Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toys: Less is More

Fancy toys, remote-controlled toys, battery-operated toys, character toys, light up toys, singing toys - make your brain go crazy toys!

We've all seen it: at a birthday party or Christmas time, a young child has piles of gifts and opens them all up. The parents ooh and ahh over the latest action figure, the cutest doll, the most ornate "speak and spell" on the market. "Which one should we play with first?" The child doesn't need to answer...he's already happily ripping apart a piece of torn wrapping paper. "No no, don't do that. Here, it's a car for you to drive in! Let's get some batteries to make it go fast!"

The little boy sees the cardboard box instead. And he's quite content with that!

When it comes to toys, less is more! I mean quantity as well as quality, in a way. By that I'm advocating simpler toys in smaller amounts.

At day care, 11 month old Michael would walk into the play area as soon as his mother dropped him off. He searched immediately for the red spoon rattle. Once he found it, he had it all day. Sure, he'd play with the other toys, but this was his favorite. I have tons of stories like this. Even my own daughter will be happily content playing with a toothbrush for hours.

It's true that eventually kids will get bored with toys. But we don't remedy that by putting out hundreds of different toys in the beginning. That's over stimulating. I make a point to rotate my baby's toys about once a week so she only has a few in the living room at a time. It's a) less messy, and b) more peaceful!

Going along with this, I am a firm believer that toys should not do all the work for kids. You know the toys I'm talking press one button and a circus erupts in front of their little faces. What does that teach them? Nothing really.

I love simple toys. Or things that aren't toys at all. Things that inspire creativity and require imagination and thinking from children. That's why blocks are so great! They teach problem solving skills, trial and error, "math", sharing, communication, longer attention spans, cause and effect, etc. I love being able to give my daughter simple, yellow shape toys and watch her study them for the longest time.

Maxim Natural Wood Blocks, 100-PiecesI also prefer wooden toys over plastic any day. But that can be very costly. However, if I have a choice, I pick simple, natural, and thought-provoking toys.

And I know, I know...when my child gets older and Toy Story 5 is out, she's probably going to want the Buzz Lightyear action man that lights up, talks, and rolls on wheels. Am I going to cave in? Most likely. I'm wouldn't want to deprive her of those special toys. But at the same time, I'm also not about to cheat her out of the necessary skills she needs to develop. The trick is finding the balance! Time will tell. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Marrying an Italian Girl

I'm proud of my heritage...I'm 62.5% Italian. (Yeah, we even have the .5 down.) This was sent by my mom. Enjoy!

If you marry an Italian girl

The first man married a nice girl from Poland.  He told her that she was to do the dishes and the house cleaning. It took a couple of days, but on the third day, he came home to see a clean house and dishes washed and put away.

The second man married a sweet woman from England.  He gave his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking.  The first day he didn't see any results, but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day, he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done and there was a huge dinner on the table.

The third man married a gorgeous girl from Italy.  He ordered her to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed, and hot meals on the table for every meal.  He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything. But by the third day, some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye. His arm was healed enough that he could fix himself a sandwich and load the dishwasher.  He still has some difficulty when he pees.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Breastfeeding: Why I Love It (continued)

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

While I was expecting, my mother gave me this book. Except it didn't quite look like this. Her copy was older, worn, and the pages were wrinkled and dog-eared; it was easy to see it had been an important reference for her during the years she breastfed her nine children. (Yes, that's right...all nine of us!)

I promised to give more reasons for why I love breastfeeding, so here they are! Some are personal, some are factual. But they're all true! :)

1) Breastmilk is perfect for newborns. Colostrum, or what some people call "liquid gold," is produced for the baby and contains priceless antibodies that protect their young immune systems. These antibodies fight illnesses and keep a newborn as healthy as possible.

2) If your baby is born premature, the breastmilk automatically adjusts to accommodate the baby's nutritional needs. The protein, fat, and calorie count is higher when the baby is younger. What infant formula does that?

