Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Doing What is Best

I did it all for the leche, the leche.

Well, more accurately, I did it all (am doing it all) for Ebba.  Pumping at 2am.  Setting alarms every 2-3 hours to feed her in case she -- or we -- don't wake up.  Feeding her as often and as long as she wants, and then still having to top up with a bottle (while I pump...again).  Spending tons of money on things we aren't even sure will work -- the teas and the tinctures and the breast shields and nipple shields and supplementary tubes (for supplementing right at the breast).

After my last post on breastfeeding, so many women (friends, aunts, cousins, teachers) came out to tell me their stories of not having enough milk early on, or ever.  Some of these women supplemented, some didn't need to, but all of them struggled.  Disappointingly, though, one of the main themes in many of the stories of those who did supplement with formula (or switched to formula all together) was how awful they were treated by other women for their choice.

The fact is, and everyone and their grandmother will tell you this, breast is best.  It provides the baby with antibodies to boost his immune system.  It's specialized to give all the nutrition a baby needs.  It's easier on babies' tummies (uh, duh, their tummies were made to digest that stuff.)  It prevents obesity, diabetes, and a whole host of other ailments later in life.  It changes to meet your baby's changing needs.  It helps mum's uterus contract after birth, and even helps prevent cancer in the mum.

Well, okay, maybe no one's grandma is going to tell you that, because most of our grandmas used formula without thinking twice.  It was en vogue then, and the breast was considered a little taboo, as natural as it is.  And, while "everyone" is right about the major benefits of breastmilk over formula, that whole generation that was raised on formula?  Most of them turned out okay.

But, of course, we all want what is best for our babies, which is why I'm writing this at 2:30 in the morning with a milking machine attached to my chest to hopefully increase my supply so Ebba gets 60, 80, or even 100% of her nutrition from me, instead of the 25% we're at now.  But it's also why I decided to give Ebba formula, as I discussed before.  I couldn't give Ebba everything she needed just from my breast.  And she was suffering because of that.  It wasn't an easy decision, but in my case, it isn't "breast is best" but "breast and whatever will feed Ebba is best."

I talked before about "The Guilt We Give Ourselves," but, as one of my readers pointed out to me, that isn't the only kind of guilt we get.  Mums who use formula can often be persecuted by the extreme breastfeeding crowd.  They are made to feel "less than," or even to think that they haven't tried hard enough.  Let me tell you, most mums who try to increase supply and then have to supplement try very hard.  We are all jealous of you ladies who have bosoms of abundance! :)  We aren't slacking or lazy.  We work harder than anyone.  In my opinion, mothers should support other mothers' decisions as long as they are for the good of the baby.

Yesterday, I attended a La Leche League meeting with little Ebba, my boobs, and a bottle of formula.  I was actually a bit hesitant to go, because I pictured a room full of hardcore breastfeeders all browbeating about the demonic presence of formula among us.  But it wasn't like that at all.  There were other mothers who had supplemented, and others who were currently supplementing.  There were women with tiny babes who were having weight gain issues because their supply was low.  And, of course, there were hardcore breastfeeders there, but they weren't browbeating.  They were commiserating.  They, too, had had supply issues early on.  And the ones who didn't still shared their ideas for increasing supply or improving latching.  And no one flinched when I took out my bottle of formula.  The leader of the group, when I talked to her later, was like "Whatever!  Of course you have to feed your baby.  If she isn't fed, she won't be strong enough to take anything from the breast!  You do what you gotta do."  I came home yesterday feeling better than I had in awhile.  And since the meeting, my milk yields have been higher.  Not hugely so, but still noticeable.

It's true, what my reader said.  There is a lot of guilt thrown on women who have trouble breastfeeding, so much of it from other breastfeeding mothers.  But this guilt tossing isn't helpful.  Stress is one of the leading causes of low milk supply, so why stress out mums who are already feeling bad?  The best thing to do is to support them and surround them with understanding.  That way, hopefully they (we) can relax and feed our babies as we want to.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far -- you know who you are! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On the Topic of Babble Neglect

So, I know I began this blog with the intention of making it cover two subjects: motherhood and speech pathology topics.  This is still my intent.  However, as some of you may have noticed, there have been many posts about motherhood and not so many (okay, none) on the Speech Pathology side of things.  I'm sure most of you can surmise why this might be (hello, I have a 3 week old. :) ), but I thought I should explain myself anyway.  And for those wondering, there probably won't be any speech pathology entries for awhile. :)  Here's why:

Recently I read an article from Brain Child magazine about the "Mother Brain" (written by Leanna James) that grows alongside a mum's normal brain as the baby grows inside the mum.  This brain, says the author, "lives in a different time zone, at once much slower and much faster than the 'regular' one."

