"But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure." Psalm 71:14-15

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

More Than Milk

Her eyelashes tickle my breast.
Her tiny fingers gently squeeze for more milk.
She looks up at me and smiles as milk dribbles out of the corner of her mouth.
She butterfly sucks after falling asleep.
These moments take away all my insecurities about being a mother.
They rescue me from my feelings of failure and inadequacy.
These moments are just for us.
In these moments I am enough for her; I am all she needs.
These moments are more than milk.

Jill M. Black

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breastfeeding Clara

Anyone who has read this blog long enough or knows me well, knows that Levi and I had a tough time breastfeeding.  I had a lot of pain in the beginning which caused me to (unknowingly) mismanage my supply.  He also did a lousy job of actually taking the milk I had from me, and around 6 weeks my supply totally tanked never to recover.  I fought through chronic low supply, took herb tinctures and Rx drugs just to make 1/4 what he needed, because I wanted to breastfeed so badly.  In the end, we nursed for 15 months and I'm so very proud of us.

With Clara, I thought I knew what I had done wrong, and was hoping things would be different with her.  The good news is, they absolutely have.  I've been able to exclusively breastfeed her without supplementation.  I'm so very grateful.

I did everything right this time: double side feeding, no pacis in the first 2 weeks, no supplementation, no bottles in the first 3 weeks, lots of skin to skin and holding her, making sure I got at least 8 stimulations per day, etc.  After returning to work and pumping more than nursing on some days, it seems I still need more than a little help maintaining a full supply and keeping up with her bottle intake at school.  It also didn't help that we figured out about 4 days before I returned to work that she had a dairy sensitivity that made my entire 70 oz stash unusable!  Anywho, I first started taking the herb tincture I had taken last time, More Milk Plus by Motherlove.  This time I'm not taking a full dose (1 mL 4 times per day), I'm taking more like 0.75 mL 2-3 times per day.  When I had been back to work about 1 month, I filled my Rx for Domperidone.  It has helped a lot and I am able to keep up with her intake now.

I've also been drinking homemade loose leaf tea every day.  I learned while I was pregnant about the benefits of loose leaf tea over the prepackaged stuff in the store.  Apparently, the stuff in the store has so little herbs that there's hardly any benefit to drinking it.  I started making and drinking NORA tea during my 3rd trimester for uterine health and to ease labor.  I use a large metal coffee scoop to measure my portions (you could use a table spoon if you don't have a coffee scoop, it's not exact).  I make up 2-3 recipes in a big Mason jar and shake it up.  Then I use my scoop for 1 serving of tea.

My NORA recipe is easy peasy:
2 scoops Nettle Leaf
1 scoop Oat Straw
2 scoops Red Raspberry Leaf
1 scoop Alfalfa

I order everything from the Bulk Herb Store in the links above.  I ordered 1/2 lb of each herb and it cost around $30 including shipping to get started.  I've been drinking 1 cup per day for 3.5 months now and have not had to reorder yet.

I had planned to keep drinking the NORA tea after birth because of the vitamins and minerals in the Nettle Leaf and Oat Straw, the uterine health benefits of the Red Raspberry Leaf, and the milk boosters in Alfalfa.  However, once I realized I needed a bit more help with my milk supply, I came up with a NORA Plus recipe.  My Mason jar only holds 1-2 recipes of this.

NORA Plus:
3 scoops Nettle Leaf
1 scoop Oat Straw
3 scoops Red Raspberry Leaf
2 scoops Alfalfa
1 scoop Fenugreek
1 scoop Fennel Seed
1/2 scoop Blessed Thistle

You have to be careful with the Blessed Thistle because it is really bitter.  If you use too much, it will ruin the taste of your tea.  Again I ordered 1/2 lb of each herb.  The Fenugreek is a really small package and I'm running out fast.  I will probably order 1 lb of the Fenugreek, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Fennel Seed next time.  Those are the ones that I'm running out of quickly.  Each herb is different so 1/2 lb of one is in a big bag and 1/2 lb of another doesn't go as far.

