Self Care for Expecting Mamas

self-care

Self care is such a buzz phrase right now, am I right?

Guys. FOR GOOD REASON. We need to take care of ourselves if we want to be able to give the best of us to our jobs, families, and friends!

I spent years of my life not really understanding my own personality and living in a constant state of exhaustion, discomfort, and frustration. I couldn’t minister effectively, I wasn’t a present wife or mother, and I was physically unhealthy. It wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what my body and heart were telling me that I began to heal and bring myself to a physically and emotionally healthy place- a journey that, truthfully, I am still on to this day and is all the more important now that I’m expecting.

When you’re pregnant (and ESPECIALLY if you already have little ones) it’s really easy to let self care go right out the window in favor of productivity and “enjoying life” or “living it up” before baby comes. Thankfully, I don’t think it’s typically that extreme, but I do see the tendency within myself to let go of priorities that I might not otherwise because theres “only so much time left”. Pregnancy takes easy self-care things like a glass of wine and sushi right out the window (I’m not bitter…) but there are other great practices that we expecting mamas can enjoy…and I hope you do!

NAP

I honestly have had to make myself adopt the “sleep when the (toddler) sleeps” adage during my pregnancy. It was really hard to get myself to nap for a while, but I would just be so tired come the evening that I would be worthless. Taking a few short naps a week helps me recharge and be more present for my family, and especially for my husband- AKA I can actually stay awake and have a conversation or watch a movie post-toddler bedtime.

BATH

Long, luxurious soaks in the tub are awesome when your are pregnant! This is great for keeping muscles relaxed, blood pressure low, and helping you feel pampered. Even if you don’t have too much time, this little ritual can add some luxury into a season of life that often has you feeling clumsy and bloated. Just keep the water comfortable- not too hot.

BABY BONDING

A great thing to do to keep yourself calm and focused during your pregnancy is have some intentional baby bonding time. This looks different for everyone- maybe doing some hypnobirth exercises, reading to the baby, talking or singing to baby, playing music, doing pregnancy exercises. Any time that’s set apart and intentional for you and baby is going to do your mind and body good

FEED YOUR ENERGY WELL

Are you an introvert? Be conscious of how much alone time you’re getting, and be generous with yourself. It’s true- those days are numbered. Similarly, if you’re an extrovert, plan some low-key movie nights or potlucks with friends! You might not have the energy or capacity to do those things for a bit after birth. Whatever your personality needs, take the opportunity to tune in and feed your energy well.

CHILDBIRTH PREP

Again, taking any intentional time to bond with baby and prepare for what’s ahead is a great way to take care of yourself in your pregnancy. Many mamas struggle with fears about childbirth and anxieties about the newborn phase or parenting in general- and taking the time to do some solid childbirth and parenting preparation will ease your mind and bring some balance to those thoughts. You can read about some of my favorites in this post.

READ FOR FUN

For many mamas, this is something that goes out the window for quite some time after birth. If you’re a reader, take advantage and read up now! Read a novel you’ve been wanting to dive into, finish that lengthy nonfiction that’s been on your shelf for a while.

A CUP OF TEA

Unless you’re really averse to hot things in pregnancy like me (try being 7 months preggo in East Africa!) a cup of warm tea will likely make you feel so calm and relaxed. Not only is the ritual of making tea and then enjoying the cup soothing, but you can make a tea that has great balancing benefits, too. Check out my DIY pregnancy tea blend in this post!

NESTING

Just let yourself go wild. Nest away, mama. To your heart’s content. Pinterest the crap outta your house. You’ll feel great πŸ™‚ You also might find comfort in packing your birth bag– a great way to channel that energy.

MANICURE

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel so much better when my nails and toes are scrubbed a bit and painted nicely. I just feel more put together. Whether you go somewhere for a nice treat or do it yourself, that 45 minutes could make a big difference in how you see yourself (even if you often can’t see your feet!)

SCRUB AND LOTION

This is my secret weapon for a bad day. A good body scrub- whether a store bought one, or mixing up your own with some sugar and olive or coconut oil, and maybe some essential oils- ALL OVER YOUR BODY. Scrub the heck out of your skin. Focus on rougher areas like feet and elbows. Really go for it, let those oils sink in. Then out of the shower or bath, give yourself a good lotion. Bam. Don’t you feel better just reading this?

GRACE

The most important part of self care in pregnancy? Having grace with yourself. You’re growing a human inside of you, which requires a tremendous amount of energy, changes how your brain works, and can make you feel like you are living in an alien body. Trust me, I get how hard this is. Having grace with yourself in a demanding season is a challenge! Be kind to yourself, mama! You’re doing great.

