What about that Hypnobabies thing?

Following the publication of Cricket’s birth story last week, I received so many well-wishes and congratulations.  Thank you all so much for your support.  It truly was an incredible ending to a difficult journey.

One of my friends posted a great comment, though, that I wanted to quote to kick off today’s post.

So I’m reading kind of mixed reactions to the hypnobabies CDs in this post. I know that a big hope was the thinking about the process without negative words like “pain,” but it sounds like that didn’t exactly translate during labor and delivery, yeah? But at the same time you visualized the birth process almost to a T and you give some credit to hypnobabies for that. Would you say they were still beneficial, and with your experience, what recommendations would you make to someone considering them?

Really great question.  I started to write a reply to your comment, but I realized that the response was complicated and probably deserved its own post.

While many Hypnobabies birth stories tell of birth with no pain, Hypnobabies itself bills its method as one that allows you to birth “in comfort, joy, and love.”  They talk about replacing negative words with positive words and the hope is that you won’t experience birth as painful.

Birthing Cricket was certainly physically painful, and I did a whole lot of hollering.  Yeah, you can call it “vocalizing” if you want, but you know me.  I calls it likes I sees it.  I got loud enough that I cracked a joke to my midwives about what the OB in the office next door must have thought was going on in the birth center.

Let’s be clear though. For those of you who haven’t had babies yet, pain in childbirth is absolutely nothing like pain from cutting yourself or pain from a broken bone or injury.  It’s completely different.  So different that I think Hypnobabies has it right when they talk about not using the p-word to describe it.  If you’re an endurance athlete you can come close to relating to the type of pain that childbirth entails.  Childbirth is much more like running a marathon than it is slamming your hand in a car door.  Does that make sense?  I think in many ways people focus too much on the pain aspect of childbirth and too little on the endurance aspect of it.

I didn’t go into the Hypnobabies expecting it to be pain-free.  I couldn’t really bring myself to use the alternate vocabulary very much in real life because it felt a little hokey.  What I did expect to get from the Hypnobabies childbirth method was a positive, empowering, natural birth that was free from fear and anxiety.

In that regard, Hypnobabies delivered tenfold.

Do I really believe in hypnosis?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  But what I do believe is that in listening to the tracks I was able to find a hidden well of confidence and power within myself that I didn’t know I had.

Leading up to this birth, I never felt anything but excited anticipation. During labor, except for those few moments right before Sue told my I was at 9 cm, I felt confident and powerful.

Unlike the Grasshopper’s birth, which I went into with the idea of trying for a natural birth but if I need an epidural that’s okay, I went into this knowing with absolute certainty that I was not only capable of doing this but that I was going to do it.  I think that self-assurance showed in my birth preferences.

Hypnobabies helped me to find that confidence.

It was incredible how closely Cricket’s birth mirrored the birth I had visualized.  I visualized myself having her quickly so I could get back home to the Grasshopand that’s exactly what I did.  And really, y’all.  I pushed out an 11 lb baby in 20 minutes.  Damn.

Even with Hypnobabies, Cricket’s birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  It made the half-marathon I ran look like a cakewalk.  But it was also the most exhilarating and empowering thing I’ve ever done.

So, sure, Hypnobabies didn’t give me a pain-free birth.  But would I use it again for myself if I were ever going to have another baby (which I’m not)?  Absolutely.  Would I recommend it to a friend. Definitely yes.

And for those of you who haven’t had a baby but are curious about what childbirth is like, go get yourself some running shoes and train for a marathon.  That high you get at the end of a race, the mix of endorphins, adrenaline, and tired and sore muscles, is like a smaller version of the feeling you have after unmedicated childbirth.

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Cricket’s Birth Story

I’ve been putting off writing this for a long time.  It just seems like such a big thing to try to process emotionally and put into words.  But I need to write this down before I start to forget, so here goes.  This is a birth story, y’all.  If you don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty details of how Cricket made her way into the world, then don’t read it.  But if you do read all the way through, you will be rewarded at the end with lots of squishy baby pictures!

My sister-in-law arrived Monday, September 26th.  Before she arrived, I had been so worried about how we would handle things on our own if Cricket decided to come a little early.  With my due date at September 30th, we knew we were cutting it close with her arriving on the 26th, but the Grasshopper was 10 days late.

Still I worried.  I talked to my midwife, Sue, about it.  She gave us a few options, which helped to set my mind at ease.  We could switch from a birth center birth to a homebirth, but because of my husband’s discomfort, that wasn’t a really viable option.  We could bring the Grasshopper with us to the birth center, but I wasn’t very comfortable with that option either.  I worried that with the Grasshopper there, I would want to spend time comforting her instead of focusing on having Cricket.

Eventually, we got a solution figured out.  If Cricket started coming at night, we would take the Grasshopper with us to the birth center.  Her dad would hang out with her until morning, and then her teacher would come pick her up and take her to school (a home daycare) where she would stay until Cricket was born.  If Cricket started coming during the day, we would let her teacher know, and the Grasshopper would spend the evening at school with her teacher’s family.

Thankfully, Cricket decided to stay put until my SIL arrived on the 26th.  I truly think that my body listened to my need to have everything lined up with the Grasshopper’s care, though, because in the wee hours of the morning on the 27th, I woke up with powerful contractions.  I knew this wasn’t a drill.  This wasn’t my body getting ready.  This was it.

I went downstairs and hung out with my SIL for a while.  I sat on the birth ball, hung out, and chatted.  She was jet-lagged so she and I stayed up watching Say Yes to the Dress while things moved along.

At 4:45 AM, I texted our Doula and called Sue to let her know that I thought things were moving.

At some point, I woke up my husband and let him know that this was the real thing.  Can you believe that he thought I was mistaken?  Oh, no.  “Honey, I’ve already called Sue and Jessicka.  This is for real.”  I hung out a while longer, texted our doula and called Sue again, and took a shower.  By that time, it was time to go in to work.

My husband said he wanted to try to work for a few hours in the morning (ha!), but I told him that he needed to drop off the Grasshopper at school and come straight home.  He tried to argue, but believe me when I say that you do not win an argument with a woman in labor!

