Newborn (a poem)

Tickle tickle,  tiny fingers,

Poke poke, tiny feet,

Jab, jab, tiny elbows,

Flutter flutter, tiny heart.

 

Pitter patter, chubby feet,

Pat pat, chubby palms,

Bump bump, chubby belly,

Thump, thump, growing heart.

 

Rock, rock, tired eyelids,

Sway, sway, able arms,

Shush, shush, whispers mama,

Loving from the very start.

 

– Sarah Bruss

Why I’m Choosing Home Birth

“My dream is that every woman, everywhere, will know the joy of a truly safe, comfortable, and satisfying birthing.”

Marie Mongan, author of “Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method.”

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Www.seevanessacraft.com

It was many years ago when I first heard of someone planning a home birth. One could say I was aghast. “Doesn’t this mom know how dangerous that could be?!” I thought I knew everything. It’s funny how opinions sometimes come back to bite you.

(To introduce this topic with a little light-hearted humor, I give you Jim Gaffigan 😉

 

Now that I have spent the last five years learning about birth, I myself am planning a home birth for our second child.

“Why on earth?!” my 20-year-old self would ask. Several reasons:

  1. Safety
  2. Comfort
  3. Trust

Before I delve into the details of our choice, I first want to thank you for taking the time to listen to my perspective. My purpose in writing this is to encourage women who might be on the fence about delivering at home, and to assuage concerns and questions our friends and family might have. I hope it is helpful. 🙂 (Disclaimer: I am not in a position to give medical advice; if you are reading this as a parent, the decisions about your care would ultimately be up to you, your families, and your caregivers.)

  1. Safety

Let’s start with the obvious: When it comes to bringing a new life into the world, it is every reasonable person’s top priority to have a healthy mother and baby.

Now, I would submit to you that that does not necessarily mean having a hospital birth – contrary to what we Americans have been led to believe. I attempted to summarize the analyses of why this is the case, but my post got too long :). So instead, I am going to recommend several articles here that explain why home birth can be a good option FOR NORMAL, HEALTHY PREGNANCIES. Obviously, there are reasons western medicine and hospitals exist: sometimes they are needed, and for such times, we are fortunate to have those options!

  • Science and Sensibility: “Dueling Statistics: Is Out-of-hospital Birth Safe? . Henci Goer is the author of “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth and Optimal Approach”, and an acknowledged expert on evidence-based maternity care. I particularly admire her analytical ability to sift through data to reach accurate evidence and conclusions. In this article, she compares two recent studies on the safety of homebirths, and says the studies “agree that [Out of Hospital] birth reduces cesarean surgeries, a severe adverse outcome in its own right on the maternal side with potential for severe adverse perinatal outcomes down the line. I contend that it’s time to stop asking ‘Is it or isn’t it [safe]?’ questions of OOH birth because it’s pretty clear that the answer is ‘It depends.'”  Read the article to learn more!
  • Evidence Based Birth: “What Is Home Birth?”. In this article, Rebecca explains the basics of home birth.
  • AvivaRomm.com: “Choosing Home Birth” by Aviva Romm, M.D.. She is a physician and midwife, who birthed all four of her children at home! She says, “Birth can be seen as a healthy, natural, normal experience – unless evidence-based medical indications demonstrate otherwise, and in those cases, the least amount of intervention necessary could be judiciously provided.” 

There are several scenarios that would require me to transfer care to a hospital during the PRENATAL period. For example, twins (heaven help us! :)), a breech baby, high blood pressure (preeclampsia), or placenta previa. Aside from situations which would be detected at a prenatal visit, something may still come up during the actual birth. For example, postpartum hemorrhage, or a baby lacking oxygen. Here is a list from a Tennessee midwife practice of the equipment they bring to home births. To use their words, “We do more than boil water!” On the contrary, certified midwives are prepared to tackle any number or scenarios at a homebirth without necessarily having to transfer care. Complications that would require me to transfer care to a hospital DURING the birth would include preeclampsia, retained placenta, blood transfusion, baby needing extra care, etc. (I am happy to try to answer your questions regarding specific scenarios not mentioned here). It is unlikely for a mother who has already given birth vaginally to require a hospital transfer when she is under the care of a professional midwife. Each midwife can give you her own transfer statistics.

If we approach the 38 week mark (term pregnancy), and my intuition is telling me we need to be in a hospital, even without evidence pointing towards a complex delivery, then a hospital is where we’ll be! Again, there are reasons certain technology have been introduced to the birth room, and if we believe we’ll need them I’m glad to have them!

