Morning Sickness: Remedies, Suggestions & Research

Morning Sickness: Remedies, Suggestions & Research

Please note: I am NOT affiliated with any of the mentioned companies, and I do not receive any sort of reimbursement from sharing their products other than occasional free samples that are sent to my office (which is how I was introduced to several of them!). Some of these companies have offered discount codes for my readers, and I’m passing those on when available, at no benefit to myself!

As a mom who has struggled with severe morning sickness with most of my pregnancies, I know from experience how incredibly difficult and challenging those first months can be when you feel so miserable! In fact, the mere thought of going through those early weeks and months of sickness makes me desperate to find some type of relief to try. Because of this, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading any new research, thoughts and suggestions that I can get my hands on regarding combating morning sickness over the past couple of years. My hope with this post is to help you understand what might be going on under the surface, and to provide you with a number of suggestions and resources so that you can hopefully find something that works for you! I know each mom (and each pregnancy!) can respond differently, and that there is NO cure-all that works for everyone. But sometimes you find out about something that can make a difference, so my hope is that you might discover something new that can bring some relief to you as you nourish and carry that tiny baby that is already requiring so much from mama!

For the foundation, it’s important to be caring for your body BEFORE pregnancy whenever possible. If you haven’t done so, I would highly recommend that you take the time to read Real Food For Pregnancy by Lily Nichols. Having a high quality diet in place that is low in simple carbs and refined sugar and high in quality protein has made a big difference for many moms, but this provides the most help for morning sickness if this has been a way of life long before pregnancy. Along these same lines, taking the time to do a liver cleanse and possibly a candida cleanse have made a big difference in pregnancy health for moms.

Talking about the liver brings me to the first important suggestion for morning sickness relief, and that is LIVER HEALTH. As you know, a mom’s body works hard to support the massive amount of growth that is happening for baby during the first weeks after conception, and one of the organs under a lot of stress is the liver. It is fascinating to study into this more, and realize how gentle support of the liver can help alleviate the severity of morning sickness (you can read more about this here). A great way to provide liver support is through taking Milk Thistle twice a day (and if you are planning a pregnancy, start taking this a couple of months before pregnancy for even better success!). Some good Milk Thistle options are: Jarrow Milk Thistle  & Natural Hope Herbals Milk Thistle Tincture.  If you want more support (and possibly more success), consider taking a liver support complex such as the pregnancy-safe tincture from  Mountain Meadow Herbs Liver Glow II. This product from Earthly Wellness includes dandelion which is another herb that provides liver support, along with some additional herbs to aid in reducing nausea: Mama’s Tummy Relief (use code “gentlemidwife” for 10% off your first order from them!). Another form of liver support comes through the addition of lemons to your diet, which is most easily done by squeezing fresh lemon juice into your water that you sip on throughout the day (add some honey for a bit of a natural sugar boost!).

Another factor that can make morning sickness worse, and be especially problematic when a mama is vomiting often, is maintaining good hydration and electrolyte balance. Staying on top of this before it gets to the point of needing IV treatment is key, and one of the ways to help with this is having some high-quality electrolyte drinks available (that are not full of artificial flavors & dyes like Gatorade!). A few good choices that I’ve personally tasted an tested are: GoodOnYa Organic (this one tastes like delicious lemonade, yet it has only healthy ingredients: use the code “gentlemidwife” for 10% off + free shipping on your order!), Nectar (another organic, sugar-free option with multiple flavors), LMNT (available in several different flavors-you can purchase a sample mix on Amazon to get you started), and DripDrop. You can even make popsicles out of these electrolyte drinks in order to sip on them…just make it a priority to stay hydrated and prevent your electrolytes from orbiting out of order…we want to prevent the need for an IV or other intervention whenever possible!

A “newer” remedy that I am finding quite fascinating is that of additional magnesium supplementation for morning sickness relief. Here’s a couple of articles that go into more detail: Magnesium for Morning Sickness Relief, & Magnesium for Morning Sickness: My Story. If I have another baby, I’m definitely planning to try this idea! Besides swallowing pills or drinking magnesium-containing drinks (which many sick moms can’t handle), a few ways to supplement with magnesium that might be easier on your stomach are creams and sprays. Pink Stork carries this  Magnesium Spray for Morning Sickness, and a local company that I highly recommend carries this cream: Shade Mt. Naturals Magnesium Cream . Another magnesium cream I have used personally is this one: 8 Sheep Organics Magnesium Cream

If you’ve read other posts on my blog or talked with me long, you probably have heard how strongly I feel about incorporating high quality probiotics into your life for pregnancy, nursing and newborn health…and now I’m finding proof that probiotics can also help with morning sickness! These two articles show how: Study: Probiotics Reduce Nausea & Vomiting  and Study Finds Probiotics Significantly Improve Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy. Based on this research, as well as knowing how beneficial probiotics are to your overall health, it seems like it can’t hurt anything to increase or start your probiotic intake during the early weeks/months of pregnancy. If you’re looking for some good quality options, here are a few that have been recommended by other midwives and clients that I trust: Klaire Labs Therbiotic Complete, This Is Needed: Prenatal Probiotic, and Entegro:Flourish. Another way to increase your probiotic consumption is through fermented foods, such as raw sauerkraut and drinks like Kefir. Some moms have found the “sparkling” aspect of water kefir to be especially appealing while feeling sick, and many stores carry options such as Kevita in the cold drink section. You can also learn How to Make Water Kefir at Home or purchase something like this: Coco-Biotic Coconut Water Kefir

Some moms can obtain relief by supplementing with some specific vitamins & nutrients. Adding a few drops of this Liquid PhosFood by Standard Process to your drinking water (it tastes similar to lemon) has been beneficial to a few clients. Other times your body really needs some additional B vitamins, both for the B6 that specifically helps with nausea, and for the energy that is so lacking during the first trimester! My favorite B complex for those early weeks is the Max BnD Fermented B complex that helped me SO much with my last pregnancy. Whatever type of B vitamin you find, make sure that is contains bio-available forms, such as folate and methylated Bs, in order to obtain the most benefit. Jarrow and Seeking Health are two good brands to purchase.

Now we’ll move on to some random suggestions and options that have helped other moms (thanks to so many who shared in response to my question on what has helped!):

  • Hard Candies Specific for Morning Sickness: Morning Sickness Sweets by Pink Stork,  UpSpring Stomach Settle Drops , PreggiePop Drops & Tummy Drops are several good options to choose from.
  • Ginger: many people find ginger helps to settle the stomach, and you can try it in the form of Ginger Ale, Ginger supplements, or even through chews & candies such as these: Gin-Gins Ginger People Candy & Chews
  • Pink Stork offers a product called Total Morning Sickness Relief that contains needed vitamins & minerals for nausea.  
  • Herbal tinctures formulated specifically for morning sickness: Wishgarden Calm-A-Tum, BrighterMornings from Natural Hope, StomachAid from MMH, & Nausea Relief Tincture from HerbLore.
  • Acupressure in the form of Sea-Bands is helpful for some moms: Research on relief of nausea from Sea-Bands
  • Frequent snacking (don’t let your stomach get empty!), and eating something light before you get out of bed in the morning. Make sure you’re getting protein in whenever possible, even adding it to smoothies if needed!
  • Daily mineral supplement, such as this Fulvic-Humic Acid Mineral Blend available through VitaCost.
  • 1 gel cap of Heather’s Tummy Care Peppermint Oil Caps before each meal for 3-5 days, adjust as needed.
  • Fruit Juice popsicles
  • Some moms find that they need to quit taking daily prenatal vitamins during this time, as they can be too hard on the already sensitive stomach. Don’t stress if you need to do this-you & baby will both do better overall if you can keep food down, and this is more important than the vitamins during these weeks! Remember, baby needed the vitamins the most during the first few weeks, so by the time morning sickness hits with a vengeance this key foundation is over, so the goal is keeping mom hydrated and healthy! An alternative is to find a different vitamin and see if it might be gentler on your stomach. There are gummies, powders and pills, so another form may work during these initial weeks, especially if it does not contain iron which can be particularly hard on a queasy stomach.

