Life With Nine Kids

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beatrice's Unassisted Birth Story (half hour labor and birth -with extra info on my favorite topics of vernix, cord cutting, and not pushing)

 On Thursday June 13th (40 weeks 3 days pregnant) I had a strong feeling while grocery shopping that if I went into labor I wouldn’t make it home on time. That night Ricky and I fell asleep early with the kids. At 11:30pm I woke up, got online, and piddled around the house. It was 2:30am before I knew it. I finished up some laundry and moved a couple of kids out of our bed while deciding that I’m probably going to hold onto this baby until 41 weeks. I wasn't antsy about the birth, I felt patient and at peace. I crawled into bed, Ricky snuggled me sweetly into him, and I dozed off.

  I started having contractions like I usually do at night. They were coming and going as I drifted in and out of sleep; as they got stronger I started the visualization I had been doing for weeks of the baby being pulled down and my cervix being pulled open. Three stronger waves of contractions followed, I breathed deeply and kept focus on baby pushing down and cervix opening up. I could actually feel my uterus, baby, and cervix working synergistically (and had felt this feeling for weeks during night time waves like this). While half-asleep Ricky rubbed my belly in response to my wiggling around and deep breathing. I found it really hard to stay asleep despite the fact that I kept dosing off quickly over and over again. Soon it was too much pain to deal with while lying down so I tried a different position. I got on my hands and knees in bed and breathed through one more attention stealing short wave. Ricky asked if I was okay; this was practically a nightly ritual by now so neither one of was thinking I’m really in labor, but it definitely could be because it has to start sometime! I lumbered out of bed to use the bathroom and to see if I feel like it's active labor picking up. On the toilet I had a few really deep, strong contractions; I had to breathe though them and at one point I was grabbing onto the sides of the toilet like the world had just been turned on it's side and I was hanging on for dear life. Good golly I think I dilated to 7 in just that *one* contraction -no seriously I probably totally did. I checked and felt a nice, soft, very medium sized cervical opening. Wow! It's now very officially baby night! I don't rely on dilation as a timeline of progress, I just use it as a guide, so I never actually guesstimate how many centimeters. I measure cervical dilation more like this: small, medium, large, and oh the baby is coming out now.

  After going to the bathroom and composing myself I went to the bedroom to tell slumbering Ricky the baby is going to be born tonight! I tell him that I’m going back to the bathroom and I’ll come get him in a bit. I think it's 3am at this point. In the bathroom I feel for cervix again and there has been a lot of change. I feel like I really want to have this baby …like in a few minutes. Or now. I feel a familiar pressure that I recognize as the baby’s head slipping down a little. I actually kind of dismiss the feeling a little bit! I still had planned on walking around and visualizing opening just like I'm in early labor. Instead I just felt like squatting and letting the pressure consume my whole body. I decide that I need to relax and find relief in the shower or bath -I feel desperate for the shower. (In all my births I get in the shower during transition and then end up sitting in the tub, then I get out of the tub to give birth. I think I’ve trained my body to go there when it’s time. Plus it's comfortable!) The shower is the most comfortable, safe, warm, soothing place for me. 

 As I undressed for the shower I began shaking. My teeth were chattering and I was trembling. I smiled ear to ear and thought to myself this is unbelievable, I am totally in transition! I looked like a mad woman, determined and strong, tidying and nesting the bathroom while trembling and quickly stashing shampoos and soaps in the cupboard. I was breathing very deeply in and out through my mouth and nose. I remember having a couple of contractions, but I worked through them like a cheetah trying to outrun something. I swiftly scrubbed the tub out (for the third time that week) so it was as clean as possible. I felt like if only I could get into the shower I’d wrap my head around how fast it was all happening and labor and birth would unfold. It was happening so fast that really the only thing that was unfolding was birth itself! As I was getting into the shower I stopped and looked back to the mirror to admire my teeth chattering and marvel at my body shaking and trembling. As I looked back at myself in the mirror a wave of realization came over me: if I get in this shower Ricky’s going to miss the birth. I felt for cervix again just to be sure, and sure enough a wonderful squishy intact sac of waters met my curiosity. Only a few minutes had gone by since I told him I was in labor. It writes out like 15 minutes, but it’s just a mere few minutes.

 We had a really loud fan going in the bedroom and I don’t think I could have yelled for him quietly enough to keep the kids asleep but loud enough to wake him so I tip-toed to his bedside dripping water along the way. I bounced from one foot to the other while shaking and chattering through my teeth as I woke him; “I’m having the baby, I’m sure I’m in transition! Look at me shaking, my teeth are chattering, I can’t stop shaking!!! I’m getting in the shower and there's a water sac already!!”  

