Saturday, December 29, 2007
My water broke at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, December 18. I woke Matthew. We called the midwife and then tried to go back to sleep. Later, I spent a little time working from home, but decided to call it a day around 2 p.m. when I started getting mild contractions. We planned to have a homebirth, so when the contractions got stronger, my midwife, Alice, and a student midwife, Juno, arrived at our house on Tuesday evening. Things were progressing normally and by about midnight I was into active labor. But then, my contractions sort of tapered off and became less frequent.
On Wednesday evening, Liz, my birth assistant and a doula, arrived. My birth team tried all sorts of things in their bag of tricks to stimulate contractions. I did a shot of castor oil. I took tincture of black cohosh. I drank raspberry leaf tea. I took showers. Matthew and I took several short walks outdoors. We slow danced. We made out. All of these things would work for a while and then peeter off again. Eventually, I was nearly 10 centimeters dilated, but my dilation was not complete because there was still a rim of a little less than half of my cervix that hadn’t totally opened up.
When Thursday morning rolled around and not much had changed, we decided that it was time to consider plan B: going to the hospital. I was very disappointed. Matthew was very worried about me. In the end, no one told us what to do. It was our decision. Finally, I accepted that it was the best plan. Since my water had broken, the risk for infection increased as time passed. Also, I had been up for two nights in a row and exhaustion was bound to set in. I could still try to have my baby at home, but if things didn’t change I might end up later having to transfer to the hospital as an emergency, in an ambulance. By going now, I could still be in control of my options. Alice thought a little bit of pitocin, an artificial version of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates contractions, would help me open up the rest of the way. So, by mid-day on Thursday, we were all on our way to the hospital, in a very calm way, in our own cars.
I had a few things working in my favor. My water remained clear, which meant no meconium and probably no infection. The baby's heart rate was great the entire time, and my vitals were perfect. No one was in distress.
The other thing I had on my side was my team. They all came with me to the hospital and stayed for the entire process. I honestly don't think I could have done it without them.
At home, even though I wasn’t fully dilated, I was already having the urge to push. But, when I arrived at the hospital, the nurses and doctor made me stop pushing. This was so hard because my body wanted to go there.
Getting through these pushing contractions was very difficult, especially since they were so much stronger because of the pitocin. The presence and encouragement of my birth team and Matthew was so important as I managed the powerful contractions stimulated by the pitocin, fended off offers of an epidural that I had already very clearly stated I did not want, as well as a veiled threat of a c-section, and finally dilated the last bit.
Alice kept me focused on not pushing by helping me breathe. I'll never forget holding her hands and staring at her face and chanting with her. Liz vigorously rubbed my hips (called the apple shake) -- a sensation I desperately needed. Juno, the student midwife, kept sweetly encouraging me with her kind words. And, Matthew did all of these things throughout the process and then some. Getting an epidural did cross my mind more than once toward the end, when I was doubting I could get through it. (I know now this was a sign that I was just about ready to push!) But, my team kept me focused on taking it one contraction at a time. When they finally checked me and told me I was fully dilated and that I could resume pushing, I nearly jumped off the table with sheer joy!
But, I also knew my hard work was not done. With all my remaining strength, I pushed for about three hours. In the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink, but Matthew and Liz conspired to secretly add honey to my cup of ice chips in an attempt to replenish my energy. At one point, my movements during pushing knocked out my pitocin IV. The nurse was going to leave it out since I had almost finished the bag, but Alice, knowing how low my energy was and how much I needed the help, spoke up and said, "We came here for the pit and we're going to get the pit." Then, the nurse scrambled to replace my IV. I certainly wasn't willing to push and use up my last bit of energy without a very strong contraction. I knew I only had so much left in me. Later, the nurse told Alice she was right.
I don’t know where I found the strength but I dug down and finally pushed my baby out without further medical interventions. I have never, ever worked so hard at anything in my life. When they put Jonah on my belly, and my sister and my dad came in the room, I think I was the only person in the room not crying. Maybe I didn’t have the energy, but I also think along with the joy of seeing our baby boy, I felt such a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. Having gone through what I've been calling my "homebirth at the hospital," I feel like I could do anything. It's a feeling I wish for every woman to experience. ~ Nicole
Saturday, December 22, 2007
We've just returned from the hospital with our 28 hour old son Jonah. He is simply amazing. Healthy and beautiful. Much more to come on his birth. It was an experience like no other. We are so so happy. Time to settle in and get to know each other. - Matthew, Nicole & Jonah.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
A White House Christmas
President Bush asked me about my baby the other night. No, I had a discussion with him and the first lady about our baby. OK, I'll admit it was a very brief discussion, lasting the few seconds it took to have our photo taken with them at the White House Christmas party.
"When's it comin'?" the president said, after we shook hands.
It took me a second to figure out what he was talking about, but then I said, "Three weeks!"
"A Christmas baby!" he said, and we all faced the camera.
Then, Mrs. Bush, who I assume is better at math, said, "Or, a New Year's baby."
Snap, flash -- "Merry Christmas!" they said -- and it was over. A fun little story to tell the baby someday.
Doula, or Aqua Doula, to the rescue!