My less obvious safety reasons for choosing a home birth include:

  • Less risk of infection for both mother and baby. Even in a newborn ward, there are many people coming and going in a hospital, and despite everyone’s best efforts, it’s my opinion that baby and I would be exposed to germs there that we wouldn’t encounter at home.
  • No risk of having my baby en route to the birthplace. Every year, you hear of babies being born on the side of the road as the mom and dad frantically make their way to the hospital. Granted, many times both mom and baby are ok in that scenario, but I’d much rather have the well trained eyes and hands of a professional by my side than simply rely on mine and my husbands expertise.
  • No sharing! 🙂 Robinson was born on a wild night at the hospital. I think there were at least two other women pushing at the same time as me, and there simply were not enough midwives to go around (I’m not placing blame here – the midwives were great! It just happens sometimes when you birth in a place with more than one pregnant mama.). So despite their best efforts, I had no one coaching me through pushing, to help me know when to pause and let the baby’s head stretch the perineum. I think if someone had been watching the perineum I might not have torn as badly. With a home birth, you don’t have to share your midwife!  Another example of why I love the idea of having my care provider all to myself is because I can call her directly anytime! I had a scary evening midway through Robinsons pregnancy which sent Paul and me to the ER where I waited tearfully for hours to make sure my baby was ok. With a home birth, you can call your midwife at any time and she knows your history, your current condition, and she can probably advise you a lot sooner than a hospital staff would be able to.
  • Care for the entire family – We have a photo of Paul holding Robinson immediately after we were settled in our postpartum room and our nurse was about to take her leave. I was asleep on the bed after having fainted getting up to use the restroom. Paul’s expression would be perfectly described as “deer in the headlights”. “You’re going to leave me with this child?!” “Is my wife going to faint again?”  With a home birth midwife, you are 1) already tucked into your own bed, so no risk in traversing anywhere, 2) consistently monitored until you can prove you are stable and able to take care of your bodily functions without fainting (seriously, this is something they wait around for ;)). As with prenatal care, you have access to your midwife 24/7 to call if anything seems amiss, and when you do call, she will know your history, having walked this road with you for nine months instead of having met you five minutes ago. I take great comfort in the background knowledge she carries, which I view as contributing to my and the baby’s safety.

2. Comfort

We know that birth is directly affected by a mother’s sense of security and comfort.  Like other mammals, we can subconsciously stall birth if we feel unsafe. For me, one of the places I will feel safest is at home (for others, this might be at a hospital). Also when you’re at home, you have the freedom to snuggle with your partner and so forth, which might be more difficult to achieve in a hospital setting. Also, there are still very few hospitals that allow water births, though it is commonly practiced in other countries, some of which have far better maternity results than we do. So birth at a freestanding center or at home is one way to achieve that.

I’ve already mentioned blissfully crawling right into my own bed with my baby and sleeping soundly. No one will be sneaking in every hour to monitor me. I have the comfort of knowing my midwife is just a phone call away if Paul or I needs her, and she will be checking on us regularly.

Plus, we won’t have to worry about wrangling an hours-old baby into a cold, hard car seat! This may seem like an insignificant thing, but both Paul and I remember how strange it felt to drive Robinson home in his car seat after he had been lying on my chest for days, and prior to that, had been living inside me for nine months. So I look forward to hopefully just staying in bed all altogether for at least five days or so. Many homebirth midwives will come to your home for the first couple newborn checkups because they believe moms should be resting during this time. Indeed, we are one of the few cultures who expects our moms to be “up and at ’em” within a week or so of delivering a human.

This isn’t necessarily a comfort point, but… I want Robinson to have the opportunity to be present for parts of this special family event, to be one of the first people to welcome his sibling into the world – how cool! Even if a hospital wanted to accommodate a two-year-old in the delivery room, I don’t think there would be a good way for him to see around all the supplies, equipment, and people who appear at the pushing stage.

3. Trust

The more births I attend, the more I believe that a mother’s trust in her care provider is essential. If something comes up in a birth, and the mother and her partner have a serious decision to make, it is going to be infinitely harder to make that decision if they are at all distrustful of their provider’s opinion. What a terribly uncomfortable position to be in – for everyone!

So as I strongly encourage my clients (more now than I used to) to choose a care provider they really believe in and trust, so I have taken my own advice 🙂  I have chosen a (certified! registered!) home birth midwife in particular because she views birth as a natural, normal process, and herself as the lifeguard, diligently watching over myself and my baby in case anything goes wrong. Many hospital midwives and birth center midwives (and some doctors too) also hold this perspective on birth.