So You Want a Natural Birth… (Tips For Success!)

natural-birth

I’m kind of a birth nerd. I’ll admit it. I LOVE to hear everyone’s birth stories and talk through birth plans and encourage mamas and snuggle newborns. I love to make women feel empowered and affirm them during labor and make suggestions and read books and articles and geek out. It’s my thing. I love it!

However, one thing that I do NOT love is seeing an unprepared mama go through a birth that she regrets. I can’t tell you how many mamas I talk to that really have their hearts set on having a natural birth, but don’t put in the time to educate themselves, become familiar with their options, and prepare their bodies and minds for what they are about to go through. Sometimes everything turns out exactly the way they would like, but more often than not, some twist of labor fate ends them up with an experience that is far from what they dreamed, and it’s a lot for them to process!

I want to be clear- I’ve got no issues with people choosing medicated births or even cesareans if it’s right for their families. My sadness is for those mamas who wanted to choose otherwise, but maybe didn’t have all the tools and information they needed to be successful, and they end up with regret. That said, I want to offer up a basic list of tools that can be used to make your natural birth easier, and perhaps increase your chances of success! YOU CAN DO THIS!

A GOOD CHILDBIRTH CLASS / PREPARATION

Honestly, y’all. This is the most important thing you can do if your heart is set on having a natural birth. We don’t have the age-old wisdom of mamas and grammas passing down what birth is like and what to expect and how to handle things anymore- we ladies need to be taught what to expect, what is happening to our bodies, and how to handle it. Invest some time and money into a solid childbirth class- and not just something your hospital offers- so that you can go into your birth informed and prepared. I personally recommend Bradley Method classes, but I have also had good experiences with hypnobirthing and birthing from within.

A YOGA BALL

Or a “birth ball“, if you want a specific one. Not only is this great for you to use for sitting in the last months of your pregnancy (it encourages the baby to be positioned perfectly and helps with elasticity of ligaments) but it’s great for helping you roll around in smooth movements and relaxing during contractions. Many women will spend much of their labor on a birth ball, because it keeps them upright (which allows gravity to help progress labor) but also allows them to relax.

A REBOZO

This labor tool is really starting to gain traction, and I love it! This is another tool that is great to use during the last months of pregnancy to encourage good positioning of the baby, but is also awesome to use during labor. The mama can get on her hands and knees and a birth attendant or partner places the rebozo around the belly and lifts up, taking the pressure off of the mama and “cradling” the baby for her. This can feel great for mama, both between and during contractions. I loved this piece on shortening labor times with a rebozo, and after my own 50+ hour labor with my daughter, I am looking forward to trying this with more vigor myself.

FOOD AND DRINK FOR LABOR

Maternal exhaustion is one of the top reasons mamas who desire a natural birth end up with a medicated one- their bodies just get tired. And rightfully so! Birth is really hard work! Though it can be difficult to work around policies if you are in a hospital, almost all birth centers (and definitely all homes, ha) now allow eating and drinking during labor. This is your chance to fuel up! When packing a bag for a natural birth, choose high-nutrient snacks that will be easy to eat in small portions, in case you are nauseous. But throw in some favorites, too- just in case! Many people opt for trail mix, clif bars, honey sticks, frozen or fresh fruit, peanut butter, electrolyte drink mixes, and herbal teas.

POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES

This is such an important tool for pursuing a natural birth. There’s something about mama society now where we trade birth stories like war stories- mine is worse than yours- when in reality, we should be encouraging one another! I believe it can make a huge difference in a mama’s outlook on birth so surround herself with positivity about birth and read empowering, beautiful birth stories. Two great resources for this are Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Both are full of encouraging and empowering birth stories that are both honest and inspiring. This is an extensive online collection of positive birth stories, too! If you’re struggling with fear of birth because of the experiences of those around you- or even your own previous experiences- hypnobirthing could be a huge asset to your preparation. This home study course, in particular, has a great segment on releasing fear of birth.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND HERBS

Essential oils and herbs can be tremendous tools in labor, both for encouraging the body into more productive labor and for helping the mind deal with the intense emotions that accompany childbirth. Essential oils, in particular, can help make contractions more effective, ease pain, help with nausea, calm anxiety, give energy, help with headaches, and so many more labor issues- a good essential oils toolkit can be invaluable during labor! If you’re like more information on using essential oils and which ones I would recommend for your labor and delivery, feel free to email me: karli dot feedmemama at gmail dot com πŸ™‚

RELAXATION METHODS

This really looks different for everyone, but knowing what things are effective for helping you relax is key! for some people, its a specific music playlist that they love. Maybe its an essential oil blend to diffuse, a special candle in a warmer, a scented lotion or body scrub, a warm rice sack, a special pillow or blanket or nightgown. My advice: bring it all! You want to be as relaxed as possible!