Liz visited us the other night. In case you forgot, she's our birth assistant and a doula. She's going to help us have the baby.
"Happy Hanukkah!" she said, handing me a big, folded up sheet of plastic. Ah, the personal liner for our birthing tub, AKA "Aqua Doula." (Every time I hear that word I think of a superhero named AQUADOULA!)
The previous day had been Liz's birthday and she had henna on her hands and feet -- a birthday gift. We sat on the floor in the baby's room -- which is basically just a catch-all for all the baby gear -- and she made sure we had all of our supplies. She stuffed all the receiving blankets and two tiny baby hats into the cover over the heating pad so it would be ready to go. She wrapped one of our bowls in a plastic bag (for the placenta -- yup, that's right, folks). And, she witnessed a brief argument between Matthew and me about washcloths.
Then, she felt my belly, listened to the baby's heartbeat with her cool fetascope and "sifted" the baby using the red wrap from my wedding day as her rebozo, after leaving hers in her car. It makes us happy whenever she visits, spreading her positive vibes all over our house.
No more cankles
We're skipping a bunch of parties this weekend, holiday and other kinds. We got invited to four parties in two days. We are going to one. Mostly, because I need to rest. It's hard because I love the holidays and love parties! But, with less than three weeks until my due date, it's time to take it easy.
My blood pressure was a bit elevated at my last prenatal appointment earlier this week. But then, after I rested on my side for five minutes, the next reading was normal. A bit concerning, but not a big deal as many women experience this late in pregnancy. (Good news: I'm negative for Group B strep, which means no IV! Yay!)
Later, after a long day at the office, I stopped in at Macy's to buy some pantyhose (thigh highs so they didn't have to fit the belly) and decided to check out the shoe department. I pulled off my sock to try on a pair of killer pumps (which I have absolutely no business wearing, but a girl can dream) and noticed that my ankle looked, well, broken. All swollen and puffy and ugly. And, yes, the other one was bad, too. Ugh.
I immediately thought: high blood pressure plus swelling equals not good. Rather than worrying about it all night, I called a midwife. She ran through a list of other symptoms, none of which I had, which was good. She advised that I eat a high protein dinner, drink lots of fluids, and rest, rest, rest. I did as I was told and very much enjoyed lying on the couch that night watching the season finale of The Hills, which I had Tivoed.
I decided to work from home the next day. In the morning, my ankles were pretty much back to normal, just a little puffy.
Later that morning, another midwife called me. She had heard what was going on with me the night before and wanted to check in. She suggested I get my blood pressure checked that day, so Matthew and I went to a CVS pharmacy that has one of those machines that you can stick your arm in. My first reading was high. After resting and reading US magazine for five minutes, it had lowered. I wasn't sure what the numbers meant so I called a midwife. She said that since I respond so well to rest, her advice was to lie down and rest for at least one hour every morning and every afternoon. I can't exactly do that at my office, so I'm now totally working from home. I don't want high blood pressure, but I have to say I'm so happy to not have to trek into the office every day. I followed the orders yesterday as best I could -- I rested four times at 30 minutes a stretch because I'm antsy and an hour is hard to do -- and by the end of the day my ankles were completely back to normal. No puffiness at all! No more cankles.
It's supposed to snow today, so we're looking forward to a cozy weekend, mostly at home, getting some much-needed rest. ~ Nicole
Sunday, December 9, 2007
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children’s Vaccinations, by
The Vaccine Guide: Risks and Benefits for Children and Adults, by Randall Neustaedter.
It’s helpful to understand the rate of diseases in the country and the state. You can find both on the CDC’s website at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/mmwr_wk.html. Download the current issue – this gives you disease rates for the year, up to the week of the issue.
The Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System, managed by the CDC, is also a useful site – you can look up reported vaccine side effects, by vaccine: http://vaers.hhs.gov/. When you’re looking at it, keep in mind that the CDC acknowledges that less than 10% of reactions are reported.
You’ll find state laws on mandatory vaccines and available exemptions here: http://www.vaccinesafety.edu/cc-exem.htm
Some vaccine ingredients (such as fetal tissue, chick embryo’s, monkey kidney cells) can be found here: http://www.informedchoice.info/cocktail.html. You’ll read more about ingredients and how vaccines are made in
Mothering.com discussion board on vaccines: http://www.mothering.com/discussions/forumdisplay.php?f=47
Mothering also has some good articles on vaccines. This is a good one to start with: http://www.mothering.com/articles/growing_child/vaccines/wake.html
Monday, December 3, 2007
I have my 36-week prenatal appointment this week and it's a pretty significant one, when they test for Group B strep and check the baby's position and all that. If I'm Group B strep positive, I have to decide whether to have an IV of antibiotics during the birth. Well, even my hippie midwives recommend it, but I also know people who have decided against it. I think I'd probably just do it, but it's something to think about. Having an IV during labor and birth, not to mention all that medicine getting to the baby, doesn't sound fun, but there's lots of other things to consider before deciding, I suppose. Just another of the many, many decisions along the way and in the near and distant future that are part of being a parent.