My mother brain doesn't process speech pathology right now, or anything other than mothering.  Before becoming a mother, I thought I would dread this, and truth be told, occasionally I do.  In the article, James describes the clash like this:

"And then someone asks me a question, and I must summon my powers of language and logic.  My other brain revels in this sort of thing.  It loves to classify, to analyze, to approve or disapprove, and to describe the entire process in streams of words.  [...]  I open my mouth to hold forth, but mother-brain answers instead of me, and what comes out is ... very little.  Sometimes nothing."
For the past few weeks, this type of situation has plagued me.  Not that I have a bazillion colleagues or friends asking me difficult, non motherly questions, but I just find I can't think properly anymore.  Every time I try to think,  I think Ebba Ebba Ebba, like this little hum inside my head instead of real thoughts.

But, reading James' article, I realized that giving in to mother-brain is much less than traumatic and much more that magical.  Another favourite quote:

"I try to explain [motherhood], but it doesn't come out right, somehow.  It's incredible, I tell my friends, anxious to share the news.  My daughter cried, my daughter pooped, my daughter looked at me and laughed.  I hear my own words and think, is that all you have to say?
"But wait, the mother-brain protests.  Worlds within worlds unfolded in front of your eyes, universes the size of a pea appeared in your palm!  Tell them about that.  Tell them about [my daughter's] gaze, how there's nothing to compare with that."

I could keep quoting the whole blog long.  The article was amazing, really, and reminded me to be proud and happy to be a mom of such an amazing little princess.  But, that would just be boring.  Instead I'll let my mother brain take over and I'll go snuggle my little bundle right now.  Because, after all, what is more important than that?


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Guilt We Give Ourselves

My mother apologizes.  A lot.  To the point where get mad at her for apologizing and snap at her.  To which she replies, "Sorry, sorry!"

I didn't realize this was a mom thing until three weeks ago when I became a mom.  Everything that bugs my little bunny, from a wet diaper to hunger to something as small as a wrinkled blanket under her back, I find myself going, "Sorry, baby!  So sorry.  Silly mummy messed up."  Why is it that moms assume every little thing is their fault?

Probably because in the early days, when baby depends on mom for every little thing, even play and sleep, if something is upsetting, it probably IS mom's fault.  At least, it's her responsibility to figure out the problem and rectify it, usually with a newborn screaming in her ear.

And there are plenty of things we have to feel guilty over that are way bigger than a wrinkled blanket or wet diaper.  The worst kinds are things that are/were ongoing, so when they are finally discovered, we have the luxury of examining the whole past month (or three weeks in my case) and lamenting what we should have done differently.  My current guilt-fest is feeding.  I wasn't going to write about this in the blog yet, as I'm still coming to terms with all that has happened myself.  After such a perfect birth, I thought everything else would come perfectly to me too.  But, surprise surprise, that was not the case!  Being a perfect mom is impossible.  I knew this was true for everyone else, but I wasn't everyone else, was I? :)  It turns out, I am.

I'm going to share this, even though it's still kind of fresh and raw for me because 1: I think it will be cathartic, 2: I think it will help me connect with other mums who have had similar experiences -- because I now know there are plenty, and 3: If it can help other new mums to either avoid what happened to me or to feel better about it if they're going through the same thing, then I will be happy. :)

It all started on Day 6.  Well, no, actually it started right from the beginning when I was so high from the birthing that I didn't pay attention to my first breastfeeding lesson.  It was natural and normal, right, so baby and I would just be able to do it, right?  No.  As it turns out, breastfeeding takes a bit of skill, a bit of practice, and a bit of perseverance.  Even a bit of planning.  I didn't have any of these things right off the bat, even though I had taken a BF class before Ebba's birth.  It was like all that information went in one ear and out the other.

So, for days 1-6, I was feeding however I could -- probably shoving the boob in baby's mouth unceremoniously, and definitely not waking her for feedings (a few times she actually slept up to 5 hours.  Oh, hello Guilt, there you are!).  I must have had a terrible latch because my nipples were a painful mess, and as it turns out, Ebba wasn't getting a whole lot of food.  Bad mommy.

On Day 6, at her second weigh in, this fact was discovered and my midwife and David jumped into action...while I turned into a blubbering mess of "What do you mean I can't feed my baby?" and "I made so many irreparable mistakes!"  All the stress and guilt probably did nothing for my milk supply, so other new mums who read this, take note.  I know your hormones will tell you to sniffle and moan if this ever happens to you, sniffling and moaning does not help anyone, least of all your baby.  Pick yourself up and do what you can to give your baby food and to help your milk come in.

Which, eventually is what I tried to do.  We started pumping, and we supplemented my meagre supply with friends' breastmilk.  (Thank GOD for my friends Kris and Candace who were willing to bring over frozen milk!)  The sniffling didn't stop there, of course.  Some late nights when David was feeding my baby someone else's milk while I pumped a measly 15mL of my own, I would turn all weepy again.

