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Most people have a “Testimonials” page for their business. I’ve decided to have a Bloopers, Flubs, and All-Around Mishaps page. I’m sure I’ll update this one often!

1) I chased a placenta down a hospital hallway. It was almost midnight and I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat since noon. The client asked me to take her placenta home so she could get it later. Staggering under the glaring lights, I walked into the hall holding my birth ball, doula bag, and odd tupperware-like container of placenta. I dropped the container which then rolled an enormous distance past the nurse’s station. I dropped my bag and ball and bounded like a toddler after the container much to the amusement of one OB and several nurses. Thankfully the container remained closed. Could have been a disaster.

2) I made up a story about marshmallows. I had a client who seemed to respond well to mental imagery during contractions. I was doing ok at first with the usual “Imagine you’re in the center of a field on a breezy day…” Then, after so many of those, I went blank. She was lying on white sheets with fluffy white pillows so I said something so embarrassing like “You’re climbing a mountain and when you get to the top, you realize you’re on the edge of a bowl of marshmallows. And you spread your arms and fall into them. Smell the powdery sugar.” And if the image wasn’t bad enough, the client followed a kosher diet and I couldn’t remember if marshmallows were kosher! It was awful.

3) I wiped meconium poop with one hand while eating chick-fil-a with the other. I was starving. And the glorious saint of a dad called his mother to bring me a chick-fil-a sandwich. It didn’t arrive until the mom was pushing so it got dropped in the shuffle. During the birth, my entire chest got covered with amniotic fluid. As soon as baby was breastfeeding, I grabbed my sandwich and started munching. Then baby pooped on mom’s hand. So, wearing a saturated shirt and with my half-eaten sandwich in one hand, I used my other hand to clean her up with wet wipes. A few years ago, that scene would have really bothered me.

4) At a homebirth, we ran out of ice so I threw a bag of frozen tater tots on the mama’s chest.

5) I called a client by the wrong name. Big oops. She was busy pushing, so I don’t know if she noticed. I’d never met her before. One of my clients birthed the night before this woman. A doula friend had two women in labor at the same time. So I agreed to rush to this birth. The mom was 8cm when I got there and moving quickly. In the excitement, I called her by the name of my client from the night before. I never addressed the mistake. She never mentioned it. If you’re reading this…I’m terribly sorry!

6) I dopped my phone in the tub while the mom was in it. And I had been talking to the midwife. I was trying to tell her to get to the birth quickly but dropped the phone before I could say that. Then I couldn’t find her number since I only had it programmed in my phone. The dad’s phone didn’t have it. Couldn’t find the mom’s phone. It was a mess.

7) I gave a woman poison ivy. When we realized she was going to birth in the floor instead of the tub, I ran to find something soft for the floor. I saw a fluffy comforter hanging over the stair railing. I grabbed it and threw it down under the mom. Little did I know, she had used that comforter to sit on for maternity pics in the woods. And little did I know, she was super sensitive to poison ivy. We all wondered at the itchy rash appearing on her legs postpartum. And spreading to the rest of her body. It took a few days to put it all together. Beware the postpartum poison ivy.

8 ) I took Cedar (22 months) to a postpartum visit. The mom was a repeat client and friend. She has a 2 year old. We thought it would be fine. A fun playdate. And it was. Until. Mom and I were talking all about home birth advocacy, changing the world, you know, the usual. Her mom senses triggered first. Where are the toddlers? We round the corner to find Cedar carrying the newborn. After mom and I recovered from our crazy adrenaline rush, we reconstructed the story from the 2 year old. He got the newborn out of the swing and then Cedar took the baby from there. I admit to teary eyes and weak knees after that mishap!

9) I showed up at a birth with my pants on backwards. I was at the couple’s home for several hours before I noticed.

10) I was the first to arrive at a homebirth.  When I walked in, I noticed all the signs of labor:  childbirth books open on the floor, half-eaten dinner on the table, hypnosis script playing, tub full of water.  But I did not find signs of the couple.  I searched every room in the house.  Looked in the backyard and garage.  Called out, “hellooooo?”  Where were they?  Ambulance transport?  I called the midwife who was on her way and said, “What is going on??”  She was as shocked as I was.  Then the dad pokes his head down the stairs and waves.  I hang up with the midwife and rush upstairs.  And still couldn’t find them!!  Turns out I was standing three feet away (twice!) but didn’t see them in a tiny space around a corner.  P.S. she had her baby an hour after I walked in the house.

11)  I found a placenta-of-unknown-origin in my freezer.  At first, I thought it was a tiny roast.  Then my six year old pointed out that it had an umbilical cord.  Huh.  And it was double-bagged.  I don’t double-bag meat.  Where did this placenta come from?  So I posted on facebook (to my “birthy folk” list),  “Is anyone missing a placenta?”  Guess what?  Within the hour, facebook had reunited this placenta with its owner.  I had printed her placenta and must have been in a bit of a hurry during clean-up.

12)  At a homebirth, the mom was deep in her hypnosis.  I was pressing a warm rice sock on her lower back.  I looked down to see rice spilling all over the carpet.  It seems my stitches were less than precise.  I had to use two ponytail holders to twist up the split seam.  Thankfully, I remembered to remove the ponytail holders with their metal attachments before microwaving the sock.  If I’m going to continue sewing my own rice socks, perhaps I should add a sewing kit to my doula bag.

