Category Archives: Midwives

More birth pics of Baby Jean… correcting my memory

My friend Stephanie was at the birth of Jean Marjorie Joy, born on June 25.  She had her camera, and I knew she took a few pics.  But I didn’t know just how many until today, Jean’s six-week “birth day.”  Right after the birth, Steph went on vacation and was then busy with a number of other things.  She gave me a flash drive with her pics on it, a week and a half ago.  I don’t know why it took me so long to view the pictures…  Mixed emotions, I guess.  However, when I did, I cried good tears…  Collectively, they tell a tale of love, and of a day that shouldn’t be forgotten.  There are a whole bunch of pictures immediately post-birth, for a space of about sixteen minutes that I somehow forgot:  I just somehow absolutely didn’t recall those minutes, at all.  But, seeing the pictures, it all came back to me, even how it felt, to have baby Jean up on my swollen belly, only a minute post-birth.  “Oh… yes… I do remember that!  I remember it now!”  (You can read the original birth story, here.)

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My dear husband, Martin.

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He’s so attentive to me.

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Wouldn’t YOU love a man who held your face like that?? I would.

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Martin, and sweet Fiala, too. I look pretty relaxed in this picture, but believe me, I felt like I was dying.

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My brown-eyed girl, Audrey.

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I ❤ him.

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This was three minutes before Jean emerged. Note Fi’s hands over her ears!! And she’s watching the action quite closely!! I thought the girls left the room well before Jean was born, but I guess they were slow-motion minutes… Fi hung in there a good long time.

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I ripped my hair elastic out. Or someone did it for me. LAST push.

Like my friend Daja, who had her baby boy, Tegshee Walker, only a couple of weeks ago, there are some awesome crowning and baby emerging photos… But I can’t publish those.

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I can’t really show you the picture where Martin caught baby Jean, either. But this pic was taken only one minute after her birth. He must have handed her right off to me. Until I saw this picture, I absolutely did not remember this moment.

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Again, one minute post-birth. I remember now, feeling vast relief, feeling extremely shaky, not quite believing that this was my baby, but at the same time KNOWING she was, indeed, my dear baby.

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Alicia’s blonde head on the left, my midwife Pam on the right. Me in wonder.

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They were rubbing her down, helping her to pink up. I had previously remembered people doing that, but the bizarre thing was that I hadn’t remembered that baby Jean was IN MY ARMS when they were doing that.

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The best Daddy in the world. He loves her so.

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Only three minutes post-birth.

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I love her.

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First kiss as a family of eight. 🙂

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Jean has Martin’s brow.

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Audrey decides to come back in.

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Martin’s hand over mine, on our baby’s chubby, fuzzy back. And MARTIN is the one who put her little hat on. Again, while she was in my arms. But I hadn’t remembered that.

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Miss Squishy, 23 minutes post-birth.

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Daddy, Mommy, baby, love.

The birth of Baby Jean Marjorie Joy

I had hoped that with a bit of distance and reflection, the story of Jean Marjorie Joy’s birth would make a little more sense to me.  However, she will be four weeks tomorrow, and much of it feels as cloudy now as it did on June 25th, the day she was born.

For this birth, my sixth, and first home birth, I felt oddly disconnected, emotionally.

I think it started from…  well, I had about eight days of pre-labor, prodromal labor.  Eight solid days where contractions NEVER fully let up.  Never.  On about four or five occasions, they would increase in strength and frequency, until they were quite intense and about three minutes apart, and this would continue for 6, 8, 12 hours.

Normally, when one has contractions that are more than a minute long, three minutes apart, for a number of hours, one is in labor!  Actual labor!!  So, I would alert my husband, who invariably came home from work (or just didn’t depart for work).  I’d call or text my midwife.  I’d get other things prepared, including myself, emotionally and with focus, for me to have a baby.

And then… the contractions would disappear.

Or, they would almost disappear.  They would slow back down to once every 20 minutes or so.

So, over the course of a week, I became emotionally engaged, multiple times, with the idea of having a baby…  And I would prepare, mentally and logistically, to have a baby.

And then, the baby wouldn’t come.

I admit:  I cried.  I became discouraged more than once.

It’s difficult to explain…  But after about the fourth time of this happening, it felt like The Baby Who Cried Wolf.  And I stopped believing.

I didn’t stop believing that I would have a baby;  I knew I actually would, eventually.

But, when the contractions would ramp up again, I couldn’t help but think, “Yeah… whatever.”

That sounds awful, but it’s true.

….

I had visions of one of those births that just progress beautifully, undisturbed, where the midwife never checks my cervix, and I just listen to my body and tune into my baby, and birth a baby in peace and joy.

That didn’t quite happen.

Well, it didn’t happen at all.

After the first two days of contractions, on June 18, I caved and asked to come in to see my midwife and for her to check my cervix — the first vaginal exam of my entire pregnancy.  I was only 38 weeks, 5 days, but I had had two of my babies earlier than that;  it wasn’t inconceivable (ha!) that I was in labor.

She did, and I was dilated to 2 cm and about 75% effaced.

In a mom who has given birth previously, that really doesn’t mean ANYTHING.  As my midwife had told me (and as I already knew), “I have had multip moms dilate to four and stay there for weeks.”

But, I just wanted to know if these contractions were progressing anything or not.  The answer:  Kind of.  Not really.

On that first check, we also discovered that baby was engaged in my pelvis, but her head was tilted just slightly, and my cervix was still very posterior.  Good news, bad news, bad news.

Not “bad news” as in dangerous — just “bad news” in that it meant that the birth likely wasn’t imminent.  Babies can be birthed in a wide variety of imperfect positions, but I did know that the mama’s body will likely keep contracting to try to reposition the baby as long as possible.  And I knew that my cervix needed to travel forward — anterior — before the baby could be born.

But… even with all of that, since this was my sixth baby, the midwife reminded me that even just a few really hard contractions could reposition her, bring my cervix forward, and cause me to dilate, all within a literal matter of minutes.

So, it was like I wasn’t in labor, but I was.

The 20th of June came:  My 40th birthday.  I went to see the midwife again, as I had continued to contract.  I had an “official” appointment with her the next day, but as I had been contracting still, I asked to come in early.  But… no dice.  Nothing had significantly changed from two days previous, though I was dilated to three, instead of two centimeters.  Everything else was the same.

At that point, I decided that I was going to stop going in to see the midwife until I was 100% certain I was in labor — and then she would come see me.

That was a Thursday.  I continued to have “bouts” of strong contractions, close together, for multiple hours.

Monday was the worst, though.

By Monday the 24th, my uterus was officially sore, and I could feel like it was tired.

That was worrisome, because I didn’t want to go into real labor with a sore, tired uterus.  That was actually my biggest concern about contracting so much:  I needed a “fresh” uterus.  It’s a muscle.  I mean, imagine running 10 miles for eight consecutive days before you ran a marathon.  You just wouldn’t do that, even if you could.  When it comes to the real thing, you want muscles that are refreshed and ready, not ones that have been drained of their strength.

I contracted for 12 solid hours on Monday, from about 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

My husband, so dear, had come home from work around midday.  He set up his Kindle in our bedroom, hooked up to speakers, with my favorite worship songs playing on YouTube.  He was attentive to me, taking care of our children, checking in on me…  It was just right, actually.

When the contractions — yet again — petered out after the children were in bed for the night, I sobbed.  I was so discouraged.  My husband reassured me that the baby would actually come, and that he was not impatient with me.  His words were soothing to me, but I couldn’t explain how it was such an emotional investment to think that I was in labor, and then find out that I wasn’t.

I came downstairs…  We watched some TV.  It felt like the baby flipped completely in the womb.  I thought, “That’s either really good — she’s positioning herself correctly, finally — or that’s really bad — she’s turned breech or something like that.”  I got down on the floor to palpate my belly, to see if I could tell where she was.  I couldn’t.  I could feel, though, something against my cervix.  It felt like little fingers, wiggling around.  “It feels like she’s trying to push her way out with her hand!” I exclaimed.