IF you really are struggling to keep anything down, and need to move past the natural supplement stage, don’t hesitate to reach out to your care provider for additional support. Some moms MUST have prescription meds to survive these months, and that is totally warranted depending on the situation. Other moms need to have an occasional IV in order to restore hydration, and we are thankful for these interventions when they are desperately needed. Some over-the-counter yet more medically-based solutions are:

In closing, here are a few other blogs that contain more suggestions on how to find relief from the challenges of morning sickness: Wellness Mama: How to Avoid Morning Sickness & Natural Morning Sickness Remedies

I would love to hear from you readers: what did you find helpful?? Any suggestions that aren’t on this list? Did anything listed here benefit you? What did you find helped from one pregnancy to another? Thanks so much for sharing so that we can all learn and hopefully be better able to handle these early weeks and months of pregnancy!

2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

2021 Year-End Update from Gentle Delivery

As I think back over this past year, it is with a sense of gratefulness for the ways that God has led, protected and provided. 2021 has included more complications, challenges and adrenaline rushes than I’ve ever had in one year’s time since I began practicing as a midwife 12 years ago! The additional gray hairs accumulated over the months prove this, and I am ending the year feeling like I’ve gained a level of experience that I honestly wouldn’t have minded doing without. However, I’ve also been reminded that this is WHY a midwife takes training seriously, and I’m more committed than ever to doing my best to assist families in safe births, even when at times this requires a different birth location than what we had hoped for, or more invasive assistance than what I prefer to provide.

            Besides being the most intense year complication-wise and the most stressful year when it comes to constant changes & research due to the ever-changing Covid landscape, it was also my busiest year baby-wise! I had the honor of helping to welcome 6 girls and 11 boys by the time the last December babies arrived. Weight ranges were fairly average: smallest was 6#8oz and the biggest was 9#9oz. While a couple of little ones came a week or two early, most typically went on the later side with two babies waiting until 13 days past their due date. Three babies made child #6 for their families, and two boys were the first ones for their families. While there were several long labors and many hours spent with a family before the birth, one little guy was in a big enough hurry that he made his appearance in his home before I did! As usual, birth always has an element of surprise that keeps us all on our toes.

Lynelle, Myself & Lanna

            I was blessed to work with several great assistants this year! These ladies really help to lift my load, and add a lot to our team. After assisting with births throughout the past 6 years, Lynelle is sensing a need to step back for a time, so she won’t be seen as frequently in the next year. Lanna began helping this spring at the height of our busy season, and has been such a blessing! She will continue to assist as her schedule allows, and there’s the potential of another assistant joining the team in the near future. I’ve also been grateful for the continued help of the midwifery community here in central PA: other assistants and midwives have been willing to fill in as needed, and I’m thankful to have had help available whenever I’ve needed an extra set of hands or someone to cover for a trip or emergency. I was especially thankful for RoseMarie’s willingness to cover for me this fall when our family had COVID, and I was thankful for the baby who so beautifully cooperated in waiting to arrive until I was recovered and my family was past quarantine!

Guerrero, Mexico Summer 2021

            On the home front, my little family is growing and doing well! In spite of lots of babies and the craziness this adds to our calendar, we were thankful to get to spend some time camping over the summer, as well as taking a family trip to Mexico to visit missionaries serving with the organization my husband works for. I couldn’t serve as a midwife without the amazing support of my husband Joel, who graciously steps in to care for everyone when mama disappears at a moment’s notice. With children ranging in age from almost 2 to 10, life at home is always exciting and active, and my girls can’t wait until THEY are old enough to “help mama at births”.

            A big thank you to each one of you who have trusted me to support you as you navigated your pregnancies and deliveries—it is something I count a privilege and honor! I love to hear from families, so please feel free to send an update and picture when you have a chance!

Many blessings as you head into the New Year,

Kelsey Martin & Gentle Delivery Midwifery Services

Be sure to check out the blog and Facebook page to stay updated on current news, helpful information, health suggestions, birth stories, and announcement of special events such as playdates!

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Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

Birth Story of our Christmas-time Baby

As we enter into the Christmas season again, I have to think about the year we were anticipating our own Christmas baby, and what a delightful time of year it was to cozy up inside with a newborn! Our little Tirzah had quite the dramatic entrance into the world, and it almost makes me laugh every time I recount it…

By the time I was expecting my fifth baby, I knew to expect lots of contractions and discomfort, and this pregnancy was no exception. Thankfully my blood pressure was staying within normal limits, and everything else was proceeding smoothly. But after several nights with contractions and signs that labor could be imminent, I was getting TIRED. Once you loose that much sleep and feel heavy and uncomfortable all the time, you start to wonder how on earth you are going to make it through labor yet! One night I was pretty sure it was the “real deal”, after being up for hours with regular contractions, only to find everything stopped once the birth team was here and the pool was filled! Funny that it took the fifth child to experience that “false run”, but after not calling the midwife soon enough last time, we were trying to not repeat that scenario—only to send everyone home after a couple of hours!

My previous baby had come after an extremely intense labor, and I was trying hard to not allow fear to overcome my anticipation of this birth. Lynelle, my good friend and birth assistant, had told me that I really should try the birth pool this time around, and even offered to take care of all the set up and prep to make that happen. So we had set up the pool in the office, and had everything ready to go, and I was really hopeful that it would make a difference in the intensity, especially at the end.

Everything set up and ready go for round #1!

Fast forward a couple of days: after getting a good night’s sleep, I woke up on Saturday feeling like this baby needed to be encouraged to come. I’ve taken Castor Oil before, but every time I thought about that option it made me want to puke. So I figured there had to be an alternative: enter the Midwives Brew! I had read about this recipe (used often by European Midwives), but had always figured that the small amount of castor oil combined with the other strange ingredients wouldn’t actually be effective. But by this point I was willing to at least TRY it and see! My husband was on board (he was ready to see me up at night nursing a baby instead of up at night with contractions!), but I warned him that I really didn’t think it would work.

Mid-morning, I took my youngest for a little “mommy date”, and we headed to Wegman’s for a few groceries and the ingredients for the brew (see this post to find out what those are!). I had fun picking out a few things that I thought would sound good to eat or drink IF I was in labor later on, and we had a pleasant little outing. Once I returned home it was about lunch time, so while Joel fixed lunch, I blended up the brew, and sipped it down before eating a little lunch. While not the best flavor I’ve ever tasted, it wasn’t nearly as bad as downing large amounts of castor oil in juice!! My stomach felt a little funny, but eating some food and then chewing some gum seemed to settle things.

strange blend of ingredients!

This was the weekend that one of our little local Victorian towns always holds an event called “A Victorian Christmas”. That event combined with the opening of an exhibit of an Underground Railroad station in one of the museums there had made me want to take the children out for awhile if we were still waiting on a baby over that time. Since Joel had a Bible Study planned at our house for the afternoon, it felt like a great opportunity to take out the older children for some educational distraction and let me get a chance to think about something other than baby waiting! Since all I had been experiencing for two hours was some minor stomach discomfort, I decided to head out around 2:30pm, despite my husband’s slight misgivings. Laughingly I joked with him that if I called him he’d better answer the phone, as it might mean I needed him to come pick me up!

Bellefonte is about 10 min from our house, and we parked and went through the historical museum, only to find out that it did not contain the Underground Railroad Exhibit like I had thought. The curator pointed us up the road about half a block to the right museum, and the children and I headed that direction. Right as we hit the steps (around 3:30pm), I felt a slight “pop” and had a thought that perhaps my water had broken. But I wasn’t sure, and decided since we were RIGHT THERE we might as well go in. I felt a bit of dismay when the museum volunteer cheerily told us that the exhibit was on the top floor…UP THREE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS!! We started up the stairs when I felt my first real contraction, and I immediately thought that we’d better not stay long. The children were oblivious, of course, and thoroughly enjoyed exploring, while I tried to act like nothing was amiss as the contractions quickly started getting stronger and harder. I hurried them through the exhibit and back down the stairs, stopping briefly in the bathroom where I confirmed that indeed my water had broken. As we headed outside, my children excitedly discussed the next place we would go…and  I seriously informed them that we needed to get home NOW. They looked at me puzzled, and I told them I thought baby sister was going to be coming, to which my 6 year old son replied “how do you know? Your water hasn’t broken yet, has it?”. That made me laugh in spite of the situation, and when I told him it HAD, they all got really serious!