Sidenote: For the record, the amount you pump is no indication of how much your baby is getting from you.  The best way to tell this is to do a pre and post feed weigh in.  Some great information can be found at Jack Newman's website and the Kellymom website.

Now, to continue my story.  As I learned more about my latch and how to tell if baby was feeding properly, I started to feel more confident.  Also, probably, driven by the dwindling donated breastmilk supply, I started to decrease Ebba's supplements.  At our next weigh in on Day 16, Ebba looked to be doing quite well!  So, (Here's another part where that Guilt character pops in again), I continued to decrease the supplements more and more until she was getting almost none of her food that way and all from my breast.  Which is the goal, right?  Well, yes, as long as there's enough there.

In my case, there still wasn't.  On day 21, Ebba's 3 week birthday, we discovered she had actually lost weight, almost an oz from her previous weight.

This.  Sucked.  That was yesterday.  Today we bought formula to supplement with, as our donated milk ran out this afternoon.  This was difficult for me.  I never wanted to give my baby formula.  Remember, breastfeeding problems are something other mums experience.  I was going to be the perfect mum.  How could I be perfect if I was giving my baby some artificial stuff instead of my own tailor-made milk?

This is where I had to be hit in the head with a brick.  Well, fortunately not for real.  But suddenly I kind of woke from my "woe is me" stupor and realized -- what kind of mum doesn't feed her child enough?  What kind of mum focuses on her own breastfeeding woes instead of doing whatever she can to make sure her baby is growing and healthy?  Not a perfect one.

So, we got the formula.  I am still counting on my milk to come gushing in one of these days, and I'm working really hard to make sure that happens, but in the meantime I'm also working really hard to make sure my baby gets fed.

And, lastly, I'm working really hard to let go of the Guilt that has hovered over me through this whole situation.  The "I wish I had done this," and "Why didn't I do that?"

I'm sure I'll have enough opportunities in the future to feel guilty about all kinds of crazy parental things.  But I won't let this be one of them, because it doesn't help.

My mom told me that if she had me to raise all over again, she would do it almost the same.  The only thing she would change is that she would worry way, way less.  Hopefully I can learn from her mistakes.

And hopefully someone else can learn from mine. :)  If you're a new or expecting mum, here are some things that I no longer feel guilty about not doing.  Learn from them!

  • really focus on your first breastfeed with your new, minutes old babe.  It is so rewarding and important (I imagine. heh)
  • wake your baby up to feed every 3 hours!  Sleep is for when you're dead.  Your baby needs food.
  • if your milk supply seems low, let baby breastfeed as often as possible
  • if your nipples hurt, change your latch!  Breastfeeding is pleasant, as I am now finally learning.  It should not be painful.
  • plan ahead for where and how you'll breastfeed.  Picture yourself doing it often.  Come to terms with that early on.
  • and, relax.  Being relaxed is apparently one of the best things you can do for your milk and your baby.  Don't fret like I did!
I'll write more in depth on this issue in the future, I'm sure.  But for now, I hope some people can benefit from my story!  Now, off to breastfeed.  Baby's waking. :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What New Parents Need

It's taken me awhile, and a minor feeding/weight gain crisis to start openly accepting help from friends and family.  My birth went so well, and I felt so great afterwards that I figured the hard part was over.  All I had to do now was snuggle my little bundle, take her for walks to see outside, and relax, right?  And, I could still take care of the laundry and groceries and keep the house fairly tidy, of course.

Wrong!  It turns out, as I should have known all along, that birth was the easy part!  I never could have imagined how much responsibility it would be to have a baby -- it's obvious, and I knew it would be a lot of responsibility.  But when it suddenly dawned on me that this little person depended on me for EVERYthing, it was a bit of an eye opener.  Without me she can't eat, go to the bathroom (oh, she can poo and pee, but then she'd just be lying in it forever), entertain herself, or even fall asleep, really.

So, not surprisingly, parents of newborns find remarkably few hours in the day to take care of themselves and the house around them.  This is where friends and family can come in.  Recently, I saw this blog post by a well respected midwife, and it inspired me to think of what we need/needed after the birth.  I believe she's referring to right after birthing, but I think this list can apply weeks or even a few months afterwards, especially if, like we did, a family doesn't take too many visitors in the first weeks.

Below is my own, personal version of the list...a little late in coming.  I think every new parent, in that first blissful week after birth when you still think you have time, should make their own, family-specific Needs/Wants list for friends and family who want to help out.  The list can obviously be modified as new needs/wants come up.