I thought for certain that such a feeling was a… sensation, not the actual truth.

Eventually, we went to bed, with me feeling… well, not quite as discouraged as I had, earlier in the day, but resigned…  As in, “Whatever.”  Ambivalent.

Around 12:30, I woke up, contracting pretty hard.  That wasn’t new.  The contractions I’d been having for more than a week were often hard enough to wake me from a deep sleep;  and I’m a hard sleeper.  However, it felt like I had wet the bed.

“That’s weird,” I thought.

It wasn’t enough liquid to be my water breaking, yet I don’t normally wet the bed!  So, it just seemed weird to me.

I cleaned up and went back to bed.

I woke again at 1:30 with the same situation:  A pad full of water and contracting.

I knew that when the membranes break, often they can do so by “leaking”, instead of popping.  But, it didn’t smell like amniotic fluid.  However…  At 1:30, I had some bloody show.  I knew that this meant that I was dilating — a good sign, indeed! — but that the mucous plug, once lost, can be re-formed, and just because I was dilating did not necessarily mean I was in “real” labor.

I continued to wake up every hour with the same “symptoms” — one strong contraction followed by lesser contractions, anywhere from 3-8 minutes apart;  just enough liquid (I was still completely unsure if it was amniotic fluid, or if I was peeing) to fill a pad;  and some bloody show.

2:30…

3:30…

4:30…

The contractions didn’t seem any more significant than the ones I’d been having for the previous eight days.  They didn’t feel any stronger, they weren’t any closer together…  In fact, I was having times where they’d stretch to 10-12 minutes apart, then increase in frequency:  sporadic, but consistent.

But, by 4:30, I had the most bloody show yet and some loose stools, and I had decided that the liquid was surely amniotic fluid, not urine.

That may be TMI for some (and if it is, you’d best stop reading now), but for me, I knew that loose stools is a very positive sign of labor.   They’re caused by the presence of prostaglandins — hormones that are present during labor and that cause the cervix to soften and thin — efface.  It has happened with all my babies, historically 3-12 hours before the baby is born.

So, at 4:38, I told my hubby, Martin, who had been sleepily aware of my restless night, that I was pretty sure this was real labor.

I decided to give it another hour, though, before alerting anyone, just to be sure.

For about 20 minutes, the contractions were sporadic:  3 minutes, 7 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes apart.  Then, right at 5:00 a.m. on the 25th of June, the contractions started to intensify and they picked up to every 2-3 minutes apart and stayed there.  I stopped timing them and told my husband, “Timing them is becoming distracting.  They’re real.  I would be shocked if we didn’t have a baby some time today, probably sooner than later.”

I called my midwife at 5:30 a.m. and went to take a shower.

Before showering, I sent a text to my friend Stephanie, who was coming as friend/doula.  My husband is 46 and has known Stephanie since they were in junior high together.  She has the PERFECT presence for a woman in labor:  comforting, firm, determined, kind, gentle…  She just knows what to do and what to say, with no error, ever.  She is also a calming presence for my husband, who trusts her completely.  (Martin lived with Stephanie and her husband and their son for two years, prior to our marriage.)

I found out about an hour and a half later that while I had composed the text to Stephanie, I hadn’t actually sent it, which explained why she wasn’t there.  Just before 7:00 a.m., I asked Martin to call Stephanie.  He got her voicemail.  I was worried.

Back to 5:30-ish:  Pam (the midwife) said that she would be to my home in 20-30 minutes.  When I got out of the shower, she was there, in less-than 20 minutes.

At 5:53, she checked me.  I was dilated to a “stretchy” 5 cm;  she could easily stretch me to 8 cm.  My cervix was still quite posterior.

She had previously told me that she could manually pull the cervix forward, which would hasten labor, but that it would “hurt like hell”.  I didn’t envision her ever doing this to me because I like to let labor progress naturally;  I don’t want anything to speed it.

But, at this point, knowing that I was contracting every 2-3 minutes, knowing that I was well-dilated, but that my cervix was still too far back… I consented.

It didn’t actually hurt.  It was uncomfortable.

At that point, it was about 6:00 a.m.  Pam and the assistant midwife (Alicia) made themselves scarce.  They disappeared downstairs.  At some point, they came back upstairs and prepped some things in the room:  hanging bags for trash and laundry, setting up a birthing stool over a new shower curtain tarp, setting out piles of chux pads and other supplies.  I was only vaguely aware of this.

Some time close to 7:00, Stephanie arrived.  She had gotten Martin’s voice mail.

Laura also arrived, perhaps a little earlier than Stephanie.  Laura, a friend of mine, has been a long-time doula, now studying to be a midwife;  mine would be her first “official” birth as a student.

Even after Stephanie was there, I was concerned that everyone was there much too early.  The contractions weren’t terribly difficult and I had visions of everyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs and the baby being born 24 hrs later.

I don’t like putting people out.  I really don’t.  It makes me anxious, people sitting around, waiting on me.  It’s the ultimate rudeness, in my perspective:  Knowing that people are waiting on you, and you taking your sweet time…  I kept thinking about how maybe Martin should be at work; Pam and Alicia having to reschedule clients’ appointments — or worse, missing another birth because they were at my not-real birth; Stephanie should be at home with her family, or at her daughter’s volleyball tournament…  At one point, I asked the midwives and everyone else, “You bored yet?”  They seemed surprised, and Alicia mentioned how my 7yo, Audrey, was keeping everyone entertained, downstairs, with her quips and antics.  That wasn’t quite what I meant.  I guess I asked that because I was worried about it being way too early, and here I was, keeping everyone waiting.  I also started to question the wisdom of not really having anyone to watch the children.  As my oldest child is 16, everyone is pretty well self-sustaining:  They know what to do, what not to do, they can get breakfast and lunch for themselves, etc.  I knew our home would be filled with adults, in case of some emergency…  But, now, hearing about Audrey keeping everyone “entertained”, I worried.

In my previous births (all in the hospital, four with naturally-minded OBs, one with a Certified Nurse Midwife, all medication-free), one reason I never insisted on a home birth was because of the above:  I could envision myself worrying about everyone else, worrying about what the children were doing.

So, I labored, mostly focused on the labor itself, but about 5% of my mind wondering about the children, the midwives, Stephanie, my husband…

Speaking of the children, the boys (ages 16, almost-14, and 11) would just check in with the midwives, asking about how mom was doing.  Ethan (the oldest) didn’t come upstairs at all.  Grant and Wes came up once, before everything got intense.  Audrey came in and out frequently.  Fiala, my 4yo, stayed with me, or at least in the room, for a good portion of labor.

Fi and Martin with me.

Fi and Martin with me.

That’s actually just what I thought it would be like, with the children.  I was a little concerned about Audrey being too self-focused if she was in the room, but she wasn’t at all.  She wasn’t as attentive as Fiala, but she wasn’t as mindless as I was afraid she’d be.

Steph supporting me.

Steph supporting me.

For much of my labor, it was just as above:  Me standing in the bathroom, supporting myself on the sink.  I like to feel grounded, my body supported.

Also, notice my tense shoulders and arms?  Later, Pam (and everyone else) kept telling me to relax them.  That made me a little upset.  I couldn’t insist that, even though my shoulders were tense, the rest of my body was relaxed.  I wasn’t fighting the contractions, even though my shoulders were tensed.

This picture kind of freaked me out.  A) I look… old.  B) I look like my mom.

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And I look, to me, like my mom looked when she was ill, when she was in pain.  I suppose that makes sense:  I was in pain.  But, it was… sad and startling, seeing this picture.

Around 8:45, I was in the bathroom again, against the sink.  Stephanie and Martin were just outside the open door, talking.  The midwives weren’t in the room;  I found out later that they were camped in the (very small) hall, just outside our closed bedroom door.

Around 8:45, that’s when it switched for me.  It switched from, “This may take a really long time… these contractions aren’t really difficult… I wonder if I’ll have a baby by noon?  Five p.m.?  When??” to, “Holy cow, I’m going to have a baby, and sooner, rather than later.”  I stopped worrying about everyone else;  I didn’t have enough mental energy to, anyway.

