Deck the walls with birth and babies

January 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm

I mentioned on my facebook page that I recently turned our bedroom into a sort-of tribute to bellies, babies, birth, and life-giving. And people wanted pics!

I’ve been taking what we already had (with the addition of a few cheap Goodwill frames) to decorate with. So that means we finally hung up lots of things I’ve been planning to hang up for ages, including many of our birth and pregnancy photos (most of them taken by my talented doula friend, Cassie). And lots of trees, green things, life, love, and growth.

I think this is the first time we’ve ever really had stuff hanging in our bedroom. I really like how everything looks!

Now for the pics…

My friend, Robyn

May 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

This interview is a stop on the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life.

I’m happy to introduce you to my dear friend and collaborator, Robyn Allgood. Robyn is magnificent. Though we have now written a book together, I’ve never actually met her in person (Skype doesn’t count). Next month I’ll have the privilege of, finally, wrapping my arms around her and hugging her with all the love I have in my heart for her (when we meet at the LDS Holistic Living Conference). Having been influenced by Robyn’s beautiful soul has inspired me in so many ways.

The following is an interview that will, hopefully, give you a small taste of why I love Robyn Allgood so much.

Tell me about your background?

I am a mother to five children, a doula, childbirth educator, and ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) Chapter Leader. I am not a domestic goddess, but I can sew somewhat straight lines if called upon while not under duress. I consider myself a book nerd of sorts. I love natural living, but I have been known to make mac & cheese from the box for lunch and slap on a disposable diaper because I don’t feel like folding the cloth ones. I am married to a tall, dark version of McGyver. At least I call him McGyver because he can fix anything and I love him to pieces for it.

Call for help (again)

April 29, 2012 at 4:13 am

If you follow my Birth Faith facebook page, then you may already be aware that on Tuesday night I plummeted into a horrifying, debilitating state of anxiety. It has waxed and waned over the course of the week, but I can’t seem to shake it. And my fear of it never going away (or coming back again) is only fueling the anxiety further.

I have been doing everything I can, within my ability, to beat this. Extra sleep, exercise, sunshine, quality nutrients, chocolate, spending time in my garden, talking it out, listening to uplifting music, crying, massages, etc. etc. But I still can’t seem to pull out of the nose dive I’m in.

My husband will be here with me all weekend, and he has Monday off from work, thank goodness. I don’t know how I’m going to get through another day (let alone another week) like this.

In my most fearful moments I find myself thinking that I need to be committed somewhere, that I will be in a drugged-up daze and incapable of caring for my family for the rest of my life. In my more hopeful moments, I feel that things will get better and I will be back to normal soon.

I am asking that you exercise all of the faith you can muster that my hopes of recovery will be brought to pass, that my fears will subside, that I will be able to breathe. I have been having trouble breathing all week.

I know I asked for advice and tips in my last post, but this time I’m asking for pure encouragement. Pretend I’m in labor, and I’m in transition, and you are my doulas. I need pure fuel, pure love, pure encouragement, pure hope. No advice this time. Just faith and hope and a vision of a happier and better future just around the corner.

Please, please help me. I can’t get through this alone. I need all the help I can get.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it is that LOVE is the most powerful force in the universe. Loving words and loving touch are the only things keeping me hanging on.

Thank you, thank you for your love.

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. 

Dolphins and birth plans

January 20, 2012 at 4:39 pm

[Originally posted April 2010]

While I was in California a few weeks ago, we hit the beach. Almost as soon as we got there, we saw something swimming several yards out in the water. At first I didn’t know what it was and sort of screamed (thinking shark), “There’s an animal!” Once it became clear it was a pod of dolphins, I had to smile to myself, reminiscing.

I used to be mildly (or… very) obsessed with dolphins as an adolescent. I had dolphin figurines, dolphin stuffed animals, dolphin posters, dolphin videos, dolphin stationary, dolphin everything. I did book reports about them, dreamed of swimming with them, toyed with becoming a marine biologist because of them, etc.