Here is a thoughtful article written by a doula on questions to ask YOURSELF and your potential care provider when choosing your birth attendant. She says, “During labor is not the time to question if [your caregivers] have your best interests at heart. After the birth is not the time to wonder if the recommendations they made could have changed the outcome. Pregnancy is the time to really evaluate these issues.”

Also, I believe that trust in my body will come more easily at home. Even as a doula, I doubted my body with Robinsons birth, and I want to give my body more credit this time. If the pain meds aren’t around, it’s likely I won’t need them! (Like not having a giant thing of Oreos in my kitchen while I’m trying to cut down on sugar ;)). In my opinion, I think there are times when a mom needs to rest and pain medication can be helpful. But I think our society tells us all too often that we can’t handle the pain of childbirth and we should opt for an epidural the minute we walk in the door. In actuality, I have yet to meet a mother who regrets having given birth naturally, as there is much to be gained from experiencing the challenge of natural birth. Many have said something along the lines of, “If I could do this, I can do ANYthing!”

 

This concludes my personal reasons for planning a home birth. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have. As always, disrespectful comments or questions (no matter what stance on the matter) will be deleted ASAP.

If you had or are planning a home birth, what are your reasons for choosing that option? What did you enjoy about it?  

“Laughing Gas” for Birth?

Nitrous Oxide, commonly known as “laughing gas”, has been used for laboring women in many countries around the world since the 1930s.  (“Call the Midwife” anyone? 🙂 ).  And it is making a resurgence in the U.S.!  It has a long track record of healthy outcomes for both mothers and babies. This, compared to epidurals, narcotics, and of course c-sections, which all have varying degrees of risks, seems to make nitrous oxide a good choice for women who desire some type of pain relief.

Here in Colorado, the Mountain Midwifery Center (a freestanding birth center) became the first to recently integrate this comfort measure for their birthing mothers. Please read the MMC’s article here on the science and history behind N2O, and the benefits they have seen: Mountain Midwifery Center article on N2O.

One of my doula colleagues also wrote a summarizing article on nitrous, which can be found here: Jubilee Doula article on N2O.

It seems hospitals are starting to reintegrate the use of nitrous oxide as well, including University Hospital in Colorado. Hopefully more and more institutions adopt this tool into their repertoire, to give laboring women the option.

Too Skinny: A Personal Tale of Postpartum Weight Loss

When I had to safety pin the waist of my pre-baby yoga pants, I had an inkling that something was not right.

Before I became pregnant with Robinson, I weighed about 125 pounds.  Several months after his arrival, by my current estimation, I weighed about 95 pounds.

Yikes.

Postpartum weight loss is an issue that I think many women, including myself, are completely unaware of.  When it comes to postpartum weight, what do we usually hear from our fellow moms?  “Man, I wish I could get rid of this baby weight!”  “Things are going really well!  Except I still have to lose a few pounds to get back to my pre-birth weight…” “I can’t wait to get back into my yoga pants!” 🙂

The most common “issue” I hear about is needing or wanting to lose MORE weight. I didn’t – and still don’t – hear of women losing TOO MUCH weight. And true, being underweight after birth is probably a less common problem than being a few pounds overweight.  Nonetheless, it’s a problem that women need to be aware of, as my cautionary story will reveal.

(These two pictures are of me at my skinniest. The Ergo carrier (in addition to my clothes) even fit me strangely! I also believe I lost more hair than is considered normal.)

For me, there were several factors that contributed to my major weight loss.  The main one is Ignorance.  I’ll repeat what I said above: I didn’t know it was possible to lose too much weight in the months after birth because I never heard anyone talking about it (not even in my doula training). I saw my tummy getting littler and thought, “All right! This is happening more quickly than I expected!”  Little did I know I was losing calories quickly without taking in many calories. Here are the other three factors that contributed to my being underweight:

  1. Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding helps melt off the pounds in record time. “Depending on how much milk you produce, breastfeeding can burn up about 500 calories per day. What’s more, it stimulates the release of hormones that help shrink your uterus (and your post-baby belly)” (Source: WhattoExpect.com). I was breastfeeding at all hours of the day (and night), sometimes several times in one hour! That’s gonna burn a lot of calories.
  2. Walking – What does a stay-at-home-mom do with a baby born in Spring?  Take walks of course! :). We walked for miles each week, and I didn’t realize how many calories I was burning in this simple activity.
  3. Not eating – Imagine that!  Your body needs fuel to keep on keepin’ on. As I was trying to take care of my newborn, I was not caring for myself. This is a no-brainier in theory, and everyone warns you about it during pregnancy (“Be sure to take care of yourself!”). But in reality, finding a moment when you are not breastfeeding or napping, to fix yourself something to eat, is easier said than done.