I don't have a fancy tea infuser pot or mug, so I ordered this awesome french press travel mug that makes brewing and taking my tea a sinch.  Plus, I can use it for coffee later when I'm not breastfeeding.  I love my mug!

I wanted to share my successes and things that worked for me.  I hope it is helpful or encouraging to someone.  If you try my tea recipe and like it, let me know!

If you are not a tea drinker, or would like something more refreshing for summer months, you can make an infusion.  You just brew a much stronger version of the tea and then add it to your favorite juice, kombucha, or fizzy drink like ginger brew (which would be great for nausea during pregnancy).  I use about 1/2 cup of loose leaf tea in my quart jar.  I add the hot water directly to the jar, stir, and put the lid on.  I let it sit on the counter overnight.  In the morning, I strain the infusion and put it back in the jar with the lid and store it in the refrigerator.  You'll have 4 or so servings to add to juice or pour over ice and dilute for iced tea.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clara Jo's Birth Story

Since Levi was born, I've turned into a birth junkie in search of answers as to what happened physiologically during my first labor.  I've read countless articles about labor and progression of labor.  However, everything I experienced during my first labor, and everything I read worked against me.  If I were just a normal laboring mom timing contractions, this birth story would have a very different ending.  But alas, here goes.

One of my main reasons for wanting a home birth was to reclaim my healthy view of birth, and to birth without fear.  In preparation for my labor, I bought the Hypnobabies home study.  I was horrible about listening to the tracks and practicing; I'm not sure it worked.  But I digress.  I can say that for the most part, I was very calm and relaxed for most of the labor.

I was having what I thought were crampy like contractions on Sunday night, February 9th.  When I woke up Monday morning, my contractions were about 12-15 minutes apart.  I took it easy that morning, ate some breakfast, and called my boss to tell her I thought I was in labor.  I called Matt at work to ask him to drive me to the chiropractor for one last "I'm in labor" adjustment around lunch time from Dr. Paxton.  By then my contractions were about 10 minutes apart, and still very manageable.  We picked up Levi from school on our way home.  When we got home, Levi took a nap and so did I.  I made the mistake of "working hard to establish labor" with Levi and by the end I was exhausted.  I knew that since I was in early labor still, I needed to rest as much as possible.  So I laid down, dozing on and off, most of the afternoon.

Earlier in the day, I alerted the birth team that "today might be the day".  My best friend Meredith was supposed to provide childcare for Levi, because we wanted him to be there.  Our photographer, Melody Hood, was going to photograph the birth.  My friend, Kristen, was set to be my doula.  And of course, Michelle Ray was our midwife.  Around dinner time, the contractions had reached 6.5-7.5 minutes apart and stayed that way for a few hours.  I was texting and calling Michelle periodically, but because I was still able to go about my daily tasks and talk normally through the contractions, we really didn't think that I was "serious" about labor yet.  Every birth junkie and well trained natural birth practitioner knows to judge labor progression by the emotional signs (laughing, talking, normal activity, etc) rather than the time span between contractions.  I think it was around 9pm or so when I went to the bathroom and lost my mucus plug.  That thing was gross.  I never saw mine with Levi.  But there again, that can happen days before a birth, so that's not really a sign either.

I had convinced myself that because Clara was in the same position that Levi was in during labor (spine on the right side of my uterus), that my labor with her was going to be long like it was with Levi.  My labor established itself as "active labor" fairly early on in the day with Levi and I was "serious" about labor and the strength of my contractions for over 12 hours before I got my epidural.  Because my contractions had been fairly mild all day, I had convinced myself that I was in for the REALLY long haul and not to get too excited too early.  Then my contractions started to space out again.  I knew that with second and after babies that labor could start and stop several times, and because I didn't feel that labor had established itself as "active" I thought that when they started to space out that night that they labor may stop and let me sleep and start back in the morning.  Michelle told me to lay down and try to rest, so I did.