3) Breastfeeding is linked with the hormone, prolactin, which is related to ovulation and fertility. Whenever the baby nurses, ovulation is suppressed. This is God's beautiful and natural way to let us enjoy our baby and let the mother's body be fully there for her child. As the nursings become less frequent and prolactin levels return to normal, fertility will return.

4) Breastfeeding is the most natural, effective, and safe way to lose that baby weight! When we're pregnant, areas of our bodies that we're always concerned about looking too big definitely become too big. But...they are too big for a reason! Once a woman begins breastfeeding, all the fat her body has stored for nine months starts being used. Breastmilk has a very high fat content, and guess where that fat comes from? Yep, our derrieres. :P Thanks to our little liposuction machines - I mean, our babies.

5) Since breastmilk is 88% water, there is no need to supplement with water, juice, or milk to prevent dehydration. As a matter of fact, it can be harmful to the baby to give water rather than breastmilk, as it deprives the baby of the nutrients, fat, and antibodies. In the summer months, as long as the baby is breastfeeding frequently enough, the only person needing to drink water is the mother. The body prioritizes for the baby, so us mothers need to take care of ourselves!

6) It protects your baby and reduces the risk of allergies, ear infections, obesity, diabetes, leukemia, and SIDS.

7) It works on a supply-and-demand system. The more you nurse, the more milk will be produced. During those vital growth spurts, as long as the baby nurses whenever she needs it, she will always have the right amount.

8) With breastfeeding, you learn the cues of your baby's hunger. There is no need of measuring or keeping track of ounces or making sure a bottle is finished. If your baby needs just one side of nursing, that's okay (as long as she's properly gaining weight). If she needs more, there's always the other side. It's very laid back. We like that chilled way of life. :)

9) It is easily digestible and therefore, very rarely does a baby become constipated while breastfeeding. (Of course, once table foods are introduced things may change.)

10) It's all right there. No fancy formula, no imitation trying to be as good as the real thing. Just the real thing!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Happiest Baby on the Block

The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer
Ah, yes, if only we could all claim our baby was the happiest on the block. I know mine is. (My child is very advanced. Ha Ha :P) But there were a couple nights when Little Olive was a newborn where she would cry and cry for hours. It would be the early AM hours, and I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and lost. I held her, cuddled, and nursed, but it didn't work right away. We purchased gripe water for fear that she was a colic baby. Nooo....that dreaded word! But the gripe water didn't make any difference. Eventually everything got better, but I wish I had had a solution to make those nights more doable.

My midwife told me about this book and I wish I had read it before Mal was born. It is phenomenal. Its most important message is the 'fourth trimester' - this means that the first three months of the baby's life should mimic the womb. He believes that babies spend nine months in the womb being held and pampered in their perfect home, and that's why they cry outside. He says he has the cure for colic, and he explains it by using the Five S's:

1) Swaddle - very important and effective!
2) Side/stomach - get the baby off her back
3) Swing -  resembling the gentle sway of movement in the womb
4) Shhhh - loud shushing sounds right in the baby's ear
5) Sucking - stimulates the calming reflex

He says if you do all these things, preferably in this order, the baby will stop crying.

This book really helped us. I have to say the swaddle was the most helpful addition to our lives. After teaching my husband how to do it (the book shows a super tight way to do this), we started to swaddle our baby every night. She slept amazingly well - almost too well as I wanted her to still nurse 2 - 3 times per night. (I know, what a horrible problem to have!)

I would highly recommend this book to any new parent. Some of it is repetitive, so you can skip those parts. But overall, Dr. Karp enlightens us in a sensitive and loving way. I admire books that encourage parents to hold their babies as much as possible. It just makes sense!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Breastfeeding in Public

For the past eight months (yes, my baby is exactly 8 months old today! I'm going to sound like everyone else, but where does time go?), I have breastfed my baby whenever she needs it. Whether it be at a park, at a coffee shop, or at Target, she is never denied food just because we're in a public place. While I don't see any reason why breastfeeding in public should cause controversy, it does! Women are given looks, that raised eye brow, and even told to go somewhere else to "do that."