I stood leaning against the doorjamb of the bathroom, laboring hard.  It took a few minutes, I think, for Martin and Stephanie to notice that something had switched…  I couldn’t tell them, though.  All I could think was that I wanted to lie down and that the carpet next to the bed looked good.  I think I kind of motioned in that direction and finally made it there, with effort.

At this point in labor… It’s funny, because everyone started to be very concerned about my comfort and well-being, and kept asking me questions.  I couldn’t answer, and I didn’t want them to ask me questions, but I couldn’t say that.  I couldn’t talk.  I just wanted to lie down.  It seemed like that would make the pain of the contractions — which had very suddenly become very intense and strong — lessen.

So, I stretched out on my right side, on the carpet on the floor next to the bed.

Almost immediately, I thought, “This was a very bad idea.”

My contractions absolutely gripped my body.  It was so painful.

I thought, “Either this is the world’s worst laboring position for me, or I am in transition.”

It’s odd, because in births #2-5, I knew exactly when transition hit.  There was no question in my mind.  But for this one, I just didn’t know.

It seems like, for the whole birth, almost everything solid… wasn’t.  Everything reliable, wasn’t.

Not that my people weren’t reliable.  Everyone who was there was wonderful.

But, prior to this birth, I can’t tell you how solid I felt about birth, how confident, how expectant.

But for baby Jean’s birth…  No, I didn’t feel like that at all.  The whole thing seemed fraught with questions and a lack of confidence.

I still don’t know why that was.  I keep waiting for some revelation, some insight, which is why I haven’t written this down until now.

I still have no deep insight about why this was.  Why did God see a need to put me in a place of insecurity?  I don’t know.

But, I can say that, for me feeling insecure, this was the best place, with the best people, to be.

I don’t think in “what ifs”.

A number of people, who have either been at the birth, or who heard about it, have questioned with wide eyes, “What if you had been in the hospital with that?”

And I don’t know.  I don’t think about that, at all.  I wasn’t at the hospital…  I was in my bedroom, with my husband and some incredibly skilled, caring women.

So, there I was on the floor, and I kept thinking, “I have to get off the floor.”  But I couldn’t move.  The contractions were right on top of each other, and each one made me freeze and melt simultaneously.  I couldn’t speak or move or think, other than in the back of my mind, thinking that again, “I have to get off the floor.”

It was just hurting so badly while on the floor, something made me feel that if I was not on the floor, I would feel better, labor better, with less pain.

It took a while… about 15 minutes, to be able to get into a not-lying-down position.  While I was getting up, at one point, I was on my hands and knees.  While there, I had the thought, “OK, this doesn’t suck as badly as being on the floor.”

It was still completely miserable, but it wasn’t as awful as lying down.

As I picked my hands up off the floor and rocked back to a sort-of kneeling position, I started to feel pushy.

Ah ha!  It was transition.

Oddly, this didn’t make me feel any better.  I was still feeling very insecure, very befuddled…

I know that when women labor naturally, the best place to be is in that… irrational, deep place of instinct.  However, even though in my previous births, especially with Audrey and Fiala, when I reached a place of transition and starting to feel pushy, I was so elated.  Even though I was deep in myself, drowning — in a good way — in labor itself, there was an underlying joy and expectation.

This time, not so much.  It just stunk.  I just kept thinking, “I have to get to this next point, because then it will feel not-as-awful.”

Never, except perhaps with my first birth, when I was altogether inexperienced, had I ever felt like that while birthing.

At that point, Pam stuck her head in.  She said later that she could hear that something had changed.  Stephanie said, “She’s feeling pushy.”

I somehow communicated that I wanted to get up on the bed, on all fours.  Someone put a pile of pillows at my head, I don’t know who.  That was perfect.  My head against the headboard, resting on my arms, which were on the pile of pillows.  Just right.

I remember thinking, “This is just right.”

Funny enough… when I was discussing, in a previous prenatal appointment, how I envisioned myself giving birth, I said something like, “Well, not on my hands and knees.  I don’t see that at all.  I don’t think that would be comfortable at all.”

And I can’t say that I was comfortable, but for one reason or another, it was just right, it was where I needed to be for that birth, for this baby.

I started pushing at 9:25.  My water had not broken, which I found very odd, given the fact that it surely had leaked earlier in the morning.

The girls, Audrey and Fiala, were still in the room.  I was proud of them — for being involved, for caring, for not freaking out…

They were on my right, on the side of the bed.  Martin was on my left.  Pam was at the foot of the bed.  Where everyone else was, I don’t know.  I had my eyes clamped shut, and it took all my concentration just to be.

Even with the first push, it didn’t feel quite right.

I wasn’t concentrating on pushing crazy-hard, though.

Knowing from my previous births, I get into robot-birthing-woman mode during the pushing phase:  My tendency is to push too much, too hard, not judiciously.  I hate the “ring of fire”, which is aptly named for me.  I just want to get past that, past it, past it.  So, I push like crazy.  I have since learned that the ring of fire is when the perineum is stretching, and if I don’t want to tear, that I must be patient, let it stretch, hold it right there, even as it burns, wait, wait…

But after — I think it was — two pushes, my water broke.

The energy in the room shifted.

I can’t describe it any other way.  The energy changed.  Alicia came over on my right and took hold of my leg to angle it just so, underneath me…  I didn’t know what she was doing, and frankly, I didn’t like it.

Pam was still at the foot of the bed, and I could hear her giving instructions, but I have no idea what they were.

She was supporting me.  She was there, working, doing something.  She was using both hands.  She was directing me when to push, which was 100% OK.  I had told her in a prenatal appointment that I don’t completely trust my instinct, because my instinct wants me to over-push, and that I would be listening to her and trusting her.

I could hear her voice, calm but firm, raised but not loud.

I was pushing, but it still didn’t feel right;  it didn’t feel powerful.

I found out later that my baby had a nuchal hand, and that became apparent after my water broke.

That sensation I had experienced, the previous night, about baby Jean trying to push her way out with her hand??  It was true.  It really was her hand, right at the mouth of the uterus, right at the cervix.

That is probably why I was contracting for eight days — my uterus was trying to get her positioned correctly, get her hand out of the way…  It didn’t work.

I didn’t know all this was happening — oddly, I couldn’t feel it at all.  Pushing was very painful, the ring of fire was very painful…  but Pam manipulating the baby’s arm while I was pushing??  I had no idea.  I didn’t know there was a hand/arm issue at all, until afterwards.

But, when baby Jean presented with her hand right next to her temple, Pam said that she first tried to push the hand back down.  She could get it to the collar bone, but Jean kept sticking it back up.  Then, Pam showed me how, when a baby is birthed, if her arm is bent, the elbow sticking out can be problematic.  So, she had to pull the arm all the way out, first.

And this is why pushing didn’t feel right to me;  it is why it felt ineffective — because of the malposition.

Pushing hurt.  Even when I wasn’t pushing, it hurt…  Looking back, there was no respite — from about 8:45 to 9:45, when baby Jean Marjorie Joy was born.  Only one hour.  But it was a very long hour.  It was all pain, all the time.

I wasn’t fighting it.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t relaxed.  I wasn’t fearful.  But, I was definitely in pain.

I’ve heard that the difference between pain (or even agony) and misery is one’s emotional state.  I did feel befuddled and unsure of myself.  But, I also felt cared-for, loved.  I felt assured that I was in very competent hands.  I just had to trust everyone… and I did.

At some point in the pushing, I became pretty loud.  The girls left the room.

I asked them later if they were scared by me… being loud.  (It wasn’t screaming, it wasn’t yelling… I don’t know what you’d call it.  It was just loud.)  And Audrey said, “No…  It was just too loud, so I left.”

