Comparing myself to others. It's a dangerous thing in many ways and usually leaves me feeling inadequate. No one is perfect, but when I feel like I'm failing it's difficult not to focus on the bad. Working through labor, birthing babies, parenting children...these are not feats for the weak-hearted. And when you're in that vulnerable state of figuring things out, it's very tempting to ask, "Well, how does she do it?! How are they making it work but we aren't?"
Having previous experience or knowledge on the said topic helps but does not guarantee a straightforward experience. Despite your level of experience or how much you think you know, I think it really comes down to attitude and, let's be honest, the cards you're dealt. Sometimes we're dealt really crappy cards. Have you done this two or three times already? It may be very different this time around. It doesn't always come naturally and when I say "attitude," I don't mean you gotta be 100% positive. It doesn't mean you're not entitled to feel exhausted, confused, angry, or just plain over it. It means that you do the best with what you have where you're at.
Take a proactive approach. Getting your ducks in a row before baby arrives can help you feel more prepared. I am a firm believer that planning ahead helps me meet my goals. Reaching out for support and gathering resources is HUGE. Hiring a doula, taking classes, choosing a care provider that you feel comfortable with...these are all things that can potentially help you have the best experience. You can customize your preferences as you see fit, which will help you feel more at ease.
Sometimes though, no matter how much researching and planning we do, we hit a few speed bumps or stray from our original plan. When this happens, it can be devastating. It may feel so overwhelming that you may not know what your next step will be. Hopefully, you have your people to lean on and your trustworthy resources close by. I also think it helps to:
Validate. Remind yourself that this is hard work. Take your time. You are not alone in this. Remind yourself that you're doing your best. Or, maybe it's not your "best," but under the circumstances, you're doing a pretty darn good job. Breathe. Things will fall into place.
Reframe. I am my toughest critic. What feels like failure to me may feel like success to others. Basic example: I was consumed by my grades in school. I always aimed for all As. I was a perfectionist, and it was a high expectation that I set for myself. If I landed a B, I was very upset. Others may have been very pleased with a B. Often, I needed to step back and look at the whole picture. "Okay, you got one B but four As," or "You weren't the only one who had trouble with that final." Pros vs. Cons lists really help me sort out my feelings, too. I can reason with myself and realize, hey...this stinks but it's not the end for me. It ain't all bad.
Troubleshoot. Tell yourself what's done is done but ask, "How can I make this better?" Find your support people and talk with them. Process your experience and take time to acknowledge the feelings that you have- don't brush them under the rug. Find folks who have had similar experiences- you may learn from them and find comfort that they understand where you're coming from. Or you may want to sit down with a professional who can be objective, nonjudgmental, and who can help you navigate what's to come.
Comparing ourselves to others cannot benefit us because it belittles our personal experiences. We're all doing what is best for ourselves, our babies, our families. You are different than your mother, your neighbor, even your best friend. Find what works for you and embrace it.
The First Weeks Postpartum
These are just a few things that I couldn't live without in those first weeks of the postpartum period:
What items were essential in your early days as a new mama?
The days before our baby B arrived, I woke up every morning thinking to myself, "Maybe today is the day!" and I would climb into bed every night thinking, "Well, maybe tomorrow." I knew my baby would come when he/she was ready (we didn't know the babe's gender) so I tried to distract myself as much as possible while waiting. I cleaned the house, organized the nursery, went to the gym, watched every episode of New Girl on Netflix, soaked in the bath while reading Ina May, bounced on my birth ball, drank lots of red raspberry leaf tea, baked the baby a birthday cake (lemon bundt cake to be specific--thank you, Pinterest!). I tried remaining positive, knowing this was a special time between my husband, J, and I. It would only be just the two of us for a little while longer, and soon we would be a family of three. It was a surreal concept that I couldn't quite wrap my head around, and despite it being unknown territory I was very excited.
We planned to birth our babe at home with the help of a certified professional midwife. We also hired an amazing doula, who is also a close friend, to assist us at the birth. We rented a birth pool and did a couple of test runs to make sure we knew how to use it. I made birth affirmations and placed them on the wall behind the pool, knowing that these positive mantras would help carry me through labor. I made a playlist and day dreamed of bringing my baby earth side while the sweet and slow music played in the background. Our home birth supplies were neatly stacked in the co-sleeper that sat in our bedroom. I thought, "Any day now, baby. We're ready for you!"