I laid down about 10:30pm.  Once I did, I felt like my contractions were still pretty far apart, but they got MUCH more intense.  In hind sight, this would have been the time to call Michelle and tell her to come.  I tried to stay in bed, but the contractions were too intense, I had to get up.  I looked at the clock, 11:45pm, as I got out of bed.  I came into the living room and stood in front of the fire, talked to Matt, swayed back and forth, did some belly lifts trying to get Clara to turn, and labored through about 4-5 contractions.  I looked at the clock again, 12:05am.  For whatever reason, I still did not feel the need to call Michelle.  I didn't believe labor was actually "getting serious" because the contractions had gotten close and spaced out again so many times during the day on Monday.  Instead, I called Kristen, my doula.  I told her that things were more intense but I still wasn't sure if it was time to call Michelle.  She said she would grab her bag and be right over.

Again, this would also have been an excellent time to call my midwife.

Kristen arrived at the house about 12:25am on February 11th.  I was moaning through some fairly intense contractions, telling Kristen I was a horrible Hypnobabies student because I didn't think my anesthesia was working.  Because I was convinced that Clara's position was going to cause me to have a long labor, Kristen and I decided to try to get her to turn.  Kristen did some Rebozo belly sifting with me.  Meanwhile, Matt was in the living room reading his birth partner Hypnobabies literature about belly lifts and getting a baby into proper position for birth.  At the bottom of his reading material there is a big disclaimer, "Do not do this unless you are where you will give birth. If you are having a home birth, make sure your birth attendant is with you."  And he walks back to the bedroom to find us doing belly sifts.  Oops.

I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt a TON of pressure.  I ran my hand down the front of my belly, and there was Clara's spine...right in position for birth.  All I could think was, "Uh oh."  I looked at Matt and said, "Call Michelle.  She needs to come, now."  That was about 1:00am.  Matt gets on the phone and calls Michelle, who lives at least 45 minutes away.  He also calls Meredith (in case Levi wakes up during any of this) and Melody and told them to come as quickly as they could.  Then he calls Michelle back.

Cut to me.  I can feel Clara descending.  Michelle asks to talk to me.  She told me to check myself and see what I feel.  My calm response, "Hang on, I gotta wash my hands."  She asks, "What do you feel?  Is it a head?"  Nope, it was a bag of waters.  Then I sat on the toilet and it WAS a bag of waters that broke.  Then I felt intense pressure and Clara coming down.  I yelled at Matt that Michelle needed to get here now.  His reply, "Hun, she hasn't left her house yet."  Me, "She's not gonna make it and someone's gotta be here to catch this baby!"  Matt asked Michelle if he should call 911, she told him to go ahead.

Now I had heard of this phenomenon called "involuntary pushing", like if a pregnant woman were in a coma and went into labor, that her body could deliver her baby without any conscious effort from her.  I now believe this to be true.  When I realized that my midwife might not be there to catch my baby, I obviously did not make any effort to actively push even though I had the urge.  I also did not fight what my body was doing because that would have REALLY HURT.  So I just "relaxed".  I put this in quotation marks because I was relaxed as one can be while screaming bloody murder.  I really think my emotional state would have been different and I may not have screamed AS MUCH bloody murder if Michelle had been there.  But there was nothing I could do to stop her arrival once Clara decided to come.  I would not describe it as painful, just very intense pressure.  My body literally expelled her on its own.

We laid down the plastic table cloth on the bedroom floor, and Kristen was ready with her gloves to catch Clara (who started to crown before anyone arrived).  Matt was on the phone with the 911 operator and proceded to tell me to lay on my back, to which I responded "EFF HER!" (not abbreviated).  Greg the firefighter walks in (while I'm screaming again) and starts asking, "Ma'am, is this your first baby?  How far apart are your contractions?"  My response (in a not so nice yelling manner), "STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS!  THERE'S A HEAD COMING OUT OF ME, JUST CATCH IT!!"  I look and the second firefighter is covering his mouth laughing in the hallway.  So Greg the firefighter decided he was going to "check" to see how close she was to arriving without telling me, to which I responded "DON'T TOUCH ME!!"  I think Kristen said something like, "You can just wait for the head."  I yelled out, "Somebody get Matt, he's gonna miss this!"  Two contractions and involuntary pushes later, Clara was born.  I looked up at the clock right in front of me, 2:00 am exactly on 2/11/14...HER DUE DATE.

