervix, next to my pubic bone, so that each time I had a contraction, I got an intense pinchy feeling that translated to me as intense pain. I began to vocalize more in words, and because I knew my daughter was in the room, I tried to be aware of what I was saying, so most of what I said was, “OUCH!” The midwife left her fingers in there for a contraction and had me push to get the lip to go over the baby’s head, and asked me if I wanted to get on all 4s to try to get that to move (either out of the tub or in the tub), I decided I was NOT getting out of the tub.

Midwife helping me push the lip over the baby’s head

Moving the cervical lip, with a super cute Sydney in the foreground

I got on all 4s, and found that there was pain to be had in getting the lip to disappear. I continued to be cognizant of the fact that Sydney was in the room, but finally gave way with a word that is not so nice, and rhymes with ‘duck’. The midwife laughed and noted that the baby was likely not far behind. I continued to feel a lot of pain, and then sat back down in the tub after several minutes to be checked again. With the help of the midwife’s fingers, I was able to push hard enough to get the lip past the baby’s head, and to a position of rocking back and forth under the pubic bone. None of this was a picnic, and far more painful than I thought it could possibly be.

A note about pain: I will say that I had no idea that it would be painful at all, and I know that sounds very silly, but in my preparation for Sydney’s birth, I took HypnoBirthing that addresses comfort levels and not feelings of pain, and I had an epidural during her birth (not because of pain, but out of sheer exhaustion), so I experienced little pain. At this point, I had been in labor for about 5 hours, as compared to reaching the pushing stage in about 20 hours with Sydney, so my ability to process what was happening was different. There were many differences in my labors, and at this point, the baby was very ready to be born, quite literally around a turn, just around the corner, so close. I was very afraid at this point, afraid I couldn’t push the baby out, afraid of the pain (if it already hurt this much), and I wanted to ask to go to the hospital. But my inner dialogue was something like this… “Oh my God, I need pain relief! I need to go to the hospital. I wouldn’t make it to the hospital though, the baby is about to be born. The only way to get the baby out is to push the baby out. I can do this.”

The midwife kept reminding me to not hold back, because I was fighting what my body was trying to do, out of fear and pain. The patience of the midwife’s voice, and the whispering in my ear by Stella was incredible. At one point, I remember Stella telling me I could do it, and I started to repeat, “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK…” (While my inner voice was saying the complete: “Ok, I can do this”) over and over again. The rocking of the baby’s head continued, until one huge push, and there was no stopping what was taking place. I was no longer in control at all of my body, as the Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER) took over, and I shook all over and felt like I was yelling inside. I really wish we had video of the labor/birth at this point, because I feel like I lost all control. I know I was making noise, I felt like the baby was going to come racing out. I kept feeling for the head, and eventually I felt it. I remember feeling immense pressure and fullness as the baby’s head was emerging, especially at the front of my pelvis, and as if the skin from my urethra back were splitting, never to return to true form again. And, I couldn’t stop any of this.

While all of this was happening, Sydney was being held by Nenaw, and in all of the noise and commotion that I was producing, Sydney hid her face in Nenaw’s shoulder. She was scared. Nenaw reassured her, but she wanted to cry from seeing me in a struggle. Sydney eventually turned her head back to watch.

My midwife provided support of my perineum, and my husband waited with hands ready to receive our baby. My eyes remained closed the entire time, and on one of the pushes, the head came forth. Soon after, another push, and the shoulders, and the body slid out into my husband’s hands, and next thing I knew, our baby was on my chest. I was relieved to meet the baby, relieved to meet on the outside, joyful about everything. We asked Sydney if she wanted to tell us who the baby was, and she announced that it was “Collin”. This surprised no one, since all of us thought the baby was a boy, and everyone was elated to finally see him. Sydney stood there, looking at him, talking to him (we told her this was one of her jobs after the baby was born).

Here he is!

Sydney was so excited.