On the morning of January 16 around 1am, I woke up to mild contractions. At the time, I wasn't calling them contractions as I didn't really know what 'contractions' felt like. Basically, I was really crampy. I would get up about every hour until 8am or so to pee and work through the crampiness. The cramps were mild enough that I was able to doze off once I climbed into bed. I continued on throughout the day with all of the activities that kept me busy throughout the week before (exercising, baking, Netflix binging, etc.) My contractions were spaced out but present throughout the day and into the evening. I had lost part of my mucus plug the day before so I knew something was happening.
Did the same damn things I did on Friday. Woke up frequently throughout the night due to crampiness and having to pee often. Cleaned the house and ran some errands. In the afternoon, J and I went to Gandolfo's for lunch. The seats were incredibly uncomfortable and hard. I was having consistent contractions and I'm sure people were starting to stare (No one else was deep breathing during their lunch!) J said I pulled it off like a champ, but I didn't believe him. We went downtown and walked up and down Kirkwood and stopped by Hartzell's for ice cream. Still very crampy, I thought to myself, "YES! It's happening. This baby is coming." By the way, there are a lot of cool celebrities born on January 17 so, naturally, I had an inkling today would be the day.
I'm still pregnant. I, again, woke up right around 1am on Sunday morning with those annoying contractions. I knew these contractions were helping my body prepare for baby but I was so over it. Up every hour but this time, it only felt good to sit on the toilet. I didn't want to move! I tried to stay in bed until 8am or so but I don't think I got much sleep. Is this cramping helping my cervix move forward? Helping it to thin and shorten? Am I dilating? My childbirth educator/doula brain would take over and I couldn't turn it off. I reminded myself that even if I couldn't sleep, it was important to rest as much as possible. I was hoping I was in early labor but didn't want to get my hopes up.
J came home from training clients at the gym and brought me Cresent donuts for breakfast (yep, my husband/ personal trainer brought me donuts. That's love.) I continued to cramp throughout the morning, and later on, we decided to go back to Gandolfo's for lunch (the food there is good but you know, we had coupons to use up). Those seats!! They were so hard and uncomfortable. I had only taken a few bites out of my sandwich before realizing I no longer wanted to be at Gandolfo's. J offered to wrap up my sandwich while I went to the bathroom. I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes and they were lasting around 40 seconds each. I was also losing more of my mucus plug. Of course, I was all like, "Is this early labor? Active labor?!" I continuously had to remind myself to get out of my head and focus on the now. We drove over to the east side of town and walked around the mall for an hour or so. My contractions were still very close together, so we left the mall and went to Kroger to get some last-minute groceries. I felt so uncomfortable that I didn't want to go in and decided to sit in the car. Soon after my husband got out of the car I realized I could not sit still. I got out and leaned on the car, swayed my hips, and was squatting in the parking lot. Keep in mind this is the new, swanky Kroger that's always hoppin'. The waiting felt like forever and I was extremely eager to get home. I started to vocalize through my contractions and texted our doula once we pulled in the driveway. She recommended we both sleep as we would probably be up most of the night.
Shortly after climbing into bed for a nap, my husband was out. Me, on the other hand...I couldn't get comfortable one bit. I was having a hard time coping but didn't want to wake him up so I ventured off to the opposite end of the house. I desperately wanted to get in our bath tub but knew that water would not help speed up labor until I was in the thick of it. Being immersed in warm water in early labor can slow down or stop your contractions. I decided it was more important that I try to catch up on rest than focus on making contractions more progressive. Our doula arranged to be over by 7pm. I was very emotional and cried to J when he woke up. He calmed me down, reminded me that I was doing a great job, and that our doula would be there soon.
When our doula arrived, I was in our dimly lit bedroom moaning and swaying. She encouraged me to do some lunges and offered me sips of water. I moved to the toilet where she propped me up with pillows and rubbed my back. It was starting to hurt but in an unusual way-- like it was pulling from underneath my ribs. I soon realized I had pulled a muscle and thought it may have happened while in the tub. Soon after, I began throwing up. I thought, "Yes. Bring it on! I'm sure this puking is helping me open up." Our doula contacted the midwife and updated her on what was happening--she said she would be over soon.