Thankfully, I have been spared anything embarrassing except a look here or there. I always feel very confident in my decision to put my baby's needs first. Even though I don't think breastfeeding is dirty, indecent, or offensive, I still take precautions to make every feeding session with my baby as discreet as possible so that others are comfortable. Not to boast or anything about how amazing my people-sensing skills are (haha), but I can tell when people are uncomfortable, and it then makes me uncomfortable. But if I know I'm doing everything I can to help the situation, then it's simply their turn to deal with it.

For example, when I'm around others and anytime I'm outside my home, I am very careful to cover up as much as possible. I do not think it's necessary to show extra skin and justify it by, "Well, I'm breastfeeding so it's okay!" If breastfeeding mothers want respect, we should behave respectfully. Breastfeeding is not a sexual display or use of our bodies. It is natural and beautiful. But we can only convey that message if we do it in a beautiful, and not an obnoxious, way.

When I first began, I would watch myself in a mirror to see what everyone else could see. I quickly mastered the whole process so that what everyone saw was...close to nothing! I'm not saying we should be ashamed of breastfeeding and try to hide it. But the sacredness of our bodies should be carefully kept. :)

We always hear stories about mothers who are told to "go somewhere else" to breastfeed their baby. Let's make a point to do the opposite! If you see a mom breastfeeding, approach her and say how awesome it is that she's doing it! She might see you coming and prepare a defense in her head, but I'm sure she'd appreciate the support once you give it! :)

*I just want to add that I don't think only mothers who show absolutely no skin should be the ones breastfeeding in public. I do it because that is just the way I feel comfortable. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Things are rarely as they seem...

This is more of a personal post rather than a "topic" but feel free to read anyways.

Last June, my husband and I adopted two cats from the SPCA. He picked a male kitten, totally adorable (as every kitten is). Black, with white paws. His name was Calvin. We weren't planning on getting two cats, but then I saw an all black, female cat...her name was Hazel. She was small and pretty, and we decided to bring her home too. It wasn't that Calvin was only Ian's, and Hazel was all mine, but over the year, they seemed to know who picked them. Calvin loves my husband...everything he does, it's about Ian.

Hazel never really went by Ian; she focussed her attention on me...but not in the way you'd expect. She was never a cuddler, nor did she ever want to be held. She mostly kept to herself and tried escaping out the front  door at every chance she got. Eventually, we stopped trying to keep her inside. She would come and go as she pleased. But when she did want attention, she would pick the most difficult times. She'd be all in my face while I tried doing laundry, or while washing the dishes, or while cooking on the hot stove. When my baby was born, she added a few other times to her list: when I bathed our baby, or tried laying down with her for sleep. She also seemed to know almost the exact time when our baby would be almost asleep. Then she would rush over and lick her face. (A crabby baby and a frustrated me would be the result!) Ian said she was trying to be a momma kitty and do all the momma things with me. It was cute...but not really.

The day things really turned south for Hazel was when she tried biting my baby's head. Little Olive was crying, and Hazel came right onto the couch and (I kid you not) opened her mouth onto my child, baring her teeth and all. I couldn't believe it. She tried two other times after that, but I stared at her till she went away.

I threatened to give her away, find her a new home, or surrender her to the SPCA. Sometimes she just drove me crazy! Well, as horrible as it turns out, she has a new home now. Yesterday morning, we found Hazel dead in the street right in front of our house.

I didn't know how to react at first. I tried helping my husband bury her, but he kept telling me, "Don't look at her, darling. It's really sad." After a while, I did get a look at her, and it really broke my heart. Her eyes were all gross and her body was so sad and stiff.

After she was buried, Ian and I were very upset. I cried and felt so bad for her. No matter if she was a crazy snot cat, she shouldn't have gone that way. It might have seemed at first that I didn't care about her, but I truly am sad about losing her.

Processing this grief is harder than I thought. Some people might say, "Oh, they're only cats." But those who have had to say goodbye, or never had the chance to do so, will understand.

