Gestating in grief

January 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm

“In encountering death, you are now at the very centre of human experience. You are in the presence of the sacred. Do not let anyone minimize its importance or make you feel that grieving is anything other than an absorbing, life-changing experience.” -Jerusha Hull McCormack

So I’ve been wanting to give you all something more informative and less me-centered for a while now. I have a few different posts I’ve been doing research for. But my mind and spirit are absorbed with other things, so I just haven’t had the time or energy to tackle those “real” blogposts I’ve been wanting to give you.

The stuff I’ve been writing about doesn’t technically have a whole lot to do with birth, per se, so I worry that you’re all tiring of reading about it. I feel bad… like I should apologize for writing so much about myself and what’s been going on with me, but then I step back and realize… this is where I am. Maybe I’ll lose some readers, but maybe there are others out there who need to hear what’s in my heart. And then I step back again and see that what I’m experiencing has everything to do with gestation and birthing.

So, rather than giving you something informative and science-based (those posts will come), today I’m giving you something from my heart and soul. And right now my heart and soul are waist-deep in grief, trying to get the courage to allow myself to become totally submerged.

Super Nuts

January 20, 2013 at 7:41 am

I have single-handedly consumed almost three pounds of walnuts in the last few months.

Just about time to get another stash at Costco.

I’ve always liked walnuts, but now I can’t get enough of them. In the past, I’d sometimes get canker sores from eating them, but I must have built up a tolerance or something ’cause I can eat them like candy now.

What Friends Can Do

November 2, 2012 at 4:05 am

Before this year I was utterly ignorant when it came to anxiety. All I knew about anxiety was that my little brother had struggled with it for years and a woman I knew had become addicted to Xanax in her battle with the illness. Once I began my own journey with anxiety, more people came out of the woodwork, confiding in me their own struggles and triumphs with its horrors. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert after six months of experience, but I have learned a thing or two about what friends can do to help when someone they love is suffering with anxiety (and depression).

Not everyone will experience anxiety in the same way. What was helpful to me may not be helpful to everyone, but I encourage you to try these things anyway. Perhaps your efforts won’t help, but at least your friend will know that you care. And if you’re anything like my friends, you just may save her life.

Do call often. Sometimes talking to another person was the only thing that got me through the hours and hours of fear and darkness. I had friends and family members who called me every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for weeks. If you (or your friend) are not a phone person, send encouraging emails or frequent cards in the mail.

Don’t tell scary stories. Maybe you have an aunt or uncle or cousin or brother who was hospitalized with mental illness or committed suicide after their battle with depression or suffered from a horrific sleep disorder for years, but your friend with anxiety won’t feel better about her illness if you tell her those stories. They will frighten her and further convince her that the worst-case-scenarios that haunt her daily have, in fact, happened and could happen to her too. Instead of fueling her fear, fuel her faith.

Do sit with her. One of the most helpful things my friends did for me was to simply come to my house and spend a few hours with me. Sometimes I wasn’t much for conversation because my mind and body were too wound-up with panic, but just having a stable person present gave me some relief and helped me pass the time. When you’re fighting tooth and nail to get through each minute of the day, anything that makes the time go faster is a welcome reprieve. If you can get her out of the house and into some fresh air and sunshine, even better.

Relief

October 10, 2012 at 2:23 am

It has now been over a week since I have felt anxious or depressed. I think I finally feel confident that the worst is over. Crossing my fingers anyway.

It’s hard to know what made the difference, but I think all of the following are contributing factors…

1) My husband asked many of my family and friends to fast and pray for me the first Sunday in October. I’m deeply honored and grateful that so many participated and feel certain that their united faith pushed me into one of the best weeks I’ve had since June. Thank you so much.

2) I started meditating a week ago (too bad I keep missing days) thanks to my friend Felice’s prodding and meditation webinar.

3) I started re-taking a multi-vitamin that has helped me in the past (New Chapter Perfect Prenatal). I had run out of them a few months ago and had been trying several other brands in the meantime without finding one that “worked” (Rainbow Light, Mercola, etc.) Once I started taking this one again a little over a week ago, I felt almost normal within a few days. May I never run out again!