At 8 AM, as they left, I called Sue and Jessicka again to let them know what was going on.  Sue suggested I hang tight for a bit to see how things progressed.  I told her that when my SIL and my husband got back I needed to come in to the birth center because we would get to a point where I was not going to be willing to go anywhere.

So that was it.  I knew exactly what was going to happen.  Interestingly enough, this was exactly what I had imagined in my hypnobabies birth visualization!  I visualized that my SIL would arrive, I would go into labor the next day while the Grasshopper was at school, and Cricket and I would be back at home in time to welcome her home from school.  So far, things were going just the way I visualized.

It was around the time I made that realization that the contractions started getting a lot more intense.  I couldn’t talk through them.  I started to feel the need to vocalize a little bit by groaning during them.  I started listening to my birthing affirmations hypnobabies track.  (In retrospect, I should have done this right away instead of waiting until later.)

Oh, ha ha to Mr. Grasshopper for trying to tell me this wasn’t really it!

They returned shortly after taking the Grasshopper to school, and I instructed them on putting together our cosleeper (I will describe that in a separate post).  They got the furniture moved and set up, and that was it!

At 9:30 AM, we called Sue and Jessicka, hopped into the car, and headed for the birth center.

Once we got to the birth center and got settled in, it seemed like things had slowed down.  My husband put the Easy First Stage CD in the CD player, but I wasn’t paying much attention.  I sat on the birth ball while Jessicka rubbed my lower back.

At around 10:15, my contractions were still spaced out a bit (6-10 minutes apart), and Sue suggested that my husband and I take a walk around the neighborhood.  Since things had slowed, Jessicka went across the street to check on another mom who was in labor.  I didn’t really want walk, but I went ahead and agreed to.  We walked.  Every few steps, a contraction would hit and I would need to hug my husband and groan a bit.  It was hot.  The sun was bright.  We walked down the sidewalk, across the very small parking lot, and I said, “Forget this.  I want to go back inside!”  So we did.

I was not a happy camper at this point.  I laid down on the bed where things became much more uncomfortable and painful.  Damn if it didn’t hurt!  But it seemed like the contractions were stronger laying down, so I stayed on my side.  Truth be told, I just didn’t want to move.

My contractions were still really far apart, so I sent my husband to Trader Joe’s to get me some snacks.  Davie, one of the other midwives, arrived during this time with a smoothie.  It tasted like hell, but I tried my best to drink it.  If my blood sugar dipped, I might start getting sick again and that was the last thing I wanted.  My SIL hung out with me and held a hot rice sock on my back.

By 10:50, my contractions were every 4-6 minutes apart and really intense.  With every contraction, I would holler down the hall to Sue, and she would come running in to hold my hand.  At the time, it seemed like I was shouting at her in a really demanding way, but later she told me that I just sounded lost like I was calling to her for help.

It was at this point that I started to freak out a little.  I asked Sue to check how dilated I was because I was really losing hope.  She encouraged me to wait just a bit.  At the next contraction, I started cursing and I hollered down the hall, “Where the HELL is Jessicka!”  “I’m here,” she said, “Right here!”  She had just come back.

It was 11:15 by now, and suddenly everyone was back.  My husband was back, Jessicka was back.  Sue, Dawn, and Davie (all 3 midwives were there), and dammit I wanted Sue to check me.  I know I said I didn’t want to be checked, but I wanted to know that something had been happening.  I was pissed, scared, I hurt, and I wanted to know what the deal was.

We waited through another contraction, and then Sue checked me.  I was at 9 cm with a bulging bag of waters and -1 station!  Well, that explained a lot!  I had been in transition!  No wonder I had been feeling so awful!

Hot damn! Davie, fill the tub!  Let’s have us a baby!

The wave of confidence and relief I felt when I heard I was almost completely dilated was incredible.  Suddenly I went from freaking out to ready to get down to business.  Sue was surprised as well.  My contractions were really strong, but they were so widely spaced that she was expecting me to not be nearly where I was.

They got me out of the bed and onto the toilet so I could pee before I got into the tub.  I remember getting up off the bed I told Jessicka, “Okay, I’m going to get up and then I’m going to hit the floor.  I’m not falling down, but a contraction is about to start and I need to be on my hands and knees.”  It helped. I had a few contractions on the toilet, and I did not want to be touched.  Walking from the bathroom to the tub, I went to the floor with each contraction.  But then at 11:30, into the tub I went!

When I finally got into the tub, Dawn put in the Pushing Baby Out Hypnobabies CD.  I wasn’t really ready to push.  The contractions were really painful and I just didn’t feel the urge to push.  The bag of waters was really in the way, and caused quite a bit of discomfort!  Thank goodness for the water though.  It helped immensely.

Sue suggested doing some gentle pushes with the next contraction to see if that would get my water to break.  I tried.  Really, I did.  But it hurt and my heart wasn’t in it.  She checked me again, and I was almost totally dilated except for an anterior lip.  The bag of waters was pushing so hard and was so uncomfortable with every contraction that I asked her to go ahead with the AROM.  A few contractions later, she was ready with the little hook thing, and during my next contraction, she broke my water.  This was 11:56 AM.

Now I was ready to get down to business!  At 12:05, my body started pushing and I started pushing, too.  Sue and Dawn really let me do my own thing.  They didn’t try to direct my pushing or my breathing and they allowed me to trust my body to do what it needed to do.

And now I really started vocalizing.  I was actually not aware that I could make sounds like that!  I think I sounded like a cow!  I grunted and groaned and growled.  In retrospect, I feel a little embarrassed about it, but nature really did take over, and I was just along for the ride.  I really think that the Hypnobabies practice was helping me to allow my body to do what I needed to do.

I pushed for a few minutes, but I was kind of on my back.  I remember at one point reaching down and feeling her head.  I felt a ridge and was really worried that the cord was getting pinched.  Sue checked between contractions and reassured me that the ridge I felt were the plates in Cricket’s skull compressing as she moved through my pelvis.  Our bodies were both doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

I was having trouble pushing.  I was sitting up, but I had slid down a little so I was reclined a bit, and that made things more difficult.  Sue tried to get me to curl around Cricket more to help push, but I had a hard time doing that.  I just kept sliding down in the tub, and my motivation to move was nonexistent.  If there were a next time, I would tell Sue to zap me in the butt with a cattle prod.  I think it would’ve been easier if I would’ve been in a different position.