WATER FOR PAIN RELIEF

This largely depends on what is available in your birthing facility, so think about this when choosing a care provider! Having a shower available for directed heat and pressure can be great during contractions- but most mamas swear by the relief that comes from birthing in a tub or birth pool. Warmth helps relax muscles, water takes pressure off the mama and increases elasticity of the skin. This is sometimes referred to as the “natural birth’s epidural” πŸ™‚

THE BOTTOM LINE…you need FLEXIBILITY

Being prepared is so, SO important in a natural birth. But really? You need to go into your birth with positivity and flexibility. Birth is a wild ride, and it is unpredictable! Having a set-in-stone birth plan that you are “married to” will very likely just cause you greater frustration and anxiety in the long run. By all means, know what is ideal for you! But also know that you might be repulsed by things that once felt comforting to you, you might not be able to keep food down, or a surgical birth might end up saving your baby’s life (or yours)!

What was the most useful thing you did to prepare for a natural birth?

Lessons I’ve Learned in the 4 Years Since My First Miscarriage

four years

 

It’s hard to believe that this week is the 4 year anniversary of my first miscarriage. It had taken us almost a year to get pregnant, and we were so overjoyed! I still remember staring at the little bean on the ultrasound, being told that it was too small, and there was no heartbeat, like it was yesterday. The next week was a blur of tests and, eventually, a d&c in the hospital to end the pregnancy. My husband was out of town on his very first tour as a drummer, and I was alone. It was devastating.

4 years have past, and we couldn’t have know that this was just the first of three babies to be born into heaven in our family. I’ve learned a lot since that first precious little life left too soon, and I thought I would share some reflections.

MISCARRIAGE LOOKS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE, EVERY TIME

Each one of our losses was different- our first, a “missed miscarriage” at 11 weeks- my body still thought I was pregnancy though the baby had stopped living. The second, a “chemical pregnancy” at 7 weeks- the first ultrasound revealed no baby after I had started bleeding. The third, a horrific preterm labor birth at 14 weeks of our son, Hudson. Each experience was devastating in it’s own right, and came with it’s own emotions and consequences.

Our second miscarriage came after a surprise pregnancy that was due the same week we were supposed to move across the country- and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit comforted by the relief I felt to not have to work out those details. It was an intensely confusing time as I committed to being honest with my emotions- both the deep grief I felt and the strange peace that this must be the best plan.

LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT, AND YOU CAN DECIDE FOR YOURSELF

This might be slightly controversial, but I feel like it’s been an important part of my journey to identify the language that reflects my experiences the best- which might not be the appropriate medical language. Our son’s birth at 14 weeks is still technically called a miscarriage. To me, this doesn’t at all accurately capture the gravity of what we experienced- he was alive, moving around and healthy just the night before, and his heart was still faintly beating even while I was laboring that morning. I labored for 5 hours and didn’t deliver him until my water was broken. The doctors could find nothing wrong with him, and no identifiable reason for my going into labor.

To me, this wasn’t a miscarriage- it was a stillbirth, or a very premature birth. I have found it extremely important to my healing process to give myself license to use those terms both in my heart and in conversation, because it most accurately reflects my experience and the gravity of my son’s loss. I think this is important for all parents to identify.

EVERYONE IS AWKWARD, EVERYONE IS TRYING

I have had horrible, shocking things said to me after our losses, ranging from “well at least you don’t have to deal with my 4 kids, take some time before you try again” to “well that baby probably had something wrong with it anyway” to “you’ll get pregnant again”. I’m sorry, what? Do people hear what they are saying? It’s unreal that people think these things bring comfort in times of such grief. Would you say those things to someone whose child just died?

I spent much of my time in the first few months and years being really angry at the seemingly insensitive things people would say to me- I just felt like they should know better. But as I prayed through my heart towards them and looked at my closest friends, I realized they couldn’t know better, because they haven’t experienced what I did. Saying anything at all so someone whose grief you don’t identify with is extremely brave, and these people were trying. And so I have learned to prayerfully bring my heart to the Lord and give grace out generously when I hear these comments.