 In the bathroom we were chatting energetically as I stepped into the shower. We were surprised and excited. I was wide-eyed and had this crazy smile plastered across my face... the kind you have when you first fall in love and everyone around you knows it. (oxytocin hard at work) 
 I put my hand against the shower wall and pushed against the wall as I had a contraction. I said I felt like squatting but I didn’t want to unless it was really time. I had another contraction; he stroked the arm I used to push against the shower wall letting me know he was there for me. Contractions came fast and they left fast. Between them I was communicative, laughing, excited, talkative, and I paced in the shower. I never stopped moving my body. I had a cervical lip with my last birth (Everett's) that took a lot of pressure and pain to work through so I wanted to make sure I stayed upright and walking to use gravity for the best possible dilation and baby position. I think laying around too much in labor while watching TV contributed to the painful cervical lip I had with Everett's birth

At one point I blurted out, "I'm scared." in reference to that previous cervical lip, I did not want to experience that again so I was wary of squatting down and feeling that again. He told me I knew what to do and if I had a cervical lip again we'd get through it together just like last time.
 I felt for cervix or baby's head and found even more squishy water sac and absolutely no cervix, cervix was probably "fully" dilated ages ago and I knew it. I told myself that this is not like last time and everything is perfect. I marveled at the silky but textured water sac membranes. Suddenly it popped like an awesome water balloon into my right hand, like I was trying to catch it. I exclaimed that it broke and told Ricky how cool it was to feel it pop into my hand like that.

Soon I had a calm labor intermission before birth comes. That after "full dilation" awesome pause where everything just stops. (It's also called the rest and be thankful phase) Surely natures way of letting you compose yourself, breathe slower, think, sip a drink, and restore energy. This is also a time baby and mom can use to get into a good position for birth. If people were at my birth they'd all be staring at me waiting for something to happen, an undereducated birth attendant, ignorant in the true physiology of birth, would tell me to push. I realized a few births ago that a lot of women probably don't feel or get very close to this stage because they are told to forcefully push the baby out when they are 10cm. I don't do that. I try to really feel this phase and just be. When so many people are trying to rush a baby out I pause and wait. (10cm is actually an arbitrary number, women may dilate more)

 Writing about this "lull" is important to me because I haven't really written much about it in the past, nobody seems too write about it, and it's a super important part of birth -what should really be a whole stage of labor is completely overlooked and largely undefined. My friend Molly writes about it here.   
 The next thing I remember is asking Ricky to plug the bath tub -I wanted the tub partially full for the birth to keep warm and I needed to turn the shower off so I could squat. I had no intention of getting out of the tub, usually I do, but this time I wanted to stay in there. As I was standing there in the still of the labor lull a rush of hormones hit me and the baby’s head slipped fully into the birth canal. I squatted down instinctively. I was then super indecisive: I flip-flopped between on my hands and knees to squatting, then squatting with one leg up and one leg down, then a leg up on the side of the tub, then standing upright, then a squat-stand and finally then back to the other positions all over again. This baby was going to start to seriously crown in a big way and I had no idea where I wanted to be! Having done this so many times I had way too many choices in my head and I knew what they all felt like. Later Ricky told me he got nervous that I was moving around so much in the tub; he was worried I’d slip and fall. I however felt firmly planted like a rock. I told him later I felt like I had sticky gecko pads on my limbs and slipping never crossed my mind. 
 Our baby was starting to crown as I finally squatted down low with one leg higher than the other (I was out of time to change things up. I'll just squat and do it the same 'boring' highly effective way I always do it I thought lol.) I used some counter pressure on her velvety head to help ease her head out but it wasn't really needed and a painless contraction inched her head fully out. I noticed I talked a lot to Ricky about what was happening like I was giving him a play-by-play of a sport. I stood up on two legs again. (Okay writing this out now I see why Ricky was worried about me slipping. I was all over the place!) As I stood up Ricky took a few pictures of me holding her fully birthed head with one hand and I said, “Get a picture of me smiling.” I totally posed for a picture while I cradled her head between the two worlds of womb and Earth. Our child waited (and I waited) patiently for my body to spontaneously eject her. I squatted again and my body did its job with no forceful pushing from me, slowly she slid out further and further, one shoulder, the other, half a body... and then finally she slid out into my waiting hands. Read in detail about the Fetus Ejection Reflex and why peace and solitude in birth is important for it here.
 I caught her at 3:26am, I'm lifting her up to me for the first time as I start to sit down, look at that vernix!
 I brought her to my chest just barely a half hour after I declared I was in labor. We heard her making a noise and then a small tiny cry erupted into a larger sweeter one of her taking in air. I sat down in the tub and brought her to my chest and she got quieter, the first thing I noticed is that her cord was short. I sat down and over and over through joyous tears and smiles I said in awe, “Oh Ricky we did it, we did it again, we have another baby *just like that.* Ricky, we DID IT, another perfect baby.” I was overcome with emotion because human babies are exquisite blessings and we make them. We both noticed she was a girl just like we thought all along. 
I was in total amazement, like it was the first time a baby had ever come from my body. I'm so glad she came to us. I kissed her bunches and smelled her. We had four boys and four girls now!
  She was pink and tiny; she had a tiny scrunched up face and she looked as if we had seriously disturbed her from a tranquil slumber. 

