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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Better Late than Never: A VBAC Success Story

Just the other day I got word that an acquaintance had a successful VBAC. The baby was ten days (yes, 10) days overdue and weighed 9 lbs. 6 oz., I believe - the high side of normal and nothing terribly huge. The mom told me that she hired a doula for this labor (yes!) and had a great practice of midwives (even better!) and it sounded to me like a much better experience than before. 
With her first, she labored for about 17 hours and failed to progress. I think she did mention how nurses were very pushy about getting an epi and finally, she caved, which is probably why she never fully dilated. I assured her early on in this pregnancy that a doula would help her to stay more focused, and while she could have the epi this time around, her doula would be a non-partial advocate for her that could take her mind off the pain. 
I didn't want to be too pushy about suggesting a VBAC but was elated when she told me she was going to try for one. I figured I'd offer her advice based on my experience but not get too overbearing. So when she told me she was hiring a doula, I figured she'd done all the right research and would be just fine.
Welcome to the world, little man, and you can thank your mommy later for letting you come in your own sweet time. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Losing Brain Cell Mass, One Child at a Time

I used to have a brain, once upon a time. It was well-organized, could remember things like names and dates (even the day of the week!), and generally functioned very well. But that was a long, long time ago. Call it "momnesia" or whatever you like, but I can't think anymore. My three children, God bless their little hearts, have managed to zap the last ounce of quality brain function from me. There must be a hormonal link or something - didn't I read somewhere that the brains of pregnant women actually shrink? - because after three pregnancies and long-term breastfeeding, I'm sure I'm pretty hormonal. And now that my grandmother has been showing signs of age-related dementia for the last ten years or so, I'm sure there's really no sign of hope for me on the horizon in the memory department. Now that the Christmas season is in full swing, I'm finding it's worse than ever. Stress and sleep deprivation don't help. And it seems like the more sleep I get, I feel worse. I could easily go to bed at 9:30 every night, but my infant son's mom radar usually goes off on those nights and I'm up and down more than a high bounce ball. Or if he doesn't wake up, one of the others coughs or has to pee every hour on the dot and needs assistance. When I think about it, my sleep was disturbed from the time I went to college, and now that I've had children I don't think I've slept a full night since .... wow. More than six years ago. (I think being hugely pregnant is God's way of preparing you for major sleep loss once the baby is born, because even if you don't have other children keeping you up, being pregnant will certainly do the trick.) But now more than ever, I'm starting to realize that my problem with organization and lack of attention to detail is costing me money. I have to make more trips because I don't read directions anymore. I lose things and then have to work from memory (yeah, right!) when completing tasks, which usually turns out to be a horrendous joke. I find myself patting myself on the back if I've actually managed to remember even seven out of ten items on my list. Ten out of ten! - well, that's deserving of a special treat! My son even knows what day it is more than I do, (thanks to a very well-organized, childless kindergarten teacher and daily writing exercises that tell the day of the week) and seems to pay more attention than I have in weeks, maybe months (maybe years, even). (And I thought he had the attention problem.) The more organized I try to be, the worse it gets, because sometimes even the best laid plans ... well, you get the idea. When you let a 9-month-old dictate your schedule (which most times is as it should be, I think) life tends to get in the way. As do poopy diapers, crying jags and nap times. Although every year I vow not to let Christmas turn into a big fiasco, it usually ends up turning into one. The Great Sears Portrait Debacle should tell me that planning ahead (like six months in advance) is usually a better idea and that, in the end, no one will notice some of the things I am most anal about (like the holes in my son's jeans during our Christmas card picture). And maybe I'll start taking gingko biloba.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why I Think People Hate the Duggars

So. Michelle and husband Jim Bob have welcomed their 19th child, a daughter, into the world. Sadly the baby is premature, but stands a nearly 85 percent chance of recovering fully, which I hope she does. Every time I read a story about these people, it makes my blood boil. Not because of them, or what their beliefs are, etc. etc. but because of the nasty, irritating comments people leave with these articles. Just horrible hatred, mostly. Idiocy cloaked in comments like "think of what it's doing to the environment," or "God gave her a brain," blah blah blah. Yeah, whatever. I'm sure Michelle Duggar doesn't wake up every morning and suddenly realize, "Hey, I have 19 children!" I'm sure she's thought of all that crap before. Sometimes it's hard to put your finger on just WHAT people have a problem with. Some say that with each child, they are posing more risks to the mother and her baby. Yes, that's true. But pregnancy can be a risk to anyone, regardless of age. (Imagine, then, if they'd known she did a VBAC - my goodness, the comments then! *sarcasm*) Women who are perfectly healthy can go on to have disabled, sickly children, miscarry, or have serious problems in pregnancy. And with all the women over 40 running around pregnant with multiples, I don't hear a flood of negative comments about that - since they are considered a 'high-risk' group for problems. People who are sooooo concerned about her internal organs, child's health and safety, blah blah blah....where are these same people when a premature infant is admitted to the hospital after being born to healthy, young parents who have just had their first child? Other moronic comments I've heard: "They are over-populating the planet!" Yeah, and so is just about everyone else. Yet, at the same time, people *are* dying! Novel idea, huh? "They are contributing to greenhouse gases/increasing their carbon footprint!" Supposedly, I've heard the Duggars lead a pretty "green" lifestyle, which is a term that I personally detest. They may do it to cut down on trash in their household, or to get money from recycled goods to offset their expenses; who knows. As one commenter wisely said, though, who's to say that one of their children couldn't solve the "problem" of "global warming"? Be the next president? Nobel Peace Prize winner? Curer of cancer? Hmm...kind of makes you think. "A uterus isn't a clown car!" OK, this one came from, among others, a friend of mine, so I'll stop short in calling her 'moronic.' However, I still think that it's Michelle's uterus, not ours, so she can do with it what she wants. Not that long ago, women routinely had large families. And dealt with it. Before the age of the internet, cable television, talking toys and yes, birth control, women had their kids - lots of 'em - and made do with what they had. They didn't live a lifestyle of expensive family vacations, second homes and three cars (unless they were insanely wealthy, I'm guessing) because they spent that money on their children, and were okay with that. I'm guessing that if Michelle Duggar were on her 19th abortion instead of pregnancy, people would be saying "It's her body." Because, after all, if you have more than 2.5 children, you're considered "brave," or an anomaly, at best. I think most people who think so negatively of the Duggars really can't put their finger on why they dislike them so much, either. But if hard-pressed -- like, if they were waterboarded in a room with terrorists -- I think they'd probably admit they don't like them because of certain things about their lifestyle. Like: • They're Christians! Yes, they do believe in God, and they live their lives as such. How dare they actually a) profess their love of Christ?! and b) actually mean it!? You mean Christians are really supposed to do that, instead of just say, "Yeah, I'm a Christian. I believe God exists!" *insert deep sigh here* So that makes them the perfect target for hate, and labeled as a bunch of nuts, all wrapped up into one convenient package. Can you imagine, allowing God to let you know when it's time to stop having kids?! (Much to my husband's chagrin, I believe in this, too, but I will say I'm not going to let God talk me into having 19. LOL) • They live debt-free. In these hard economic times, it's hard for people to get by. It seems it always is hard for people to get by, though, when they decide to spend their money on meaningless crap instead of invest wisely or save - this much seems true of any economic situation. The 'don't buy what you can't afford' mentality of our grandparents and great-grandparents is a dead philosophy, ushering in the 'buy it because it'll make you feel good, even though you don't really need it!' approach. Since the Duggars manage to live without debt, in a house big enough to comfortably hold all those people, in spite of hard economic times, it makes them even more hateable. Like the old Morrissey song says, "We hate it when our friends become successful." We despise seeing people succeed where most others have failed, and feel like because we're struggling, they should, too. How dare they?! In the end, I think people mostly detest them because they're different. Just like a group of chickens who peck a strange-looking bird until it dies, we mostly like to denigrate them because they do things a bit differently than the norm, like homeschool all their kids, raise a super-large family, and manage to turn out a nice, well-behaved bunch of (normal) kids. How can they get any alone time? They can't, just like I can't with my husband and I only have three kids. Some things, regardless of size and shape, are always the same.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not a Super Mom, Just a Little Bipolar, Maybe

