Unexpected Turns

So we’re officially past the EDD…well by a week…and the little one still isn’t here. One of the benefits of having a baby in a birthing center attended by a midwife is that the mom gets extra time before birth inductions are suggested or required. In my state, 42 weeks is the cutoff for midwives to attend births. So, we’re up against that wall to have this baby the way we want.

This past week hasn’t been without it’s excitement though. At last week’s pre-natal check it was discovered the baby wasn’t in the correct position. We had an ultrasound scheduled with the OB the next day. He saw the baby was vertex (upside down) but slightly oblique. I had heard of breach and transverse, but never oblique. Apparently that is when the baby is slightly off center and not against the cervix. The OB didn’t seem too concerned, saying it will probably correct when labor begins.

We thought we were in the clear, but this week brought an even bigger shock. It is common practice to have biophysical profile to check if the baby is still healthy. When we get in today, we realize that he has now gone completely transverse. His back is lying on the cervix. So, needless to say that’s not very conducive to birthing. Thankfully, we have awesome health providers that gave us the option of a few more days to see if he moves back. We think since he’s already been the correct position once he might go back. If not, Undesirable #1 (C-Section) will be approaching soon.

I was really excited about this Hypnobirthing stuff and we’ve been working really hard to prepare. I’m hoping and praying that things work out and we have a normal vaginal delivery. I’m trying my best to be a supportive birth partner no matter our circumstances. Even if the experience is not anything we hope or plan, I still wholly believe in the Hypnobirthing way. It has brought more peace into our life and has helped countless others have comfortable and natural births.

If you’re the praying type, anything would be appreciated right about now. I expect my next post will be a birth announcement and I’m still an excited daddy! 🙂

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Children Hijackers

Sorry I haven’t blogged in quite a while (don’t worry…no baby #2 yet, but he’ll be here soon). Shortly after my last post our life was hijacked by a toddler/preschooler that decided she no longer wanted to sleep at night. So, in the past month and a half my life has been devoted to trying to figure out how to get her to sleep again. Sleep depravation combined with trying to keep up with a busy life left me with little desire to blog. It is by no means better, but we’ve made a little progress.

What I’ve Learned Recently

  1. Never assume that a good sleeper will always be a good sleeper. My little girl was an excellent sleeper for the first 2.5 years of her life. I’m pretty sure she was sleeping through the night after only a few months, and we did nothing to make it happen. She had always enjoyed her sleep, aside from the occasional cold or sickness. So, when her sleep problems started popping up we just assumed she’d settle back into her old pattern. WRONG! It became progressively worse, and as she became more sleep deprived it only compounded the issue.
  2. Cry It Out (CIO) doesn’t work. Not knowing much at first, we assumed letting her cry a bit at her bedroom door wouldn’t hurt much…except it eventually turned into long periods on nonstop crying. In the meantime, Mommy and Daddy were nearly crazy from it (I can’t stand the sound of crying and not allowing myself to console her). A lot of parents try this out of desperation, but it only did more damage in the end. We’ve been picking up the pieces ever since.
  3. Establishing good patterns and daily routines. Nothing has helped more than establishing good patterns and routines throughout the day. She needs a good nap everyday, at the same time everyday. Even if you’re busy and need to run errands, the nap makes a big difference when it comes to bedtime. She needs to eat at about the same time everyday. Evenings need to be TV-free and focus on quiet activities (like reading and quiet play).
  4. Live a healthy life. We’ve been focusing a lot more on eating healthy and removing junk from our life. We’ve been seeing a chiropractor to be adjusted. He actually found that my daughter has a dairy allergy, so we’ve removed all dairy from her life. This is a recent development…still curious to see the results.
  5. Mom & Dad need good habits. If I expect that my child have good sleep habits, I need it too. I’m still working on this one…mom & dad enjoy their night time together watching TV.

A book that has been really helpful in helping me find these realizations is this one:

The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child’s Sleep

If anything, it helped me to realize lots of kids have sleep issues and that I don’t have to despair. It promotes creating a sleep plan and gives practical tips on how to help your kid sleep no matter the cause. As a future librarian…check you local library before buying the book. I only provide the Amazon link for convenience.

Where I Am Now

So, after reading all of this you probably think I’ve got a child that sleeps through the night and has no issues…nope. It’s a battle every night to get her to bed. It is usually a 2 hour process and has the occasional tantrum (mommy and daddy included), but we’ve been doing much better at not crying to sleep. She just has a lot of trouble getting her brain to turn-off. She also doesn’t sleep through the night in her own room, but we’ve no longer got middle of the night tantrums, crying and screaming. At some point every night she will come into our room to sleep. I’ve made a little bed on the floor with blankets and she usually makes no noise and just lays down. It’s by no means ideal, but I accept the compromise…for now. A part of me actually enjoys having my beautiful little girl nearby. 🙂

Do any of you have sleep problems with your kids? Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. I feel your misery.