I'm going to go take some ignatia now (thanks to the suggestion of my mom). Maybe Hazel, Mr.  Tumnus and Padme are all in cat heaven together.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pacifiers: To Use or Not To Use

Before my child was born, I was deadset against pacifiers. At the daycares, babies would drop them, spit them out, lose them, throw them, and even steal them from each other.  Worst of all, some would still cry with the pacifiers in their mouths. I used to think, What is the point of these things? The babies just want their mommas.

So I told myself and others I didn't want my baby having one. Besides, I was planning on breastfeeding and didn't want there to be nipple confusion or any replacement when she might need to eat. I decided I would be the one to pacify her whenever needed. This worked really well for nearly two months. But then... as she grew out of the newborn age, she stopped sleeping all the time. This included not sleeping in the car. And we found out she didn't particularly like the car. And boy, did she scream.

My husband and I used to take turns reaching back and letting her suck on our pinky finger. We said, though I don't know why we thought it made sense, "It's better than a pacifier!"

Well, after a few days of sore shoulders and one-hand driving, I realized maybe I was being silly. I had three choices. 1) I could let her scream and stick to my guns about not using a pacifier. This would mean risking my attention as a driver and somehow keeping myself from becoming upset, or 2) I could continue to reach back, still putting us all at risk in that awkward position, or 3) I could give her the pacifier and be done with it.

So we did. I have to admit, it was great. It also called for an ounce of humility as some people gloated over us "caving in." But I learned that I couldn't always be there to scoop her up and nurse her, as I had thought before she was born. I learned that sometimes you need to be flexible. For me, it's was not worth the bragging rights of, "We never use a pacifier for our child" when that child was screaming bloody murder in the back seat. She's not happy, I'm not happy, so what's the point?

Since then, the pacifier use has grown a bit more. (I'll go into that more in a few posts about sleep/naptime.) Sometimes I worry about her getting too attached to it or weaning her from it, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. At this age, my baby doesn't always need pacifier in the car. She'll talk to herself, play with it, wave it around, etc. It gives me a little hope that she's only using it when she needs it. It hasn't become associated with being in the car. For now, it's helping us maintain peace and happiness...and at this time in our lives, why wouldn't we want that?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why the "Cry It Out" method is stupid.

If there's one thing I don't understand, it's when people advocate "cry it out". I don't just mean at bedtime; I mean anytime my baby cries. "Oh, she's fine. She'll learn. She's okay. She doesn't need anything." Drives me crazy! Here is why I don't ever let my baby cry it out:

When I was going to school for Early Childhood, we learned about Erikson's developmental stages. Our teachers made us realize how important these were. For infants, there is the stage of Trust vs Mistrust. It means that babies should be held, responded to, and comforted as much as possible to learn that their caretakers, their environment, and their world are worthy of trust. Babies who are respected and responded to are secure and view their world as dependable and reliable. 

I've had experience in day cares since I was 17 years old, and I worked as a teacher in several infant rooms since then. Time and time again, it was obvious that the rooms where the teachers were affectionate, responsive, and sensitive, the babies were happier. In NYS, the ratio of babies to teachers is 4:1, so unfortunately, yes, they still cried. But only when they had to. 

Probably the biggest reason I cannot let my baby cry it out is because of my years spent in day cares. There were many times where I had no choice but to let babies cry while I fed or held another. It tore at my heart. They would be on the ground or in the crib looking around, crying, waiting for someone to hold them. Unfortunately, there were days when I had to make myself not care. Just to get through the day and stay sane. But like I said, I had no choice...sometimes I would be alone with four babies. Othertimes, there would be a teacher with me, and we'd have eight babies! 

Now I'm a mother of one child, and I'm so blessed to be a stay-at-home mom. I consider this my full-time job, so I try to do it well. When my baby was first born, I held her all the time. People would say, "She'll never want you to put her down." (Just a side note - she is almost 8 months now and loves to play on the ground with her toys. She can entertain herself for a very long time. Sometimes she even wants me to put her down because she'd rather be independent.)