I'm beginning to wonder lately if I'm bipolar. Or just even slightly neurotic. Either way, I think sometimes that there's definitely something wrong with me. As of my last post, we still have not had Christmas portraits taken. After all the frantic phone calls, cancellations, re-schedules and other random craziness, plus working all **** day long on a beautiful Christmas dress for my daughter (which prompted much stress and yelling) I ended up having to Officially Cancel the Appointment for Good because the weather was simply dreadful once we finally screamed and yelled and piled our way into the van. That, and the portrait lady told me they wouldn't be ready until after I'd be out of town.* I nearly cried. Actually, I did cry a little. Because I was thinking "I really want to get this done/all I wanted was special family portraits/how can I actually think this will work in a blinding snowstorm?/who cares about the weather!/the weather is awful and let's just go home!" In other words, a crazy mix of things, none of which made any sense. My husband called me selfish. Which is probably the truth. I try to address dozens of Christmas cards, have photos for our special ornaments each year (which, by the way, need painted, bejeweled, beaded or whatever notion I have in my head at the moment), and make dozens of elaborate cookies and other goodies for Christmas bazaars, book club and church cookie exchanges. (I actually thought, with the time I saved by not getting portraits done last night, about making Linzer cookie cutouts before I had to be somewhere else a few hours later.) It's not because I'm Martha Stewart, or a Super Mom. It's because I'm certifiably nuts. And yet, in the midst of all the stress and anxiety, I will sometimes have periods of total lack of motivation, where even cooking dinner for my family is a chore (oatmeal, anyone?). There are so many unfinished projects screaming my name, yet I want to go out and get more. Or see the pile of undone things and think, Why bother? It's taller than I am. In the last week I entertained the notion of making not one, but two dishes for a church dinner; taking a baked dessert to a neighbor; driving in more blinding snow to get those stupid Christmas cards printed out (but in all honesty, I do need toilet paper) and probably a million other things. I dragged my children out in more crappy weather the other night to buy a Christmas exchange gift for this week's preschool deadline (no school anyway, by the way, because it's a snow day), and then dashed over to the Dollar Tree for elf hats because the Christmas card picture with reindeer antlers just didn't do it for me. (And, coincidentally, all the pictures for said Christmas cards kind of stink, but to those who love pictures of my kids either way, they'll be just fine.) I stood at the sink last night running the water for 15 minutes straight to thaw some shrimp for my book club, only to forget it in the refrigerator. Sometimes I think I work against myself - or dig myself into a bigger hole, because the more organized and planned I try to be, the worse it gets. Especially when my family is held hostage to an even newer, bigger, better idea that comes into my head. I just can't seem to stop myself. I toyed with the idea of going out today in between the lull of one snowstorm and the beginning of another, and had to talk myself down from the ledge that was Stress in the form of holiday shopping/Christmas card printing/other general craziness in favor of taking it easy, trying for the eighth time to get the baby to nap, and getting important things done at home (you know, like hanging garland, putting lights in the windows and addressing more freaking Christmas cards). Laundry and vacuuming? Who needs to do those things? Once in a while I literally need to slap my own hand like a mother would her child, telling myself in a stern voice, "No!" (Although I do still need toilet paper.) * I did decide to call Penney's instead for our Christmas pictures, and not only got a very nice lady on the phone right away, but will get my pictures back in time for Christmas. Which makes me feel like a complete @@@, because usually most things work out for the better anyway, regardless of your stress level. Just one more thing I need to keep in perspective.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Bane of My Existence: Christmas Portraits

As if I haven't already overextended myself this holiday season, I am on another Mother Mission: Christmas portraits. It's only December 4 and already I'm freaking out. I haven't decorated my house yet, have two huge sheets of Oreo truffles in the fridge waiting to melt in time for my son's school Christmas bazaar, and now have the daunting task of making a holiday dress for my daughter in time for our cutesy family photo. I thought, What a great idea! since it had officially been five years since our last one. That prompted me to call Sears. Well. A quick search online has revealed that I can (and did) schedule my portrait online. However, with only three weeks left, I wondered how long it would take them to be ordered. I realize they can print them out in the studio while you wait, which does cost more (a policy that I don't think they do a very good job of disclosing up-front). It has been my experience that when sent out, they turn out better. At least among those portraits that I've actually managed to hang up around my house. Because the turnaround time is probably going to be too long, I'm tempted to take them myself. As a slightly amateurish photographer who has taken plenty of portraits of her children, I know this is possible, but I'd almost rather have an unmedicated root canal, to be perfectly honest. That's why we call the professionals. At least when they answer the phone. I say this because I've been trying to reach someone at my local Sears Portrait Studio for the last four hours plus, with no luck. Just to ask that simple question. I really don't blame them. I can just picture the scenario: there is one lone manager running the place with six or eight families waiting, all with kids in fancy dresses that are itchy and uncomfortable. Poopy diapers, a few runny noses, and moms with unrealistic expectations of how their photos should turn out. All who want a lot of something for nothing, basically, which seems to be true of the retail industry in general today. (gotta stimulate that economy somehow, I guess) I know now not to blame the photographers after searching online for the answer to my question. I really didn't find it, but I did find how the corporate company that owns the studios, CPI, basically seems to treat their employees like crap. Just based on the few things I read, they are forced to schedule appointment sessions every 15 minutes (as if!) and then force expensive packages onto their customers, lest they risk losing their jobs. A quick Google search will reveal that they also own Picture Me! Studios from Walmart, and they basically treat those people the same way. So, so sad. Fifteen minutes to photograph a couple of snot-nosed kids who don't feel well and would rather go play or puke everywhere than get their picture taken - sounds about right. You can't even get everyone into the same room in 15 minutes, much less have the session completely over with. I know, because photographing my own children is like herding elephants through the eye of a needle. Perhaps the management at CPI don't have children, otherwise they'd realize this fact themselves. It's really too bad, because overall, I think the photographers at Sears know what they're doing and produce a good product. It's just too bad that they also have unrealistic expectations hanging over their heads by an out-of-touch management staff who wants nothing more than more money from the unsuspecting public. So, because I'm so neurotic and anal (and a bit of a procrastinator, it seems), I will probably end up shooting my children's pictures myself. Better go and schedule that root canal.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Keeping Our Children Safe: Child Predators

