Birthing

A Quiet Example

Posted on May 9, 2010 in Birthing, Childbirth Options, Featured, Maternity Care Options | 13 comments

A Quiet Example

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Role model This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have waxed poetic about how their parenting has inspired others, or how others have inspired them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. *** In 2005, we had a baby. We used midwifery care. We had a home birth. We had a son and we did not circumcise him. We used a cloth diaper service. We breastfed. Aaron and I were the first in our group of friends to have kids. At first it was kind of strange and we felt like outsiders among them. Life had changed in that instant, punch-in-the-face kind of way that seems normal among first time parents, and we found ourselves withdrawing from our childless friends. Out of necessity, we hunkered in and learned to parent. Along the way, one-by-one our friends joined us in parenthood. Five years later, nine of the couples that we regularly associated with back then either have kids or are pregnant. In this group of nine couples, seven used (or are using) midwifery care. The two couples that didn’t were pregnant with twins. Only one birth was by cesarean (and it was one of the twin births). Two couples had their babies at home and two more couples are currently planning home births. Surrounded by these people, I often make the mistake of thinking that midwifery care and home birth are more widespread than they are. But when you look at the data, a different picture emerges. According to the most recent reports from the BC Perinatal Health Program, only 5.8% of births in BC were attended by a midwife (versus 78% in our friends), and 29.3% of births were by cesarean section (versus 14% in our friends). In 2007/2008, there were 671 home births out of a total 43,505 births which gives us a home birth rate of 1.5%. If all goes as planned, the home birth rate among our friends will be 44%. Why is it that our group of friends has this vastly different set of statistics for their births? I suppose it is partly demographic. Perhaps we share similar mentalities that would predispose us towards these kinds of choices: cloth diapering, eating organic, and so on. We are friends for a reason. But it’s not like our friends are hippies. Overall, most of our friends are regular people, professionals, home owners. Aaron and I were probably closest to the home birth “type” – you know, living in a bus and sporting dreads and all. When I look at the numbers though and realize how different our group is from the rest of the province, I would like to think that maybe we were a positive example to our friends. I tried not to be preachy but I answered questions when they came our way. I only remember a few conversations and no one has ever said that we influenced them. I don’t take credit for their decisions. After all, I don’t think anyone chooses home birth because their friends did. You have to make that choice for yourself and you don’t make it lightly. You ask questions. You read. You talk to your caregiver. Yet, even knowing one person who has actually had a home birth can demystify it for you. Every single person who uses a midwife or has a baby at home helps to normalize birth options for everyone they know. Even if you never really talk about it you become a shining example that there is another way, that there are choices. So in some small way, I like to think that we did have a role to play, that we were a positive influence among our friends. Maybe when they walked into their first appointment with a midwife and she offered them a choice of birth place, they didn’t brush it off as quickly as they might...

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A Culture of Less

Posted on Mar 8, 2010 in Birth Stories, Birthing, Featured, Parenting, Simple Living | 16 comments