I think at some point I yelled at Dawn (or Davie?) to shut off the CD.  The noise was bugging me and I wasn’t paying attention anyway.

Around the time that Cricket started to crown (or maybe before?) Sue reached down to see if some perineal massage would help give some comfort, and she had only barely touched me when I screamed at her, “DON’T TOUCH ME!”  Which in retrospect is kind of funny since I had written into my birth plan that I definitely wanted her to do that.  It’s amazing how your body tells you what you do and do not need.  I could feel myself tearing a bit, and when she laid hands on me (gently I might add!), it just intensified the feeling.

Again, I surprised myself by how I was able to vocalize.  I was able to tell my birth attendants what I needed without feeling too shy to do so, and I was able to allow my body to make the noises it needed to help push Cricket out.  A few times I felt myself panicking and the pitch of my sounds would rise up into a higher register.  Each time that happened, it seemed like Sue or Dawn would get my attention very gently by laying a hand on my shoulder and quietly saying my name.  And I would bring my voice down into the low, belly sounds.  Keeping my voice low and deep helped me to feel more in control and helped keep the pressure low in my belly to help me push.  I think the Hypnobabies class really helped me to feel comfortable using my voice during Cricket’s birth.

Cricket crowned pretty quickly, but she didn’t come out all in one push.  Her head stuck out under the water, and Sue said, “You need to get up out of the water now.”  Something about the way she said it motivated me, and my husband and Jessica helped me to stand up.  I think Sue was expecting me to get all the way out of the tub, but as soon as I stood up, I had another contraction, and… BLOOOP!  OUT SHE CAME!

(For those keeping track, the time was 12:24 PM)

Sue made it around in time to catch her, and half a heartbeat later, Sue was passing her between my legs for me to hold.  At first I felt really confused and I didn’t want to take her.  I couldn’t really figure out what had happened, but I reached down and grabbed her because Sue was telling me to. As soon as she was in my arms and I felt her weight the confusion lifted, and I realized who she was and what we had just done.

And we sat down for a good snuggle in the tub.  It was the most amazing feeling.  It told my husband later that it was about a hundred times harder than running a marathon.  It was like I had walked through fire and come out a new person.  It was amazing.

 

Bless her, little Cricket was such a little cuddle bug!  I just held her and cuddled her and a few minutes later I nursed her and I cuddled her some more.  It was awesome.  She was so warm and soft and covered in vernix (sorry about your shirt Sue!).  She was so alert, too!  She just looked around quietly taking everything in.

 

Sue, Dawn and Jessicka were making bets on how big she was.  To me, she just looked like a squishy newborn, but apparently she looked pretty big.  Sue bet that she was 10 lbs 11 oz and Dawn bet that she was 10 lbs 6 oz.

We waited quite a while in the tub.  In my birth preferences, I wanted to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before we cut it, and it pulsed for a long time!  It was a big, strong placenta!  Finally, at 1:04 PM, it stopped pulsing.  We clamped the cord and my SIL cut it.  Her papa was too squicked out to do that and I was high up in Happy Babyland.  So she got the honors.

When my body started pushing the placenta out (1:15), I remember groaning and saying, “Why?  Why won’t it just leave me alone?”  But we got that done, too.  Apparently it was a huge placenta, and I got a nifty placenta anatomy lesson from Dawn a little later, which was very cool.

Sue and Dawn gave me plenty of time to relax and snuggle with Cricket.  When they did the newborn exam and weighed Cricket, it turned out that no one had been right about her weight.  She was 11 lbs!  Eleven.  She was huge!  She was the 3rd largest baby Sue and Dawn had ever delivered and the biggest Jessicka had ever assisted with!

I had to get some stitches. I was pushing like the blue blazes, and she was 11 lbs after all.  But Sue got it done quickly.  By 4 PM that same day, we were home and settled in.

A few days after she was born, my husband said, “Are you ever going to stop bragging about how big she is?”  Nope!  I had an 11 lb baby without meds!  I feel like superwoman!  Sometimes I wonder if I’m still riding high on the hormones from Cricket’s birth!  No, by now it’s just the oxytocin from nursing that keeps me feeling so good!

It was an incredible experience.  9 hours of labor start to finish. 20 minutes of pushing.  One enormous and beautiful child.  Who could ask for more?  My husband was awesome.  My midwives were unbelievable. Jessicka was incredible.  I think I had the best birth team on the planet!

Writing My Birth Plan

It’s time to write out my birthing preferences and make a birth plan!

Writing out my birth preferences this time around is so different from writing my Birth Plan from when the Grasshopper was born.

The hospital where I had her provided a template, so I based my plan off of that so that I could give them information in a format with which they were already familiar and comfortable.

With the hospital birth, there was so much more to worry about.  The Birth Plan, while certainly not adversarial, was much more of a defense against unnecessary interventions.  I had to specify things like no episiotomies, no continuous internal monitoring, give the baby to me immediately instead of delaying with newborn procedures, don’t give the baby formula or pacifiers, etc.  Even using the format provided by the hospital, the Birth Plan was very much a defense for the Grasshopper and me against the standard protocol of the hospital.

I don’t have to do that this time and it’s blowing my mind!  All of those things I have to prepare for and defend against?  Those are things that my midwives don’t do anyway.  This notion of having my midwives working with me as a team that I already know and am totally comfortable with as opposed to a nurse I’ve never met who may or may not respect my right to informed consent is just incredible.

I’m not The Patient in Room 326.  I’m me.  They know me, and they respect me as an individual.

Because of all of this, my birth preferences are much shorter than they were the last time around.

So, without further ado…

My Birth Preferences

I don’t want to know baby size until after she’s born.  No estimates please.  I know I can birth her “big” or not.  Baby size estimates can be off by more than a pound, and since I’ve already had a baby vaginally, I know that I don’t have a pelvic issue that would prevent my pelvis from opening to allow the baby to pass.  At 8 lbs 6 oz, the Grasshopper came out at a pretty respectable size.  Women have “big” babies all the time.  It’s just not something I want to have to worry about.