THE LORD REDEEMS OUR PAIN AND BROKENNESS

Let me be the first person to tell you that “everything happens for a reason” is the worst phrase ever and takes the most prayer and grace for me to respond to with a smile. That’s not what I am saying here. I believe in my core that miscarriage and infant loss are not part of the Lord’s perfect plan and that they deeply grieve his heart. However, I also believe in the power of the Lord to take the pain that we experience, and take these little lives that we carry, and use them to build His kingdom.

My decision, early on in our infertility and loss journey, to remain open about our struggles has led to so much prayer and ministry for others in the past 4 years. I have been blessed to rejoice in countless surprise and miracle pregnancies, cry alongside dear friends through their losses, and feel the depth of friendship that I might not otherwise feel with so many women because of the babies I have lost and that I have shared. Do I think that’s why I lost them? No. Do I see that the Lord uses my pain when I let him? Yes. It’s a legacy that my babies will continue to live through in the years to come.

YOU AREN’T ALONE

When you go through any kind of loss experience, you will feel alone. At least, that was my experience- though I now realize that it isn’t true at all. As I have shared my story and my babies’ lives over the years, women have come out of the woodwork with their own stories. I don’t think everyone is called to be as open or as vulnerable and public with their stories as maybe I am, but know this: this affects so many more families than you realize. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in some type of loss- not to mention the countless families that struggle to get pregnant at all. If you are struggling, reach out- to me, to a loved one, to a trusted mentor or friend. The chances are that this pain isn’t as far from you as you might think.

If you are reading this and you have experienced your own loss, I am so sorry. I am here for you. If you are a loved one of someone who has lost a pregnancy or baby, I feel your grief, too. I am praying for you all.

Hallelujah’s Birth Story

Our Birth Story- a Natural, Birth Center Waterbirth (with a twist!)

Around 4AM on Saturday, January 11, I woke up to contractions around 10-12 minutes apart. They were painful, almost like a bad period- but not unbearable. I got up and took a shower, then came back to bed and laid back down to try and get some rest. Around 8, Matt woke up, and I told him I thought today might be the day! We were excited but also knew that it could be a while, as early labor can last quite a while. We also text my family to tell them to be ready!

Matt’s family had come into town a few days beforehand, so we met his parents for breakfast at a local restaurant, Baugher’s. We told his parents that I was having contractions (not that they needed telling, I was visibly uncomfortable every few minutes) and that we were going to head to the mall after breakfast to do some walking. We all made a pact to keep it quiet about labor starting- I didn’t want phone calls all day or Facebook spam or whatnot. Even people we ran into didn’t have a clue!

Contractions stayed consistent all day- around 10 minutes apart- so we also went out to dinner with Matt’s family. After dinner that night, we headed to Target to do some last minute shopping, then parted ways with our parents with a “see you some time tonight”, assuming that labor would intensify with the night hours and that our little girl would be born tomorrow. We went to bed that night with packed bags and anxious hearts!

By around 5AM on January 12th, my contractions had intensified to about 1 minute long, 6 minutes apart, and stayed that way for about three hours. They were incredibly painful- I was nauseous and couldn’t eat or drink anything. Between each contraction I would fall back to sleep- we were waiting for them to get just a bit closer together before we called the birth center and got on our way- but we alerted our family that the time was near. And then- out of nowhere- the contractions spaced out. A LOT. Suddenly it would be fifteen minutes between, then ten, then half an hour- still painful, just spaced apart. We didn’t know what to think. So we slept as much as we could and waited for things to progress.

This irregularity continued well into the afternoon. Meanwhile, I felt terrible, had awful diarrhea (a typical early labor sign) and couldn’t eat anything. Around 4 or 5, at the encouragement of Matt and my mom, I called the birth center and explained how things had gone throughout the morning, only to be told that it was just ‘false labor’ and that I should try to lay down, eat, etc to get the contractions to stop. Not only was this really frustrating (all I’d been doing all day was laying around, and I was to nauseous to eat) but it just didn’t feel right.

I followed the midwife’s advice and choked down half a sandwich and tried to relax. Pretty soon, things started to change- suddenly I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes, but they were only lasting 30 or 45 seconds. I had Matt call the midwife, who told me to get into the bathtub and stay in for an hour, to hopefully even out my contractions. She said that it sounded like my uterus was tired- who can blame it, it had already been working for 36 hours!

My time in the bathtub was not fun. At all. Contractions spaced to 5min apart, and started lasting longer. They would make me feel like I needed to go to the bathroom, so I painfully got in and out of the tub several times, soaking everything in my path. I would shake uncontrollably when I would get out. Finally, Matt called the midwife and she told us to come in. It was time to get the show on the road!

