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Posts Tagged ‘Birth’

The last blog post I published was inspired by a morning spent with a friend of mine who had just had her first baby.  We were discussing birth again online and this is her story, from her point of view.  I have a great many thoughts on it, but will leave it to stand on its own.  I find it inspiring and beautiful, though she herself is probably still coming to terms with how the beginning of motherhood was not what she expected.  My birth stories (published in other posts) are quite different from hers, and I have love for every type of birth story:

 

Last night, a friend of mine posted an article to Facebook entitled “Why You Should Prepare for Natural Birth (Why Just Hoping for a Natural Birth is Not Enough)”.

 

I gave it a read through, and on first glance, most would probably find this article innocuous. Sure, you should be prepared for birth. You should do your research. Sound advice, right? Surely no one could find fault with an article that is simply encouraging women to know their rights, options, and bodies before embarking on the grand adventure that is labor and delivery.

 

Right?

 

Right?…

 

And yet, this article, like so many like it, left me feeling angry. Left me feeling hurt, incredulous, and just downright pissed off. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I think I belong to a steadily growing new moms’ club that is comprised of women who, just like me, think this article and articles like it are not only misleading but also directly lending to more and more women walking away from their birth experience feeling like a failure.

 

I began researching how I wanted to give birth more than a year before we even began trying to conceive. I had been born at home, in an upstairs bedroom with a midwife attending. I was a firm believer that birth was a natural process, and I was also terrified of the entire medical spectrum. I rarely took meds, thought a hot cup of tea was a good substitute for antibiotics, never had vaccines as a child, and got the hives just thinking about hospitals. So for many reasons, I wanted to make sure I knew everything I needed to know to make sure I didn’t end up a “hospital horror story”. If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all have friends, or have read online, or know a woman, or were that woman, who gave birth at a hospital and got bullied into unnecessary interventions, didn’t feel listened to, and even experienced genuine trauma at the hands of medical professionals that treated your body like it wasn’t your own and your birth like it was a disease. I wasn’t going to be that woman.

 

We considered home birth, but the options were so limited in our state, and the home birth midwife that we had decided to use had closed down her home birth practice and was working at a local OB office that delivered at the hospital close to our home. Hesitantly, we decided that since we would have a doula, a homebirth midwife, and all the education in the world, we would brave a hospital birth. We had watched “The Business of Being Born” over a dozen times, we had read every Ina May Gaskins book ever published, we were ready. We were ready to say no to pitocin, refuse induction no matter how long little bit decided to camp out. We were ready to do skin to skin after labor in a dark and quiet room.

 

In fact, by the time I was hitting late pregnancy, I had spent two years so immersed in the natural birth culture and language that I had a downright story in my head of how my birth was going to go. I would go into labor in the middle of the night, I would labor for as long as possible at home with my doula, who would provide aromatherapy, take me for sacred walks in the woods, and bathe me in light. At the last moment, I would go to the hospital, bravely go into my warrior space as I pushed out my baby with no drugs, no IVs, and no vaginal exams. As soon as she was born and healthy, we would insist on being released, and I would bring her home and nurse her in my momma cave for 40 days while friends brought me food and offerings at the feet of my newly washed female divinity.

 

Oh yeah. I had it bad.

 

And yes, I knew that I couldn’t control my birth. I knew to be ready for surprises. But I also knew what these articles, books, websites, documentaries and women had been telling me over and over and over again.

 

Birth is natural.

 

Your body knows what to do.

 

Don’t be afraid of the pain.

 

Let go of negative messages about birth.

 

Birth is not dangerous.

 

Birth does not have to be painful.

 

Birth can be so pleasing as to even be sexual.

 

Even if something unexpected comes up, you can still birth your baby naturally.

 

And on and on and on. Those words, phrases and images assured me that no matter what happened, we would be able to have a natural birth. That the chances of a complication actually being so severe as to warrant medical intervention were so low and had just been blown out of proportion by medical staff anxious to avoid a lawsuit and to get you in and out of those beds as quickly as possible.