THEN the ambulance personnel arrived.  Meanwhile, my daughter is wet/cold/screaming and they laid her down on a chux pad on the hard floor while wiping her off with another chux pad.  I'm [still] yelling, "Give me the baby.  She's cold.  Her body temp is dropping.  Give her to me!"  Greg the firefighter & Crystal the EMT "We need to clean her off."  Michelle on the phone to Crystal, "PUT THE BABY ON THE MOTHER'S CHEST!!!"  As my sweet doula waits patiently with a clean, fluffy towel to give to us after Clara is with me.  When they finally gave her to me, she stopped crying...obviously.  We got her dry and a fresh, dry towel to warm both of us up.  Then here comes Greg with a cord clamp.  I calmly put up my hand and said, "Don't clamp her cord yet.  Just wait for the midwife, she's almost here."  I didn't want to explain the research on delayed cord clamping to Greg.  He looked confused.  Luckily he just accepted the "Wait for the midwife." instruction as something that made sense.  I think he and Crystal felt like they needed to be doing something, so they just kept suctioning her mouth.  Whatever.  In retrospect, I think Kristen would have done a fine job catching her but I digress!

Matt likes to joke that even in the throes of labor and after giving birth, that I was totally in charge of the room and everything that happened...just the way I wanted!  Meredith arrived just after Clara is born.  All she said was, "Wow, that was fast!"  Then Melody arrived.  Both later stated that they nearly lost it when they pulled up to the house with 2 police cruisers, 1 fire truck, and 1 ambulance in the driveway.  Matt never got a chance to call them back after the initial "Come as quickly as you can." call to tell them what was going on.  Poor Melody said she might need a cardio work-up for the possible heart attack she had.  THEN Michelle came in and took over, I could finally relax.  ;-P

The poor EMT was so confused as to what to do in a normal birth situation.  She admitted that the only births she had responded to were 4lb, trouble breathing, no prenatal care, crashing babies.  She said something about transporting me and not knowing whether she could discharge me to the midwife's care without transport.  Matt's response, "She's NOT going to allow you to transport her or the baby.  There's nothing wrong with either of them."  Crystal had to get the ok from her supervisor on the phone to discharge two perfectly healthy individuals, bless her.

After all the strangers left my house, everything was just as I imagined it would be with a home birth!  I nursed Clara for the first time in my own bed.  Kristen and Meredith brought me food and juice and made me laugh.  Melody took awesome pictures and may or may not have held Clara before Matt, woops.  Clara made a big poopy all over my belly and Michelle was trying to clean me off.  I didn't realize Matt hadn't held her yet and I handed her to the nearest person so we could get both of us a little cleaner.  Matt totally busted Melody with, "Are you holding my daughter before me?"  Melody's all like, "No, that didn't happen.  No, not at all.  Here she is!"

Anyway, they made my herbal sitz bath in my tub where I got cleaned up.  They brought Clara to the tub where she immediately calmed down.  While I was in the tub, they changed the sheets on our bed and put towels and sheets in the wash.  Once I got out, Matt and I laid in bed while Michelle did Clara's newborn exam on the foot of our bed and told us how healthy she was: 7 pounds 2 ounces, 19.5 inches long.  Then Michelle and Kristen packed up to leave after a few hours of hard work!  Melody and Meredith stayed for us to wake Levi up, because yes he slept through everything!