13)  In my Hypnobabies class, we were discussing perineal counter-pressure.  At the end of the class, I reminded them of the birth rehearsal we would be doing the next week.  I mentioned we would practice positions, techniques, and counter-pressure.  Never noticing their uncomfortable faces, I continued on until a doula who was auditing my class (and had taken Hypnobabies for her own birth) interrupted, “What Julie means is we’ll practice counter-pressure on your lower BACK; not your perineum.”  There was a collective, “Whew!”  Right.  Different counter-pressure altogether.

Jenni’s Hypnobabies (Surprise) Homebirth

Taken just a few hours before baby arrived

This is the story of how Blake chose to enter into the world on August 22nd at 12:50 pm. I begin at the beginning of my pregnancy so that others will see the journey my husband and I went on. How the choices we made and did not make effected us. I hope that other women will learn from my experience to listen to their inner self. I was blessed that I ended up with the birth that I desired (even though it was not planned this way) but for many others I know that this does not happen. They settle for something less than what they desire. I want other women to know that they are powerful, strong, and know how to follow the best choices for themselves no matter what others think or say.

Blake’s story begins in December 2009, when I found that we were pregnant. This after a few years of not preventing it. I soon found that there were many decisions about the care we wanted to receive and how we wanted Blake to enter into the world. I met with Julie Byers, a doula, to discuss options. Before meeting with Julie, I had joined the AnMed practice in order to start receiving the prenatal care I needed. I met with Julie at Spill the Beans in Clemson and we began to discuss what I wanted, felt I needed for my care, and what I wanted in a birth. Speaking with Julie and having her listen to me “ramble on” allowed me to realized the kind of care I wanted and the type of birth I wanted. She suggested that I speak with her friend Carey Collins who is a midwife and learn more about homebirths.

I e-mailed Carey and left it at that. For many months I continued my care with AnMed but each time we went for a check-up, I felt rushed, not heard, and not pleased with my care. After going to AnMed to have blood drawn, Brandon and I stayed to tour the birthing unit of the hospital. We left the tour unimpressed and knowing that we were going to change practices. This was solidified in our minds when we asked the nurse if laboring mother’s could move around and her response was “No, you have to stay in the bed because the baby could just slip out if you were moving around”. All the way home I said “I will not be delivering there“.

We then started to look at birthing at Oconee. That way we would be closer to home. We set up a tour of their birthing floor and was impressed with the attention, the one-on-one time the floor’s supervisor spent with us, and the answers we were given to the questions we had. We then asked for recommendations of doctors who delivered there. We were given names. I soon made an appointment and switched care providers.

Still unsure of what kind of birth I wanted I decided in April that I would meet with Carey. By the time this meeting came to pass I had done much research on home births and discussed home birth with many different individuals. All with their own opinion of whether it was safe, appropriate, and all with their own opinion of what I should do. Brandon and I knew we wanted a home birth deep inside but we wanted to please those around us, so I discussed with Carey the possibility of her being our monitrice and laboring as much as possible at home and then going to the hospital to deliver. After meeting with Carey, and discussing the options, I decided that laboring at home and birthing at the hospital would make everyone happy. (Did I put much stock into how I felt about this? If you asked me then I would say yes. If you ask me today I would say I was the only person I did not listen to.) From this meeting with Carey, I loved the bond that quickly formed between the two of us and the knowledge she provided into understanding how I was feeling and the knowledge she had of birth itself. We decided that day to work with Carey, a decision I will never regret!

We soon went for our first visit with our new care provider and were impressed with the time she spent with us discussing our pregnancy. We were happy with our care until a visit in June when I went one time by myself and gave the doctor my birth plan. As I sat with her in the office the doctor began to write on my birth plan and marked out parts of my plan. Asking me questions that were formed in medical lingo that I didn’t understand. I left that day feeling bullied and beat up. At this point, I knew again deep inside that I really wanted a homebirth but I till didn’t listen to my inner self and continued care with this provider.

The visit in July was no better. From the urine specimen I gave when I first went in for that appointment they found protein. I was called into the doctors office and was told that I had to do a 24 hour catch and that they would probably have to take the baby early because I was showing one symptom of preclampsia. Even though I had no other symptoms they assumed this all this from one small dipstick. The doctor spent no time discussing with me what was going on and again I felt bullied and rushed. While in her office I asked her questions and questioned what she was doing. She would give no answers in terms that I could understand. I left completely panicked and immediately called Brandon and Carey. Carey was calm and reassuring that it was nothing and the doctors reacted that way to cover themselves. It turned out that it was nothing when the results came back from the lab. Again at this point I should have listened to myself when I KNEW I wanted to switch to midwife care but yet again I did not. I continued care with the providers and now had to go to appointments once a week.

Through the rest of the months I continued to meet with Carey and continued to wish for a home birth. But I kept telling myself at least with doula I could labor the way I wanted at home before having to give birth at the hospital. Brandon and I also began a Hypnobabies class with Julie. Each Thursday through the months of May and June we met with Julie and three other couples to share stories, excitement, and learned a way to control what our bodies felt during our child’s birthing day. We practiced everyday, listening to the scripts, doing prenatal exercises, eating healthy, and dreaming and talking about the birth we wanted. Through out the class, I often wondered to myself if this is really working, will I be able to do this when the time comes, and will I remember how to control my mind and body because Blake’s birthing day was so far way. Other important information we learned through this class was about birth and the process a women’s body, the baby, and the mind goes through during this special time and how our bodies were designed when we let them, to give birth in a natural way without help. Little did I know how important all the things we learned from this class would be! 