 

I was ready. I sat back and judged women silently that I saw on Facebook getting inductions at 41 weeks 5 days. “Oh, she must not have watched that documentary. Someone should tell her that her induction isn’t necessary.”

 

See. I deserved what happened to me.

 

And then my due date came. And went. Now, of course, I knew due dates were the unicorns of the natural birth community. They only existed in fantasyland and that really, if they said your baby was due in March, it was completely fine if she decided to land in October. So don’t worry.

 

But I did. I was exhausted. I was enormous. I felt sick, fatigued, and dizzy all the time. I couldn’t stand, sit, or dress myself without assistance. I was in so much pain, and was told it was normal, but something in me knew it wasn’t. And I had every one and their brother asking me when I was planning on pushing that baby out, and I somehow was expected to not set them on fire with my eyeballs all the while laughing as if I hadn’t heard that exact same thing 6,000 times that day just before the breakfast I couldn’t stomach.

 

And on top of that, at least once a day a girlfriend that had gone before would ask me, “Any signs of labor yet?” And the answer was always a definite, “No. Nothing. Nada.” I mean nothing. No show, no Braxton Hicks, no plug, no back pain or cramping, no new stomach upset, no nesting instinct, no nothing. And I kept going to the doctor, and I kept refusing vaginal exams, and I kept waiting for my baby and my body to do the natural thing.

 

But they didn’t. And one day, my midwife who had delivered babies at home for 40 years sat me down and told me that she had seen women present like me a million times, and she could bet me good money I wasn’t going into labor on my own, that my baby was in danger, and that I needed to be induced.

 

And I felt like the world had ended. I went home and sobbed so hysterically for two days that it felt like I was breaking from the inside out. And everywhere I turned I was being told not to listen to her. Inductions being the antichrist in the natural birth community, and all of that. Even my doula, who was outwardly supportive, said in her words and tone and the spaces in between, “Oh, you’re just letting them use fear tactics on you, you don’t need this.”

 

But I felt somewhere deep inside of me that I did. So I faced every fear I had ever known, and I went in for an induction on a Tuesday evening. And immediately, my birth plan started going out the window. Foley bulbs, vaginal exams (I hadn’t dilated even a centimeter), monitors, IVs, and…. A completely awesome, gentle, supportive, empowering hospital experience. But I was on every drug you can imagine for two days. And labor never started. Not even a little bit.

 

They told me my baby was stuck. That contractions couldn’t start because her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix and her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix because contractions couldn’t start. And that she had probably been stuck for a while. And that she was probably in distress. And that she needed to come out, and she couldn’t, and no matter how long I had waited, things wouldn’t have changed. And right there in the hospital, we did every natural method we could think of to get that baby unstuck. We turned off all the drugs, the pitocin drips, we shimmied with the rebozo, we did the Miles circuit over and over, and nothing. And when I told them I was too exhausted, hungry, and in shock to face anything further, they let me go home for 24 hours. And they told me to see a chiropractor before I came back.

 

The chiropractor told me my pelvis was tilted up and to the side. My daughter was literally stuck sunny side up with her head splayed backwards, all on my left side (which explained a lot of my pain and very visible belly unevenness). The chiropractor spent an hour with us. And somehow, that miracle woman naturally moved my baby. I had bloody show a few hours later. The next morning, a fat 42 weeks pregnant, I went in for my second induction and had begun to dilate on my own. But things still weren’t moving fast enough.

 

More drugs. Someone broke my water (the one thing I swore I wouldn’t let anyone do). I had more vaginal exams than I could count. But I knew each step was what needed to happen to help my daughter get here safely. There was meconium in my water. She was struggling. I was struggling. And every single person at the hospital that was a part of my birth was there to help us.

 

And you know what? Labor was painful. Incredibly painful. Maybe it was because of the pitocin, or how fast my labor progressed once it finally began (barely six hours from start to finish). And my preparation helped me. I labored through hours of intense, long contractions, with barely any break in between them, with no pain medication.