It was around 1 or 2am when my midwife suggested I whip out my hand pump. My contractions were still very strong but had spaced out immensely. I remember feeling so drowsy in between surges-- I would wake up at the peak of them and barely be pumping, the pump itself almost falling out of my hands. Dude, I am so tired. I hadn't had a great night's sleep since Thursday and looking back, I think I am sleeping better with my newborn than I did the weekend I went into labor..I was *that* tired. My midwife told me that I was doing a great job and that I should go get in my birth pool. Oh, I was so happy to hear that. My doula went into the back bedroom to catch up on sleep and my midwife stayed in the living room while J and I ventured into the bedroom where the birth pool sat. He sprawled out on the bed as I sat at the edge of the pool, my top half draped over the side. Soon, the whole house was sleeping. With every contraction, I whispered things like, "C'mon, baby" and "Ooooopen." This really helped, as cheesy as it sounds. Still, my contractions were very spaced out. The water really took the edge off of my back pain and the pressure I was feeling down low. I stood up a couple of times in the pool just to make sure the intensity of the contractions was still there. Oh boy, was it ever. I think I had been in the pool for an hour or so before I climbed out, wrapped a towel around me, and walked back into the living room. My midwife, as sweet as ever, asked, "What's up, darlin?" I told her I wanted to be checked and I wanted to know the number. I *needed* to know if I had made any progress.
She told me I was at 5 cm. (hooray!)...but I was 5 cm. when she first checked me (noooo!). I felt so discouraged. I didn't feel as if I was suffering, but I honestly didn't know how much longer I could keep at it. I was so tired and more often than not, my back hurt worse than the contractions. I was having a hard time coping and hated the thought of being checked again, hours later, to find my cervix hadn't changed. I couldn't understand why my contractions were so far apart--I couldn't relax enough to fully sleep and yet everything we had tried to bring contractions closer together was not cutting it. And then, like word vomit, I remember blurting out, "I want an epidural. I think I want to go to the hospital." I never thought I would say that. I dreamed of birthing our baby at home. She agreed that my body may benefit from some pitocin and that she would support me, whatever choice I made. It was reassuring to hear that, just like I was thinking to myself, this is not characteristic of a straightforward labor. My baby had been LOA for the past couple of months but maybe something else was going on. I woke up my husband and told him that I wanted to go to the hospital. I apologized over and over again. He consoled me and helped my doula and me pack a bag. My midwife called into my back-up physician to let him know we were coming in.
The ride to the hospital was the absolute pits. We parked in the emergency parking garage and I waddled up to the labor and delivery floor. The nurses asked the annoying, but necessary, questions upon admittance as I sat on a birth ball and leaned over the side of the hospital bed. My back still aching, I asked J to use some counter pressure and hold a warm rice sock against my lower back. Lab came in to draw my blood and I was hooked up to IV fluids. I was informed that the anesthesiologist was at home (I knew that was coming!) and I waited around two hours for him to get there and administer the epidural. Once it was in place, we all rested for a few hours. The epidural brought so much relief-- even the pain from my pulled muscle was gone. It was incredible! My doula went home and we told her we'd call when things started to progress. I found out that one of my friends would be working day shift and requested for her to be my nurse at shift change.
The nurse and nurse midwife started to set up the room for birth, and I got into a side-lying position. My midwife supported one of my legs while my husband stood by my head, offering sips of water between pushes. My doula quietly snapped pictures of the whole experience. As he crowned, I reached down and touched the top of his head. He's really coming out! Finally! The nurse midwife asked if I wanted to bring him up onto my chest and I happily said, "Yes!" In less than an hour, he was here. I reached down to bring him up to my chest as "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin was playing...it was a moment I will never forget. B was born with a nuchal hand (left hand up by his face), which is what probably caused my terrible back pain. 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 inches long...born at 1:34pm on MLK, Jr. Day. I'm not quite sure how he ever fit inside me--the things a woman's body is capable of are truly amazing.
Despite our transport to the hospital, I had a wonderful birth experience. I felt fully supported the entire time and had the dream team by my side during delivery. I was able to advocate for myself. I was listened to and treated with respect. I am thankful for the tools the hospital offers that are not available in the home setting-- they can work wonders when you need them. Maybe next time we'll birth our baby at home, but right now, I am content focusing on our new, amazing son. I'm grateful that both my baby and I are healthy, that there were no major complications, and that I've had a smooth postpartum recovery. Birth is an unpredictable life event that you will remember forever, but it's only the beginning of something much, much bigger. My heart is whole as I sit here typing our story and nursing my little guy. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for us.
It was a cold and gray Sunday afternoon. I lit a couple of candles (Crossroads Caramel Apple makes the whole place smell divine), tidied up a bit, and hopped on Spotify for some mellow music. Two friends, Amy and Leah, arrived at my house early with flowers, food, and beautiful fabrics and decorative pillows.