Matt’s parents packed up our car while he helped me get dressed and dry. He lined the front seat of our car with trash bags (my water still hadn’t broken) and we were on our way. We made what usually is an hour’s drive in about 40 minutes- and boy, was it a rough drive. Contractions every 3-4 minutes in the front seat of a car? I don’t recommend it.

We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 pm to find Linda, a midwife whom I had only met two days before. She took a urine sample and concluded that I was severely dehydrated and undernourished- my body was basically breaking down muscle for calories. She left to get a bag of fluids and I immediately started throwing up. I pretty much puked for the next 5 hours- through 3 bags of fluids and two different anti nausea medications.

Those hours were absolutely horrible. Because of my dehydration, the pain of the contractions was magnified, and I was throwing up between almost every one. Matt alternated between holding a trash can for me and rubbing oils into my back to help with the pain. The cycle was unrelenting and I began to doubt my ability to continue.

Finally, around 3:30 am, Linda suggested taking a low-dose sedative that would allow me to sleep for an hour or so and regain some strength to finish labor. At this point, she checked me and told me that I was about 4.5cm dilated, and that I would likely stay that was while I slept. I didn’t even care- I knew I needed the rest. While I did still feel my contractions and had to get up several times to get sick, I was able to rest for a while, and so was Matt. I am so thankful that this was an option- it honestly saved our labor.

I woke up around 5:30 and got myself to the bathroom, only to have a very strong contraction. I knew immediately- I needed to push. I yelled for Matt to get the midwife (now Susannah, as there had been a shift change while we were resting)- both of whom looked at me like I was crazy- I shouldn’t have progressed during that time at all! But I knew- when your body tells you to push, you can’t do anything else. Sure enough, when Susannah checked me, I was fully dilated.

There was just one problem- there was no nurse in the building at the time. Knowing how close to delivering I was, and that she would need an extra set of trained hands, Susannah told me that I was only 9 cm dilated and that I couldn’t push yet- while she frantically changed into scrubs and called for a nurse to come in. Cue the most miserable 45 minutes of the night- trying not to push when that’s what your body is doing. It’s nearly impossible. It’s painful and frustrating and feels so wrong. I pretty much sobbed into Matt’s shoulder during each contraction. Finally, when I knew I couldn’t continue like that anymore, Matt and Susannah went and filled the jacuzzi tub. It was time!

It took a few contractions to figure out a good rhythm, but eventually I sat myself sideways, with my back on one side of the tub and my feet propped up against the other side, knees up towards my hips. Matt knelt on the other side of the tub, and with each contraction, he held my hands as I pulled against him, almost like a tug-of-war, which allowed me to bear down more on the baby with each push. I honestly didn’t mind pushing- it wasn’t comfortable, but at least it was a task, with an end goal, and I had something to DO besides just try to get through it- like the rest of labor! I started pushing around 6:30, and my water FINALLY broke, in the tub, at about 6:50. At 7, the nurse finally arrived- just in time!

It was an amazing feeling of relief when Matt told me that her head was out- what he didn’t tell me was that it was purple! Susannah checked for the umbilical cord but couldn’t feel it, and on the next push, we assumed that her body would be born. But it wasn’t. Something wasn’t right!

Susannah quickly realized what the problem was- Halle’s shoulders didn’t fully rotate and they were stuck in my pelvis, and pinching the umbilical cord. This left Halle without oxygen, so we needed to get her out quickly! Without explaining this all to me (there was no time) she and Matt pulled me up in the tub and had me push once standing, which didn’t work either. Finally, they yelled that we needed to get on the bed. I was half carried/half drug to the next room- with Halle’s head hanging out of me- sopping wet and thrown on the bed and told to give as hard of a push as I could. I’ll never know what she did, but somehow Susannah maneuvered her shoulders down and Halle was born- 7:10 am, 51 hours after my first contraction.

She was immediately placed on my belly but was dark purple and unresponsive. Susannah and the nurse quickly began rubbing her with warm towels and gave her some quick oxygen, and very shortly she let out a great cry. I heard her make noise fairly quickly, so it wasn’t until after her birth was explained to me that I really understood the gravity of the situation. If it wasn’t for the quick work of the staff of the birth center, we might have lost our girl. I am so grateful for their knowledge and assertiveness.

Meanwhile, Halle stayed on my belly, but because of the damage done to the umbilical cord, we needed to birth the placenta immediately. I was given a shot of pitocin in the leg and it came soon after. Matt cut the cord and Halle was free! She latched on within the first ten minutes and has been feeding well ever since.

