Bearing Burdens

April 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I was in charge of The Gift of Giving Life blog this week. I had been pondering what I should write for my Friday post for a couple of weeks. I had one topic in mind, but as the time came closer for my blogging turn, it felt like there was something else I needed to write. Even as I sat down to write the post, what came out of me wasn’t what I was expecting. Here’s an excerpt…

When I start feeling sorry for myself or overwhelmed by all the day-to-day problems and concerns in my life as a wife and mother, it often helps me to think about my great-grandmother, Cassie.

Cassie was born in 1890 in a two-room log cabin in Mapleton, UT, “one mile west of one of the most beautiful mts. in the world,” as she described it. Cassie wrote, “Well you know that the years from 1907 to 1918 were the happiest and grandest years of this mortal life to me.” 1907 was the year she met and married her sweetheart, Edmund, and the autumn of 1918 was the start of several years I can’t even fathom enduring.

In October of 1918, Cassie was approximately eight months pregnant with my grandfather. At this time, her mother-in-law (Grandma Roundy) came by train to visit, but she was unknowingly exposed to influenza en route. Within three days, Cassie’s husband Edmund, their four children, Grandma Roundy, a sister-in-law and family, and Cassie’s sister Ella and her husband had all come down with influenza.

These are Cassie’s words about the days that followed:

Memory you can never forget the agonizing hours I spent in those days and the following weeks and months. We had 3 cows, 4 calves, 14 sheep, and 6 head of horses. They must be fed, watered, and the cows milked twice a day. How my back would ache when all was done for the night. It was almost beyond my strength to endure. Edmund raised up in bed and said the most beautiful prayer I ever heard for me. He asked the Lord to bless me and make my back able to bear the burdens that were placed upon me and many more beautiful things.

All of this while eight months pregnant.

Within three days, Cassie’s beloved Edmund passed away. Six weeks later, she gave birth to my grandfather, Edmund.  (Read the rest of Cassie’s inspiring story HERE.)

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. 

Treasure box

August 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

After my first baby was born, the love and appreciation I felt for my husband expanded and intensified in ways I hadn’t expected.  But. Our marriage would never be the same. Suddenly our time and energy were divided, leaving (what seemed like) only tiny fleeting specs for our marriage. I can distinctly remember, during those first weeks and months after my first daughter’s birth, recognizing that I needed to allow myself to grieve the loss of my former life, including the time and freedom I once had to bond with my husband whenever I wanted to.

A long-term study published in March of 2009 showed that a deterioration in marital relationship functioning was common following the birth of a first baby. It reported:

Compared with prebirth levels and trajectories, parents showed sudden deterioration following birth on observed and self-reported measures of positive and negative aspects of relationship functioning. The deterioration in these variables was small to medium in size and tended to persist throughout the remaining years of the study [eight years]. Mothers and fathers showed similar amounts of change after birth. The amount of postbirth deterioration in relationship functioning varied systematically by several characteristics of the individual, the marriage, and the pregnancy itself. (Source)

So, if you find yourself feeling dissatisfied with your level of postpartum marital bliss, you’re not alone. This is normal. Even after babies #2, 3, 4 or more. But, of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.

Mola mei tai

June 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Back in the 60’s, my dad lived and served as a missionary among the Kuna people who live in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.  The people called him “Orokua” which translated from Kuna means something like “little round golden girl.”  Ha ha!  It’s kind of a long story how that came about.  My dad loved the Kuna people, and they loved him back.  So, I’ve spent my whole life hearing stories of the Kuna, seeing photos of their distinctive dress, and looking at the stunning hand-crafted Kuna art my dad brought home with him. Molas are part of the traditional dress of the Kuna women. They are elaborate hand-sewn reverse-applique panels with intricate designs. For several of my teenage years, I had a mola hanging just outside my bedroom on the wall. My grandma has a mola hanging in her living room. My dad has many molas hanging in his home.

The Science of Parenting

April 23, 2011 at 9:32 pm

In February of 2010, I heard about The Science of Parenting by Dr. Margot Sunderland (director of education and training at the Centre for Child Mental Health in London) in a Canadian news article with the headline ‘Crying it out’ may damage baby’s brain. Now that’s a heavy headline, eh? I was definitely intrigued, so I decided to dig further into this.