Ebba's Family List

  • Come over and tidy up a bit.  Start with the obvious things that don't beg the question "where should I put this?"  That question is sometimes more stressful than you can imagine and often gains the response, "Hang on, I'll do it myself in just a sec."  Things like putting the shoes on the shoe rack and putting all of Ebba's toys in one place (like in her bassinet) are good places to start.  Or, if you notice a bag of groceries out, just unpacking that can help.
  • After that's done, you can ask if there's laundry to be folded or diapers to wash.  We have instructions for diaper washing, so it's super easy!  (don't worry, you don't have to touch any poo at all.)
  • Then you could probably ask some of those "where does this go?" questions.  If we say "I don't know" that probably means it doesn't go anywhere yet and it'll just have to stay where it is.
  • Come over, bring a meal, heat it up, and leave unless we ask you to stay.
  • Text us for a grocery list in the morning and bring us groceries for lunch/dinner.  We might even let you stay awhile and hold the baby. :)
  • Ask Daddy (or whoever isn't holding a baby at that time) to show you how to dry and assemble the breast pump.  Then, next time, dry and assemble the breast pump on your own. ;)
  • Bring over a trashy magazine or easy, cheesy novel for mum to read while pumping
  • Take out the trash
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Take out the recycling
  • Bring flowers (I didn't think this would make my day so much until my sister in law did it.  Totally brightened the house, and my mood!!  Thanks, Jen!)
The last main thing is, stick around for 2 hours, 3 tops.  Having guests is tiring, even when they're doing everything! :)

Thanks to all the friends who have already come by and helped out, or offered to come by and help out when I said "no."  :)  You are all awesome!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Baby Naming: "How'd you come up with Ebba?"

"I like my name!!"

Someone asked about the process we took in naming our baby, and I think it’s a good question!  It was actually more complicated than I had anticipated.  As a writer, I’m always going through names and picking out ones I like, different combinations of first, middle, and last names, looking at name meanings.  So, I figured, how hard could it be, right?

Well, it turns out, naming my own baby was sliiiiightly more complicated than naming a character in a book.  :)  There are so many things to keep in mind!  For example:
  • does the name sound good with our last name?  (And, the added confusion in our case of which last name we would give her!)
  • is the name unique enough to be interesting, but not so outlandish that people will look at us (or her!) funny?
  • does the name lend itself well to bullying?  For example, we both liked the name Pia (peeya), but that has obvious drawbacks!  Also,I wanted to use the middle name of Stark because it means strong in Swedish, but my husband was adamant that she’d be teased as Stark Naked...he was probably right.
  • should we give a middle name?  And if we do give a middle name, should it be a family name...and from whose family should it come?
  • is the name easily spelled and easily pronounced in both of our languages (my husband is Swedish.)  For example, we both liked the name Lilia (pronounced LeelYA, and actually spelled Lilja), but every person we told it to pronounced it slightly different, and the spelling has its obvious issues.
  • And there were many other considerations too, like meaning of the name, and if one of us just plain didn’t like the sound of it.  Like, I wasn't totally keen on the name Freya, but not for any particular reason.

There are also a ton of online resources for baby naming, all telling you what to name or not to name your baby.  For example, there are the top baby name lists, websites that tell you the meaning and origin of names, and even different tools to help you name your baby.  I have to say, none of these helped me at all!  

Here's what our naming story was.  Unfortunately, it's more of a fluke than a process, so I'm not sure how much it would help anyone else working on naming their baby.  Before we even got pregnant, I used to run name ideas past my husband just for fun, so we both sort of knew the sort of names we both liked.  (Oddly enough, the name we ended up with, Ebba Irene, didn’t factor in any of those early conversations...or any conversations up until a few weeks before Ebba’s arrival.

Once we got pregnant, our initial process was actually to look through this “name day” calendar we’d gotten from Sweden, where each day has a name.  So, yes, that's 365 Swedish names I went through.  :)  I made a list of all the ones I liked best and then we spent time narrowing and narrowing it down.  It was not an exact science.  Frequently, a name that had been taken off the list (like Lilia) somehow would find its way back on the list later when we realized we really DID like it.

Anyway, by the eighth month, we had a list that we were both relatively comfortable with.  We liked as first names: Elin, Lilia, Bianca, and Freya.  And we had a few middle names we were tossing around as well (still including Stark!)  

Then, a few weeks later, David brought up the name Ebba.  I’m not sure how it popped into his head, but it’s a fairly common name in Sweden.  (Though it's not even ranked in the States!)  I hated it at first.  It sounded bland and kind of masculine, and a little too much like Abba for my liking. :)  Also, I was concerned people would mishear us and think her name was Eva (a fear that I now know was well-founded!  But I don’t care.)

As the weeks wore on and David kept testing out the name Ebba, I realized that I did quite like it.  It had a nice ring to it -- not too girlie, but still feminine enough for a girl.  It sounded kind of strong (so I could drop that Stark middle name to convey strength!).  And, low and behold, we found it sounded kind of nice with Irene, which is a recurring name in my family.

