Archive for May, 2011

The weeks are speeding by – let’s get real.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

37 weeks.
It hovers on the horizon, and with it come a mess of thoughts and emotions.
While 37 weeks is considered to be full term, I certainly don’t expect this baby to arrive that soon. Left to do its own thing, I don’t know when my body will be ready to give birth…it’s never been given the chance to say so because I’ve always been induced. Because I went overdue with both of the boys, I just expect that if we leave well-enough alone I’ll have a late baby, so realistically I figure I’ll be pregnant until the end of June. My logic is that I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by our baby coming earlier than that, than be frustrated that things are taking so long. I’ve done the overdue thing, where every day feels like a week, and people think they’re helping by saying things like,
“No baby yet?”
“You’re still here?”, or
“That’s going to be one big baby!”
I know people don’t mean anything bad by it, it’s just an attempt to make conversation. People want to say something, so they say the first thing that comes into of their head. For the record, a “How are you doing?” would go a lot farther in reaching out to an overdue mom. Due dates aren’t magical, as anyone who’s gone overdue can testify.

So while I expect to go past due, there is always the possibility that I could give birth before my due date. My mind swirls with thoughts about whether I’m ready if that were to happen. As far as being materialistically prepared, the answer is yes. We’re not wanting for anything – we’ve got the basics. Clothes. Diapers. Bassinet. Blankets. Breasts. Yep – check, check, check. There are also a lot of non-basics in this house after having already had three babies. Emotionally prepared? I’m not sure.

I know the postpartum period is rough. I know how little sleep a new mom gets. I know how much I’ll cry. I know how hard it is to get food in the mouths of my existing family 3 times a day, not to mention food in the baby’s mouth 10 times each day. I know how greasy my hair will get from not having time to shower, and how no amount of make-up can wake up my tired eyes. It’s all this that I am not sure I am ready for.

And what about labour? If I were doing the same thing I’ve always done I would feel far more at ease, I’m sure. If I were planning on going to the hospital I would have a pretty good idea what to expect. I don’t mean that I am uneasy about my choice to birth at home, only that the unfamiliar and unknown is always coupled with a bit of anxiety. Every birth is different – will I be able to handle this one? I know I’ve been strong enough in the past, but will this time be different?

At the end of the day, I know the answer is to cast all my cares upon Jesus. It won’t do me any good to fret and be anxious about what might or might not happen, what the unknown could bring, when the baby will arrive, or how I will adjust to the reality of having four kids. I know He cares for me, and that is enough. He has appointed a time and place for this baby to be brought into this world, he sustains everything by the power of his word, and I am safe and secure in him.

This nest needs some work.

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

In the past I have been hesitant to ever admit that I had a nesting urge near the end of pregnancy…mostly because people seem to throw it around as a foolproof evidence that you will go into labour that very evening. Having never actually gone into labour (three inductions with three babies), I get tired of the ‘guarantees’ that everyone claims.

“Oohhhh, you’re washing your floor. You’re nesting – the baby will be here by morning!”

“Uh huh. Or I could be fed up with my filthy floor. There is also the consideration that this might be the last time I wash it in about six months.”

So today, when I found myself furiously scrubbing walls, trim, and baseboards in every room on the second floor of the house, I was slow to admit I was nesting. Maybe this is just my usual spring cleaning gear kicking in. Yeah maybe, but the fact remains that it seemed urgent because a brand new person would be sleeping up there and I wanted to make a good first impression. Or something. The walls are clean, so I am one step closer to being ready to have a baby. Such bizarre logic. I really should have spent the morning as I had planned: planning a freezer-meal cooking session, so I would have a grocery list in hand for tomorrow, and a freezer armed with food for a few frazzled days in the future. (Read: I would be ready with food for a few frazzled days, not that there will only be a few frazzled days.) That would make a lot more sense as far as being ready for a baby.

At least in a few weeks, when I am up at 3:30 a.m. feeding for the fourth time that night, I won’t have to be annoyed by the grubby hand prints on the walls or the dusty baseboards? Haha, a very productive morning, indeed.

