Posts Tagged ‘birth’

Managing Birth Expectations

Monday, July 25th, 2016

DSCN1032The birth plan … I took a twelve (twelve!!) week class on natural childbirth (and infant care) before the birth of my first son. Part of the class was, after educating everyone on different options (including passing around an epidural needle set to terrify everybody by the sheer size of the thing), crafting the birth plan, using a multi-page checklist as the starter point.

My birth plan was pretty laid back, and mine included no epidural, but still, the head nurse checking me in snickered and told me that I should get an epidural right then at check-in, as there was no guarantee the anesthesiologist could ever get back in time again (assuming that I would inevitably ask for one).

After all of this, guess what? Nothing really went according to plan. And even though I thought I was super laid back about my expectations (you know, the old, “I want a natural birth if possible, but as long as my baby is healthy it’s good”), I was massively disappointed in how my birth story played out. I ended up with an emergency c-section, the only non-natural birth from our class.

Moral of the Story: I think it’s very important to be educated on the birth process and the different options out there, and to know beforehand what you personally are comfortable with. It’s also important to remember that while there are many options out there concerning birth, they will not all necessarily be an option for you. You may want an epidural, but your labor may progress so quickly it’s not possible. You may want a home birth, but likewise your individual circumstances may not allow it.

If you are concerned about your birth plan, hiring a doula is a good way to make sure that your voice is heard in the delivery room and that you are supported the whole way by an educated and experienced third party.

Finally, moms and dads, we need to stop judging the birth plans of everybody else. Using scare tactics against pain relief methods, snickering at patients’ pain relief plans, and bashing each other all on choices made during pregnancy and labor/delivery over the Internet–this helps none of us. No matter the events leading up to the birth, ultimately, that’s a healthy baby is the goal, and everyone of us that has been blessed with a healthy birth should be able to celebrate that, without a cloud of guilt or disappointment over our heads.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two little boys, both born healthy, despite how their birth plans turned out. 

What is PPMD?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

PPMD“So what brought you into the emergency room tonight?” I was seated across from the patient’s bed, desperate to remain composed and professional. It was the beginning of my shift, so professionalism should not have been a problem: I was rested, refreshed, and should have been focused. However, this particular patient had a three-week-old baby in the room, and it was taking all of my energy to pay attention to the adult and not the adorable bundle she brought with her.

My priorities realigned, however, when I noticed the strained smile on her face. There was a pause before she answered, as she struggled to compose her response, and suddenly tears spilled from her eyes as quickly as the string of words expressing desperation, sorrow, and guilt over how she was feeling about her new role as Mom.

Postpartum mood disorders affect up to 25 percent of new mothers, and symptoms can develop immediately after birth or months after your little one has come into the world. Depression manifests differently in different people, but typical symptoms include chronic crying, increased anxiety, feelings of despair or guilt, weight loss/gain, sleep disturbance, feeling distant from your child, and fixation on your child’s safety out of paranoia that something dangerous could happen, or thoughts of hurting your child yourself. Dealing with depression by itself is an exhausting task, and doing it while caring for a child can border on the impossible. Doing it without help can create dangerous situations, for both you and your child, and it’s important to ask for support when you recognize that things feel harder than they should.

So what can you do if you feel you or a loved one is having a hard time adjusting to parenthood?

  • Know the signs. Postpartum mental health concerns can arise at any point of the journey, including during pregnancy. Taking the time to check in with your own mental health on a regular basis can help you recognize when things are taking a turn, and knowing what to look for can help you see the red flags sooner rather than later.
  • Have a support person. Depending on where you live, the resources available for treating postpartum mental health can be difficult to navigate. Having someone to advocate for you while you find a good therapist and/or medication provider can make the difference between getting help and giving up.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. There are more individuals who experience postpartum depression each year than who sprain an ankle in that same year. As postpartum mental health becomes more widely understood, a “Congratulations!” will ideally be accompanied with a genuine, “How are you doing?”

When you’re feeling isolated, alone, and experiencing all the difficulties of depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help. If you are struggling, know that you deserve support, not only because it will benefit your child, but also because it will benefit you.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

My Pregnancy: Week 4 Postpartum

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Week Postpartum 4We’re four weeks postpartum and I’m starting to feel human again. Granted, it’s the barely human kind of human. I’m still up every two hours on average in the night. I think the hardest part of the day is after that 4 AM feeding when I start to go back to sleep only to have my preschooler wake at 5. I get him settled back in and the toddler wakes at 6. I’m essentially up at four most days. As hubby goes to work at 4 AM, there are few options for reprieve.