I was reminded of that adolescent dolphin fascination again this morning. I’ve been skimming through Marsden Wagner’s Creating Your Birth Plan off and on over the past week or so, contemplating lending it to my newly-pregnant sister-in-law. This morning I lingered on p. 176 where Dr. Wagner shares some fascinating details about dolphin birthing. Here’s an excerpt:

At its physical and emotional best, support for women in labor has always reminded me of dolphin birth. When a dolphin gives birth to a calf, several female dolphins swim in a circle close to the laboring mother. Slightly farther away, another larger group of all the remaining females in the pod circle around the laboring dolphin. Then, even farther away, all the male dolphins in the pod circle around her. The entire collective comes together to protect the laboring dolphin and her emerging calf from intrusion and harm. A woman giving birth to a baby thrives when she’s at the center of a circle of love.

Cervical scar tissue and cesareans

September 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

One of my most popular blog posts is one I wrote just over a year ago called “Cervical scar tissue.”  In that post, I shared important information about how scar tissue from various procedures (LEEP, D & C, etc.) can potentially impact future birth experiences, causing labor to stall for hours or days if the scar tissue isn’t massaged by a caregiver to help it release and allow the cervix to dilate completely.  I also said:

I have a hunch that cervical scar tissue is likely contributing greatly to the rising cesarean rate. . . . Unfortunately, doctors aren’t usually around while their patients labor, so massaging the scar tissue rarely happens. Instead those women far too often get stamped with “failure to progress” after a long, exhausting labor, and sent to the operating room.  Many spend the rest of their lives believing they’re incapable of giving birth vaginally. (Cervical scar tissue)

And now I’m even more convinced than ever that a large percentage of today’s cesareans and “failed” VBACs are happening as a result of cervical scar tissue. A comment from Lauren on my post has alerted me to something alarming:

Old school Birth Faith

August 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I was just scanning through some posts on my old blog, reliving blogging memories… sigh. Maybe you’re new here and didn’t know I used to post over in Blogger (2007-2010).  It’s sort of crazy to me that I’ve been blogging for longer than I spent in college.  And, honestly, I’ve learned and grown more since I started blogging than I think I learned and grew in all those years of higher education! Ha.  Starting my blog was, most definitely, one of the best things I ever did for myself, my family, and (I hope) for all you wonderful readers who think that reading what I have to say is worth your time.  I love you!

Here are thirteen of my favorite old Blogger posts (and excerpts to entice you), if you’ve got some time to kill and want a peek into my blogging past. Starting with the more recent and moving to the earliest…

1) Rejoicing with a friend

Never stop sharing, my friends!  Never give up.  We are making a difference.  Maybe only for one woman here and another woman there, but those women are worth it.  And so are their babies.  And there is nothing in the world like rejoicing with them as they bathe in the joy and empowerment they feel from their positive birth experiences.  Nothing in the world.

Surrender, part 4

March 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

With my three previous births, the transition from 7 to 10 centimeters took me deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of my consciousness.  As I pulled further and further into myself, I would dig for any reserves of strength and endurance.  Simultaneously I would be taken up and outside of myself to distant spaces somewhere between earth and heaven, almost completely oblivious to my actual physical surroundings and anyone in them.  Between contractions, I was typically extremely relaxed and motionless with my eyes closed.  Basically, during transition, I’m usually simultaneously high and sedated from the influence of massive amounts of natural opiates (endorphins).

But there I was… nine centimeters with baby #4…  and my head was still firmly on this planet?  I’d never experienced anything like this before.

After checking my cervix, Mary suggested that I get up on my knees, leaning over my birth ball, to encourage the baby to descend, and do some nipple stimulation to get some good “mean” contractions coming.  In retrospect, I can tell you how wise and merciful it was for her to encourage those “mean” contractions.  Endorphins are an important part of the birth process, and they’re released in response to pain.  Minimal pain, in my case, translated to minimal endorphin release—not the ideal way to prepare for a mini-person to squeeze through my lady parts.  Pushing has always been the easiest part of childbirth for me because I’m usually swimming in natural opiates.  This time, Mary could tell (and I could tell) that I was most definitely not swimming in opiates.  So, nipple stim we did.  That’s when my doula arrived with her camera and started snapping pictures.