I don’t remember much, other than thinking that our Collin looked just like his big sister did at birth. He looked at me, calmly, wide eyed, as if he were in shock about what had just happened (I was too, my son). I continued to feel immense pressure, and about 2 minutes after he was born, I was informed that his cord had finished pulsating, and so it was clamped and cut. This was a choice that was incredibly important to us, so that Collin could receive all of his cord blood, to help him acclimate to the outside world and breathe more easily. The placenta was soon birthed, and Jeremy was asked to remove his shirt for skin to skin bonding to begin with our son. We were moved to the bed to begin bonding as a family. Collin was able to latch on, after he was laid on my chest again. After some time, Collin was weighed and measured. He was a whopping 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 21 inches long! (Sydney was 6 pounds and 10 ounces and 19 and a half inches long) Soon after that, I was wheeled down the hall to be stitched up (I tore in the same place as I did with Sydney). Collin was assessed and given his Vitamin K injection, a decision we weighed very heavily, and after much consideration, we decided we would rather he have a vitamin injection than a blood transfusion if for some reason he should have a bleed before his blood clotting factors became present.

I was brought back, and we were able to relax for some time, eat, and were attended by the most wonderful midwife assistant named Cindy. I really am so grateful for her presence after Collin’s birth. She was there as a gentle presence in the background, and after the midwife left, she remained there, helping me use the bathroom, showing me how to smash my uterus to make it clamp down, and just there as a resource for our family. We left the birth center about 4 and a half hours following Collin’s birth, and have been adjusting to life ever since as a family of 4.

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Afterthoughts about Collin’s Birth:

After giving birth to Collin, I felt completely different than I did when I gave birth to Sydney. There were so many differences in their births and the time immediately following. Sydney’s birth, for me, has brought up many angry feelings that are still healing. In some ways, I felt robbed of what my experience with her birth could have been. That is another post entirely. I’d do it a million times over, to get my Sydney-girl, of course, but there are some things I wish I’d known, wish I’d said, wish I’d done differently. Can’t go back, so I prepared for Collin’s birth differently. Following Sydney’s birth, there was no sense of dignity, peace or silence. There was always some sort of noise and activity, always someone coming in to look at my “bottom”, and at times, the nurses would bring in nurses that were not assigned to me, to see the trauma that had ensued from pushing her out. No sense of respect.

Following Collin’s birth, and during his birth, there was nothing but dignity and respect. I never felt barked at or talked down to, and there was silence and peace when the time was right. There was encouragement, support, comfort, and an overall environment of positive energy. I am so thankful to have given birth at the birth center, and there is nothing I would change about my experience there.

Postpartum Period:

Currently, I am 15 days postpartum. My postpartum period with Sydney was rough, to say the least. We had some trouble with breastfeeding, sleeping, stress, and all kinds of other things. I remember at some points wanting to throw her out the two story window, and being so weepy and frustrated all the time. What I did not know then, I know now. I will share.

Collin’s postpartum period has been filled with me accepting help from others, lying down to heal, napping nearly naked (skin-to-skin) with him, tons of breastfeeding, my primarily holding him, taking my time, being patient with myself, and consuming my placenta. Yes, I said it, I’m consuming my placenta. I had it encapsulated, in a process where it is herbed, steamed, dehydrated then ground up and put into capsules. Benefits include increased milk production, decreased postpartum mood disorders, and a more even keel feeling. My postpartum period this time, because of the combination of everything I mentioned above, has been incredible. I was weepy on day 2, when my parents had to leave, and I still am missing them terribly. My patience has been thin sometimes, and I feel tired a lot of the time, but I think that comes with the territory. I am joyful to have our son, to have all the love and support we have received, and I look forward to everyday.

