Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Family Birth Stories: Me!

Since today is my birthday, here is my mom's birth story!

I don't know much of my mom's birth story. For some reason, I feel rather uncomfortable discussing birth or other intimate topics with my mom, even though I can discuss the most intimate details of childbirth with friends and perfect strangers without turning a hair. Odd, but there it is. Here is what I do know:

I was a first (and only) child. I entered the world on a day when my dad was supposed to leave for town on a business trip. As he got up that morning to get ready to go, my mom said "You're not going anywhere!" She knew that my arrival would be that day, as early labor had already started.

My mom labored throughout the day, and sometime or other they landed at their planned birth place, a freestanding birth center next to a hospital in a larger city about 20 minutes away from our home (this birth center is unfortunately no longer around). My mom had taken Lamaze classes - the real "hee hee ha ha" Lamaze, and she says that it really helped her. She wanted me to take the same classes, though I never could bring myself to do so. Anyhow, she puffed her way through early and active labor...

... until sometime around 11 p.m., when "something" went wrong and baby (Yours Truly) started having trouble and the decision was made for a cesarean.

Before I knew anything about birth, I always assumed that my life was saved by a cesarean section. Now knowing that, unfortunately, a huge majority of cesareans are completely unnecessary, I can no longer say that with complete assurance. I wonder what would have happened with a midwife-assisted homebirth?

However, I think it likely that my mom's cesarean was in some way necessary, simply because of the speed with which it was accomplished. This was no "let's talk it over and start thinking cesarean" sort of c-section - according to my mom, they tossed her on a gurney (stark naked) and took off at a dead run out of the birth center across the parking lot to the hospital, where she was put under immediately and I was subsequently born. That must have been quite an adventure! Yikes!

My dad did get to be present, and due to a childhood spent assisting his father in the mortician business (child labor laws were looser in those days!), he watched the entire surgery without a qualm. In later days (up to the present) he enjoyed regaling us all with the details - such as my mom's entire uterus being dragged out of her body for stitching, along with various intestines, etc. - ugh!.

My mom didn't get to see me until I was multiple hours old, if not a day or so, so I must have been given formula at some point; nevertheless she established successful breastfeeding, despite returning to work when I was 2 months old, and breastfed to 1 year of age - at which time, she tells me, I quit cold-turkey and refused to have anything more to do with the idea. (I therefore expected that my first would also naturally self-wean at 1 year and was quite surprised when we happily continued to the near-3-year mark!)

My mom wanted more kidlets; my dad didn't. Combined with their infertility problems (I took 10 years to show up) and her doctor's recommendation against VBAC (in part, I think, because of the type of incision done), I remained sibling-less, much to my disappointment.

And that is my birth story! Or rather, my mom's! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Morning Sickness Tips

These just in:

From Enjoy Birth: A sheet of tips posted by a mama who wrote down all the morning sickness helps that worked for her:

Miserable with Morning Sickness?

From my friend Jen, who is now SEVEN WEEKS with their precious little embryo adoption babies:

List of Morning Sickness Helps

Love seeing resources out there!

Family Birth Stories: My Husband

My husband was born in the late sixties. I have heard his mom, my mother-in-law (MIL), tell various parts of her pregnancy/birth story, and it is very interesting in that it reflects how much the birth scene has both improved and worsened in the past forty-odd years.

When my MIL was pregnant (she had only one pregnancy), she became more and more convinced that she was carrying more than one baby. Her doctor (I don't know if he was a family doc or an OB) was equally sure that there was only one baby. My MIL eventually insisted on an x-ray (this makes me shudder, but hey, this was the '60's), and sure enough, there were two little ones inside. What a surprise! But my MIL's own mother had had either one or two sets of twins herself, so it wasn't a world-shaking surprise.

My MIL carried the twins full-term, to 40 weeks. I don't know much about her labor, though it was a traditional hospital birth. She says that she doesn't remember being given any drugs, but I can tell that she was probably given some big-time drugs. How do I know? Clue #1: She recalls at one point turning to her husband, during her labor, and telling him that she thought their doctor looked like Mickey Mouse. Classic for someone who's a bit loopy! Though I am impressed that her husband was there at all (if it really was her husband, and not a nurse - not 100% sure on that one). I don't believe he was there for the births. Clue #2: She doesn't remember her babies' births. Mmm hmm. Ask any woman in the WORLD who has consciously had a baby, and there is not one whose birth just "slipped her mind." Whatever they gave her, it must have been powerful stuff. Presumably, I'm guessing, the babies were probably forceps-assisted, as is usual with the "knock 'em out, drag 'em out" method prevalent at that time.

Both babies were born vaginally. My husband's sister, baby A, was born first, and was breech. My husband followed several minutes later, vertex. Both babies were fine, healthy, and enormous for twins - they were both well over seven pounds.

After the birth, my MIL was firmly told that it was impossible to nurse twins, and was promptly given drugs to dry up her milk supply. Thus, both babies were formula-fed from day 1. (When I later read a study linking breastfeeding to a 50% reduction in rates of rheumatoid arthritis development, I wondered if formula feeding had contributed to her nearly dying from the RA that she developed when her babies were two years old.)