I don’t want to have internal checks until I am ready to push.  Last time, knowing that I was walking around for a month at 3 cm weighed on my mind, and when I got to the hospital I found I was “only” at 5 cm.  Knowing this just shattered my belief in myself, so I’d just rather not know.  Realistically, it’s perfectly possible to go from 5 cm to 10 cm in an hour or less.  I know this rationally, but emotionally, those kinds of cold, hard numbers can be disheartening.  If I’m in active labor, I have faith that my body is doing its job in its own time.

For those of you who may be considering this as a preference, you may encounter a health care provider who just really wants to start doing internal checks once you reach a certain number of weeks.  They may do this just out of habit or they may tell you they need to “establish a baseline.”  This is completely bogus.  The baseline for dilation is… not being dilated at all!  This isn’t a subjective thing.  You’re either dilated or not.  This is a measurement on a ruler.  There is also absolutely nothing you gain from knowing this number as it will give you no indication of when you’ll go into labor.  You could go from 0 cm to 10 cm in the space of 8 hours.  Or you could walk around dilated to 3 or 4 cm for weeks.  There’s no value in knowing this number, and every time someone reaches up in there you deal with risks: introduction of bacteria, accidental rupture of membranes, the temptation to strip your membranes without your consent, etc.

So no thanks on the internal checks for me!

Please feel free to suggest position changes!  I tend to freeze up when I’m in an unfamiliar situation and don’t know precisely how things are going to go.  I know that everyone says your body will tell you what to do when you’re birthing, but I really do tend to freeze up.  I’m so glad to have a great doula and team of midwives who will be willing to make recommendations if they notice me getting stuck.  Last time I felt like I just sat on the bed and didn’t know what to do.  I asked for the epidural so quickly that I didn’t really get the chance to see what my body would tell me.  I’m just not sure what to expect, so I’m very open to suggestions!

Please avoid using the word pain?  Instead, I prefer to talk about things like “intensity” and “pressure.”  This is a Hypnobabies thing.  In so many of the Hypnobabies birth stories, it seems like the mom is doing great until a nurse comes in and asks about pain level.  Then, suddenly, she loses her focus and starts feeling out of control.  Since “pain relief” in the form of medication really isn’t an option, I just prefer not to visit this area at all.  We can use words like “intensity” and “pressure” instead.

Please no AROM.  AROM stands for Artificial Rupture of Membranes.  That’s when they go in and manually break your water.  There are about a gillion reasons why this is not a very good idea, but rather than list it all here, I’ll simply refer you to this article from Midwife Thinking in Australia: In Defense of the Amniotic Sac.

I would like to birth my baby in the water.  That’s right!  We’re planning to have a water birth!  There are many reasons why water birth can be a great option:

  • The warmth from the water serves as a natural way to ease the discomforts of labor.
  • The weightlessness that the water provides allows women to move and change positions easier.
  • The water helps to soften the tissues allowing the perineum to stretch more easily to accommodate the baby.
  • The warmth of the water provides a much more gentle transition for the baby from the womb into the outside world.

I’m just really pleased to have the opportunity to use the birth pool at the birth center to have this baby.  I know this will help me so much during my birthing time to stay comfortable and composed.

GBS+:  I’d like to get the IV line placed and the antibiotics run as fast as possible.  Then I would like to have the line pulled completely.  I just don’t want an IV hanging off me.  They’re distracting and upsetting to me right now.  I don’t know for sure if I am GBS+ (group B strep positive), but I’m operating under the assumption that I am.  This way, if I am, I won’t feel disappointed, and if I’m not I can feel pleased about having one less thing to deal with.  It’s a bit up in the air at this point, but since I don’t know if I have group B strep or not, I think that’s okay.

Please no directed pushing.  I would like to follow the signals of my body and allow it to do its work gently and naturally.  Also please don’t count while I push or have a contraction.  What I’m really trying to avoid here is “purple pushing.”  That’s where you hold your breath and pushpushpushpushpush until they tell you to stop.  This can reduce oxygen flow to the baby, and it’s really exhausting.  On top of that, this kind of hard pushing can cause tearing as the baby moves too fast down the birth canal.  So I just don’t want to do it.  My body will tell me when to push.  We’ll just listen to that and go with the flow.  In Hypnobabies, we learn about “Aaaahing” the baby out.  That’s just what I intend to do.

Please delay cord clamping. Since we donated the Grasshopper’s cord blood, delayed clamping was not an option for us.  This time, however, we won’t donate the blood.  Instead, we’ll be allowing all of our baby’s blood supply time to move from the placenta into her body.  According to this article, around 21% of her blood is in the placenta.  She needs all of that iron- and oxygen-rich blood.  It’s hers.  I often wonder if some of the Grasshopper’s early sleepiness and weakness during nursing would have been helped by delaying the cord clamping.  For this baby, we’ll wait until the cord stops pulsing, and then we’ll clamp and cut the cord.

For the baby, no Vitamin K shots and (if I am not GBS+) no eye drops.  Vitamin K shots are really only needed if your family has a history of blood clotting disorders.  That’s not an issue for us.  Unless the baby comes out with significant bruising, there’s no reason to give this shot.  The eye-drops are only needed if the mom has chlamydia.  They’re also recommended if the mom is GBS+.  I definitely don’t have any sexually transmitted diseases, so as long as I’m not GBS+, there’s no need for the eye goop.

I would like an unmanaged 3rd stage and deliver the placenta on my own.  Would also like to avoid the shot of pitocin unless it’s really and truly necessary.  The 3rd stage of labor is the part where you deliver the placenta.  During a managed 3rd stage, the healthcare providers may tug on the cord or “massage” the mom’s belly to help the placenta come out more quickly.  The “massage” is pretty forceful and brutal, so banish the thought of a comfortable, relaxing belly massage.  Picture instead people shoving against the mom’s belly with all their strength to manually push out the placenta.  Really unpleasant.  The cord pulling and the “massage” can also cause increased bleeding, hemorrhage, and the risk of the placenta breaking up and leaving pieces behind.  Hello infection!  I’ll pass.  The pitocin shot is something to help curtail bleeding.  If I’m not bleeding heavily, I’ll just skip that as well.  As they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

Those are my birth preferences.  It’s a fairly short list.  I’ll be talking about these with my midwife at my 36 week appointment later today.  It’s so refreshing not to have to worry about defending myself against unnecessary hospital policies.  I love that I am included as a member of my own birth team this time around.