Jump forward to the month of August. At the last visit to the doctor before Blake arrived, I was told that I would probably go full term and then some. This meant another two weeks. I was excited because it would give me a few weeks with my kids at school before Blake arrived. The first week of school when kids were back was a difficult week. There was a lot of stress and excitement all in one for me. I came home the Friday before Blake’s birth tired and worn out. My long term substitute backed out at the last minute and I was stressed. The next day was Saturday. That night I looked at my belly and told my son “Blake I am ready when you are, you come when you are ready, I love you”. Little did I know that this would began the process of Sunday becoming Blake’s birthing day. I believe that by giving Blake permission to come I honored him, my body, and what was to come.

Sunday I woke up with small cramps and a small, tiny, amount of discharge. Nothing that alarmed me or made me think Blake was coming anytime soon. I was busy planning on being at school the next day and seeing my kids for the second week of school. Brandon asked me around 8:45 if I was up to going grocery shopping because the cramps were a little stronger (Let me say here none of the cramps I experienced during my birthing time were anything close to what I have experienced during my period). I told Brandon sure we must continue on with our day. Before we went to Bi-Lo I asked Brandon to take a picture of my belly. We had been meaning to for quite a while because I finally “looked” pregnant. I am so glad we did this. In the back of my mind I think I knew that Blake might be coming in the next few days. At 8:45 we left for Bi-Lo. As we shopped through Bi-Lo I had to stop every now and then because of the cramps and I would “look at the shelf” and made comments jokingly that if these cramps are pressure waves than this is nothing. I also looked at Brandon after one of them and said jokingly “I smile and feel happy after my pressure waves.” This came from one of the Hypnobabies scripts that I had ingrained into my brain. I really could recite many of the scripts by heart. After making these comments Brandon and I would bust out laughing at each other!! We didn’t even consider that those really were pressure waves, I thought my body is just getting started and I had a few more days to prepare. On the way home, I mentioned to Brandon that I thought Blake had dropped because I had a huge gap between him and my ribs. Blake was always in my ribs during the pregnancy. I should have taken this as a clue but since I was not experiencing anything I thought of as “labor” I choose to continue to ignore what I was experiencing and dismissed it.

When we returned from the store, I started to have diarrhea on top of the cramps. I asked Brandon to call Carey just to ask if this was normal. This was around 10:00. Carey reassured both of us that all was normal. This was the normal way for the body to get ready for the birth that was to come and it could be another couple of days. She reminded us just to continue with our normal routine and ignore it. After speaking with Carey, we decided to watch a movie that we had rented the night before. I tried laying down and watching but the cramps were uncomfortable and I kept having to go the bathroom. This continued for a while. I would lay down to watch the movie, watch about minute or two and then I would be up and going to the bathroom. I soon claimed the toilet as my throne. During my time on the throne, Brandon was busy gathering items for the hospital. Later I asked him if he knew it was going to happen and he said he thought he should be ready in case. After being on my throne for a while, I found some comfort on the birthing ball by bouncing up and down and rolling my hips back and forth while sitting on it. I told Brandon just to turn the movie off because I couldn’t remember what was happening during each time I cam back from the bathroom. The comfort from sitting on the birthing ball only lasted a few minutes and it was back to my throne in the bathroom, where I felt most comfortable. Again I should have started putting the signs together because Julie told us in the class most women spend lots of time on the toilet during their pressure waves because it is most comfortable. I still didn’t realize what was going on because I was waiting on the “labor pains” that many women speak of. I was only having pressure and they were not even like the Braxton Hicks I had experienced in the months and weeks before.

Wanting to get off my throne and try something else I remembered how much water was a comfort to me during pregnancy. I asked Brandon to run a bath for me. He soon joined me at the side of the tub as I took a bath. During the short time in the tub, Brandon poured cups of water over me and spoke words of encouragement and peace. He tried to comfort me through the cramps, pressure, and the many feelings I was experiencing. Quickly the bath became uncomfortable and I moved to the bed. I was there for no longer than 5 minutes. I had just enough time there to put my I-Pod on for only a few seconds and found a Hypnobabies script. The only words I heard on the script were the words “open, open, open”. I then threw off the I-Pod and ran to the master bath to claim my throne once again. At this point I still did not realize that I was experiencing pressure waves and dilation.

This time I called for Brandon to come to the bathroom because every time I tried to use the bathroom I now felt as if I was going to throw up as well. Brandon’s job became to hold the trashcan and allow me to lean over his arm that he held in front of me during the cramps and sensations of pressure. During these moments he spoke words of affirmation and words of comfort that he learned in our Hypnobabies class. He helped me to relax and remember that my body knew what it was doing and that my body was made for this. Soon I began to move back and forth between the floor and my throne. I asked Brandon to call Carey and tell her to head this way because I no longer felt comfortable being without her. I needed her reassurance that everything was normal. At this point we still did not know that Blake would be entering the world in a few minutes.

Brandon only left for a moment to call her around 12:26 when I felt an explosion come out of me and I hollered for Brandon to come back to me. Brandon had just enough time to call and ask her to “head this way”. We joked that Carey probably thought “Great, first time parents I will be there all day because they still have a few days”. We learned later that Carey could tell from listening to Brandon’s urgent plea that something was happening and not once did she think that. When Brandon got back in the room I asked him to check and see if he could tell what the explosion had been. He checked but couldn’t tell or see anything. He continued to comfort me in the best ways he could. Reassuring me and loving on me during each of the times I felt pressure.