Breastfeeding:

I mentioned that Collin latched on well at the birth center. All of that changed by our 24 hour visit with nurse Jen (she came to our home, so super nice). Collin had been refusing to nurse, had had no dirty or wet diapers since the day of his birth, and was extremely fussy. Nurse Jen looked him over, and suggested that we see the lactation consultant at the birth center after trying to express or pump milk and feed it to Collin in a spoon or syringe. I tried this, and he nursed a bit that day, but we had a terrible night filled with him crying, and my cringing because of a poor latch. Because my parents were leaving on day 2, we decided I would stay home with Collin to heal some more, and we would go to the lactation consultant on day 3 if we needed to. Another night of crying and feeling like my nipple was being sawn off with razor blades told me it was time to seek help. We saw LC Sarah, and she assessed his latch (weak and poor), saw that his lower jaw is short, and that he has a tight frenulum on his upper lip. She suggested we go see the chiropractor. I have to sing the praises of our chiropractor!!! I called, 5 minutes out, less than an hour before they were closing, and asked if we could be seen, affirmative. We were seen immediately. While there, during the adjustment, Collin peed for the first time since birth, and we borrowed some clothing of the chiropractor’s son (he’s over a year old). He also received a skull massage and cranio-sacral adjustment, and I received instruction on helping with his lower jaw. Since seeing the lactation consultant and chiropractor, Collin has been a champion nurser! At his 11 day visit with the pediatrician, he had gained 13.5 ounces since birth, and grown a half an inch! Go breast milk!

Sydney:

Sydney has really adjusted so well to being a big sister, and has worn this hat beautifully. She, perhaps, is a model big sister, and is so very proud of her little brother. Her challenge in adjusting was that she felt abandoned and unloved by me. I was able to set this straight with her, and reassure her of my undying love for her, and things have been much smoother ever since. Sydney is very gentle with Collin, and is always ready with a “Hi, Collin!!!” and “Is he awake?!” She loves to hold him and talk to him most, and has been extremely helpful with so much. She has also made a huge transition as a 5 year old: she started kindergarten!!! We are so extremely proud of her, as we always are, and are so pleasantly surprised by how well she has adjusted and acclimated to life as a big sister.

I would like to thank some people who have helped make our transition so smooth:

Midwife Felicity

Midwife Karen

Midwife Assistant Cindy

Nurse Jen

LC Sarah

Dr. Jessica (chiropractor)

Stella (Doula)

Dad & Cheryl

Jeremy’s Mom

Grams and Poppy

Nikii

Ladies that are participating in our Meal Train

Everyone who sent me a bead and a cloth

Facebook friends

And most of all, Jeremy and Sydney

Holy Baby Preparation Batman!

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I’m not sure how it was for you when you were pregnant for the second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc) time, but this pregnancy is so completely different from Sydney’s.  Both started out much the same, with epic morning sickness that was diagnosed as hyperemesis.  I lost 13 pounds with Sydney, and 9 pounds with this baby.  At 16 weeks, I was finally able to start eating, and suddenly, I started to show!  It was a miracle.  I’m carrying so much differently too, with Sydney, I gained weight everywhere, but with this baby, I’ve lost body fat that has all redistributed as a beautiful bowling bowl sort of thing out in front.  I have less hair growth, much more mole growth, and my hair has not gotten as thick as it did with Sydney.  This baby is also very active, so much more so than Sydney ever was!!!  I wish I could have gotten accurate video of what was happening last night, because it looked as if the baby was going to leap out of my skin.  Oh, and Braxton Hicks contractions!!!! Whoa, I started having those last week, and today, I took a walk with Sydney as she rode her bike in the beautiful Alaska weather, and was ever so happy to get home to sit down!  And the nesting.  Wow!  I never nested with Sydney, and when I say never, I do mean NEVER.  My house was a wreck all the time, but tonight, after having Sydney clean her room, I was greatly inspired, I guess.  I came back downstairs, and started doing the dishes, started the dishwasher, cleaned the litter box (with gloves on), swept the floors, and did some laundry earlier today.  A week and a half ago, I was doing baby laundry, to include diapers.  I even got the baby’s room organized, even though he/she will not be sleeping in that room, and put everything away.  Strangely enough, I never got around to putting the diapers away, so they sit in the middle of the floor, waiting to be folded and put away.  That might be my next task, after finishing this blog post up.