The other thing that makes this next appointment significant is that it is the start of my weekly prenatal appointments. Until now, I saw my midwives less frequently. First, every six weeks, then every four for a while, then every two. Now, I will see them every week until the baby comes! And, I've already booked them all, all the way through a week past my due date.
The other thing we have going on this week is our "birthday planning meeting" at the birth center. This is when all the parents of babies due to be born in January meet at the birth center and get all the information we will need for the birth. (Interestingly, we are #2008-001, as in the first people registered with the birth center in 2008, which only means that I was the first person to call who was due in 2008. It's the planner in me.)
This week, we are also supposed to have chosen, or be very close to choosing, our pediatrician. We think we are pretty sure but we have one more to visit this week. Then, next week, Liz, our birth assistant, comes back to visit us at home to check to see that we have all of our supplies in one place (oh, you should hear the supply list -- very interesting and curious), check the belly and answer any questions we have.
We sure have a lot going on but it's fun! And, I'm sure many of our friends think we're the most boring people in the world because we are so focused on having the baby now. At least, our friends who aren't expecting babies of their own! There are more and more lately who are, which is fabulous!
Matthew wishes the baby would come today, he's so excited. I don't mind waiting a few more weeks, even though it's getting harder and harder to carry around my giant belly. I swear it grows overnight. I wake up every morning and it seems just a little bit bigger. Maybe that's why I can't sleep -- all that growing is keeping me awake. Despite the discomfort of late, I will miss being pregnant. I'm grateful I have had a very smooth and relatively easy pregnancy, and it's been really fun, despite the minor complaints. But, I'm also eager to see this little baby and very curious about giving birth. Let the countdown begin! ~ Nicole
Sunday, December 2, 2007
The other feature I wanted to point out is that you can now cast a vote to say whether you think we will have boy or girl. We don't know and won't know until the baby is born. Our midwives don't know. The technician and radiologist who did the sonogram several months ago may have known but as far as I can tell it isn't written down anywhere so maybe no one knows any longer! We will be so happy either way and aren't rooting for one over the other, but not knowing has been a fun aspect of the whole experience. It's also the most common question I hear. Now, maybe at least I can tell people, "Well, we don't know but 7 out of 10 people believe it is a girl" or whatever.
Enjoy! ~ Nicole
Thursday, November 22, 2007
We spent Thanksgiving this year not with our family but with our very good friends, Connie and Gary, and our new friends, Padma and Alex. It ranked right up there with all of our really nice and very fun Thanksgivings at home, at my sister's house. Every year since we have lived in this city, we have traveled the 500 or so miles "home" for Thanksgiving. This year, we stayed put. You could say we stayed "home." And, we had to admit, it was really nice. Don't get me wrong. We missed seeing our family and our old friends. But, we were so happy that we didn't have to travel with, like, everyone else in the country during the busiest travel weekend of the year. We got to do things we never do on Thanksgiving. After sleeping in a little late, reading the newspapers, listening to a great NPR interview with Calvin Trillin and having some pre-Thanksgiving pumpkin pie for breakfast, we decided to go for a walk. We explored our neighborhood and saw it in a whole new light. The whole vibe of the city was different today. Everything was quiet and peaceful. Chilled out. It was a beautiful, sunny, breezy and colorful fall day. I noticed how pretty the trees are in the park near our house. We walked through the park and saw ducks in a stream. We walked along a path and learned about some of the history of our area by reading the historic markers along the way. We went to the zoo and saw sea lions and watched two otters chasing some bugs in their den. At one point, yellow leaves came showering down from the trees above, like snow. It was beautiful. It made us happy. Later, in the middle of the afternoon, we made our way to Connie and Gary's house for Thanksgiving dinner. They made their first turkey this year and it was just delicious. We had a feast that also included green beans, salad, butternut squash, sweet potatoes complete with marshmallows on top, corn bread stuffing, and two kinds of pie! We made new friends, Padma and Alex. It was the first Thanksgiving away from family for all of us. We all remarked how we felt a little guilty enjoying ourselves so much but also realized how much more relaxed we all were not having to travel. Alex put it best, "Isn't it weird how we feel guilty for listening to our bodies?" When you put it that way, I don't feel quite so guilty at all! And, it wasn't like we were totally out of touch. We spoke on the phone with our family today, and we even made an emergency call to my sister, who has Thanksgiving dinner down to a science, when we were unsure if Connie's turkey was finished cooking. Now, we're back home. The leftovers are in the fridge. The kitties are snuggled up with us. We are happy in our cozy apartment. Maybe we'll have some more pie. The baby is kicking and moving like crazy. In only about six weeks, he or she will be born into our snug little home. I am thankful for the beautiful day we had today, for the delicious food we enjoyed, for the peacefulness and relaxation we experienced, for the laughter we shared with friends, for our cozy home in this wonderful neighborhood in a great city that we love, for being able to spend a holiday with our kitties (really!), for feeling the love of our family even from afar, for all the great Thanksgivings we've had before and the many, many more to come. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for. ~ Nicole
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about becoming a parent. Like all the time. Not a day goes by without someone asking me “How’s Nicole feeling? Is her belly getting big?” or “When are you guys due?” I love the way that people get excited about our baby. It seems like pregnancy is one of the things in life that pretty much makes everybody happy. Especially when they hear it’s our first. Their faces light up. True, most of these people already have kids of their own. They have these knowing smiles.