I've always said that should if anyone tried to harm my child, in this way or any other, that he (or she) would be missing a significant number of limbs. I was once again reminded of this point today as I attended a child sex abuse workshop at my son's school. 
The video featured the testimony of victims, their parents, and the abusers themselves. At one point I literally wanted to reach through the television and strangle the bastard who sat there and detailed some of his exploits, including the fact that he had been abusing children since he was ten years old, and only got caught when he was 36. Horrible imagery raced through my head - the what-if's, the near-misses, who knows what. This is literally my worst fear as a parent. 
At first I thought the workshop sounded like a chore and I was dreading it. But I left there with a renewed sense of protection not only for my own children, but for other kids, too. And it helped me realize that even though a background check sounds extreme, or suspicions might be unfounded, you never know. Who wants to take that chance? I have nothing to hide; have at it if you feel that it's going to make your school all that much safer. After all, my son is just one of the many kids who will pass through its doors, and I'm glad they're doing that much more to make him safe, too. 
While I've had "the talk" with my son about this before, after this presentation I realized just how much more I needed to include in that talk. Like, not always is the perpetrator a stranger. Many children are molested by people they know, whether it's a friend or even a family member. The key point here is that the abuser often gains the trust of the entire family and community too, not just the child. So he (or she) has everyone fooled into believing it could never happen because they are so trustworthy, so upstanding - how could that be possible? Adults can often put blinders on to this behavior and ignore red flags and warning signs until it's too late. 
Which brings me to another point: not always are the abusers male. We tend to lump strange-looking men that we don't know into the possible child molester category, which isn't really fair: women can be molesters, too. One of the young victims on the video was actually abused by her female teacher. 
And not always do the abusers fit the typical disheveled, strung-out look that we might often associate with them. Both of the male abusers featured on the tape looked fairly normal, with normal interests, just like you and me. The one said he coached girls' softball for 15 years, played Santa at Christmastime, and operated a roller skating rink where children often congregated. The other was a parent who had children of his own, and when kids came over to play, he considered it an open opportunity to violate them. 
My husband and I are pretty hyper-vigilant about where our children are when we're out in public, who they're with and what they're doing. I've often wondered if I was paranoid or too over the top, but have decided I don't care - it's my job to be paranoid. Many times we've discussed different situations and scenarios that someone might pose, like getting into the car with someone, even if they offer you lots of candy or Thomas trains, which my son loves. Inappropriate touching is another subject I've recently broached, and also emphasized after seeing the video that it's not always adults, either, who engage in this. After all, the one abuser, as I mentioned, was ten when he started molesting children. His first victim was a five-year-old, the same age as my son. 
One predator admitted that he targeted children who met a certain age criteria and looked a certain way. I felt my skin crawl as I thought of my daughter, who fit his exact description. Another said he often looked for children who had a poor family life and who lacked a father figure, and typically those children are often lonely and seeking attention. Sadly, those kids' parents are the ones who need to hear this stuff the most in order to protect their children during a difficult time in their lives. 
Some takeaway points I left with and plan to share with anyone who will listen are this:
• Know where your children are, and who they are with. This reminds me of when we witnessed a small boy my son's age wandering around the mini golf course we were playing at the other day. He followed us for a couple of holes and then wandered off again, hopefully back with his family. How could they let him be so far away without concern? Were they even paying attention? I can't help but think this would have been a prime opportunity for someone with horrible intentions. 
• Limit access to your children. Whether it's through physical contact, the Internet (which is another topic entirely) or some other medium, there are plenty of outlets that predators are perfectly willing to take advantage of when parents let their guard down. The presenters also mentioned screening of volunteers like us, but included babysitters as well - people who we willingly let into our homes. 
• Know the warning signs of abuse, not only in children, but the abuser as well. Behavior changes and inappropriate touching are signs your child might exhibit, as well as not wanting to go certain places they normally would enjoy going to. Abusers might be people who want to spend a lot of time with kids and avoid adult interaction. They may also exhibit other inappropriate behaviors like wanting to be alone with kids or giving gifts to manipulate them. Don't always expect them to be overt signs like hugging and touching. 
One thing that really struck me with these people on the video was that they had no remorse for their actions. They seemed to actually be justifying their behavior, in a sense. They blamed the parents for not being attentive and recognizing the warning signs, completely absolving themselves of any guilt in the matter. One of them said he was only arrested after he turned in film to be developed that had nude pictures of his victims on it, and the developer called the authorities. One can ask, What was he thinking? The program emphasized that these people think the rules don't apply to them, that they are above the law somehow. Whatever the case, thank God for his stupidity, or who knows what would have happened. 
• If you suspect suspicious behavior, don't be afraid to come forward. And encourage your children to do so, also, if something happens to them. Talk to your kids, and, more importantly, listen to what they're trying to tell you. This sounds pretty obvious, but one victim on the tape was abused by a priest, and members of the parish had been suspicious of inappropriate behaviors leading up to the abuse. After the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan, they only then came forward to say they had suspected something. Well, where were you when all this was going on? I wondered. Better to face a bit of embarrassment than completely ruin the life of a child to protect our own egos and reputations. I could never live with myself if I noticed these signs and yet did nothing about it. We have a job as adults to protect children, and if we misstep by accusing someone who isn't really guilty, we can issue our apologies later.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Please bear with me ...

If there's anyone out there in Cyber Land who's actually reading this, bear with me: I've just discovered and am jazzing up my blog to actually look cool. It's a lot of fun, but very hard to make up my mind what I want. 
Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Breastfeeding Doll Controversy

Not too long ago I noticed another scandalous headline about breastfeeding: apparently a Spanish toymaker has introduced a doll that little girls can nurse themselves. It even comes with a special "sling" that I can only guess is supposed to be like a nursing bra. Who knows, really. 
At any rate, I have mixed ideas about the doll. The idea might be a good one, I suppose - but it is a tad on the creepy side. I mean, in this household we don't need to buy a doll as a role model for my daughter; she has me to watch feeding her brother every two hours during the day. If they see it at home, they will no doubt figure it out and try it for themselves anyway. 
I did a quick Google search, which revealed that most of the negative attention the doll has received seems to come from the United States, where negative attitudes on nursing often prevail. (One skeptical article came from the UK, where breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in Europe.) This is evident in figures released from various sources and published on, which shows that in 2001, roughly 65% of women breastfed in the hospital. At six months, the figure dropped to 27% (some studies show figures as low as 12%), and by 18 months, none of the women surveyed was (even though some health organizations recommend nursing at least a year, if not two, for optimal health benefits). The countries with the highest rates of breastfeeding include Scandinavia, Switzerland, and (what a surprise!) Spain.  Most people in the US would cringe or think it gross to nurse a child for two years - whatever. (Let it be said, though, that any breastfeeding is better than none at all!)
So...parents are "wary of the breastfeeding doll" and the possible psychological damage it will do, yet teen queen Miley Cyrus can pole dance for an audience of young adults at the Teen Choice Awards this month and that raises little more than an eyebrow. Yeah, that makes sense. 
At any rate, the creepiness factor I'm feeling might be from people who consider it a doll that teaches girls to breastfeed. Rather than teach, I think it provides positive modeling that might just come in handy when they're older (much, much older, hopefully). Who knows - in the right environment, it could help people overcome their hang-ups about boobs being just for sex (see my last post), and further increase the rate of breastfeeding, which is good for mom and for baby. What's wrong with that?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Can I Get Some Privacy, Please?

We're visiting the in-laws, and I just caught a glimpse of my husband and father-in-law out the upstairs window with ladder in tow. Good grief, I thought, please don't let them come up here. What are the chances? I finished feeding the baby just as my husband's face came into view. Can't a girl and her little booblet get any peace? Which reminds me of our latest family trip to Wal-mart. Of course, whenever we're there, the baby always needs fed. Generally the relative calm of a locked fitting room will do the trick, but this time my nursing session was interrupted by a rather inquisitive young girl who decided to crawl on the floor to see under the door. "What are you doing in here?" (since I obviously wasn't trying on clothes) "I'm feeding my baby!" I said, hoping that would be the end of it. Nope - she peeked not once, but twice! I should be glad about possibly providing a young girl to see a natural aspect of motherhood: after all, using the boobs God gave us to feed our young is quite an extraordinary thing! And it's not like I was out in the open, breasts exposed for all to see. You'd think that, after breastfeeding my third child, I'd have quite the knack for nursing in public (NIP, to those of us 'in the know' LOL). Not so! Of course my two boys were the ones who often ate the most, whenever, wherever, regardless if they had just been fed prior to going wherever we were. That would be the time they would just have to be nursed at the dinner table, during some important function, or whatever. And of course neither one liked having a blanket over their heads to conceal the goods; nope, they had to grasp it in one chubby fist and rip the whole thing off. Not exactly discreet. Thankfully I've never really received any horrid looks or been confronted by an offended passerby. But I outright refuse to nurse my child in a dirty bathroom stall where other people normally take a dump - that's where I draw the line. (However, our local Walmart does happen to have a nice bench in their restroom, just an FYI.) One thing I don't get is how certain people have a problem with breastfeeding, yet are totally okay with women walking around with half their cleaveage hanging out, thongs and tattoos exposed and on public display. Yet me feeding my baby (who happens to be a boy) is somehow disgusting? Please! Boobs are not just for pleasure, people! I've heard of people getting the evil eye (the "I can't see what you're doing but I know what's going on under that blanket!" look) for nursing, and really, as long as you're not doing topless dances on the tables, who cares? Baby is hungry; baby needs to eat! I've seen plenty of people shoving food into their mouths in public and find that much harder on the eyes than a baby discreetly enjoying mother's milk, God's perfect food! And I'm not sure whether to cringe or laugh when I see my 2-year-old daughter casually (but lovingly!) lifting her shirt to 'feed' her baby. Why discourage something that is perfectly natural? Hopefully it will be a positive model for her and when it's her time to have babies, breastfeeding will be her method of choice.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Birth Day: A Televised VBAC

