Preparing for birth-some excellent resources!

Preparing for birth-some excellent resources!

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I love collecting birth resources-be it books, DVD’s, magazines, articles-you name it! The only problem is, with the limited amount of “extra” time I have (or don’t have!), I don’t always get a chance to preview and read the resources I collect right away. And I find myself hesitant to pass along information to clients and friends that I haven’t read or previewed myself.

    This winter I’ve found myself in the remote hills of Arkansas, with more time on my hands than usual, as my husband is teaching at a small winter Bible School for young people. Keeping the children occupied is my main job here, but with the absence of our usual activities and schedule AND having all our meals provided, I’ve enjoyed the chance to finally dig into some of the resources that have been sitting on my shelves at home waiting for me to get to them.
    So, with that introduction, I want to mention a few EXCELLENT resources that would be worth any of you expectant moms, or anyone wanting to learn more about birth, to take time to watch or read. I can’t believe I’ve had these around this long and didn’t realize what treasures they were!
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The first one I’ll mention is the Parent Class DVD by Spinning Babies teacher Gail Tulley. I’ll confess that this one I have recommended to clients as I’ve taken one of her classes in person myself, and know she has alot to offer. But I didn’t realize how many jewels were in this educational presentation! It was a great refresher to me as a midwife, as Gail does and excellent job of teaching you how to help “make room” for your baby in your pelvis, and help your entire body to function more efficiently with less discomfort. The only drawback with this DVD is that, while she is teaching this class to a participating group of expectant couples, she does get fairly technical with some of her explanations. But in the long run it is helpful, as I think it helps you to get a better idea of WHY some of her positional suggestions and exercises help to eliminate certain issues. Using a great variety of teaching aides, examples, charts and object lessons, Gail shows you how exactly the uterus, baby, brain and body all work together, and how you can help. This would be great DVD for an expectant couple to watch together, or for any midwife or doula to watch in order to give you some great ideas of how to help your clients through specific issues and achieve better positioning for babies. It is well worth the $ you would need to invest, in my opinion! You can find out more about Gail, and purchase this DVD here.
    Next in my pile of resources was a book by Ina May Gaskin. If you’ve been in the childbirth realm long, you’ll recognize this name as one of the most famous midwives in the USA. Ina May has been practicing since the 1970’s, and is probably most well known for her involvement with births on “The Farm” in rural TN. People have come from all over the world to have their babies in this community that has come to be known for it’s amazing work with natural childbirth. I’ll admit that while I’ve appreciated many of the things I’ve read or heard taught by Ina May, I was still a bit skeptical of her book “Guide to Childbirth”. I think I was expecting it to have a real “back to earth” or “hippie” type flare, which I know can turn off families who are looking for evidence-based and scientific information on preparing for birth. I was in for a big surprise! Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth has been amazing. Written in an easy-to-read manner, it is full of so much helpful information. Starting with birth stories to help women realize that birth is both natural and do-able, it then proceeds to teaching you about the things you really need to know about how your body works, how to care for yourself during pregnancy, how to understand tests and the “whys” behind them, helpful suggestions for choosing both caregivers and birth locations, ways to prepare for labor, and the list goes on. I love her honest, down-to-earth style of writing, yet all of her information is based on evidence, research, and studies, and she includes citations and information for further study. If you are wanting just one book to help you understand pregnancy and prepare for birth, this one is it. And it’s not just for moms planning to birth at home-there is information in this book that would help anyone to be better prepared and ready for the amazing experience of labor and delivery.
    The last resource I’ll mention here is a DVD that was given to me by one of my clients. She had purchased it during her last pregnancy, and wanted to pass it on to other moms when she was done with it. “Practicing for an Active Birth”  is basically a childbirth class presented by Instructor Neri Choma by Birth Coach Method. While Neri could probably be a bit more dynamic in her teaching style (I’d suggest watching 30 min. at a time-the DVD is about 2 hrs. and 15 min. long), she does a very good job of helping  you to understand the process of labor and the terms used to talk about each stage, and gives couples LOTS of great position and relaxation techniques. Using charts and models, she helps you to learn how to visualize what is happening during each stage of labor, and how you might be able to help facilitate comfort and relaxation during each stage, working together as couples. While I think that it is best for couples to take a live childbirth class whenever possible, this would be an excellent option for those who might not have that opportunity in their area.
    I personally feel like much of preparing for a great labor and birth involves understanding how your body works so you are not tensed with fear of the unknown. If you KNOW what is happening, understand WHY you are experiencing certain sensations, and have IDEAS for what to do and when, you and your partner will be able to relax and work together much better. Moms (and dads!) that are prepared tend to do much better emotionally and physically through the marathon of labor. I would strongly recommend you look into any or all of these resources as ways to prepare for a wonderful experience of bringing your baby into the world.
    I’d love to hear about what worked for you. Do you have any favorite resources you would care to share with others? Tell us about it in the comments! And consider sharing  this post with your pregnant friends to help them hear about ways they can prepare for labor and birth from the comfort of their own home.
Remembering seven years ago…a thank you to many of you!

