June 24, 2009

The Secret

I attended my first home birth this week. I am part of a small group of friends in Dayton that support healthy home birth, and want to help expecting moms however possible. Some of us are more educated than the others, so we try to have at least 2, if not 3 of us at a birth. We are not midwives, and do not practice medicine; we are not licensed. Natural birth is best left alone. So we don't do much but encourage the mom to keep her sounds productive, drink fluids and move around, and warm the blankets for the baby's arrival. The mom knows this, and wants to home birth anyway, so when we're invited to be a part of it, we're truly honored. This was my first experience as a doula (birth attendant/mother's helper, encourager, etc) at a birth. The mom's labor was very similar to my own with Melody last year. The night wasn't at all what I had expected, and it taught me a lot. But it was wonderful.
The mom went into labor in the evening, and by about midnight we were convinced it was the real thing, so I made it over there a little after then. She was laboring perfectly, contracting normally (and frequently), and truly beautiful. I was in awe of her true, natural beauty, as her body worked and she allowed it to. I felt utterly helpless. I knew her pain; I remembered exactly how it felt. How there is nothing you can do to escape it, nothing really to ease it. I just wanted to hug her and cry for her. I couldn't think of anything else to do, so I began to hold her hand during contractions. When she squeezed back, I felt good about my presence. She began pushing around 3. It was intense. When we saw the head, we couldn't help but to start yelling, excitedly telling her to keep going, he's coming! I vividly rember being positive that there was no way she could stretch more the get the entire baby out. It seemed impossible. But she did stretch, and the baby's head was born! It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Then it became scary, as the baby's head looked very blue. The other doula didn't look at all concerned, so I didn't say anything. The last thing you want to do is worry the laboring mom. Get the baby out, and then deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. But inside, I was in knots. The rest of the baby was born in one push, and he was perfect. He immediately pinked up and looked completely healthy. Talking about it after the fact, I was informed that a blue or white head is normal at birth, as long as it becomes pink soon after the rest of the body is born. Since the baby is still receiving all of it's oxygen through the umbilical cord at this point, there's no need for concern. I don't know how I missed this in all the books I've read, but apparently I did! I can't wait to experience another birth without that worry.
After the birth, the mom had a slow trickle of blood for the hour before the placenta was born. This was a little worrisome, but after the placenta came out, the blood loss decreased. Since she was feeling dizzy that first day, we told her to go to the hospital if she felt bad for the next day, because she did lose a good amount of blood. I was worried about her that first day, because I didn't want her to go through what I did. Eight days after Melody was born I went to the hospital and had a D&C procedure to remove some placenta pieces that broke off in the uterus and didn't come out on their own after the birth. The retained placenta was making me very sick. I remember how awful I felt that first week, so I was praying that she wouldn't have the same experience. Thankfully, today she looks great and is feeling much better. I do think her body expelled the entire placenta the first day, and that she will be just fine. The baby boy is perfectly healthy and beautiful, and nursing well. All in all, the birth was a complete success! Healthy and happy mom and baby, as well as the comfort of their own bed.
I was so honored to be a part of this, and I can't wait to experience more.
As she labored, I remember thinking "I feel so bad for her; I'm so glad I'm not going through that right now". But as soon as the baby was born, and lay nursing in her arms, I was envious of her. As much as I don't want another baby any time soon (I really don't), there is something so wonderful and powerful about the presence of a newborn. I would go through the 9 months of discomfort, and the hours of pain, just for that first week after the birth with the endorphins and the brand new baby. I guess it's how God wired us as women.
I'll close with a great quote:

"We have a secret in our culture, and it's not that birth is painful; it's that women are strong." -Laura Stavoe Harm

June 22, 2009

The Slug

I deserve a round of applause. This week, on my own, I took the garbage and recycle to the front for the weekly pick up. Why is this an accomplishment you ask? Let me explain. Dominic always takes the garbage out. I am terrified of our back patio. There's a lot of bugs, and a lot of things that looks like bugs! I'm terrified of bugs. Really. Scared. I'm even scared of dead bugs. Dominic suggested that I put on the "reptile handling gloves" we have leftover from our pet snake (that Dominic killed, possibly on accident, but it's yet to be confirmed). I am so squeamish that I'm even scared to put on the gloves for fear that there may be bugs in the fingers of the gloves! Anyway, I managed to take a deep breath (or a couple), put on the gloves, and take out the garbage. It took me about a half an hour. We recycle a lot, and the little tiny bin that they supply us with doesn't even begin to hold it all, so we have a number of paper bags filled to walk out as well. The sun was going down, which made everything look spookier and more bug-like, and there was even a giant disgusting slug in my way. This thing was huge, and spotted. I was so grossed out. I stood there for a while trying to decide how to get around it. And finally I did it, all by myself :)