I think there was something in her that said, “This is too intense,” and she took her exit, with Fiala following.  Even that, I think is just right.  They weren’t frightened.  They had just had enough and could probably sense that they were no longer of any help.  Prior to that, they’d often kiss my cheek, or put their hands on my belly…  At one point, Pam said, “Do you see when her eyes are closed?  That is when her belly hurts and you can’t put your hands on her belly because that hurts her more.”  And they didn’t.

I pushed for a total of 20 minutes.  That felt like a really long time to me, as all my previous babies were between 4-7 minutes each.

But she came out… with me being loud…

And you know that amazing emotional high — just absolutely saturated with JOY and love after a baby is born naturally?  I have experienced that five times.  I’ve studied that phenomenon, and in the birth classes that I (intermittently) teach, I describe the hormonal process that leads to that awesome feeling, and how it’s designed by God…  And, amazingly… the process that gets the baby OUT is very similar to the hormonal process that got the baby IN.  That feeling after a baby is born is remarkably similar to an orgasm.  I am 100% convinced that it’s part of God the Father’s plan for birth to culminate in a feeling, and experience that is BEYOND WORDS, both to help the mom and baby bond, to assist in the mother forgetting the pain of birthing, and so that there is… and emotional reward in doing a job well done.  Among other good things.  It really is a complicated an amazing hormonal process.

But this baby??  Um, no.  I didn’t feel that.

I was just flat-out relieved.

That’s it:  Relief.

Relief.

Relief.

I was just relieved that she was out, that my baby was earth-side, that she was here.

But after that point, my memory is very fuzzy.

I was talking with my husband about the birth, two days after Jean was born, and he mentioned catching the baby.

“What?” I was incredulous.  “You caught the baby?  I didn’t know you caught her.  How could I not know that?  How could I not know that you caught our baby??”

Pam was at the foot of the bed, tending to me, and Martin was still at my side, and she told him where to put his hands, as when the mom pushes out the baby, she kind of curls below the mom when she’s on all fours.

I didn’t know this happened.  I literally had no idea.

He continued, “Yes, and I held her as you turned over, and it was sort of awkward because she was still attached to the umbilical cord.”

How could I not remember this?  I don’t think I remember rolling over.  I don’t remember seeing my husband with our brand-new baby.

I don’t even remember anyone placing her in my arms.

I do remember seeing both Pam and Alicia rub baby Jean all over… she was fairly blue after birth.  I remember them exclaiming about how huge she was.  As they were doing this, I remember taking off my tank top so that the baby and I could be skin-to-skin.

Baby Jean pinked-up, and someone placed her in my arms.  She had a lot of hair, for one of my babies.  She was really, really chubby.  Right after, someone else reached over and put one of those stretchy baby hats on her head.  I buried my face in her neck…

kissing my newborn's neck

Some short time after that, I birthed the giant placenta.  We took a good look at it… And Laura took it home, which kind of freaked out Martin and Stephanie.  I wasn’t freaked out.  Folks do all sorts of stuff with their placentas.  I kind of considered it, but after experiencing no PPD with my previous five, I sort of figured that having it encapsulated was an expensive novelty and I decided to pass.  We could have kept it and planted a tree over it, buried in our yard.  “A tree???” Martin asked.  I knew he would be a tough sell on alternate uses for placentas, and that he would feel zero attachment to it.  So, I hadn’t even brought it up, prior to birth.  I figured I was just doing well, getting a home birth, and that the whole placenta thing wasn’t a hill worth fighting over.

Pam and Martin weighed our little chub.

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Ten pounds, seven ounces.

My biggest yet.

Little Squishy.

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My sister Robin arrived…

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That is Fiala, Pam, Robin, Audrey, Martin, and Stephanie, all looking on to measure her head.  Her head was 14.5″ (that’s big) and her chest was 15¼” (that’s really big).  She was 22-ish inches long.  I think Pam measured her at 22, but at Jean’s first pediatric appointment, when she was one week old, she was 21½”.  And then the following week, she was 21¼”.  Jean didn’t shrink…  so, we can call her 22″, but who knows?

Measuring her chest

And this is the team (minus my other daughters)…

Laura, Pam, baby and me, Alicia

Martin, Laura, Pam, baby and me, and Alicia

And now, quite apropos, my baby is crying…  Sweet girl.

………

She’s just a baby.

Martin and I keep saying that to each other, “She’s just a baby.”

Even with the unusual-for-me birth, and even with a horrific event where my nipple detached about 40% due to a bad latch (yes, it was as awful as it sounds), this has been a stress-free month.  There is peace and joy and the absolute delight of infancy, and the acute awareness of how quickly it passes…  My husband and I have been in glorious enjoyment of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.  There is a sense of completeness, of finality;  we both know she is our last, and we are going to enjoy every last second of her being “just a baby.”

With my first birth, at age 24, I was younger and more physically resilient.  However, I’ll trade NOW for then, any day.  I was so stressed out with Ethan, sure that each cry of his was an indictment against my mothering.  Now, Jean cries, and I laugh at her sweet, cute, sad, squishy face, and her baby-ness where she is just absolutely sure the world is going to end…  I don’t laugh in a mocking way.  She’s just so sweet.  She’s just a baby.  She doesn’t know.

But this time, I do.  I know to treasure it.

Older women tell younger mothers that all the time, “Treasure it.  It passes so quickly.”  I was SO TIRED of hearing that continually.  But, now I’m an older mother, and I know…  I know…  But, I treasure it all the more, because I do know, now.

She’s just a baby.

Tongue-tie update and a couple of other things, including ice cream…

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

Darling Fiala, a couple of hours post-birth, holding her new baby sister.

So, the above pic has nothing to do with this post, really.  I just wanted to publish it.

I saw baby Jean’s nurse practitioner again today, since the pediatrician is visiting his parents in India until next week.  I really like the CNP, Penny.  We did a weight check and a few other things.  Baby Jean had only gained three ounces since last Tuesday, which is just below the normal threshold of 0.5 – 1.0 oz daily at this point in development.  And that is with her nursing for a good hour at a time every 2-3 hours.  Little Jean now weighs 10 lbs 6 oz, still not quite her birth weight.

We confirmed that, yes, she does have a fairly significant tongue tie and a very significant upper-lip tie.  And, since it is affecting both her ability to nurse efficiently and is still causing me pain during nursing, we are going to have at least her tongue clipped.  However, today counted as the “consult”, rather than the actual event.  So, we talked about it pretty extensively, and I watched a (quite informative) 15 minute Power Point about the procedure… And scheduled the frenectomy for Monday.

The plan is to give that a week to heal and to see if it results in a decrease of pain for me and an increase of weight for Jean.  If both of those happen, we’ll leave the lip-tie alone.  But, if one or the other (or both) are still happening, we’ll schedule the upper lip to be done as well.

Personally, I think the lip is more of a problem, since she can’t flange it out.  But, since correcting the tongue tie is less invasive, that’s what the pediatrician wants to start with.  I’m OK with that.

I’m NOT OK with him requiring a Vitamin K injection for infants to receive the frenectomy.  The nurse practitioner is e-mailing the pediatrician to see if we can waive that requirement.  If not, there is a local midwife who is certified in the procedure, and we may pay her the $50 cash (rather than the $30 co-pay) to have it done.  My own midwife suggested that I request a blood test to confirm adequate blood levels of Vitamin K, rather than just giving her an injection.  I think that is a good idea, but that certainly seems like it would take longer… yet one more week…  I’d just as soon have this over and done.

In unrelated news…

About a week ago, I joked on my personal Facebook page about still looking five months pregnant.  I think I caused concern in some, who gently cautioned me about trying to “get my figure back” too quickly.  HONESTLY, this is the LEAST I have ever been concerned about that.  I have been devoted to really taking it easy on myself, physically.  For the first week, I did virtually nothing, and my family waited on me hand and foot.  This last week, I haven’t done much more.  It is now my goal to, every day:

  1. Do some laundry:  Start the load and hang it on the line.
  2. Make dinner:  This is made easier by the fact that I have a number of dinners half- or three quarters-made in the freezer.
  3. Take care of baby Jean Marjorie Joy.