Remembering seven years ago…a thank you to many of you!

I had to stop today and remember what happened on this date seven years ago…it’s actually hard to believe it’s been that long! I’m sure the fact that it’s also one of my grandmother’s birthdays helps to remind me of the actual date, but it’s fun to take some time and think about and remember some of the dear people that played such an important role in the midwifery aspect of my life. It was on October 16 in 2007 that I had the great privilege and wonder of “catching” my first baby…

As a student midwife, I had been eagerly anticipating when this time would come. By that point, I had finished almost one year of the academic work required to complete my training, and I had been working, living and training at Family Birth Services, a birth center/training center since the end of May of that year. Living at FBS was like studying midwifery by immersion…that was seriously most of what you did all the time…live, talk, think, dream and study birth, babies and mothers. Since my arrival at the birth center about 5 months before this, I had spent many hours sitting in prenatal appointments, talking with other midwives, attending births in a variety of settings, and trying to take in everything I possibly could.

Family Birth Services was a wonderful setup for aspiring midwives. Besides being staffed by a lovely group of ladies (who didn’t mind questions and discussions going on into the wee hours of the night!), those of us who were students were offered the opportunity to truly get our hands into the work as the birth center offered discounted rates for those families who chose to have a student provide them with care. When I think back to the families I had the joy of working with (many of whom still stay in touch today!), it makes me incredibly grateful for the investment they made in my training. Getting the opportunity to learn how to care for mothers and babies while assuming a major portion of responsibility is one of the best ways to learn! And I’m grateful, too, for the midwives who tirelessly gave of themselves to supervise and ensure that the clients were still receiving safe, quality care while allowing the student to provide as much care as they were capable of.

So, come October, I was feeling mixed emotions about when I would get to play the primary role in my first client’s birth. At this point, I had already had two primary care clients who had already delivered…one who went preterm, and another who ended up delivering while I was gone at a required midwifery training workshop. I should back up here, too, and note that while I had been assisting with other births, each of us students especially savored the relationship we had with our “own” primary care clients-these were the ladies we were providing care to under supervision, and whose births we were the most involved with. Due to the fact that I had some ability to communicate in Spanish, I was give the opportunity to take on my own primary care clients earlier than most students, as there were no other students available at that time who were able to offer Spanish speaking care. My dear Spanish-speaking supervising midwife, Sorani, had her hands full as she not only worked to help me communicate with clients, but also worked to make sure I was covering all the details needed especially since I was so early in my clinical training.

Given the fact that my two previous clients had not turned out the way I was hoping, I was beginning to wonder what might possibly happen with my third client. Sorani patiently encouraged me to trust the Lord with the timing and outcome, and relax while we waited for this baby who was taking her own good time to come. I still remember getting the call on my phone in the wee hours of the morning, and thinking that here was my time to put into practice the things I had been learning! Things seemed to be progressing well, and since this birth was planned to take place at the birth center, my client decided to come on in.