I’m sure you noticed above that I said he/she.  We are not finding out the sex, which some people find absolutely shocking, as if we have 3 legs a piece.  We didn’t find out what sex Sydney was when she was in the womb, and were not stressed or crazy in the least in preparation for her.  I do, however, believe that we prepared very poorly for her.  I say this, because we thought we needed EVERY baby item/gadget that existed, and ended up spending possibly thousands more than was necessary.  We ended up giving a lot of stuff away.  For me, this time, this pregnancy has been a breeze for preparation.  We decided from the beginning that we would be co-sleeping, so that eliminates the need for many things:  painted nursery, crib, crib bedding, nursery decoration, etc. Figuring out what to do with our precious almost 5 year old daughter, though, will be the challenge.  She is co-sleeping currently between my husband and me, which we both love.  We shall see, and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about this after the baby comes.

We will also be breastfeeding (and when I say we, I don’t mean my husband and me, because he’s not in the market for making milk), which means that we can save money there, because we will reuse our breast pump from Sydney, and we have been given some bottles, which is awesome, and my friend is sending me a bunch of stuff.  All that I’ve really done to prepare for breastfeeding is getting some awesome reusable breast pads that feel like luxury on the boob, SO SOFT.

Oh, and something I’m so excited about, speaking of luxury.  We are using cloth diapers!  We are starting with prefolds with Snappis and covers for the newborn stage, and have a small number of other types of diapers, All In Ones, Pockets, Fitteds, etc for other stages.  Some of the diapers we have are so soft that I’m almost jealous the baby gets to wear them, and not me!  I did make a joke, one day, to my friend Malia, who owns a totally awesome diaper store in Fayetteville, NC, that I was going to make my kids cloth diaper me when I am old and can no longer make it to the bathroom on my own.  I don’t know if they’ll go for it.  Baby butts are so cute, and old lady butts, well… they just aren’t.  I digress, cloth diapers are awesome.  I think I’m more excited about using cloth diapers than almost anything, well, except for the actual birth and breastfeeding.  Ok, I lie, I’m excited about it all!

So you’re curious now, perhaps, about the birth we are planning and preparing for.  Being in Alaska, we are so blessed to be confronted with how normal birth is.  There are birth centers, midwives, doulas, and home births everywhere.  When we were in NC, we were planning and preparing for a home birth with Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Donna Galati of Monarch Midwifery.  I loved Donna.  She was a hard ass at times, which I know I needed, but I know that she truly cared about me and my baby.  She was a huge stickler for nutrition, which is so important.  Donna is amazing!  Love her.  So you can imagine that our move to Alaska caused some anxiety in me, as I faced finding where and with whom to give birth.  I did my research before moving to Alaska, though, and found a birth center in Anchorage with 5 midwives.  I’m thrilled to have found them, and I really am excited about my upcoming birth with them.  I plan on birthing with very little interference, unless absolutely necessary.  I am excited to embark on this journey with my husband, daughter and mother in law at my side, supporting me through labor and birth.  I look forward to laboring in as many positions as possible, using a rebozo to hang, dangle, sway, etc, and possibly giving birth in water.  I am not completely set on this, because I never know how I’ll feel when it comes time to give birth, I may want to give birth on land.  I am just excited to give birth in a manner that is different than when I gave birth to Sydney.

I am sure that as I get closer to giving birth, the nesting will continue.  I am sometimes surprised by how quickly nesting mode sets in.  There are times when nothing else will do, but what is in my head to do at that time.

I would love to hear your stories of nesting, or how you prepared for your births.  Comments welcome!  Have a lovely day!

Why the Name Change?

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My Gentle Birthing was an excellent journey in my life where I educated, supported, and helped families prepare for their births through childbirth education classes and my work as a doula.  This brought so much joy and fulfillment to my life, since birth is a huge passion of mine.  Since I no longer teach birthing classes, and have put being a doula on hold since I’m new to Alaska, have no childcare, and am expecting a baby (and I eat every 2 hours), it seemed the name change was in order.