This morning I was watching tv at my inlaws - they have fancy cable with all the premium channels I don't get at home. While flipping through I spotted a half-hour show on Discovery Health about VBACs and froze in my remote-controlled tracks. What?! They're showing a VBAC on tv? Skeptically, I thought it was going to end in the obvious way: mom would be scared into giving up her hopes of delivering vaginally and would be wheeled into the OR, pronto. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the laboring mom had already had a successful VBAC and was now having her third child. Of course, doctors gave her the familiar warnings that her uterus could rupture, baby could die, blah blah blah. Not discounting that those things can happen, I'm sure she's heard it before, seeing as how she's already done it once. Granted, it was a half-hour show, so they could really only go over the major points: who should have them, who might not be good candidates, etc. etc. Her reason for a prior c/s was fetal distress, which is definitely a legitimate reason, but sometimes can be misinterpreted by a particularly overzealous doctor who is ready and waiting to slice you open. Halfway through mom's labor, an OB resident became concerned that the uterus was rupturing, as the baby's heart rate was starting to show decelerations. The patient's doctor came in, examined her, and thankfully determined that she could proceed and that the baby was probably fine. The baby was successfully born via VBAC, but was very blue. The minute they showed his little head coming out, I thought, Oh my God, he's blue, and was lifeless and limp as they moved him over to the warming table to clean him up. They would have to pick this particular birth to show a VBAC, I thought, meaning that whoever seeing it that might actually be considering one is probably sufficiently scared off from ever attempting it now that they've seen this episode. But something else struck a familiar cord in me as I watched this child enter the world: his cord was wrapped around his neck, just as my son's was. I sobbed as I held my baby and watched this show, not only for this fellow VBAC "sister," but also for what could have been in my own situation: I knew my VBAC was unsuccessful for a reason. While this woman's baby ultimately was fine, a healthy pink color and breathing on his own, I wondered if perhaps it would have been different for us. I try not to dwell on it too much, because, after all, I look at my chubby, healthy son and praise the Lord that he arrived safely. There are some points I wished the program would have touched on, though.
  • Many doctors will give you the option, yet do everything in their power to dissaude you from choosing it, including the use of scare tactics and even harrassment.
  • Your chances of a successful subsequent VBAC increase with each prior VBAC you've had.
  • The overuse and even abuse of Pitocin (which has often been called "the devil's drug" in some medical circles) and how studies show that the chance of uterine rupture, although rare, was increased in those women who had Pitocin during their labors. The risks further increased with the use of prostaglandins such as Cervidil, which are used to ripen the cervix.*
This last point is the scariest, because it might actually (well, you would hope, anyway) force doctors to re-examine how they 'manage' labor. I found an article dating from 2001 that discussed how the increased risk of u/r might turn patients off from the idea of having a VBAC, but yet goes on to say how the risks increase because of the use of Pitocin and similar labor-inducing agents. Which begs the question: When are doctors going to admit they can't control all aspects of the birth process, and change their practices accordingly? (Even though the article is almost a decade old, the same ideas and mentality are still very much at work here.) Sadly, probably never. It's too much of an industry for some, which turns the birth process into little more than a baby-making assembly line where all laboring moms should fit the same model or want the same thing from their births; the idea that 'it doesn't matter how you got here, just as long as you did.' After awhile the "you" part of this equation starts to feel like you have very little involvement in the whole process and are just a vessel, prodded and poked and insulted like you're a piece of flesh that has no feelings whatsoever. The following phrase comes to mind: "Doctors will get down from their pedestals when patients get off of their knees." *It's important to note that some doctors, even against dire warnings to do so, will still induce labor with the synthetic prostaglandin Cytotec. Its off-label use for induction of labor can cause miscarriage, severe birth defects and uterine rupture even in women who have had no prior uterine scar. Doctors will sometimes use it because it's supposedly cheaper than Pitocin, and claim that it's just as safe to use. I'm not sure how many doctors are still using this drug, but if yours is one of them, please know the risks and then run the other way. Searle, the drug's manufacturer, has issued numerous warnings against its use in labor inductions, and personally I think doctors who ignore those warnings are throwing all common sense and caution out the window in favor of the all-mighty dollar.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Big, Fat, Hairy Deal

The old saying from the Garfield comic strip comes to mind right now. I'm doing a load of laundry with like three things in it because my son has not had his Very Special Crocodile T-Shirt for Vacation Bible School for the last two days now. So, because I forgot to throw it in with the last load, and told him it would be okay to not wear it one or two days, he had his picture taken with the group - and was about the only one not wearing his Very Special Crocodile T-Shirt. Man, I felt terrible. 
My husband told me tonight how much our son wanted to wear his special shirt today. Of course, I forgot, and pretty much insisted that another green shirt would do. And tonight at dinner when my husband tried to give him a pink bowl instead of the dark green one he wanted, my son threw a mini-fit because, I'm sure, he thinks pink is only for girls. He eventually relented, but not without a fight. 
I told my husband that the picture taken at Vacation Bible School today made me realize something: that sometimes, yes, it IS a big, fat, hairy deal, especially when you're five. Sometimes we lose sight of those little important things that mean so much to our children, and need them, in their infinitely pure wisdom, to remind us once in a while. 
The Very Special Crocodile T-Shirt will be ready and waiting tomorrow morning, for sure. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Home Delivery is for Pizzas