I try to explain this to people who ask if I feel ready to be a parent. I want to say I’ve had my fun, but that doesn’t quite fit. I’m ready for more fun! Maybe we’ll be overwhelmed at times by all the craziness that comes with having a baby, but I know we’ll be alright. I am so happy and so lucky. Soon we’ll meet this little person we made. Maybe I’ll see Nicole in its little brown eyes or cute little dimples. Maybe I’ll see my own face.
I can’t say for certain that I’m ready. This feels like the sort of thing you can’t truly prepare for. It just happens to you, like falling in love or having your heart broken. But no matter what, I know that this baby will be born from love. And that seems like a pretty good start.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Awareness Knowing Itself
By Danna Faulds
Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.
Feel relief flood into every
cell. Nothing to do. Nothing
to be but what you are already.
Nothing to receive but what
flows effortlessly from the
mystery into form.
Nothing to run from or run
toward. Just this breath,
awareness knowing itself as
embodiment. Just this breath,
awareness waking up to truth.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Two women in my birthing class who are pretty close to their due dates told me that people ask them all the time, "Oh my god, are you having twins?!" I mean, why not just come out and say to them, "Wow, you are really huge!" It has the same effect.
A couple weeks ago a woman said to me, "Wow, you look like you're about to pop any time now! When are you due?" This was in early October. I replied flatly, "January 3." As in, I'm not even close to popping, you inconsiderate bitch. Her response, "Oh, well, wow!" followed by some strange nasally exclamations that may or may not have been actual words. Then, she walked away.
Then, there are the people who "mean well." In my experience, lots of well meaning comments come from older women who had their babies decades ago. I'm acquainted with some older women who ask me from time to time how I'm feeling or how things are going. When I report that I'm great except I can't sleep, my back hurts, etc. they, almost without fail, usually say, "Well, just wait until the baby comes! Then you'll really know what it's like not to sleep!" Um. OK. Thanks.
Some people think it's inappropriate to touch the belly of a pregnant woman. Here is where my feeling is very different. I think it's almost instinctual for people to reach their open palms toward the belly. Toward the baby. Some people believe that our hearts are connected to our palms. Our hearts reach out to babies on a very basic level and so it makes sense to me that their hands would follow that path. They just can't help doing this. It's reflexive. Sometimes, people's brains catch them in the act and they stop midstream, hands outstretched but not yet touching my belly. "Is it OK?" they might ask or they're eyes might say to me. My answer is almost always, "Of course." And I place their hands on my belly. On the baby. And, I welcome the warmth from the heart. You've got to get it where you can. ~ Nicole
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Today is a new day. We went to our birthing class tonight. Matthew wore his Red Sox hat and shirt to class. Very cute. We learned a lot as usual and ended with a very nice positive birth affirmation exercise that made us feel all warm and tingly. Luckily, class ended just a half hour before the big game started. The very important game. I know. I know! And, luckily, the bar where he is watching the game tonight is right between our class and home. So, I walked him to the bar, kissed him goodnight and wished him luck, hoping that tonight he comes home in a good mood, knowing that if my wish comes true I will certainly witness more nights of hand-wringing anxiety over the fate (or destiny?) of his (our) team. But, he looked very happy when I said goodbye to him tonight and that made me happy.
One night not long ago, I was very angry with Matthew because he was going to miss one of our birthing classes. He had forgotten and scheduled himself to work. I was pissed because I signed us up way in advance and gave him the schedule way in advance to avoid such conflicts. Of course, I was so angry and disappointed that I started crying. As I sat there crying, Matthew got more and more frustrated with me. He said something like, "I don't know why you are so upset. I have to work! There's nothing I can do." I felt a little silly about my blubbering. All kinds of responses went through my head to justify my behavior, but then it hit me. There was a good reason for my tears. "I'm pregnant. I'm upset and I'm pregnant and that's why I'm crying. It's OK that I'm upset because I'm pregnant and I deserve to cry." And, Matthew listened to this, paused for a minute in silence and then finally said, "You're right. I'm sorry."
Go Red Sox! ~ Nicole
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Yes, it's that time of year. The Playoffs. An emotional roller-coaster. When I annually question my love of this team and this silly ball game. My behavior is utterly ridiculous and totally indefensible. Yet I can't help myself. I actually argued with Nicole last night about the importance of the playoffs. She pointed out that we were suppose to sit down and write out a birth plan (our homework assignment this week) but I was busy throwing my Red Sox hat across the room and yelling obscenities. (The 100 Million $ pitcher can't get out of the 5th inning!? WTF!) Are the playoffs more important than our unborn child? Well, it is the American League Championship Series and they are three wins from going to the World Series, but NO!!! OF COURSE NOT!!! ARE YOU CRAZY? This is a baby we're talking about here! A human baby! Our own flesh and blood! But man, they won the first game and looked unstoppable before dropping the next two and now they're making me crazy! But how cool would it be to tell little (insert awesome baby name here) that the Red Sox won the World Series when they were in the womb? Of course, if that happens we'll have to name the baby Papi. Which is perfect because it works for either sex. Our we could just call the baby Red - a classic old school name! (Why don't people have old school nicknames anymore? Like Lefty and Dutch?)