Knowing how soon the birth would be upon us, we also called for my five-year-old daughter to come upstairs.  Before I even became pregnant, she told me she wanted to be my doula the next time I had a baby.  She’s my little “birth junkie” and could watch birth YouTube videos with me all day long. 

Emergency Preparedness

January 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Regardless of what type of disaster may strike or how severe it is, there will always be pregnant women in need of special assistance. Pregnant women are among those most at risk in disaster situations, in part because severe stress can trigger premature labor, but also because so many women are forced to give birth under precarious circumstances. When hospitals may be over-flowing with sick and injured survivors, roads or transportation inaccessible, and electricity likely unavailable, women who would otherwise have given birth at the hospital will have to seek alternatives.  It is also a possibility that hospitals will only have resources for the most high-risk pregnant women, leaving low-risk mothers to give birth with little or no assistance from staff.   Even in the absence of a large-scale disaster, on just an ordinary day-to-day basis, sometimes a birth happens too quickly to make it to the planned location or before a qualified birth attendant can be present.

Robbie Prepas, a certified nurse-midwife, saw many such births first-hand during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  She delivered five babies in the New Orleans airport, twins in an ambulance, and provided impromptu care to hundreds of pregnant and postpartum women, checking fetal heart tones, etc.  She explains, “There were no policies or procedures in place to care for pregnant women or mothers and their babies after Katrina.  We even lacked such basics as diapers, formula, baby bottles and clean clothes” (“Disaster Preparedness for Mothers & Babies: Getting Prepared”).  Midwife Mary Callahan, CNM, MS, also assisted in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, providing midwifery services to displaced women in a large shelter and assembling emergency birth and prenatal kits for use in other area shelters (“Chicago Midwives Travel to Baton Rouge”).   While we may be fortunate to cross paths with a doctor, midwife, or paramedic with birth supplies in an emergency childbirth situation, we can’t be certain of such luck. Given all of the possibilities, the best course is to have plans and supplies in place so that we can meet our specific needs in emergency situations.

Birth Junkies: the next generation

November 20, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Speaking of my daughter… we had another birthy conversation over lunch yesterday. We got talking about her dream again, and then, between bites of her lunch, she asked me, “Mom, do you think you should have this baby in the hospital or at home?” Before I even had a chance to respond, she said, “I like home better.” When I asked her why, she kind of giggled and said, “If you went to the hospital, your baby would be caught by a doctor!” Her facial expression made it clear that this was not the ideal scenario in her mind. Then she said, “It’s better if a midwife catches your baby. Or if YOU catch it.”

You might think I spend my time brainwashing my children with my particular birth philosophy, but I really don’t. And I know there are countless wonderful obstetricians who catch babies every day. We’ve never had a conversation about the pros and cons of different types of care providers with our kids before. I also find it so interesting that she never says anyone will “deliver” my baby… only that someone will “catch” it. I know I’ve talked about babies being “delivered” many times, so it’s not that she hasn’t been exposed to that terminology. So so interesting. She also happens to be obsessed with birth YouTube videos. I couldn’t even count the number she has watched with me, always saying, “Let’s watch more!” The sounds and bodily fluids don’t frighten her in the least. She loves all things birth-related. :-) That’s my girl.

Improving your epidural birth

November 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

Back in August, a close friend from college specifically requested that I do some posts for women like her who plan to have epidurals. So I wrote the first in a supposed series of “Improving your epidural birth” posts, encouraging pregnant women to “hire wisely” when choosing a care provider.

This morning I got feeling bad that I haven’t written any more posts for that series, and I suddenly realized that I have! In fact, the vast majority of the posts I’ve written over the last six months are on topics that would be of interest to all women, not just those who choose to forgo pharmaceutical pain relief in childbirth. And scanning three+ years of posts on my old blog brought up many more.