Other people would say, "Sometimes you just have to let them cry." This made me so sad. Why, when I have nothing else to do, when this is my job, when I want to pick her up, would I ever let her sit there (or lay there) by herself, crying? Some people said, "It's good for their lungs." ...But what about their little brains? What about all the stress hormone, cortisol, that floods their brains when they're crying? What about their elevated body temperature and increased heart rate? What about the sad or scared look on their faces when no one picks them up? 

Now, I understand sometimes you have no choice. There are times when my husband isn't home and I just need to shower. Sometimes she cries. There are times when I have to put her down while I switch the laundry, drain the noodles, put on my make-up, brush my teeth, whatever. And there have even been times when we're both exhausted at the end of the night and all I can do is lay down and cuddle with her while she cries. 

But that's different. I'm not trying to "train" her...which is what I feel the whole "cry it out" method wants to do. "Show her who's boss. You be the one in control. She can learn. She's fine. She's okay."  

No, I'll show you who's boss. I'm the mom. I'm in charge. She's my baby. Now let me have her back. Thank you!


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Breastfeeding: Why I Love It

There are so many reasons why I love to breast feed. Where do I even start? I'll start with five.

1) It's inexpensive! I priced Enfamil formula at $23 per container. There are 29 servings in each. Considering that a young baby needs (approximately) 6-8 feedings a day, that container will last (again, approximately) only 3-4 days. That's about $60 per week, and $240 per month. After the first year of a child's life, formula will have cost you over $2,800. Now, of course, feedings become less frequent as the child grows older, and there are generic brands at about half the price. So you spend only $1,400. Phew...I could take a nice vacation with that money. ;)

2) It's always warm, always ready, always right there. No matter where I am or how busy things are, if my baby is hungry, she can eat. Nursings are not only used to fill her tummy, but to calm her down too. The sucking sensation immediately can calm a cranky moment or soothe away the pain of a bump.

3) It makes me relax. Sometimes when the laundry's piled up, the dishes need to be done, and I should be getting dinner ready - I get stressed out. And on top of that, my baby is growing bored with her toys and rubbing her eyes. Taking her in my arms and nursing her gives me no choice but to take a moment and relax. Then the hormones kick in...that amazing bonding hormone, oxytocin. I feel so loving and protective over my baby. I don't mind that other duties are calling my stress goes away and my baby is happy!

4) I have always fed my baby when she needs it. Some people call this "on demand" but that makes it sound like you have no control and your child is this headstrong, little tyrant. Instead, when people asked me, "Is she on a schedule?" I liked saying, "Yes, whenever she needs it." This way, I'm not looking at the clock and counting the ounces and worrying about when she last ate. Some parents feel very strongly about scheduling and keep their babies strictly to it. While I think that's silly and stressful, I understand that they have their reasons for it. I just hope that when they get a little hungry and want a snack, their spouse tells them, "Nope! You just ate - wait two more hours and then you can eat a full meal."

4a) Oh - why I like feeding my baby whenever she needs it: because it makes sense! If she cries, I can calm her by nursing. A simple feeding can make her happy once again, put her to sleep if she is a little tired, but above all, it's gentle, responsive parenting. In the womb, babies never have to worry about being hungry or asking to be fed. They just are. When they're born, it seems so cruel to me to withhold a little (or big) feeding just because we think they shouldn't be hungry again.

5) I think most mothers who breastfeed understand just the absolute love of it. Feeling their babies close to them, playing with their fingers, touching their hair, talking to them, reading them a book, cleaning their ears (hey, I do it sometimes, haha), and just cherishing those moments. My baby girl has started to reach up and touch my face when she nurses. At night when we're in bed, she'll run her fingers up and down my arms. It tickles and it's so adorable.

I'll write more reasons later!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fear of Childbirth, Fear of Nature

When I was expecting, people always asked me, "So - are you getting nervous?" My answer was always, No. Not yet. In the beginning, I figured this confidence would diminish as time went by. Maybe the fact that birth was so far away made it simpler to be positive about. But as I began reading about pregnancy, childbirth, and the natural way, I realized there honestly wasn't anything to be nervous about!