 

So here are my tips for maintaining a healthy weight in the months following your baby’s birth:

  1. EAT!  Make sure you have meals and snacks on hand. Preferably, make and freeze some before the Birth Day. I would suggest not only healthy snacks, but one-handed snacks packed with a lot of healthy calories, that you can eat while breastfeeding.  When I had one-handed snacks available, it often made the difference between eating and not eating that day.
  2. Use a scale and a mirror. Little did I know that my decor would have a significant effect on my body weight.  Had I had a full length (or even half length) mirror to look at, I think I would have seen just how skinny I was getting and would have taken proactive measures to get back on track sooner.  The same goes for a bathroom scale:  If I had one sitting out, I might have used it (even just once a week), and again, would have noticed my weight dropping to an unhealthy level.
  3. Pay attention. Start by knowing that this can be a problem for some women (and now you know! :)). Watch the way your clothes fit, watch the way your body changes, and listen to others reactions…  What I mean by this last point is if someone who cares about you comments on the fact that you’re “looking rather thin”, you don’t necessarily need to take it as gospel, but it may be worth checking the other factors we’ve talked about here to determine whether you truly have lost too much weight.  I tell my doula clients’ husbands to keep an eye on their wives to make sure they are eating etc.,  but the drawback is that your husband sees you every day and may not notice the gradual change in your body the way someone outside your household might.

Update: Many of you have read this post and asked whether my thyroid levels were out of whack.  Since having a baby messes with your hormones in a major way, many women have hyper- or  hypo-thyroidism following birth.  For me, this was not the issue, but it’s certainly a good idea to get yours checked!   Also, many of you have kindly asked whether I am now at a healthy weight, and the answer is yes!  Still a little slim, but I would say healthy :).  There is hope!  You will get to a healthy weight with patience and perseverance.

Thank you for listening to my saga 🙂  I would love to hear about your own experiences in managing your weight in the postpartum period. And please share this article with your friends, particularly those who are having or just had a baby. Let’s keep our friends healthy and strong!

 

MILK Documentary

“Through an intimate and artistic lens, Milk brings a universal perspective on the politics, commercialization and controversies surrounding birth and infant feeding over the canvas of stunningly beautiful visuals and poignant voices from around the globe. Inspiring, informative, provocative and sensitive, Milk celebrates bringing a new life into this world with a strong call to action and reflection.” Www.milkhood.com

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/119580864″>Milk trailer</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user640158″>Noemi Weis</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Please visit: http://bit.ly/1jMNNgk#.Vi_SVhMrnQE.mailto  to reserve a ticket for the showing in Broomfield, Colorado. Ticket sales close Monday, November 9, so buy ’em up now!  If there aren’t enough tickets sold, the movie won’t be shown.

Hope to see you there! 🙂

Will Health Insurance Pay for a Doula?

imageLast week, my fellow doulas over at Cord Doula Collective wrote a blog post about how to submit a reimbursement request for doula services: “Why We Love Free Doulas”. If you feel that hiring a doula is cost prohibitive, please read this post. And even if you are able to pay out of pocket for a doula, call your insurance company anyway! At the very least, even if you don’t get a reimbursement, you are paving the way for other women to get doula services covered by introducing the concept of a doula to your insurance company. 🙂

Megera’s Massage = Heaven

My friend Megera is a talented young woman. Who knew that having someone walk across your back could feel so good? 🙂

Megera is a licensed and certified massage therapist specializing in Barefoot Ashiatsu massage. She travels to wherever your sore back happens to be – your home, hotel, mountain vacation rental, business, or event.

Consider a lovely prenatal massage in the comfort of your home as you prepare for baby. Or invite Megera to your birthplace for a wonderfully relaxing experience; this could be a comforting and effective tool you use to acheive that state of total relaxation that we talk about in Hyonobirthing or Hyonobabies.

Please enjoy the video below, which shows Megera’s technique. You may contact her at (720) 232-0707 or mm.agnew@gmail.com.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/112007159″>MegVID</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user34512246″>Meg Agnew</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Denver Natural Mom’s Expo

It was my pleasure to attend the Natural Parenting expo yesterday, hosted by the Denver Natural Mom blog and presented by the Baby+Company birth center (click here to learn more about the birth center). The event provided a one-stop shop for naturally inclined parents to connect with local resources and other parents.