My life is a birth canal

September 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I’m posting over at The Gift of Giving Life today…

Right now I feel like my life is a birth canal, my universe pressing in on me from all sides, so much pressure.

And as I look back over my nearly-32 years on this earth, I can see that my whole life was a series of wombs and birth canals. Comfortable lulls followed by strait and narrow (frequently uncomfortable) squeezes into my next phase of growth and development…

Read the rest HERE.

Medical intervention

September 5, 2012 at 5:42 am

When I first started out as a birth blogger five-and-a-half years ago, I villainized epidurals and felt driven to encourage more women to try giving birth without them. As I’ve learned and grown, I’ve come to recognize that epidurals can be very useful and sometimes necessary. Someone I love spent many hours trying to push out a (large) persistently posterior baby without drugs, but after she had a brief rest with an epidural and a bit of Pitocin, baby quickly turned and came sliding out. Sometimes drugs are just the right thing.

Sometimes the very things we once felt certain we would never need or embrace can become right for us under new circumstances.

I suppose all of this is on my mind because I’ve been humbled by my own need for medical intervention. I wasn’t sure if, when, or how I wanted to proclaim to the world that I’m taking medication for my anxiety/depression, but here I am saying it now. I spent months trying to avoid drugs, believing I was strong enough to get better on my own, researching and trying a wide variety of natural remedies, but it wasn’t enough.

Doing your “hamwork,” part 2

August 22, 2012 at 5:04 am

This is the concluding installment of a guest post series from the wonderful women at The Healing Group. Here’s part one if you missed it (with bios about the authors)…

Doing Your “Hamwork” – Part II
By Kristin B. Hodson, CSW, LCSW and Alisha Worthington, BSW, SSW
www.hey-mom.com

In our “perfect is as perfect does” culture, it’s hard for Moms to admit to themselves or others that perhaps motherhood isn’t the blissful, organized, make-up-and-hair-done-after-working-out-at-the-gym world we thought it would be. We want so much to appear like we have everything under control and are now fully content and satisfied with life because we have a baby. And, unfortunately, some of us just about drive ourselves into the ground desperately clinging to the cultural idea that we have to put on our big girl panties and keep trudging forward no matter the difficulty or the cost.

What we are coming to understand is that that idea can be harmful to ourselves and those around us. There are times when we simply don’t have the emotional and/or mental ability to “go the extra mile.” We’re barely making down the hall to the bathroom.

“Postpartum mood disorder” isn’t a popular phrase. It doesn’t ring well. It sounds like “I’m a bad Mom” all wrapped up in three little words, but that’s a negative stigma that has been attached must be unattached—just like no longer lopping off the ham when you have a pan that fits it just fine. Due to the negative connotation, there are too many women silently suffering, needlessly, through a treatable and all-too-common condition. Just talk to the women around you about what they experienced after their babies were born and you will begin to hear stories. Maybe not all of them will have one, but the statistics show one out of eight will. That’s a lot. Maybe you’re one of them and aren’t sure what to do.

Fiery Furnace

July 30, 2012 at 4:33 am

I haven’t been able to bring myself to blog here (or anywhere) for awhile. The things I love… writing, researching, thinking about birth, taking photographs, cooking, gardening… they’ve all fallen by the wayside. I’m in survival mode, and it’s taking everything I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This trial has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever been through. Every trial probably feels that way when you’re in the middle (or even the end) of it, I suppose.  Even so, this one feels especially hard and long. I thought it was over when I wrote this post, but alas I was wrong.

For someone who has spent the last decade of my life passionate about birth and motherhood and babies, it seems so strange that… at present… I have to confess… seeing pregnant women makes me feel anxious, seeing babies makes me feel anxious, thinking about ever being pregnant again or having another baby makes me feel horrified. How awful is that? I just helped write a whole book called The Gift of Giving Life for crying out loud! How did I get to this place? I hope with all my heart that I will be able to once again see the beauty and joy of giving life someday soon.