Soon I asked Brandon to help me to move to the floor and that is when my water broke. It felt to me as if it was gushing everywhere and flooding the floor. I told Brandon I think my water broke and said he was not so sure because it really was not very much. Worrying it was going everywhere Brandon reassured me that it was ok and that the water was no problem to deal with. I soon asked Brandon to move me back up to my throne.

As I sat on my throne, I felt the need to use bathroom but nothing was happening each time I tried. I began to feel a greater amount of pressure down below and moved my hands to see if I could feel what was happening. I could not. Through each intense set of pressure waves, Brandon gently held me up and to told me to relax, breath deeply and slowly (which is hard to do), and to allow my body to be loose and limp. Again all these affirmations and prompts came from our Hypnobabies class. Looking back I was surprised at how quickly all the scripts came back to me and how my body was using them without me knowing.

After being on the throne for a few minutes I then felt the need to move back to the floor. This is where I felt the most comfort while I experienced the pressure waves from where Blake was at inside of me. I still didn’t realize at this point what was happening. I was waiting for the intense pain of labor that I grew up hearing about. When Brandon got me to the floor I began to push as if I was using the bathroom. My body wanted me to push and so I did. It was the only comfort to the pressure I was feeling and as I pushed I thought that I felt something coming out. Yet again I felt below and this time I thought I felt hair. Brandon at this point saw Blake’s head and hair. He said it would peek out and then go back in. I really thought I felt it too but Brandon told me it was “nothing, don’t worry about it” when I asked him what it was. Later we laughed about this and how he choose to tell me a little white lie. He said he told me it was nothing because he was doing his best to keep me from freaking out. My husband knows me well because we were all by ourselves and Blake was on his way and had I realized this I probably would have freaked out.

At this point I don’t remember much because of the way my mind and body were working together. Brandon said very quickly Blake’s head peeked back out and that he told me not to push. Then Blake’s head come all the way out and Brandon told me to give a little push. Brandon was able to see Blake turn as he slid all the way out at 12:50. This was something Brandon was expecting because during our hypno class we saw images that showed how the baby turns in order to leave the body. When Blake came out, Brandon quickly laid him on my chest and covered him with a towel. I was in shock and kept asking Brandon if it was a dream and if Blake was really here. I then kept shouting at him what time is it, what time is it. I wanted to know the time of our precious baby’s birth.

Brandon called Carey back to tell her Blake had arrived (it had only been 24 minutes since our last call to Carey to head this way) and she to could not believe that Blake was already here. She was still 15-20 minutes away from the house. During this time on the phone Carey assured Brandon that everything was fine. However Brandon had a hard time hearing her because I was so consumed with excitement and joy (meaning I was loud). Brandon handed me the phone and said “Carey wants to talk to you”. Carey quickly got me calmed down as I began to experience the euphoria of holding my son that my husband caught and gazing into my son’s eyes. I still had a hard time believing that this was not just a pregnancy dream. Brandon propped me up and continued to speak words of love and told me how impressed and in awe he was of what I had just done. I in turn told him how proud of him I was for catching our son! Did I mentioned that smoke detector went off and Blake christened me while we were cuddling on the floor all before Carey arrived.

Carey finally arrived to the house as I laid in the bathroom floor. She came in wheeling a suitcase full of midwife stuff and said to Brandon “boil a big pot of water” as she passed straight through the house to get to Blake and I. Brandon later said to my mom, “yes you really do boil a pot of water like in all the old movies.”

Carey came in the bathroom and checked Blake and I over and began to step into action. She helped me to birth the placenta and showed Brandon and I the ‘tree of life’ that is on it. I wish I had Brandon take a picture. She also helped me to nurse Blake for the first time on my chest while he was still attached to his umbilical chord. She checked over Blake and I before moving us to the bed. While I was in the bed coming down from the adrenaline, Carey clamped and cut the chord and she had Brandon cook me some eggs and toast. Carey began to feed me and Brandon said I kept falling asleep between bites. While Carey was looking after me, Blake was being held by his father. After eating, Carey put Blake in the bed with me and helped me to nurse again. Then Brandon weighed and helped measure Blake. He was 7lbs 9oz and 21 inches long. Soon Brandon crawled into the bed and spent time with me and Blake while Carey cleaned up the bathroom and started a load of towels in the wash. At this point no one but Carey, Brandon, and I knew Blake was here. It was wonderful to enjoy our son in the peace and quiet of our own home, in our own bed, in our own way. Carey respected us and our wishes in a way I will never forget.

That is the story of how Blake chose to enter into the world on August 22nd at 12:50 pm. Again let me remind you that I begin at the beginning of my pregnancy so that others will see the journey my husband and I went on. How the choices we made and did not make effected us and our child.

I truly believe that during this pregnancy and birth even though I did not listen to myself, that my son Blake, my body, my mind, and God knew that deep down I desired:

– a birth that was not at a hospital

-a birth where the mother’s body was the guide

-a birth where only love and affirmations was given to the mother

-a birth that was comfortable with no fear or pain

-a birth where the mother’s wishes were followed and space respected

-a birth where Dad was active and allowed to experience all the joy and excitement of birth

I am blessed because in the end I did experience the birth of my son in the most intimate and perfect way.

Would I had experienced all that with the birth that I had planned at the hospital?

Being completely honest I would have to loudly say No I would not have.