None of my three cesarean births had complications. Healing came with, overall, relative ease. This time at week four I am still slightly sore and a little careful around my rambunctious sons but am otherwise back to my old self, or some squishy, sleep deprived, breast tender, super love-filled version of myself.

It took three months with each of our last two children to feel “normal” again. I remember with our second son my husband and I had a moment where we looked at each other and essentially said “we got this” with a confident smile and sigh of relief. This time we’ve hit that stride at a month in. This could be because I’m used to having the chaos of two children so any illusions of control or high expectations are out the window. I don’t struggle these days as much to accept our fate as a family with young kids. I’ll clean up the mess later.

Also, this time, she just seems to fit more quickly. With our first child I struggled to discover “who I am” in conjunction with a wee little one. And, to be fair, that question of who I am, what was the point of those two master’s degrees, what will become of the career I worked so hard to establish–that’s still there in the back of my mind. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t creep up sometimes in the dark of night. But this time around there wasn’t a distinguished moment or transition of seeing that this was my baby, my whole world. She integrated from the moment she was in this world, before if that’s possible.

All that said, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. We aren’t a yelling type of family. I don’t like to yell nor do I find it the most effective strategy with my children anyway. That said, I’ve yelled more in the last month than in all of the last four years combined. Once hubby went back to work our two-and-a-half-year old really discovered mommy has little ability to execute her authority post-surgery and in the midst of nursing a newborn around the clock. So when I hear him coloring on the wall in the other room I yell. And I use his middle name a lot.

Hubby and I are also a bit on the back burner. We spend time together daily but it’s mostly in the context of kids playing loudly a room away or in between us. I’m also still consumed with nursing challenges. So we abide for now. We’ve figured out a way to pause our relationship a bit. We have nap time and evenings on the weekend. Overall we don’t let the busy-ness and stress of three young kids eat at our relationship or get us frustrated with each other. We try to offer a little more grace, remembering we’re a team confident that in the coming weeks we’ll find a rough schedule and carve out time.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Postpartum Week 2

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

postpartum week 2Our first full week at home came went smoothly enough. I think with each child, generally speaking, the additional challenges and juggling come with more experience to help guide you. For this reason I have not found this postpartum experience to take more effort or provide more stress. Hubby took three weeks off of work and that proved essential to us easing back into our new normal. He focused mostly on our two preschoolers and me so I could focus on the challenges of breastfeeding this third time around (next week’s blog) and C-section recovery.

I camped out on our couch for about a month for each pregnancy. Lying down and getting up took extra effort and I wanted to avoid straining myself much in those first crucial weeks of healing. Hubby said his job was to defend the borders of Baby Central Station.

My central station includes a variety of essentials to make it through:

  • Blanket and pillow, big enough for sleeping but small enough to not get in the way. Also great for propping up legs, elbows, etc. for ideal comfort during feeding
  • Nursing pillow for both nursing or when we’ve had to bottle feed from time to time
  • Big insulated cup (32 ounces) with lid and straw. No sweating for cold drinks, lid for protection from other kids and random incidents
  • Remote controls
  • Phone
  • Wipes, wet bag, and diapers (I eventually moved the wet bag to the bathroom once able to walk more easily)
  • Camera and cord to connect it to my…
  • Laptop
  • Safe space for baby to sleep (co-sleeper for us)
  • A few changes of clothes for baby, extra sheet for co-sleeper, and an extra shirt for me
  • Burp cloths
  • Nipple cream, nursing pads, lip balm, lotion

I was camped out at the station most of my day during those first weeks getting up to bathe, use the restroom, and other small simple tasks. Recovery does involve moving around to help foster healing. Aside from having hubby and family around to help in key ways, I also found a few things eased my first couple of weeks at home:

  • Drop the act of independence. Take a deep breath and gracefully ask for help. Say thank you but don’t feel indebted. You are doing indispensable work “just” sitting with baby. Include children, if any, in simple tasks to assist you. My boys would grab a diaper or take my plate to the counter and enjoyed the opportunity to be included.
  • When possible (I know, you’re tired), set up your space for the next feed. Your future self will thank you. If you wait, baby will be waking and fussy, not sleepy and content. Fill up that cup of water, grab more burp cloths, or whatever else you need.
  • Get away from your spot from time to time. We packed up the kids and hubby drove us (since I couldn’t at first) just to get a drink or small treat from the drive thru. This helped ward off some cabin fever for me while staying relatively simple. It also allowed me to slowly gain confidence in my healing. Very short walks outside for a few minutes also gave me space to sustain the stresses of the first weeks.
  • Let go of expectations around dishes, clothes, clean floors, and messes in general. Sometimes I was too slow-moving to get to my toddler before he wrote on the walls with crayon. Other times I sat nursing as I watched my preschooler make a mess with play-dough or his bowl of popcorn. With most things you can always get to cleaning/fixing/asking someone else to deal with it later.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep. 