Doing your “hamwork,” part 1

July 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by Kristin B. Hodson, CSW, LCS and Alisha Worthington, BSW, SSW. First, here is some background about them…

Kristin B. Hodson, MSW, LCSW
Founder, Psychotherapist, The Healing Group
Kristin prides herself on offering hope, compassion and professional expertise in a warm and safe environment. She holds a Master of Social Work, Clinical and Medical, from the University of Utah, and a Bachelor of Social Work, International Emphasis, from Brigham Young University, Hawaii. She also earned an Associate Degree in Psychology from Salt Lake Community College and is pursuing a Postpartum Doula Certification through DONA. For Kristin’s full bio, visit www.thehealinggroup.com.

Alisha Worthington, BSW, SSW
Educator, The Healing Group
As a mom of six children and an educator at The Healing Group, Salt Lake City, Alisha shares her knowledge and passion for motherhood in a nurturing and non-judgmental environment with women of many backgrounds and perspectives.
She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Brigham Young University and is a board member of the Utah Friends of Midwives. For Alisha’s full bio, visit www.thehealinggroup.com.

Call for help

April 25, 2012 at 3:23 am

Alright, friends… I’m going to get personal here.

I’m struggling. For the past six months, off and on, I’ve been battling with some physical and emotional trials, riding a crazy-making roller coaster. During some periods, I’ve been in what I would label as depression. I have good days, and I have bad days. On the good days I feel full of hope that things will get better. On the bad days I feel full of despair that I’ll ever feel totally myself again. Over the past week I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other multiple times. Yesterday I was in despair. Today I was mostly OK.

I debated whether or not to disclose all of this to you. In this moment I decided that you’d want to know, you’d want to help, you’d want to lift me up in whatever way you could.

Prenatal photo tour

March 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago.  We were at a baby shower, and somehow we got on the subject of belly buttons.  I mentioned that my son had a kind of funky belly button (’cause he sort of did at the time), and this friend said something like, “Could that be because of the home birth?”  I was very perplexed and said, “What do you mean?”  She asked, “What do they do with the umbilical cord?”  Then I explained that they use the same umbilical cord clamps hospitals use, and cut the cord with sterile scissors, just like they do in the hospital.

As much as I was stunned by this conversation, I have to cut my friend some slack.  Home birth really is so foreign to most people.  So there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what it’s like and about midwives also.  Toward the end of my last pregnancy, I decided I’d bring my camera along and document the visit, partly for memory’s sake and partly so I could do a little bit of demystifying about midwives and home birth.

I realize that prenatal appointments are going to vary considerably depending upon who your midwife is. Some midwives come to your home for check-ups. Some have their offices in their own homes. Some have their own offices, like my midwives. I don’t presume to believe that this is the way all midwives practice. But I still thought it might be helpful to show what a typical visit is like with a home birth midwife like mine (Mary at Beyond Conception Midwifery).

So, here’s a photo tour of a February 2011 prenatal appointment with my midwives…

Doula ripples

February 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm

“Continuous support during labour has clinically meaningful benefits for women and infants and no known harm. All women should have support throughout labour and birth” -(Hodnett and colleagues 2011)

Jennifer just asked this question on my Birth Faith facebook page wall: “My friend’s OB told her that hiring a doula was ‘dangerous.’ What would you tell her?”

Good grief.

I’ve shared in a previous blogpost (Why hire a doula?) what a doula’s presence can do for a woman’s birth experience using my own experience and stats from scientific research. Let me reiterate that research quickly.

Gathering and analyzing the results of 15 studies, a team of researchers found that, compared to women laboring without a doula, women who labored with a doula were:

• 26% less likely to have a cesarean section
• 41% less likely to have a vacuum extractor or forceps delivery
• 28% less likely to use pain medication or epidurals
• 33% less likely to rate their birth experience negatively
(Hodnett E, Gates S, Hofmeyr G, Sakala C. Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003. Issue 3. See DONA).

But did you know that the benefits of having a doula’s assistance don’t end at birth? There are significant ripples that can impact a woman, her baby, and her relationship with her baby’s father. 

God takes the pain away?