That’s it.

I remember being horrified by my mushy tummy after my firstborn and starting ridiculously early on a sit-up regimen.  I am absolutely NOT doing that.

I have worn a… slimming undergarment a couple of times but that tends to make my ankles swell, as well as just being uncomfortable.  I find myself less motivated by my appearance and more motivated by comfort these days…  However, I tend to feel better when I feel like I look better, even if I don’t actually look better (follow that?).  I guess what I’d prefer is to look effortlessly put-together, but I guess that is not going to happen.  At the age of 40, after having six children, I actually have to put some effort into looking nice.  🙂

I have also been alternately horrified and amused by what has been the Lots o’ Carbs Festival at our home these last couple of weeks.  Part of that is because a number of kind friends gave us gift cards to “safe” restaurants (we’re hard to cook for), post-birth, and there are always more carbs in a store-bought meal.  (One friend homemade us an AMAZING dinner — totally gluten-free and dairy-free — including brownies.)  On top of that, not only did I have the pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra that I’d been saving for after the birth, but a dear friend remembered that that ice cream was my favorite and brought by THREE pints.  Those, I shared with my husband, Martin.  And then my hubby bought another pint for me a few days ago…  That one, I ate by myself.  Ice cream begets ice cream.  Once the floodgates are open, it’s hard to say no!!  However, in spite of the fact that I’ve eaten more carbs in the last two weeks than I have in any one span in probably the last 3-4 YEARS, I am still losing weight.  In fact, I’ve lost 23 of the 35 I gained, six of those in the last week, as I’ve been feasting on ice cream.  Only 12 pounds to go.  And obviously, I’m not even trying to lose weight!!

I know I will return to eating more healthily…  But right now, pass me another pint.  🙂

Pain, apprehension, and joy

This isn't her birth story... but I love this picture.  Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended.  Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala;  my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin;  my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.

This isn’t her birth story… but I love this picture. Baby Jean is so peaceful, and well-attended. Pictured are the hands of 4.5 year old daughter, Fiala; my midwife, Pam; my sister, Robin; my husband, Martin; and my 7yo daughter, Audrey.  Jean’s chest, by the way, was 15 1/8″.

Tomorrow, baby Jean Marjorie Joy will be two weeks old.  I am somewhat anxious about tomorrow;  she has a follow-up visit with a pediatrician to do a weight-check and assess the possible need for clipping a tongue-tie and upper lip-tie.

It has been almost three years since my children have been to a pediatrician.  Longer, in fact…  We were in the care of a family doctor, a DO, but after we stopped vaxing, she dropped us.  I was not eager to re-establish care with a medical doctor.  I’m still a bit apprehensive about it…  But, the particular pediatrician comes highly recommended by my midwife — which means a lot to me.  As long as the parent is educated about vaccination choices, they do not give any guff about not vaccinating;  if they were concerned about me declining Vitamin K or Hep B, it wasn’t apparent.  They didn’t blink an eye about my baby being born at home.  Or that she is my sixth child;  the woman who did the initial assessment had five children, in fact.

Giving it some thought just now, I just realized that how I feel about pediatricians is the same way I feel about hospital birth, and why I chose to birth at home:  I know my rights as a patient in a hospital.  I’m well-educated as to the pitfalls of birthing the standard American way.  I know what I want for my birth.  I am confident in my ability to birth.  While I truly try to be kind to those caring for me in a hospital, I am not afraid to put my foot down and refuse a certain kind of treatment, or sign AMA waivers, or what have you.  But, with this birth, I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to be put in a position (perhaps literally!) where I had to endlessly justify my decisions and where I had to advocate for myself.  I just wanted to relax and birth a baby in peace, without having to weather confrontation.

I felt the same about finding a new pediatrician, especially after the DO dropped us.

So, last week, going into baby Jean’s “72 hour” first check-up, which was really at one week, I was quite apprehensive about how the staff would treat my baby and me, especially since the actual doctor, the one recommended to me, was on vacation, and I’d be seeing the nurse practitioner.

However, it was an altogether successful visit.  The only thing that made it difficult was that I was in physical pain…

I had some concerns (Lordy, this post is filled with apprehension and concerns!) about birthing a baby at 40, and the recovery from that.  I am happy to say that the actual recovery has been amazing.  Now thirteen days postpartum, I actually feel about 95% recovered.  I think much of that is due to careful following of my midwife’s instructions — which has a heavy emphasis on chilling out — and the tender care of my husband, who took a week off of work, and served and fed me better than I would have for myself.

Despite baby Jean’s enormous size — 10 lb, 7 oz;  22″ long, 14.5″ head — and the fact that she had a nuchal hand (she was born with her hand next to her face… and since the midwife couldn’t push the hand back down, she pulled it out, so that baby was born arm-first), I sustained only a superficial 1st degree tear.

I have, however, had weird and painful OTHER things happen since her birth.  First, I had to go to the emergency room when Jean was only three days.  I have varicose veins — which I knew about — and one on the back of my leg had become puffy, red, hot to touch, and very painful.  My midwife was concerned that, even though she couldn’t feel a thrombosis, that there might be a clot deeper in the tissue of my leg.  After a phone call to her consulting physician, they both felt like I should go in, immediately, to the ER for an ultrasound of my leg.  That was stressful.  I think the most difficult part was actually bringing my baby to the germ-filled emergency room.  My husband Martin came with me, and even though it was about 110° out, we decided that it was better to use the outside as a “waiting room”.  The staff at the hospital was all unfailingly accommodating of me having a brand-new infant, and found us a private room almost immediately.  Everyone was kind and attentive, and fairly rushed us through.  We were in and out in just about two hours, and the better news was that a) no clot was found, and b) Jean doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects from our trip.  The tentative diagnosis was “phlebitis” — irritated veins.  Sitting for three days in bed is great for recovery from birth, but the staying stationary is less than helpful for varicose veins.  In any case, the phlebitis, or whatever it was, seems to have resolved itself.

Then… from about day 2 until day 7, we were treating what we thought was a clogged milk duct.  The protocol for that is soaking in hot water, using a heating pad, massage, and nursing on the clogged side as much as possible, using a variety of odd nursing positions, all to help clear out the clog and to ensure that it doesn’t turn into mastitis:  a breast infection.  Well, nothing seemed to help.  I cannot describe the pain.  It was, I do believe, the worst in my life, and I include birth in that list.

On Tuesday early morning, a week ago, I was massaging my “clogged duct” and to my absolute horror, saw the side of my nipple gape open.  Hidden at the base of the nipple in the wrinkly and folded skin, what had presented as a clogged duct was actually my nipple, detaching.  It was entirely sliced through, from about 6:30 – 11:00, a good 3/8 of my nipple, completely cut through.  It looked like someone had actually sliced it.  Someone had, in fact:  my darling newborn, with her powerful but inefficient, tongue- and lip-tied suck.

My salvation was a Medela nipple shield.  I am old-fashioned.  There just seems to be something wrong with putting a piece of silicone between baby and mama.  Historically, I haven’t been a fan of nipple shields.  However, it was about my only hope for nursing on that side…  With literal shaking and tears from fear of pain, I put it on and attached little Jean Marjorie.  Not only did she latch on with no difficulty, but the pain was reduced a good 97%.  The pain was still present, but completely tolerable.

So, for five days, I nursed using the shield.  It was an annoyance but a blessing.

This morning, she nursed successfully without the shield, and there was virtually no pain and no further damage.

I can tell that she is still not latching on quite correctly.  Also, she nurses for a good hour at a time, yet doesn’t seem to ever fully empty the milk from my breasts.  She is perpetually hungry.  She is wetting an adequate number of diapers;  I don’t think her life is in danger from malnutrition.  However, for all that I am spending 1/3 to 1/2 of my time nursing my baby, I don’t think she is gaining any weight, and may, in fact, be losing weight.  We’ll find out tomorrow.

So… we may end up having to get her frenulum clipped.  Her upper lip is tied, as well.