We hadn’t definitely decided until baby came, but for the final weeks and days leading up to her birth, we pretty much called her Ebba.  Then when she came and we saw her strong brow and shock of red hair, we knew right away that we had made the right choice.  I’m glad we hadn’t officially settled on a name until we met her, though.  Because I think the baby will sort of "tell" you what names work.  Like if she'd come out all dark and more feminine, I might have gone for Lilia instead.

So, that's our naming story!

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Birth Story - Part 3 Final Details

Here is part 3 of my birth story, mostly just little details that didn't make it into the final draft of the story itself.  Please feel free to ask any questions!

Other little tidbits I think it’s helpful to know

  • Some puking or pooing can be expected, especially during the pushy phases.  Apparently not everyone experiences this, but it was helpful to me to know that it does happen sometimes so I wasn’t grossed or freaked out when it did.  And, according to my team, birthing professionals are very used to this kind of thing and aren’t squeamish about it.  It’s important not to hold back.  Just picture things opening for your baby and try not to hold any tension.
  • Also don’t be afraid to use nipple stimulation to intensify the contractions when you need to.  It can be very effective, and the birthing professionals are used to it, so don’t be shy!
  • Eating and drinking during the birthing time helped me a lot too.  First, you get VERY thirsty during birthing.  And second, you really need your energy!  Finally, I think it helped me to remain calm and relaxed, as it was such a normal thing in such an extraordinary time.
  • We didn’t tell anyone when my birthing time began.  This was mostly just because it all went so quickly!  We actually had intended to.  However, looking back, I’m glad we didn’t, as it allowed us to take as short or as long as we needed and not worry about getting news to anyone.
  • Lastly, the decorating of the birthing rooms.  Before Ebba came, I printed out a lot of my favourite affirmations from the Hypnobabies program, things like “My body was made to give birth naturally,” and “My job is to simply relax and allow my baby’s birth to happen.”  I decorated these with some colourful swirlies and hung them in the two rooms we had designated for the birthing.  In addition, I put up some photos of myself when I was a baby, in my grandparents’ old living room with the whole family around.  They served partially as examples that this birth is connected to all that came before, as well as to remind me of a place where I felt completely relaxed and at peace (my grandparents’ living room with football on the telly and family all around. :) 

The only (tiny) regrets I have, that someone else might want to learn from

  • I thought the first stage of birthing would take longer, since I was a first time mum.  Because of this, I didn’t really rest right away.  I figured, I’d just go about my day and then go to bed early, like around 8 (the birthing waves started around 4.)  However, by 8, the waves were to intense to allow much dozing and sleeping, so I went into the birthing time with less energy than I probably should have.  My advice?  No matter what time of day it is when you feel those first little waves, take a nap!!!  Let your partner ready the house and everything else while you sleep.
  • Most of the post-birth photos of me are of my first attempts at breastfeeding, because I was very motivated to get her to latch.  However, there are some fantastic ones of her and Daddy just relaxing and looking at each other lovingly.  I wish I had taking more of a moment to enjoy baby before I shoved a boob in her face. :) 
If you'd like to read my birth story, you can go here.  And if you're interested in how I prepared, you can look here.  

Finally, sorry there haven't been any pictures to make these blog posts more exciting!  We're waiting for a new hard drive, because our computer is full, so all baby photos are stuck on the cameras! :)  But rest assured, pictures will be forthcoming asap.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Birth Story - Part 2

Sorry for the delay in sending up Part 2!  We've been having some breastfeeding difficulties lately, so that's been taking all of our time.  We want baby to grow!  But, rest assured, there will be a breastfeeding entry coming soon as well because of this. :)

Part of my birthing team on Day 2
David, Chloe (doula), me and Ebba, Carolyn (midwife) and Carolyn's daughter

But now, without further ado, here is Ebba's birth story.

The Birth

I am going to include as many details as I can in here -- meaning I will not be holding much of my experience back.  This might make things long, or even gross, but I feel it was really helpful for me to know a lot of details of what might happen going in.  I will try to use as much of the positive Hypnobabies language as possible, but in some parts, I might use words that aren’t “sanctioned” by Hypnobabies, but only when I feel it necessary.

Little Ebba’s estimated due date was December 23, and I have to admit I had been getting a bit antsy by then.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be pregnant anymore -- I was definitely comfortable -- but I was getting so tired of everyone asking me if/when the baby was coming!  I focused on using my Hypnobabies affirmations to remind myself that Baby would come whenever she was ready, and that that would be the perfect time.  Really, my biggest fear was that I would go so long that I would have to make choices about inducing, and that I might not be strong enough to resist doctors telling me what I “should” do.  Because, even though we chose midwives, if I went to 42 weeks, it would be suggested I talk to an OB.  