A Culture of Less

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Vintage green! This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month we’re writing about being green — both how green we were when we were young and how green our kids are today. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Today is my birthday. Thirty-two years ago my mom started having contractions while she was grocery shopping. She went about her day, took care of my older siblings, visited with my grandmother. After my dad got home from work, grandma left and around supper time, I was born at home. Grandma called to say she’d thought of a name if the baby was a boy and dad informed her, “Too late; It’s a girl!” Grandma came back, made everyone dinner and they had leftover birthday cake from mom’s birthday on the 7th. And so it is that I grew up thinking that homebirth was special, not dangerous. And so it is that twenty-seven years later, I had my first homebirth. In some ways, I think that this is as vintage green as it gets. The oldest thing in the book: having babies the way our bodies were designed to, without a lot of wasted resources and unnecessary technology. There are plenty of instances where the resources and technology are useful, life-saving but increasingly, birth, like our culture as a whole, is characterized by excess and waste, with damaging consequences. Homebirth is only one of the green values I picked up from my parents without even realising until I was older that it was green. My parents moved a lot while I was growing up, from the Yukon to the Canadian prairies to BC, but I think at heart they always think of themselves as Northerners. The term encompasses everyone up north and a Yukoner probably has more in common with an Alaskan than they would with anyone in the rest of Canada. A northerner is a crazy mélange of hippie and redneck: 4x4s and guns mixed with folk music and a back to the land mentality. My dad subscribed to Mother Earth News and the Canadian counterpart, Harrowsmith. They had good friends who lived year round in a Tipi. It was there in the North that they decided to have me at home. At the time, in the 70s and 80s, it was just how we lived. A kind of quiet environmentalism that was born of Depression era great-grandparents, exalted by our Mennonite heritage (world-renowned cheapskates) and idealized by the Northerners and hippies. They were a product of their location but also of their generation. Now, I wouldn’t really classify my parents as environmentalists at all. But when I think back to the green actions of my parents, what comes to mind is this: Before recycling, there was reduce and re-use. My parents reduced and re-used like nobody’s business. We wore hand-me-downs. We never had new furniture; it was always used or antique. We didn’t buy fancy toys. My dad fixed things when they broke: from electronics to the car to the plumbing. My mom had a garden and she canned. My mouth waters when I think of her pickled beets and carrots, her canned pears and peaches. She sewed dresses for my sister and me for special occasions. We were a single car family and we drove used cars. My parents only bought one new vehicle ever: a 1974 International Scout. They still have it. We shared bedrooms. We lived within our means, never on credit. Even when my dad went back to University with three kids in tow. They did not over-consume. They did not throw things away. They reduced. They re-used. Tonight I look around my house and see the same lifestyle. Fifteen year old minivan, used or antique furniture, a house smaller than we might like, a garden. A willingness to build things, grow things, borrow things, make things or do without things rather...

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First Baby First Homebirth

Posted on Dec 12, 2009 in Childbirth Options, Featured | 3 comments

First Baby First Homebirth

I was born at home so I’ve known all my life that there was a possibility that it wasn’t all about the hospital, that there were options. Even so, when I was pregnant with my first my attitude was “we’ll see.” I thought we’d explore it, talk it over with the midwives but that it was more likely we’d have a homebirth with our second baby. I was unsure and I thought back to my mom saying that one of the reasons she had me at home was because she’d already given birth twice before. She talked about it like it was no big deal, but there was always the underlying explanation that she had experience. And me? In my first pregnancy? Of course, no experience. I recently read this post by @heartsandhandss from twitter where she talks about whether or not homebirth is for you. What struck me so much about her post was the idea that as a first time mom, even those who are drawn to homebirth often feel this ambivalence about homebirth. You say that with your second baby you might consider a birthing center or a homebirth because it won’t be as scary as with your first baby. Her argument is that you might as well have a homebirth while you still qualify for one, while you are still low risk. With cesarean rates hovering round 30% (depending on where you are), you have a 1 in 3 chance of coming home from the hospital with the prospect of trying for a VBAC next time. Again, depending on where you are, you might not be eligible for a homebirth anymore after that. This point of view really stuck with me. To me the tricky part is being able to balance that kind of rationale with the fact that first time moms often haven’t got the experience to TRUST birth yet. Interestingly, for so many the experience they gain in the hospital does the exact opposite: it doesn’t teach them to trust birth at all. Or you find that experienced mothers turn to homebirth only because they’ve had such a terrible hospital experience that they go looking for anything, any alternative must be better than doing THAT again. A few things helped change my mind about having a homebirth for my first baby. The first was that in my family it was treated like a normal and acceptable choice. I had support for my decision and it was something I’d known about my whole life. The second factor was the trust I had in my midwives and when I told them that I thought maybe a homebirth the second time around, they were able to put whatever nebulous fears I had to rest. In fact, I can’t even remember what their answer was. I just knew after that talk that we’d be planning a homebirth. And lastly, I read books books books until I trusted birth at least logically if not from experience. For me, it ended up being the natural path to take, perhaps because that’s where my path started in the first place. For others, I really think that @heartsandhandss makes a compelling and logical argument. If you want the best chance of staying low risk, staying eligible for homebirth in the future, at least explore it as an option the first time. Or make the choice to birth with a midwife in a hospital or birth centre. Otherwise, the choice may never be yours. photo credit:...