I was already in a bad mood yesterday. When I got to the grocery store, I happened to park next to a car with a bumper sticker that read, "Home delivery is for pizzas," with an image of a stork next to it. 
I wanted to blow a gasket. I searched female faces once I got in the store, wondering, "Was it her? Is it her car?", which is ridiculous, but still: I wanted to know who could possibly espouse such narrow-minded ideas. Surely, as a result of the great abortion debate, the mantra is, "Our bodies, our choice!", right? I guess only in certain situations. If you want to keep your baby, suddenly it's not your choice anymore what happens to your body or where and how you give birth. It's as if you've handed over all your rights to someone who suddenly knows your body better than you do. Lots of doctors (although not all, let's not lump everyone into that group, I suppose) use your baby as a weapon to coerce and pressure you.
While I've never had a homebirth, I was pretty darned close to the idea of one during my last pregnancy. I realize now it wouldn't have been the right choice for me (yay, two points for Dr. Congeniality and mom has to admit she is wrong!) but, had my child been in the birthing position, I was seriously considering going into labor on my own and having my friends at the local fire station attend their very first HVBAC. 
There are lots of reasons why someone might choose a homebirth: a terrible hospital experience, fear of being pushed into numerous unnecessary interventions, or wanting to birth in a natural place that was most comfortable to them. One look at the crazy ridiculous c-section rate in this country and I can totally understand, especially after having had two sections myself. I haven't met a doctor yet who doesn't see pregnancy and birth as a medical condition, a clinical process that has nothing to do with your mind and spirit as much as it has to do with your body being an amazing machine, really. They offer little support in the process and do more to tear you down than build you up. They could have witnessed thousands of successful births, but the minute you mention the words 'homebirth' or VBAC, they immediately start pulling out the horror stories to dissuade you from making a decision about your own body. Yes, it's important to know the risks - but more importantly, it's key to have support in your decision. 
I got online to read the statistics on the safety of homebirth, and once again was directed to the blog of Dr. Amy Tuteur, an OBGYN. While not discounting any of Dr. Tuteur's experiences, I couldn't believe the sheer arrogance expressed in her blog. She claims her site,, is for both supporters and opponents of homebirth. But it reads more like a bash session against homebirth and midwives than anything else, and supporters are probably few and far between. At one point, Dr. Tuteur actually says, in the comments section of her post "and they wonder why no one takes them seriously," that "midwives lack basic knowledge, and don't like what they find out when they do acquire basic knowledge." She goes on to say, "Midwives aren't knowledgeable, they don't like what knowledge shows them, and they place inordinate value on their own emotions."
Midwives aren't knowledgeable? What? Isn't that a bit of an overgeneralization? The certified nurse midwife who delivered my second child certainly seemed to know what she was doing. No woman, or midwife, should approach homebirth without a lack of knowledge. I also don't know many women who wake up at 39 weeks pregnant and say, "Oh, I think I'll have a homebirth!" Nor can I imagine a midwife who says, "Sure, let's do a homebirth! How hard can it possibly be?" You cannot approach a homebirth or VBAC without knowing the risks, and the facts - not the trumped up worries of a handful of people who think you're being selfish or dangerous. Tutuer is trying to separate the emotional from the clinical aspect of birth, and in my experience, you can't do it. You can't deny that birth is a very emotional, spiritual process, something that many cold, scientific doctors are unwilling to admit or lend credence to. If midwifery is not to be trusted, and midwives like Ina May Gaskin are so 'unknowledgeable,' then how do you explain her success rate
Whatever the case, yes, there are risks. But there are risks to doing everything: riding in your car, going for a walk outside, even having a fatal accident within the four walls of your own home. It's important to put this into perspective, rather than fall victim to scare tactics like the ones Dr. Tuteur has firmly seeded in the brains of women everywhere. The what if's that might never be suddenly take on a life of their own and completely overshadow everything else, and ultimately, there are risks involved that might be unavoidable, even in a controlled hospital setting. Because that's what it's ultimately all about: control, and how countless American obstetricians suffer from a God complex and are trying to control a process that is still not up to them. What she fails to mention is that women still do die during hospital births and after c-sections, even despite our wealth of knowledge and superior facilities. She also fails to mention that the intrusive and often unnecessary practices of her very cohorts are what drives many women to seek out a homebirth in the first place. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Putting a price tag on human life

I just read the latest headlines coming from Great Britain: apparently police dogs were left in a hot car and died as a result. Not surprisingly, charges are expected to be filed against the handlers. 
But wait - back up a minute. Does anyone remember a few years ago when an Ohio mom forgot to drop her child off at daycare, only to accidentally leave the kid in the hot car all day long? You can imagine the result, which was probably no less than horrific for that mother. But I'm wondering if charges shouldn't be filed anyway - why in the case of the dogs, but not in the case of the mom - where an actual *human* life was lost?
And sadly, after the death of this little girl, it came to light that she had been left in the car before. What the heck?
And yet she still didn't face charges. 
Anymore, I think society tends to place more importance on the lives of animals over humans. I remember several years ago hearing about the raging wildfires in the west, and how brave men and women were placing their lives on the line to quell the flames. At one point, they needed to tap into a nearby lake for more water, but environmentalists wouldn't let them because it would endanger the local wildlife. As a result, some firefighters died that day. 
Who's more important - a fish or a person? This story falls along those same lines. I'm sure the handlers of those dogs will face extensive prosecution, yet the Ohio mom who repeatedly endangered and neglected her child walks free, if only to be shackled by lifelong guilt. 
But I wonder - after reading the story about the dogs, will anyone remember this child and draw the same conclusion? How her life seemingly means less than that of an animal? No job in the world should be more all-consuming than my kids, which is the point of being a mother in the first place. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mom, The Human Chew Toy

Three months down and still no routine. I don't know what I'm expecting - miracles, maybe. Just to get Mister Baby down at night in under two hours would be heavenly. I've been kind of resentful lately. Resentful and tired. I know this is mostly my fault - well, really all my fault. I feel guilty for even writing it down or verbalizing it, because I know people who would kill to have my problem. I don't even know who I resent - but I almost have to fight off the urge to scream out loud some evenings when all I want to do is something other than nurse a baby for two hours. I have a beautiful, chubby baby who obviously gets adequate nourishment from me, but sometimes I can't help feeling like a Human Chew Toy. I love breastfeeding, but sometimes I just need a break. Now that summer is here my husband can and does watch the children at length so I can have time to shop, putz around or do whatever. But somehow it's those evening hours that are hardest. I hate the fact that whenever I want to do something, I am usually too tired. Or when I have the energy, I don't want to do it. What the heck is up with that?
If I went to bed early, I muse, maybe that extra hour or two of sleep would make me feel better. Then again, maybe there would be no extra hour or two, because it always seems like that's when Mister Baby wakes up and needs something. By 9 p.m. or so, I'm usually so tired all I feel like doing is sitting at the computer and loafing. And after trying on several pair of shorts tonight that didn't even remotely fit, this has me even more depressed. I feel like I've morphed into some kind of fat slob over the course of the past three months, like I looked better pregnant. Whatever the case, I just wish I could lose 30 pounds and that someone could do it for me. LOL
I told my husband I wanted to go work out tomorrow before going to church. We'll see how that works out. I know as soon as I get back into a regular routine that it'll get easier; it's the starting out all over again that's the hardest part - starting from scratch. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day, Dad, The Incompetent Boob

If you turn on the television during any given time of day and pay attention to the commercials, you'll see countless ads that feature a typical American dad. Grilling, golfing, whatever, he's usually the stereotypical archetype of what a father should be to most of us. Unfortunately, he's also often portrayed as a clueless, benign figure who doesn't know his butt from a hole in the ground. 
Image from
This is a phenomenon that my husband has recently brought to my attention. Usually I hit mute during 90 percent of the commercials, but every so often will half pay attention in time to see a mom bribing her daughter with money to convince the poor, hapless father that they need a complete kitchen remodel. Or, the wife will stand impatiently and glare at her oaf of a husband for even daring to assume that their list of home improvement projects is done, the husband looking cowardly at the wife like he's ready to be hit over the head with a baseball bat. What gives? You certainly wouldn't see these roles reversed. Can you even imagine such a thing and the outpouring of rage that would ensue?
How many TV actresses have played the role of laboring mother, screaming through clenched teeth at their helpless husbands, "You did this to me!" Perhaps us mothers should be thankful they put us in that position? Or at least realize that they are what gave us the ability to be mothers in the first place?
Apparently there is some buzz about the roles of fathers in commercials and TV - if you do a Google search you'll find extensive material discussing this. So why hasn't the ad industry caught on? 
My husband and I both agree, as do many others, that now more than ever society needs positive, strong father figures. How many judges overseeing bitter custody battles will give full custody to the mother of the child? In the case of Baby P, a British toddler who was severely beaten by his mother and her boyfriend, the biological father of the child was fighting for custody to the point of even attempting to kidnap his child in a desperate attempt to save his life. But the conventional wisdom of the court prevailed, and the child was sent home with Dear Mother and her live-in boyfriend, who then proceeded to brutally beat the child to death. Had dad only been given custody of his son, who knows where this young boy would be now? Healthy and thriving? Getting ready to start preschool?
Studies have shown that kids who grow up without positive fatherly role models in their lives are more likely to live in poverty, commit more crime and do more poorly in school. Therefore we know that dad does more than just bring home a paycheck and leave the rest to mom. 
No one wants to admit that sometimes mom can bungle things, too, like the times I've actually been so busy I forgot to give my kids lunch. Or when my sleep-deprived brain has done some dumb things, like forget diapers AND wipes while out in public only to have one of the kids experience a messy blowout of mythic proportions. And I can't tell you how many times my husband has remembered to bring those diapers and wipes, and will have already changed one of the kids when I forget!
We talk about paying tribute to dads on Father's Day, but perhaps we should really give them their due and stop portraying them as bungling idiots who don't know a thing except how to drink beer and grill hot dogs. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Rant of the Week: Jo-Ann Fabrics