Fortunately, the information and Fear Clearing from Hypnobabies, coupled with my Doula and Midwives’ support quelled those fears well enough to allow me to relax and enjoy my last week of pregnancy.  After all, my estimated “due date” was December 23, which is 40 weeks gestation exactly.  But, the average length of gestation for first time mums who do not get induced is 41 weeks and 1 day.  So I don’t know what I was so worried about. :)  (See how important being informed can be? :) )

And, that’s exactly when she was born, a week and one day after her estimated due date.  On December 30, I went out on a shopping excursion with my husband and brother in law.  We strolled around town for about 2 hours, and then, when we were walking home from the bus stop, I stopped at the bottom of the hill and said, “Oh, David, either I have to poo, or I just had a birthing wave (contraction).”  As it turned out, both were true. :)  The wave passed quickly, but still I knew it was different from the practice waves I’d had on previous days.  It was a little bit stronger, a teensy weensy bit longer, and I could feel it moving across my uterus rather than being static.

We came inside and had some food and went about the rest of our day as best we could.  We got groceries, watched an episode of Kitchen Nightmares over dinner, and I had a bath.  All the while, we intermittently timed my waves.  When they were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting a minute, we called our doula.  This was around 6:30 pm.  Chloe, our doula, told us to continue as we have been and she would call again around 9.  When she called the next time, my waves had intensified to the point where I needed to use my hypnoanesthesia and relaxation techniques.  I could feel the pressure waves wrapping to my back now.  I tried lying down, but during the waves, the pressure and discomfort increased in that position, and at the end of one, I vomited.

So I sat on my birthing ball, bent over the table while David read some of The Hobbit to me between waves.  That’s where I was at 9:30 pm, when Chloe came over to drop off the TENS machine.  I cannot recommend the TENS machine enough!  It was a lifesaver.  After that, the waves were much more manageable and we continued on, dozing and timing intermittently until around 2am.  In that time, I threw up 3 more times, and really that was the most annoying or displeasing part of the whole thing up to this point.  

David made sure I changed position, had some water and snacks, and went to the washroom regularly.  Around 1:35am, I was on the toilet having a wave when I noticed a change.  I had been vocalizing through my waves (like a breathy “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”) up to this point but suddenly my vocalization turned to “AhhhhhhhhUGH,” which signaled to me that I might be beginning to feel “pushy.”  Sure enough, with the next few waves I found the same pattern, and I felt my uterus pushing down.

I credit my Hypnobabies instructor, Jenn, with teaching me what “feeling pushy” actually sounded like.  Because I’m not sure if I would have recognized the feeling.  As it was, though, I was able to recognize it right away and call Chloe again.  

Chloe came shortly after 2am, and she sat with me.  As soon as she realized I was having involuntary pushing (all of, like, 30 seconds in), she told David to start filling the pool and calling the midwives immediately.  I tried lying on the bed again, which was better with the TENS machine, and had some more pushy waves.  Around 2:15, my water broke.  My water breaking was an interesting experience.  I was just letting my body do what it needed to do, when a much stronger wave came.  I felt a great kind of release inside and suddenly I was soaked!  

All the while, I felt a kind of calm excitement.  I knew, from the time I started feeling pushy, that I would see my baby in just a few hours.  She was definitely coming.  David and Chloe gave me enough guidance to help me through some more difficult waves, but also enough space so I could concentrate and control the intensity myself.  Often, I was left on my own, or with one of them just placing a hand on my shoulder or lower back and speaking softly.

Just before the midwife arrived, I think there was a slight problem with the pool because I could hear both Chloe and David discussing in the other room.  It worried me just a little bit, but I was able to think, “Well, if the pool doesn’t work, we can do it here on the sofabed.”  I figured, baby was coming one way or another, pool or no pool, so no use in worrying about it.

My midwife Carolyn arrived promptly, and we pretty much got right into the tub as soon as she talked to me and did a very, very quick exam on the toilet.  In the tub, pushing was so, so much easier, and I began to really feel my baby descending.  The second midwife, Terri-Lynn of Pacific Midwifery arrived then, and David got in the pool with me.

After what felt like only a short while of pushing (David said it was under an hour) Carolyn told me I could reach a finger in and feel the tip of my baby’s head.  I could!  And all her hair!  That motivated me to keep going.  I knew she was only a short way away.  I remember commenting that I felt “very full.”

The intensity increased greatly at this point, during the waves, but between waves, I was so happy and excited that I just relaxed back on David or over the side of the pool, just grinning my head off.  And, even then, I was still directing everyone around me: “Go get some tea! Have you had enough rest? How are you all doing?” etc etc.  I think at one point I might have even asked if they were enjoying themselves. :)  The atmosphere was calm and happy, and we joked and smiled the whole time.

