Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Nurse at the C-section

In a birth culture only recently beginning to turn from myths and abuse to evidence-based, dignified care, it's easy to find discussions about traumatic experiences and hurtful medical assistants. But as we continue to prepare for our births, it's also important to know what a true birth guardian looks like, what she/he does and how that can impact the mama, baby and family.

Elizabeth was preparing to birth at home but in the end consented to an emergent c-section out of medical necessity. What could have been a rocky ride was buffered by the respectful, caring nurse who helped them:

"I've been reflecting a lot on Maxwell's birth and the c-section the last couple days, both the positives and (slowly) letting myself process the few negatives (most of the experience was wonderful but there are a few things that weren't that make me cry). All of my nurses were amazing, but one in particular, Irene, made such a wonderful impact that I wanted to share about her.

After we consented to the c-section it was a chaotic flurry with many people asking me questions, shoving consent forms at me, trying to get IVs started all while I was fully dilated with contractions every 1-2 minutes and trying not to push (and had been for about half an hour+ at that point). Irene though was so attentive to me that within seconds of a contraction starting she would tell everyone to be quiet and to leave me alone until my contraction was over. I was NEVER bothered during a contraction thanks to her efforts.

She also gently talked me through some of them, saying I was doing a great job and to breathe through them and to do what I needed to do. After being told that I would not be allowed skin to skin in the OR I asked Irene if one of my hands could at least be freed after the birth so that I could touch my baby. She told me she would see what she could do for me, and I am not sure who she talked to or anything but neither of my hands were ever tied down. I was able to touch and kiss and hold my baby up by my face for most of the repair.

She also made sure to let everyone know (multiple times before and during the surgery) that we did not know the sex and that nobody was to say anything because my husband was going to announce it, and he did  After nearly 42 long weeks of planning and dreaming about this birth, keeping the sex a surprise and me or my husband announcing it was just about the only thing that we got to experience from our original plan and desires, and it was due to her efforts.

We did opt for the Vitamin K injection but I requested that it not be given until I had skin to skin time and our first nursing session. Irene made sure this happened and when I told the nurse who administered it in the recovery room that I wanted her to do it on my chest (she had never done that before) and that I did not want him to receive glucose water for pain (I told her I'd nurse him if he was upset) Irene kind of "schooled" this younger nurse and told her that her favorite way and the best way was to actually give it while the baby nurses. She said that is what she does and rarely has a baby cry that way. The younger nurse found it very interesting and I think really took it to heart.

In the recovery room, Irene went over a list of things to see what we did and did not want done to the baby. We declined everything except the vit k shot and the hearing test. She told us in the middle of it that she wanted us to know that in no way was she judging any of our decisions (something that I was afraid of and thought we would be given a hard time about) and that she just had to ask for the information and to make sure we got the care that we wanted.

Later that night my husband asked her what the hospital's policy was on where the baby slept, preparing for a potential co-sleeping battle, and she said the hospital advises baby be put on his back in the bassinet, but that she was not going to tell us what we could or could not do with our baby. So except for his hearing test and 2 extremely quick pediatrician checks he never left my bed during the 2 day stay.

And maybe the thing that impacted me the most: After being moved to my postpartum room it was getting close to when she needed to leave. She came over to me and looked me in the eyes and said she wanted me to know that she knew the c-section was the farthest thing from what we wanted. She knew we wanted to birth at home like the first time and wanted me to know that in no way did she or any of the staff take that lightly. It was not "just another" c-section to her, but she took it very seriously and truly cared about and respected the situation in its entirety (and she meant it). She was sincerely afraid that we might think she didn't care or fully respect the situation and needed to let me know otherwise before she left.

She stayed for a little while longer talking with me about the experience and about my first son's birth, about the fears I had had coming to the hospital and all the wonderful things that happened instead. This woman was truly amazing and I wish and hope that all women wherever they birth have a beautiful birth guardian like her."

 © 2013 Elizabeth Hoskins

Elizabeth and Maxwell enjoy skin to skin in the recovery room,
and Maxwell initiated the breast crawl thanks to Irene's help.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back, Pelvic, Pubis and Sciatic Pain in Pregnancy

This post has been a long time coming! For too long, I just directly responded to mamas who experience pain during pregnancy. After awhile, though, I noticed that I was handing out the same links and points, so I figured I should collect it here for better reference.