My initial reaction to the book was: it looks and feels like a text book. Lots of pictures, sidebars, bullet points, etc. The tone of the writing also reminded me of a text book–one that was giving you basic information without personality or fluff. But I was sort of disappointed because the book repeats phrases like, “There is a mass of scientific research showing…” but it only speaks in very general terms about what those studies actually show. I guess I expected a book called “The Science of Parenting” to delve more deeply into the science of parenting.

Surrender, part 3

March 16, 2011 at 12:28 am

I needed to take my time writing this birth journey. In part, because it felt like writing it down was placing it squarely in the past, and I didn’t want it to be totally over.  But also because it has taken me all this time to process the experience, and yet I’m still processing it as we speak.   Birth is unpredictable, raw, and real.  Sometimes it can be just as traumatic as it is beautiful.  How do we convey all that complexity of experience with words?  How can we describe it?  These words in a blog comment from Kassandra were so spot-on:

There are so many layers to your birth story because there are so many different parts of yourself experiencing it.

It is such an incredibly rich spiritual experience, a full on physical sensation and accomplishment, and an emotional rollercoaster changing from moment to moment, with a different focus depending on what part of it you are trying to convey. Is it about the outcome? Is it about the moments? Is it about how you felt during, or afterwards? It’s everything… and it will change depending on who you are telling and why.

This birth was, at once, the absolute easiest and the absolute most difficult of my children’s births.  It was both gentle and jarring.  As I mentioned in part 1, I was initially disappointed.  There was no dreamy, on-another-planet, endorphin-filled build to a climax—something I’d become addicted to since my first birth.  It felt sort of like I got cheated out of one of the best parts of giving birth unmedicated.  Robert Louis Stevenson has said, “And the true realism, always and everywhere, is that of the poets, to find where the joy resides, and give it voice, far beyond singing.”  Coming to peace with this birth has been just such a poetic process… finding where the joy resides and figuring out how to give it voice and make it sing.

Let not your heart be troubled

February 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Based on my previous births, this baby is very likely to arrive sometime within the next five days! I’m trying (often unsuccessfully) to keep my fears and worries at bay. Going to bed last night (and the previous night) was especially anxiety-provoking. Two out of three of my labors have started at 12:30 in the middle of the night, and my last labor happened in the evening. It seems like my body just prefers to labor at night. So going to bed also means the prospect of waking up to broken water or contractions.

Last night Ax had to soothe, talk, coax, and hold me to sleep. I don’t think I could count how many times he uttered the words, “Everything is going to be fine,” between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. I love that man. I think I’ll probably have to re-read the words of the blessing he gave me a couple of nights ago multiple times a day until I give birth. And the words of the scripture that came to my mind immediately after that blessing:

“Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.”
(John 14:27)

I could use your prayers, friends!

Nesting and Prolactin

January 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

On Monday I started “nesting.”  A sudden urgency to prepare for the arrival of baby #4 hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first project I tackled:  pulling out all the gender-neutral baby clothes and blankets and washing them (even though they were already clean).  I also threw our stash of cheap washcloths for the home birth into the load as well. Later we got the last few supplies we needed from our home birth supply list.  And then I started cleaning my bathroom (the room I anticipate spending most of my labor in).

32 weeks (Christmas Day)

I couldn’t help wondering, as I busied myself, is this “nesting” thing just a logical consequence of my realizing how little time I have left before my baby arrives, could it simply be that I’m motivated by the New Year and its attendant resolutions, or is there really something within my body chemistry triggering my need to ready our nest? There’s no question that the nesting instinct exists within the animal kingdom, but what about within us? Is the human nesting urge for real? Are we, too, being governed by instinct as we prepare for our babies’ births?  Questions like those always get my blogging juices flowing.

I hoped to find some scientific studies of the nesting instinct among humans, but my search brought up mostly studies among animals.  For instance, one of the first things I found was a really old study suggesting that nest-building in rabbits is triggered by a change in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. 