It was the day of my mother blessing.
Mother blessings are customized, sincere, and full of love. Don't get me wrong-- baby showers are fun. Showers involve silly games, tons of baby products, and most importantly…cake. But baby showers and mother blessings are very different from one another.
It's at a mother blessing that we celebrate a woman becoming a parent. Close friends (primarily women) of the mother gather around to help mama prepare herself for birth and motherhood. At this gathering, we do not lose focus on this new being that will soon be earth side, but we take the time to recognize how this little human will change the woman as a person. Although mama may be given birth and postpartum gifts, it's not about consumerism and products and all that fluff that's typically paired with baby's arrival.
This ceremony is about sisterhood and community. Feeling connected and supported as a new mom greatly affects the postpartum period. How could it not? The mother blessing ceremony includes activities that acknowledge this time of growth and the new role the expectant mother will soon take on. Every gathering is sacred and will look different depending on the mama's needs and desires. I believe we should celebrate every mama and parent this way as they enter into this exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, stage of life.
At the end of the day, I felt full. Full of gratitude, acceptance, and intuition. These women remind me to trust my body and my baby. They encourage me and tell me that I am enough--that whoever this little being is, he/she will love me through and through. No matter how new or lost we feel in parenting, we all have innate abilities and characteristics that guide us in our experience. And when we have a hard time believing in ourselves, our village of people will be there to lean on. To acknowledge the struggles, the triumphs, and the "holy shit, we made it through" moments.
I'm so very thankful for my village.
If you are interested in putting together a blessing ceremony for a friend or would like more information, please contact Leah Rose Hagen of Birth Journey Doula Services. She is sure to help you have the best experience possible!
3rd Trimester Realities
How is the third trimester going, you ask? Let me tell ya...
1.) Aches and Pains
To be fair, I feel pretty darn great. Many mamas have reported to me that they didn't feel so hot in the third trimester (some even sharing their "I was SO miserable" stories). I've still got about 6ish more weeks to go, so you know, things could change. I know that I will be anxious, big, and ready to get things over with in those last few weeks.
Around 31 weeks, I began experiencing inner thigh/pelvic pain. I upped my stretching and Spinning Babies exercises (see below) and have been seeing a massage therapist once a month. Around 33 weeks, I felt so much better. It's still a little hard to get out of bed sometimes but it feels much more manageable than before.
Side note: Prepare yourself if you're planning to go to the movie theater in the 3rd trimester. It's nearly impossible to get comfortable in those chairs. Kind of ruined Hunger Games for me. Actually, what ruined that movie was the twist and abrupt ending. Really, Peeta?
2.) Baby's positioning
This is probably on my mind more often than other mamas' because I'm involved in birth work. Positioning plays a much bigger role than the estimated size of your baby, and head down is not enough! Take a look at the Spinning Babies website to get an idea of where your baby is at, as this will influence labor and birth progress. I'm always talking out loud to my baby, asking things like "Is that your butt?" and commenting on how his/her hiccups feel on the outside. My husband doesn't even take a second glance when I do the inversion, unannounced, on our living room couch.
3.) Where is my crotch?
I'm seriously asking because I can't see it anymore. Not unless I'm looking at myself in a mirror anyways. I guess I should've expected this but it's just one of those things you don't really think about.
4.) The "I'm growing a human" realization
Holy shit, there really is a person in there. This is amazing. It feels more real each day when I wake up. I think to myself, "I'm one day closer to meeting this little soul." We've been working on the nursery more and even though we really don't plan to use it that much, at least in the beginning, it is helping me transition into this new phase of life. Decorating and organizing is definitely satisfying my urge to nest.
5.) Sleeping positions
I added a nest of pillows to my sleep environment in the 2nd trimester so that's nothin' new. I always favored sleeping on my stomach so it was quite an adjustment when I could no longer do that. But lately, I've been finding myself asleep on my back. I wake up and think, "How long have I been here?!" I'm almost positive this is a result of me pancaking from side-to-side in my sleep, only to get lazy mid-pancake. Sleeping on my back was not even comfortable before I was pregnant and yet, here I am every night, finding myself asleep on my back.
6.) Reconnecting with partner
My husband and I signed up for childbirth education classes at BABS and it's been so much fun. Most nights, we have just enough time to eat dinner and watch a little bit of television together; however, our past five Wednesdays have been spent hanging out, learning new things about birth/parenting, and discussing our future. I know I'll fall in love with him all over again when I see him hold our baby for the first time.