 

But then transition contractions began. And maybe not every woman feels like Braveheart being disemboweled and sent to the four corners of the earth during transition. But I did. It was the most terrifying and painful sensation I had ever experienced in my life. Nothing prepared me for that. Nothing. I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I cried for help, for it to end, for them to give me something. Against every one’s advice, I got an epidural. That’s right. Every doctor and nurse in that building told me I could do it naturally. But the truth was, I couldn’t. I demanded and received the most terrifying epidural I think anyone could imagine. In the throes of agony, panic, and the most gut wrenching sensation of my life, I had to hold still while a needle went into my spine that could’ve killed me or paralyzed me at best, and a transition contraction took place right as the needle went in. My mom was shaking and crying in the corner, unable to watch. The kind and gentle anesthesiologist yelled at me to not MOVE. If I had let them check me vaginally, they could’ve told me I was in transition, told me I was almost done, but since I thought vaginal exams were the devil and was trying to avoid them, and because I was in the throes of so much physical agony that I didn’t want anyone adding to it, I was terrified that the feelings I was experiencing were going to go on for hours. And yes, I had been told that when you think you can’t do it anymore, you are almost done. But I couldn’t do it anymore. Really.

 

The sedative they had put into my IV before the epidural kicked in, calming me just enough that I could realize what was going on as I lay on that bed shaking so violently it felt like I was seizing. But the pain and intensity of the contractions didn’t let up. We were told after my birth that the epidural didn’t have time to kick in, and that I took that risk for nothing, that I pushed without pain relief. But thank goodness for the pre-epidural sedative, that at least quelled the panic. Because then there was her head. And I could still feel my legs. And then I was pushing her out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And I pushed her out right there in the most anti-natural birth position imaginable – on my back, with my legs up by my head, for over an hour before they told me she had to come out right that second and I pushed with everything I had in me and I tore almost in half but there she was. And it was what I wanted, what felt right, and the only position I could even think of moving in to in those moments, even though I had learned through the natural birth community that the best way to give birth was hanging from a tree branch.

 

And after she was born? Well first of all, I couldn’t tell every one to get out, or shut up, or leave us alone. There was a special team on hand to make sure she didn’t aspirate on her own poop. And there was this tricky little thing called a placental delivery that had to happen. I held her for moments, barely, and then the pain of labor (yes, I labored out that placenta) was so intense that someone had to take her for me. I was shaking so violently that I that I was going to die. My blood was everywhere, like a slasher film without the bad music. The medicine they gave me to stop the bleeding saved my life. It took almost an hour for my placenta to be forcefully delivered, with the incredible midwife on duty having to push on my stomach and force it out of me at the end because I was losing so much blood we couldn’t wait any more. It hurt more than my daughter did, coming out into this world.

 

After a few hellish days (yes, days) in the post partum ward of the hospital, we went home. And instead of worrying about myself and how to help myself heal from the bruised tailbone, the tearing, the incredible pain that made standing or walking almost impossible, the incredible amount of blood I was still losing, or anything else I needed to be concerned about, I holed up in my room and cried because all I could think was:

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

My body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Nothing went the way it was supposed to go. I caved in the face of the pain, I exposed us both to the dangers of drugs and interventions, I didn’t have the moments right after her delivery that we were supposed to have.

 

I don’t belong in the natural birth community.

 

I didn’t do it right.

 

And you know why I, and so many mothers like me, fell into that dark hole?

 

Because of articles like this one. You see? I was getting there. Just decided to take my time.

 

Because of every single “I had a kumbaya motherfuckers bath time birth in my living room and I orgasmed and so can you” story that gets shoved down our throats as “normal” while the women who have trauma and bad experiences are either the exception, or they were unprepared, or it happened to them because they were in a hospital and not at home, or whatever other story gets told, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the natural birth community.

 

There are truths about labor, there are truths about birth, and while the natural birthing community has it’s intentions in the right place, women are still being lied to – by BOTH sides.