So why Normal Mama?  Well, I got to thinking about a new word for “Gentle”, and realized that while I love birth and am passionate about it, that is not all I’m about anymore.  Before I was a birth professional, I was a Mama (since being a Mama catapulted me into being a birth professional), and when I thought about what kind of Mama I am, I decided that I’m pretty stinking normal.  The word “Normal” came from my philosophy on birth.  To me, birth is a normal, physiological process that needs no interruption, intervention or hurrying.  And while I subscribe to many of the Attachment Parenting philosophies, I don’t want to label myself as being an attached parent, so instead, since my parenting evolution had brought me to these philosophies, and they are normal to me, Normal Mama was born.  This also comes out of a desire for parenting in gentle, attentive ways that work for them will become more normalized in our society.  This also happens to be the first time in my parenting that I’ve felt like things that I do are normal.  While in North Carolina, so few of the things that we practice as a family were acknowledged as normal, and so many things were frowned upon and judged (such as breastfeeding in public and co-sleeping).  And since my move to Alaska, I’ve felt as if our choices are normal, in the eyes of society here.  (Not that what society thinks really matters all that much anyway, it’s just that I didn’t feel normal in my choices.)

So welcome to Normal Mama, a blog with a new name, but the same and evolving thoughts on everything in my life.

A L A S K A ! ! !

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Snowflake the Moose

We made a huge move from North Carolina to Alaska and let me just say this, we LOVE it!  No longer do I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb because of the things I believe about parenting and natural living.  I’m still learning so much here in Alaska, since we arrived in March.  I’m finding that the people here are amazing, and have started to network little by little, and am working on making friends who have the same interests as me.  And another thing, there are moose here.  Our snow recently melted, and we have a back yard that is getting there, because my dear husband has been working so hard, and the builders will be coming out again soon to paint our house, and grade our back yard.  Very exciting.  We may not have grass this year, but that’s ok.  But when we did have snow, we had several visits from the neighborhood moose (plural).  Above is a picture of Snowflake, named by my dear sweet daughter.

We also have huge news of our own, as a family.  We are having our second baby sometime in August, and are thrilled to pieces.  We are busy preparing our hearts, minds, home, and daughter for the new addition.

Courtesy of A Heritage Photography

Thank you so much for being a part of My Gentle Birthing, and continue to visit and share with those who you think the information will benefit.  To share your information as a birth professional, photographer, baby store owner, doula, midwife, etc, please email your information to mygentlebirthing@live.com and be sure to include the state you are living in.

Have a beautiful day!

End of a Chapter

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In May of 2009, I went to complete my HypnoBirthing workshop to learn how to teach HypnoBirthing classes.  I convened with incredible women who were all there for the same reason, to help expectant couples have the most gentle birth possible.  I completed the training, all of the requirements, and received my certification in August of 2009.  Shortly after, I began teaching my first 3 couples, all in private classes, in their own homes.  I did all of this while attending school to complete my Social Work degree, and it was so very fulfilling to teach birthing classes.  It filled a space in me that I never knew existed, and helped me to feel very complete and fulfilled in life through the work I was doing.

From the September of 2009 and May 2011, I taught so many different couples, traveled to so many different homes, met so many different, wonderful, beautiful couples, and helped build their confidence about their upcoming births.  Some of the couples I taught invited me to their birth in the role of a doula, and that was an added bonus.  My cup overflowed.

Much has happened in life since August of 2009, so much has changed, including me.  This year alone, we have experienced two major losses; the baby I was growing in utero, and my husband’s grandmother.  Following that, there has been much uncertainty about what might happen to us, career wise, and so, because of other things on my plate at this time, I have chosen to discontinue teaching HypnoBirthing classes.

I want everyone to know that I am not in distress.  I only say this because I think many people were concerned when I posted that I would no longer be teaching, on Facebook.  I really am fine, I am taking time for myself, exploring my options, healing from our losses, and regrouping.  I will be back, and I do plan to stay in the birthing community, networking, helping, supporting, educating.  And since I have taken a job as a nanny, I do not have the full availability I once did, and that may have to be put on hold too, but for now, I am keeping options open.

I do thank all of you so very much for your support and love.

Comments Welcome.

Birth and Death

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Recently, I’ve encountered some very real, natural life occurrences.  And as I have encountered them, I have realized the similarities between birth and death, and realized there are huge, vast differences between the two as well.  As I teach HypnoBirthing classes to excited expectant parents, I also know that there are people preparing for death.  Everyone dies, but it seems that we, as Americans are so afraid of death, that we keep it a secret.

