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Thursday, 09 October 2014 22:00

How to Help Your Body Birth Your Baby

 

Your Estimated Due Date is getting closer, and you want to make sure you are 100% prepared for whatever your body and your baby throws your way. Here are some suggestions to help you birth your baby. All of these suggestions are interconnected, and work beautifully together to allow your body to do what it knows how to do – birth your baby!

Let your labor start naturally (and help it along if need be!)

In the world of labor and birth, this is key. Anxiety surrounding when your little babe will make his/her appearance is normal. Easing this anxiety will assist in making labor happen sooner and with less effort. The mind-body connection is powerful – especially when it comes to pregnancy, labour, and birth – so maybe baby is holding back for that one last date with your partner, for the nursery to be completed, or for you to mentally and emotionally be ready to welcome your beautiful bundle. And remember: there is no calendar hanging on the wall of your uterus. Baby has no idea when the ultrasound said she “should” arrive. Trust that your body and your baby will know when the time is right. 

Once all of these things fall into place, baby should arrive shortly! Well, maybe. Sometimes body and baby need a little push in the right direction.  There are PLENTY of natural ways that are said to bring about labor. Acupressure, acupuncture, and massage therapy can trigger your labour to begin naturally, as can several herbal and homeopathic options, but please seek the assistance of a professional for all of these options. Sexual intercourse and light activities may also jump-start your birthing experience, but be sure to get the go-ahead from your Midwife/OBGYN/Physician. If you have made too comfy of a home for your wee one and they just don’t want to come out, a pharmaceutical induction may be required. This can take many forms (Artificial Rupture of Membranes, prostaglandin gel, Pitocin drip…), but your body will most likely get the hint shortly and can take things from there.

Keep Moving

Once labor has begun: move, move, move! As much as possible and for as long as possible! Your baby is working hard, wiggling her way out of that tight womb, so help her out if you can. Your movements can be drastic and grand, like walking or swaying, or small and minute, like shifting a leg, gently rocking with your partner, or rolling to lie on the other side. Changes in movement are suggested every 30 minutes up until the Transition stage, at which time you do what you need to do, Mama!

Eat and Drink

How long do you normally go without eating or drinking anything? 3 hours? 5 hours? What about if you were going to the gym, or, say, running a marathon...wouldn’t you fuel your body properly for these activities? If you are going to labor for upwards of ten hours and then birth your baby, you need energy! Yet eating and drinking during labor is often discouraged. Your uterus is a muscle, and if it gets fatigued because of lack of fuel (food), it will not work as it should. I am not saying go and eat a turkey dinner, but eating and drinking as you see fit will do more good for your body than harm, and a zero tolerance policy for food and drink intake will set you on a fast path for fatigue. Be sure to throw some healthy snacks to nibble on into that hospital bag, or stock your pantry and fridge with easy-to-grab items for the most rewarding workout of your life!

Environment

It has been proven that certain environments are more conducive to successful birthing than others. An animal, if feeling threatened, will physiologically stop laboring and will continue only once they are no longer in danger. Your body--more specifically, the cervix--will not function as well as it could if you are feeling any one of a myriad of things: uneasy, stressed, anxious, worried, pressured, overwhelmed, uninformed, scared, upset. A calm, relaxed, non-intrusive environment, on the other hand, will allow your body to relax, open up, and welcome the experience of birth. Your physical birthing environment is as important as your mental birthing environment, so be sure to surround yourself with people you love and trust who also love and trust you, your body, and your preferences. You could also set up a playlist, bring a familiar blanket or pillow, or light some candles (or use the battery powered ones) to have full sensory control of your surroundings. 

Listen to your body

Finally, listen to your body. This is true for your entire labor experience, but most importantly as your labor is nearing its end. As your near the birth of your baby,an amazing physiological component called the push reflex will naturally kick in. I remember hearing about this reflex during my prenatal class and feeling so rewarded when I experienced it in my labor. My birthing body was taking over--all I had to do was surrender to the natural process, let it happen, and I would be holding my baby shortly. Breathing your baby down as opposed to pushing your baby out allows for a gentler and more comfortable birth (for both Mama and Baby!).

Having faith and trust in your body when faced with something it has never experienced before can be scary. But please have that faith and trust. Your body is beautiful, and it knows exactly what it is doing. 

 

Saturday, 24 May 2014 13:19

Toes

I didn’t count her toes.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I didn’t count her toes, or run my finger against each perfectly smooth miniature nail.  I was about to. I was about to breathe her in, to smile down at her and envelope those tiny feet in my trembling new-mama hands.