 

Birth CAN be dangerous. It IS dangerous. I go to a mother’s circle a few weeks out of the month, and the moms that I share my Friday mornings with are as crunchy as you can get. They all cloth diaper, they all breast feed, we sit on the floor cross legged as the babies lay naked on sheep skin rugs and we burn sage. And their stories are heartbreaking. Some of them truly almost died. Many of them are scarred in more ways than one. And all of them were prepared. All of them did their research. And all of them were taken somewhere by their birth that they were told was wrong, rare, and shouldn’t really happen if you were just doing it right.

 

Birth is painful. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe you are lucky and have a fast, pain free birth. Maybe you did hypnobirthing and it worked for you. But for most of us, it is the most pain you’ll ever know, and if your transition period is like mine, it will move beyond pain and into a place that you may be able to handle. You may not.

 

Your body doesn’t just automatically “know what to do” because you are a woman. There are a million things that can go wrong, and that go wrong everyday, and those things make medical interventions not only necessary but the best thing that could ever happen to you and your baby. Maybe those stories of women and babies dying in childbirth still permeate our brains because they need to. Because we need to take birth seriously enough that we don’t endanger ourselves and our children by refusing medical care when it could be the difference between a positive and a life-altering outcome.

 

Hospitals are not the devil. Medical staff members are not necessarily going to bully you. I was in the hospital for a full week, I had two separate inductions, and each and every person there tried to help me have as natural of a birth as I could possibly have, and respected and served me in every moment of my birth.

 

You might not be able to have the “golden hour”. You might need drugs to keep you from bleeding out and dying. You might be in so much pain that you can barely hold your child for days.

 

You might end up with drugs, no drugs, water breaking, no water breaking, vaginal delivery, c-section, pain, no pain…

 

And you did it right. You were a warrior. Nothing should have happened that didn’t happen.

 

What has to happen is that ALL kinds of births have to be normalized. We have got to stop sitting in these camps that speak these surface languages that tell you one birth looks like this and is bad, one birth looks like this and is good, and for the millions of women that don’t fit into either of those camps, that there is no place for your birth and the implication is you must’ve done something wrong.

 

We didn’t do a damn thing wrong. Except maybe, spend too much time reading the articles.

 

 

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We met on a quiet, dark, rainy morning, as her baby slept the entire time I was there.  Were it not for her having had a baby 10 days prior and being exhausted, it would have felt like a few friends chatting over coffee on a gloomy morning.  It was still, quiet, and dark, and she shared with me the amazing story of her birth, which was unique, and of her first days as a mother, as all postpartum periods, beautiful but a little sad, as her challenges would pull at the heartstrings of any mom, remembering the challenges of the first weeks with a baby, and thinking of the things she is going through.

Many LLL Leaders don’t do many home visits compared to the meetings we run and phone calls we do, and I’ve done only a few, when I really felt I could sacrifice the time away from my home and work and family.  We ARE volunteers, after all.  Paid lactation consultants probably do more home visits, I’d wager.

I will have been a La Leche League leader for five years this August.  To become one, a mother must have nursed at least one child for a year before applying and then completed coursework in lactation support.

We run our LLL Meetings—support groups for women who are pregnant, nursing, pumping, have nursed—in which they can share what worked for them and get support and information for whatever they may be going through.  I’ve always run the Working Mother’s group, since becoming a part of LLL.

The vast, vast majority of the issues women face can be worked through with the correct information about how to latch a baby, how to maintain milk supply, how to nurse while working, what a certain type of discomfort or pain is indicative of, and etc.  So many problems moms face—while you might not call them myths—are problems that are fixed with correct information and not accepting that breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards.

Working with a mom that so wants to feed her baby this way, and seeing how empowered she is when she gets the right information she needed to attain her goal when she may have thought it impossible—it’s rewarding, it’s heartwarming, it’s fulfilling.  It’s drawing upon the ages old model of women lovingly supporting women through pregnancy, birth and motherhood—a model that is somewhat lost upon a large population in our modern day culture. 