I've debated on whether to strictly limit my focus on one thing: childbirth and other related topics. Then I decided that, like my attention span at the moment, it should be about anything that's on my mind - after all, that's what a blog is for. 
Lately I've had it in my head that I'm going to sew a dress. Yes, I know how to sew. No, I cannot find anything appropriate that doesn't look like a large animal gave birth or threw up on it. All the dress fabrics I see are covered in some kind of random, awful ethnic/animal/weird patterns. Not that there's anything wrong with ethnic patterns, they just aren't for me. Why can't I find something conservative, like a timid polka dot, a subtle stripe (ok, maybe not stripes, since I don't necessarily need to accentuate the growing thing that is my stomach and butt, and I'm not even pregnant anymore). See ... I knew this would somehow get back to pregnancy and childbirth. LOL
I'm going to lodge a formal complaint to Jo-Ann Fabrics, not that they'd listen. Complaining is something I do very well. I bet that since they have a ton of this ugly fabric left for currently 60 percent off right now, no one else is buying it, either. I must not be the only one who doesn't want to walk around looking like a paintball target. I want something classic, maybe a bit retro - not Copa-Cabana-Mexican-spring-break-drunken-party/Carmen Miranda's fruit basket. 
On the flip side, I've been sewing a lot of Barbie clothes lately. My daughter is just getting to the point of being interested, and surprisingly I've become obsessed with it. It's fun, especially because Barbie has a killer (if not totally unrealistic) figure. One thing about that - Barbie is much easier to fit clothing for, because she has no lumps and bumps, no bulges, and her figure is always a constant - she doesn't mind scratchy fabrics and Velcro closures rubbing up against her skin. And one thing I can control - she doesn't wear slutty outfits like her Mattel-manufactured counterparts do: somehow the prostitute Barbie look just doesn't sit well with me. She's much easier to fit than I am, for instance - someone who is rather short, a bit fat and slightly dumpy compared to the conventional pattern makers and their outrageous ideas of womanly dimensions. Some day they will get it together, too, and design patterns that actually fit people. Novel idea. But since I haven't even reached that point, I guess it doesn't matter. In the meantime, Barbie has a nicer wardrobe than I do!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colic, Reflux, Allergy, Oh My!

Warning: for those who are squeamish when talking about baby poop, consider yourselves warned! 
I just changed Mister Baby's diaper and saw something that may or may not be cause for alarm. Normally, a breastfed baby produces stools in 'every color of the rainbow,' as I've heard it described. There are lots of reasons why it could be anything other than 'mustard butt,' which, at least in this household,  is what we call the bright yellow stuff. Yellow-brown, brownish-yellow, green, dark green - it could mean a variety of things besides just what you've eaten for that day. 
Greenish poo can mean a couple things - if the baby is getting only the foremilk instead of the hindmilk, for instance, it can produce frothy, greenish poop. Getting the baby to nurse longer or continuing on the same breast at the next feeding can often help. This can also be caused by overactive milk supply, causing the baby to sputter, cough or gag at the breast because the milk is simply too much for him. I tend to have this, at least until my milk supply regulates itself over time, and right now Mister Baby is fussy at the beginning of a feeding or pulls away from the breast and gets sprayed in the face. When he pulls away, I'll sometimes use a cloth or nursing pad to absorb the excess milk and we're good to go. Mister Baby seems to match several of their criteria, including  spitting up a lot, crying and irritability sometimes (but what baby doesn't?). If you think you're producing too much milk, here are some good ways to tell:
However, these are criteria for other problems, too, namely a milk protein allergy, which is the part that concerns me. Overactive milk letdown is an easy problem to fix; not so much so for the dairy allergy. Or at least while it's not difficult to fix, the results can sometimes take longer to see. Ask me how I know: I dealt with endless screaming and inconsolable crying for eight long weeks with my daughter before I figured out the problem. Other big red flags with her were a persistent "allergy ring" around the anus that I dismissed as simple diaper rash, stool that changed from normal bright yellow to green to brown and then to blood, and lots of mucus. Considering I have Crohn's Disease, I was scared to death that it was manifesting itself in my infant daughter already - knowing that she could inherit this horrible disease from me anyway, I couldn't bear the thought of her suffering from it so early in her young life. 
We had already visited one of the pediatricians in our group before, only to come home with a prescription for Zantac to treat acid reflux. I never got that filled, because I wasn't totally convinced it was reflux. Sure, she spat up a lot, but there were also episodes of literal projectile vomiting that scared the hell out of me - at times it was so forceful that I couldn't even find where it landed. I was afraid to feed her after she'd vomit up an entire feeding and then be hungry again. 
Then her symptoms manifested themselves in bloody, mucusy poop - not a pretty picture, especially when there were times I'd find that instead of stool in her diaper. After that, I knew something was really wrong, and visited the kellymom website to get some very helpful advice on diagnosing a milk protein allergy. My daughter showed probably all of the red flags, but I was relieved that this was at least something I could deal with on my own and hopefully it would resolve itself with a change in diet. 
I visited our pediatrician at my daughter's 8-week checkup and she was just as concerned as I was, only her answer to the problem was to put the baby on formula for three days and see if there was an improvement. By this time, I already knew that it could take up to ten days for her symptoms to disappear, and that going on formula would do nothing, since it wasn't enough time to see improvement. After the three days I would continue nursing her while on my same diet; how was that going to change anything? 
I told her I wanted to change my diet and see what happened, and her response: "'s been my experience that moms say changing their diet doesn't really work." I thought, either they weren't eating totally dairy-free, in all its forms, or they didn't wait long enough for signs of improvement. I knew it could take a while and was willing to wait it out if it meant I could continue nursing. I left there disgusted, but at least had convinced the pediatrician that I would do it my way, for now. 
The thing is, you don't have to stop nursing: there is absolutely no such thing as being allergic to breastmilk. Your breastmilk, designed for your baby, is Nature's perfect food. It's what's in your breastmilk, like dairy, soy, wheat or other allergens, that can cause baby a problem if they're allergic. Just like we know that alcohol and drugs in breastmilk can affect a baby, so can the food you eat. So any doctor who tells you your baby is 'allergic to your milk' is full of BS. Unfortunately, I think some doctors just don't know enough about it to properly advise a patient, because I've read a lot of misinformation out there that seems to come directly from the mouths of our esteemed pediatricians, of all people. 
The challenging part is eliminating all forms of dairy from your diet - not just milk, but caseins, caseinates, and all those other foreign-sounding ingredients that don't look like dairy but really are. Sometimes it's confusing, and the label can even bend the truth a little by saying "not a significant source of dairy." Well, maybe not to them, but it is to your very sensitive baby - so be on the lookout for these impostors. (One culprit I can think of is my flavored coffee creamers that I like so much. Darn it.) Note: lactose-free is not the same thing as dairy-free. Changing to lactose-free products will not solve the problem. 
It became more of a challenge to find products I could actually eat safely. One nearly surefire way for me to tell was by following a parve diet labeled with the OU symbol - if it doesn't have a "D" next to it, you know there is no dairy. The Orthodox Union is very strict about food labels and what goes into products, and they regularly inspect manufacturing plants and their equipment to make sure they are indeed kosher. This definitely took 90% of the guesswork out of it for me, and I recommend it to anyone who faces the same dilemma. 
There are so many things on the market today that, if you're willing and truly dedicated to going dairy free, it can be quite easy. Rice-based ingredients are usually a good bet, especially since they often don't have soy-based proteins in them that can also be allergenic as well. You can get rice milk (which I still use to this day), rice- or tofu-based ice cream and other treats (yum!) and a variety of other specialty foods that make eating less of a chore and heal your baby's sensitive tummy, too. And hopefully your child will grow out of the allergy around 9-12 months, like mine did. Thankfully my daughter tolerates cow's milk just fine now. If not, at least you know you can feed your child some safe, yummy alternatives to milk, and for the little ones, know you can still continue to nurse them safely and provide them Nature's perfect food. 
• Other great websites to check out for information and recipes: For info and recipes on this and many other common allergies 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mister Baby: The First 100 Days