My Pregnancy: Week 1 Postpartum

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Week Postpartum 1

Another beautiful baby graced the world with its presence this week—my sweet baby. We spent half of this week in the hospital and the other half at home. Three pregnancies in and I felt more confident than before. A few little things I’ve learned along the way brought me comfort in the hospital this time around:

  • I shifted my expectations somewhat, no longer really hoping to sleep much in the way that I hoped with our other children in those newborn days. Accepting that my child is going to spit up on me, causing me to go through three shirts some nights, makes the actual experience less frustrating.
  • I learned with the last pregnancy that changing into my own clothes helped me feel at home. This time as soon as they removed the catheter, I transitioned to my clothes that were nursing friendly.
  • I limited visits. The day is surprisingly full with nurses and doctors visiting, nursing, getting used to baby, sifting through paperwork, trying to take in your newborn, ordering and eating food to coincide with medication times (if on pain relievers), updating family and friends, and recovery. Those first 48 hours I got only 4 hours of sleep yet I didn’t have a spare moment.
  • I took my time getting baby onto social media. We share on a private page with family and a few close friends that live scattered around the country. We don’t have smart phones, so photos went on that private page when it was first convenient for us. I didn’t rush and found confidence in knowing that prior to social media, just ten years ago, people used to wait days or weeks to see a photo or update about baby. People can wait.
  • I bathed as soon as able to stand for a few minutes safely. With my first baby I put off bathing, partly in fear of the healing and partly because I didn’t want my husband to have to help and see me in all my postpartum mess and glory. This time I utilized the nurses who were more than willing to help get me undressed and cleaned up. I still use the restroom with privacy from hubby and this didn’t change in the hospital; he did help me dress and get to the bathroom as needed. Negotiate your own comfort zone as you go, but be open and willing to ask for help without shame. Nurses are there to help in all aspects of your recovery.
  • I didn’t try to cover up. I remember my mother-in-law holding up a towel while I tried to nurse my first baby. He wouldn’t latch and all I recall from that moment was my anxiety mounting while visitors chatted in the background. This time I either more strongly advocated for visitors to leave when needed or I didn’t try to cover up so much, particularly with nurses (they’ve seen it all). Your hospital room is a sacred space, the initial place where you and your baby learn to thrive in this world. Let it all hang out.
  • Utilize the services they offer, especially lactation consulting. This was my third time around nursing. I’ve nursed two children successfully for over a year each. Still I welcomed the consultant when she first stopped by unasked. I then sought her out the moment I noticed difficulty with nursing (soreness).
  • Let the nurses assist you (significant other and family too). With each child there was a night that proved especially difficult. I was tired, in pain, and at emotion’s end. Hubby slept at home each night due to back pain and sub-par sleeping options at the hospital. With my second child my mattress started to slide down. I remember finally using the call button as my C-sectioned-self tried unsuccessfully to push it back where it belonged as my child screamed, ready to nurse. This time the nurses rounded just as I FINALLY got my very sleepless baby to sleep, waking her. Let people help you. Picking up on how frazzled I seemed, my nurse offered to take the baby just for an hour or two to let me rest. I’m so glad I allowed it; she rocked her to sleep that once, offering me a major reprieve at a crucial moment.

Given the uncomfortable end to my (any?) pregnancy I was a little surprised to find myself missing being pregnant by the week’s end. While I’m still sure we’re done having children I find myself nostalgic already in a way that is uncharacteristic of me. Maybe it’s the hormones. Ultimately, it’s the end of the baby-making era for us and I feel it. In a way I enjoy the late, long nights. It may be that this isn’t my first rodeo so I’m just used to them. Add in there the nostalgia factor and I know all too well these are the last nights that I’ll have a newborn to enjoy.  With that said, another week of life, new life, is in the books.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and now a newborn gal. She is taking in every moment of every day because, let’s be honest, she’s not getting much sleep.