While the meetings I’ve run are one part social gathering, one part support group and one part information session from a trained lactation professional, and are incredibly rewarding and helpful to mothers all by themselves—the much more rare “home visit” as a volunteer is…. sacred.

Recently this friend and kindred spirit and 10 day old new mother—whom I hadn’t seen in… oh, 13 years probably, (ah social networking does do a few good things!) very much needed some contact from a friend, a fellow mom and a lactation professional all at the same time.  Interestingly enough, I recently moved to be only 15 minutes away from where she lives.

This little baby was stuck, head up, somewhere in the mother’s abdomen or rib cage (I’m not a doctor and am retelling a story that isn’t mine, so won’t attempt serious details).  She hadn’t been moving much, the pregnant belly seemed to not look perfectly round and things just didn’t feel as they should.  The first induction wasn’t doing anything at all—no contractions, no water breaking, no dilation.  Luckily, she was sent home to rest.  She went to a chiropractor who adjusted her pelvis (and said it was very needed) and I believe she said she felt immediate relief and by that night her stomach looked normal and she was free of some of the odd pains that had plagued her last weeks of pregnancy.  She went back to the hospital and was induced, resulting in a successful vaginal delivery but some tough pushing.  The baby was visibly bruised, had broken blood vessels and some birth trauma.

What does this have to do with breastfeeding?  Or my work as a lactation professional?  I already knew there was more to the story than just baby wasn’t latching well, or gaining well, or mother was in pain, or the many common issues dealt with.  When a mom says her baby is adamantly *refusing* to breastfeed, you have to get the details.

I told her to start at the beginning, with the birth, before we even discussed breastfeeding.

Not only did the child have some birth trauma—she rejected the breast from day one, from feeding one.  This isn’t usually the case, by a long shot.  Even a baby having a hard time latching is typically pretty excited about being fed.

This already puts this story as one I must really listen to to understand what this baby is telling her mother, and not just give the usual advice about how to latch a baby onto a breast.  Not only was the baby not wanting to feed—which I personally feel was probably due to shoulder and neck pain from the position she was stuck in in utero or the birth—but a nurse, probably using a method that may have worked just fine with another baby—was pushing the baby to the breast.  I wasn’t there, and so I’m not criticizing what may or may not happened—but according to the mother, the baby was being forcefully pushed towards her breast and it was decidedly NOT working, making the baby more and more upset.

A calm baby with no stress, no pain from birth trauma, can be encouraged to latch quickly and firmly, probably without it harming her feelings toward breastfeeding.  Babies can be pretty adamant and voracious in trying to find the nipple, actually.  And thus, I think that if a baby is crying and refusing the breast from day 1, before so much as a bottle has even been introduced, we absolutely must listen to what the baby is telling us, and listen to the mother’s intuition.

This mother may get all types of advice from well-meaning friends, some encouraging breastfeeding, some not—but few understanding what this motherbaby pair is dealing with.  I spent my time listening to her, rather than the usual observing nursing and giving pointers.

I reassured her that any and all of the things she has or is beginning to deal with—engorgement, pumping, a little nipple confusion, possible reflux or food intolerance—each and every one of those things are difficult for a mom without her unique story. 

I told her that were this to be my fourth child– three times I’ve nursed a baby—and with all that experience, this would be hard, and challenging, and would take all my strength to stay calm and continue to work for the breastfeeding relationship I thought I would have, but that is just not working at this time.

The baby still refuses the breast, but is eating by bottle and is sleeping well.  This is not a baby that one can just give a few tips to the mother and will get over a bit of latch issue or nipple confusion in a week.

The look of gratitude on her face when I told her the number one rule, above all this stuff to try to make breastfeeding work, is FEED the BABY.  A tired, hungry, spent baby cannot learn to breastfeed.  So whether it is with SNS, cup, syringe, bottle or breast, FEED the baby.  The nipple confusion and latch issues from bottle feeding can be dealt with— the baby will get older, stronger and bigger.  My friend feels that “breast is best” but that no one can understand her baby’s outright refusal, often with screaming, to breastfeed. 