The final hour or so of pushing was a bit more difficult.  I could feel my body getting tired, but I was still excited and happy.  I had completely given control over to my body, because I only had enough energy for that.  Only one or two times, the thought entered my head that maybe I couldn’t go on, but then I realized that that was a stupid thought, because I was in it now and only had beauty to look forward to!  

There were times when she would move forward with a wave and then slip back a bit after the wave stopped.  This was a little bit frustrating to me, and that’s, I think, when my thoughts of not being able to go on cropped up.  In these moments, I just remembered that the slower she moved, the more time my tissues had to stretch and open for her.  I pictured her head massaging my birth canal and perineum open.  And, apparently she descended in record time. :)

Once I saw her head coming more in the mirror and in a photo on the camera, I was quite driven to meet my baby.  I was able to push with the waves and then kind of hold her in place with my own muscles so the next wave could push her even further down.  I held my hands on her head and my perineum so I could feel the exact amount she moved each time.  I also used my fingers to push my perineum slowly open around her head.

Finally, I could feel myself stretching around her head, and it was halfway out!  And then, she paused!  And I yelled, “heck of a place to pause, baby!” with a laugh.  This is the only moment I really would use the word “pain.”  And, after watching my video, I could see the change in my vocalizations from pushing to “ouch!” but it was short lived. :)

As I knew it would, she started moving again.  And, before I knew what was happening, Carolyn said, “Reach down and pick up your baby, Amanda!”  And I was like “Really!?”

So I did, and she was amazing and gorgeous and looked directly at her Daddy (yeah, not mommy), right in the eyes!  Her first cries were mostly just little whimpers and snuggles, but eventually she pushed out all the mucous and gave us a good little assurance of her lung capacity. :)

After a few moments, we transitioned (carefully!) from the pool onto the sofabed in the next room, and I birthed the placenta.  I hadn’t realized how completely exhausted I was until that point, because Carolyn asked me to give a push for the placenta and try as I might, there wasn’t any push left in me!  Somehow, though, the placenta was born, and David cut the cord.  (There is a great photo of me making a grossed out face while David cuts it. :) )

Ebba was born at 5:43 am and was 9lb 2oz.  She was born without any tearing or stitches, and I credit much of that to my Hypnobabies preparation!  And, now, Ebba and Daddy and I are all very happy and healthy.  

If you are interested in how we prepared for the birth, please see Part 1 here.

Thank you for reading!

ps - some (decent!) pictures to come once we get them off the cameras!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Birth Story - Part 1

Since baby came (already 9 days ago!) I've been working on my birth story.  Over the course of my pregnancy, I've learned so much about pregnancy and birthing and met so many women who have shared their birth stories, I was very excited to share mine.  Hopefully some of the information in it will help other mums have the birthing they want!

So, without further ado, part 1!

Ebba’s Birth Story

I want to share my birth story because I think it was such an amazing experience, I can hardly not share it.  I’m proud of it, I’m proud of my husband and daughter, and I’m proud of myself.  And I want other women to know what is possible.  It’s probably bragging, at least in parts, but in my opinion, any woman who births a child -- no matter how -- should be allowed to brag about it.  It’s one of the most amazing things humans do.  

I've divided the Story into 3 parts, so this will be part 1, all about how my husband and I prepared for the birthing, because the preparation was SO important in how things ended up.  Next will come the actual story itself, and then, finally, segment 3 will be tips and tidbits that didn't make it into the story.

Preparing for birth: Choices

Our birth experience was so much what we wanted, in part I’m sure, because of some great decisions we made early on...and just wonderful things that happened as a kind of domino effect.  Our first great decision was going with midwives instead of an OB.  At the time, we didn’t even know how great a choice that was.  We did it not because of any beliefs about one or the other -- I honestly had no clue about anything at that point.  I chose midwives because my friend had just had twins, and she loved her midwives so I just went with the same ones.  Our midwives were Andrea and Carolyn from Bloom Community Midwives.

From there, everything fell into place.  My midwives caught wind that I was interested in a home birth (again, not because of any beliefs, but because my husband doesn’t drive and I was worried about transport to the hospital!).  We discussed this with the midwives, and they gave me some great resources to read about how and why to do a home birth.  (Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth was my favourite resource!)  After all the reading, I was beyond decided.  I can’t mention enough how important it is to be informed about child birth.  It helps so much during birth to know and picture what will happen.  I never had particularly negative ideas surrounding childbirth (my mum always spoke openly and positively about my own birth), but I still hadn’t realized that I could give birth in comfort and safety in my own home.  I always anticipated a kind of sterile hospital birth, full of strangers.