To end Blake’s story I want to quote my mother law from her post on Facebook:

“Brandon and Jenni brought Blake into this world with only God present……what a special time and a special blessing! Praise God !!”

Cedar–6 months

I am terribly surprised that Cedar turned half a year yesterday.  How it flies.  So how is she doing?

Health:  no sicklies so far.  I attribute that, in part, to all her wonderful milk mamas who have passed on their immunities to her.

Hyper:  she is a mover and a shaker.  Always the flapping of arms, rapid breath, quickening heart.  She is desperate to crawl.  She does push-ups; lifting all but her hands and toes off the ground.  I cannot wear her on my hip because she is a grabber and I quickly learned that a back-carry is a must. 

Houdini:  she tries to escape from any baby holder in which she is placed.  The instant she is put into a bouncy chair, she begins arching her back and inching until she sits on the floor with a grin.  Of course, we don’t leave her in a bouncy unstrapped unsupervised.  But it is fun to watch this houdini act.    

Habit:  Much to my surprise, she is content when I take her on consults or even do presentations.  She sits happily squealing her dolphin squeaks and flapping those arms.  She is decidedly not content for anyone (!!) else to hold her very long.  And that is the most difficult part of the Cedar gig.  I have a month-long break once my current clients birth and I plan to use it to help her expand her knowledge of the loving folks around her.  No idea how.  Open to ideas.  Please!! 

Sleep:  The question everyone asks of every new mama:  How is she sleeping?  Cedar sleeps normally.  So many people forget that babies are biologically programmed to sleep in short cycles as a protection against sleeping too deeply.  They are born with an immature Circadian rhythm that slowly settles into pattern.  Of course, just when the pattern sets–well, then there’s teething, growth spurts, etc. to interrupt sleep.   I don’t get too stressed about sleep.  She takes 2-3 naps per day and nurses off and on at night.  I rarely get out of bed with her; usually we stay put and she nurses while I doze.  The “problem,” if there is one, is that she nurses to sleep and it is the only way (other than wearing her in a wrap) she goes to sleep.  So if she wakes, we nurse.  And this is a problem if I’m gone all night for a birth.  Of course, The No-Cry Sleep Solution has some ideas for changing the sleep-suck association but, frankly, it is too easy to nurse her right now.  Sorry Scott–you’re on your own if I’m away.

And if anyone would like to see the hyper little babe:

4 month breastfeeding update

While my breasts don’t twitter, I know some of you have been following their functionality with interest.  And some of you (ahem, Brian, Finch) prefer not to know about my bodily functions!  Sorry guys–feel free to stop reading at this point. 

Breastfeeding after reduction surgery is unpredictable.  Supply can increase with each child; or may not.  While I had hoped to build a full supply of milk, I did not.   

Cedar:  Still getting breastmilk for all her meals.  I’ve been so blessed by milk donation.  She nurses off and on through the night and I do not have to give a supplemental bottle from about 8pm-10am.  During the day, it is challenging to get her to nurse.  She prefers to nurse with both of us lying down; which makes nursing in public difficult.  Ok, impossible.  It is infuriating because I’m all about women’s right to nurse in public and I want to promote our visibility.  Not to be.  At least right now.  And I will admit that I’m a tad embarrassed to feed her with a bottle in public so I often do that in the car.  Cedar’s other frustrating quirk is that she won’t comfort nurse.  Boo. 

Me:  I have weaned off some of the herbs and helps.  Currently, I’m on the maximum GRAS amount of fenugreek.  So, yeah, still smelling like maple syrup.  I decreased my dosage of domperidone.  I’m on 90mg/day.  I drink at least one strong cup of mother’s milk tea with caraway/fennel/goat’s rue/nettle/oatstraw/milk thistle every day.  And I take an alfalfa supplement.  Emotionally, I’m still processing the experience and my disappointment.  I need lots of reassurance that I did everything possible.  My friends have been super positive about my processing. 

I had one major meltdown last week when I’d planned an afternoon in Greer for playing with friends and running some errands.  I managed to spill all of Cedar’s donor milk.  My options were to buy formula or go home.  I went home.  And I was spluttery mad that my breasts wouldn’t make enough milk.  Irrational regret and beating-up-of-self. 

Still, breasts are so amazing.  Did you know that your breasts can regulate the different temperature needs of twins?  One breast will heat up for one twin and the other will cool down if needed.  It is called Breast Biosynchrony.  How incredible!  Men don’t have such cool super-powers.

A word or two about homebirth

Sometimes I get the impression that people think homebirth is crazy.  I dunno, maybe comments left on blogs or eyebrows raised when I mention my babes weren’t born in the hospital.  So if I might take a moment to share my thoughts on why a person might choose homebirth.  (And let’s just get this part out of the way:  obviously, I’m am not saying everyone should birth at home.  You should birth wherever you choose.  And I am not saying that interventions such as inductions or cesareans are evil when they are necessary to save lives.)

1)  Homebirth is safe. 

Numerous studies have shown that planned homebirths with a midwife is as safe as a hospital birth.  Some studies even show that they are safer.  Certainly there are fewer interventions.  “The first intervention in birth, that a healthy woman takes, is when she walks out the front door of her home, in labor. From that first intervention, all others will follow”.  Dr. Michael Rosenthal – Obstetrician

In 20 other countries, fewer babies die at birth or in their first few months of life.  Those countries have one thing in common:  most of the births are attended by midwives.  Compare that to our rate of 8% of births attended by midwives; only 1% of which are homebirths. 