She must simply get her little girl comfortable with being around the breast, not even feeding from it at first, and must address any shoulder or neck pain that there may be.  Her plan may be to take the baby to a chiropractor or cranio-sacral therapist.  I have heard story after story, since becoming a mother, of colicky, unhappy little ones that are like night and day after some neck/spinal adjustment, probably because they are feeling some type of pain from the birth that they cannot tell us about in words.

If she addresses any underlying causes, gets the baby comfortable with that area of her body again, THEN she can begin seeing if she baby will latch well and deal with any nipple preference to the bottle.

A mother in this situation may look into skin-to-skin contact, rebirthing, and babywearing.  She may attempt breastfeeding in the tub, or when the baby is night feeding or waking up and its instincts are at its strongest. 

The look on her face when I told her a baby with this history may be looking at weeks, not days…. A few months, maybe not weeks… before breastfeeding happily was not one of worry over the time frame, but relief that she didn’t have to have this all figured out and fixed RIGHT now.

Usually, the earlier the baby gets to breast the better to set the nursing relationship off.  But this is not the usual case, at all.  Anything else can be dealt with, but this baby needs to heal, and her mother needs to know that she was thrown a tough deal and not to judge herself on the standards of other births, other babies and other mothers.  Of course, this *should* be our society’s standard attitude toward any mother, but we all know that isn’t the case.  Even among breastfeeding advocates such as myself, I think the extremity of this little one’s situation might be met with some skepticism.

We have lost the art of storytelling, of listening to another’s story and putting ourselves in their shoes, and then of sitting back without judgment to reflect. 

I don’t know if this baby will breastfeed.  I don’t know if the mom will pump for a year, quit pumping, get the baby to breast.  I can’t tell.  I think it is entirely possible she gets the baby to breast, but the baby will need a lot of support along the way.  It will be one amazing crash course is perseverance, to say the least.  But most importantly, the mom and baby (and dad) should feel good about their experience and their choices.  They are all doing their best.  I think that with quiet little steps, over time, little by little, she may be able to reach some of her goals.

In my official role as a lactation professional, I want this mom to succeed in her goals that she originally had, which were something like breastfeeding for a year or so—pretty normal.  But it is also completely a part of my role to know when to tell her that her situation was unique and hard and remind her that her and her baby are making up their own story, and it’s not going to be the same as some of the other stories we might have wanted it to be.  We all want uncomplicated births and easy first years with our babies, and we all know life hardly ever works that way.

The baby is loved and the mom is balancing what she wants to happen with what she can make happen and making peace with the rest.  Which is basically all parenting really is anyhow.  

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I’m going to try to start blogging a bit more again. I started this blog around this time of the year when I was pregnant with Ada, so maybe it’s fitting if I write a bit more again at this time of year when I am pregnant with our third. He will be born sometime around 4-6 weeks before our second, in November instead of December.

I feel like motherhood has been a collection of joining new clubs, so to speak. First you are pregnant or with a young child, and you can kind of automatically have a new sentence or two to speak with other moms you see in a check out line. It took me about a year to realize that socializing with other moms was something I needed more than at random moments (I was in college and knew NO other mothers for a while).

So I joined the pregnancy club. Then the I-want-a-natural-birth club and had a doula. Then the breastfeeding club. The cloth diapering club. The babywearing club. Then with my second, I was even more bowled over to join the food allergy/intolerance club. And here I am again, realizing that I’ve joined a whole new club that I never saw coming. It just feels *different* having a third. Going from a four person family to a five person family just feels like you are graduating up to that next level of familyhood again. We had to get a bigger car– we will have a baby at the same time as a first grader. I have two kids at completely different stages of development… whereas when I had a 2 year old and a baby and a small car it didn’t seem that different going from one to two. And at restaurants the four person table would do just fine.