Once a homebirth was decided upon, we chose a prenatal class that would help us to have the most relaxing, comfortable birth we could.  Our midwives recommended Hypnobabies, a name that at first left us giggling.  But when we found the local Hypnomammas course taught by Jenn King, we knew it was right for us.  Hypnobabies is a very intense course that prepares one in every way for birthing.  I enjoyed learning about the detailed processes that go into birthing, and also enjoyed being “forced” to take at least 30 minutes a day to prepare myself mentally and emotionally.  It helped me to relax in the months leading up to the birth.  The last part of Hypnobabies that I love is how it involved the birth partner (in this case, my husband) in the preparation.  I’m sure that’s why he was so calm and helpful during my birthing time.  (a lot of things happen during birth that could freak the uninitiated out!)

The last piece that we added to our preparation was our doula, Chloe Dierkes, of Urban Doula in Vancouver.  We picked several doulas from the Hypnodoulas list and then interviewed them to see which one we gelled best with.  They were all, of course, wonderful, so our decision was about 99% gut feeling. :) Our guts chose correctly!

These are just the choices that we made so we could have the perfect birthing for us.  That doesn't mean these would be the right choices for everyone, but the point is that the more you know ahead of time, the better your birthing can be.  Take these decisions carefully!

Once I've finished this 3 part birthing story, I will address some further topics in more detail, such as why to have a doula, the difference between midwife care and OBs (at least here in Vancouver), and the issue of "estimated due dates," induction, and real gestational times.  So stay tuned!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Belly Dance

(reposted from my other blog, The Drive, at

Well, after my week-long challenge to myself (7 posts in 7 days), I thought I'd write more in the blog.  But, surprise, surprise (or maybe no surprise at all?) it just tapered off again.  My mind's been on other things, like house cleaning, cloth diapers, and due dates.

Photo Credit: Candace O'Brien

So, I decided, why not write about those things instead?  Pregnancy has been completely dominating my mind, so it should be easy to get an entry or two out of it. :)  And here we go.  Where to start.  

Today Baby has just hit her 41 week gestation mark!!  So, according to the early scan I had, I have been pregnant 41 weeks to the day.  And so far, it has been fantastic!  

Being pregnant is much different than I had expected.  I expected it to be difficult, that I'd miss my non-pregnant self and way of life.  But now, my biggest worry is that I'll miss being pregnant after baby comes!! :)  So, without further ado, I present to you what Pregnancy means to me.

Being pregnant is:

  • Feeling energized and motivated more than ever before!
  • But also taking that 2:00 pm nap without any remorse. :)
  • Being continually astounded by my own body's capabilities
  • Feeling a connection to all women throughout time everywhere.  Feeling more female than I ever had before, but also much, much stronger
  • For once, having a body that really wants to exercise and a mind and palate that really want to eat healthy
  • Knowing that I'm changing permanently, but trusting that it's all for the better.
  • Really allowing and trusting the people around me to support me 
  • Talking to strangers on the street about babies and birth and everything cute and wonderful in the world
  • Being surprisingly open to it when said strangers want to rub hands all over my belly while we talk!
  • Giggling (instead of being grossed out) when my little one pokes a foot out to one side of my belly
Of course, not all of being pregnant is sunshine and roses.  Granted, the second and third trimesters were definitely more comfortable than the first, so I've probably forgotten some of the less fun parts of it, but here are some other things it means to be pregnant.
  • Gagging mid-sentence for no apparent reason (or, more usually, because we were driving past a fast food restaurant and the odor of days-old oil)  This was more of a first-trimester worry
  • Sore boobs! - another first trimester worry
  • Having swollen, numb, sausage fingers (I wish that were my excuse for writing so little, but the swelling only started recently!)
  • Having to pee every 5 minutes.  The bladder has no concept of how difficult it is to find a bathroom in some areas of town! least one that doesn't make me want to douse myself in purel afterwards.
  • Obsessing, and I mean OBSESSING over cloth diapers.  And wanting to buy like 20 of every kind!  Though, I attribute this to the fact that I haven't been able to buy much clothing for baby because my best friend (who just had twins!) has given me ALL of her baby clothes.  So I have to go crazy over something cute and snuggly, right???
  • Pseudo-insomnia, as I call it.  Waking up at 3 am to pee and feeling wide, wide awake.  (this is when I do most of my online cloth diaper obsessing, of course.  I'm worse than Gollum and his ring.  I go to and scroll through the sale section, changing "my preciousssssss!"  I'm sure it'll end soon, right? :)
But all in all, I have loved every minute of it.  Stay tuned for more pregnancy and birth related posts -- I have a lot to say about it!  I forgot to add that to the list: Being pregnant also means learning more than you ever thought you would about pregnancy and childbirth.  So, in the comments, let me know if there's any aspects of it you'd like me to tackle first.

Thanks for reading, even though this is a vast diversion from the usual topics of the blog!