Birth without ViolenceThe first book I ever read when starting my own research was "Birth Without Violence" by Frederick Leboyer. This was an incredible read. His beautiful, poetic, style of writing opened my eyes to a different view of birth: from the baby's perspective. It helped me imagine what I wanted my baby to experience her first few minutes after being born. I didn't want her to be spanked or jostled so she would cry. I didn't want her to be wiped or suctioned right away. I didn't want her handled by several different people before coming to my arms. It also showed me the importance of cord blood and how premature clamping might do more harm than help.

It was here I decided it was possible to bring a child into this world peacefully and calmly. We can let children be born in a way we would want to be welcomed into this world. If we simply slowed down and treated this event with sensitivity, then we would be respecting this baby as a human being, not just a 'thing'.

"We are all so quick to blame Nature, 
when actually she's so full of love and wisdom, 
and it is only we who are too blind to see." 
- F. Leboyer

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Left to Tell

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
If you're looking for a powerful book, I strongly recommend Left to Tell. It is so well written and beautiful, that there is no way anyone could finish reading this and not be moved in some way.

I'll admit, though I'm ashamed to say, I didn't know much about the Rwandan genocide until I opened this book. It surprised me so much that the story wasn't about two countries. Not even two separate races. But rather, two tribes within one country. Their own government was encouraging the holocaust and telling the one tribe not to spare any of the other - even the woman and children.

I had to brace myself during some descriptive parts. The killers were brutal, and the stories of the babies' deaths were especially painful. But what was even more difficult to swallow was the fact that no outside country stepped in to help until the very end. And then it was the French - not the U.S.. I was so frustrated that merely 16 years ago, hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered, and we did nothing to save them. Some people say we're not supposed to use our resources to police the world. But others say it's because there's nothing over there that would benefit us. No oil or anything. (Which is why we also didn't help out with Darfur.)

But what about just protecting life? We have no problem organizing mission trips to all areas of the globe. People say our love and charity shouldn't be confined to our own borders. I agree, and I think that belief should be spread, especially when thousands of others are being senselessly murdered.

After reading the book, I held my baby for a long, long time (even though she's quite wiggly nowadays). I shuddered at the images in my mind. I hoped and prayed that if, God forbid, something like that ever happened in our country, that the rest of the world would not ignore us.

(Sorry for such a downer post, but we need to put things in perspective every once in a while.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Midwives are free in NYS!

This past week, there was a huge victory for all midwives (and their advocates) when a bill was passed, the Midwifery Modernization Act, that allows midwives to practice without a written practice agreement with a physician. 

This was one of the first bills I was actively involved in. I called, wrote, and e-mailed those in charge. Sometimes I felt it was a waste of time. But I wanted to make my voice heard, and in the end, it really made a difference! People complain about the way things are. Others take action to change them, and I am so inspired by those people who did just that. We were able to make a difference as a democracy.

Speaking of a democracy, I know there are a lot of people out there who do nothing but find fault with the way the world is, or more specifically, the way the U.S. is. I know there is a lot that could and should be changed; no country is perfect by any means. And to that I say, get off your computer and start taking action. Things happen because people can make them happen. In our country, we are given the right of free speech, the right to life, the right to practice (or not practice) whichever religion we want.

Defend and live out those rights. Be thankful for the people who gave you them. Inform yourself wisely so you can build a solid, mature opinion about issues.

Pray for our authority figures in Washington, and all over the country - that they can lead us in the way of righteousness. Pray for those in the armed forces - that they may be safe while giving up life as they know it to serve and defend us all. Pray the civilians  - that we may never take our freedom for granted.

Happy Fourth of July!
Happy Birthday, America!
God bless the U.S.A. :)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Business of Being Born

I think people should see this movie, mostly because it is bold and eye-opening. But also because it tells the truth.
When I told people about our decision to home birth, some of them would respond very negatively. I don't mean in an unkind way, but in a very pessimistic way. They would bring up the safety factors and tell me scary stories of so-and-so's birth, and how if she hadn't been in a hospital, the baby and mother would have died. I think it's highly insensitive for any woman to tell birth horror stories to someone exploring their options. "It's safter to be in a hospital because you could bleed to death" or "It's better if you're in a controlled environment in case the baby is under distress and you need a c-section."