She was covered in creamy white moisturizing vernix. I love a vernix covered newborn baby! After a short while she opened her eyes to meet us and see what all the fuss was about...
Vernix Caseosa is a creamy white substance that is full of skin protectants. Antimicrobial properties of amniotic fluid and Vernix are similar to those found in breastmilk. I literally watch this buttery cream melt into our newborns skin over about an hours time. I borrow some too and rub this lipid rich cream under my eyes! Cosmetic companies heavily research it and try to replicate this cream!
Links about why we don't wash our newborn babies:  
Benefits of Vernixit’s amazing stuff (and here’s the scientific research to prove it) 
Don’t Wash That Baby! -Vernix does more than act as a protective barrier from liquids while in the uterus.  It acts as an antioxidant, skin cleanser, moisturizer, temperature regulator, and a natural, safe antimicrobial for the new baby post delivery.

  We laughed and laughed at the looks she was giving us, at first she was like 'who are you people and why should I care?' She looked around confused and we just marveled at her. Everett (two and a half) woke up and was overjoyed and surprised to find his mama and new baby sister in the bathtub, just minutes old. 
Everett woke up and to his surprise his baby sister was here! He had been waiting such a long time to meet her. A pregnancy is a lifetime to a kid as little as him.
 I nursed her and she latched on eagerly and knew exactly what to do; her seemingly uncaring demeanor transformed into needfulness and we were one again. Soon the placenta came and we drained the bath and put fresh water in. I sat in the tub for a long, long while. Longer than I ever had post-birth. I didn’t want to leave it all behind: the experience of having her so quickly, the joy, the surprise, the miracle of birth, the magic of watching a newborn tasting air for the first time. I so enjoyed having her, what a wonderful start to a wonderful life!

Daddy holding his fresh new baby, her cord still attached to placenta. The cord is now thin, white and limp, and drained of blood. We delay cord cutting so baby gets all her deserved blood, iron stores, vit K,  and stem cells. She also continues to have oxygenated blood while taking her first breaths instead of being abruptly cut off and on her own during that transitional period. The cord while purple and still pumping blood is a lifeline, especially if a baby gets a slow start or needs resuscitation efforts.
 Cord Cutting:
 We try to cut the cord with the kids around. The longest we've waited to cut the cord is 4.5 hours, the shortest 30 min. You can see in this visual informational video from Penny Simkin about why. This is one of the things most midwives and homebirthers like me have been doing forever and researchers are just now coming to understand! I did not like waiting 30 minutes the time I did, I like waiting longer. Even though when I waited 30min it was white and limp it still seemed like a bunch of extra blood still came from the cord both from baby and placenta. We don't tie off the cord when we delay cutting...we just cut when I decide it's time.

Cord cutting info:
Delayed Cord Clamping After Birth Better For Baby's Health
Study Finds Benefits in Delaying Severing of Umbilical Cord
"Improved iron stores in theory could help reduce the risk of learning deficiencies and cognitive delay in children, which have been linked to iron-deficiency anemia in school-age children."  
Faebook page/ lots of info: Leaving A Baby's Umbilical Cord To Stop Pulsating (Delayed Cord Clamping)
Common Objections to Delayed Cord Clamping – What’s The Evidence Say?
Delayed Cord Clamping: An all of human history practice (20th century exempted)

Three years ago I told the kids I would wait to cut Everett's cord until they woke up so they could help, but when I actually had him I decided I'd do it without them. I don't remember my reasons, I just probably didn't want to deal with the placenta bowl at that time. Most of them were really disappointed so I promised if we had another baby we would do the cord cutting as a family. I sat snuggled up on the couch with baby and placenta bowl until everyone was awake and together.

Gathering around to meet the new baby and cut her cord together

Showing the kids the cord is white now and explaining to them that when she was born it was purple, thick, and full of blood cells that were being transferred to her. She got the stem cells and iron stores that belonged to her.

Sebastian's inquisitive face looking on happily

Everyone holding her gently so she doesn't get her arms and legs in the way as we are separating her from the placenta so she can be free. We said, "You are free, you are your own person, have a good life baby!"
A little bit of excess blood left in the cord is on her leg, it dries up really quickly and stops bleeding quickly. The leftover white cord piece dries up, shrinks, and turns brown within a day. It fell off of her completely in just 3 days. I left about an inch and a half to two inches of cord on her, it shriveled up and dried up tight and much smaller.