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Attitude Adjustment

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 in Birthing, Featured | 2 comments

Attitude Adjustment

Remember: if something is hard to do, then it’s not worth doing. — Homer J. Simpson I have often laughed about this quote partly because it’s true for me in some ways, and partly because I know to laugh at myself. I have never thought of myself as strong. I’ve hovered around 110 Lbs since my mid-teens. I wasn’t on the basketball team in high school. I’m not athletic. I get winded running around the block. And sometimes taking the stairs at work (though I still do it). I’ve never thought of myself as someone you’d ask to carry heavy boxes when you move. Or as someone who just keeps at it no matter how tired. That’s more like my husband. And that’s why I married him. When I was pregnant with my son, back in 2005, I took a Birthing From Within childbirth prep class and we spent one beautiful, sunny, Sunday morning in August talking about and crying about our worst fears about labour. Mine was pretty much that I just don’t have it in me to do something that physical for that long, that I would give up. I was afraid not only that I wasn’t strong enough but also that I just didn’t have the attitude to get me through. I had heard that quote about “having a baby is hard work. That’s why they call it labour” and while I appreciate it, it kind of scared me more than all the media hype about pain. But you know what? Guess what I’ve done in the last five years? I’ve made and grown another human being inside my body. Twice. I’ve pushed a baby out of my body without any pain relief medication or extraction methods. Twice. I’ve fed and kept a child alive and thriving for six months with my body alone. Twice. It turns out that my body is pretty damn strong and amazing. I did all this without training. Without special exercise or diet for the most part. I mostly ate the way I always eat. I took prenatal vitamins regularly the first time and when I remembered the second time. I did some prenatal yoga during my first pregnancy. I had awesome fans and a couple of great coaches which helped a lot of course. But I didn’t practice pregnancy or labour or birth or breastfeeding. I just did it. Because my body is made to do it. It turns out that I wasn’t just wrong about having a strong body. I was also dead wrong about my mind and my attitude. Or rather, by the time it really mattered I found out that I was wrong about my attitude. Before the contractions hit and around transition when I was telling myself to go to the hospital for an epidural, I still had some serious Homer attitude. But somehow I didn’t quit. What made the difference? When I look back, I realise that I was training and practicing and working hard getting ready to have a baby, breastfeed a baby and become a parent. I was preparing my mind for a mental marathon and I was adjusting my attitude. The yoga, the childbirth class, journaling, reading, learning: all of those were my training, my practice. It turns out that all of those are what helped me do what I needed to do. And for the rest, my body just did it’s thing because that’s what it is meant to do. Turns out that I’m more Winnie the Pooh than Homer Simpson: There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. — Winnie the Pooh **photo: The hard work of labor, Flickr,...

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Preparing The Nest – getting ready for your homebirth