It's been a month and one day since we bravely brought Mister Baby into our household. Since then, I've shed many tears, both of joy and desperation. I've had two other kids before - how can this one be so difficult? I wonder to myself. People ask how I do it, and I tell them one simple word: Caffeine. 
People also say that a woman quickly forgets how much childbirth hurts, and that's why she decides to have more children. I say we quickly forget how difficult the newborn period is, and erase the sounds of those ear-piercing wails and unpredictable spit up episodes at 4 a.m. We also forget how the baby only cries at certain times of the day, like when you want to do something important like eat, use the bathroom, or sleep. It seems like my child only gets fussy when I'm attempting any of these things, and yet, if I had nothing to do all day but sit and twiddle my thumbs, the child would sleep through a 50-piece marching band for four hours. 
I've forgotten about the "witching hour" in the early evening, where settling down to bed takes about four hours, and where no amount of holding, rocking or breastmilk seems to do the trick. Then, suddenly, Mister Baby poops out and falls asleep in an instant. After several tries, you know he's really ready for bed when the arms go up over his head and he's down for the count. Then and only then is it time for me to even consider crawling into bed - too soon, and his Baby Radar will go off and he'll smell me in his sleep, and start sputtering like an old car running out of gas. Or he'll just be settled into bed after a particularly grueling couple hours of fussiness, only to poop in his sleep. Usually this happens after I've just crawled into bed and closed my eyes, thinking only of my comfortable bed and pillow. The minute I hear the telltale gastrointestinal warning bell, my eyes fly open and I stare at the ceiling, thinking "Oh, crap." Literally. 
But then I look at my other two children, seeing how they can brush their teeth by themselves, are learning how to read on their own, and do just about everything else themselves, too. The mantra of my two-year-old is "Me! I do it!" and while her independence allows me more time to tend to the baby, it comes with a price: she's not my little baby anymore, and soon Mister Baby won't be, either. Everyone tells me to relish this time and know that it won't last, for good or for bad - we won't be getting up at all hours of the night for him to eat, but neither will he be a cute, cuddly little 10-pound bundle of joy completely dependent on me for everything. Soon he, like the others, will be riding around on his bike at top speed, waiting for the school bus, and asking me endlessly for another glass of milk or another snack. Somehow I will be ready for it, and as my children grow and change, hopefully I will with them, trying and exploring new things right along with them. I envision play forts and bunk beds, dress up clothes and camping out in the backyard, and smile. Even though something in me doesn't want them to grow up and get bigger, watching them grow and learn and change will be just as much fun. And at least until they turn 16, I might start picking up a few extra hours of sleep along the way, too. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Birth Day

Well, it's been over three weeks since my last post. Little did I know that the very night I last posted, I would go into labor and have such a crazy, yet wonderful, experience that would test my human strength and intuition. I was putting my faith into action, while God worked behind the scenes on my behalf!
Several hours after I blogged that Tuesday night, we ate dinner - something told me not to eat too much. I went to bed but couldn't sleep because of random, painless but uncomfortable Braxton Hicks contractions and some back ache. I think I slept for probably an hour, because I do remember having strange dreams. By the time I got up and walked around for the millionth time, the pain suddenly went up a notch - and then I lost my mucus plug. Because we didn't know what position the baby was in, we headed to the hospital about half an hour after labor started in earnest. 
We arrived at the hospital around half an hour later and headed for L & D. As I was signing the insurance papers, my water broke in a tremendous gush everywhere. For a split second I panicked, like the fact that I had made such a mess was my fault, or that now it was really gonna hurt. They wheeled me into a room and I got undressed and took a shower, which helped a bit. As I was coming out, the nurse took one look at my belly and told me she didn't think the baby was in the right position. 
While we were waiting for the ultrasound machine, they checked me - I was already 10 cm dilated! I was blown away. Here was the test to see how far I could get without pain meds and what my body could really do. I'm sure after doing the internal exam the resident could tell the baby was not in position, because it wasn't without a bit of urgency in his voice that he announced I was completely dilated. Then they wheeled the ultrasound machine in and confirmed what we had all suspected - the baby was footling breech. For some odd reason, like my last labor, I had no desire to push - which was a good thing in this case. And as soon as they told me the baby was breech, I knew it was a boy - neither of my sons could find the right way out! 
I was a bit let down, but knew in my heart of hearts - I was disappointed but remained calm while they proceeded to stick me nearly half dozen times to insert an IV line. Meanwhile, my husband was beside me nearly turning green at the prospect of another c-section. One resident shakily said he didn't know how to perform a footling breech delivery, and I almost laughed. While the nurse asked me if I wanted to attempt a vaginal delivery, I said no - I know that OB's just aren't as knowledgeable or equipped to handle such a birth anymore since they almost always do an automatic c-section. In fact, the only such people truly capable of performing such a feat are midwives. Since there wasn't one of those around for quite a ways, I decided not to take my chances and signed the release form. 
When Baby A arrived, we found his cord wrapped around at least twice - which is a testament to me, at least, that the Lord had a reason for him being in the position he was in. Perhaps the frozen Brussels sprouts encouraged him to turn in the wrong direction, we'll never know; but whatever the reason, it must have been a good one. I thought back to my months' old 'premonition' that this baby would be a boy born via c-section and kind of laughed to myself - perhaps that still, small voice was preparing me early on and I just wasn't listening? My ultimate prayer of a safe, healthy delivery was answered, and also one for a healthy child. I kind of like to think the Lord compromised with me on this one. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"DON'T give up!"

I received strange, yet powerful words of wisdom, from my 2 1/2-year-old daughter the other day. 
With squinched face and pointing finger, she demanded of me, "DON'T give up!" Not quite sure where she heard that. But it resonated in my head as I have been preparing for this upcoming birth journey that is really a continuation of her her birth journey. Really, all three journeys are strung together in one long, epic story over the course of five years. 
Lately we've been resting, planning, praying and praying some more as we approach "The Day," whenever that is. A bag of frozen brussels sprouts ("sprubble brouts," as my daughter calls them) and a borrowed blood pressure cuff have been my best friends. I have daily, if not hourly, talks with God, in hopes that this baby turning is His will, but ultimately that whatever happens, it goes well and I can come to terms with it. So far He has already answered one prayer in keeping my blood pressure lower and stabilized, for which I am so thankful. And I also found out last night that my son or daughter does not like having a bag of frozen food placed on its head, as the head is definitely not in the same position it was before. I've been down on all fours, cleaning my daughter's room, anything I can think of - to get this baby to turn. So we'll see ... only a last-minute ultrasound can really reveal the truth.
It would be easy to just give in and assume that the baby won't turn, my pressure will be too high, blah blah blah ... and do the c-section already. Most women would have already done that and been over and done with it and home recovering right now with their babies. But I guess I'm not most women ... I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Time will tell, though. I don't feel like this is a gamble so much as me allowing my body time to do what God intended, or at least try. In a world where we're trained to want answers now without having to wait and are awarded instant gratification, I'm hoping that the end result will be a much sweeter reward for having waited. 
Hopefully my experiences and story will make it that much more encouraging to someone else in my position. In the words of my daughter, "DON'T give up!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"So, when's this baby going to come?"