Anyway, I plead temporary insanity. Annual temporary insanity I suppose. If I am to be a responsible parent I should just swear off the Red Sox (something my father has tried and failed to do several times) and forbid my child from ever getting sucked in like me. But, let's face it: that's not going to happen. So, on Thursday night when the Sox are playing one of the biggest games of the year - I'll be in birthing class. Am I complaining? No! I have a lot to learn before "Little Papi" get's here and obviously that's more important. But I just wish Nicole was a little more understanding. She actually said she hopes the Red Sox don't make it to the World Series - she said that OUT LOUD. Some husbands I know would file for divorce over that, but not me. I know she didn't mean it. She just doesn't want to live with a crazy person any longer. I was talking to a friend of mine who is - ready for this? - is a huge Yankees fan. (I didn't know this when we became friends .) Anyway, we were talking about this time of year and how despondent we can get and I said something like "yeah - Nic hates me in the fall." Apparently it never occurred to him. He was like "Man, I never thought about that. We must be miserable to live with!" He was probably insane from the start so she didn't complain. In our case it was more of a bait and switch move. When Nicole & I first got together , my love of the Red Sox had been long dormant. I gave up on them early in childhood (after watching my father become a miserable bastard every autumn.) But then Nic moved to Boston. We went to see three games at Fenway that year - 1999. All three games were Pedro starts and he struck out like a million guys (won the Cy Young that year.) Well, that's all it took. I was back to routing my ass off for better or for worse. She quickly noticed the changes in my behavior - swearing, grunting, pacing back and forth in front of the TV, dramatic mood swings, emotionally unavailable during playoffs or any games vs. the Yankees . She was not happy. "You weren't really a 'Sports Guy' when we met. You tricked me!" No trickery, it was fate. Just like 2004 when... well you probably know what happened in 2004.
Well the Patriots are looking like a pretty good emotional safety net this year, so I might survive the playoffs after all. Come to think of it Brady is a nice name don't you think?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Today, I had to stay late at work to make photocopies, of all things. Photocopies! By the time I left work, I was really ready to get home. My job is super busy right now and I'm pretty much always exhausted or at least a little bit tired. I've been walking home from work often, to get some exercise and fresh air and wind down after a long day. It's really nice. But, today, I just wanted to get home as fast as possible. So, I headed for the bus stop.
When I got about a block and a half away from the stop, I noticed my bus coming along. I realized that the only way to catch it -- and avoid waiting another five or ten minutes for the next one -- is to run.
I know, I know, I'm not supposed to run. I'm clumsy to begin with and having an extra 20 pounds on my frame doesn't make me any more graceful these days. But, I run anyway because I really, really want to get home.
I can't run very fast so I'm not sure I'm going to make it. As I run, I can see one or two people getting on the bus. But, I'm still about a half a block away when the driver closes the doors. I'm so bummed because I'm almost there!
But, then, I see the bus doors open again and I hear a voice, a woman, saying, "Open the door! Open the door!" A woman is at the bus stop waving to the bus driver and yelling at him to wait for me. It was just enough of a delay that I was able to reach the bus before he drove off. I rushed onto the bus, laughing a little and very happy to be on my way home.
By the time I caught my breath, I realized -- in my rush to get on the bus -- that I hadn't even thanked her.
I don't know who that woman was, but she was very nice to me today. And, I'm thankful that she helped me get home quickly after a long, hard day. ~ Nicole
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
Sure, I ended up with a few books that I'll probably never get around to reading, but having friends give or lend me all these books was a blessing. It spared me from having to go to a bookstore or library and stare at the shelves wondering what the hell I'm supposed to read.
Now my house is full of books, and I will very likely be thrilled to pass some of them along when the time is right. For now, I thought I'd share my current list of favorite books about pregnancy, birth and childcare. I hope that it will make your trip to the bookstore or library a little more pleasant.
Two page-turners that I quickly read cover to cover:
Birthing From Within by Pam England, Certified Nurse Midwife, and Rob Horowitz, PhD. I read this early in my pregnancy, a time when most women are overcome by both joy and fear (quite possibly freaking out a little). This book made me feel more and more excited about giving birth. A small warning: The first few chapters talk a lot about making birth art, which I love the idea of, but am not really inclined to do, even though I sort of wish I was. If birth art isn't your thing, stick with this book anyway. You will feel happier having read it, even if you're having horrible morning sickness.
Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Originally published in 1975, this book is full of real birth stories of natural births on The Farm, a community in rural Tennessee where women learned from other women and a few sympathetic local obstetricians how to give birth in their own homes or the community's birthing center. The language used by some of the women writing about having babies in the late 60s and early 70s, like calling their "rushes" (the word they used to describe contractions) "psychadelic" and their births "holy," adds to the books charm. Today, Gaskin is still considered the mother of all midwives in the United States.