I’ve had a challenge in explaining to my daughter, who will be 4 this year, the realities of life.  I don’t know how much she understands,  but I am as honest as I can be, at an age appropriate level for her.  I answer questions when she asks, while sometimes inside, I have questions too.  It seems that in this past week, I’ve reached a level of comfort and clarity with the end of life.  I’ve also discovered that I have almost as much passion for end of life issues as I do for birth.

I think this passion grows out of my Social Work background, and the belief that everyone has the right to dignity.  At the beginning of life, mothers choose to birth their babies in a manner that is most comfortable to them.  Dignity is present when mothers’ wishes are honored.  At the end of life, many people prepare an advanced directive, decide what they would like to have happen, and how they would like to be treated.  Dignity is present when the wishes of the dying are honored.

Sometimes, though, wishes are not honored.  Many providers who care for pregnant women have a skewed view of what normal birth is, and so their methods do not mesh with the wishes of mothers.  Many times, birth is hurried, labor is induced, babies are rushed, when this is medically unnecessary.  A similar situation arises with the end of life, hospitals are so concerned with saving life, that even in situations where patients wish for no intervention, intervention is ever present.  Advanced directives can be helpful, as can Do Not Resuscitate orders, but if they are not in hand, they cannot be honored.  Procedures are performed to keep people alive, because a large part of the medical system is there to “fix” what is wrong.  In dealing with birth and death, since they are both natural occurrences, there is nothing to fix.

I understand that we, as humans, are extremely selfish.  We want our babies here NOW, and we want our loved ones to stay with us forever.  The thought of saying goodbye is excruciating, but it is a reality that we must face.  Allowing people to be born and to die on their own time is essential.  It provides a balance to life, but it also provides dignity to those who are entering or leaving our lives.

With death especially, we must remember that there are some things that death has no power over.  Death cannot change the love we feel and it cannot take our memories.

For those of you preparing for the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, I pray for the wisdom for you to know that it will happen in its own time.  I pray for you to feel the comfort of just letting things stay as they are, now.  I pray for you to understand that you cannot control what or how it happens, though you may feel an intense need to.  I pray for you to soak in every moment of waiting, allow it to saturate your very being.  I pray for you to just be.  Allow yourself to not rush or prolong what is inevitable, it will happen, and when it does, just breathe.

Additional suggestions:

Birth:

  • Think about the kind of birth you want for yourself, your birth partner, and your baby.
  • Research everything.
  • Take a birthing class.
  • Create a birth plan.
  • Talk to your provider at length about your wishes during labor and birth (if he/she does not agree or seem on board, switch providers/hospitals or both).
  • Be confident in what your body was created to do.
  • Be flexible in your approach to labor and birth.
  • Hire a Doula.

Death:

  • Talk to family about your wishes.
  • Create an Advanced Directive, detailing your wishes (on paper).
  • Decide on details concerning what will happen to your body, before you pass on.
  • Know that no matter how much everyone prepares, this will not be easy on anyone.
  • Have the confidence to express your details to those you love.
  • Determine whether Hospice would be a viable option for you in your final journey in life.

Your input is greatly appreciated.

New Mamas

Standard

I had the joy of going to Target today with Sydney, since I knew the Halloween costumes would be discounted.  We got everything we needed, then headed for the check out lines.  As we approached, I heard the distinctive “hungry” cry of a very new baby.  We walked past, and the mother looked exasperated, and the baby, who had clearly been crying for a very long time, was beginning to turn a shade of purple from crying so much.  Initially, I wondered what was going on, why was the mother not holding her tiny baby, did she not know that her baby was hungry?  As I quietly assessed the situation from where I was standing, I figured out that the mother is probably a new mother, and new to breastfeeding as well.  I guessed this from what she was wearing, a shirt, and a very poofy vest (in case of milk leakage), and from her hesitation to hold the baby, especially close to her breasts.  When she was ready to pay, she finally picked the baby up, but the baby did not stop crying.