I'm not saying there aren't mother and infant deaths during birth, or even problems,  but I am saying tons of them can be prevented.

The thing is, not every pregnancy is meant to be at home. There are a whole list of conditions that prevent women from choosing a home birth. But if none of those are present, there's no reason to treat every pregnancy like it's high-risk. And that's what seems to happen a lot of times in hospitals. I've heard many stories where procedures are done unnecessarily when everything is going fine.

For example, I know a great lady who was in labor with her first baby for 1.5 hours. Yes, seriously! She was only in the hospital 25 minutes before the baby was born. There was no time to do anything but push.  Well, at least that's what she thought. After the birth, she found out that the nurse had given her pitocin through the IV.

Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone that causes uterine contractions. Pitocin is used to do one of two things: 1) start labor and/or 2) speed up labor.

Now, does it sound like this woman needed pitocin? Absolutely not! Nobody knows why she was given it. But it was...without her consent or even her knowledge.

I'm not saying every birth in a hospital has something horrible happening with it. But I think a lot of hospital staff need to learn that unless there is a problem during the birth process, don't treat it like one. 

That's why having a home birth, or at least a midwife, can make all the difference. And yes, things can go wrong during birth. That's not to be denied. But my belief is that, when something does go wrong, then take action. Birth is a natural process of life, not a medical procedure. Treating it with the expectation that something horrible is about to happen is silly. Every time we get into our car, something could go wrong. Someone could get into an accident. But does that mean we should only ever drive to the hospital? Or only drive when an ambulance is right there with us? No, it means we learn about driving, we drive defensively, we wear our seat belts, we don't talk on our cell phones or drive under any influences. We concentrate on what we're doing.

That's how I feel about birth. With great care, birth doesn't have to be this looming, dooming experience. It can be beautiful. :)

Friday, July 02, 2010

Ina May's Guidance

During one of my prenatal visits with my midwife, her assistant let me borrow a fantastic book.

The reason I think this is such a profound piece of work is because it's written based on years of experience and thousands of births. The first half of the book is made up of birth stories written by women who were under the care of midwives at "The Farm." I read every single one. I focussed on the womens' emotions and how they handled the stages of labor. It gave me great strength to know if they all could do it, so could I.

The second half is Ina May's advice, wisdom and common sense. She talks about the anatomy of the female body, the natural process of labor and delivery, and how birth is meant to go smoothly. Only under special and rare circumstances are interventions needed. It was reassuring to know that what I wanted for my own birth experience wasn't uncommon or extraordinary. I just wanted what was natural!

I started talking about natural childbirth with my family, and whoever would listen. I thought to myself, Why didn't I hear more about this at the doctor's office? When were they going to tell me my body was perfectly designed to birth? At what point in my pregnancy were they going to calm my anxieties and assure me I had nothing to worry about? 

I was thankful for the eye opener! 

Thursday, July 01, 2010


There are so many decisions to make once you become a parent! And they start right of them is picking a "method" for childbirth. Practically everyone I knew recommended the Lamaze method for childbirth. I looked into it but liked the Bradley method better. Still, I didn't know what to go with. I was actually standing in Borders with two books in my hand, trying to decide which method to read about first, when my midwife called. Later in the conversation she told me about hypnobirthing. I took one look at the book and decided to go for it.

What I liked about this book was how much sense it made! It explained the science behind everything: the fight or flight response during labor, the contractions- I mean, surges, and how oxygen is the most important thing the body needs to deal with the pain. It went deeply into three different kinds of breathing, visualizations, and other peaceful relaxation techniques.

Another reason I liked the book is because it made birth sound very easy.

Oh yes, naive little me...thinking I could whiz through the process with a short, easy labor.

But in a way, I'm thankful for that mindset. I never once stressed about the thought of having a baby. I kept thinking, I can totally do this. I can handle the pain. 

And in the end, I did! I won't go into the birth story here, but honestly, it was a great experience!