But now I’ll have three. I guess I’ll also join the I-have-a-boy club. Which I don’t believe, at this point, will be *nearly* as different as people want me to believe, but sure it’s still different. In respect to birth/babyhood, the decision to circumcise or not is probably the most different thing, but people already want to impose so many personality traits, assigned by gender, on the kid even though he isn’t even born yet. But our girls play with tools, love robots and have clothes that are not pink, so I’m not that convinced that it will be “a totally different world” as everyone wants me to believe.

Things have been different for me personally, the third time around, something I never knew to expect. As a third pregnancy, apparently— my body has enlightened me and all my mother friends and midwives have confirmed— you feel every single stretch and loosening and pregnancy symptom (related to getting bigger at least) quite a bit more. Oh, I feel *everything*. I have one strip of ab muscle that has hurt from 2-3 months pregnant… before I was showing at all. I get contractions all the time. I get the cervical pains all the time. The midwives say that the body simply has a harder time each pregnancy getting those ab muscles to stretch and the ligaments to loosen. I also have worse pains after birth as the uterus clamps back down to look forward to. I do remember it was quite a bit worse with Ada, each time she’d nurse I get cramps, and that is supposed to happen more so the third time.

It’s all worth it of course, but like all those other clubs, expecting a third kid introduced me to differences I’d never considered.

Some things this time around have been better. I’ve gained weight easier, been able to control the ridiculous heartburn easier through diet changes (knowledge afforded me by being in the food intolerance club and learning to understand how food affects me better— kids teach us so much!), no longer have low iron (probably from being gluten-free). I wish I could say the morning sickness was different but I was still sick for months, and months, and months. Having a boy didn’t seem to help that.

I’ve been in labor twice and it’s daunting to think of the third time around. But I tell myself it will happen, I can’t stop it, and soon it will be three years later and all this pregnancy/labor pain will be a memory and he’ll be talking and playing.

Some things I had thought I’d do the third time around I didn’t. I thought I’d have a homebirth if I ever had a third. I moved from hospital with the first to birth center with the second, and figured homebirth would be the next way I’d go. Part of me still mourns the thought that I won’t do it that way, however, we had some solid logical reasoning. The birth center I go to and trust is about a hour and a half away, in Chapel Hill, NC. The midwives are backed up by Chapel Hill’s hospital— so much better, more mother/baby friendly and respected than the hospital here in Fayetteville, NC. The thought of going back to the hospital here if there was a true emergency during a planned homebirth (as small of a chance as that is) was just decidedly *not* appealing to me or my husband.

I hope to make it in time to have a water birth this time, as with my second I made it to the birth center and had about 20 minutes before I gave birth.

My hopes for the third birth…. a water birth, another short labor– not so short I don’t make the drive up there, but not agonizingly long either!– and another good recovery, in the first four weeks postpartum. I’ve been blessed thus far. I get weekly chiropractic adjustments, which help with positioning the baby so he isn’t breech and keeping the mother’s labor short, with the other two I did yoga… this time I should be… and I stay as active and on my feet as I can. After the birth I breastfeed, which helps the mother’s uterus tone back down and I’ll do that again as well.

My hopes for the third baby…. oh, I don’t know, maybe he’ll pop out and sleep all night and not be colicky since I’m already gluten-free? Totally unlike the second? Well, at least I know the knowledge I gained with her may help us out!

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Well, this subject is probably a little more controversial but its on my mind.

In the States, hospital and legal policies typically dictate at least three things be done to a newborn close to birth, the administration of eye drops (to prevent infection to the baby in mothers with gonorrhea or other infections), the first dose of a Hepatitis B vaccine, and a shot of Vitamin K.  Vitamin K aids in blood clotting, and between about 4 and 7 previously healthy newborns in 100,000 will develop something called vitamin K deficiency bleeding  (hemorrhagic disease of the newborn) resulting in death or brain damage because of bleeding in the brain, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Newborns may hemorrhage in other places, like the liver, instead.