But then it all went white.

My baby girl, just a few minutes old, was taken from my arms.  Faces hovered above me and needles pierced through skin, into my veins.  I remember pain.  Hot, pulsing pain, as the man who would save my life worked to stop the bleed.

I remember turning my head, only slightly, as my oxygen mask tugged against my cheek.  I remember gloved hands repositioning it so that my view became only ceiling once more.  But I sneaked a peak.  I caught a glimpse of my little girl, held tightly in her daddy’s arms as his ashen-white face stared at the scene before him.  But nobody was looking at her.

Nobody was counting her toes.

In those moments, color left my world and only white remained...detail and shading were redundant and sounds were muffled as time slowed down.  Sleep invited me, but I clung to the white, to the brightness, because subconsciously I knew that I had some counting to do.

In my head, I must admit that I was thinking about myself.  This is a hard sentence to write.  My baby was minutes old and I was thinking about myself.  About my pain, my dizziness, my confusion, my life.  But I understand now, all of these months on, that my heart was bound to my daughter; I realize now that it was my heart holding on...holding onto the hope that I would live to count those perfect toes.  

You see, I lost more than blood at half past six on that summer’s evening.  I lost what I assumed was my right to claim those first hours of my daughter’s life outside of the womb.  I lost what I assumed was my right to enjoy her 10-minute old self, her 11-minute old self, her 12-minute old self and so on.  What if she had rooted for milk at minute 14, as the doctors set up yet another IV drip for me across the room?  What if she had looked up in search of her mama’s face at minute 16, as the nurses told me to stay with them?  What if she was counting on me to count her toes?

It’s taken a while, but I am at peace with the questions above.  I have a steady ache that those moments were lost for us, that I didn’t get to live out my fairytale birth, but I am at peace.

Because, in truth, the moments that I am talking about are just that: they are moments.  And as life thunders on and as my daughter grows bigger and bigger, those initial moments become surrounded by other moments in our vast fabric of existence.  Never superseded or overlaid, because a woman’s birth experience cannot be brushed aside or forgotten, no matter how uplifting or crushing it may have been.  No, these ‘lost’ moments are threaded between others, interwoven between first words and knitted against happy gurglings.  

You see, these ‘lost’ moments are paid homage to every time that I crouch down and take off her shoes, every time that I catch a wiggle of a big toe beneath grubby socks.  These ‘lost’ moments are saluted every time a little foot smacks me square in the nose during a gymnurstics session...or square in the ribs during our sleep dance.

In truth, these moments are with me at every new turn, at every junction of motherhood.  They remind me of the gift that I was given: I am still here.

I get to be mama to my wonderful little girl, and for that, I am ever thankful.  I don’t know how long it took me to actually count baby bean’s toes; in honesty, I cannot remember much through the overwhelming fog of love and fear and awe that engulfed me in those early weeks.  But it simply doesn’t matter, as there was more for us; more time, more life, more chances.  And there will be more again tomorrow.

Because it’s never too late to count toes.

This post originally appeared on Mama Bean Parenting.

Published in Birthing Stories
Monday, 14 April 2014 10:04

The Myth of Love at First Sight

Everyone talks about that moment when you first see your baby, about a huge rush of love and harps sounding from the heavens. When I was pregnant for the first time, among the many “you’ll sees” or “you just waits” were predictions about the monumental love I would feel for my son the moment he was born. I just wouldn’t understand until I experienced it, they would say. Well, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, 12 hours of labor and 15 minutes of pushing, there he was. This pink, gooey, blonde-haired baby boy was earth-side and he was mine. They placed him on my chest, and I waited for the choir of angels to start singing…but they never did. I was exhausted, in pain, and about to deliver my placenta. I tried to will myself to feel the rush of love that I was supposed to, but everything else going on seemed to trump love at that moment.

Once the doctor was finished stitching me up and the delivery room had calmed down, my doula asked me how I was feeling.  Was I exhilarated? Was I amazed? Was I in love? My memory is a little foggy, but I believe my response to her was that I didn't feel much and that I was tired. Everything was still sinking in. The surprise induction, the difficult labor, and my son being brought to the NICU…I was so scared and overwhelmed, I don’t think I had space for falling in love. So a few hours after giving birth, I still waited for that magical moment of love between my new baby and me.