Honestly, the moments after her birth are a huge blur- between the drama of the birth itself, then the hurry to birth the placenta, and how extremely exhausted I was, I had trouble keeping myself awake and really comprehending what was happening for the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly, as I rested in the bed, I was able to fully appreciate the moment- she was here! In my arms, and so perfect.

Our Birth Story

We headed home from the birth center just a few short hours later and have been loving life ever since! We are so blessed by our little girl and so privileged to be her parents.

Looking back on our birth, nothing went as planned. The labor pattern was so irregular that we didn’t know what to expect. I got very sick because of being in labor for so long. I basically slept through what is traditionally though of as ‘active labor’. We had wanted Matt to catch Halle, but clearly that couldn’t have happened- same with delaying cord clamping and having a peaceful, gentle water birth. But just because things didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean they didn’t go as they should’ve. We have no regrets about our birthing experience and we are so thankful for the education we received that prepared us to handle the unexpected!

What’s GBS? Here’s What You Need to Know…

What is GBS (Group B Strep)? Here's what you need to know...

Admittedly, I knew basically nothing about Group B Step until I as pregnant- wait, you too? Ok, good. I think this is one of those thing that catches every woman by surprise, unless you’ve worked in the medical field or had someone you know talk to you about it. Basically, Group B Strep is a colony of bacteria that lies dormant in the bodies of many mothers- often in the vagina or rectum. It won’t make mom sick, but, if passed to the infant, can be life-threatening in it’s seriousness. Thankfully, less than 1% of infants born to GBS- positive moms will contract the illness, and of those, 10% will die.

This risk is a serious one- serious enough that the medical field has built in certain safeguards. To keep GBS in check, mothers are routinely checked (by means of vaginal swabbing and culture) towards the end of their pregnancy to see whether or not they are carrying GBS- usually around 36 weeks. You can refuse the test, but there is very little risk to taking the test itself, and it’s good information to have going into your birth- for you, and for your birth team.

Once a mother tests positive for GBS, they are always considered positive, for the remainder of that pregnancy. If they are, they are then STRONGLY encouraged to be given IV antibiotics every 4 hours during labor to support the babe’s immune system and keep them from getting infected. However, many mothers, in an attempt to make the best decision for their babies in regards to meds during labor, will ‘treat’ their GBS naturally and asked to be retested- and often will end up testing negative before the birth. While your healthcare practitioner will still treat you as if you are positive, you can have the peace of mind to know that you are negative.

Here are some ways that mothers combat a positive GBS test (or prevent a positive one in the first place:
-ACV baths
-Fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi
-Garlic
-Echinacea

The problem is this- what if mom, who tested positive and will therefore be considered positive no matter what, doesn’t want to have the antibiotics? There are risks to any kind of IV medication, and antibiotics come with their own slew of problems, particularly for such a tiny, fragile baby with an underdeveloped gut! If you have a retest and know that you are now not carrying GBS, you can use that as a leg up to make the decision to deny meds.

If you test positive, should you deny the antibiotics? That is a very personal decision that should be taken very seriously and talked over with your care provider. But, hopefully, you will feel equipped to discuss the illness, your options, and take preventative measures at home!

Why Your Due Date Doesn’t Matter

Why your Due Date Doesn't Matter!

Today is January 3rd.

To most of you, it’s just any other day. To a lucky few, today is a snow day (yay northeast!) or perhaps it’s a birthday or an anniversary. But for most people, it’s just January 3rd.

But this January 3rd is different for me. Today is MY DUE DATE.

I joked on Twitter yesterday about how someone asked me when I was due and when I told them ‘tomorrow’ they backed away slowly, as if I was going to projectile birth the baby or spew amniotic fluid everywhere. While that may have been an exaggeration, I think general attitude towards the ‘due date’ in modern society is probably worth addressing, and no better day to do it than today!

So, here’s the thing about this whole ’40 week gestation’ deal: it’s an average. Meaning that just as many babies (if they were all left to their own devices, which Lord knows is another blog post) would be born at 38 weeks as are born at 42. Now, our modern medical system has all but eliminated the 42-weeker, what with it’s 1,001 reasons to be induced, so it feels a lot more foreign to think about a lady going a week or two late. But it’s just like I said- if babies were left to come out when they are ready, we’d have just as many 38s as 42s- or pretty darn close.

In addition, we have to look at what goes into figuring out a due date for many women. Yes, doctors have that fun little spinny-wheel thing in their offices that tell you exactly when your due date is, which is great if you’ve been keeping track of your cycle and know exactly what’s going on with your body. But for many women, they are left guessing when their last cycle started, or going off of an ultrasound measurement, which is notoriously inaccurate- up to a week off even in the beginning of pregnancy, and up to three weeks off at the end.