Theoretically, I don’t mind spending so much time nursing my baby.  It is a precious, precious time.  But logistically, at some point, I need to be more available to my family, and my baby would benefit from being able to adequately get the milk she needs in a much shorter amount of time.  She is spending so much time nursing that I don’t think she’s getting quite enough sleep.  Her need for sleep and her need for mama’s milk are in conflict with each other…  I can tell she is both exhausted and hungry.  Poor sweetie.

So, while I don’t relish the thought of anything getting clipped on her — for all everyone’s assurances that it barely hurts and that she’ll heal very quickly with no disruption of nursing — it does seem that it would be best for both her and me to get the procedure(s) done.

Other worries that were a waste of time:

  • Homebirth itself.  It was, despite some challenges in the birth itself, absolutely perfect.  My husband is a new convert to the benefits of homebirth.  Better late than never.  🙂
  • Too many people in the room.  We had my midwife, the midwife’s assistant (who is nearly a licensed midwife herself), a student midwife, and a friend who was acting as doula… No one was intrusive, everyone cared for me magnificently, everyone had their place.
  • The children.  My husband was more concerned about this than I was.  Our boys just kind of checked on me periodically, and the girls were present for most of the birth — exiting on their own when things got too intense — and it was just right.
  • Our family adapting to #8 in the home.  This has been so smooth.  So very smooth.  My husband is abundantly smitten with baby Jean.  The girls are wonderfully gentle and attentive big sisters.  The boys slightly less so, but no less loving, and what they lack for in personal attentiveness, they make up for in their general service to our family and to me and baby in particular:  they are definitely picking up the slack.

Anyway… now that I’m no longer in continual pain and that there is hope on the horizon, I’m much… happier.  Not that having a baby is all about my personal happiness.  But, with the difficulty of the birth (difficult for me, that is), I felt more relief than joy at her birth.  Then, when the nursing issues started on the second day, the leg vein issues on the third day, etc., I feel like I’ve been somewhat on edge and not able to fully participate in the JOY of a newborn.  There have been moments I relish, and my heart is absolutely filled with love and ZERO regrets;  I can’t imagine life without Jean Marjorie Joy.  But, I’m looking forward to the coming weeks even more.

THIS, only moments after birth.  So perfect.

THIS, only moments after birth. So perfect.

 

Thirty-six weeks. Birth and baby preparations.

I’m 36 weeks pregnant today.

That’s rather a milestone, because Arizona law only “officially” allows home births between 36-42 weeks.  So, I’m IN!!

In general, I’m not feeling miserable.  Well, I kind of am…  And part of me thinks that must be my age (I’ll be 40 next month!), but another part of me well-remembers the last weeks of pregnancy with my first, at age almost-24, and I think that, perhaps, I was even MORE miserable than I am now.  So, I can’t blame it on age.  Really, I just don’t enjoy pregnancy.  My body resists it, and all the more so as the birth approaches.

I do enjoy the birth itself — so satisfying, so joyful! — and I adore having a newborn.

I’m not going to have a water birth.

It’s kind of funny, because with most of the home birth pics I see — like on the ever-encouraging Birth Without Fear — inevitably, they’re of a vernix-coated brand-newborn being pulled straight from the water into the mother’s waiting hands.  And I just don’t… want that.  I don’t know why, exactly.  I just don’t.  Every time I’ve had the opportunity to labor in a tub — with all but one of my five previous births — I have gladly done so.  And I do envision myself in labor in my swimming pool and in a bathtub here in my home.  But, birthing in the water?  I just don’t want to.  Part of me feels like I should have a birthing pool on hand, just in case.  But, I have successfully, joyfully birthed five children while NOT in the water, and I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing the same with baby #6.  I don’t like the feeling of NOT feeling… grounded while in the water.  My midwife and her assistant (who is a friend of mine — a doula training to be a midwife) assures me that, with a rebozo (basically just a long, cotton shawl), they could wrap/loop it around me in such a way that I wouldn’t feel like I was floating away.  But that makes me feel even more twitchy — having fabric looped all around my body and two women holding it while I push out a baby.  I don’t want that… much touching me.  And I’m just not a fan of plastic touching me, either.  A rented pool is a blow-up plastic pool with a thin plastic liner.  Not a fan of the plastic-to-skin sensation.  No, thank you.

Plus, the pool rental is another $100 that I’d rather not spend, and my husband is worried about the second story of our home successfully supporting that much weight — and WET weight, at that — in the corner of our bedroom.

So, a birth pool is out.

For other baby-preparations…

Friends have POURED out love and blessing and baby stuff on us.  I’ve received:

  • A gorgeous crib.  (Actually, two of them.  I’m going to give one away.)
  • The first six months of clothing — really, really nice clothing from a friend whose baby girl was born in August of last year.  She works for a mall development company and I’m confident she spends WAY more time shopping at WAY nicer stores than me…  Plus, she has two boys and her family was thrilled that she had a baby girl, and of course, everyone gave clothes.  And she has passed them all down to me.  And we’re going to meet up soon and she’s going to give me a Boppy (which I love), a breast pump, and some other items, too.
  • A really nice car seat.
  • A bouncy seat.
  • Baby toys.
  • A play pen.
  • Some cloth diapering supplies.
  • Some baby linens — like bath towels and blankets.

The bassinet bumper is made from this cloth, edged in the chocolate brown of the leaves and stems, and tied with yellow grosgrain ribbon.

I already owned a nice, big, rocking, oak bassinet.  I purchased it second-hand when Fiala (who is now 4.5 years old) was not yet born, and it has been making the rounds, so to speak, ever since.  I’m kicking myself for not having all the mothers who have borrowed it write their baby’s names in pencil with the dates the bassinet was used.  I think the count is at seven.  Seven babies who have slept in that bassinet between the birth of my four-year-old and this new baby.  I think that is such a rich, sweet history.  And now, the bassinet has come back to me from the most recent baby (born in November) who had it…  Along with the bumper I made for a friend who used it for HER little girl, who will be four in August.  It’s still in great shape, still super-cute.

All I have purchased are:

  • More cloth diapering stuff.
  • A pail liner for said cloth diapers.
  • Another wet bag (a friend already gave me one) for cloth diapers on-the-go.
  • A diaper bag.
  • A Moby wrap.

And with all of that, I have spent less than $200.

For diapers, I have purchased all-in-ones, pocket-diapers, prefolds, diaper covers…  I have nearly enough diapers and supplies to last from newborn until potty-training.  Craigslist is a GREAT source for cloth diapers.  Thankfully, cloth diapering is quite trendy right now.  However, countless mothers have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on pricey, new cloth diapers, tried it for a week or two, and freaked out and decided to stop cloth diapering.  Then, they offer their nearly-new stash on Craigslist for 10-50% the cost of new.  And I come in and scoop everything up, happily.  🙂  There are also die-hard cloth diapering moms who keep meticulous care of their cloth diaper supplies and have great items to sell — even if they’re older — that have been so well-cared-for that they’re worth buying.  I’ve also purchased a number of diapering items from eBay.  I’m still bidding on some more infant-sized prefolds…  And I still need a few additional items, but I’ll still probably end up spending just under $200.

And that’s even with my pricey diaper bag.

NOTE:  I am so NOT trendy.  I’m really not.  I have zero interest in being a stylish, hot mom who uses her baby as a public indication of her ability to spend loads of money on the best, most expensive brands.

So, on one hand, I’m kind of embarrassed about my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag.  This brand, in “touring” style I purchased, retails for around $150.  Discontinued fabrics — such as the one I purchased — can be found for $75-105, typically.  That just seems so, so, so pricey.  Like, ridiculously so.

Darling.  The colors.  The birds.  The fact that it’s real, woven houndstooth.  I love it.

On the other hand, I absolutely ADORE my new diaper bag.  I adore it.  I can’t wait until it arrives.   I bought it used, for about $40, and I literally cried with joy.  Though it is a fraction of the cost of a new bag, it still seems crazy-expensive to me.  But, once I saw that diaper bag…  I just felt like I had to have it.  Me, the immensely practical, pragmatic, penny-pinching mother of almost-six, “had to have” a $40 diaper bag.  And I was willing to spend more!  Ack!!