In reflecting on this birth, I find several interesting points:

(1) Improved since that time: Mothers are no longer knocked out for their births. Thank heaven! Mothers should be able to experience and remember their births.

(2) Worsened since that time: It is now rare for twins to be born vaginally, or for breeches to be born vaginally. A twin breech is almost unheard of! Especially for a primip. I hope that this situation improves at some point in the future, but it will take some major change, as most docs are no longer trained in vaginal twin or vaginal breech birth - and midwives who learn it often have to learn it out of the country.

(3) The breastfeeding scene, though breastfeeding is no longer considered impossible or inferior to formula, is still not that great in America. Both our rates of initiation and continuation are abysmal. So that's in the "still needs improvement" area, though medical perception of breastfeeding has definitely improved since that time.

My MIL is an amazing, wonderful woman - a spiritual giant, a domestic goddess, and one of the kindest, most gracious and loving women I've ever met. I'll never live up to her, but I am so thankful to have her in my life.

Sometime I shall share my mother's birth story.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Uncertain Birth Future

A few days ago, I received the rather upsetting news that our midwife, due to a new practice partner, will not be able to accept the bartering arrangement by which we have "paid" for our two births (we've done computer services for birth services). The question now: Where does that leave us in case of another surprise baby?

Here are some of the options I can think of (good and bad lumped together):

(1) Pay cash - nearly impossible, as our finances can be described by the term "shoestring"

(2) Traditional OB care and hospital birth - Not even an option.

(3) Traditional OB care with "oops!" unassisted homebirth

(4) Unassisted pregnancy and birth

(5) Trying to find a midwife with discounted prices for bartering or using a senior student as primary caregiver

(6) If my husband changes jobs, hoping that homebirth will be covered by a new insurance. Or using a "flex spending account" - not quite sure what that is, or if it's an option.


While I completely support a woman's right to UC (unassisted childbirth), I'm not comfortable with it for myself, for three reasons: (1) I know quite a bit about birth, but my husband does not; and a woman in labor is not the best midwife in the world, (2) something could easily happen outside of our ability to handle it, (3) both of our babies have had a hard time at the end of labor, especially our last, who required some resuscitation and suctioning. Not fun to handle solo.

However, at the very least it looks like we might have to face the chance of losing our midwife. I guess we'd live through it, but we are really bonded with her and would hate to lose her. Kind of an upsetting transition!

Of course, this is all entirely theoretical. We have not yet come to a peaceful answer to the "Are we done or not?" question regarding childbearing. But I'm one of those uptight people who likes to have theoretical future situations resolved in advance, even if they may never materialize! So here is yet another question for us to ponder.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My First Birth Talk

Yesterday was the big day! My first speech on the topic of natural childbirth. It was fun! I hope I get the chance to do it again sometime.

A few months ago I was asked to give a talk on the subject by a girl (also a doula) who is the education coordinator at a local crisis pregnancy center. The girls who come to the center for help are given points for attending classes, which they are then able to spend buying maternity and baby items in the center's boutique. J., the coordinator, gets all sorts of birth and community professionals (doctors, WIC coordinators, La Leche League leaders, pregnancy massage therapists, doulas, etc.) to come in and give talks on pregnancy, birth, and baby care, so that there's a lot of education going on while the girls attend classes.

I worked at this center a few years ago for about a year and a half as a member of the housekeeping team, but this was the first time I'd ever seen them in action - and I was super-impressed. I have never seen such a selfless outpouring of love toward mamas in need. It was amazing. This center is providing so much to the community and to the mothers who really need it. I am in awe of them.

Anyhow, J. had asked me if I would give a talk on the subject of natural birth and birth stories, so last night I gave my presentation - a 45 minute talk on childbirth, covering the topics of (1) why natural birth, (2) my birth stories, and (3) how to achieve natural birth. It has taken me a good month to put together this simple presentation (outline, powerpoint, elaboration, etc.), so I am really in awe of people (teachers, etc.) who do this on a regular basis!

It was an interesting experience giving this talk to a "virgin" audience - an audience who has literally never heard any of the points that I had made. Most of these girls are living the typical American pregnancy - going to the OB, submiting to each and every test, going to the hospital and submiting to every procedure without question, and giving birth with the worst that the American maternity system has to offer mothers. So the concepts that I was offering - non-prone pushing positions, upright birth positions, laboring without IVs, laboring while mobile, birth balls, waterbirth, laboring in water, birth at home, birth with midwives, doulas, etc. were actually being heard for the first time. Pretty amazing.

Some of the girls looked pretty disinterested; some were quite interested, and the rest were in between. Amazingly, some of the highest interest levels seemed to come from the three dads who attended - something I wouldn't have expected!

Anyhow, I had fun, nerve-wracking though it was. And I did get a few questions, amazingly enough! (Plus a few fed to me by J., which I'd asked her in advance to do! LOL!) I don't know if I said anything that will remotely make a difference (for most of these girls, natural birth v. medicated birth is the least of their problems), but it was an interesting first experience.

Has anyone out there done a speech on birth? How did it go for your first time? Any hints? (I should say that I am not a natural in front of a crowd, so a lot of my inadequacies are purely from personality and natural ability - I have a lot to learn as a speaker).