Clarity is an elusive beast.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

James raised a number of really good points when he commented on my last post. For those of you who don’t know James, he’s a friend of ours who is studying medicine and is currently completing his residency. For the record, I’m not against doctors, and I’m certainly not against James! I deeply respect his opinion, and admire what he does day in and day out. His comment made it clear to me that I need to make my thoughts more clear :) So allow me to try to clarify some things.

When I talk about natural childbirth, I’m not talking about being out in nature without modern conveniences. James rightly pointed out that my home is supplied with clean water thanks to modern science. My home is heated thanks to modern science as well. I’m not trudging to a well to fetch my water with a bucket and heating my home with a wood burning stove – and for that I am thankful. I know there are many things I take for granted that make a home birth safer than it would have been in the distant past because they are, by a critical standard, unnatural.

I realize that doctors and obstetricians are necessary. A small percentage of pregnancies and births really are high risk, and really do require medical intervention. A skilled obstetrician is a gift from God that can provide expert knowledge and care when emergencies arise. I’m not trying to imply a war between midwives and medical professionals, as if their goals are polar opposite. I see both as having the well being of women and babies as the end goal. I think it would be a marvelous thing indeed if we could see more of midwives and physicians working together to that end. If there were more midwives in this country to deal with normal, uncomplicated pregnancies and births, it would free the doctors up to do more of what they do best – dealing with high-risk and complicated cases. I don’t see hospitals and doctors as the enemy of all that is good where birth is concerned. I’m also not saying that you can’t have a natural birth if you are in a hospital.

When I first started considering the idea of having a baby at home, Clay was dead-set against it. What if something goes wrong? He began to be won over when he learned how capable and qualified modern midwives are. These women have gone to school for four years to be trained to do what they do. During that time they deal with nothing but normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth. When you’re an expert in the ‘normal’ of something, you’re also very keenly aware when something is abnormal. When something is beyond the expertise of a midwife, they will refer you to someone who is an expert. In the case of having a baby at home, they come prepared with all the supplies you would find in a hospital – they have a portable version of it all. They don’t just show up with a pair of gloves to “catch a baby”. They’re professionals. So I don’t mean that there should be no use of medical equipment and supplies.

So here are some thoughts about what I do mean when I talk about natural childbirth. And do understand this explanation will not be exhaustive or necessarily well-expressed. I’m doing my best to put my thoughts into words, so bear with me.

When talking about natural childbirth, I’m talking about not intervening unnecessarily. Every woman’s body is different, every baby is different. Every birth will be different, and what woman doesn’t love a good birth story? We’re compelled not only by the wonder of new life, but I think also by the diversity of it all. Every story is different, and every story has the ability to amaze us. Given the fact that everyone is different, it would make sense that there should be room in the medical mold for my birth to look different from the next woman’s. For instance, the accepted ‘normal’ length of gestation is 40 weeks. One day over that, you’re considered overdue, and many doctors will artificially induce labour when a woman is ten days overdue – this happened twice to me. I wasn’t induced because there was any perceived risk to me or baby, it was just because I was ‘late’, and uncomfortable. Anytime you interfere with the natural process, the risk of further intervention increases. Being induced meant I was confined to the bed because of constant electronic fetal monitoring. Being unable to move and work with the process of labour, I reached a point where I felt I could no longer handle the contractions, and asked for an epidural. This meant I needed an IV. After getting the epidural, labour slowed down, resulting in the need for Syntocin to make labour speed up again. At the time I didn’t question any of it – I thought, “These people deal with birth every day, they’ll know what to do better than I will.” I didn’t take the time to prepare myself for birth and how to deal with the experience.

What I mean by natural childbirth is listening to what’s happening with your body, and responding accordingly. Yes it hurts, but this is not pain without purpose. The onset of labour tells you that something is happening. Movement helps labour progress, laying down slows it down. Anxiety and tension will serve to slow down and fight against what your body is trying to accomplish – getting that baby out! – and working with your body will bring you closer. The use of drugs will dull or eliminate the pain, but that won’t motivate your body to do what it needs to do.