So since about the ’60’s, the policy has been to give all newborns a shot of vitamin K at birth.  Why is this an issue for some parents, and something that I’d be thinking about, when its a preventative which reduces newborn deaths?

For me, its because of how it is done.  The American Academy of Pediatrics official policy is that these procedures should not be done until the newborn has atleast had its first feeding with the mother.  This allows the mother and baby to bond for an hour or so, while newborns are typically alert, and have the baby experiance the unpleasent routines after s/he is drowsy.  Many moms in forums say that when they waited to have the shots until after the first hour, the baby slept through the discomfort and seemed less affected.

AAP policy or not, this is not what happens in most hospitals.  The baby is taken after only a moment, washed, weighed, given shots and drops, and then given to the mother to save time and just get it all out of the way. 

This doesn’t sit well with many moms, who believe that the first hour of life is extremely important for bonding, and that, aside from dealing with being cold, seeing light, and feeling hungry all at once, for the first time ever, extra pain inflicted on the baby should at least be put off for a little while.

I am going to a birthing center with a naturally minded philosophy, which waits 2-3 hours to do anything to the baby after birth anyway.  So its more ideal for us already.

But I can’t help the feeling that giving a painful shot isn’t one of the things I want my kid to experience in his first day of life, even though its meant to help.

Chemicals

Then comes the next thing, for people who are ridiculously paranoid about pharmeceuticals and the medical industry, like I am.  I requested the ingredients listed on the package of the vitamin K shot, just so that I know what else I am putting into my child’s body.  They include benzyl alcohol as a preservative, polyoxyethylated fatty acidderivative and aluminum.  The benzyl alcohol is considered toxic in neonates, and reactions have occurred in premies, but not really healthy, good sized newborns.  I couldn’t find information on the fatty acid derivative, and aluminum is pretty universally recognized to be bad for us, but the medical industry does not consider the amounts in shots harmful.

The Internet Drug Index had info on the shot and ingredients, basically like the package insert.

So again, for many people, the answer isn’t hard.  These shots have been given for years and we are all fine, aren’t we?

I guess I just don’t like the thought of putting unnatural substances in my own body, and thus not my baby’s.
The risk of a hemmorhage is so small, isn’t it?  It’s not likely that anything would happen to my child if I opt out of the shot.  But the result is so terrible, if your child did die and you could have simply let him endure a little pain for a moment, how could you ever get over that?

Some parents attempt to use oral vitamin K drops, which is done more often in Europe because there is no licensed form of it for this purpose in the US.  My midwives and many doctors say this isn’t as effective and their definitely seems to be bias against it.  The AAP said in a policy statement that an oral solution should be developed, but that was back in 1993, from what I can gather.  Doesn’t seem to be a priority, maybe based on Europe’s experiance.

 

Dr. Michel Odent, a respected doctor in the field of natural birth, thinks parents should feel too worried, regardless of their desicion. 

“To the parents who refuse the injection, we can say that they don’t take a great risk, since the chances of their breastfed baby having a hemorrhagic disease related to vitamin K deficiency is in the region of one in 15,000. It is even probable that the risks are still lower if the birth and the initiation of lactation were undisturbed. My view is that vitamin K deficiency of breastfed babies is probably no more physiological than the weight loss in newborn babies. After thousands of years of culturally controlled childbirth and lactation, we usually underestimate the amount of ‘colostral milk’, and therefore of vitamin K, a human baby has been programmed to consume during the first days following birth.

A well-constructed Japanese study showed that babies who consume 350 ml of breast milk in the first three days following birth are protected against vitamin K deficiency. Let us also remember that vitamin K deficiency is unheard of among formula fed babies.”

Mothering Magazine, Ask the Experts

So, hmm, if I breastfeed the baby very well in the first week, take a vitamin k supplement myself, to insure I have enough, do I even need the shot? 

Its something that only each parent individually can answer.

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