If you’ve had sleeping success, what has worked for you? Leave a comment.

My (our) arrival at Natural Birthing

Birth Center roomI wanted to write a post on my journey to natural birthing, but as I began thinking about it I realized that it wasn’t really my story to tell. My wife was the one who began it, I was only riding along. So, I only think its appropriate that she tells her own story (of which I’m very grateful):

When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, I felt really unprepared for all the decisions I needed to make. It wasn’t something I thought of prior to being pregnant. I knew I wanted kids, but I figured there wasn’t anything to think about. You get an OB, when it’s time to have the baby you get an epidural and voila baby is here. Then you feed them formula, put them in disposable diapers, and put them in their crib to sleep. I picked up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and as much as I feel that book is lacking in a lot of ways, it did make me realize their were other options. One option I didn’t really think their was a choice in was in my care provider. After all midwives are what third world countries and rural towns use, right?

I chose an OB that was recommended to me because she was open to multiple birth styles, she was pro-natural birth, but also pro-medicalized if that’s what you wanted. I had heard there was a birth center nearby, but quickly dismissed that as friends jokingly called it “the vagina cottage,” where really weird, hippy people go to birth and besides “what if something goes wrong and I’m not at the hospital!” I liked my OB. She was nice and very open to dialogue, the problem never really was with her. The problem came the day I delivered. By this point I decided I wanted a natural birth, I read all about it and was confident I could do it, even without knowing anyone who had. I imagined a happy, empowering birth. What I got was a feeling of being beat down and bullied. My blood pressure was high when I was admitted. I was made to be continuously monitored and labor on my back, while having back labor. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t long before the cascade of intervention took hold, first narcotics and then the epidural. By time I delivered, I hadn’t slept in 36 hours, and hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours. I wouldn’t get much sleep that night as they constantly checked on us, and I wasn’t given any food either because “the cafeteria was closed.” I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. The nurses also did a good job of making me feel incompetent because I wasn’t following their protocol exactly. Breastfeeding was a disaster because of my lack of energy and this new baby being in basically a drug induced sleep from all the drugs I had been on during labor. None of this was what I had dreamed of, not even close.

It wasn’t long after this that I started to question what I should have done differently.  Research after the fact lead me to realize that I really wasn’t prepared the first time. I then knew real live people who birthed at that birth center or at least had prenatal care there, and it didn’t seem so weird anymore because these people were normal. They weren’t some tree-hugging person, they were just like everyone else I knew.  I’ve never been a fan of hospitals, so of course trying to have a natural birth there had been a bad idea. Naturally, the thought after this was I should have gone with a midwife as well. Like I said before there is nothing wrong with my OB,but I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers to try natural alternatives before going to see a doctor and getting medicine. I’m not anti-medicine, but I’d rather not over medicate just because it’s there.

The decision was made, at least by me, that next time I was going to a midwife and a birth center. We then moved, and when I first arrived in the new area I looked for a birth center, scared I wouldn’t find one. As luck would have it there was one only 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, it would take some time (and a little medical help) to finally conceive, and when I did, I called up the birth center with no hesitation. During a tour of the place, the first impression was it felt relaxed and home-like. At my first appointment, it was a world of difference from my OB appointments. I was shown how to weigh myself and do my own urine check (that may sound weird, but it makes me feel like I am in control of my own care). The waiting room has lots of toys and looks like a living room, giving my toddler plenty to do. We met with one of the midwives, who took as much time as we needed. She explained things and allowed us to be as involved or not involved as we wanted with the visit (for example offering the opportunity to look at my cervix during a pap smear). If I have non-urgent questions, I can contact one of the midwives via facebook, and she usually answers the same day. I remember sometimes waiting all day for the OB’s office to call back after complaining of symptoms of a UTI. When I’ve had actual health concerns such as spotting in the second trimester or the stomach flu in the third, a call to the midwife’s pager or the center usually gets a quick return call from one of the midwives. I was further shocked when the day I called about the stomach flu, that the midwife actually took the time to call back later in the day to see how I was doing.

Already, the difference between my two experiences seems like night and day. With one I felt like a patient who had a disease, the other I feel like I am being treated like an educated human being. I feel truly empowered and supported in whatever decisions I make concerning my pregnancy and birth. I’m allowed to research and decide, instead of being informed what is best. I look forward to the impending birth and truly feel ready for it this time.