Matt says that waking Levi up and bringing him into our bedroom was better than any Christmas morning ever.  As my sweet boy rubbed his eyes at 5 O'early in the morning, Matt said "Levi, who is that with Mommy?"  Levi said, "CLARA!"  He immediately wanted to hold her.  It was the sweetest family moment and I will never forget it.  I'm so glad Melody was there to capture it for us.  Once I get the DVD of pictures, I'll add some to this post.

Although it wasn't the peaceful, intimate home birth we planned.  It was lovely, and quite a fun story.  I delivered my baby safely, in my own home, and had the support of the people around me.  Oh, and I was totally in charge!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Breaking Radio Silence

So obviously being a full-time working mother to a toddler severely impacts the frequency with which I update this blog.  But this most recent radio silence was purposeful.  I found out I was pregnant with baby #2 on Saturday, June 8th, two days before I started my new job on Monday, June 10th!!  Woohoo!  We were certainly planning for baby #2, just not at that exact moment.  :)

If you've read my posts from Levi's first year about my struggles with breastfeeding, or one of several  reflective posts about his birth and the trauma we all sustained, it's not hard to figure out that I had PPD (postpartum depression).  Although, I never really addressed it or admitted it until it was practically gone a year later.  I did enter therapy to address my residual trauma surrounding Levi's birth and all that came with it in the fall of 2012.  I also started attending ICAN meetings, a support network of women recovering from C-sections.  These 2 steps had a profound impact on my healing, how I viewed myself, and how I viewed birth.

You see, growing up I always had a very healthy view of birth and women's ability to give birth.  My awesome mom is a former Lamaze instructor and had a natural birth with me.  My view of birth was always, "Women have been giving birth for thousands of years without drugs and interventions.  I can do it too."  I've never been afraid of birth, EVER.  I viewed it as a totally natural process, not a medical situation.  And honestly, MOST births aren't a medical situation.  If left alone, most births will progress normally and naturally with a positive outcome.

In a therapy session about 1 year ago, I was discussing my first labor and birth and how I felt at each stage.  I reflected that while I was at home, I was totally relaxed and comfortable, not scared at all.  As soon as we left home for the hospital, I was scared.  And every decision I made after that was made in fear.  Every intervention that I didn't want but agreed to, was because I was scared.  I was on the other side of Levi's birth feeling like a victim, and scared to face birth again, scared I would be a victim of our birth system feeling bullied again.  Then I looked at my therapist and said, "I don't want to go to the hospital next time.  I want to stay at home.  I want to have a home birth.  I was comfortable at home.  I feel safer at home than I do in the hospital."  I couldn't believe I said it out loud.  It was such a relief, like a weight was lifted off of me.

When I found out we were expecting baby #2, I already had a relationship with the midwife I would hire from attending ICAN meetings.  I personally knew at least 5 people that had HBACs (Home Birth After Cesarean) with her.  I trusted her and knew that she had the knowledge and experience to deliver my baby safely.  I felt that my best chance at the healing birth I wanted was to surround myself with care providers who wanted me to have it as much as I did.  I knew that by hiring Michelle, if I ended up on an operating table with another C-section that I really needed to be there.

Matt and I discussed home birth at length.  We decided that it would be best to not tell anyone our plans except for the people that would attend the birth.  We knew that home birth is a bit taboo for some people, and HBAC is something that many people are not comfortable with and feel is not safe.  We wanted our decisions about the next birth to be ours and ours alone.  We did not want anyone else's voice or criticisms rattling around in our heads influencing us.  And we certainly didn't want to spend 9 months defending our decisions or hear negative comments from people who had never researched the safety of home birth like we had.  So, we decided that it was nobody's business and we would keep it to ourselves.  We did feel bad about having to tell boldface lies when anyone asked us directly which hospital we would be at, but as time passed we knew we made the right decision.

That is also why I refrained from blogging during my pregnancy.  I knew it would be disingenuous to blog about the pregnancy and say nothing about our plans about the birth, because I've been so open discussing our last birth experience.  Thus, the radio silence.

But that's not why you're here.  You're probably here to read about how it went...