7.) Head colds
Oh, I endured a terrible head cold last week! When people say, "Being sick in pregnancy is the worst!" they really mean it. The good news: you're already up every couple of hours peeing anyways. It's not like you're losing that much more sleep, but your sleep positions are that much more limited. I was practically sitting up while sleeping so that I could breathe!
It's still fun, but a little uncomfortable. Not in a "this doesn't feel good" type of way, but more like "what the hell do I do with this belly?" Like sleeping with a cold, your positions are a bit limited. You're also either really excited for sex (these pregnancy hormones are no joke) or you're so tired you just wanna crawl into bed and sleep forever. I can't speak for everyone, but I think it's pretty normal for your sex life to change in pregnancy. Not for better or worse necessarily...it's just different.
9.) The battle between narcolepsy and insomnia
Usually, I have no problem going to sleep at night. Aside from my husband's snoring, I find that I fall asleep more easily than I did pre-pregnancy. But every once in a while, I just can't sleep. Netflix, a hot cup of tea, reading...nothing does the trick. The funny thing is that every day, midday, I think to myself, "I could really take a nap right now." Napping always feels great and yet there are evenings when sleeping is just not on the agenda. Okay, I'll stop complaining about sleep because there are sleep deprived parents reading this that probably want to kill me right now.
10.) I'm still crying
I'm still as emotional as I was in the 1st and 2nd trimesters. I guess I'm not surprised as I'm a pretty emotional person anyways. But it feels heavier than when I was crying pre-pregnancy. I can go from 0 to 10 in seconds. Like I said, pregnancy hormones are crazy. I'm so thankful my husband is understanding of this. Keep in mind the season finale of Parenthood is right before my due date. That is gonna be a night full of crocodile tears.
Feeding my Family
Grocery shopping. Woof. When our fridge starts looking bare, I cringe at the thought of going to the grocery store. It's always so busy, my shopping list is lengthy, and you can bet I will forget something on that list. I should have the list memorized by now and yet I always manage to space going down a certain aisle.
Now that I'm no longer working 40 hours a week in an office, I do feel as if I have more time to compile a list of what we need, meal plan, and get organized. When I shop, it's only for my husband and me (okay, so there's three of us if you count the human I'm growing)...but it still feels like we need a good amount to get through the week. My husband eats so damn much. I don't feel bad about sharing this with you because he knows it's true, too. Earlier on in our relationship, he looked at me during dinner one night and said, "Babe, you know how much you need to eat to feel full? Well, I'm bigger than you and I need like..three times that amount." Fair enough. I married the man and promised to support him always, even when he cleans out the pantry.
I often think about how our lives will change in these coming months. As much as I daydream about our labor and birth experience, I think about the postpartum period even more. When I talk to expectant folks as a doula and childbirth educator, there is a lot of focus on birth. I get it-- it's the unknown that is captivating, exciting, and maybe even a bit anxiety-inducing. But what about parenting? Labor and birth is a short amount of time compared to the rest of our lives. Raising a child is big stuff and incorporating a new person into your life *forever* seems a bit more overwhelming to me.
When you have a baby, even the simplest tasks get put off because...well, it's just hard to squeeze it all in. It's challenging to take care of ourselves and take care of another human 24/7. As a new mama, even feeding yourself can be a challenge! And when you're running low on sleep, haven't showered in a day (or 2 or 3? Not judging.. this will be me soon. We're in this boat together, sister), and have only eaten a bowl of cereal and a banana in the last 24 hours...you're going to feel pretty shitty. Plain and simple.
So...when this new person is born, promise me this one thing: that you will eat! Even better: promise me that NOW, when you're still pregnant, you will start planning for the postpartum period, not just for labor and birth. As new parents, it's hard to focus on your needs, but ya gotta give yourself some TLC so that you can be there for your babe. The laundry, the baby shower thank you cards...those things can wait. Nourishing your body is more important!
Keep in mind that two of the most amazing things you can stick on your baby shower registry are a meal train and a postpartum doula. Your doula can help with cooking, remind you to eat a little something, and even run errands for you (like that shopping trip you've been dreading!). There are great websites out there that can help you start up a meal train (to name a few: Take Them a Meal, MealBaby, Meal Train). Send the link to your meal train via email to family and friends prenatally. Folks can sign up to bring over a meal as often as you'd like (every other day, three times a week, etc.). You can include food allergies and limitations, your time frame for dinner, and even how you'd prefer the food be delivered ("If the front door is shut, please leave the food in the color on our porch.").