Dominic is gone all this week, training for his deployment later this year. I miss him so much. I depend on him a lot, and I've been having a rough time without him. I am not good with my kids. It's depressing, but I really do need help. I can't wait until he comes home. I'm not sure how things will go when he's actually gone for 6 months. I'm not prepared for this. We weren't supposed to ever have to deal with it. But this is what God's placed in out laps, and I'm trying to remember that he has a plan and will take care of us. We can use all of your support, and most importantly, prayers.

June 15, 2009

The Deception

I hate high fructose corn syrup because it's in everything! Bread, yogurt, crackers, ketchup, canned tomatoes even! Why on earth do my diced tomatoes need any kind of syrup in them?

www.sweetsurprise.com has this to say about the controversy over HFCS:

-Research confirms that high fructose corn syrup is safe and nutritionally the same as table sugar and honey.
-High fructose corn syrup has the same number of calories as table sugar and is equal in sweetness. It contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients.
-Because they are nearly compositionally equivalent, the human body cannot tell the difference between high fructose corn syrup and sugar.

I can accept all of that. My big problem is that it's deceptive. The corn companies keep saying that HFCS is not the cause of obesity, and should be consumed in moderation along with any other natural sugar derivative. When I sit down to eat a candy bar or a donut, I know that I'm eating a sugary food and know to limit my intake of it. I am okay with eating a sweet snack that has HFCS in it, because I'm aware of what I'm eating. It's a treat. But when I am adding diced tomatoes to my spaghetti sauce, I'm not thinking of that as a sugary treat! The same with bread. I generally think of a turkey sandwich as a healthy lunch, but in reality there is HFCS in the bread (in shockingly high quantities, based on its location in the ingredients list), making it an item with sugar in it I wouldn't expect. How are we supposed to mindfully acknowledge the amount of sugar we're eating if it's in foods that aren't supposed to be sugary? I now read the labels of everything I buy, and almost never purchase items with HFCS in them, (or High Maltose Corn Syrup, or any syrups if I can help it) mostly out of spite. I don't like the company(ies) behind this product because their marketing is deceptive and they're treating Americans like we're stupid. I'm not stupid, and many big brands are losing my loyalty because of their decision to use this cheap and convenient lab created ingredient that is adding calories where they shouldn't be.

June 14, 2009

Can We Survive Without Love?

This is a work in progress. It's a topic that I think is very interesting, and I'm dying to write about. But for some reason it's not coming out like I want. So I'll keep changing it as I feel like.

The following quotes are from the documentary "The Business of Being Born".

"One of the things we think happens during the whole labor and delivery process is that the oxytocin neurons start squirting out lots of oxytocin in the brain, which is the bonding, protective hormone. And the oxytocin travels in the bloodstream, down to the uterus to start triggering the contractions of labor. And that's when the switch to the maternal brain circuits, the "mommy brain", gets flipped on, and the whole brain cocktail of hormones and chemicals has for millions of year been developed to keep the mommy absolutely riveted on protection of the helpless infant. One of the things to remember is Pitocin is a synthetic version of oxytocin that you put intravenously in a woman when she's in labor. However, Pitocin doesn't act as natural oxytocin would in the brain. So there's all kinds of things about modern medical intervention; sometimes they need to be done, but they also inhibit this natural maternal aggression to protect the baby and to nourish the baby right after birth that is normal for mammals and for human moms."
-Louann Brizendine, M.D. Author, "The Female Brain"

"Until recently, love was a topic for poets, novelists, philosophers. Today it is studied from multiple scientific perspectives. With mammals in general, there is immediately after birth a short period of time which will never happen again, and which is critical in mother/baby attachment. Until recently, in order to give birth a woman, like all mammals, is supposed to release a complex cocktail of love hormones as soon as baby is born. When mother and baby are together, both of them are under the effect of a sort of ... opiate, natural morphine endorphins. We know the properties; they create states of dependency, addiction. When mother and baby are close to each other, it is the beginning of an attachment. But today, most women have babies without releasing this flow of hormones. I'll just give an example of animal experience. In general, if you disturb the hormonal balance of the female giving birth, it's simple: the mother does not take care of her baby. It's simple. If monkey's give birth by cesarean section, the mother is not interested in the baby. It's simple, easy to detect on an individual level. So you wonder, what about our civilization? What about the future of humanity? If most women have babies without releasing this cocktail of love hormones, can we survive without love?"
-Michel Odent, M.D.