First, some background. I was a rough and tumble gymnast, pushed to nationals, who took my body for granted. Sometimes I wish I could travel back in time to slap myself silly and yell, "PREGNANCY!" Alas, hindsight is 20/20. I've hurt several ligaments in my legs and pelvis, I've damaged my SI joints, straightened out my lower curve and I even have slipped fluid along the posterior area of my hip joint. They are permanent injuries, that will mark me as an old lady when I complain about aches before a storm. In the meantime, I get to complain about pain during pregnancy. Especially at the end of pregnancy.

With my first pregnancy, I was unprepared for the level of pain I would experience and unaware of how to resolve it, or even why it was happening. I was simply a passenger on a terrible ride of random, horrifying pain. Towards the end of pregnancy, my partner would have to help me into the car, or physically place me onto the toilet. By the time I reached "term" in my pregnancy, I needed assistance to get in and out of bed and to put on pants. It was a debilitating experience not only due to the lightning strikes of pain from out of nowhere without warning, but also due to emotional aspects of losing control over my body and having to rely on others.

Even after I gave birth, my loose, out of sorts body would sometimes give out on me. I had to change positions frequently and walk gingerly, never sure if I would be struck with pain or find sure footing. What was wrong with me? Would I ever be normal again?

Cue intense levels of research and questioning sage mamas, sports therapists, chiropractors and back surgeons.

Here is a basic list of what I've collected that will point you in the right direction to achieving a pain-free experience during the end of your pregnancy. Since learning more and caring for my body to specifically improve pelvic balance, I've gone on to have two pain-free pregnancies with fast, organized labors. I have full confidence that you can, too!

1. GET THIS BOOK. I don't know the author. I'm not an advertiser. I stumbled across this book at my local library when I was reading everything I could get my hands on and this was the first book to 1) accurately relate my experiences and 2) provide step by step instructions on how to change my daily lifestyle to prevent pain. Rent it, borrow it, buy it. JUST GET IT.

2. IMPLEMENT DAILY EXERCISES. Don't fret, I'm not talking about an hour of exercise. I'm talking about making a commitment to firing off 5-10 minutes of carefully targeted exercises. What you need: a foam roller and a mat or towel if using a hard surface. You can pick up a foam exercise roller pretty much anywhere that has an athletic/exercise department, including Target and Walmart. For pregnancy, you will find the larger size to be easier to work with and to keep your balance.

What kind of exercises? Focus on the ligaments in the pelvis and legs. You want to release your piriformis daily, as many times as needed to feel comfortable. When first starting or if the imbalance is severe, you might need to sit down and do a release several times a day. But after continued focus, once in the morning or evening is adequate. Hamstring stretches, exercises to roll out your back, and methods that stretch each leg are also beneficial.

Here is the little video I watched that first started me on my pathway to freedom:

3. MASSAGE. Enlist a strong person or hire a massage therapist to manually release your ligaments. If you have the classic "sciatica pain" during late pregnancy complete with random strikes of pain and jolts that run down your legs, you most likely need help in the buttocks area, where you can't reach. The technique looks like this, but many women, myself included, prefer a partner with a deft thumb as opposed to an elbow. Your partner should feel a tight band if he or she is in the right spot and you might feel pain similar to a bruise:

4. TRUE CHIROPRACTIC CARE. It's easy to tell you to go find a chiropractor but it's much harder to find a chiropractor who is truly talented in this specific area. All chiropractors receive the same basic training, but you're looking for the one who is an artist. Most likely a woman, who has shown a focus on maternal and pediatric care and is certified in webster and myofacial release. The visit should be longer than usual and consist of more pressure and massage, and very little or no cracking at all. You might have to search through several chiropractors before finding one. Also try asking at your local LLL groups and midwife groups for a referral.

5. LECITHIN. Birth Faith already wrote a post about it so I'll give you the link to read instead of typing it all out. Seriously. GET SOME LECITHIN.

6. FOOTWEAR. This is a mix of not only ensuring 100% compliance with proper footwear but also plenty of time without shoes. I do NOT hear success when women ONLY change their shoes. You MUST spend most of your day without shoes...something very hard but all the more important if you stand at a job daily. Birkenstocks personally provided intense change for me, but I find it really depends on the individual's needs. You can also ask your chiropractor to measure your feet and order customized shoes. If you own a cheap pair of shoes, chances are they are HURTING you.

7. SPIN YOUR BABY. Go to this website and become accustomed with it. The information on this website fits seamlessly with developing a pain-free pregnancy. See, while you are fixing YOU, you might also have to straighten out your BABY. If you've had compromised posture and an imbalanced lifestyle, your baby is almost certainly in a position that might be causing you more pain or contributing to future birth complications. GO GO GO spin that baby!