World Breastfeeding Week – What am I doing to prepare to breastfeed the new baby?

The Grasshopper and I did not have an easy start to our breastfeeding relationship.

My milk was slow to come in (thanks pitocin).  She struggled with latch due to flat nipples.  I got engorged.  Then I got mastitis because she wasn’t able to latch to remove the milk.  I didn’t know enough about pumping and thought that the milk I was pumping was “not real milk” because of the whole not-coming-in thing so I dumped what little I did pump.  She got dehydrated (no poops, no wets over a couple of days)  so we supplemented with formula through a bottle and then through a supplemental nursing system via finger-feeding.

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Then, right as she was starting to latch, I got thrush, which took forever to figure out because the Grasshopper never showed signs.  It was all in me.  By then, my milk supply was almost gone, so I essentially had to relactate.  The Boppy nursing pillow that I got was sliding all over God’s creation, so I was trying to hold the pillow in place, hold the baby, deal with the stupid nipple shield, get the baby latched, keep the baby latched, ignore the agony in my back (thanks epidural), and just fight fight fight fight fight.

Meanwhile, the “help” I was getting from hospital “lactation consultants” was vague and not helpful.  We could manage to nurse in the office, but not once we got home.  And when I would call for help they wouldn’t call me back.

It was a really difficult time.

Finally, we managed to turn the corner at around six weeks.  I ditched the Boppy for the My Breast Friend pillow (they’re WHO code compliant and the BEST nursing pillow on the market!), I threw the nipple shield across the room, I found the kellymom.com forums where I could get some real help, and suddenly the Grasshopper was alert enough and started latching and nursing.  I also dropped in to a local baby shop that had an IBCLC on staff, and she proved to me that I actually had milk by doing pre- and post-feed weighs.  Having this confidence is what ultimately saved our nursing relationship.

The Grasshopper’s latch was never great.  I think the nipple shield had a lot to do with why.  But we managed.  She was exclusively breastfed from 4 and a half weeks until she was a little over 8 months old.  As she grew older, her perpetual bad latch became worse, but she got enough.  I’m so proud of the fact that I managed to nurse her for 3 and a half years, and I’m so grateful that those resources (seriously! the pillow ruled!) all came together at the same time.

I was so lucky.

This time, I don’t intend to leave things up to luck.

What am I doing differently this time?

Unlike last time, I have developed a network of support.  I co-founded a Lactation Support Group at my workplace, and I know that I can reach out to my co-leaders for help if I need it.  I’ve also become an active member of the Kellymom.com forum community.  I cannot say enough good things about this community.  If you’re interested in nursing or plan to nurse or are thinking about it, join this group.  This–and the Kellymom.com website of course–is hands down one of the best resources out there.  The information, compiled by Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC,is accurate, carefully vetted and moderated, and evidence based.  It is truly second to none.

I’m also planning an unmedicated birth.  The IV fluids and pitocin were both, I believe based on several years of reading up on it, at least partly responsible for my severe engorgement and the delay of my milk coming in.  The terrible back pain I suffered was, in large part, from the epidural.

I know now, having observed the way my body reacts to these interventions, that they are harmful to my ability to breastfeed.  To promote the gentlest and least invasive birth possible, I’m using the Hypnobabies childbirth method and birthing at a birth center with the help of midwives and the support of an experienced doula.  Based on my experience and research, I believe that these and other birth choices I’m making will help our breastfeeding relationship to have the best possible start.

In addition to surrounding myself with accurate information and having a natural birth, I will have personal support from my midwives.  They’ve got extensive experience helping moms and babies get off to a good start with nursing, and I will not be cut adrift once I go home.  They will visit me in my home the day after the baby is born to check on both of us.  Following that, they will call daily and be available for me to call if I need help.

I’ve also found a local La Leche League group and I will begin attending meetings starting this month!

I know so much more now than when I was pregnant with the Grasshopper.  Now I don’t say, “I hope to breastfeed.”  This time I know that I can.  It is simply what we do in our family.  I know that if I run into difficulties that help is a phone call or keystroke away.  Whatever we may stumble upon, we will overcome.  Just like the Grasshopper and I did.

***

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I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

Birthing Positions and Water Birth Positions

I’m going to be sharing a full write-up of my birthing preferences a little later, but I wanted to take some time to talk about birthing positions.  This is a really important aspect of birth.

What you see in movies?  The woman flat on her back, legs up in the air, yelling her head off?  That’s a terrible way to push out a baby.  This position actually closes the pelvis off and forces the woman to push uphill.  No part of that is good for childbirth.  There’s only one reason to birth a baby in this position: to make it easier for the doctor.  You know, he doesn’t have to bend down that way.  He can sit on the chair or stand up.  Much more comfortable for him, right?  And that’s what’s most important after all: making sure your doctor is comfortable.

Before I go into this further, take a look at this article that lists the pros and cons of different birth positions.  Scroll down to the bottom to read the pros and cons of birthing on your back with your legs in the air.  Do you notice anything?  There are no pros for this!  That’s right.  There’s nothing good about this.  Only cons.

So you might gather from all of this that I want to push our baby out in a position other than flat on my back.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I will want to birth the baby.  On all fours?  Squatting?

I very much intend to use the birth pool.  So how does that work with birthing positions?  Honestly, I have no clue!  With the Grasshopper, I had an epidural.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was, you guessed it, flat on my back with my legs up in the air.

I have a hard time doing things if I can’t try it out ahead of time, or at least visualize it.  It’s why I never asked to use the squat bar at the hospital before getting the epidural with the Grasshopper.  It’s why I asked my midwives to let me try out the birth stool during my second appointment.  It’s why I really, really need a doula.  If I’m not sure how to do something, I just freeze up.  I’m not sure why.  I just do.  So this is why I’m trying to familiarize myself as much as possible with water birth and various birth positions.