"Today in the United States we know that there is serious increase in minimal neurological problems in children ... in attention deficit disorders, in autism. All of these things are increasing at the same period of time we're increasing all these obstetric interventions. And we don't know ... maybe next year or next decade we'll discover, to our horror, that what happens at birth is very important to the future development of that child."
-Marsden Wagner M.D. M.S. Author, "Born in the USA"

When I first heard that last statement by Michel Odent, "can we survive without love?", I didn't get it. I fully support natural birth, but the sentence struck me funny and I thought the statement was a weak attempt to initiate a response. However, while I was grocery shopping today, I had a revelation that enabled me to understand what I think he is talking about.

There was a newborn, probably in its first or second week of life, that was in an infant car seat, seated in the front of the shopping cart, while the mother shopped. The baby began to cry, and it wasn't consoled by her gentle "shhh". The baby cried for some minutes, and my heart began to ache so badly for it. I just wanted to scream at her, "Pick up your baby!" We went along the same path through the store, so I heard the baby cry on and off for quite some time. After a little while I noticed she had picked him up and he was still a bit fussy. He was rooting, so probably hungry. I had such a strong desire to nurse that baby. All he wanted was to be comforted. Now, I am not accusing the mother of being a bad mom or anything like that. It just struck me odd that I was so much more affected by her child's cries than she was. I thought about this for a while, and recalled that I've developed a strong sort of passion for all babies in the last year. I become very upset when I hear stories of babies hurt, which is typical. But I feel equally upset when I think about a new baby crying in the hands of a doctor after birth, instead of nestled against its mother where it belongs. Or of a newborn being weighed, measured, and wrapped up before ever feeling its mother's warmth. I am heartbroken when thinking about babies that are "crying it out", and being forced to soothe themselves. The baby is scared and helpless, and I don't understand why the general public isn't as concerned about the well-being of a crying baby as I am. I do know great mothers that chose to have c-sections, formula feed, let babies "cry it out" and sleep separately, etc. But as accepted as these choices are in society, they're not normal.

It is very hard for a mother to listen to her baby cry, let alone chose to do nothing about it. Our instincts tell us to care for the crying baby. It's painful for me to think about letting Melody cry and not tending to her. She is completely helpless - what more important role could I have as a mother that to make her feel safe? All an upset baby can think is "Where is my mommy to make everything better?" How on earth has it become acceptable to let a baby cry? Ideas of detached parenting are so prevalent that I can't help but wonder how much of it is caused by the startling number of induced births and cesarean sections. Interventions in birth mean the mother doesn't naturally release the hormones that make her fierce about the protection and nourishment of her baby. I'm not saying that mothers who don't have natural births don't love and care for their children. I am saying that it would make sense if the dramatic rise in the number of medical births attributed to the rise in detached parenting styles. I don't think feeding a baby formula is normal. Neither is making a baby sleep in a crib in their own room, or eat on a schedule, or self soothe. Even though these things are widely accepted as okay, they're not natural. And what happens when we fight biology? These changes in the way we're treating children must be a reaction to the way birth is handled in the U.S., because medical birth directly affects the hormones of the mother and baby, directly altering the biological plan.

Rarely do mothers that choose natural births also choose to formula feed. There is a side to mothering that I think can be altered too easily by hormonal interruptions during birth. And this side to mothering that is being lost is our instinctual, animalistic attachment to our babies. Natural birth is about as common as attached parenting (baby wearing, co sleeping, breastfeeding past a year, etc). Based on the scientific research on the hormones that are released after natural birth, and the fact that these hormones are not released in augmented labor, it seems like the numbers pretty clearly correspond.