That's what I heard at my last OB appointment yesterday. I joked, "Well, I've put in my request." "When are we going to do this c-section?" he asked, not at all joking. Now that's just not something you say to a woman hoping to VBAC and expect her to take it lightly or think it's even remotely funny. 
At nearly the 40-week mark we've had some interesting, if not startling, revelations. After my OB appointment I spent more than three hours in the hospital for observation of high blood pressure and moderate ankle swelling, only to find out the baby was transverse. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, and it definitely puts a monkey wrench in the works. 
But the good news: I'm still pregnant. Barely. 
After an animated discussion on the phone with one of my doctors in the hospital, I nearly had to beg and plead with her just to let me remain pregnant until this baby chose it's day, malpositioned or not. Her insincerity and total lack of hesitation to pressure me into an immediate c-section was surreal, considering I had the same complications with even higher BPs and swelling in my last pregnancy and was definitely not admitted for observation. I basically told her this, and was in no way going to let her scare me into making an immediate decision. I wanted to go home and rest, think about it, and do some research. 
I feel lucky, considering the millions of women who seem to get duped into taking their obstetrician's word that it's a definite emergency and worthy of panic. I've also heard women say how their reluctance or outright refusal to follow their doctor's orders can result in being treated harshly or ignored, which is inexcusable. I wanted to ask my male doctor why it's only in obstetrics patients get treated this way - as if their bodies are not their own and they are at the mercy of some stranger to make decisions for them, or are completely incapable of making those educated decisions themselves. I wanted to ask, "If you went for a prostate exam, do you think the doctor would say, 'There's a chance you could get prostate cancer. Let's just remove the prostate, and while we're at it, cut off your genitals, too.'" No way would they say that, and no man would tolerate it. Neither should women!
I'm not blaming my doctors for this baby's position, but I can't help but feel ripped off slightly in the whole process. I'm trusting in God to take care of this baby and allow it to turn if it's His will. But in the meantime, it's hard to get over the anger of being made to feel inferior, like you're an idiot, and can't make your own decisions. The lack of support is overwhelming and does nothing but tear down your confidence and spirit - which is unfortunate, considering I have done this before. One nurse at the hospital told me "Good for you!" when she'd heard I had already had a VBAC, and I told her, "You don't normally hear that when you tell someone you've had one." You find yourself clinging to that one word of encouragement in a world full cynicism, apprehension, fear and indifference: as my labor doula put it, "They don't care what happens to you after the baby is born, especially if you have to come to taking care of three children after a c-section." As I told Dr. Congeniality on the phone, 'if this baby turns, I don't want to have had to go through all that for no reason.' 
My only prayer is that women everywhere else don't have to, either. You can't expect your doctors to fully educate you on the risks and benefits and be your advocate by suggesting, "Hey, why don't you do a VBAC?," or "Let's do what we can to avoid a cesarean." Only you can do that, and you owe it to yourself to keep your rights and stop giving them away to someone who only wants you in and out in order to move on to the next unsuspecting patient. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Fight To Give Birth in the Age of Fear-Based Obstetrics

As I quickly approach the 40-week mark in my pregnancy, I am thankful for many things: namely the fact that my body has essentially "proven" itself to not only me but to my OB's. I am preparing for my second VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) and while my journey has been fairly uneventful thus far (I won't say totally uneventful, because that's not the truth), it is nothing less than a tooth-and-nail fight for thousands of women to do the same all over the US. 
I am also thankful that my only reason for having a c-section was breech presentation of my first child - not failure to progress, a "small pelvis," or failed induction of labor. I went into labor on my own even then, and had already progressed well despite the fact that we knew the baby had to be delivered via cesarean. With my second pregnancy, to my OB's credit he did offer me the choice to do a VBAC initially (which I declined, knowing nothing about it) and I think he was secretly relieved when I said no. But as I approached 37 weeks, my baby was heads down - something I wasn't even sure my children could do because of a physical defect of my uterus - and realized quickly that I really didn't want to go through the painful recovery of another c-section. 
I consulted with my OB, whom I thought was going to stutter himself into oblivion at my choice. I had since done lots of research, lots of praying, and lots of reading of very positive birth outcomes that I felt was essential to the preparation process. I couldn't believe what I was about to embark on, but with God's help and my husband's support, I could get through this. And I did. Beautifully!
I'm not totally against c-sections: of course I think there are instances where they are totally necessary. Breech presentations, multiple births (although not necessarily with twins alone, as long as they present correctly), severe prematurity, dangerous pre-eclampsia, and fetal distress are all obvious red flags, at least to me. But with a c-section rate of roughly 30 percent in this country, you have to wonder if those reasons are really why women are having c-sections?
More common reasons that the c-section rate is so high is because OB's want to practice "daylight obstetrics" - they want the baby out in time for dinner, essentially. With the ability to control so many facets of our lives, why not birth? Anymore if you go one day past your due date, you seem to be a candidate for induction. Pitocin-happy doctors willingly try and induce (more like coerce) a baby out even if it's not ready. Unfortunately it seems that fewer and fewer women are sent home as a result and are almost definitely candidates for c-section. Pitocin can bring with it a cascade of interventions that can sometimes alter or stop labor completely - increased use of epidurals because of harder, stronger contractions is not uncommon, which can, in turn, stall labor - leading to an increased number of c-sections. 
Insufficient pelvis size is another common reason many women are encouraged to have a c-section. Scores of women are even told their babies are too big to deliver vaginally just by an estimate on ultrasound, which further scares them away from attempting a vaginal delivery. Sadly, there is no definite way to know how big a baby will be until they're born and put on the scales - and ultrasound measurements can be off by as much as a pound either way. Many, many petite women give birth vaginally to "large" babies (according to the March of Dimes, anything between six and nine pounds is considered average) and do just fine. Even many babies deemed to be "stuck" can be birthed vaginally provided the medical practitioner knows to instruct the woman to change positions to facilitate further widening of the pelvis (known as the "Gaskin Maneuver," named for renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin). 
Because of the high rate of c-sections in the US, many women are faced with a two-fold problem: if they want more children, do they deliver them via cesarean too? 
Not necessarily. The mantra "once a c-section, always a c-section" is thankfully being disproved by women everyday in this country, although we still have to fight for the right to do so. But unfortunately few women choose this option - whether because they're uneducated about the risks, their doctors scare them out of it, or they have no interest - which is their right. I would never advocate a woman do a VBAC if she really doesn't want to, but neither should I think women should be scared into repeat c-sections for no reason, either. 
One reason many women are scared away from VBACs is the phrase "uterine rupture." It is possible, but is rare, provided you have a low, transverse incision (bikini incision). Also, your chances of receiving Pitocin to induce labor are less - because it can increase your risk of rupture. To many women, the risks of a c-section, if they even know what they are, are somehow more acceptable than the risks of a VBAC, even though the percentage of complications is about the same. 
Risk of VBAC, with non-induced labor, include:
• uterine rupture - this is rare, and the rate is around 1 percent, depending on which source you site
• risk of needing emergency c-section, should the same complications arise as in the first birth
• if you can't go into labor on your own, induction is not recommended 
Risks of cesarean section include:
• increased blood loss and chance of infection
• respiratory complications in the infant because of spinal anesthesia
• increased risk of scar tissue adhesion, especially after several c-sections (which can cause pain and sometimes infertility)
• premature birth because due dates are off 
• risk of uterine rupture (without even going into labor) (although small, still a risk)
It all boils down to which risks you are more comfortable in taking - because don't kid yourself that a repeat c-section isn't without significant risks, too. Neither of them are decisions that should be taken lightly, but unfortunately many women shrug it off as though it's nothing. This unwittingly affects birth outcomes and choices for thousands of women they don't even know, because they either don't care or aren't willing to fight their doctor for the right to give birth. And if you don't fight it, nothing will change.