Aside from meal trains and postpartum doulas, you can also prep your meals ahead of time. Freezer and crockpot meals are a smart option for the postpartum period, and Pinterest makes it easy to collect yummy recipes without aimlessly surfing the web. Below I've listed some of the best recipes I've found on this genius website. I say "the best" because they are healthy, relatively easy, and for some of 'em, you can even eat with one hand. :)
Do you have any quick, simple meals/snacks you love and would like to share? Please post in the 'Comments' section below!
Why I Love My Midwife
Did you know that October 5-11 is National Midwifery Week?
Of course, we should celebrate the compassion, integrity, and tranquility that midwives provide everyday. But in honor of this special week, if you know a midwife, give her a shout out. Give her a big 'ole hug. Let her know how important she is and how much you value her work.
At the beginning of my college career, I had no idea what a midwife was. I may have been familiar with the term, but the work that a midwife does? I'm not sure I knew about that. When I enrolled in a class at I.U. focusing on labor, birth, and the family, that's when I began to learn about midwifery. Through volunteer work in my early years at BABS as well as through doula work, I put faces to the term "midwife." These women are thoughtful, educated, and fun people to be around. No wonder many women feel at ease in their presence! No doubt, this is important for birth as laboring women need to feel comfortable in order to let go and bring their babes earth side.
Naturally, when we found out we were pregnant, hiring a midwife for our birth was a no brainer. I can idealize what my winter birth could be like: At home, snow falling outside, husband holding me, midwife and doula close by, a cozy atmosphere, birth pool set up in the living room. I get mushy just thinking about it.
But, just as any other life event, sometimes things don't go as planned. I may not get the soft lit room or even want to be touched by my husband. :)
My midwife doesn't promise me those things, but she supports me in knowing it's what I prefer. She understands that pregnancy and birth are normal. She helps me to understand that I have options. My midwife is not just there to "deliver" my baby, although she is highly skilled and very knowledgable. She is there to help guide me and remind me that my body is strong…that I am a woman and am capable of giving birth. My midwife sits down with me prenatally and takes time to listen to me and answer any questions I have. She provides evidence-based care and gives me the information that I need so that my husband and I can make informed decisions for our baby and family. My midwife is hands-on and gets to know my husband and I as people, not patients. She knows that every woman is unique--that each mother's experience is different but always life-impacting.
These are just a few of the reasons why I love my midwife.
Prepping for labor and birth can seem daunting, especially when it comes to assembling your birth plan. There are many questions to ask yourselves, including ones like, "Who will will be present for the birth?" "What interventions do I wish to avoid?" and "Where am I at on the Pain Medication Preference Scale?" Though the research can be time consuming, creating a birth plan can help parents not only learn more about labor and birth but about themselves. Gaining knowledge through evidence-based information can help folks feel more confident in their decisions as new parents. Thinking things through and talking about the tough stuff can also help them better understand who they are as people in their everyday lives. For instance, a woman will not change who she is when she is in labor. It may be a brand new experience for her, but how she copes and how she communicates her needs will run parallel with how she normally deals with stress in everyday life. Tune into your bodies and your minds, mamas! You know more than you think you do!
So, when you are stressed out…how do you deal? Is it with open and honest communication? Do you need feedback to know things are okay? Do you just need a hug? For every woman, it's different. Comfort measures such as massage, hydrotherapy, and music can work as fabulous stress/pain relievers in labor. Music is especially interesting to me, as there are so many different directions you can go with it. Many mamas these days are creating birth playlists, which can provide a pleasant distraction during labor and birth.
The tunes on a playlist may be mellow, upbeat, or nostalgic…maybe all three. No, Enya isn't the only artist that must consume your playlist (unless that's what you're into). I think that's a common misconception among the general public: the birth music's gotta include chimes, chanting, nature sounds, etc. NOPE! Any music that elevates your mood and helps you feel at ease can be helpful during labor. Get the oxytocin pumping and you can't go wrong. Britney, Bruno Mars...maybe a little Prince? Now I'm wondering if I should add Raspberry Beret to my playlist. Keep in mind that the rhythm of the music you're tuning into may also help regulate your breathing patterns and make contractions seem more manageable. Think of Penny Simkin's Rhythm, Ritual, and Relaxation.