I’ll never forget the thrill that went through me when, just about 2 hours later, I helped this beautiful little girl enter the world during a lovely picture-perfect birth. While the difficult births would take place later, this first one was beautiful…totally breathtaking to me as a new midwife, and thrilling as I realized again how much I was drawn to the birthing process and how fulfilling this work was-even at 4 in the morning! 🙂 I’m sure Sorani (who was supervising) and Peggy (the other student assisting) won’t forget how they had to pull me down to earth and remind me that I really should eat something before my blood sugar crashed due to the high I was on! 🙂 We had a special celebration with hugs and ice cream in the kitchen early that morning, and I was reassured that this was indeed the work that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.

While there have been lots of other experiences in the years since, this birth still stays clear in my mind. And on this day when I remember this particular birthdate, I also want to thank all of those who invested in my training…the families who allowed me to be a part of their birth experiences, the midwives who allowed me to be part of their practices, those who spent hours teaching/instructing/coaching me, the other students who I trained alongside of, and the Lord who opened the doors and allowed me to be involved in the beautiful & intense work of assisting new lives into the world. Thank you!

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Baby L just a few hours after birth…dressed and ready to go home!

Another Birth Story!

Another Birth Story!

We recently celebrated our daughter’s birthday, and I thought maybe you all would enjoy reading the story of her birth…this was written almost 2 years ago….just before the birth of our second:

Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve wanted to write down her birth story, both for myself and for her to read someday. Now that “little brother” will be making his appearance any time, I figured I really should get her story written before having another birth to get it mixed up with. So here goes….

Our baby was due June 26, which meant that I really wasn’t expecting to have a baby until the end of June, or maybe even the beginning of July. After seeing many first-time mama’s get so disappointed over not hitting their “due date”, and proceeding to go at least a week overdue, I was determined that I wouldn’t set such expectations.  This was one area where I really didn’t have an expectation…the week before she came, I was busily painting several rooms in our house (“nesting instinct” for sure!), and then Joel’s family hosted a surprise baby shower for us on June 18. While the shower really was a surprise, he had talked with me about dates for something, and I assured him that I would still be doing quite fine by Father’s Day weekend, with probably another couple of weeks to go yet. Shows you how much I knew, after all! During the last 6-7 weeks of my pregnancy, I had continued to get very swollen, and my blood pressure was creeping higher, so I wonder in retrospect if my body just realized that it was time to get the baby out.

I still vividly remember getting up Sunday morning and noticing some bloody show, and signs that my water had possibly broken. I wasn’t totally sure (and wouldn’t you know, that was the one weekend that another midwife was using my kit, so I didn’t even have the test strips to check it out!), but I started crying as I told Joel about it, which made me wonder if maybe I really was going to start labor soon. Since my mother had several labors where she experienced prolonged rupture of membranes, once again I didn’t want to count on anything happening very quickly. I figured it could be a good while yet before we saw any “action”, so I still got ready for church…I didn’t really want anyone asking any questions, and since our home is right off the road, I knew that EVERYONE would know that there was the possibility of something going on if I wasn’t at church and yet our vehicle was in the drive.  During the service I was a bit uncomfortable, experiencing some cramps and things, but still nothing regular. After church I had a humorous conversation with two moms about how I shouldn’t get my hopes up in going anytime soon…and inwardly I was smiling as I figured I probably only had days or hours left, and not weeks!

With it being Father’s Day, we had planned to eat lunch with his family down the road (they only live a mile from us, so it wasn’t far). Joel wondered if I still wanted to go, and once again I wanted to show up just to keep people from knowing what was going on. I still felt pretty good, though I could tell that the cramps were getting stronger, and I was beginning to lose a bit more fluid. Everything went fine until right at the end of lunch, when all of a sudden I just wanted to be home…and I was afraid that the pad I was wearing might not be catching all of the fluid! Joel caught the message that I wanted to go, so he made some remark about the pregnant mama needing a nap, and whisked me out…with my swollen feet and hands, no one objected to my not helping with dishes, or wondered anything about us leaving so quickly!