The half-block walk back to the car seemed to take forever, as the contractions were definitely picking up in speed and intensity. Once we pulled out and started on the road, I called Joel. The first time he didn’t answer, but then when the phone rang the second time he figured he’d better pick up! I told him that labor had begun, and to please have all the Bible study men out of the house by the time I got home and figure out where the boys were supposed to go…and to pray I could drive home safely! Next I called my friend Lynelle, as I knew that she would need to get a babysitter for her children, and I really wanted her free to get the pool started if things continued. Once I was finished with this phone call I knew I couldn’t make any more calls and drive, as things were just too intense. It was all I could do to stay focused on driving! I kept praying a policeman wouldn’t pull me over, as I had no bandwidth to explain why I was headed home instead of to the hospital!

I reached home, and our friend Daniel had his van running so he could pull out with the boys as soon as I arrived with Matthias. I pulled in the garage around 4:20, and had a massive contraction that made me unable to even get out of the vehicle. I heard Joel on the phone—he had called our midwife to see if I had called her yet (I hadn’t!! She was next, but I couldn’t make another call after I talked with Lynelle!), and she said she’d be on her way. I still remember running inside to the bathroom, trying to focus on relaxing, and coming to grips with the fact that at this rate I would not be having a water birth, then Joel calling through the door “the pool is warm and half way filled if you want to get in!!”  He had so sweetly started filling the pool, turning on the music, and getting things ready the minute I called home! I told him he’d better call Lynelle and Priscilla (our friend who was going to come help with our girls and take pictures), and they’d better hurry, and I still remember the relief of settling into the warm pool.

Just a minute or so old! Pink all over except for her slightly bruised face which was caused by her speedy birth!

Once I got in the water, the intensity and closeness of the contractions subsided, and I had a chance in between to catch up Joel on all that had transpired. Lynelle and Priscilla don’t live far, and arrived within a few minutes, and I still remember us all laughing in between contractions as the craziness of how fast things were happening! It wasn’t long before I felt the pressure of Tirzah’s head descending, and Lynelle was ready to help in anyway she could. Priscilla called our girls in, and they all clustered around the pool, quiet with excitement and anticipation. This time around I didn’t want anyone to touch me (other than squeezing Joel’s hand!), and I have never experienced the awareness during pushing as I did with this birth. It was an incredible experience to actually breathe her out and catch her myself—something I don’t think I could have done without the help of the water! I pulled her up to my chest, she cried right away, and we settled back in the warm water, both amazed at all that had happened. It was 4:42pm, only 20 minutes after I had arrived home!!

Sisters!

My girls were so delighted to help welcome their little sister, and their eyes shown as they stroked her head, and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sit back and relax and catch my breath. Being in the warm water seemed to decrease my usual after-birth shakes, and we had a long chance to connect and rest. Rose Marie arrived about 20 min later, and since I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, daddy and the girls took baby sister to the other room while I transitioned to the birth stool where the placenta came easily. I was feeling good enough (and minimal blood loss!) that I showered quickly, and then cozied up on the couch while our midwife and friends did all the baby checks, and Joel popped a pizza into the oven. Eventually Priscilla went to bring the boys home to meet their sister, and we had a lovely evening rejoicing in our new gift. I had never had a daytime baby, and I couldn’t believe how good I felt and how I was hardly even tired! After everyone had some supper and everything was cleaned up and taken care of, I took our new baby upstairs, and we cuddled up together for the night-so thankful for the amazing experience, and still in a bit of unbelief!

Our Fantastic Birth Team!!
Preventing Group B Strep Colonization in Pregnancy

Preventing Group B Strep Colonization in Pregnancy

For clients of Gentle Delivery, you know that routine Group B Strep testing is offered to every expectant mom in accordance with the ACOG standards of care. While the pros and cons of testing and subsequent treatment plans are discussed in detail elsewhere, the purpose of this post is to help you to minimize your risk of developing Group B Strep colonization during pregnancy, thus promoting better health for you and baby (and increasing your chances of obtaining a negative test result!).

If you are interested in researching Group B Strep info, I’d strongly encourage you to read Aviva Romm’s article: Group B Strep in Pregnancy: What’s a Mom to do? You’ll find clear explanations of GBS, risks and benefits of antibiotic treatment, and tips on promoting health. This post by Wellness Mama also includes further links for study along with Katie’s suggestions for avoiding GBS colonization with natural methods: How I Avoided GBS Naturally  And finally, this article provides a few other options to consider while making decisions on prevention and treatment: Decrease Your Chances of GBS

As a practicing CPM in a state that does not offer licensure, I am currently unable to offer IV antibiotic treatment to GBS+ clients. This increases my desire to do all I can to help support a mom’s immune system and decrease the possibility of a GBS+ test result, as it greatly simplifies the care protocols and necessary decision making for clients and their families!

So here are the primary suggestions for making your vaginal flora inhospitable to Group B Strep:

  • High Quality Probiotics (if not started early on in pregnancy, then beginning at 28-32 weeks orally, adding vaginal support at 32-34 weeks)

“Many species of Lactobacillus have been shown to be beneficial to the vaginal flora; Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosis are species known to be especially helpful for supporting healthy vaginal (and bladder) flora, while these and others, including L crispatus and L. salivarius strains, have been shown to to inhibit the growth of vaginal pathogens including Gardnerella vaginalis and Candida albicans, and also reducing the frequency of bladder infections in addition to vaginal infection.

In one study, 110 pregnant women at 35-37 weeks of gestation who were diagnosed by GBS culture as being GBS positive for both vaginal and rectal GBS colonization were randomly assigned to be orally treated with two placebo capsules or two probiotic capsules (containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri ) before bedtime until delivery. All women were tested for vaginal and rectal GBS colonization again by GBS culture on admission for delivery. Of the 99 who completed the study (49 in the probiotic group and 50 in the placebo group), the GBS colonization results changed from positive to negative in 21 women in the probiotic group (42.9%) and in nine women in the placebo group (18.0%) during this period. The researchers concluded that an oral probiotic containing L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri could reduce the vaginal and rectal GBS colonization rate in pregnant women.

In another study involving 57 healthy pregnant women, L. salivarus was taken daily by the 25 GBS positive women in the group from weeks 26 to 38 of pregnancy. At the end of the trial (week 38), 72% and 68% of the women were GBS-negative in the rectal and vaginal samples, respectively. The researchers concluded that this seemed to be an efficient method to reduce the number of GBS-positive women during pregnancy, decreasing the number of women receiving antibiotic treatment during labor and birth.”  (copied from Aviva Romm’s article here)

In light of these studies, and knowing that probiotics are vitally important to the health of both mom and infant for a variety of reasons, supplementing regularly with probiotics during pregnancy can be beneficial in more ways than one. For GBS specific support, it’s recommended that you begin supplementing orally at 28-32 weeks (though earlier is even better!), and then increasing your oral dosage and consider using a probiotic vaginally for at least 2-4 weeks before your Group B Strep test (and then continue the oral support through the rest of your pregnancy).

As you shop for probiotics, pay attention to the different strains it includes, as not all probiotics are created equal, and they will be most effective against GBS strains if it includes L. Rhamnosus, L. Reuteri and L. Salivarus.