In my case, I had recently had surgery to remove one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes, and found myself pregnant less than a month later, with a totally screwed up cycle and no real clue how it happened (ok, I had a little clue how it happened). Dates of things didn’t seem to line up at all, and my midwife and I were left guessing as to when my due date might be- educated guesses, but still estimates. Thankfully, the dates we came up with have matched ultrasound results and fundal height measurements throughout my pregnancy, so I am pretty confident in this date of January 3rd, but you can see why I’m not holding my breath!

That being said, the number of women who actually go into labor on their due dates is extremely low- less than 5%! So if you see me out and about today, have no fear, I’ll be just fine- though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a change of clothes with me or at least in the car, just in case!

When will she come? Whenever she’s ready. But for now, we’ll wait patiently and know that really, today is just January 3rd- any other day of my pregnancy. πŸ™‚

40 Ways to Induce Labor

40 Ways to Go Into Labor

Hey there friends!

As many of you know, my due date is fast approaching and we are busy preparing for our little girl to arrive. It’s funny how everyone starts coming out of the woodwork when it’s close to your due date- sharing their stories of how to get labor going, encouraging you to start early, etc. Unlike the necessary and good practice of preparing your body for birth, stimulating labor early isn’t necessary- the body will take care of it on it’s own when baby is ready! However, if you’re past due and getting desperate- here’s a great list of supposed ways to induce labor- from the commonly practiced to the ridiculous. Enjoy!

Please know that I am not a medical professional, and I am not attempting to give medical advice. Please only use these methods under the supervision of your birth professional. Also, some affiliate links are used- no charge to you, but supports this little blog! Thanks!

PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES
Walking
Running
Running UP Steps
Jumping Jacks
Walking curbs (one foot on, one foot off, switch sides often)
Walking sideways up stairs
Use a breast pump (fave)
Nipple Stimulation
Sex
Off-roading
Pedicure
Foot/Ankle Massage
Driving on train tracks
Bounce on a birth or exercise ball (fave)
Hula Hoop (super cheap!)
Dancing
High knees
Lunges
Jump on a trampoline (low cost option)
Handstands
Tell your body to go into labor/focus energy
Don’t think about going into labor (ha!)
Rub your belly in a clockwise circle for 1 min, then do lunges for 3 min, repeat

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture
Acupressure
Chiropractor
Membrane sweeping
Induction Massage

THINGS TO EAT
Spicy Food
Labor Cake
Eggplant (particularly eggplant parmesan)
Eating until you’re stuffed
Balsamic Vinegar (this one is great & a great value)
Certain dishes at specific restaurants (the “preggo pizza”)
Eating fresh pineapple (a lot of it)
‘The Huston Method’: Popcorn, Wine, Sex
Eating dates

SUPPLEMENTS AND HERBS
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Evening Primrose Oil– taken orally or inserted vaginally
Herbal Tinctures or Supplements (black or blue cohosh, false unicorn)
Homeopathics
Clary Sage Oil
Castor Oil
Laxatives

Have another suggestion you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list! πŸ™‚

Great selection of bulk herbs, books, and remedies. Articles, Research Aids and much more.

ALN Best Pregnancy Posts of 2013

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013

Some of you may know that I am lucky to be a part of a beautiful blogging community called the Alternative Living Network. Β Filled with bloggers who love Jesus and want to live a natural, Kingdom-minded lifestyle, I am endlessly thankful for the challenge and encouragement that they are to me!

This year, we are combining forces to bring you the best writings of 2013. You can see the other blogs (and subjects) involved at the end of the post, but for today, here are ALN’s Best Pregnancy Posts of 2013!

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013
Image Used With Permission From GrowingSlower

CARE PROVIDERS
OB/ Midwife Interview Questions
Birth Center vs. Hospital
Extending Grace to Mainstream Birth Professionals
Childbirth Class Options (And What We Chose)
Why We’re Using Midwives
Changing Your Prenatal Care

ALN's Best Pregnancy Posts of 2013

LABOR AND DELIVERY
Preparing the Body for a Natural Birth
Touch Me, Touch Me Not: Labor and Touch
Packing a Bag for a Natural Birth

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013
Image Used With Permission From Modern Alternative Pregnancy

NEWBORN DECISIONS
Thoughts on Circumcision
Newborn Procedures: Hepatitis B
90 Seconds That Could Change Your Baby’s Life

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013
Image Used With Permission From Georgetown MN

POSTPARTUM
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for Postpartum Use
Hello Baby, Goodbye Hair
How to Make a Ring Sling

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013
Image Used With Permission From Breastfeeding Place

BREASTFEEDING
I Will Breastfeed On Demand (A Poem)
Changes in Breast Milk During Pregnancy
Does Your Care Provider Support Breastfeeding?
Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?