Posted on Nov 12, 2009 in Birthing, Childbirth Options | 0 comments

Preparing The Nest – getting ready for your homebirth

Having a home birth can be an amazingly empowering and rewarding experience, not just for mom but for the whole family. In a world dependent on technology, enamored with science, it is indeed a rare accomplishment to birth a baby at home far from epidurals and laughing gas. There is also something magical about going through the birth experience in the place you live day to day, in your own private space where you feel safe and comfortable. Imagine how lovely it is, a year or two later, to look up from where you are sitting and think “wow, this is where we were when this sweet child joined us for the first time!” A home birth is not particularly more complicated than a hospital birth. In fact, in many ways, it can be much simpler. No forms to fill out, no nurses coming and going, no shift changes, no electronic fetal monitoring—just you, your team and your space. However, you will need to cover a few basics: Mindset Try not to fixate on the idea of being at home. Prepare for the possibility of needing or wanting to transfer to the hospital not because you doubt the process but because there is always an element of unpredictability with birth. In the event of a transfer, you will need to remain focused on your birth and your baby rather than being disappointed about ending up at the hospital. Telling everyone in the weeks beforehand that we were “planning a home birth” rather than “having a home birth” helped me to mentally leave the door open for the possibility of a change of venue. Cleaning Several weeks before your due date give the place a serious clean. Afterwards you will only need to maintain with spot cleaning/maintenance. No need to feel embarrassed by the state of your housekeeping when welcoming your birth team. Supplies Your midwife will give you a list of supplies that you will need to have on hand for your birth. Every midwife tends to have a slightly different list but the basics are all the same. Some items can be found around the house; others will need to be picked up specifically for your birth. If you order your supplies online, keep them in the shipping box in a place that is relatively handy. Add a good pile of old clean sheets, towels and wash cloths. Choose linens that you don’t mind staining. You can also put everything in a laundry basket for easily carting to a different room when labour starts or if you are compelled to move around. Remember to pack your hospital bag and keep it by the door in case you end up transferring to the hospital. Food Shop beforehand for snacks for yourself and your birth team. Good ideas are fruit, popsicles, juice, miso soup, crackers. You can also make up a batch of Labourade or drink Emergen-C. If your labour is long you may get hungry and you definitely need to stay hydrated. Stock your freezer with healthy heat-and-eat meals to make those first weeks with a newborn a little easier. You can use up some of that late third trimester nesting energy making your own or enlist your family and friends to each donate a meal for your freezer when they ask, “What do you need?” Siblings You can choose the level of involvement for older children: whether they go to friend’s house, stay in the next room or wander in and out at will. Try to bear in mind the individual personalities of your little ones as you make this decision. You can prepare them for what to expect with classes, books or even colouring. Talking with kids ahead of time about what will happen during labour and birth will help them take it all in stride. If you plan on having your older children present, it is a good idea to have an adult there whose main role is to attend to them. Pets Dogs especially can find the commotion of birth slightly upsetting. Try to have...

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My birth stories

Posted on Oct 27, 2009 in Birth Stories, Birthing | 0 comments

My birth stories

I believe that a lot of good can come from people who find the positive in their birth experience and share it with, well, anyone who will listen. This is an age where between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 births occur by cesarean. Most women never experience birth before they find themselves in labour. Our society has very little practical experience with normal birth and we are afraid. But there is a rising tide of people who know that birth needn’t be treated like a disease or a medical emergency waiting to happen. There is a growing movement that is shouting and stomping feet and demanding maternity care reform. Change is coming and I sincerely believe that the day will come when we have the best of both worlds: the safety of modern medicine and the sanctity of trust in our bodies and the birth process. That change starts every time someone tells a positive birth story that empowers women to learn more and fear less. I was born at home in the Yukon in the 1970’s. I am so thankful to my parents for this gift: opening my eyes to the beauty of home both that very first time, and again when I birthed my son into my home as an adult. I am grateful for my mother’s dutch doctor who, at my older brother’s birth, showed her that maternity care didn’t have to look like the standard North American medical model, a man who brought new ideas to a prairie town on a new continent and changed the course of birth in my family. Both of my children were born at home with midwives in attendance. Neither birth went exactly as I’d hoped it would. My first resulted in a hospital transfer for retained placenta. My second caught us unprepared three weeks early and ended up being a neighbourhood event. I had envisioned quiet and intimate, not neighbours in the kitchen eating pizza. But when a 10 year old boy who had just seen my hour old daughter exclaimed “This is the best birthday party I’ve ever been to!” I saw the power of sharing positive experiences with everyone around us. Maybe when this boy becomes a father he will remember, just as I remember my mother’s dutch...

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