I felt a bit like a terrible mother (yep, mommy guilt already rearing its ugly head). Why didn’t I fall in love with my baby? I certainly cared for him and wanted what was best, but I still didn’t feel that amazing rush that so many moms described to me while I was pregnant. What was wrong with me? Maybe it was the Pitocin I had during labor? Maybe it was that I was unprepared for the earlier than expected delivery? Maybe it was all of it or maybe it was none of it? Perhaps some moms just need time to take on their new role as a mother? After talking about it, I found out that what I experienced was completely normal! It was such a relief to find out that not all moms experience love at first sight, and that I wasn't a terrible person for not bonding right away. I wish I known that  I wasn’t alone in this because it would have saved me a tremendous amount of self-doubt in my first weeks as a new mom!

After some time I did finally get my "OMG I love him so much" moment, and it was amazing. My love has grown with my son every day since. I so enjoyed the journey of getting to know my little man and falling in love. I am not trying to convince anyone that love at first sight is impossible, because that’s not true. You might fall in love with your baby the moment your eyes connect. But you might not and that’s okay, too. We should celebrate the uniqueness of every mother-child relationship because each mama and baby have their own journey to love. Some journeys simply take longer than others.

Published in Mom's Recovery
Friday, 07 March 2014 14:15

Your Breastfed Baby & Colic

Many mothers experience fussiness in their babies once in a while, and this is usually accepted as part of the trials of motherhood. However, some babies have “colic,” which is described as a healthy baby, who is gaining weight steadily, crying inconsolably for over 3 hours, for an incidence that happens more than 3 days a week, for over 3 weeks.  The crying usually starts at around the same time every time and is usually in the evenings. 

It doesn't matter whether you bottle feed or breast feed your baby--roughly one in every five babies experience colic. Colic starts at around 2 weeks and ends at around 4 months old. Some identifiers of colic are:

  • baby pulls up his legs while crying

  • baby's hands may be in a fist

  • baby is very gassy and his stomach is harder than normal.

The worst part about colic is that there is no proven treatment. 

I was one of the "lucky" moms with both of my babies having colic, and at first I blamed myself. I thought I did something wrong and that my children were suffering because of what I did.  I just did not understand how my children could be experiencing colic since I took care of myself during both pregnancies and during breastfeeding: I exercised, limited my caffeine intake, rarely consumed any dairy products (I have never liked cow’s milk), ate plenty of fruits, legumes and vegetables and ate organic as much as possible. Yet both of my babies experienced colic during their first four to five months of life, and even though my second daughter is having bouts less frequently, she still has periods of extreme fussiness. The change is that I now know how to treat and even sometimes prevent them. 

Although no one really knows what causes "colic", everyone has their own theory. It really annoyed me when people would tell me I needed to stop eating my kale, cabbage, onions and spicy foods (being from Southern California, spicy Mexican foods have become a part of my heritage!) and that the colic would go away on its own. While studies show that some babies might indeed have an allergic reaction to certain food proteins that resist digestion in the small intestine and find its way into breast milk (usually typical allergens such as dairy, nuts or soy), I didn’t stop eating my kale and onions without looking into other possible problems and how to fix them. Here are some things to consider based on my studies and research:

Incorrect Latch Issues

A good latch is the key to easy breastfeeding! A lot of parents don’t realize that proper latch on the breast is absolutely necessary for a successful feed. This problem happens usually to newborns in the first few days after their mother’s milk has come in. If your baby is not latched on correctly, he could be swallowing a lot of air, thus making him gassy. Moms are also likely to have very painful nipples and even mastitis due to the improper latch. Latch is the easiest problem to solve if it is what causes your baby to have colic. 

My Suggestions:

proper latch is when the baby’s chin is pressed against mom’s breast and their nose is well away from the breast. I like to call the shape baby’s lips make a “fish’s tail”. Baby should also not be making loud sucking noises when he feeds. Contact a lactation consultant, your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns or issues with your baby latching on. 

 

Overactive or Forceful Letdown (Milk Ejection Reflex)

With both of my daughters, I have had an overactive letdown; sometimes so much that I could feel the letdown coming quite painfully. With an overactive or forceful letdown, your milk comes down very forcefully, making it hard for your baby to swallow while breastfeeding. Baby may even gag and swallow a lot of air along with the milk. An overactive letdown can cause baby to be fussy at the breast. Baby may also become unhappy once the flow of milk starts to slow down. 