Like they say in my hypnobabies course, I’m having to retrain my mind to remove the flat-on-the-back, legs-in-the-air positioning from my concept of “normal” and replace it with a new normal which includes movement and various different positions.

There seems to be an incredible variety in how women choose to birth in a tub.  I have to wonder if the water helps facilitate that.  I’m only 31 weeks, and already I feel huge and awkward.  I have to wonder if the weightlessness of the water allows them to move their bodies more easily for greater comfort during birth.

I think I may even fill up our bathtub here at home at some point and do some of my Hypnobabies practicing in the water.  I really hope doing this kind of visualization and practice will help me to feel more confident during my birthing time.  I plan to talk to my doula and let her know that I do tend to freeze up.  I want her to be able to watch for this and give me a nudge if she sees this happening.  But I also want to find some empowerment on my own, and watching the women in these videos give birth really helps me to find that within myself.

How’s that Hypnobabies thing going?

Way back in March, I posted about hypnosis and childbirth.  It’s been a while since I talked about that, so I wanted to give you all an update on how that’s going.

Long story short: It’s awesome!

I selected the Hypnobabies method of hypnotic childbirth, and at this time I have completed the home study course.  Just this week I started in on the maintenance part of the program.

The course itself is easy and pleasant to go through.  The book is divided into 5 lessons with each lesson building off the previous one.  For the hypnosis part, the hypnosis tracks (which are on CDs that you just lay back and listen and follow along with) start by simply teaching you very basic, guided visualization and self-hypnosis.  From there, the tracks build on that until you learn to put yourself into hypnosis using what they call the finger drop technique.

The finger drop technique is a cue that you train your mind to accept that triggers you to go into deep relaxation and hypnosis.  This is the backbone of the program and one of the main tools I will use during my birthing time.

Hypnobabies is big on associations and cues.  It’s basic operant conditioning when you think about it.  You simply teach your mind to react in a specific way to a specific stimulus.

For Hypnobabies, those stimuli (cues) include the finger drop, where you bring your finger down like switching off a light switch, and words such as “release” and “peace.”  Every hypnosis track starts the same way and has the same music, so I have also learned to associate the voice of the woman reading and the music with the feelings of deep relaxation.

At first, entering the hypnosis feels a little challenging.  The mind wanders and it’s hard to really relax.  Hypnobabies plans for this, and because I listen to the tracks over and over and because the association cues are consistent from track to track, it becomes easier every time I try.

In addition to the new associations that Hypnobabies is teaching me, they’re also working to disassociate old feelings about childbirth.  As a part of this, Hypnobabies uses its own vocabulary to help you disassociate pain from childbirth.  Here are a few examples that you will see me start using in future posts about birth (old word=hypnobabies word):

  • Labor=birthing time: Doesn’t the word labor just sound difficult and unpleasant?  Birthing time is just so much more pleasant to say.
  • Contractions=pressure waves: Everyone knows contractions hurt, right?  We’ve all seen the movies.  Pressure waves though?  That doesn’t sound so bad.  And if you’ve been in the ocean, you know you can ride waves, let them carry you, flow with them.  It’s exhilarating.  When you fight ocean waves things get difficult and out of control, but when you dive into them, go deep, and let them carry you, they will move you and take you places.
  • Transition=transformation: Transition.  That’s that part in the movies where the woman starts screaming at her husband, right?  Pretty scary.  Transformation feels better to say.  It’s less frightening to think about.

Hypnobabies also does not use the word “pain” in any discussions on childbirth.

By dissociating birth from fear inducing words, Hypnobabies teaches you to better handle the intensity of the moment and embrace it with joy instead of shrinking back with fear.  In fact, the very first class talks about the cycle of fear and how that can actually slow down and prevent your body from doing the work it needs to do.  Clenching muscles and panic do not make it easier to birth a baby!

Lest you thing Hypnobabies is just a bunch of CD tracks, let me assure you.  It’s not.  The home study course takes you through a complete childbirth education.  They talk about interventions and risks vs. benefits, stages of birthing, etc.  We took Bradley classes when I was pregnant with the Grasshopper, so most of this is review.  However, if you are a first time mom, you will still get the information you need to help you navigate the birth process from a practical and intellectual standpoint.

So far, I’m loving Hypnobabies (if you couldn’t tell!).  I fall asleep every single time I listen to a track, which is apparently not a problem at all, and when I wake up in the mornings, I feel so much better.  I feel better rested, more confident, and just generally happier.  When I wake up at night, I use my finger drop technique to help me go back to sleep quickly.  When I had blood drawn at the midwifery appointment, I was able to use the finger drop technique to relax and get through it in a calm and peaceful way.

I’m excited to see how it works out during my birthing time.

Here’s another cool thing:  Hypnobabies sells individual hypnosis tracks for a variety of different purposes.  I’ve already ordered Needles are Ok! to help me deal with my needle-related fears, but there are lots of others that are intriguing: Baby Come Out, Breastfeeding Success, Peaceful Sleep Now for All, etc.

Hint: If you “Like” Hypnobabies on Facebook, you can buy the CDs and MP3s there at a reduced cost!  That’s what I did!

There is one that I will never buy, however: Eliminate Nausea Now.

I do not think this CD would be at all appropriate for someone suffering from HG.  Aside from the very definite fact that there is absolutely nothing about HG that is psychological or in the mind, think back to what I said about associations.  The temptation might be there for a desperate HGer to give this a shot.  To me this seems like a very, very bad idea.

Trust me when I say that associations are powerful.  Heck, I was into Firefly when the hyperemesis gravidarum started to hit.  Simply watching that as the nausea started to build has been enough for me to associate this show and everything about it with nausea.  The theme song, the title sequence, and the voices of the characters have become triggers for me.  Heck, it was all I could do to link to that Wikipedia article and write this paragraph.

You do not want this kind of association built for your childbirth method!

The last thing you need to have is an association with fear and vomiting when you hear the Hypnobabies music and the woman’s voice starting to read the scripts.  I think that the possibility in an HGer directly relating the hypnosis techniques for intractable nausea is a strong one.  This is why I choose to stay away from this track.