What I'm reading now:
Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, MD. Dr. Bradley was the guy that brought fathers back into the birth room in the 60s and 70s. His language is a bit hokey and old-fashioned, but his instruction shows all the things that happen in labor, even the pain, work together to allow a mother's body to give birth. Mess with it, and you can throw off the whole process, ultimately making things more difficult. He empowered women to take back control of their bodies and births and dispelled the myth that fathers are a bumbling lot best left to nervously pacing hospital waiting rooms.
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. This is Gaskin's (more contemporary) follow up to Spiritual Midwifery. It's full of more birth stories and practical advice from someone who has spent her life helping women birth their babies.
What I should be reading now:
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. This book is recommended reading for our birthing class. In fact, our teacher says this one is good to own. So far, halfway through our birthing classes, I haven't really dug into it yet, but I will. I think the book's shape is throwing me off a bit -- it's wider than it is tall -- and it's hard to read on the bus or subway without intruding on the "personal space" of the guy next to me.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International, the gurus of breastfeeding. This book is also recommended by my birthing class teacher as a keeper and is known as the bible of breastfeeding. Fortunately, a good friend gave me her copy so I didn't have to buy it. I know I should dig into this one soon, well before I need to learn how to nurse my baby.
A good reference book: The Baby Book by William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN. One friend recommended this as the only book you need from pregnancy to birth to toddlerhood.
Here's one that Matthew is reading: The Expenctant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash. This was a gift from my sister. It puts a smile on my face every time I look over to Matthew's side of the bed at night to see him reading it. Right now, Matthew seems to be alternating between this book and a book about the Red Sox.
And, finally, when it came to figuring out what the hell kind of stuff we need to buy for the baby (and what is a waste of money), this is a book that we couldn't have done without: Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. If you buy it, and you should, splurge and buy the most up to date edition. It's well worth the $18.
I'm sure more than one person has told me, "Don't read too much. You'll drive yourself crazy." But, so far, I haven't found that to be true. In fact, the reading I've done has had the exact opposite effect. I am more excited every day about being pregnant and giving birth and having a little baby. One of these days, I hope to start reading novels again -- and I'm sure the women in my book club will be glad when I can actually find the time to finish the book -- but for now I'm happy with the stack of books at my bedside. ~ Nicole
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The other night, in our birthing class, we watched a movie called “Giving Birth.” We watched to learn what a normal birth looks like and to hear stories about normal, natural birth from obstetricians, midwives, doulas and mothers. There were beautiful photos of a water birth that showed the father reaching for the baby as it was born, the new family in a big, round tub, outdoors, their skin glowing in the sunshine. There were images of brand new babies, all shiny and wet, in their mothers arms. Not the babies you see in movies or on TV, but real babies each with different little faces and shiny eyes and even hair.
In one scene, we saw a woman in labor at her home. She slow danced with her husband in their kitchen between contractions. Dancing swivels and opens your hips and helps the baby get in the right position. She breathed through contractions and seemed to go inside herself. She leaned on her husband’s shoulders as he held her up. I saw her listening carefully to herself, trying to adjust to this new situation, having made the decision to get through it because what other choice do you have? Then, her midwife had her sit on a birthing stool so she was in a good squatting position but most of her weight was supported. The mother started working very hard at pushing her baby out. When the baby’s head crowned, she reached down to feel it. “Baby,” she said, almost a whisper. Moments later, she got her first look at her baby as she lifted him up to her chest. At that moment, her face changed. All of the exertion melted away and was replaced not by joy but with a look of sheer astonishment. And then she said, “I did it. I can’t believe I did it.”
After the movie, I talked with some of the other women in my class about what we saw. We laughed at how everyone cries when they see a baby being born but that as pregnant women we were even more susceptible to tears. We talked about the value of seeing a real birth instead of a made-for-TV version and that watching it was powerful because it allowed each of us to really imagine ourselves in that situation. And, despite the pain and hard work, we decided it was kind of beautiful.
We are pregnant and there’s no turning back. We will go through labor. Maybe we will even slow dance with our husbands. We will work hard. We will have to decide that we can do this because we have to. There will be others there to help us but ultimately we are doing this alone. We will listen to ourselves carefully. We will listen to the helpful whispers of mothers before us, of our own mother, perhaps, using what strengthens our confidence and leaving the rest behind. And then we will give birth to a real baby. And at that moment, our whole world will shift. Nothing will be as it was. We will be astonished because we did it. Because we gave birth to a baby. But, also, because we gave birth to ourselves, and we are mothers. And, maybe that's what it really feels like to finally grow up. ~ Nicole
Saturday, September 15, 2007
An all-natural-home-birth-breast-feeding-champion hippy dad to be. It turns out that the concept of home birth kinda freaks people out. But the more I learn about it, the more I love the idea - and I'm not afraid to tell you. Just ask my hairdresser.
Ever since Nicole convinced me home birth was the way to go, my feelings on the topic have become stronger and stronger. I admit it sounded a little nutty to me at first, but I didn't know anything about birth then. Like most people, what I saw on TV and in the movies led me to believe that giving birth required being in a hospital where doctors and nurses would buzz around looking at monitors - with lots beeping gizmos and flashing lights - and that there would be some life threatening complication that would require incubators and blood transfusions and we’d end up telling our story on some TLC show. Not that I ever watch that shit.