When baby fills up on the watery foremilk, he may get a stomach ache from the combination of filling his stomach too fast, swallowing air to keep up with the let-down, and the laxative effect of a large quantity of lactose (milk sugar). The enzyme lactase, which digests the sugar, may not be able to handle so much milk sugar at one time and the baby will show symptoms of lactose intolerance—crying, gassiness, and explosive, watery, green poop. While people might that that having “too much” milk is a good thing, it can be very frustrating for both baby and mom.  

My suggestions: 

Keep baby on one breast per feed. If your other breast is too uncomfortably full, pump just enough between feeds to relieve the fullness, but not so much that you overproduce milk (Remember that milk production is a supply-and-demand issue). Make sure that your baby drains that breast completely to get all of the fatty hind milk, even if you have more than one let down. With a forceful letdown, it is usually the first let down that is the most painful.

Find a position that keeps baby’s head above your breast, such as propping baby up in a “sitting” position with your arm supporting him, to prevent choking during the letdown. You can also try feeding your baby while lying down in a side-lying position. 

My last suggestion is to take your baby off the breast when you feel a strong letdown coming. Catch the overflow of milk in a clean cloth, then place baby back on your breast once the letdown slows. This may or may not upset your baby more, so make sure you follow baby's signs cues. 

 

Sensitivity to cow’s milk proteins

This is NOT lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar lactose found in milk, while Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance (CMPI) is an immunological reaction. Babies who are sensitive to dairy in mom’s diet are sensitive to specific cow’s milk antibodies in the form of proteins (not lactose) which pass into the mother’s milk. Cow’s milk (either in the mother’s diet or added into formula) is a common source of food sensitivity in babies. If your baby is sensitive to dairy in your diet, it will not help to switch to lactose-free dairy products. The problem is the cow’s milk proteins, not the lactose. 

CMPI can cause colic-like symptoms, eczema, wheezing, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody filaments found in stool, constipation, hives, and/or a stuffy, itchy nose1

My suggestions: 

If your baby is only a little sensitive to dairy proteins, you may be able to relieve baby’s symptoms by eliminating only the obvious sources of dairy: milk, cream, yogurt, butter, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, cottage cheese. You may even be able to eat small amounts of dairy without it affecting baby.

If your baby is highly allergic, it will be necessary to eliminate all sources of dairy proteins, which requires a careful reading of food labels. Also, a large amount of babies allergic to cow’s milk proteins are also allergic to soy1,2 and some may even react to goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and even beef. 

 

Sources of Cow’s Milk Protein:

Beef, butter, butter fat, buttermilk, casein, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, ghee, half & half, kefir, lactoglobulin, lactose, all forms of milk (condensed, sweetened, whole fat, non fat, evaporated, skim, malted), nougat, pudding, sour cream, whey, whey proteins, yogurt. 

**Also make sure to avoid deli meats since many of them do contain dairy products or may have been contaminated with dairy during the process. 

Sources of Soy: 

Edamame, soybeans, soy proteins, soy milk, soy bean oil, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, tamari, soy flour, miso, soy lecithin, and soy isoflavones.

 

It can take up to 2-3 weeks for the proteins to completely exit the mother’s system1, but sometimes baby can show improvement within as little as a week2

Once the trigger foods have been eliminated from your diet for some time, you can try slowly reintroducing dairy products. If baby still reacts, it is best to wait until baby is around 6 months old and his digestive system is stronger before reintroducing dairy into your diet3.  

The main concern with a CMRI elimination diet is the fact that dairy is a major source of calcium for many breastfeeding mothers, and without dairy it may be difficult for them to maintain the 100 mg daily recommended dose.

However, it is possible to consume enough calcium without dairy. Here are some sources of non-dairy calcium: 

Collards- 1 cup boiled and drained – 357 mg calcium

Rhubarb – 1 cup cooked– 348 mg calcium

Sardines – 3 oz / 85 grams – 325 mg calcium

Spinach – 1 cup boiled and drained – 291 mg calcium

Turnip Greens – 1 cup boiled and drained – 249 mg calcium

Blackeye peas – 1 cup cooked – 211 mg calcium

Kale – 1 cup boiled and drained – 179 mg calcium

Bok choy – 1 cup boiled and drained – 158 mg calcium

Beans, baked– 1 cup – 142 mg calcium

Okra – 1 cup boiled and drained – 136 mg calcium

Shrimp – 3 oz / 85 grams canned – 123 mg calcium

Crab – 1 cup canned – 123 mg calcium

If you are not sure that you are getting enough calcium through diet alone, consider a calcium supplement. If you do this, make sure that the supplement you choose is combined with magnesium in a 2:1 ratio so that your body will readily absorb it. 

