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Training for Birth

28 Dec

One of the things that I found most interesting and empowering about midwifery care was the amount of participation that was expected of me and The Hubs through the whole process. Of course, all women participate in their pregnancies and births, but I really feel that under standard OB care, you just don’t learn as much about the whole process. For the most part, I think that American women are victims of pregnancy – that it happens to you, you don’t have much control, the doctors are the bosses, and things end up how they end up. With our midwife, I felt that I was in charge, that I played a major role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy – and I learned that what you do can make a HUGE difference in how you feel and the total outcome of the whole ordeal.

I have to say, I had an awesome pregnancy and felt pretty great the entire time. Not too much sickness, not too much tiredness after the first trimester, no swelling, healthy weight gain, and while my third trimester belly inspired comments like “do you need to use a wench to get out of bed in the morning?” (no joke, a guy said this to me around week 37), I was active and pretty much pain-free down to the very end. For all of this, I feel very blessed. I know a lot of women have a much harder time, through no fault of their own. But I do feel that my actions contributed to my wonderful experience. Here’s what I think made the difference:

  • Diet: My midwife recommended the Brewer Pregnancy Diet, which basically recommends eating a s%!t ton of protein every day, getting plenty of calories, and NOT restricting salt intake. Okay, I’m paraphrasing it a bit – here’s a link to its daily recommendations. I tried to follow this as closely as possible and I drank a ton of water. While it’s challenging to eat 70-100 grams of protein each day, it’s worth the effort. The diet is filled with healthy, satisfying foods that give your spawn the nutrients it needs to grow, it helps you maintain your energy, and it helps prevent conditions like pre-eclampsia. I started my morning every day with two eggs, wheat toast with butter, orange juice and some fresh fruit. I snacked on a lot of almonds and tried to add spinach to pretty much everything. And I did not restrict my salt intake at all. My blood pressure stayed low for the whole pregnancy and I had no swelling. Now, the blood pressure thing isn’t that big of a deal to me, as I’ve never had any issues with it, but the swelling thing was huge. My non-pregnant, birth-control-taking self would plump right up for any old reason. If it was hot out, my fingers and feet would swell. If I was on my feet a good bit, my ankles would get huge. I just KNEW I would have cankles by the third month and my rings would have to be cut off of my enormously fat fingers. My baby was due in August, after all. To my shock and delight, none of that happened. Thank you, Brewer diet!

    This is what I thought I'd look like at 9 months.

  • Exercise: I’m not a fitness-ey person. I don’t do things like run or have a gym membership. But I did make sure that I stayed active during my pregnancy by walking a lot. My midwife and our childbirth educator emphasized the importance of doing some simple exercises to prepare your body for birth. Do a lot of Kegels – squeeze and hold for extended periods and do short bursts. And do them a lot. They help strengthen the pelvic floor, keeping your uterus and stuff in, helping you push that baby out, and possibly preventing incontinence when it’s all over with. To counter Kegels, do a crazy amount of squats. Short, repetitive squats and loooong deep squats. These can help prevent tears. If that’s not worth it, I don’t know what is.
  • Chiropractic: I saw a fabulous chiropractor every two weeks throughout my pregnancy. He uses the activator method, which is extremely gentle and doesn’t involve any weird positions or loud cracking of things. He helped keep my neck, back, hips and pelvis loose, aligned and feeling good. And he has this fabulous massage device that he runs over your back at the end of each visit. Absolutely heavenly.
  • Education: Being mentally and emotionally prepared for pregnancy and birth is just as important as being physical prepared. Unfortunately, they just don’t teach you much in school about how pregnancy and childbirth work, and a shocking amount of American women know squat about childbirth options. The Hubs and I took a wonderful class with Mary Kury¬†where we got to learn in-depth about pregnancy, how to stay healthy, what to expect during childbirth and tips and techniques for pain management. I cannot emphasize how important this info was for a natural, normal childbirth. Plus, it was just so darn interesting. Being pregnant is kind of like having your body taken over by aliens. It’s just weird. I was dying to know every little thing that was going on in there.

While my birth experience didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned it, I do feel like I was extremely prepared and in control the whole time. I made it through a 36-hour labor, pushed out a 7 lb – 13 oz baby with no tearing and had a really quick physical recovery. Absolutely worth every scrambled egg, deep squat and Kegel!

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Decisions, Baby! Installment 1

8 Dec

How should I get this baby out of me?

Seems like it should be pretty straight-forward, right? Oh no, not for the Indecisive Momma.

Once we got past the giddiness of the news that I was growing a human it was time to get down to business and find a care provider. I had had a falling out with my OBGYN a couple of years before (she prescribed me Clomid the day I told her I’d stopped taking birth control because we were thinking of trying for a baby) and I hadn’t found a replacement yet.

I’d never given childbirth that much thought before, I assumed I’d have a regular old hospital birth, just like everyone else I knew. Then one of my good friends delivered her baby with the assistance of a midwife in a local birth center and I was intrigued. She delivered her perfect, healthy baby and four hours later was picking up Chick-fil-a on her way home with her bundle of joy. Anything that ends in Chick-fil-a seems like a pretty good deal to me.

But really, my decision wasn’t that easy. I knew that I wanted a vaginal birth if at all possible, and I knew that my local hospital cesarean rates were kind of high. Nationally, the rates sit at about one-third of all births, which I think is just ridiculous. This belief was reinforced the closer I got to my due date and I repeatedly had strangers tell me their birth stories and they all seemed to end with “they said the baby was too big and I needed a c-section.” Then many told me their babies ended up being only 6 or 7 pounds. But I digress…

I initially decided that a hospital setting would be good, but only with a provider who was supportive of natural childbirth. I found Dr. Stafford, a family physician who also offered obstetrics and was rumored to let you deliver in whatever position you fancy. I saw Dr, Stafford for my first few prenatal visits and he was fabulous. Even better, once he delivers the baby, he’s your pediatrician and family doctor – a one-stop-shop who knows your whole family! Unfortunately, he didn’t accept my crappy insurance, so we were left looking for another alternative that would work within our budget and give us a good chance at a natural birth. Since I was lucky enough to have a fabulous, low-risk pregnancy, we decided to go with a midwife.

Let me tell you a little something about midwifery care…these ladies know what’s up. The care I received was far above and beyond any physician I’d ever been to. Each of my prenatal visits were so relaxed and informative. Each time I had at least half an hour to ask questions and just talk about my pregnancy. They assigned reading, recommended classes, and kept me on top of my diet and exercise to make sure I stayed in the low-risk category and was in tip-top shape for natural birth. And thanks to their advice (some of which I’ll share in a later post), I maintained a healthy weight gain, low blood pressure and had no swelling. Now, my feet normally look like little sausages stuffed in my sandals in the summertime, and I was 9 months pregnant in August in South Carolina with no swelling. THAT is a freaking miracle. Of course, my midwife was incredible during my actual birth (a long story for another post) and provided exceptional postpartum care in my home. Really couldn’t ask for more!

Me: Decisively Pregnant

Me. August. 40 weeks pregnant. Miraculously un-swollen.

Indecisive Momma’s advice for getting a baby out: decide what you value most and find a care provider that shares your values. Don’t be afraid to look into less traditional options. Ask a lot of questions, learn about the childbirth process and don’t be afraid to make changes no matter how far along you are. A great birth experience is worth the preparation!