Some brand suggestions that other midwives have given me are:

  • Diet Support
    • Eating a diet high in fermented foods/drinks (kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, etc.) help to promote a healthy gut flora.
    • Eliminating sugar and simple carbs are also effective in promoting beneficial gut flora.
    • Add 1-2 tbl of coconut oil into your daily diet for it’s antibiotic properties, specifically in the few weeks prior to testing.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar consumed daily or in capsule form may be helpful.
  • Vitamin C
    • Consuming 1000-2000mg of high quality vitamin C daily (in divided does) can help to increase your body’s immune response, which makes it more difficult for unhealthy microorganisms to grow. You can begin this regimen around 30 weeks.
  • Garlic/Allicin (active component of garlic)
    • Garlic has been used as an antimicrobial agent for generations, and for good reason. However, high doses of garlic can cause blood thinning, so I don’t recommend staying on high doses of garlic or allicin after obtaining your GBS test. But it is a treatment to consider to reduce the possibility of GBS colonization before getting tested. Currently there is a midwife practice conducting a study where participants are instructed to use Allicin Gel 2x daily for 12-14 days along with ingesting 180mg of Allicin capsules 2x daily for 12-14 days prior to testing. The basis for this study is from a preliminary study done in 2009 where Allicin was shown to reduce the possibility of early rupture of membranes and chorioamnionitis, both of which can be complications of GBS infection. Other methods of using garlic include: taking garlic capsules daily, consume raw garlic daily, and/or insert a raw garlic clove vaginally at night before going to bed.

            While we still have a lot to learn about Group B Strep (how exactly it is transmitted, best ways to treat it, and how to prevent it from the beginning), and while there still seem to be a few moms who naturally carry Group B Strep bacteria in their vaginal tract no matter what they try to do about it (antibiotic or otherwise!), one of the benefits of utilizing these suggestions is that they promote health for mom and baby regardless of the GBS presence (or lack thereof). While obtaining a negative Group B Strep test does eliminate a certain amount of worry, risk and decisions, the benefit to your body of increasing the good bacteria and gut flora through healthy foods, probiotic supplementation and other factors may provide long-term benefits that you will see later on. I’d highly encourage every pregnant mom to consider these suggestions, and wish each of you a healthy and safe pregnancy and birth!

            I’d also love to hear: did you try any of these prevention methods? How did it affect you and your GBS status? Did you test positive in one pregnancy and then negative in another? What was most beneficial for you?

A Mother’s Journey with Tongue Ties

A Mother’s Journey with Tongue Ties

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you’ll know that tongue & lip ties and nursing challenges are a passion of mine, especially after having experienced challenges with all of these factors with several of my own children. I’ve also been in contact with many moms who are struggling with nursing issues or fussy babies, and so many times there is a connection to either a tongue or lip tie (or both!). Recently, a mom shared her story in a Facebook Group for Moms that I’m part of. Her story touches on so many of the factors that I have seen and/or experienced, that I contacted her and asked for her permission to share her post with you all. I am so grateful, as Tanisha covers many factors to consider in her story, and I think it will be beneficial for many moms who might be struggling. If you are struggling with nursing issues, I really want to encourage you that you aren’t alone, and that there are answers out there!! And if you resonate with this story, I would love to hear about your experiences! It can help other moms when they can hear first-hand what worked for others in similar situations.

~Kelsey

Now on to our guest post, written earlier this year by Tanisha Gingerich:

**Shared by the author’s permission**

I thought I’d make a post for whoever it might concern, about our journey so far with tongue and lip ties. They are becoming increasingly common it seems, and I thought sharing my experience might be a good way to bring awareness so that any other moms going thru something similar can benefit from (or add to) what I’ve been learning.

A week post partum, I was scabbed from nursing, and in a lot of pain every time I fed Micoma. She was gaining well, so we probably could have made it work (a lactation consultant can help you and baby work past a multitude of feeding problems), but I knew from experience that although I could “make it work,” my milk supply was going to tank around 4-6 months. Ties can also cause speech, dental, and sleep issues down the road, along with a host of other problems.

So in the interest of short-term pain for the long-term good, I took Micoma in at a week old for a consultation and ended up getting her lip and tongue ties lasered right away so we could begin the healing and retraining process as soon as possible before bad nursing habits were formed.

I cried and prayed over her before they did the 3 minute procedure, and sobbed compulsively while they swaddled her and used a laser to cut the ties open. The woman doing the procedure was a mom too, and was so compassionate and kind with Micoma. Then they left us alone in a cozy room to nurse, and I heaved more sobs as I comforted my baby. Being able to hold and nurse her was probably just as healing for me as it was for her.

Her latch was instantly better. Over the next few days I had to continually remind myself of the long term good, as I did stretches on her wounds. To my relief, the stretches were done in under 30 seconds, and Micoma always recovered quickly… I soon realized she was screaming louder over getting her diaper changed than she was over the oral invasion, so that made me feel better. I told her all the time how brave she was, and gave her every comfort to guide her through the rough patch.

That first week dragged on for me. I hated having to keep stretches in my mind every 4-6 hours even thru the night—got kind of sick with dread thinking about it. I kept Micoma on Tylenol the first 2 days, and again on day 4 when there was a flare up of discomfort. Other than that though, she continued to eat and sleep very normally (not everyone has it so easy, some babies will hardly eat for a day or two, and cry all the time. Thankfully Micoma nursed for comfort, and seemed to tolerate gracefully any discomfort she was feeling). At one week we had a follow up appointment and they said everything was healing well and there was no reattachment. I was so relieved.

By the second week all was routine, and the scars were nearly healed up. Sometimes she wouldn’t even wake up when I did the stretches so I knew they weren’t painful. Currently we have just passed the 3 week mark, which means I can de-escalate the stretches rapidly and they will disappear in a few days. Hooray! One hurdle over. Now on to the next. I had a lactation consultant come at week 3, to help me teach Micoma new nursing/sucking habits. I learned so much!

First of all, babies begin practicing how to suck from week 12 in utero. This is how they build the oral strength they need for nursing. Unfortunately, when a part of their tongue is tied down, they are unable to fully lift and tone those muscles.  When they are born and begin nursing, the restrictions to their lip and or/tongue, make it hard or impossible for them to latch correctly or suck efficiently. As a result, nursing is laborious for them. You may hear a “clicking” noise or notice milk dribbling out the sides of their mouth, these are telltale signs. They frequently fall asleep while nursing, just from the strain it, and are unable to properly empty the breast. This can obviously cause low-weight issues, milk supply issues, and severe frustration to the baby. The baby will often resort to chomping or some other measure in an attempt to get milk, resulting it a lot of discomfort or pain for the mom.

But even after ties are released, there is still some work to do. Baby’s latch will probably be better right away, but you’ll need to help hertone her oral muscles and relearn how to suck correctly with the new range of motion in her mouth. I was given a series of simple tongue exercises to do with Micoma every day… they are more like games, and activate her reflexes to get her tongue moving, especially in the places she’s not used to lifting it.

Now, to back up a bit, there are two kinds of ties—lip ties and tongue ties. I’ve also heard of buchal ties (cheeks) but know very little about them at this point. A lip tie is easiest to spot (example of one in comments) and if a lip tie is present, a tongue tie is almost always present too—they tend to go hand in hand. Keep in mind that some care providers are not trained to look for *posterior* tongue ties (these are in the back of the mouth and not as obvious as anterior ones), so those often get missed. Ties vary in severity (where they are attached and how drastically they are affecting function of the lip/tongue. Sometimes it may be negligible).

Next thing I learned, tongue tied babies are notoriously “tight.” The tongue sits at the very top of the spine, and if there are restrictions in the tongue, you will see restrictions all the way down through the body. Sure enough, Micoma is very tight in her shoulder/neck area, has over compensated for it in her lower back, and has tight hips. Once again, I was given a series of simple rhythmic motions and stretches to loosen those areas up and bring everything into alignment. She has a bit of a “C” shape curve when she lies down, that’s another common sign of tongue-tie related tightness. (Pic in comments) I wish I would have known this with my oldest daughter Verona. She was incredibly C-shaped, and these stretches would have loosened up her uncomfortably tight muscles.