8. BELLY BINDING. This can be done in a few certain ways during pregnancy (with care, as not all binding is safe). Binding during pregnancy is usually most helpful for those with pubis symphosis pain. And it's especially important after birth. Belly binding is actually a traditional practice that we've lost in our modern culture. You can purchase a product specifically made for this purpose, or you can use fabric to make your own. You can also use a woven baby carrier. I found the cheap, generic brand at Motherhood Maternity worked great, then I switched to a woven. I use my ergo during pregnancy. Here's a link to give you the 411 on belly binding along with product ideas:

The end of pregnancy often comes with many aches and complaints, but actual back/pelvic pain should NOT be part of it! I've come to learn from my own experiences that women CAN experience a pain-free pregnancy. I've even run mini-marathons and climbed through the hamster tubes at Chuck E. Cheese while 39-42 weeks pregnant.

If you have any other ideas to add to this list, please comment to share with other mamas! Let's all help each other to avoid that debilitating, demoralizing pain so we can enjoy the last moments we have before our babies arrive earthside!

Dedication to pelvic balance and following the steps I listed above WILL HELP YOU. I put my proof where my mouth is!  This is me, pregnant, on my "due date" (so 40 weeks) with my third child. I'm carrying my 35lb 3yo on my back and my 25lb 2yo on my front, without pain. Take, that, gymnastics!
Necessary disclaimer: my post does not replace or constitute medical advice and I always encourage my pregnant friends to seek guidance from a trusted medical assistant, or in this case a certified sports therapist or chiropractor as well. Don't do anything that hurts or feels wrong to you. If symptoms are severe or persist, be sure to rule out actual medical conditions.

Waiting in the Hush Before the Storm

I'm just about 41 weeks along and my baby is still growing and benefiting from me. I did not get pregnant to rush my own agenda onto him, but rather to accept his schedule as my own.

This begins with consciously accepting him into the world when he wants to arrive. Surely the end is hard and sore and so very uncomfortable. But it is normal. Elective induction is not.

I will not drink castor oil, torture myself with heartburn from devouring spicy foods, suck on pineapples, have sex in the mud, or whatever crazy things you have heard will speed up the process.

I will continue listening to my body and doing what it asks. I am not on a schedule unless you count the divine and infinite one that Mother Nature has set in motion.

Now sit back and enjoy this time and peace with me. The peace in knowing that God and Nature do not create lemons. Each thing has a purpose, a reason for being and doing. I am taking back my body and gaining my purpose in a purely spiritual way.

I am one with every woman before me in this waiting and I am surrendering. I invite you to join me on this journey and to stop worrying about my baby. He will get here.

~ Jessica Imotichey, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

Detoxing, Pregnancy and Lactation Oh My!

Submitted By: Jen Pagano © 2012

Using supplements to detox is a hot topic online, but despite all the hype, you don't find much for pregnant and lactating women. What benefits and risks are there? What can a mother safely do? Should she try to detox at all?

First of all, the body is always detoxing. Dumping waste and toxic substances from the body is part of normal biological function. We identify, breakdown and excrete things through our sweat, urine and stool using our excretion system. This is normal. We breathe in and consume and rub on our skin thousands of substances, good and bad, and the body sorts through them.

In our current society, the average person's toxic load can often be higher than the body’s ability to handle it. The body will then store these excess toxins, either in organs or fatty tissue. In some situations, the toxins remain in the bloodstream, entering fragile areas such as the brain. This leads to symptoms that then lead people to consider detoxing.

But having an overload of toxins is not only through over exposure. We cripple the normal cleansing process by removing the tools and supports the body needs with our lack of fermented foods, lack of dietary supports and lack of adequate sleep. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and prolonged stress add to the burden.

The detox protocols often mentioned online are targeted at removing the excess toxins in the body with  dedicated periods of time to push the body a little farther than normal in its process of cleansing. Typical discussions of detox involve triggering the body to move toxic substances out of storage and into the bloodstream, and providing supports so they can be removed. This process usually comes with discomfort (symptoms of detox) but leads to overall improved health.

What happens when one is pregnant or nursing though? Forcing the body to detox more than normal during pregnancy and lactation comes with additional concerns because the mobilized toxins can then move through the bloodstream, passing through the placenta and being distributed to the baby. Or they can deposit in the mother's milk, where they will then be ingested by the baby.

With the somewhat uncontrollable process of forced detoxing, mothers have no way of dictating how much their bodies will mobilize or how it will all be excreted, putting the preborn or born child at risk. For that reason, these are not times to push the body to detox unless medically necessary.