A woman is four times as likely to die from a cesarean than a vaginal birth.  The US cesarean rate is over 30%.  Homebirth midwives have a cesarean rate less than 10%. 

2)  Midwives are super (and smart). 

Midwives are trained in normal birth.  Keenly aware that a hospital is the best place to be for high-risk pregnancies, midwives will transfer the care of these women prior to their birthing times.  Likewise, during labor or birth, a midwife will transfer a woman to the hospital if a complication arises. 

Midwives are trained for emergencies.  Though their focus is on prevention, certainly they are trained to respond to less common emergencies such as hemorrhage, neonatal resuscitation, shoulder dystocia, etc.  While regulations may vary from state to state, all midwives carry emergency equipment and administer certain medications when indicated. 

Part of the reason for their excellent outcomes is that midwives spend so much time prenatally with their clients.  A prenatal with a midwife typically lasts an hour.  How often does an OB spend an hour with her patients?  A midwife can more easily address nutritional concerns or emotional issues because she knows her clients and has spent time building trust. 

Midwives are the norm for most births in the world.   

3)  It is convenient.

No bags to pack.  No worrying about “when to go.”  No contractions in the car. 

Everyone comes to your home.  And they are guests.  They were invited.  That changes the entire atmosphere. 

I didn’t have to worry about someone feeding the dog or arranging childcare.  If I decided (as I did) that I wanted a grape popsicle, my freezer was just a room away.  If I decided (as I did) to play pass the pigs, then it was readily available. 

4)  It is economically sensible.

Some of my doula clients have shown me their hospital bills.  My jaw dropped when I saw the cost of an epidural.  Or an IV.  My first thought was “I don’t charge nearly enough for my services if a cervidil tampon costs more than me!”  Then they showed me the separate bill for the baby care.  Good grief.  The consumer has little control over these charges. 

Midwives charge a flat fee.  It covers your prenatal care, your birth, and postpartum care.  The postpartum care takes place in the comfort of your own bedroom.  There are no hidden charges.  You are not charged extra if your midwife gives you a tylenol or if your labor lasts 30 hours.  Of course, the fee varies.  Here, I’ve seen it range from $2600–4000.  And in SC, Medicaid covers homebirth midwives.    

5)  Easier to relax during birth and rest afterwards.

Hospitals were not designed for birth.  Women in labor need privacy, quiet, and room to move.  It is essential that our bodies relax during our birthing time.  If too much adrenaline creeps in, labor can stall.  In a hospital room, you will be monitored, you will be interrupted, you will hear unfamiliar sounds, you will sign a dozen consent forms, and you will be informed of policies. 

During your postpartum period, you will be interrupted during the night so that you may be monitored.  The nurses aren’t evil but it is their job to check on you.  If you birth at home, you will be snuggled with your partner and your little one in your own comfortable bed.   

6)  You can give birth in whichever position or room you choose.

Midwives follow birthing women around.  If she stops to push in the corner, the midwife squats down with her.  If it is dark, the midwife might use a flashlight.  If she wanders out to the back deck, the midwife will bring a few pillows.  If she wants to push on the toilet, fine.  Tub?  Fine.  Under the apple tree?  Whatever.  A midwife is accommodating.    

7)  The baby is mine.

No, I don’t mean the baby might be switched at birth.  I mean that families who choose to have their babies at home usually call the shots when it comes to the handling of their newborn.  It is assumed that the baby will be skin-to-skin with the mother for a lengthy period after birth.  In the absence of emergency, of course, the mom decides when the cord is clamped, when the baby is weighed, and if any procedures like eye ointment, vitamin K shot are administered.  I feel like homebirth gives parents “permission” to parent right from the start.      

Really, this control over how my baby was handled was my number 1 choice for choosing homebirth. 

8)  It is cleaner.

Hospitals are gross and they are filled with sick people.  Scary germs live there.  Now with swine flu and antibiotic resistent bacteria running amok, it makes sense to keep a newborn protected at home.  When a baby is born, she receives antibodies through her mama’s colostrum.  It will include antibodies for the microorganisms living in her home and places her mama frequents.  Newborns have immature immune systems and rely on this colostrum for protection.  The newborn is unable to make antibodies for foreign germs like those found in hospitals.     

9)  And this might not be the most important reason, but no hospital gown, no hospital food, and no hep-lock!

I don’t think this one needs explanation!   

Now, before anyone gets huffy with me, let me acknowledge that there are wonderful doctors and nurses.  My beloved mother is a nurse.  I grew up in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  However, there are not so wonderful regulators who enact ridiculous rules for low-risk women birthing at hospitals.  And there are frivolous lawsuits that scare the bejeebies out of otherwise accommodating physicians.  And I concede that not all midwives are angelic guardians of birth–a few are crappy.

But hopefully this list will help someone see why a person might choose the seemingly strange choice to birth at home.  Does anyone else have reasons to add?

High Needs

You may have picked up from some of my posts that parenting Cedar has kicked my butt.  If Norah was high needs then Cedar is “higher needs.”  How did I manage to have two of these wee blessings?  I’m starting to wonder if I create these babies somehow through my parenting.  My friends keep telling me that the third baby is always mellow.  Well, no thanks.  I think I’ll stick with two. 