So, with all of that in mind, I give you some of my best tips for improving your epidural birth (besides carefully choosing a care provider), gleaned from my blog (and other helpful sites) over the years.

1) Prepare your body for pregnancy.

The more I learn, the more I realize that the groundwork for a really wonderful birth experience must be laid long before labor begins. When you nourish and take care of yourself, your body will be stronger and better able to perform its vital functions in pregnancy and childbirth. A strong, healthy body is much less likely to suffer complications that can have a detrimental and traumatic impact on your birth experience.

Many of the same things that will best prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy will also improve your chances of conceiving—eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low on processed foods, maintaining a healthy weight, optimizing your body’s levels of key nutrients (vitamin d, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and folate).  Making these dietary and lifestyle changes habits before conception will make them much easier to maintain throughout the coming pregnancy and beyond. 

Cervical scar tissue

September 8, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Last Friday I saw my midwives, Mary and Nedra. We finished the whole urine, weight, blood pressure, fundal height, heart tones routine in about fifteen minutes, and I asked a couple of questions about vitamin K and ultrasounds, and then we just got chatting. Quite a bit of time passed, and their next client didn’t show up, so we just kept on chatting. I could have stayed all day, I think. It was so great to have extra time with them.

I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but Mary started talking about the cervixes of women who have had a LEEP procedure. I didn’t know what LEEP was, so she explained that it’s when they go in and cut away abnormal cells from the cervix. Then bells and whistles started going off in my head because I remembered reading several months ago about how having procedures done on your cervix can create scar tissue that often proves troublesome during childbirth. My midwives said they’re seeing more and more women with cervical scar tissue.

When I first learned about cervical scar tissue’s impact on labor, I thought: women need to know this! I did share a link on facebook and in the sidebar of my blog, but then I let it slip to the back of my mind. After the chat with my midwives on Friday, I felt driven, again, to spread the word. With more and more women approaching childbirth with scarred cervixes, this information is more important than ever. In fact, I have a hunch that cervical scar tissue is likely contributing greatly to the rising cesarean rate.

Improving your epidural birth: Hire wisely

August 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

A former college roommate and beloved friend came into town this past weekend and stayed with us Saturday night. As we chatted late into the night, she made a request. Could I created some more basic posts for women like her who don’t spend all their free time devouring birth-related media… women who aren’t sold on the “natural” bit (at least not yet)… women who plan to get epidurals but still want to improve their birth experiences? I thought that was a great idea. I think I’ll call this series: “Improving your epidural birth.” And here’s the first installment…

The first, and perhaps most important, tip I would offer to pregnant women (whether they want epidurals or not) is this:

Hire your care provider wisely.

Hopes for next time

August 11, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I was chatting with another birth-loving friend the other day about how we “thought we knew so much” the first time we attempted “natural” birth.  I had definitely studied and prepared myself, but, seven years down the road, I can’t help but see my first-time-mother self as a naive birth novice.  That was the beginning of my childbirth obsession, but I had no idea back then just how deep the “rabbit hole” was going to go… and still it goes deeper.

Each of my births has been an improvement upon the last one, with fewer interventions, faster recovery, more intense bonding, etc.  So, naturally, I’m looking for ways to make birth #4 even better than the rest.  I will be seeing the same midwives I chose for my last birth, Mary and Nedra. I tried to be open to intuition and inspiration about choosing a care provider. I didn’t want to choose out of habit… just because I chose them last time. But my gut always came back to them. I don’t think I could feel safe enough with anyone else, and it’s so nice to not have to start from scratch because they already know me, my family, my body, my house. Plus they’re phenomenal midwives (see my old blog for a post I wrote all about them). So… drawing on all that I’ve learned over the last seven years, and assuming that I remain low-risk and complication-free throughout the duration of my pregnancy and labor, here are my plans, hopes, and goals for this next birth…

My home birth slideshow

July 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Photos courtesy of my doula, Cassie (who now resides in Georgia) and my sister-in-law, Brooke. To read the full birth story with all the juicy details, click here and scroll past the video.

P.S. My husband is older than he looks. (So am I.)

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