People stared at this woman who only wanted to leave the store, and go to a place where she felt safe enough to feed her baby.  So in this situation, I did not judge, I simply looked on with sadness for both the mother and the baby, and here is why.

New mothers are so impressionable, they have come fresh out of pregnancy where they were constantly bombarded by “advice” on what to do during pregnancy and after.  Some of this advice included whether to breastfeed or not, and in that advice, there is judgment.  New mothers constantly feel judged.  And new mothers who decide to breastfeed have an extra challenge, because breastfeeding in public is looked down upon in many places, because of the over-sexualization of the human female breast (which was created to nourish our young).  So as she stood in line, most likely with her breasts leaking, possibly throbbing from milk wanting to come out to feed her sweet baby, she felt the judgment of the people around her, “why don’t you do SOMETHING?!”  But I can bet that if she had taken her baby, and nursed her right there, even with a nursing cover, there would have been judgment there too.  Some people may have applauded that she was honoring her baby’s biological need to eat from its biological source, but others would have looked on in disgust, knowing that her baby was latched on to her nipple, and getting milk.

My sadness for the baby is because babies are born completely dependent on us.  Everything they learn, they learn from their environment, their surroundings, their parents, different reactions to them, etc.  In short, they are learning to trust their world, and when their parents or caregivers are not honoring their communication (cries), then they begin to learn that the world may not be a place to trust.

Some think that babies only communicate through crying, but this is untrue.  Babies are constantly making gestures, sounds, body movements, motions, and facial expressions that communicate exactly what they need.  In a bond between a baby and his/her mother, especially if the mother is a nursing mother, the mother learns very quickly what each little gesture, sound, and movement of her baby means.  And between them, a unique, beautiful bond is formed, in which there is love, oxytocin, communication and endorphins exchanged, and this is where each honor the other.

It seems to me that the mother had most likely ignored all signs of her baby’s hunger, and became embarrassed, felt helpless (about nursing in public), and was at the point of exasperation when we encountered her.  Mothers should NEVER feel embarrassed to nurse in public, because after all, this is the way that nature intends for us to feed our babies.

As I write this, I realize that I need to say so much more than just what I’ve said, so hear me when I say this, whether you are an onlooker, or if you’re a new mother (especially a nursing mother).  New mothers NEED support, of community, family, and friends, especially to be successful at breastfeeding.  Here are some pointers:

  • As an onlooker to a new mother who has a crying baby, but looks to be exasperated, frustrated, or stressed about the situation, ask if you can help her (with the baby, with her things, if she needs to sit down, etc).
  • As an onlooker to a new mother who may be struggling to nurse her baby, offer to shield her, with your body, a blanket, nursing cover, etc.
  • As an onlooker, if you’re offended by a nursing mother near you in public, PLEASE, simply smile at her, and look the other way.  What she is doing will in no way harm you, but it will help our society in the long run (See Breastfeeding Advantages in my previous post)
  • As an onlooker of a nursing mother, even if you are offended, acknowledge that she is feeding her baby the best and healthiest food, and say either ‘congratulations’ or ‘thank you’ to her.
  • As an onlooker of a nursing mother, if you feel compelled to say something offensive, please, instead ask her a question about her nursing relationship or her baby.  Do not say offensive things to nursing mothers, especially new ones.
  • As a new mother, do not feel ashamed, afraid, nervous, or intimidated about nursing your baby in public.
  • As a new mother, ask for help from others around you when you need it.
  • As a new mother, honor your bond with your baby, every chance you get.
  • As a new mother, work hard to ignore people who seem to be judging you.
  • As a new mother, evaluate each piece of “parenting advice” you get from others… Will this work for us?  Does this fit with our parenting approach?
  • As a new mother, establish a routine for your baby and yourself early, so you know when he/she will need to be fed, sleep, changed, etc.
  • As a new mother, take care of yourself.

It wasn’t that long ago that my 3 year old was a nursling, and it wasn’t that long ago that both positive and negative actions and words made an impact on how I nourished her.  My choices may be different than other new mothers, but I do hope for all new mothers, that they form an impenetrable bond with their babies, and that they not allow what others say or do to come between that bond.

Comments Welcome and Appreciated.