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DenverNaturalMom.com was started a year ago by Kathryn Roman, as “a place for learning and celebrating parenting simply and naturally.” She wants parents to feel empowered about the decisions they are making. The purpose of the expo (Kathryn’s second) is for parents to connect face to face with helpful resources and with each other. Kathryn said she wants other moms to find people with whom they can bond and call at two in the morning when breastfeeding isn’t going well, for instance.

Below are some of my notes on the keynote speeches:

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Tracy Ryan, CNM and Director of Midwifery at Baby+Company, shared with parents and parents-to-be the importance of where and with whom they deliver their babies. She encouraged listeners to pay attention to where they feel the most harmony, and to strongly consider the midwifery model of care. This model, as opposed to the physician model of care, views a woman’s phases of life, including pregnancy, as natural and normal, and focuses on wellness (instead of complications) first and foremost. Tracy emphasized that birth, breastfeeding, and parenting is “not a pass/fail test.” It is a journey and a “labyrinth”; parents must continue to move forward and make decisions along the way.

imageDr. Maura Fletcher and her husband own Well Beings Chiropractic Family Health in Lakewood. They specialize in prenatal, pediatric, and family care. Dr. Maura herself, at the age of 40, delivered her son in just four hours! She had received chiropractic care throughout her pregnancy. They view prenatal chiropractic care as a part of a team effort to support a natural pregnancy and birth. The length of labor is reduced by 25% in women who saw a chiropractor during prgnancy, Dr. Maura said; and use of pain medication during labor was reduced by half!  She encourages people to see a chiropractor who is at least Webster certified, if not CACCP certified (which follows a doctorate degree).

imageAmanda Ogden, BSN, RN, IBCLC, of the Mama’hood Denver, presented “Feeding the Cave Baby”. She offered insight into how the American culture complicates infant feeding, and offered tools to help moms-to-be make breastfeeding work for them. I was not able to hear her speak, unfortunately, but I know from experience that Amanda is wonderful at encouraging young mothers to keep on keepin’ on. Breastfeeding is a challenge, made in part by our brains having gotten bigger than our boobs 😉  That is to say, in the Information Culture we think too much about breastfeeding, which is meant to be instinctual. The Mama’hood sells one of my favorite books, Breastfeeding Made Simple — which is exactly what it sounds like — and it has been a helpful resource to my clients.

In addition to hearing these lovely ladies speak, I was able to chat with the following local vendors at the expo:

  1. Maternity Maven:  Kodiak Soled offers individualized teas for prenatal and postpartum wellness, in addition to classes on how to use aherbs for your family.
  2. The Pressery:  Cold-pressed juices like the Watermelon blend and Habanero Lemonade are favorites among pregnant ladies, so I hear.
  3. Toofeze: This fabulous little teether was created by a mom and her daughter after seeing babies chewing on everything from car keys to door hinges! This is a great alternative to either of those options 😉
  4. Doterra: Essential oils such as ginger or the peppermint beadlets are great remedies for nausea in the first trimester; and for postpartum, the brand new Emotional Therapy Kit debuting October 1, would be helpful.
  5. Bundle: This diaper service and baby shop is based in Boulder and its wares are local or American-made. My favorite? The diaper covers made from recycled sweaters 🙂
  6. Colorado NoCirc: This campaign discourages infant circumcision, educates parents about the purpose of the foreskin, and seeks to debunk myths surrounding circumcision.
  7. Sunrise Lotus Acupuncture: One of my own partners! Rhianna offers teas and herbal remedies in addition to acupuncture services. Pregnant women may see her to help with fertility, prenatal care, or to help induce labor.

Thank you, Denver Natural Mom and Baby+Company, for an educational and fun event!

Syrian Mothers

As mothers flee from the crises in Syria, they face unimaginable heartbreak and terrible journeys. Below is one way you can help the people who are literally running for their – and their children’s – lives. If you know of other tangible ways we can help, please post them in the comments section.

Www.photoblog.nbcnews.com

Www.photoblog.nbcnews.com

Action now! What you can do today to help!:A nationwide group of mom immigration attorneys is collecting baby carriers…

Posted by Open Homes, Open Hearts US – with Syrian refugees on Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Maternity Leave in the U.S.

Paid leave is a hot topic in this upcoming presidential election. Here is an NPR article comparing the United States to other countries with regard to paid vacation and maternity leave. As you will see, the U.S. is certainly an outlier among advanced economies!

NPR: Lots Of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not The U.S.?

After you’ve read the article…

Discuss: What do you think would be an ideal solution for maternity leave? Government mandated? Business driven? How much time off?  What about paternal leave?