Nearing towards my sixth month of pregnancy, I began wondering what my birth playlist will include. I had never thought about it before but soon became very excited to assemble my own. Thanks to Google and Spotify, I've made some progress on what (I think?) I'll enjoy hearing during labor and birth. I'm happily sharing the list below. I have fabulous musical taste so I don't blame you for swiping these lists for your birth, too ;)
What songs will make your birth playlist? Anything in particular you loved listening to while in labor?
As most of you may know, Josh and I announced our pregnancy earlier this summer. We are so excited to have a baby! It felt very surreal at first and sometimes I still catch myself being like, "Huh..guess I really am pregnant." The first trimester was easy and hard at the same time. I wasn't showing, but I felt very different. Actually, I knew I was pregnant almost the moment that it happened. Did any of you feel that way? You know, I've heard women say that from time to time ("I just knew!") and I always thought they were full of shit. But then…it happened to me. I had butterflies in my stomach for a few days in a row, followed by LOTS of bloating. I took two pregnancy tests but both were negative because it was too early to tell. Two days before my (missed) period and there I was at Kroger, grocery shopping. I was planning to buy fresh salmon when I thought, "Well, if I'm pregnant I can only eat so much fish per week." I skipped buying it and instead went home and took another pregnancy test. BAM…my digital test read, "Pregnant." I couldn't believe it. I was in a state of shock and pure happiness and cried in the bathroom when I saw that word. It was a weird, but good experience. For the past four years, I've been helping other women on their journey to motherhood and supporting families in the transition with their new babies... then I realized, "Hey…I'm gonna be a mama, too!" I had to wait TWO WHOLE HOURS before Josh got home from work, and then I had to talk him into walking into the bathroom so he could read this:
Anyways, I wanted to stand on the rooftops and share our good news with the world, but we decided to take precaution and wait until we hit the double digits just to be safe. When I was 10 weeks along, we posted a little somethin' on good 'ole Facebook. I have to thank Pinterest for the onesie idea. What would we do without that damn website?
Being a doula and childbirth educator, I felt fairly well prepared of what was to come. But guess what? There were quite a few symptoms that surprised me. I mean, I had heard it all before. Sleepiness, cravings, morning sickness, etc. But it wasn't until I experienced it for myself that I truly understood. Here are my Top 10:
**Disclaimer: Some of this may be TMI but I'm here to educate so..enjoy :)
1) CRAVINGS-- Seriously, give me anything salty and I'm good to go. Are there pickles on the menu? Please add it to my meal. My grandma actually canned pickles from her garden and gave them to me for my birthday. That's love, y'all.
2) "MORNING" SICKNESS-- "Morning." What a joke! This hit me so hard Memorial Day Weekend that I was pretty much in bed the whole time. It felt very much like flu-like symptoms. Nothing sounded good and I had to make myself down Sprite and crackers. I was very nauseous for about two weeks straight, then I felt much better. Still feeling kind of sick in the mornings but it's much more manageable. **Note: Do not attempt to take out your trash in the first trimester..you will probably puke. It's even harder to play it cool when your neighbors see you do this. Also, I can't brush my teeth without gagging.
3) SLEEPINESS-- A.D.I.D.A.N (All Day I Dream About Naps). Yep, I was pushing my snooze button countless times in the morning. When I was at work, especially after eating, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch in our office and nap (I refrained as residents at the leasing office would think I was crazy). When I came home from work, I wanted to crawl into bed around 8pm. It makes sense…it's extra work for your body to grow a human, but man…I had no idea I would feel so tired! It's tapered off now that I'm in the second trimester, but I still find myself wanting to lounge/have lazy days more often.
4) PEEING--Do I even have a bladder? Is it the size of a pea? I can't believe how often I'm going to the bathroom. I'm currently 19 weeks pregnant and they say the babe is only the size of a mango. I think I'll be living in the bathroom when I'm carrying around a watermelon (see photo below).
5) DREAMS-- Dude, the power of pregnancy hormones is so real. My dreams these days are insane and very entertaining due to the surge of hormones I'm experiencing. Example: I dreamt that Josh had a bachelor party and all of my ex boyfriends attended. Also, my best friend had Laura Prepon over to her house for a dinner party but didn't invite me. Yep, that's the kind of world I'm living in when I sleep. No dreams of breastfeeding our cats yet, although I hear ones like that are very popular, too. <-- I'm also loving the "Meet the Parents" reference on this thread. "I have nipples, Greg. Could you milk me?"