This track is probably great for women with morning sickness, but I doubt it would help an HGer and the potential for harm is definitely there.  It’s simply not worth the risk in my mind.

That said, the entire Hypnobabies experience has really left me feeling empowered.  I’m looking forward to a beautiful birth.  I’m excited about joyfully welcoming this new baby into the world!

Prenatal Massage and Why it’s Awesome

The baby and I had our first prenatal massage this weekend thanks to a lovely mother’s day gift from my husband.  It was divine.  Really, really nice.

With the Grasshopper, I waited until the very end for a prenatal massage, which, in retrospect was a mistake.  I got so much relief from the massage that I wished I had gone in regularly throughout the pregnancy.

My current massage therapist does not use a special table with a hole in the middle for the belly.  Instead, she uses a large body pillow and has her pregnant clients lay on their sides.  She was very conscious of the temperature of the room, making sure it was never too hot or too cold for me.  She also used pure coconut oil as opposed to a traditional massage oil.  I’ve mentioned before what a fan of coconut oil I am, so I was pleased by this.

The things that I noticed the most were the sense of relaxation I felt and the relief I felt in my aching muscles.  My low back, hips, and feet have been so sore lately.  She really dug in and worked those parts out.

This was not one of those all over kind of feel-good massages either.  There were a few points where I had to use some of my hypnobabies techniques to deal with the intensity of it.  If you’ve never had the backs of your knees stripped out, I very much recommend it, but be ready to breathe through it!  Thankfully, the hypnobabies techniques that I’m learning allowed me to stay limp and loose through those parts.  It was certainly painful, but I do love some good deep tissue work.  If it’s not so bad that I can’t stay limp through it, then we’re doing okay.

She found sore spots all around.  I expected to be sore in my hips and sacrum, but I was surprised at how sore my knees, shins, and this one muscle down the middle of my feet were.  She explained that because my bones are loosening up with the pregnancy hormones, the muscles are sore from constantly re-adjusting around them.

She spent some time focusing on opening up the muscles along my flanks and through my ribs.  When I thought about it, that made good sense.  Those muscles are being pulled constantly from the weight of the baby.  No wonder they’re sore and tired!

When she finished, I felt… taller.  I felt like I could move more easily.  I felt like my body was better aligned and functioning more smoothly.  Post-massage, for me, is always a little sore, but it’s a good kind of sore.  I like a massage with some good tissue-work, where she really gets in and digs out those achy knots, and she certainly delivered on that this weekend.  I’m looking forward to my next massage.  I think I’ll try to do one of these every six weeks or so just to keep my body moving and open.

If you’re interested in prenatal massage yourself, you should go for it!  It’s wonderful.  You’ll want to find someone who is knowledgeable about prenatal massage.  There are some pressure points around the ankles than can cause contractions, so your massage therapist should avoid those areas until you’re past your due date.  My prenatal massage really helped me to feel more comfortable.  I very much recommend it, and if you aren’t pregnant right now, well, then you should just go get a massage anyway!

Finding a Doula

We have reached the point in this pregnancy where it is time to start looking for a doula.  A doula is a person (usually a woman) who is present throughout the birth to provide emotional and physical support to the mother during her birthing time and post-partum.

We didn’t have a doula last time with the Grasshopper.  We took Bradley Birth classes last time, and our teacher at the time discouraged us from hiring a doula.  In Bradley, there is much emphasis placed on the husband/father as coach, so I think this is why she advised against doulas.  In retrospect, I see that this was not the best advice for us.

This time I am doing Hypnobabies, so I fully expect the dynamic to be completely different.  In fact, this is my intent.  My experience with the Grasshopper was good.  But I want something different for this birth.  I’ve learned some lessons, and I prefer to take that knowledge and move forward.

One of the things I learned is that, yeah, I really do need someone else there to help out.  This is not a knock on my husband.  He absolutely did a great job last time, especially considering that he was thrown into an unfamiliar situation that was loaded with stress and pressure from all sides.  I look forward to childbirth.  He dreads it.

At first when I started talking to him about hiring a doula, he was worried.  He thought that the doula would replace him and take over his role.  This should not be the case at all.  A lot of the experiences of the birth felt strange and uncomfortable to him, and having someone there to navigate that processs with him, I hope, will give him more comfort with the entire process.

In poking around, trying to find some resources for him, I stumbled across this article from Doula.com:  Dads and Doulas: Working Together.

A doula is there to help the father, as much as she helps the mother. The fact of the matter is, our society places a great deal of pressure and responsibility on the father-to-be during labor. A childbirth class isn’t enough to prepare a new, nervous dad to support his wife through what may be one of the most difficult and challenging moments in her life. Is it fair to expect the father to remain 100% focused and calm, when his wife is struggling?

Emphasis mine.  I appreciate the perspective here.  This article really helps us understand how the doula will fit in to our own situation.

I asked my midwives (gosh I love saying that!) for some recommendations on some doulas they work with, and they gave me a few business cards.  I’ve been able to reach two of them, and we have meetings set up for this week.  Tomorrow, we’ll be having lunch with Doula 1, and then next Tuesday Doula 2 is coming to our house to meet us.

Doula 2 said that she prefers for her clients to meet with her in their homes so that they can see how she interacts with them in their own comfort zone and especially how she interacts with other children.  I like this notion.  My sister-in-law will be with us and will help care for the Grasshopper, but I love that Doula 2 considered the Grasshopper and her feelings as well as my husband’s and my feelings.  This impresses me.

I spent this weekend trying to figure out what kinds of questions to ask these doulas during the interview.  DONA International, one of the organizations that certifies and trains doulas, has an article with some questions to ask in their How to Hire a Doula section, but there were some more specific questions we had as well.

Here is the list of questions we came up with for us to ask the doulas (some of these come straight from the DONA page):

  • What training have you had? (If a doula is certified, you might consider checking with the organization.)
  • Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet her/them?
  • What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?
  • Tell me about your experience as a birth doula.
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • What is your familiarity and comfort level with Hypnobabies?  Will you be willing to do some reading and study to prepare for providing support for me during hypnosis?
  • Will you assist in writing a birth plan?
  • Can you give some examples of some of the ways you provide comfort during the birthing time? Massage? Aromatherapy? Do you proactively suggest position changes and movements?
  • In what ways will you help Mr. Grasshopper during the labor?
  • How will you fit in to the birth team since we are birthing with midwives at a birth center as opposed to a hospital?  Are you familiar with waterbirth?
  • At what point during my birthing time will you come?  Will you come to the house?  The birth center?
  • Do you take pictures?  Keep track of details to help me write out the birth story later?
  • What kind of support do you provide after the birth?