I think the best part of the midwife/birth center model is the personalized care. The mother doesn’t feel like a commodity moving through the baby factory, but an actual living being with their own thoughts, feelings and expectations. At every step along the way we’ve felt the support of our birth center family. This has led to a calm, relaxed pregnancy and I can only imagine the birth will be the same. I only want the best possible experience and outcome for mother, child and family, and I know we’ve found the best place for it to happen. What was your experience?

What is Hypnobirthing?


Hypnobirthing logo

© HypnoBirthing Institute

I’ve mentioned Hypnobirthing® a few times before, so I decided to dedicate a post to explain it to those who may not know about it.

When my wife signed up at our local birth center they informed us that we would need to take a birth education class. I can’t say that I was entirely excited because and I figured I knew everything I needed to know, but I want to be a supportive husband so I gave it a try. Then, my wife tells me that it’s called “Hypnobirthing” and I had mental images of creepy hypnotists telling us to do all sorts of strange things. I had fears for a moment that we had gone down some sort of dark, ultra-crunchy granola road. I remember the first evening as we drove to the birth center telling my wife something to the effect of, “I’m worried this is going to be some sort of hawkward (our code-word for super awkward) experience and I’m going to be really uncomfortable.” Being the wonderful woman she is, she assured me it would probably be okay, and by the end of our first class I realized my expectations were far from reality. So, what is this HypnoBirthing thing?

Hypnobirthing is:

  • A natural childbirth method enhanced by self-hypnosis
  • Family centered–The mother, father (or partner) and children are all included and encouraged to participate in the birthing experience
  • A method that teaches the woman that her body is not broken, but that in the majority of cases is capable of a natural birth without medical intervention
  • Focuses on positive thoughts and outcomes to overcome fear and pain (A major teaching of Hypnobirthing is that fear causes tension in the body which then causes pain. If one learns to release that fear, pain becomes a non-issue).

Hypnobirthing is not:

  • The hypnosis you see portrayed on TV and in movies–It is a method of self-hypnosis. You are in control of you body and thoughts at all times and are never asked to do anything that w0uld put you, your birthing partner, or your baby along a harmful path.
  • A path to forget the “pain” of birth–As stated above, the woman is very aware of what her body is doing and she has a memory of the entire experience.
  • Anti-hospital or doctors. Only 13% of Hypnobirthing woman birth outside of the hospital. (For more stats see: http://www.hypnobirthing.com/US_Outcomes_Summary_2010.pdf)

Having completed the classes a few weeks ago, I realize that the Hypnobirthing method is not far off the path of normalcy. It is actually how woman have birthed for centuries before modern medicine. It did not have a name, but many of the practices came from times of old. It is structured on the research and writings of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an early natural birth advocate.

I also love the positive focus of Hypnobirthing. My undergraduate degree is in music education and my principal instrument was voice. The positive focus and fear release go right in hand with my vocal training, so when I learned about the breathing methods and fear/tension release it made perfect sense. As a singer, if I have fear about a particular approaching passage (or for me, the dreaded high note) I would often tense up, making it much more difficult to be successful negotiating in the passage. I also know that if I was particularly tense, it actually would make singing painful and much more fatiguing. In contrast, if I was properly prepared and had any excessive tension in check, then I was much more successful.

We are taught in Hypnobirthing, that pain is the product of our fears. Everyone has seen that TV and movie scene where the laboring woman is screaming in pain and cursing and hitting her husband because, “You did this to me.” Women hear the birthing story of every person they know (usually unsolicited) and how painful, long, difficult, etc. it was for them. Women in American society are conditioned from an early age to fear birth, and it approaches (just like my high-notes) they become tense, their muscles constrict, blood flow is slowed, and they feel pain. The typical medical professional is not equipped to teach women to release those fears, but rather, is equipped to offer medication and other interventions to save them from the pain of childbirth. The medical professionals are only treating the symptom (pain), and not the root cause (fear).

I am very excited to share the results of our Hypnobirthing journey in the coming months. So far, it has been a very joyful experience. Are there any other Hypnobirthing parents out there? Please, share your experience or comments below or by send me an email and I’ll include you in an upcoming post. If you’re interested in Hypnobirthing classes, look here for a local practitioner.

Also, be sure to “like” my Facebook page, so you can receive regular updates.

-NBD

Bonus:

This YouTube video is an excellent example of Hypnobirthing at a birth center. Notice how calm and relaxed the mother is during the whole experience.