IMG_c5066Dr. Sears describes 12 characteristics of the high needs baby:

  • Intense:  these babies do not clear their throat.  They bellow.  A few times I’ve worried that Cedar might have damaged my eardrum with her screams.
  • Hyperactive:  when she is awake her breathing is rapid and she seems almost nervous.  Her legs and arms are moving and her eyes are wide.  Think baby on caffeine.
  • Draining:  check
  • Feeds frequently:  Cedar only nurses for comfort at night.  So we don’t have this one so much.  She is all business when it comes to feeding during the day.
  • Demanding:  When she needs me, there is little warning or warm-up.  There is an urgency to high needs babies.  Of course, no baby should be ignored but I cannot imagine how one would ignore a high needs one.
  • Awakens frequently:  This one is true; however, because we co-sleep, I’m skin-to-skin with her and she does not cry at night.  She settles quickly.  We manage this one quite well. 
  • Unsatisfied:  I spent the first month utterly baffled by her cries.  She was fed, dry, rested.  I didn’t realize she was particular about how things need to go.
  • Unpredictable:  Yesterday she slept for 2 hours in the swing I borrowed from a friend.  Woo-hoo!  Has it happened again?  Nope.  So far, there has been only one tried and true soother and that is the wrap.  Well, and the bathtub but we can’t spend the whole day there.  And while I can’t imagine life without the wrap, it does limit what I can get accomplished.  My back is killing me by the end of the day.  Right now, I’m sitting on a birth ball bouncing while she sleeps snuggled to me.
  •  Super-Sensitive:  “acute awareness of environment” and “like walking on eggshells.”  Yep.
  • “Can’t Put Baby Down:”  I think I’ve mentioned that a time or two.
  • Not a Self-Soother:  No way, no how.  If that were the case, she would not scream the ENTIRE trip to the grocery store.  I’ve become almost a hermit because I hate the carseat crying.  If “cry-it-out” worked on high needs babies, she would have stopped crying in the carseat by now.   
  • Separation Sensitive:  This one is absolutely the most difficult.  Except for small 5 minute increments, she rarely permits anyone else to hold her.  Even Scott has to be careful about how he looks at her because of that pesky super-sensitive trait.  It is killing Scott because he isn’t able to soothe her or even bond with her much.  Remember he was a stay-at-home daddy with Norah at this age. 

I don’t want to sound negative.  And I don’t want to dramatize my experience.  Maybe if I parented differently, I would have a different baby.  I don’t know.  I’m fortunate that I am able to stay home with her and that my wonderful husband, family, and friends have helped so much with Norah.  And since Scott was himself a stay-at-home dad with Norah, he understands when we have a messy house or the same easy dinner over and over again. 

I hope that the highest needs of this high need wee one has peaked in the so-called fourth trimester.  She will be 12 weeks on Sunday.  Will we turn a corner?  Of course we will.  Of course.  Right?  More on my thoughts on the fourth trimester later.

Team LDR

Since my last post was so negative…

I had two births this week at Favorite Hospital.  The previous post was not at Favorite Hospital.

The nurses were so wonderful.  And during these births, I must have worked with at least 8 different nurses.  Each spoke to me with respect and as part of the team. 

One OB who was going over some options with my client looked over at me and asked, “Do you have any questions?”  Dumb-founded, I shook my head.  I was so surprised that he asked!  Another OB that I had not worked with before spent a good bit of time just chatting with me.  And she supported some ideas I had that were a bit out of the norm.  I even heard her tell the new nurse that had come on shift that “Julie wants to try [such and such] and I told her that was fine.” 

The birth experience for the couple goes so much more smoothly–no matter the outcome–when they can see their OB/Midwife, nurses, and doula working together and working for them.  

I also want to give a special thanks to Ginny–a super-nurse at Favorite Hospital–for going beyond the call of duty patient care this week.  Hoorah to you, Ginny, for your emotional and physical support of couples!

Tension in the LDR

I had an awful, no good, horrible experience with a nurse during a birth over the weekend.  I’ve never encountered anything like it.  Nurses are usually so wonderful.  I don’t know the back story.  Maybe this nurse had a bad experience with a doula. 

We had been laboring at the hospital through the night for 12 hours when shift change happened.  My client didn’t get a great vibe from new nurse (and really didn’t like her perfume) but we had no idea how bad the vibe would get.  New nurse came in after a few hours and said “you’re not in real labor, you know.  You know such and such (interventions) will be necessary.  It isn’t looking good.”  What?  Who tells a woman who has labored for 12 hours that she isn’t in labor?

Now part of my job as a doula is to maintain a protective bubble around the mom so she can do the work of birth.  I don’t normally speak on my client’s behalf or interrupt medical professionals.  But these words were, in my opinion, really harmful to the current scene.  Normally, nurses do not “diagnose” like this.  Especially when they’ve just arrived and haven’t even gotten to know their patient.

So I jumped in with “we really want to hear positive words right now.  [Client] has been doing so great!  And she had a wonderful labor pattern going when she was able to be out of the bed.  Maybe if we could sit by the bed again?”  (client’s doctor had asked her to remain in bed for a while). 

New nurse:  “How long have you been doing this?” 

Oh my.  Me (with a smile):   “I don’t think that is relevant.”

New nurse:  “No, how long have you been doing this?” 

Me:  “3 years.”

New nurse:  “Well, I’ve been doing this 15 years.  And what is your medical background?”

Me:  “I don’t have a medical background.  I’m not in a medical profession.  Look, I’m not challenging you.  I totally respect you.  We don’t need to bring this tension into the room.”  Keep in mind, we are having this conversation right in front of the laboring mom, her husband, and her mother! 