I consoled myself that I had been so frugal with my other purchases, and overall, have spent so little for this baby, that the $40 was justifiable.  😀  It’s my one baby-splurge.

So… with me now being 36 weeks, and with procuring — in one way or another — almost all of my baby supplies, I’m feeling almost-ready for the baby to come.  She could come any day and we’d at least not be in a panic, though everything is not quite ready…

 

 

A good day. Mostly.

It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur.  To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too.  It has a nice pace:  Filled, but not frenetic.  I hate busy, deadline-driven days.  I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished.  I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children.  Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t.  So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.

  1. Let the day begin!  The day started just as I prefer:  On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible.  I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah.  Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap.  It was just right.  What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK.  It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
  2. Gardening.  I am out of large and medium pots, now!  In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes.  Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag;  my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots.  I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other.  I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers.  In related news…  I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted.  Wrong.  I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical.  I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where.  Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers.  Some things are pretty easy to tell:  Chard, for one.  Scallions, too, are pretty apparent.  But the various herbs and flowers???  I have no idea.  AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves.  “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??”  I sampled it.  Cilantro.  From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
  3. I found the one I’m using, in perfect, nearly-unused condition in the shed. It is identical to one that my family had, while growing up. If I had realized it was “vintage” and could sell for $20 on Etsy, maybe I’d have sold it instead of using it…. Maybe not. I like it.

    Yard work.  I am happily transforming our back yard.  Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard.  The front, too.  But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place.  We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do.  We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system.  We need more trees.  We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!).  We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool.  The cool-decking needs redone.  We need gutters.  The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted.  The list goes on.  But for now, we’re doing small things.  For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard.  I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler.  It has very much greened-up the yard.  Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds.  But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely.  There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though.  I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread.  Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had.  It’s just a four-prong step-on device.

  4. Homeschooling.  In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children.  Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions…  I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work.  For my first-grader, Audrey, well…  I should have done more with her.  I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning.  That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right??  (It was her birthday on Saturday…  Can’t believe she is seven!!)
  5. Laundry.  I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
  6. Food, etc.  I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning.  So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight.  And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning.  It feels good to use something completely.  I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads.  It was the first chard harvest of this spring…  I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
  7. from Wikipedia

    Birds!  I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks.  It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird.  I got to get quite close.  “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail…  Think it’s an Anna’s.”  Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide.  It was an Anna’s.  Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.

  8. Pain.  The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear.  It sucks.  It is often incredibly painful.  I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago.  I hope it works miracles.  I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood.  That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago…  Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
  9. The one bad thing about today:  Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine.  The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system.  Problem fixed.  Except that it wasn’t.  On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot.  My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles.  (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school.  I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it.  Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car!  As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…)  The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend.  (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.)  Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use.  The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source.  The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck.  That’s an expensive fix!  😦  One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried.  No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK.  God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
  10. Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes…  I’m always happy when time allows for that.
  11. Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…

No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”

Update on my pregnant, celiac, low-ish carb, almost-Paleo “diet”

I hate to call any food endeavor on which I embark a “diet”.

But, I guess how I’ve been eating for the last 3+ weeks qualifies, since I’m counting carbs.

It took me a bit, but I figured out that I need at least 80 net carbs daily to NOT lose weight.  My goal is NOT to lose weight;  it’s to maintain or to gain weight more slowly.   By 21 weeks, I had gained 22 lbs.  Once my morning sickness was over (bless God) I was packing on two pounds a week, all while eating GOOD FOOD.  Now, I’m eating MORE good food, but fewer carbs.

Here’s my history:

  • I have veinous problems.  I have varicose veins including up into my lower abdomen.  More weight gain is even harder on weak veins.  And my particular kind of veins increase my risk (moderately) of hemorrhaging during birth.  Not good.
  • I also want to limit the stress on my heart during pregnancy by limiting weight gain.  (I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, which is fairly benign, but worrying symptoms ramp up during pregnancy.)
  • I have a history of macrosomic babies.  My smallest was 8 lbs 13 oz.  My largest?  10 lbs even.  Large babies increase one’s risk of hemorrhage.
  • This is my 6th baby.  For every baby >5, a mother’s risk for hemorrhage increases quite dramatically.
  • I am planning a home birth and want to maximize my chances for success — to actually BIRTH in our home, not have to transfer due to blood loss.
  • I did a similar diet under an OB for my last birth — I gained zero weight from weeks 28 onward — and the baby was STILL 8 lbs 13 oz.
  • I have never had gestational diabetes but for baby #5, my oral glucose test (the nasty syrup) was “borderline-borderline” for GD, and I figured that a lower carb, no-sugar, high-protein diet wouldn’t hurt anything.  It didn’t.  🙂
  • In pregnancies #1-4, I gained 37-50 lbs each, ALL WHILE EATING A HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOODS DIET.  My first OB told me that, for some women, their bodies go into “starvation mode” and operate with extreme efficiency, grabbing onto everything it possibly can and storing it as fat.  He was pretty certain that that is what my body does.  I did a food diary for him for a month (as I recall — it was 16 years ago!) and he was impressed with my diet.  The only thing he recommended was taking out fruit.  I didn’t, which is why I probably gained those 50 lbs.
  • With pregnancy #5, on the lower-carb diet, I gained a total of 17 lbs, produced that 8 lb 13 oz baby, and recovery was immeasurably smoother for me, post-pregnancy.  It was fairly easy to lose that extra 10 lbs, as opposed to being faced with a whopping 40 lbs to lose.  I didn’t even have to try to lose those 10 lbs.  They just melted off with a return to my regular metabolism, plus nursing.

For this pregnancy, in a couple of weeks, my midwife — who does offer the syrup-based oral glucose test, which I declined — is going to test how my body handles a “normal”/high amount of carbs via a large meal.  I’ll go into her office at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll do a blood draw and test my blood-sugar levels.  (She’s also going to re-test a couple of other things that were abnormal in an earlier blood test.)  Then, I’ll go home and eat a “regular” breakfast — not one that contains 100 grams of glucose like the oral glucose test though it will be higher in carbs than I would normally eat for breakfast;  I’ll probably eat eggs and a homemade muffin or two and shoot for 50 g carbs or so.  Then, she’ll re-test my blood at 10:30.

We’re testing mostly out of curiosity.  No matter what the results are, I’ll still maintain my current diet.

So, what am I doing in this “current diet”?

I am:

  • Eating about 75-100 grams of protein daily, which is very similar to the Brewer/Blue Ribbon Baby Diet.  (However, I’m not tracking my protein consumption down to the gram.)  I eat 3-4 eggs every breakfast.  I eat meat at lunch and dinner.  My snacks tend to be high-protein, as well — nut-based or plain yogurt.
  • Limiting myself to about 80 grams non-fiber carbs daily.  (I have discovered that with fewer than 80g, I lose weight, which is not the goal.)
  • Eating an additional 30+ grams of dietary fiber carbs daily.
  • Eating at least NINE servings of veggies daily.
  • NOT tracking fat consumption.  At all.  In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a high-fat diet.
  • Sticking to foods that are MOSTLY Paleo:  veggies and meats.  However, I do eat some dairy and some legumes, which most people eating a strict Paleo diet, don’t.  Many Paleo adherents don’t eat any nightshades, either:  tomatoes, potatoes, etc.  I eat virtually no potatoes, but I often eat tomatoes.  I’m not avoiding nightshades.  (In a Paleo diet, the goal is to train your body to burn FAT for energy, and for it to NOT rely on sugar-carbs for energy.  That is how one can eat a high-fat diet and not gain weight.  A Paleo diet is also healthy, long-term, for one’s pancreas as it profoundly limits blood-sugar.)
  • NOT counting calories.
  • Keeping my sugar-intake extremely limited.  This is all sugars, including honey and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit.
  • Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily.  This is in ADDITION to other liquids I may drink.  I actually shoot for a gallon of water daily (128 ounces) but rarely hit that goal.
  • Taking supplements in addition to the foods I eat:  6400 IU vitamin D, 1000 mg cod liver oil, 1200 mg calcium, 600 mg magnesium, 250 mg Horse Chestnut extract, a multivitamin, and 500 mg vitamin C.  Some of them are chewables, which accounts for the 3g carbs for my vitamins if you view my sample daily diet PDF.  If I take an extra vitamin C chewable, that adds another 2g carbs.