In Support of Breastfeeding

mother and child breastfeeding with father present

Image courtesy of CDC

I was reading this post on immunization and breastfeeding on Birth Without Fear recently and it got me thinking about all the things I’ve been learning about natural parenting lately. I could probably say a lot about a whole number of things, but I want to focus on breastfeeding in particular. I support it and I support my wife in her efforts to breastfeed. For thousands of years it has been the sole way in which infants are nourished, and is supported by health and medical organizations for most women and infants. In particular, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has said:

Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes.

As men, we need to support our birthing partners in achieving their breastfeeding goals. I know from experience the difficulty some women face when trying to breastfeed. It was very difficult to watch my wife struggle with adjusting to a new baby, the changes in her body, and on top of that, difficulty breastfeeding. I did my best to support her and provide help, but I was uneducated and lacked the knowledge to help from the beginning. We learned as it went on, but extra support is needed during those first days after the baby arrives. Had I been better prepared, I think I might have been able to do more.

The La Leche League is an excellent place to find support. For those that are unaware of this organization, they are one of the leading groups providing support, information and education on all things breastfeeding. They are a big promoter and have local organizations in many cities. If you think your partner needs support you cannot provide, it’s best to get with La Leche League for any support. There are also many other organizations and groups to support breastfeeding. Our local birth center has a monthly support group and many hospitals also provide support. If your partner is having difficulty, consider seeing a lactation consultant. The price you pay for their help is well worth the cost.

The La Leche League offers these helpful tips for partners:

Your first job is to support breastfeeding, not compete with it. A “relief bottle” may seem helpful, but it’s more likely to cause breastfeeding problems and health risks for your baby. Instead:

  • Protect your partner from criticism.
  • Keep her fed.
  • Help her get good help if she needs it (llli.org and ilca.org are good places to start).
  • Care for her so that she can care for your child. (see: http://www.llli.org/toolkit)

Also, try changing your way of thinking about breasts. In American culture we see them portrayed on television, the Internet, supermarket magazine displays and on billboards as primarily sex objects, but their main function is to provide food for children. I enjoy a healthy pair myself, but I’ve also been striving to change my perception of their function and to realize their important purpose in the reproductive cycle. As each person strives to change their perception, the culture will change. Breastfeeding can then be viewed by society for what it truly is: A natural, womanly art.

My Gifts

I remember during our last pregnancy I was very anxious about everything. As a new father, I felt the need to provide for my family. We were newly married, still in school and the only way we brought in money was from financial aid and my part-time job. Pregnancies are expensive and children are even more expensive. It felt like the costs kept adding up. I know for my companion, she was dealing with the fear and anxiety of pregnancy and birthing on top of the same fears of my own. In the end, it all worked out through many timely blessings and gifts from others. We did without some things, but the love was strong and strengthened our marriage.

This time, I find I don’t feel those same fears anymore. We still face many of the same issues, but this time I have faith and experience to know it will work out. I’ve noticed my fears have been worry about our birthing experience. I am worried a special circumstance will appear and force us into the medical model with it’s many interventions. This is where I’ve noticed the Hypnobirthing® is making a big difference. I’ve learned to relax my mind and to ease those fears, so that I can be a calm and strong birthing partner. My spouse and I spent the evening before talking about our fears and talking them through. We then took the ones we couldn’t resolve to class where they were released. While I didn’t participate directly in the release, it was a peaceful experience.

As we are at the Eve of Christmas, I reflect on the many gifts in my life. I am thankful for the gift of a beautiful wife who has the intelligence to listen to her body and make the choices that are best for her and our new baby. I am thankful for a beautiful daughter and a son on the way. For me, this is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and to reunite with family members. May we each remember the reason why we each celebrate this time of year (whatever it may be) and not become caught up in the commercialism. While the main purpose of this blog is not to share my faith, this video helps illustrate my feelings:

May you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and/or Happy whatever-holiday-you-celebrate.

My experience thus far

I noticed that there is a lack of birth stories from a father’s perspective and more specifically, from one whose partner has chosen to birth naturally. Our first child was born vaginally at a hospital in a less that ideal situation. She was born healthy and without any complications, of which I am grateful. However, the various medical interventions contributed to difficult bonding the first few weeks postpartum and left us both with bittersweet memories.

This time is different…We are approaching birth from a completely new perspective and in a completely new environment. For our second child, we are Hypnobirthing® in a stand-alone birth center. We both feel so much more comfortable in this new setting.

My intention is to document my experience in hopes that it might be helpful for someone else. Please visit again to read more.

-NaturalBirthingDad

Things I’m thinking about:

  • 26 weeks passed, more than half way done
  • Favorite blog: Birth Without Fear
  • Tonight: Our third Hypnobirthing class