Looking back, both of my children before Micoma had ties of some kind. I always had to use a nipple shield with Verona, and I remember Benny getting so angry when I nursed him. My supply going down around 4 months was another telltale sign. Both children despised tummy time, which was most likely because of how tight they were in their neck and lower back. I suspect “ties” is some of why they slept so poorly and aggravated colic symptoms early on… In-efficient nursing brings more air into the stomach and causes gas discomfort/excessive spitting up. And in a very strange twist of fate, if the tongue cannot reach up to the top of the pallet and rest there while sleeping, the top of the mouth becomes domed, crowding teeth and restricting airway. This can lead to mouth breathing, sleep apnea, and dental issues.

Verona’s lip tie comes all the way down between her teeth, which is why she has a gap between her front teeth. Neither of the children seem to be having difficulty eating, speaking, or maintaining good dental hygiene and structure other than that. So I’ll just keep an eye on them, and only resort to doing anything about theirs at this point if I see it’s going to cause them major problems down the road. But I do grieve the suffering we all went thru with months of screaming colicky baby, and the eventual loss of breastfeeding bond. That pain far surpasses whatever me and Micoma went through the last month in laser-correction and recovery.

So for that reason, I would support moms in pursuing tie-releases if you feel it would be beneficial for your baby. As with everything child-related, there is controversy surrounding the issue—whether ties are really a thing, whether they’re a big deal, clipping or lasering, stretches or no stretches. In my case, I saw enough consequences in my last 2 children that I was willing to believe ties affect quality of life enough to warrant a minor surgery. Lasering has a lower rate of re-attachment and requires no stitches, so I went that route. And the stretches I did because Micoma tolerated them well and I was determined not to let the fibers re-attach while they were healing… and I grilled my caretaker about whether it was necessary, and she says she does see a fairly high rate of reattachment if stretches are not done. Albeit, I did the bare minimum I thought I could be get by with, and with good results. That was my story, you get to write your own. Decide what’s best for your child, whether that’s therapy to work past a tie, or a surgery to correct it, or whatever and don’t let people throw a lot of shame or fear onto you for it.

Currently I am pumping a few times a day and using an SNS (supplemental nursing system) several times a day to stimulate my supply and simultaneously get Micoma the extra food she sometimes can’t get herself. I’ll keep working with Micoma’s body and tongue to get everything loosened up and toned… hopefully within a month we’ll be at a place where she can keep my supply up on her own. In the mean time we’re not goning to go many places this month, just stay home and focus on the task at hand.

Many people take their children to chiropractors pre and/or post tie release for body work. It helps with nursing if your baby is aligned properly. For the time being, since I have bodywork I can do at home with her, I am skipping that… see if I can get by without it. Cranial Sacral therapy is another thing highly recommended… I don’t know, it could possibly be a legitimate thing with babies since their skulls are still un-fused and somewhat mobile, but I have heard of enough occultist ties connected to this practice done in adults that I plan to avoid it all together.

This post was not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. It’s my personal story and some things I learned along the way, left here for people to sift thru and take whatever is for them.

If, btw, you decide lasering is the right option for you (and you are local to central PA), I had a good experience with Dr. Katherman in York. Her office felt like such a warm and caring place to me, and she was on call at all hours if I had questions later. Also, do yourself a favor and hire a lactation consultant. You won’t regret it! Do a bit of research first and find one that people you know have had good experiences with (there are a few bad eggs out there). Again, I had a wonderful experience with the one I found, and I’ll link her website for reference.

Dr Katherman: https://www.cdepa.com

Jessica, Lactation Consultant: https://bornandfed.com

The cost to get two ties lasered was $750. I am going to turn it into my insurance sharing plan, but I do not know yet if they will cover it. The lactation consultant fee for an hour and a half session was $175. So it is a good chunk of change. But when compared to the potential costs of not doing it, it is a very reasonable investment.

I hope that’s everything. My mind is still kind of whirling from all the things I’m learning, so this was my way of processing it. Hoping it will be helpful to someone else.

P.S. Out of curiosity, I asked both the doctor and lactation consultant if ties have become more common recently or if they’re just being diagnosed more, so we’re more aware of them. They both said ties are becoming increasingly common. I don’t think even my mom’s generation would have seen very many, so this seems to be a rapidly developing problem. Presumably, Western diet and lifestyle as well as the declining quality of foods (grown from nutrient-depleted soils) plays a role. There seems to be evidence to support that lack of folate and other B vitamins in the early stages of embryonic development contributes to ties forming—or the presence of the synthetic B vitamin folic acid commonly in prenatals and fortified foods. And others say there are indications that genetic mutations (the MTHFR gene) play a role. But no definitive studies have been done, that I know of. Everything is speculation at this point. Someone gave me two articles so I’m linking them below. My midwife gave me some resources to dig into and I’m hoping to do more research to see if this plague is avoidable.

Connection to MTHFR gene: https://www.checkupnewsroom.com/a-pediatricians-goes-in…/

Connection to regular folic acid intake: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31835174/

I maintain a decently healthy diet and take quality supplements including methylated B vitamins so it’s hard to believe that was the cause of all 3 children having ties. Except that I was under exponential stress the past few years, and as I understand it B vitamins are created in the gut… if you have bad gut health or are under stress, B vitamins do not form well. So that could be a factor. Like I said, I’m going to keep digging and see what answers I can find.

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

Proactive Preparation

Proactive Preparation Tips: Helping You Achieve a Successful Vaginal Birth

If you’ve read much about preparing for birth, you probably have realized that there tends to be two different “extremes” when it comes to how much or how little you do to prepare your body for the marathon of birth. On the one hand, there are those who feel strongly that you need to “trust your body” to do what it was made to do, and that the addition of herbs and other proactive methods give moms a sense that their body is broken and unable to work on it’s own. The other hand tends to view the whole process of labor and birth as an “accident waiting to happen”, and rushes to medicalize every situation (for example, routinely inducing labor at 41 weeks just because it’s a week past your due date).

My personal opinion (and take this as my opinion-as with anything, you must do your own research and make your own decisions about these suggestions!), is that there should be a balance between these two extremes. I feel strongly that a women’s body was designed to grow, nourish, carry and deliver a baby, and that you can have confidence that this a totally normal and natural process (and not a medical emergency!). But just like any other capabilities your body may have, these abilities can be supported, enhanced and enabled to do their job more efficiently, smoothly and successfully. With that mindset, I’m going to share with you some suggestions on how to support and prepare your body in order to provide you with a greater possibility of achieving a low-risk, normal, natural vaginal birth.

Some of the biggest factors that arise that prevent moms from their desired birth outcome include: pain in pregnancy that prevent them from moving well at the end of pregnancy, going so far past your due date that your care provider feels like an induction is necessary, a long early phase of labor that prevents mom from getting adequate rest and results in exhaustion (which often ends in transport from home and/or an epidural to provide needed relaxation), and a long pushing period that sometimes ends in surgical or assisted delivery. While there are varying factors in all of these situations that can all be prevented, there are MANY things you can do to reduce your risk of these situations occurring, if you just know what to be aware of and how to help your body to prepare!

  • Movement, Alignment and Positioning:

One key factor that makes a difference in your pregnancy comfort level, baby’s ability to descend efficiently, and your overall length of pregnancy/labor is the position of your baby in relation to your pelvis. I highly recommend you find a good chiropractor in your area (for those who are local you can find some recommendations when you click on the “Local Resources” tab) who is certified in Webster technique and works with pregnant moms, and get regular adjustments specifically throughout the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. If your pelvis and muscles are out of alignment, they can keep baby from being able to descend into a position that is optimal for triggering the start of labor, and the ability of the baby to navigate the birth canal, which can then cause labor to stall and/or make it more challenging for you during the pushing phase.

For the best explanation of position and how this can affect labor (and what you can do about it!), I highly recommend that you take the time to watch the Parent Class taught by Gail Tully at Spinning Babies. Once you’ve watched it, check out the Spinning Babies website for more tips and suggestions on optimizing your baby’s position. And finally, if you are getting near your due date (or are past your due date and are waiting for baby!), taking time to complete a few rounds of the Miles Circuit exercises has been shown to improve baby’s position and encourage labor to happen.