But, it's arguably healthy for you and your baby to offer your body gentle, reasonable support during pregnancy and lactation. This support is focused on keeping your excretion organs working well, so that you don't build up toxins or dump them into the placenta or milk. Supporting the normal detoxification process can also help to protect the baby from whatever toxins the mother is dealing with so that both mother and baby have better health than without these supports.

Here are some suggestions:

  • A tea called Chiro-Klenz appears to be very gentle. I would not recommend taking it while pregnant, but it has been helpful for many moms I know in alleviating morning sickness when taken prior to conception. It is pleasant tasting and appears to be safe while nursing. It does have herbs that one should be cautious with, however, the dosage seems to be low enough to be gentle. 

  • The GAPS diet is safe while nursing or pregnant, however, I would back into it slowly and NOT do the Intro Diet while pregnant or nursing a very small one. Very dramatic diet changes can trigger harsh detoxes. I'm planning to do the intro when my nursling is one, but go backwards through the stages to reduce any shock to my system. GAPS is an entire protocol and can seem really overwhelming, but just incorporating some of the principles will make a huge difference. I'm doing “GAPS lite” right now. (My older DD is on full GAPS.) The biggest challenge is that some people fall into a trap of eating low carb, which is not ideal while pregnant and nursing for most women. There are plenty of high carb foods legal on the GAPS diet, so take advantage! 

  • Detox baths (which are an essential component of the GAPS diet) help to flush out toxins very gently. They are an excellent support to other detox measures. Toxins are pulled through the skin into the bathwater, and the body soaks up minerals and other benefits in exchange! Just put a half-cup to a cup of epsom salt, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, clay, etc. in a warm (not hot) bath. Sit it in for at least a half hour. Or just whatever time you have. Foot baths are wonderful, too. 

  • Try a digestive aid - Apple cider vinegar (just a little diluted with water will do the trick), lemon water, or another acid before eating to help kick start digestion and improve absorption of the food you eat. Shoot for 15 minutes prior to eating, or just sip throughout the meal. 

  • Liver support during detoxing is critical. Liverlife (bioray) is a great supplement, though expensive, but just getting enough fluids, and taking some Milk Thistle or Nettle for support can be key. 

  • Bentonite Clay or Charcoal can help absorb toxins or ease symptoms of detox. Take orally between meals and away from supplements. (charcoal especially will absorb everything.) Chlorella is much smarter about what it absorbs. These are very helpful for nausea especially. 

  • Juicing is another method of cleansing. You need to watch which veggies you use, as you don't want it too high in sugar, or too high in raw oxalate veggies(brassica, dark greens). Juicing can provide concentrated minerals and nutrients to the body without the slow-down of fiber, and adding a generous amount of fat can help the body properly utilize these and reduce the glycemic load. Juicing can stimulate tremendous detox in some people (especially certain herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, etc.) so it should be done with caution.

And if you just skimmed this entire article - here is the most important thing: Go slowly and gently - watch your body, watch your nursling. If it seems like you are feeling really awful, back off and eat some rice. Nurturing a little one is a huge toll on the body by itself, so provide your body with whatever support you can, and enjoy this time!

Disclaimer: the author's post does not replace or constitute medical advice. Seek the assistance of an informed care provider when trying out new methods or treatments, especially during pregnancy and lactation. 

Jen is a dedicated mama to two girls who shares her knowledge and experience about gut health and dietary changes on her blog:

Friday, January 11, 2013

What is Relactation?

"What is relactation? Can I do it? Does it cost a lot? Is it hard? I switched to formula at 2 months after a rocky breastfeeding experience and double mastitis. Every now and then my 15 month old acts like she could nurse. Is there anything I can do?"

Relactation is the process of bringing the child back to the breast for breastfeeding after a prolonged period of using other milk substitutes or even weaning. It's definitely possible and in my opinion always worth a try, but success depends on a myriad of individual factors such as why weaning occurred (medical reasons, tongue tie, trauma) and how relactation fits into the mother's lifestyle.

Complete relactation, with a full supply and the child being dependent on breastmilk alone will take a lot of effort and committed time. The original reason for weaning needs to be identified and resolved, and the mother's body needs to be encouraged to begin making milk again.

It doesn't have to be expensive at all. Some products you might want to buy include a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) that allows you to feed donor milk or formula through a small tube while the child is latched at the breast. This in turn makes things more efficient for you since you can feed your child and tell your body to make more milk. Galactogogues, substances such as herbs or medications that induce lactation, might also need to be purchased.