Fear containment

December 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm

A little over two years ago, I wrote a post about facing my deepest fear surrounding my upcoming home birth: a dead baby. It’s interesting how each pregnancy is different, and the things we worry about can also be very different.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to pee (again) sometime after 5:00 a.m. My kids were all still sleeping, so I headed back to bed, but I couldn’t fall back to sleep. Suddenly I was overcome with wave after wave of fear rolling through my head. I’m afraid I’ve “used up” all my positive birth luck. I’ve had three great vaginal birth experiences. For whatever reason, I feel like I can’t expect them all to be good. I’m afraid I’m “due” for a difficult birth experience. I’m afraid it’s my turn to see the other side of birth… the complicated side where unexpected things happen and you end up going to places and doing things you never dreamed you would.

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…

Ask Busca: Dads and Doulas?

July 19, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Fig asked:

My husband only wants the two of us to be present for our first baby’s birth. (No friends or relatives or anything, just him, me, and the people who are delivering the baby.) So … do you think I can convince him a doula would be one of the baby-delivery personnel? I have no idea what the dynamic is like in a delivery room. No idea what to expect. But here’s what I know about my husband: he is extremely private. He doesn’t like big fusses, or loud craziness, and he’s very uncomfortable with profound emotions/pain. He also doesn’t like to be bossed. I guess I just can’t figure out how the husband and doula work together without the husband feeling a little bit weird. Am I worrying about nothing?

Away in a manger

July 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Originally posted November 2009:

We had a fun little family night last December. We sang some Christmas songs around the piano, made a Christmas ornament, and then watched The Nativity–a short depiction of the birth of Jesus. Here’s a YouTube version (this one has been put to music, but the original actually has the actor’s voices and animal sound effects).

Labor tips for dads

July 18, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I also like to call this one:  “Parturient Relations:  PR for dads.”  Remember these “Five PR’s”–the most helpful things you can provide for your partner while she labors…

1. Presence

  • Sometimes all she needs is your loving physical presence.
    • Be “Rock Steady”—the familiar, strong, soothing rock she can hold on to.
  • Be “present” in every way—don’t let your fatigue or fear take your attention away from her emotional and physical needs.
  • Do NOT fall asleep (unless she’s asleep).
  • Do NOT leave her alone unless she demands it.
    • Some women prefer to be alone while they labor. (But don’t go too far!)

2. Protection

  • Be a buffer between your wife and the rest of the world.
  • You can’t protect her from the intensity of childbirth or from unexpected complications, but you can protect her personal space and surround her with peace and calm.
    • Close doors.
    • Turn off/down the lights.
    • Take over answering questions so she can keep her energy focused on her hard work.  If someone tries to talk to her mid-contraction, gently ask for them to wait or stand between them and your wife until her contraction is over signaling with your hands for them to wait a moment.
    • No matter what happens or how much stress may arise, ensure that she always feels safe and secure.  “Peace, be still.”

3. Pressure

  • One of the most helpful hands-on ways to help with the most difficult contractions is counter-pressure.
    • Use your hands to provide firm, strong, steady pressure.
      • Lower back/pelvis
      • Double hip squeeze
      • Knees while sitting with something against her back
      • Hip while side-lying
    • Do not let up until the contraction ends!  (You will probably get tired.)

4. Prompts

  • Your wife will likely not be in a position to remember all of the ways to increase her comfort, so your job is to prompt her.
  • Remember PURRR
    • P Position: Is she changing position every half hour?
    • U Urination: Is she using the bathroom every hour?  (And drinking lots of fluids?)
    • R Relaxation: Is she as relaxed as possible?
    • R Respiration: Is she breathing evenly and as calmly as possible?
    • R Rest: Is she resting between contractions?

5. Praise

    • All of your words must instill her with hope, confidence, peace, comfort, pride, and power.
    • Think of it as your job to help her get to the “finish line” without giving up.
      • “You are so amazing right now!”
      • “I am so proud of you!”
      • “You are doing so well!”
      • Kissing counts! (Some women find kissing very helpful.)
      • When she says, “I can’t do it!” reply with, “You are doing it.”
      • When she’s reached the point when she thinks she can’t do it anymore, that usually means she’s almost finished, so shower her with praise, encouragement, and lots of statements like: “You are so close!”  “You’re almost there!”  “The baby is almost here!”

See also:  Emotional Signposts of Labor

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