  • Exercise:

As they say, you don’t decide to run a marathon and then complete it tomorrow! I think it’s wise to go into labor with a similar mindset as one would in preparing for a long-distance athletic event. Regular exercises that help to strengthen your legs, open your pelvis (think deep squats and lunges) and build your stamina can play a role in encouraging baby to come in good time, helping to improve your ability to handle the rigors of labor and provide you with a much better recovery. Even if you’re only able to include ten minutes of purposeful exercise a day, it will give you great benefits. Here’s one to get you started: 10 Minute Pregnancy Workout. Long, brisk walks and swimming are also great exercises to consider including in yoaur routine.

  • Herbal Supplements:
    • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea has amazing health benefits, besides helping to prepare and tone your uterus making contractions more efficient. I have more information on this great tea in my post over here, and you can begin drinking one cup a day during the 2nd trimester, increasing to 3+ cups per day as you near your due date.
    • Birth Preparation Formula: I have personally had great success taking an herbal supplement during the last 5-6 weeks of my pregnancies that is specifically geared towards preparing your uterus and cervix for labor. Yes, I take it in addition to Red Raspberry Leaf tea. If you have a history of preterm birth, you would want to wait to start this until 36 weeks, and on the flip side, if you tend to go way past your due date, you could begin taking it at 34 weeks up until delivery. The moms that I have had take this tend to have shorter labors, earlier deliveries, and minimal postpartum bleeding (myself included!). There are several different brands available, though I tend to think the tincture forms work the best. My all-time favorite is the  Gentle Birth Formula. You will need 4 to 6oz in order to take it daily for 5-6 weeks, and it’s best to not consume the tincture in the late afternoon/evening, as it can cause contractions that may prevent you from sleeping!
    • Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil: The high GLA content in either of these oils can help to soften and prepare your cervix for labor, which can assist the body in working more efficiently once labor actually begins. You want a “mega” gel-cap with 1000mg or more per capsule, and this can be taken orally every day for the last trimester, and then also inserted vaginally at bedtime during the last few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Abdominal Support:

Some moms just need some extra support for their abdominal muscles, especially if they have had a few babies, or if their babies tend to be large. The muscles that support the uterus and help it to contract efficiently can become stretched (think of a rubberband that has been completely stretched out, and doesn’t quite return to “normal”), and are unable to “hug” baby enough to get a consistent labor pattern started, or even get baby low enough to obtain a good position to begin with! One way to work with this is to consider regularly providing your uterus with support, in particularly during the last 6-8 weeks of pregnancy. You can purchase a maternity support belt (Belly Bandit has some great, albeit expensive options), but many women find that using a rebozo or long scarf/piece of scarf works great, such as is illustrated in this post here  and another option here. The goal is to pull the uterus slightly up and towards you, mimicking the way your muscles naturally pull, with provides a firm, consistent support (which also relieves pressure from your back!).

  • Eating Dates!

The benefit of consuming dates during the last weeks of pregnancy has only recently been discovered. The suggested protocol is to eat 4-6 dates daily beginning around 36 weeks until you deliver. To find out more, you can check out the details of a recent study at Evidence Based Birth and see what Mama Natural has to say here.

With the exception of eating dates (this is newer option I’ve discovered!), I have personally tried all of the above suggestions for my own five pregnancies and births, and have seen many women successfully use these recommendations throughout my midwifery practice over the past 11+ years. I wish I would have known about many of these earlier in my practice, as I think it would have prevented more transfers and unnecessarily lengthy labors. Another side benefit to following these suggestions is that your body is that much more prepared and ready should an induction actually be medically indicated. While I rarely have reason to need to get labor started, when there is this need and the body is ready for labor, then there are many more options available that have a high likelihood of actually working (in case you’re wondering, one method many midwives use is the Midwife’s Brew, but you should never attempt this without discussing the details, risk vs. benefit, etc. with your care provider!). And if you end up needing a hospitalized induction, the above suggestions will also increase the chances that you end up with a successful induction and normal vaginal birth.

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

“The First Birth”: A Story from 18 Years Ago

Not the baby featured in this story, but another baby born early on in my training!

From the time I was young (8 years old or so!), I had an interest in midwifery. I’m sure it stemmed from the fact that my mother used midwives for her pregnancies and the births of my five younger siblings, which gave me exposure to this “alternative” type of care. This was back in the day when having babies at home was NOT the popular, photographed and blogged about way to have your baby as it has become today! The midwives that cared for my mother seemed like an extension of our family, and as a young girl growing up, they were certainly some of my heroes that I wanted to become like when I “grew up”.

I think I was about 14 when I seriously felt like midwifery was something I wanted to pursue. Still very young and extremely inexperienced…with no idea what all this profession entails! I had read lots of missionary biographies, and a common experience in most of them included helping in some way (either unexpectedly or because they were prepared!) in childbirth in various countries.  So it seemed to my 14-yr-old mind that this was certainly a skill that would be good to know, and I pictured myself helping women in some far-off jungle or desert clinic someday. As I got older, I continued to feel a major pull towards midwifery that wouldn’t go away.

By the time I was 16, I was convinced this is what I needed to start pursuing. My parents wisely recommend that I begin by doing some reading, and they told me that they thought I should probably try to attend a few births before diving in head-first in a midwifery study program. Their reasoning was that perhaps this was just a passing whim, and why sink all sorts of time, energy and money into something only to find out that I would faint at the sight of blood, or have some other sort of aversion to what all comes with the birth territory. This is no joke. I personally know people who were SURE midwifery was what they wanted to do, but when they faced the nitty gritty, it didn’t take long to realize that it wasn’t their calling after all!

So, the next question was how on earth was I going to get any birth experience in, seeing as I was so young and inexperienced?!? I figured I would have to wait years for the opportunity, though I was reminded that if God wanted it to happen, He could figure out a way. That’s what makes my first birth experience so special-it was completely unexpected!

The summer that I was to turn 17 found me helping several families out on a weekly basis, going in to care for children, clean, cook, or do whatever was needed as a mother’s helper. One family was expecting their fourth child that summer, and they were excitedly planning their first homebirth in our state. Seeing as they had several young children, and that I had been spending a lot of time with them over a number of months, they asked if I would be on call to come and help babysit when the mom went into labor. This was the plan, with a backup plan being set where the children could go to a neighbor family’s home if the mom decided she could relax better without children in the house.

So one hot (Kansas is REALLY hot in July!) day, I got a call that the mom was in early labor, and that they would be glad if I could come care for the children so she could concentrate on resting and relaxing. I went over and made supper, took care of some household things, and entertained the children so mom and dad could focus together. An hour or so after supper, the mom decided that she would prefer the children leave the house, which left me thinking that I should probably go since my job was done. But the mom looked at me and said “I want the children to go, but you are to stay. I don’t want you going anywhere.” I sure wasn’t going to argue with that! She then went on to tell me that she wanted me to rub her back “just so” while her husband finished setting up the birth supplies and called the midwives, which I was more than happy to do. All of a sudden things kicked right in, and I vividly remember both parents bemoaning the fact that they hadn’t studied better on how to catch a baby if the midwife didn’t make it! I was blissfully ignorant, as I was only aware of my own mother’s very long labors, and figured we still had a very long night ahead of us. Little did I know!

I continued my “job” applying back counter-pressure as dad set up birth supplies, sweated nervously as he watched the signs of his wife progressing rapidly, read his childbirth class manual, and gave his wife emotional support. Thankfully, the midwives arrived just as mom started feeling more pressure, and all the last details were quickly set up and ready to go. About half an hour after the midwives arrived, a beautiful, howling, red little boy made his safe and smooth appearance, and I was in awe. I had no idea birth could be this beautiful, and I was so very, very grateful for the amazing opportunity. I was flying pretty high for days after this experience, and as you can imagine, I was totally convinced that this was what I wanted to do.