January 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

My teenage brother is a free-spirited artist with a particular affinity for buddhist thought. He likes to create collages with magazine clippings, so I decided to give him a book full of empty cardstock pages to unleash his creativity upon. I gave the gift a personalized touch by decorating the front cover with a collage of my own. I love how it turned out!

While flipping through my old magazines looking for materials for my collage, I found a little snip-it of an article with this headline: “God takes the pain away.” It shared a bit of research (by Amy Wachholtz, PhD) about how spiritual meditation can impact our perception of pain. Study participants were instructed to either 1) Do relaxation exercises, 2) Mediate on phrases such as “I am happy,” or 3) Meditate on phrases such as “God is love” for several weeks. Afterward, participants’ abilities to withstand pain were tested. Those who had practiced spiritual meditation demonstrated the highest pain thresholds (Click here to learn more).

Amy Wachholtz has also studied how spiritual meditation can impact migraine sufferers. She found that “over the course of the intervention in comparison to the other three groups, those who practiced spiritual meditation had greater decreases in the frequency of migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression, as well as greater increases in pain tolerance, headache-related self-efficacy, daily spiritual experiences, and existential well being” (Source).

Antepartum depression

October 9, 2011 at 6:36 am

Sometimes I feel like God gives me blogpost assignments. This is one of those. I actually had a few other blogpost ideas lined-up, including the follow-up to my “Mate selection” post about smell and bonding. Then, as I sat nursing my baby a few mornings ago, I got the distinct impression that I needed to write more about my experience with depression during my last pregnancy.  Perhaps this is God’s way of answering one of your prayers.  Who knows? But I’ve learned, over the years, to listen to those whispers that come into my mind, prompting me toward some action. I usually only find out why the prompting was important when I choose not to listen and then suffer the consequences. Listen to those voices, friends! I am choosing to take action on this prompting because maybe, just maybe, one of you desperately needs to know you’re not alone.  And I can’t bear the thought of not speaking up and letting you know that I care.

I mentioned in my recent long drawn-out birth account that I experienced a period of darkness and depression in the middle of my pregnancy. I described it this way:

 I’ve always claimed to be happier and more emotionally stable while pregnant than while not pregnant, and in my previous three pregnancies that had been true.  But not this time.  In September, I got on an emotional roller coaster like nothing I had ever seen.  And I wondered multiple times a day whether taking that flying leap off the cliff of surrender had been the stupidest thing we’d ever done.  If it had been right to welcome this baby on God’s timetable, then why on earth was I so ridiculously miserable?  I was bombarded with seemingly incessant waves of darkness and misery.  Some afternoons, when my husband arrived home from work, I fled immediately to my bedroom or closet, locked the door, and let myself weep and writhe and wail without restraint.  To make matters worse, I felt guilty and horrible that the beautiful, special baby growing inside of me could probably feel my dark thoughts and feelings, and I felt even more guilty and horrible that many moments my thoughts were resentful and rejecting toward that special child.

Proactive support for new mothers

July 24, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’ve been busy editing our book over the past several weeks, and in the process have been reading stories from dozens of women. Some of them endured intense physical and emotional trials in their journey to motherhood. Several suffered from (and overcame) postpartum depression. It has reminded me of my own difficulties in adjusting to motherhood with my first baby. At the time, I checked out a book from our local library called Mothering the New Mother. It brought me strength and hope when I felt overwhelmed. As a result, I declared it my new personal mission to ensure that all the new mothers around me knew they weren’t alone in their struggles. It has been almost eight years since then, and I have certainly not followed-through with those good intentions nearly as well as I should have. But today I am feeling a renewed drive to reach out to postpartum women and strengthen them. This post is partly for my own reference (to give me a kick in the pants to get moving), but I hope it inspires you as well.

When a child is born, so is a mother.  She will never be the same again. Conversations with new mothers can, at times, focus at length on how beautiful and precious her newborn is and not enough on the new mother’s needs.  Having a baby can be a very difficult transition, even for mothers of two or three or more. The physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens new mothers face can, at times, feel too overwhelming to bear. But friends and family can be proactive in lifting these burdens. Here are some ideas for those wanting to help:

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