We came home and laid down, and right around 3 or 3:30pm, I experienced my first REAL contraction. Not one of those low-crampy kind of aches, but the actual thing. It woke me right up, and after that my adrenaline kept me from sleeping anymore. However, things still picked up slowly, with the contractions only coming every 10-15 minutes or so, and were fairly easy to relax through. At this point, we called our folks to let them know that it looked like I really was in labor, which of course made them all excited. I still was figuring on hours and hours yet to go, so I took care of some things around the house, and Joel had a friend over for an early supper (they sat out on the porch to talk). At about 6:30, the contractions got more intense, and started coming more frequently. Joel thought it would be a good idea to call the midwives and let them know, especially since one was coming up from Lancaster and had a two hour trip ahead of her. I told him that I was fine with letting them know what was going on, but that I probably had another 24 hours at least to go, so there wasn’t any hurry. He didn’t agree with me, which was a good thing!

By 8:00, we went ahead and had Rose come over, as Joel thought I should have someone here. He also called Debby and told her that he thought she should go ahead and come…and meanwhile the contractions were about 5 minutes apart, lasting around a minute. I changed into more comfortable clothing, and tried to get comfortable, though I wasn’t finding it easy. I finally got in the shower, which gave some relief. Rose wondered if I wanted to be checked, but I didn’t-I was afraid at this point that I was probably only at 2-3cm, and wasn’t sure I could handle that news with how intense the contractions were.  Joel started filling up the tub, as I always thought that I would like to labor in water…though our tub faucet wasn’t working well, and it took an hour to fill up! By 9:55, Rose suggested that she check me, and Joel encouraged me to…and I was a stretchy 6-7. That was encouraging, though the contractions by now were coming so close and so hard that I was finding it difficult to stay on top of them. The most comfortable thing I could do was sit on the birth ball, lean my head on the bed, and squeeze onto Joel’s hand…and there was NO way I could think about making the effort to get into the tub at this point!

That next hour was intense, with the contractions coming every 2-4 minutes, and lasting a good long time, and I was beginning to wonder how I could ever get through a whole night of this. I still remember thinking “they always say that when you think you can’t do it anymore, you’re almost through”, but then dismissing the thought as wishful thinking.  By this time, we were beginning to wonder where Debby was…Rose called her, and found out that she also figured she had a good amount of time to get there with this being my first baby and all, and she hadn’t left right away. I couldn’t blame her, as I would have done the exact same thing! Rose told her she should hurry…it was 10:40pm by that time, and I was close to 9cm. That surprised all of us! Just before 11:00, I started feeling pushy, and Rose said I was complete. Right about that time Debby walked in, so I felt like I could relax to begin pushing.

By this time I moved to the bed in a semi-sitting position, as it seemed to be the most comfortable for pushing. The pushing part was not at all what I was expecting…I guess I had heard enough moms say that they enjoyed that part of it as it felt like they were doing something, but I felt like I wasn’t making any progress, and there was a constant sharp pain near my pubic bone. It took only 35 minutes of pushing, and she was born with a nuchal hand…which I think attributed to the pain during pushing AND to the tear coming out!

Having that squalling little baby put on my chest was amazing…I kept looking down at her and thinking, “she’s mine to keep!”. Although we hadn’t had a sonogram during the pregnancy, Joel and I both felt like the baby was going to be a girl, so it almost felt like it was no surprise to see our little daughter. She pinked up and cried right away-just about as perfect as it can get. I was in for another surprise, though…I felt so sore that I could hardly move afterwards! The placenta came about 10 minutes after her birth, and I was so relieved to have everything all over, and thankful for how well everything had gone. Postpartum continued without incident, though it almost made me laugh to think of how difficult it was to get out of bed just to go to the bathroom, and how incredibly sore and tender everything was-and this was a small baby! I decided then that I did not believe the nonsense that is talked about in regards to a mom not needing pain relief if she is sutured right after birth, as she is still numb and on a high from the birth…that certainly was not the case! 

Rose was ready to go within two hours after the birth, and since Debby had been up the night before at a birth, she stayed the rest of the night to catch some sleep before heading back. We were so grateful for how the Lord took care of every detail, and gave us a wonderful first birth experience, and a beautiful, precious daughter!

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our little princess!