I think there is a great amount of secrecy in our culture when it comes to labour and birth. That secrecy amounts to a lot of fear in women. When all we see of it is a woman on TV who goes from carefree one minute to crying out with the first contraction and doubled over in pain, rushed off to the hospital to be ‘delivered’ of her infirmity, birth becomes something we fear. It seems scary, and we hear a lot of scary stories about it. We know the pain is worth it in the end, but for goodness sakes, give me something to rid me of the pain! I’m not saying it’s wrong to use drugs, but I do believe that something is lost in the process. There is something unexplainably empowering about giving birth to a baby without the use of drugs – it’s a kind of “I am woman, hear me roar!” moment, where you feel as though nothing is impossible. I just feel like when we surrender to the widely accepted medical process, with all its possible interventions, capable women have something taken away from them. We believe a message (that I believe is not an intentional message, but a message nonetheless) that our bodies are broken and incapable and we need help to birth our babies, when in 98% of cases, little help is needed other than loving encouragement and support to do what God made us able and capable to do.

My heart in all this is to speak up about something I never heard anyone speak up about when I started having babies. Stuck in a bed with an epidural is not the only way to have a baby, nor is it the best way, in my opinion. Drugs and interventions have side-effects for you and baby. There is something else, something better. You’re not sick, your body is not broken, and you are strong. God designed your body perfectly.

Here I go, opening my big mouth.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

When I started learning more about natural childbirth and midwifery care, I wondered why this was all news to me. Why did people who believe a natural approach to birth is better than a medical approach not talk about it more? While I can’t speak for everyone else, I think there are a few reasons I’ve been a little tight lipped about it. Firstly, I don’t want to seem like a ‘single-issue-voter’: someone that people see coming and run because, “oh, there’s Kim, she’s going to corner me and try to sell me on natural birth again.” I believe it’s important, but I’m not going to shove it down your throat. Secondly, I don’t want to have to defend myself. My head is swimming with so much information about the benefits of natural vs. medical births, but I’m not an expert, and I don’t want to feel backed into a corner and like I have to defend my choices. I know I’m making the best decision I can, but I don’t expect myself to be able to consistently express my thoughts about it clearly. Along with that, I guess I feel like if someone wants to confront me about anything, I need to be able to WIN!

Ultimately, I do believe that birth is a normal life event. It’s something that women ought to experience, not be delivered from. It’s something a woman does, not something that happens to her. If you’re not sick, you don’t need a doctor, and pregnancy is not an illness.

What about midwives? Don’t they all wear Birkenstocks, have long hair, smell like incense, and show up to catch your baby without so much as a pair of gloves? Crazy hippies. I’ll admit, that’s not far off from what I assumed midwives were until I started educating myself. The truth is that midwives are experts when it comes to normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and birth – which is most pregnancies and births. And I haven’t yet met one who looks like the one in my mind. They’ll be the first to admit that there is surely a need for good obstetricians, but not nearly the need we have perceived in this culture. Statistics show that there are many countries whose maternal and newborn mortality rates are far lower than ours, with midwife attended birth rates far higher than ours. Midwives know what they’re doing. They’ve been attending births since the beginning of time (okay let’s not get technical here – I’m aware there would have been no midwife when Eve gave birth to Cain, but you catch my drift), while doctors are the ones who are new to the scene. And dare I say, they’re not proving to be very good at normal birth. They are good at making normal birth complicated, if you can call that being good at something…

Anyway, I am happily, joyfully, and expectantly preparing for the birth of this sweet little one who will, Lord willing, be entering this world in less than two months. There is such a difference in my heart and mind as I prepare to welcome our baby in the peace and quiet of our own home, with my husband by my side, an encouraging midwife team who trusts the design of a woman’s body to do as it was created to do, with the sights and smells I am familiar with… without those horrible hospital gowns – and the smell that goes along with them.