Plain, whole milk yogurt with blueberries: My frequent sub for ice cream at the end of the day.

Here is a sample of what I eat, daily (click for PDF).  A few notes:

  • Yes, I drink coffee.  Two mugs of half-caff.  I put organic half & half in it, along with stevia.
  • I do use a kitchen scale for many foods.
  • I use this website:  Self NutritionData to calculate the content of most of my foods.
  • I usually don’t include ingredients in my daily tally, but on the opposite page of my spiral notebook, I do some serious figuring to many recipes in order to figure out the carb and fiber grams per serving.  Yes, this does require some math.  No, I don’t mind.
  • Some things I have to estimate.  For instance, we go out to eat about twice a month.  I made a rough estimate of 60 grams carbs plus 10 grams fiber for a recent (splurge!) lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  This was for beans, corn tortillas, and some tortilla chips that went along with my shredded beef tacos.  But…  some restaurants — chains, especially — publish their nutrition data online.  For instance, I ate a Double-Double Protein Style Animal Style (with “wheat allergy” noted) at In ‘N’ Out Burger.  No fries.  I drank water.  That felt like a splurge, but I found out online that it as only 8g carbs plus 3g fiber.
  • My go-to snacks:
    • Organic celery sticks with sunflower butter (I get sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s.  Yes, it has a small amount of sugar in it).
    • A half, large avocado
    • A handful (two ounces) of raw almonds
    • There are a few gluten-free, low-sugar, high-fiber snack or protein bars — like ProMax LS or ThinkThin Or Kit’s Raw Organic — and I do buy a few of these to eat in a pinch.  But, I tend to shy from packaged snacks.
    • At the end of the day, especially if I need more carbs, I will sit down with a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries or — if my carb count has been REALLY low for the day — 1/2 cup of g.f. granola.  It’s odd to consider, but if you truly stick with virtually all veggies, nuts, and meat during the  day, by the end of the day, you will have to eat a relatively carb-heavy snack or meal to KEEP yourself from losing weight.
    • I will admit that, once this month, I splurged at Yogurtini.  I eat frozen yogurt about once a month from the store.  Yogurtini’s no-sugar-added flavors do NOT contain aspartame (they are sweetened with maltodextrin, sucralose, or other “non-sugar” sweeteners) but they DO contain artificial colors.  This is not a choice that anyone should make on a regular basis, but I’m just keepin’ it real and honest here and admitting to my yogurt consumption.  One five ounce serving (including a scoop of fresh blueberries) ran me about 22 g carbs and 7 g fiber.

 

From this past week…

After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.

This week…

  • A friend's pic of this week's produce, in her kitchen. And you can't even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    A friend’s pic of this week’s CSA produce, in her kitchen. And you can’t even see everything!! LOVELY. YUMMY!

    …has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms.  It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating.  I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it.  Literally:  Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots;  two bunches of Swiss chard;  about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops).  Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something.  I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case.  And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show!  Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family.  Ah-MAY-zing.  Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer.  However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show…  I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me.  I ended up with 16.  Ack!  But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything.  But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business.  I’M TRYING!!  I really am.  Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members…  Plus the eggs.  So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling.  Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work.  More bookkeeping.  More keeping track of this and that…

  • And the seed giveaway.  That took a lot of time, just regulating!!  Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments…  I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions…  Um, I gave that up after a while.  But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
  • My heart has been worrying me.  I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop.  It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself.  But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30?  50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down.  At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago.  I finally got the results this week.  And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK.  See you again in April.”  And that made me feel a lot better.
  • My pregnancy is going well.  I am now 21 weeks along.  All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief.  I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala.  In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk;  I just eat too much of it.  Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful.  After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby;  she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures.  So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight.  In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala):  I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz.  I would have felt badly if she was scrawny…  But she wasn’t.  And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester.  With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up.  I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.

Baby/Midwife/Home Birth/Pregnancy/Twins??? Update

Arizona is in the process of reviewing the scope and practice of licensed midwives.  Currently at issue is this:  May they legally deliver twins/multiples, and may they legally assist in the delivery of homebirth VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean)?  Currently, they’re not allowed.

The VBAC question doesn’t affect me;  I’ve never had a c-section.  But the part about twins thing might.

My midwife still says I’m measuring huge and that it’s likely that I’m either a month further along than I think I am, or that I’m carrying twins.

I don’t think it’s twins.  With this being my sixth baby, I can palpate like a pro (almost) and I only feel one baby in there.  Of course, I could be missing something…  But, the fact that I can feel a whole baby and I’m only 15 weeks — according to my LMP —  tells me that I’m probably 19 weeks, in actuality.

Last week. 14 weeks along. I think.

Last week. 14 weeks along. I think.

My husband and I went back and forth on whether or not to have an ultrasound.  I’d like to avoid or at least limit ultrasounds.  My husband would prefer that I have none*.  However, we’ve decided to go ahead and have one in about three weeks.

I was almost afraid to find out if I was carrying twins, because I didn’t want that to mean I couldn’t have a home birth.  But, in my appointment yesterday with the midwife, she said:

  1. If I’m having twins, I really need to know in advance.
  2. In order to birth twins at home, we need to have a CPM (certified professional midwife) who is also an NMD (naturopathic medical doctor) attend the birth.  They are governed by a different body — the one that licenses NMDs — and they ARE allowed to attend twin home births.
  3. If I’m having twins, it’s a good idea to have two midwives on hand, anyway.

And, wouldn’t you know??  I already know an NMD who is also a CPM.  Voila!  The doctor who oversaw the healing of my now four-year-old daughter, Fiala, who had a lifelong intense, crazy, systemic candida yeast infection:  Dr. Jesika DiCampli.  So, I have a message into her office right now, though it might be jumping the gun a bit.

I also found out in yesterday’s appointment that I have great out-of-network coverage with my insurance, and even with a deductible, the cost for birthing the baby at home will be LESS than what I paid for the hospital birth of our last, Fiala.

So.  Overall, I’m feeling better about things:  that my hope for a home birth may still be realized, even if I’m carrying twins.  That has weighed on my heart for the last month-plus, when it became apparent that I’m big-for-dates.

I’m also feeling less sick, though I’m struggling with some insomnia issues, which has NEVER been a problem for me, my whole life.  I was previously feeling ill from about 11 a.m. until 11 p.m., and now it’s just from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. or later… and I can’t sleep when I’m feeling pukey, and when I do go to bed, even if I’m exhausted, I just can’t get comfortable, or the sleepiness just evaporates, and I lie in bed, grumbly and feeling rotten.  Last night, I finally got up and went downstairs.  Nothing like a crossword puzzle at 2:30 a.m., right??  I drank three glasses of water and ate some blueberries until my husband came down to inquire about my presence.  I spent more than two hours, awake.  I was just thinking last night about how I don’t have any “getting oneself to sleep” skills, because normally, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I’m OUT until my hubby wakes me in the a.m.  Unless someone cries.  I’m up with a start, then.

Anyway.  I’ll let y’all know how it turns out, twins or no.  🙂

——————-

*Excellent, informed, balanced info on the pros and possible cons of prenatal ultrasounds found in the book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr. Sarah Buckley, MD.  In related news, it turns out the my midwife actually met Dr. Buckley and was very encouraged by her at a conference.  I was jealous;  I’d love to hear Dr. Buckley speak.

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