**Before starting any elimination diet, please consult a nutritionist or your doctor to ensure you will be getting enough nutrients and to make sure you will not be deficient. 

 

Sources:

"Dairy and Other Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies." Kelly Mom. 26 July, 2011. Web. Mar 2014. 

"Cow's milk protein allergy through human milk." National Center for Biotechnology Information. March 19, 2012. Web. Mar 2014.

"Eating Like a Cow: Breastfeeding & Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance." Childhood 101. n.p. Web. Mar 2014.

Published in Feeding Baby

Pre-birth communication is communicating with your unborn baby before physical birth.  It is not a new concept to communicate to a baby in the womb before birth.  It is actually highly recommended by professionals that study within the field of Birth Psychology, which studies the neurobiology and psychology of conception, pregnancy, and birth.  “For mothers intuitively know what scientists have only recently discovered: that the unborn child is a deeply sensitive individual who forms a powerful relationship with his or her parents—and the outside world—while still in the womb.”  Nurturing the Unborn Child by Thomas Verny, MD and Pamela Weintraub

Pregnancy is a time of heighten intuition and emotional sensitivity.  In pregnancy mothers can experience enhanced senses like smell, taste, touch, hearing, and intuition.  These senses are nature’s way to protect the mother and the unborn.  The ability to communication to a baby before birth is not a typical conversation at the local OB/GYN.  It is unfortunate that this kind of conversation does not exist in prenatal visits because it could offer an opportunity to deepen trust in pregnancy and birth.  It gives a mother space to share her real experience and build upon creating a connected pregnancy that can carry into the life of the parent and child relationship.     

Women receive communication in unique ways and different times.  Some may find communication easy, while others may struggle to understand how it works.  Before birth conversations occur not only during pregnancy, but also in preconception before pregnancy.  Pre-birth communication is experienced in nighttime dreams, inner feelings, body sensations, sounds, and psychic insight. Each parent finds there own form of communication and ability to listen within.  Communication from baby can happen anytime and sometimes while a mother is doing daily activities such as: washing dishes, doing the laundry, and even while cooking.  One could also experience pre-birth communication in meditation, from a relaxing massage, during hypnosis, yoga, and other conscious creating activities that open the self up to listen inward. 

There are countless stories of validation, healing experiences, and benefits for a mother, father and baby.  It is not just about the mother, but the father, partners, and even relatives and friends.  Dawson Church author of Communing with the Spirit of Your Unborn Child believes, “as we begin to tune into a baby, our perceptions may be faint and indistinct at first, but will become more precise with use.  We aren’t given much scope for developing these sensitivities as we grow up, so we tend to grow up without them.”  It can take practice to be aware of the many dimensions of the self and to be receptive to spiritual insight and trusting intuition.  Unfortunately, many developed societies get lost and discounted, and are not taught the importance of connecting to the body and spiritual mind early in life for the future of overall optimal wellness and health.      

  During those beautiful and often challenging nine months of pregnancy, a baby communicates messages in different ways to parents and or extended family members. Bonding before birth is a powerful, spiritual, and a needed experience that is crucial for human development.  The research, education, and dedication to share the awareness of pre-birth communication can provide spiritual depth to explore this as a normal and necessary part of human development across all cultures.  Awakening to the experience of pre-birth communication is humanities birth right. 

Resources:

Hallet, E. (2002) Stories Of The Unborn Soul. Lincoln NE: Writer Club Press.

Church, D. (1988) Communing with the Spirit of Your Unborn. San Leandro, CA: Aslan Pub.

Verny, T & Weintraub. P. (2000) Child Nurturing the Unborn Child. Chicago, IL Olmstead Press.  

Kelly’s pre-birth conversations~ “When I become pregnant with my son, I was excited and curious to how my pregnancy would unfold within my spiritual practice. My empathic abilities allowed me to communicate and experience the world of metaphysics early on. I had pre-birth communication from my son from the moment of conception. I remember that about 99% of friends and random people told me I was having a girl. My son told me he was a boy and I never doubted that. I would have dreams about him throughout the pregnancy. Besides the night dreams with my son, I learned to communicate with my son in meditations and heart listening in an awakened state.

   

 

Published in Pregnancy

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