Well since then, our friends Abbie and Anthony just had their second home birth, Nicole read about 8,000 books on the subject, and we started taking Bradley Method birthing classes. So now I know that natural birth totally rocks. The problem is that everybody wants to know "what hospital are you using?" I learned the hard way that my answer to this question can lead to a sometimes long and frequently uncomfortable discussion - which basically starts with the other person asking me if I'm fucking crazy. It's like trying to sell tofu to taco bell eaters - only worse because the taco bell eaters are convinced that your wife is going to die a horrible death and that we're going to kill a baby in the process. One person I told about it ended the conversation early with a comment like "whatever man, it's your baby's funeral." (Ok, not really but that's what I inferred.) Once friend said natural child birth was "just stupid." And this was someone that I like and respect. It was really disappointing to hear that, but I couldn't help wanting to say You're the one that's stupid!!!" Which sounds pretty juvenile, but it's true. Not that hospitals and epidurals and episiotomies don't all have their place, but why do all that shit if you don't need to? Why assume that every test, probe, monitor, and injection is ok because a doctor said so? After all, it wasn't that long ago that doctors were getting paid by the tobacco companies to endorse certain brands of cigarettes. Is this starting to sound like a lecture? That's probably how my hairdresser felt the other day. He and his wife have been trying to get pregnant for three years. They're probably the perfect candidates for a hospital birth when the time comes, but that didn't stop me from going on and on about the cascade of interventions and the wonders of breast milk. By the end, he was like "ok man, that's cool, I'll check it out, I promise. Now, can I get back to work please?"
So, I guess I have to be careful who I tell what, not to go overboard when I talk about it, and not to get too upset when some people think we're nuts. The other day a friend of mine from work asked: "Did I hear right - that your planning to give birth at home?" He had that "you can't be serious" look on his face that's become familiar to me. Hoping to keep it simple, I just said "yep - that's right." He sort of shook his head and asked why. I had already given one lecture that day and it was getting late, so I just said "because we're hippies man, we're just total freakin hippies."
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
It's back-to-school time and even though I've been out of school now for a VERY long time, I still get that itch every fall to do a little shopping for new clothes. But, I don't fit in normal-people clothes right now, and I think any pregnant woman will tell you that shopping for maternity clothes just isn't as much fun.
When your body is changing so rapidly, you just don't know how long that cute Liz Lange skirt or expensive Pea in a Pod dress will fit. And, while maternity styles have come a long way since our mothers were pregnant with us, no matter what you wear when you're pregnant, it's simply harder to look fashionable and hip when your most prominent feature is a belly the size of a basketball. Forget "sexy." "Cute pregnant lady" is about as good as it gets these days. (Look how skinny I was!)
Don't get me wrong. It's not like I have NOTHING TO WEAR (which is never really a true statement but every woman knows exactly what I mean). I'm very fortunate that friends have given me a whole bunch of their old maternity clothes. The clothes are stylish and cute and it's so nice that I don't have to spend a bunch of money on a whole new wardrobe of outfits I'm only going to wear for a few months. I am truly lucky to have a closet full of very cool hand-me-downs from several generous friends. Thank you, ladies!
But, I still miss shopping.
I miss browsing the racks of clothes and knowing what size I will fit into. I miss the excited feeling of walking into a dressing room with a pile of 20 pairs of jeans, which might look identical but, no, they each have slightly different hues and cuts and I must try them all, each and every last pair!
I even miss the disappointment that comes when NONE of those 20 pairs of jeans is quite right and I walk out of the dressing room empty handed. There's always hope in the next store.
I miss that thrill of arriving home with an arm full of shopping bags, excited to give Matthew a fashion show but also a little guilty about how much I bought.
I am so happy to have a little baby growing inside me. It's miraculous and amazing and I wouldn't change a thing. But, it would be so fun to be able to trot out to my favorite stores and buy a cool, new fall outfit, like a pair of skinny-minny dark jeans, a fitted jacket cinched with a wide belt over my (imaginary) small waist and a pair of fabulous stilletos, just like the ones I've coveted ever since I saw Gwen Stefani perform "Hollaback Girl" on Saturday Night Live, like, two years ago, wearing nothing but a basketball jersey as a dress and a pair of tall, sleek black stilletos. (Hey, Gwen looked pretty damn hot when she was preggers, but so would I if I was rich and famous and a clothing designer.)
Shopping was one of my favorite past times. It was fun. It made me feel good. And, dammit, I miss it. ~ Nicole
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Step one: rent a carpet steam cleaner. We were not blessed with an apartment of beautiful hardwood floors. All wall-to-wall carpeting, but I guess that's one of the reasons the rent is so cheap. As for renting this machine, we were pleasantly surprised to learn it's pretty cheap -- $22 a day at a local hardware store. Hint for anyone thinking of doing this: You do not need to also spend the extra $20 to buy the special cleaning solutions. After a little research, we learned that Dr. Bronner's castille soap (or something similar) will do just fine. And, it smells much nicer!