What is really hard to believe is that this baby will turn 18 this summer…I cannot believe that time has flown, and this many years have passed. After this first birth, I attended random births that I was invited to (word started getting around that I was interested, and some very sweet, very brave women invited me to share in their experiences, for which I will always be grateful!), and eventually began midwifery school when God opened the doors. It’s now been over 10 years since I graduated and started my own practice, and I continue to be thankful for those who initially helped me to start down this path by allowing me to be present at such personal, private life events.  As I continue to reflect back on memories and celebrate 10 years of practice, I want to especially thank each of you moms and midwives who took this very young girl under their wing and gave her experiences that will last a lifetime!

I’m so privileged to be involved in this work of ushering life into the world!

A Peek into a Local Home Birth!

A Peek into a Local Home Birth!

I’m tickled to share these photos with you this month! While birth photography has gained in popularity in many of the large cities across the US, it’s not a very common thing in our area. So it’s pretty rare for one of my client families to hire a photographer to be present at their birth. Earlier this year, I was privileged to help Maria’s family for a second time as they welcomed their newest addition, and they graciously allowed me to post some of the photos from the birth here. One fun & unusual aspect of this birth is that my assistant for this birth and the photographer are both involved with the local doula agency that Maria administrates. Check out the Doulas of Central PA  if you are looking for local birth & postpartum doula support! And if you’re looking for a birth photographer, check out Denae at Vigilante Photography

The twinkle lights added a festive atmosphere, and I love seeing how moms relax when they get into the water.

 

Kristina has been helping as my birth assistant in between her doula babies, and you can see her here jotting down notes on the labor & delivery chart.

 

First good look at each other!

 

Older siblings watch excitedly, all excited to see baby brother!

 

He’s here!

 

Traditional sling scale to weigh baby…look at big sister’s face of concentration!

 

Newborn exam…always done within sight of mom and any interested family members!

 

Checking out feet reflexes and creases!

Foot prints for the records!

 

Born at Home!

Midwife gets a little chance to snuggle baby before handing him back to mama.

 

Great birth team-thanks, ladies!!

 

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

It’s hard to know where to start with Darius’ birth story, as there were several starts-and-stops along the way during the last week or so of my pregnancy. Joel will shake his head and say something along the lines of “shouldn’t a midwife know when she is in labor?”, but once again I had trouble figuring it out.

To give some background (especially if you’ve read my previous birth stories), we had used our dear friend Rose as our midwife with our girls, and she ended up being the first one on the scene after Matthias was born (she was home on a school break THAT weekend, and our midwife was on her way from Lancaster, but Matthias came in a hurry-read his birth story here). We love her, but due to a variety of reasons (especially the fact that Joel has no desire to ever catch one of his own babies again) we decided that this time we needed to use a midwife who lives closer to us. In the past two years I have been blessed to meet and work with Rose Marie Spicher, a midwife who lives half an hour away, and who worked for years in TX (where I did my midwifery training). She provided the “mothering” care I needed throughout my pregnancy, and it gave Joel a sense of relief to know she wasn’t too far away. With me being on maternity leave the month of May, and the fact that everyone else was expecting in May as well (I have NEVER received so many inquiries for one particular month!), I was just hoping that she wouldn’t be tied up whenever our baby decided to come!

So fast-forward through all the months of sickness, fatigue, finding out that we were expecting a baby brother (the children are still certain this was a direct result of their prayers, as I was convinced it had to be a girl given how sick I was!), and everything else until the beginning of May. By early May I was reaching that totally-done-being-pregnant stage where I wasn’t sleeping at night, having lots of cramps  & contractions, felt extremely emotional all the time, and we were wondering just when this little fellow would decide to make his appearance. Between 34-36 weeks I was experiencing enough cramps and contractions to know I needed to take it easy, and once we hit 36 weeks I had a couple of times where I thought perhaps we were getting started-I distinctly remember one night when I couldn’t sleep because of contractions, so Joel & I slipped outside to take a walk in the moonlight. It would have been so romantic if I hadn’t been so uncomfortable! But everything always fizzled away, and left me feeling tired and discouraged.

At this point we were preparing for a visit from my parents, who live in Kansas. My sister had her first baby the month before, and my mom wanted to come out to help her over the time my brother-in-law was graduating and they were preparing to move. So she flew into northern PA, spent a few days with my sister, and was then joined by my dad. The plan was that they would drive down to see us before they headed back to Kansas, and of course we hoped that baby would arrive before they left, though we knew it was entirely possible that he would wait until they were home again. However, with all the early labor signs I had been experiencing, I’ll admit that I was getting my hopes up! Mom & Dad planned to arrive on Mother’s Day, and the night before I was trying to encourage things along, and ended up with a night of contractions with no baby to show for it. Everything was regular enough that I actually called my midwife to give her a heads up, but then it all petered out.

IMG_6818

Mother’s Day 2017

I really had to work through the disappointment of knowing that perhaps my folks wouldn’t get to meet their grandson on this trip. We didn’t know when we would be seeing them next, and I hadn’t realized just how much I had my heart set on them getting to be here to see MY baby while he was new and tiny. It took some talking, praying, crying and processing with Joel to get to the point of being okay with the fact that perhaps this time with mom & dad was to be spent enjoying their company and not stressing over whether baby was here or not. So for the next few days, my parents helped to take my mind off of waiting for baby, and we enjoyed some lovely family time at the park, taking walks, picnics, a backyard barbeque, and some time for Joel & I to be together while our children were cared for.

The last night of their visit, they took our two oldest children back to stay the night with them in their cabin. In the interest of full disclosure, I had taken some castor oil in the afternoon, knowing full well that there was a good possibility nothing would come of it, and yet hoping that perhaps it would give my body the nudge it seemed to be waiting for. I was NOT going to get my hopes up, though, and I tried to just go to bed to get some sleep. I think it was around midnight or 1am when I woke up with a contraction, and yet I tried to sleep, as it sure wasn’t the first time that random contractions had woken me up at night! After an hour or so of not really sleeping, I figured I might as well get up to see if moving around made them go away or get stronger.

Joel sweetly got up with me, and fixed me sourdough toast with strawberry jam-his mom had given me jam and sourdough bread the week before, and it was becoming a regular midnight tradition to eat a piece when I couldn’t sleep! After another hour or so, Joel commented that these contractions seemed to be pretty regular and close together. I did NOT want to give another false alarm to anyone, and didn’t feel sure that this was anything more than what had happened on previous nights. Looking back, they were coming close together (every 2-4 minutes!), but they weren’t very intense, and they didn’t last long, so I wasn’t convinced they were doing anything. With my previous babies, my water had always broken either before labor began or at the start of active labor, so I kept waiting for that to be the clue that this was the “real thing”.

At 4:00am, Joel really felt like we should call Rose Marie, as he said he thought this seemed more serious, and he did NOT want to wait until it was too late! So I  called Rose Marie, and I told her I still wasn’t sure this was “it”, yet Joel would feel better if she came, but she didn’t need to rush. The contractions were starting to get a bit more of an “edge” to them that took my breath away, but I still felt like I could make myself talk through them, though I preferred not to. Another sign I should have paid attention to!

Within 15 min of calling Rose Marie, all of a sudden things kicked in with a vengeance. Up till now I had still been puttering around, but hadn’t gotten birth stuff out yet, as I had gotten it all out and then had to put it all away a few nights before. I wanted to make sure I was in REAL labor before getting everything set up again, and figured I could do it in between contractions as a distraction. Well, that’s not how things happened. Labor went from being “not sure this is it” to “we’re in seriously active labor” in a few minutes! Joel called Rose Marie back and told her to step on it, and then he promptly called Lynelle (my birth assistant who was planning to assist Rose Marie with our birth-she lives less than five minutes away) and told her to come. I think it was around 4:30am when Joel called Lynelle, and boy did she know how to get over to our place in a hurry! Joel said he has never in his life been so happy to see Lynelle walk into a room, and it was just in time.