I’m sure there are plenty of more questions that will come up during our meetings with the doulas.  I am excited to see where the conversation will take us.

I feel like this really puts us one step closer to bringing this baby into the world, and it’s so exciting!

Back at work, midwives, and feeling blessed

It’s Wednesday.  Day 3 of my return to work, and it’s going amazingly well.

I was nervous about coming back.  I didn’t know what it would be like to get up early and be upright in a chair all day.  My job is completely sedentary computer work, but there is no opportunity to just go have a lie down.  After being parked on the couch for two months, I was worried about the physical demands of being back.

My first day back ended up being incredibly positive, even though by the end I was exhausted.  I had so many people stop me in the walk-ways and come by my desk to welcome me back.  It made me feel so good to know how many people had been thinking of me.  Invariably, everyone asked how I was doing, and I was pleased to say, “I’m doing so much better.  It’s great to be back among the living.”  Lots of people asked about my pump, which, oddly, I appreciated.  I thought I would feel self-conscious about it, but I think it would have been worse if they’d stared at it and tried to pretend it wasn’t there.  Somehow it’s less embarassing to be able to explain it and make a joke about it.

One of my office friends asked about it in the break area, and another fellow, who is really more of an aquaintance piped up and said, “I know what that is!  I have one, too!”  And he pulled out his insulin pump.  It was really cool to meet someone who had a pump, too.  I had been explaining to people that it’s like an insulin pump, but I had never met someone in real life who actually had a pump.  I’d never seen one in person before either.  We ended up spending some time talking about it, and he was kind enough to let me ask some questions: How often does he have to change the sites and where does he think it’s easiest to put it.  He only changes his sites every 3 days (lucky!), and he likes to put his in the back of his arms, something that’s not an option for me because the Zofran gets pushed through at a higher volume than the insulin pump.  Like me, he thinks the belly is the worst place.  His pump is sleek and shiny and fits neatly in his pocket compared to my big clonker which I have to wear around my neck in a bag.  It makes me feel lucky, though, to know that I get to kiss my pump goodbye in a few weeks (!!!), whereas he’s got his for the rest of his life.  It’s comforting to know, though, that I’m not the only cyborg in the office.

Monday, I also called one of the local midwifery practices to set up a consultation.  I mentioned that I had been suffering with HG, and instead of suggesting acupucture or ginger (like the previous midwifery practice), she immediately asked about PICC lines and meds.  When I explained that the PICCs failed, she asked if I had a line tunneled into my chest.  Wow!  That’s exactly the order of interventions my doctor had listed!  When I told her I was impressed by her ready knowledge of HG and wanted to be sure to see her specifically for the consult, she laughed and said, “Don’t worry.  Both my partner and I know about HG.  I learned from her.  She got her knowledge through firsthand experience!”

You could have peeled me up off the floor.  I wanted to cry with relief.  One of my major concerns about seeing a midwife is that they would dimish the experiences I have had with the HG.  I simply can’t believe my luck.  How could I have stumbled into a town that has both a doctor and midwives who know so much about HG?

These midwives work in a birth center located less than 5 minutes from the best NICU in the county.  They know about HG.  They can do waterbirths.  They are willing and able to work with my doctor in whatever capacity I need to ensure the HG stays under control.  They are willing to save a space for me in their practice until I’m weaned off the zofran pump to ensure a smooth transition.  And most of all, there’s that feeling in my gut that things are right.  The consultation is scheduled for next Thursday, late afternoon.  It can’t come soon enough for me.  I can’t be certain things are right until Mr. Grasshopper and I meet with them, so please keep your fingers crossed.

With all of the positivity of coming back to work and speaking to these midwives, not to mention the joyful pregnancy affirmations I’ve been listening to as part of my hypnobabies practice, I am feeling incredibly blessed.  Do you ever have moments where you feel like your heart is just so full it’s about to overflow?  I just feel so full of joy and positivity right now.  It is such a good feeling to have.  I am coming out of a very dark place and the sunlight feels so good on my face.

Hypnosis and Childbirth

I’m strongly considering doing a form of hypnosis for the birth of this child.  Specifically, I’ve been looking at Hypnobabies.

I’m attracted to this method for a couple of reasons:

  • I would really like to birth this child without the use of medications. Last time, I opted for an epidural, and what followed was a predictable series of events: stalled labor, pitocin, breaking my water etc.  I believe the epi necessitated the pitocin, and based on my research, the pitocin is probably a large part of what caused my milk to come in late.  I just plain don’t want those interventions again.  Personal choice.
  • I want breastfeeding to start as easily as possible. See above.  Getting started nursing the Grasshopper was terribly difficult.  I know that I am perfectly capable of nursing another child, and I want to make the start of it as easy as possible.
  • I want to be an active participant in this birth. That’s not to say I wasn’t an active participant last time, but I really was tied to that bed.  The epidural essentially paralyzed me from the waist down.  I want to be able to move, sit up, change positions, and do various other things.  I don’t want to have to fight gravity and labor on my back.
  • I am open to and intrigued by the idea of meditation and hypnosis in general. I used to meditate a whole lot.  I loved it.  It helped me feel really good mentally.  I still meditate during yoga practice.  Or I would if I could do yoga right now.  The HG gets in the way of that.

Those are a couple of reasons for me being interested in hypnosis in childbirth.  I haven’t completely gathered my thoughts on why I’m so drawn to this method.  I just feel a pull toward it.

I like the idea that this particular method has a self-study course, which I think will work better for me.  I also love the idea that this particular method teaches an “eyes open” form of hypnosis meaning you can move around open your eyes and do various other things while you’re under the hypnosis.  I think that will really help me feel like a much more active participant in this process.

Have any of you used a form of hypnosis for childbirth?  I would love to hear about your experiences!