Step two: actually steam clean the carpets. Matthew was all over this. He did pretty much the whole apartment by himself. He never actually flat out told me he didn't want me trying to maneuver the steam cleaner (though it's not too heavy or complicated -- I'm sure I could have done it), but I was perfectly happy to let him go at it. I spent the time cleaning furniture, helping him shift things out of the way, etc. We were a pretty good team. We started on a Friday night (after dinner with friends, even) and finished up and returned the steam cleaner by 1 p.m. on Saturday. We even did the couch ($5 extra for the upholstery tool) and smaller carpets.
Step three: clean out the closets. This was, by far, the more daunting task. It's a little scary to think about, but we literally had boxes of things packed into closets that we haven't opened since we moved in five years ago! We committed to being "ruthless" and "unsentimental." It was sometimes difficult. I'm a bit of a pack rat and I think Matthew is, too. But, it's just not feasible anymore in our small place with a third little "roommate" on the way. It was a bit hard to get rid of some things, like much of the bulky things in our "Halloween box." But, we figured it was time to give up those SNL cheerleader costumes, probably our BEST HALLOWEEN COSTUMES EVER, but, alas, I will probably never fit into that tiny skirt again in my life ... and, I'm afraid, those characters are so 1990s. Luckily, lots of foot traffic on our street that weekend and really nice weather meant that the box of "Free Stuff" in front of our house went away pretty quickly.
Our reward for all this sweat and toil? One word: IKEA! We had several items to look at. Matthew wanted to approach the shopping task by actually beelining it from item to item, but my way prevailed -- a meandering stroll through every inch of the showroom. "It gives me inspiration," I told Matthew as I wandered around while he sat at a large, modern looking computer desk scrolling through his blackberry "just checking the score."
Not all of our desired items were in stock, so we'll have to go back later (yeah!), but we did manage to leave with several items for baby: this crib, this storage cabinet (and our future changing table), these curtains in black and white, this mirror, and these hand towels, which aren't really for the baby -- I just thought they were cool.
All in all a pretty successful project.
We still have work to do. Later this fall, we plan on turning the big bedroom (now an office) into our bedroom, where the baby will sleep with us for a while. The small bedroom will become the place for all the baby's stuff (plus guest room as long as the baby sleeps with us. HELLO, DID YOU HEAR THAT? GUEST ROOM!) and eventually the baby's own room. Our nest is shaping up nicely. ~ Nicole
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
One of the nicest things about this class is that what we learn is directed at the fathers as much as the mothers. Up until now, much of our preparation -- prenatal appointments, attention on my growing belly -- has focused on me, the pregnant woman. It's nice to see these other men lovingly rubbing their wives' backs or whispering in their ears as we sit in a circle on the carpet. It's so obvious how happy and excited they all are and how much they love their wives and their babies.
Tonight, we starting learning about the importance of proper nutrition. This class is a Bradley class, so a big focus is on getting enough protein. "Enough" is 80 to 100 grams each day. It seems like a lot! It is a lot! But, our instructor told us tonight that there is a theory that links a lack of sufficient protein to pre-eclampsia. The national average of pregnant women developing pre-eclampsia is about one in 10. Our instructor said of all of the about 120 students she has taught in the Bradley method, only one has developed this complication. She credits the diet that we Bradley birthers follow.
We also learned about the egg, the magical wonderfood. A little and inexpensive orb that contains at least 23 essential nutrients, including protein in one of its most perfect forms. It is second only to breast milk in terms of how perfect it is! Therefore, two eggs a day is the way to go.
After all that learning tonight, my favorite part of class was practicing our relaxation techniques. We are learning over the 12 weeks how to relax every muscle in our bodies. This will help later when we go into labor and the uterus is working hard. It will help by not wasting any energy on unnecessary muscles. And, it will help make labor go faster.
To do our practice tonight, we all sprawled out on the floor, women and men. The lights went down low. We closed our eyes. Breathed deeply. The instructor spoke to us softly and rhythmically, telling us to first tense and then relax our muscles, starting with our foreheads and moving gradually down to our feet, telling us we can always let go a little more, relax and sink and let go a little more. Breathe down low in our bellies, quietly and rhythmically. Ahhh. It made me happy. Like yoga. I almost fell asleep.
I know that labor will be much different, but just knowing that such a happy and relaxed place exists and is encouraged during labor makes me almost look forward to it! It certainly makes me more excited and less scared, little by little the more I learn. I envision this squirmy, slimy, wrinkled but alert baby will slide out into this world at just the moment he or she is supposed to, wailing and springy, and eventually relaxed and happy in our arms. ~ Nicole
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
I sort of wish we knew the gender. Then we could name the baby. Which is exactly the reason we decided not to find out the gender, but it seems strange to have this little being in there - more and more part of our daily lives - and not have a name for it. I call it "little baby" when I talk to... the area where the baby lives. The book I'm reading recommends talking to the baby everyday and claims this will seem normal soon, but it still seems really funny to me. I suppose if we knew the gender and we picked a name we probably get way ahead of ourselves and start looking at colleges. - Matthew