By this point my contractions were one on top of another, and I felt like I didn’t have any time to collect myself, catch my breath or get a break in between. Joel kept encouraging me to breathe through them (he didn’t want me pushing!), and I was leaning over the birth ball squeezing his hands for all I was worth, just praying that God would make it stop so I could catch my breath. Lynelle quickly realized things were serious, and started pulling all the birth supplies together. All of a sudden I told them there was no way I could keep from pushing any longer. It had been taking everything I had to blow through contractions, and I was done. I distinctly remember saying “you all are just going to have to catch this baby ‘cause I can’t keep him in any longer!” Lynelle calmly replied that everything was okay, and with the next contraction my water broke. Now I can laugh about it-that was the clue I had been waiting for all along to tell me if I was actually in labor! With the next contraction Lynelle could see his head, and she did an awesome job of coaching me through as I tried to breathe him out. Right at the point his head was delivering, Rose Marie walked in the room! Lynelle started to move out of the way, but Rose Marie just smiled and said it looked like she was doing a great job, so she might as well continue. Rose Marie guided Lynelle through the rest of her “first catch”, and the official birth time was 4:56am.

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Those first moments after birth…

I can still remember the absolute relief that comes from being finished, and laying down with my baby on my chest. He cried just enough for us to know he was great, and then he snuggled on my chest, and we all exclaimed over his head full of strawberry blonde hair-that was a surprise! We had a really special next hour or so as we reflected over the crazy labor, the special-ness of the unplanned “first catch” for Lynelle, Rose Marie’s perfect timing, and Joel’s relief that he didn’t have to do this birth alone. We had invited another family friend to be present at the birth, and sadly she didn’t make it time, but her sweet & joyous spirit added to the atmosphere in the room as Joel fixed breakfast and baby Darius had his first meal. Thanks for coming, Mary!

And then it was SO amazing to call my parents and tell them that their grandson had arrived! Having them able to bring our oldest two over first thing that morning was so special. They were able to watch the newborn exam, meet our midwives, and see the children as they delighted in meeting their new sibling. It was the “icing on the cake” to have them around, and able to snuggle their newest grandbaby that morning, before they had to leave that afternoon to catch their flight home.

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Yoanna & Matthias and Grandma & Grandpa meeting baby Darius. Yoanna was delighted to help Lynelle give him his first bath!

We had struggled with finding the right name for our little guy, and settled on Darius Rafael just a few weeks before his birth. Darius means “Upholder of Good” and Rafael means “God is Healer”.  It is our prayer that our little son will grow into a man who does good, and is used to provide God’s healing to others. He checked out at 8# 10 oz, and measured 20 in long. Matthias was absolutely delighted to have a baby brother, and they continue to have a special relationship as brothers.

Here’s a few more snapshots of Darius’ “birth” day…enjoy this glimpse into our little family’s life, and feel free to check out the birth stories of our girls, Talitha & Yoanna.

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Big sister Talitha was pretty excited to wake up and find that baby brother had “come out!”

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Rose Marie checking baby out

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Our amazing birth team-thanks so much for everything!!

Natural & Nutritious Formula Options: Resources & Info for Families Needing a Healthy Alternative to Breastmilk

Natural & Nutritious Formula Options: Resources & Info for Families Needing a Healthy Alternative to Breastmilk

Before I had children, I would have said that breastmilk is the absolute best choice for feeding a baby, and that a mom should try everything possible to breastfeed…and that if you tried hard enough, you would be able to succeed. However, once I entered the realm of motherhood, and actually experienced the things I had only previously read/observed/seen, I have learned that ideals are not always reality. My youngest baby just turned 10 months old, and I have once again faced the challenges of tongue-ties, latch issues, lack of sufficient supply, colic, fussiness, food sensitives, and more. Some of those subjects will be material for future posts, but I mention them to give you the background as to what inspired this post. As we have worked through these challenges, my husband has encouraged me that perhaps the things we learned will benefit others, so this is an attempt to do just that!

If you’ve struggled with nursing challenges, you totally understand the emotional roller coaster that is included. For some reason, the inability to feed and nurture your baby via the way in which you were designed to nourish him cuts deeply into our mother-hearts. As we tried one thing after another, I also felt like I was mourning a loss…I WANTED to nurse my baby, and I wanted to feed him the best, and know that I was nurturing him both emotionally and physically. I mean, breast milk is the best, right?!? And on top of those emotions (and who is not hormonal and emotional when you have a baby, aren’t sleeping, and are worried about your baby’s health?!?), there are all the questions about what to do, and if you’re going to supplement, what are you going to use??

This is where I want to help! While I know it can take a while before you can look at your situation objectively, there ARE other options available by which you can feed your baby and know that you are giving him something that is actually going to help him thrive and will meet his nutritional needs. I think that moms in the midst of feeding challenges have enough on their plates that they don’t need to add sorting through all the supplement information on top of it. My hope is that I can give you some pointers, and put some information at your fingertips in order to simplify your quest to figure out what is best for you and your baby.

As I spent time researching different options available, here are the three categories that I would recommend checking out:

  1. Weston Price Foundation Home-Made Formula: (find info here) This is what I used with my second child, who had similar nursing challenges and needed to supplement. At the time of his baby-hood, we lived in a rural area and had access to organic, raw milk from a dairy I trusted. He did really, really well on this formula, and I liked the fact that I knew exactly what was in it, and that it was REAL food. It took a bit to get the rhythm down and purchase all the ingredients, but once the pantry was stocked it didn’t take long to whip it up, and was actually a low-cost option long term. When he reached 6 months he used this formula exclusively until he was eating table foods, and was healthy and happy.  Once I used this, I figured my quest for a good supplement was over, but I didn’t count on the individual baby involved! My current baby could not tolerate it made with the milk I had available, and was also unable to tolerate it when made with goats milk. So the research continued as I tried to figure out how to help THIS baby and his own personal needs…
  2. Mt. Capra Goat Formula: (Info here) As I was continuing to research my options, I came across a number of recommendations for this formula. While it is not made using raw milk, you still assemble it yourself according to a specific recipe, thus allowing you to know exactly what it is in it, and still sticking close to the “real food” ideal. There is a kit available to simplify the process of acquiring all the ingredients, and the Mt. Capra website supplies high quality resources. After my baby didn’t tolerate the goat’s milk, I decided against the investment needed to try this, but it still looks like a really good, healthful option, and I’ve heard that there are many happy, thriving babies using this formula!
  3. European Formulas: I eventually stumbled across the realm of imported baby formulas from Europe. I’ll warn you, they aren’t cheap. And they are powered (that part still bugs me if I think about it long-what about feeding your children REAL food?!?). But they have been a literal answer to prayer for me and this baby. One of my big objections to using traditional formula is the fact that most of them are sweetened using corn syrup solids. Corn syrup!?!? We don’t even eat that ourselves, so why would I feed it to my little baby? And then there are the issues of soy, additives, and the list goes on. So I was amazed when I realized that there are several options of formula available that are made from organic milk, sweetened with lactose, have pre/probiotics, and are soy free. Instead of repeating information about these formulas myself, I’m going to include some links where you can see the brands available, along with their features and ingredients:

I will admit, too, that while powdered formula might not fit my ideal, it has been a helpful simplification to our life! My baby actually really liked the taste, and I happily observed that his diapers were hardly different in texture/smell than the usual breastmilk diapers. At 10 months (he started using formula exclusively at 7 months) he is a solid little guy that is SO much happier than he was before. There are several different suppliers in the US, and I have been happy purchasing from www.buyorganicformula.com.  Their customer service has been excellent, and my order always arrives promptly, and I’d highly recommend checking out their site. If you sign up for their mailing list, they will frequently send you coupon codes that can be quite helpful!

My happy fellow at 9 months!

My hope is that my experience and time spent searching can help to lift the load for another mom wading through her options! May you be encouraged today, and remember that you can still have a special bond with your baby AND know that you are meeting his/her nutritional needs even if you need do it in a different way than nursing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts-and what worked for you. Please feel free to comment with your own resources, experiences, stories and information-it’s great when we can help each other this way. Thanks for your contribution!