There's also the sad truth about the amount of child abuse, neglect, and irresponsible parenting today. I do not believe it was like this a couple hundred years ago, when mothers had babies at home and breastfed. I feel like society was helping you and encouraging you in the proper way to care for your children. Now nobody says anything about another's choice, even if it's true, out of fear of offending them! Mothers were also unable to just "choose to stop breastfeeding". That was the only option, so even though it was more work, maybe it hurt or they didn't get to sleep - it's what they did! Now we have so many options in caring for our children, but is it for the best? In the long run, for the continuation of our species, are these numerous options good for us? Obviously in the rare cases where mother has serious problems and can't breastfeed, or dies, or the baby is adopted, and so on, it's great that we now have a relatively decent alternative available to breast milk. But it's a fact that breast milk is better for the baby. Formula is simply becoming too available, too acceptable, and allowing us to be lazy. In the last 80 years, mothers have forgotten how to sacrifice for their children. "Oh, breastfeeding hurts, so I'll give him formula", or "These contractions hurt, so I'll have some drugs". This is the norm, but research shows it to be unsafe! It is second best to what nature, biology, God intended. We're not making the best decisions for our babies. I wonder if this dwindling desire and willingness to sacrifice in order to give our children the absolute best in birth, security, and nourishment, is another reflection of the damage modern obstetrics is doing humanity. I don't think we are as passionate about the well being of our children as we're supposed to be. We seem more passionate about making everyone feel okay about their choices, good or bad. What is normally accepted in our society as okay is often something that goes against our nature. So what could have allowed us to get to this point - as an entire nation? This hormone (and lack there of) seems to be a possible explanation of the change in our actions as mothers. In this generation, we have some of the most unhealthy and ill-behaved children with detached parents. I believe in biology, so it makes perfect sense.

Now, I am not looking to make anyone mad at me, because I know plenty of great moms who do the things I mentioned that aren't "good for children". I myself was induced with Julian's labor and formula fed him when nursing was too painful. He was in a crib at 6 months old and is a perfectly healthy little boy. But looking back I see things I wish I had known and done differently. I wasn't as educated about what I was doing, I was just playing follow-the-leader. I wasn't taught to believe that my body knew what it was doing and should be trusted. As a society, we have to start being able to admit when we're wrong. As long as we are too proud to accept that our current system isn't working, our children will continue get sicker and have more strange neurological and social problems. The general population's idea that "whatever works for that family is fine" is very flawed and unhealthy, and I think will ultimately be our downfall. As moms, we need to be accountable to others, and to our children. We need to start sacrificing for them again. And we need to stop birthing in hospitals, where our most primitive urge to love and protect our baby at all costs is being lost.

June 12, 2009

Staying up late makes you sad and lonely!

I am feeling depressed tonight.

I don't know what made me think of it, but I decided to get online tonight and look up information on an old friend from high school that died in 2006 (Corey Mason). I still don't really know how he died; I was in Ohio at the time and I don't know his family. I wasn't really close with him, but I was close enough. I knew him primarily from my church youth group, and after that we crossed paths frequently enough. He was at my wedding only a few months before he died. And within the same month, another high school friend (Brian Wicks) died . He took his own life.

Dominic's Grandma Bea passed away this year, and that's been very hard on us all. She is the closest person to me that's ever died. During my pregnancy last year, Dominic and I often talked about naming Melody after Bea. It's ironic, because Melody looks so much like Grandma Bea! She makes these faces, and I can see Bea. But for whatever stupid reason we didn't give her the name. "Melody Grace" sounded prettier. Of course now I'm so mad we didn't name her after Bea. I briefly considered changing her name (middle name, obviously) after the fact. Her death was heartbreaking. She had cancer, and she kept telling us she would be gone soon. We didn't grasp that, and we thought she'd at least have a few more years. It's such an odd feeling. A concept I can't grasp. One day she's there, and the next day I can't call her to thank her for the Christmas card. I'll never forget how I kept putting off calling her that month, and then I lost the chance.

And then I began looking through some pictures from the past, and I found the disk from Julian's 1st birthday. He was so little. So close in age to Melody right now. I loved him so much. Now he bugs me so much. I'm always yelling at him, trying to get him to hear me, listen to me, stay quiet, don't jump on the couch, don't sneak candy, don't talk back, don't throw in the house. We don't have fun anymore. I don't play with him. I don't even know how. I wonder if it is because I have another baby, or if it would have happened even if he'd remained an only child. I feel like a horrible mother, almost like I've fallen out of love with my son. Obviously I still love him. I think about him every second of the day, and know him inside and out; what he wants, what he needs, if he's safe, hungry, sleepy...But it's not like when he was little. It's not like how I am with Melody. Something is missing. The excitement about being his mom every day. The joy in seeing him accomplish things. The fun of making him laugh. It's there, just not as strong. And it's not fair to him. And I don't know how to get it back. Is this some sort of biological reaction to having another child? Or is it just who I am? If it's just me, that's horrible. I don't want to be that person.

On a happier note, I have kept my kitchen clean for two nights in a row! And I'll be going to bed before midnight tonight. Hopefully, I will have something more cheerful for my next entry. I've been experiencing some writer's block recently.

Pictures from Julian's 1st birthday (October 16, 2006)