New nurse said a few words I don’t remember and left the room without speaking to the laboring mom.  Suddenly everyone is tense.  The mom is upset.  I’m apologizing to everyone for what just happened–utterly mortified. 

Soon after, new nurse came in and abruptly said to the mom, “You need to decide who will stay with you during delivery.  This room has one person too many.”  First, this is the same nurse who said the mom wasn’t in “real labor.”  Why is she worried about delivery, then?  Second, the mom chose this particular hospital because they permit 3 people in the room during delivery.  Immediately the mom is more upset because the nurse is contradicting the policy mom was told during the hospital tour and by her doctors.  New nurse is “really sorry she was told that.” 

At that point, the dad stepped in and became even more of a hero (he’d already shown his superhero skills overnight).  He went to the charge nurse and told her that their nurse had an odor that was making his wife sick.  They needed a new nurse.  And guess what?  Our new nurse was FABULOUS!

For the record, doulas are not medical caregivers.  But we do know a thing or two about childbirth (which many of us do not view as a medical event anyway).  We usually have a few tricks for labor progression or comfort.  And we are awfully concerned with the emotional climate surrounding our clients.  That is our job.  

My friend, Laura Clay, would have said, “New nurse, it is obvious you did not graduate from the College of Good Customer Service.”

Polar Bears, Whales, and Hippos, Oh My!

What is cool about polar bears giving birth?  How do baby whales nurse underwater without lips?  What is a bat nursery?  Which animals cross-nurse?  How long is the hooded seal’s childhood?  Why do hippos hold their breath when they nurse?

Dying to know, right?  Ok, well I know some of you are dying to know.  I listened to the best podcast yesterday!  I had been putting it off because it didn’t sound very interesting.  It was called “How do other mammals do it?”  But it was really interesting and gave great insight into human lactation.  Most importantly, the author discusses the unique recipe of each mammal’s breastmilk.  Animals like big cats get large amounts of protein.  Animals like seals get huge amounts of fat.  Cow milk (3.1% protein) is very different from human milk (.9% protein) and is designed to grow calves.  Soybean milk, um, isn’t designed to grow anybody! 

Ok, so go listen to this free podcast if you’re intrigued!  Go to itunes and search Motherwear.  Pick “How do other mammals do it?” 

Really don’t have time to listen?  Check out this handout.  It includes some of the protein/fat breakdowns of animals.  And it is reproducible! 

Oh, and hooded seals have a four day childhood before they wean and venture into the big bad world.  A Pacific Grey Whale delivers a 2000lb baby and produces 6 tons of breastmilk without eating any food while traveling 10,000 miles.  Talk about a supermom!

New!–Calming Fussy Babies

For those of us who weren’t used to hearing a crying baby, 5 screaming minutes can seem like hours!  Our stress levels rise–which, of course, our baby picks up on and cries louder.  Soon, you’re crying right along with your little one.  The cry is meant to disturb us.  It is the perfect signal for help.  I love that there is a biological response to crying built into mothers–blood flows to her breasts and her instinct is to respond and nurse.

There are some tricks that can work with a fussy baby–not always and not with every baby, mind you.  But they might be worth a shot.

  • IMG_c5066I’m a big fan of Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block DVD.  Many libraries have this DVD available.  It can be a life-saver!  He literally gets babies to stop crying instantly (and no, he doesn’t use duct tape).  He uses the 5 S’s–swaddling, sucking, side-lying, swaying, and shushing.  I won’t reveal his secrets but I encourage you to take a peak at Dr. Karp in action.
  • Much of calming a fussy baby (assuming you’ve met her first needs of feeding and changing) involve replicating the womb environment.  To do this, you need motion, noise, touch, and confinement.
  • Babywearing gives you the motion and the touch.  In some cases, you might need to be skin-to-skin.  So, grab a sling or a wrap.
  • The noise might be a white noise machine, ocean or water sounds, the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, or anything with some repetition to it.
  • The confinement can be a strong burrito swaddle or the tightness of a wrap or sling.  Some babies need a combination of sucking and motion to calm.  Remember when wearing your baby that most babies prefer to be upright; not in a cradle position unless they are nursing.
  • Go for a drive.  I still fall asleep when I’m a passenger in a car–my mom swears it was the only way to get me to sleep!
  • Sit on a yoga ball and bounce while holding or wearing your baby.
  • Give a change of scenery.  Try going for a walk outside or taking a bath together.
  • Dance together.
  • Infant massage with some nice lavender aromatherapy.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
  • Dr. Sears recommends rolling your baby gently from side-to-side while he is draped over a beach ball (tummy to the ball).
  • Try warmth on your baby’s belly by using a rice sock or something like this.
  • Change your diet.
  • Ask for help from a friend or hire a postpartum doula.  Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings.  If you feel overwhelmed, place your baby in a safe place and step away for a moment to take a deep breath.  Lower your expectations–you are not Supermom or Superdad.
  • If you suspect colic, here are some ideas for coping and comforting.

Some babies (about 10%) are considered “high needs.”  There are 12 main signs that you might have a high needs model.  Often, they feed more, sleep less, cry more, cry louder, and seem intense and sensitive.  I can tell you from experience that a high needs newborn can be an exhausting-hit-by-a-tornado experience.  But these babies love intensely, attach deeply, and keep parents on their toes!  If you suspect your baby is high needs, go ahead and order the book, Raising Your Spirited Child and check out some tips online.

If you’re feeling out of ideas or need some help, you can email me.