A family picture after a great big breakfast prepared by daddy. I had a huge, huge plate of eggs with onions and peppers, toast, tomatoes, sausage, fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Seriously, the best meals ever are after a great birth!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

11 Ways Your Child Loses When You Rush Him Through Life

 I have to constantly tell myself to slow down; especially after having so many kids I have realized that there was a time that I was more patient, and a time where I was less patient. And then a time I was more again... and then less again. It goes in cycles. I have to remind myself to not rush everyone. Their life is new and not passing them by. There are one thousand little ways I could/have/do rush my children.

 Having so many little people demanding so much from me and so many mouths to feed can be overwhelming. I actually use emotional recall at least once a week to remember the days when I had an abundance of patience and time to enjoy the little things. Then I take a step back and try to implement those things into our life. When Charlotte (now 17) was two we used to have picnics almost every day in a school bus pop up Play-Hut. If it was bad weather then we'd eat lunch, mostly together, inside.

 I would make a beautifully laid out lunch for us and take blankets and the bus outside and we'd look at the sky, sing songs, laugh, play... and simply just be. I taught her all kinds of things. Too be kind, to love, to not go into the road, anything I could think of to fill her growing brain with goodness. We did flashcards. We made pictures and put paint on our feet and walked on paper. Back then there were a million hours in the day.

 During holiday time we'd paint the front windows of the house with the holiday theme. On hot days we'd play in the sprinkler. We'd use sidewalk chalk all the time, we had pet mice, we danced like fairies under a 30 year old willow tree as the thin branches full of wispy leaves brushed our faces. Multiple children are amazing... but that one where you do everything for the first time is a moment frozen in time.

 I try to recall those times when I find myself rushing Everett from the hen house or through the grocery store. I try to remember to slow down when fetching meat from the basement freezer so a preschooler can ask me four questions about whatever they see before we get back upstairs. I have to work on sighing at the sight of spilled milk because it's the 7th kid and one billionth time it's happened... but to them it seems like only the 5th time they'd ever spilled anything (lol). If find myself frustrated over chores (theirs and mine) taking too long (they probably aren't taking too long I'm probably impatient) I then try to ask myself 'what does it matter?' 
 See, I'm a part of a rush along through life society and I have to make a conscious effort to slow down. I find myself rushing children who should get to enjoy the cycles of the day and childhood. Plus, what will *I* miss out if I rush them... I miss out on them. I only have them a short time.

 So the above link is a great list and a reminder of why and how slowing down helps grow really great and happy kids. I want to cut and paste the text of it below for my future use as well:
Rushing our children through life: 1. Influences the developing brain. Your child's brain is being built every day, and the shape it takes depends on his daily experience. Some neurologists hypothesize that reinforcing neural pathways in a daily context of stressful hyper-stimulation creates a brain with a life-long tendency to anxiety.
2. Increases the levels of stress hormones in kids' bodies, which contributes to crankiness, difficulty falling asleep, weight gain, and immune suppression.
3. Makes them feel pushed and controlled, which triggers power struggles. Studies show this feeling--in adults who work at jobs where they're at someone else's beck and call--sends stress hormones sky-rocketing.
4. Overstimulates them so they can't process everything coming at them, which undermines learning.
5. Habituates them to busyness, so they become easily bored, craving electronic stimulation.
6. Keeps them from discovering and pursuing their own passions, which is necessarily a slow, organic process of experimentation and dabbling.
7. Creates a chronic feeling of incompleteness, which steals the joy of mastery.
8. Keeps children from attending to their emotions throughout the day, so in the evening they have a full backpack of feelings pressing for escape. That triggers meltdowns and can eventually lead to addictions like food, media consumption and shopping, which distract us from our emotional baggage.
9. Constantly interrupts their developmental work of exploring the world, so they lose their curiosity.
10. Forces them out of the groundedness of the present moment, into the breathlessness of scrambling to keep up, which undermines their authenticity and connection to deeper meaning.
11. Overrides their natural inclination to "do it myself," sabotaging the development of competence.
Not to mention, rushing makes us less patient and less nurturing with our children, so it's impossible to parent well.  A mom wrote me the other day that she realized her son wasn't dressing himself partly because she was always in such a hurry that she just dressed him, rather than helping him learn how to do it himself. Another mom wrote that after she got into a fight with her daughter, she realized she had been “too distracted, too busy, to slow down and just be kind.”
This week, notice how often you rush yourself and your child.  Notice the price you both pay. 
  • What can you change to slow life down?
  • How can you build more time into transitions so you aren't always rushing?
  • What small daily rituals can your family use so that everyone has a chance to connect to deeper meaning, rather than just hustling through each day? Think deep breaths, gratitude practices, moments of quiet cuddling.

And maybe even stopping to watch the sunset.