6) BLOATING-- I was told by my doc that this has to do with the increase of iron in your diet, thanks to that prenatal vitamin I've been poppin' on the reg. Increased iron = constipation. After a month or so of taking the vitamin, my body adjusted. But in those first few weeks of the 1st trimester, I felt SO big.
7) EMOTIONS-- I feel like I'm a pretty emotional person as it is so I wasn't completely surprised at the fact that at times I became moody, irritable, and sad in a split second's notice. But the *intensity* of it is what really got me. Still does, actually. I did laundry the other day and shrank one of Josh's BRAND NEW shirts. I sobbed. There have been times when residents have complained in the office and I am on the verge of tears. And don't make me watch "Stepmom" while pregnant. That's an ugly cry that you do not wanna see.
8) BOOBS-- My boobs were only sore in the very beginning, but now they're just bigger. When I was in college and packed on the Freshman 15, I was a C cup. Before I got married (September '13), I was a small B. Now I think I'm closer to a C again. Breast changes in pregnancy are to be expected as your nipples darken and get bigger, too. I feel like the majority of people only focus on belly growth in pregnancy, but I'll admit that seeing how your boobs change is pretty cool, too.
9) DIZZINESS-- Your blood pressure drops in the 2nd trimester, which attributes to the lightheadedness you may feel during pregnancy. Getting up too fast and not eating every couple of hours may make you feel like shit. I've learned to always have extra snacks on hand because there is nothing worse than that moment of clammy, sweaty nausea when you feel like you're dying.
10) VAGINAL DISCHARGE-- Wow, it's fun seeing that phrase in all caps, isn't it? An increase in hormones and blood flow to the vaginal area is what's responsible for this lovely symptom of pregnancy. It's possible that you're feeling juicy all the time. And, no…not like a "turned on" wetness. You're just…wet. Yeast infections are more common in pregnancy due to the juiciness. If you are one of those women who go through your whole pregnancy without experiencing one, you are a goddess. Also, I think you're lying.
I would love to hear some of your 1st and 2nd trimester pregnancy symptoms. Make me laugh, help me feel normal, and share your experiences below. XOXO
Bring on the New Year!
2013 had its ups and downs, but overall, it was a fantastic year. Here's what made it so great:
Josh proposed on Christmas Day 2012, and the days that followed were filled with love and support, not only from my hubby, but from our close friends and family members. We want to thank everyone for your kindness and enthusiasm throughout all of the festivities. Married life does not feel any different, but I believe we have a stronger sense of community since our special day.
The Maxwell clan grew in 2013 as we added a new kitten, September, to our family!
Thanks to Colin McClain and Katie Vernon's amazing artistic abilities, I got a rad tattoo.
Josh and I traveled to North Carolina and Florida for a couple mini-vacations. A little fun in the sun, hiking and rafting, and catching up with old friends made for fabulous getaways!
I supported many new and growing families as a birth and postpartum doula. It was a pleasure getting to know each and every one of you! Thank you for welcoming me into your lives.
I had the opportunity to meet amazing families through my involvement at Bloomington Area Birth Services as a childbirth educator and volunteer birth doula.
I provided childcare to a few of my favorite families in the Bloomington area. I also helped lead the summer program at Harmony Education Center--full of outdoor activities, arts & crafts, field trips, and phenomenal little humans.
And last, but not least, I accepted a job offer as a leasing consultant at Abodes, Inc. I've been at it for a little over a month, and I really enjoy the work! This job is really the opposite from other gigs I've worked-- as I am now in an office full-time, Monday-Friday. The consistent hours are definitely different from what I'm used to, but it feels good. Unfortunately, because of my new position, I can no longer take on birth doula clients. I do believe the skills I practiced as a doula have carried over into my new profession. Being an active listener and helping people feel comfortable in their homes is a huge part of my job as a leasing consultant.
With that being said, I want folks to know that I will still be offering postpartum doula services in the evenings and over the weekends. I also hope to continue teaching childbirth education when I have free time, too. Although I am sad that I will not be attending births in 2014, I know that this community is full to the brim with compassionate birth workers who can help Bloomington families advocate for healthy, happy birth experiences. I will miss the prenatal meetings, the exciting, "I think I'm in labor!" phone calls, and seeing the look on parents' faces when their babies are born. I do hope I can return to the birth world someday in the future when the time is right-- I can't imagine staying away for too long!
Happy New Year!