Here is Lexie excitedly sharing her first experience of successful relactation with her 2.5 year old daughter, Zoey, after not nursing for over one year. She says what really helped was having a great support system and online friends who helped and encouraged her.

Interested in relactating?

Kellymom has a great intro article:

Guess what? This is a normal topic. Even the AAP gives info on relactation here:

The LLL's page:

Monday, January 7, 2013

What's Missing From Folic Acid Awareness Week from The Life of Eden Marie

The Life of Eden Marie: What's Missing From Folic Acid Awareness Week:

Folic acid....most women hear that name and think it's a godsend for pregnancy. But what's missing from Folic Acid Awareness Week? Take a moment to read Virginia's very important message about how different people need different forms of b9.

Think Twice Before Punishing

When it comes to a debate between punitive parenting and unconditional parenting, the concerns seem to focus on the child's performance.

If you don't spank him, he'll end up in jail. If she can't learn to obey, she'll go to hell. How will they learn to do a good job at work and have a career?

It's interesting that you never hear deeper thought about the inner, most important parts of a person in this discussion. If you spank him, how will he learn to avoid violence in anger? If you spank her, what will she expect from a partner when she "does something bad" in her relationship? How will they learn to expect love, respect and fulfilling connections with others and have strong relationships in their adult life?

How many mothers would think twice about their parenting methods if they saw more clearly the way their daughters internalized shame, incompetence and a feeling of inferiority that not only followed these women into romantic relationships, but crippled their equal footing in the business world and even traumatized them during pregnancy and births as they ended up choosing abusive doctors?

Would fathers think twice about the way they responded to their sons' failures if they saw their boys internalizing a sense of power, control and bullying that they the brought with them into their romantic relationships, harming their partners and children, and even took into the business world to glorify unethical business practices?

What legacy are we really giving to our children when we teach them that punishment is always the answer to failure, that obedience is the only important goal in life and that people who love us are supposed to hurt us for our mistakes?

When it comes to discipline, think deeper about the messages you hold in your hands and voice. These messages will resound in the hearts and minds of your children for a lifetime.

For helpful pages, websites and more of my posts on discipline, check out this list:

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Stop Mothering Your OB (Nurse, Staff, Midwife, Doula or Pesky MIL)

Now I've got a mama on my mind after hearing her desperately asking for assistance. Her OB pulled a classic bait and switch on VBAC and she is left feeling trapped and out of options.

Her situation has me pondering the way women in our culture generally take on the management of too many emotions, desires and social obligations of other people, often at the expense of themselves and their babies.

I can hear it, the pressure that fills a woman's head, the whispers encouraging her to ignore her instincts, ignore her needs, ignore her body and baby. I hear these whispers all the time from women around me.

But my doctor has been so good to me. 
I love her even if I disagree. 
She won't get paid if I switch. 
She will be disappointed. 
She won't like my decision. 
The OB won't approve of what I want. 
My midwife thinks I should do this instead and I can't face her. 
He is going to be upset when he finds out about my birth plan! 
He's been so nice, I hate to betray him. 
What if it messes up his schedule? 
They aren't used to doing that at the hospital. 
They'll be inconvenienced if I ask for XYZ.
I've got to think of the homebirth/doula reputation in the area. 

What if I ruin their holiday? 


You are the MOMMY of your BABY, not of a bunch of adults who get paid for their work. So what if they are upset, angry, surprised, inconvenienced or disappointed. WHO gives a CRAP. Tell them to grow up and get over it. I thought they said a healthy baby is all that matters these days anyways?

You need something? You want something? Good. Go get it and don't waste an ounce of your pregnant energy worrying about the emotions of the other adults who choose as employees to be at hospitals and at births.

The thing is, at the end of the day, those doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas...they go home, back to their families. And yeah, they might remember your name and face, or recall that your baby was extra large or really cute. But your birth means nothing tangible to them.

Your birth did not imprint on their bodies for the rest of their lives. They will not stay up at night, seeing your birth over and over again. They will not suffer from pain, injuries or PTSD from your birth. They will not care for your baby 24/7 until adulthood.

They will go home, take a shower, make some dinner and watch TV or get on the computer. You and your baby will live with your birth for the rest of your lives.

SO WHAT if they feel "bad" about something you and your baby need. YOU ARE THE MAMA. Feeling responsible? Make sure it's only for YOU and YOUR BABY. Stop parenting the adults!

Is your care provider a professional assistant or an abusive boyfriend?