ALN's Best of Pregnancy Posts of 2013

GENERAL PREGNANCY
Happy Birthday, Sweet One: A Birth Story
Surprising Birth Statistics
Sleep, Stress, and Stretch Marks: Surviving Late Pregnancy
DIY Pregnancy Tea Blend
Surviving the First Trimester Naturally
Pregnancy and the Beauty of Grace
Blessingsway Ideas: Bridging the Cultural Gap

To see more Best of 2013 Round-ups, make sure to check out the following blogs between 12/23 and 12/31!

Whole Intentions

Feed Me, Mama

It Takes Time

The Entwife’s Journal

The Ezer Wife

Your Thriving Family

Nourishing Simplicity

Richly Rooted

Joyful Thrifty Home

Day 2 Day Joys

Wisdom Seeking Mommy

Natural Momma in Progress

Accidentally Green

Georgetown MN

Growing Slower

Imperfect Homemaker

Simple Life Abundant Life

Natural Living Mamma

Whole New Momma

Nourishing Faith and Family

Our All-Natural Birth Plan

Our All-Natural Birth Plan

Given that our due date is so soon, we have been busy preparing for our baby to arrive! One of the most important tools, especially for achieving a natural birth, is having a birth plan written out, and going over the birth plan with anyone involved with your labor and delivery. Make sure especially that your husband and/or birth coach is very familiar with your wishes and can help you make decisions according to your plan, even if you aren’t fully capable of making them yourself at the time. You should include plans for your ideal birth, as well as plans for if complications arise for either you or the baby. Here is our plan (so far!)

LABOR
Labor at home as long as possible (ideal departure: contractions 2-3min apart, lasting 1min)
Eat, drink, and move freely during labor as desired
As few internal checks as possible (none if allowed, one upon arrival is permissible)
Intermittent fetal monitoring only as truly needed
All interventions should be explained and we should be given time to discuss together
Available to labor in tub, on birth ball, birth stool, shower, toilet, outside
Utilize rebozo, oils, rice sock, massage, hot towels, homeopathics as needed

DELIVERY
Push in whatever position is comfortable
Push with body’s prompting, not to timing
Free to deliver in water if desired
Perineal counter pressure, heat, oils- episiotomy only in absolutely emergent situation

POSTPARTUM
Immediate skin to skin
No erythromycin or vaccinations will be given
Vit K will only be given if deemed necessary by birth, after discussion between midwife and Karli. Arnica will be used instead if possible.
No bath given- wipe off face and yucky bits, rub in vernix
No hat unless necessary by room temperature
No pacifier given whatsoever
Breastfeeding as soon as baby is ready
APGAR done on mother
Cord allowed to finish pulsing (minimum of 10 min), then be cut by Matt
Placenta delivered naturally, placed in refrigerator to be taken home and encapsulated
Sitz bath as soon as possible (may be once we get home- fine)
Baby will use cloth diapers only (with liner) all brought with us
Family allowed to return home as soon as possible

CESAREAN
Only spinal anesthesia given
Shield lowered to see baby delivered
Cord allowed to stop pulsing, if possible
No erythromycin, vaccinations, Vit K only if deemed necessary
Skin to skin and breastfeeding ASAP
Room in with baby at all times

SICK BABY
Breastfeed baby, expressed breastmilk if necessary
Free visitation by mother and father
Allowed skin to skin if possible
Parents handle as much of care as possible

Did you write out a birth plan? If not, do you wish you had? If so, is there anything additional you would include, or wish that you had included?

Packing a Bag for a Natural Birth

Packing a Natural Birth Bag

Type a quick search into Pinterest and you can find a bazillion different blog posts on what you should pack in your hospital bag. But what if you aren’t going to a hospital? What if you aren’t preparing for a normal birth, but a natural one? You’re probably going to pack a little differently- I know I am!

My due date is in less than a month, and it’s high time for me to get packing my bag. Here’s a peek inside what I’m bring along to the birth center with me, to help be through my (planned) natural labor and delivery!

ESSENTIAL OILS & MASSAGE OIL– Β I will be bringing a full medicine chest of oils to my birth. Here’s what I’m planning to have on hand, and what they are used for:

Serenity– A sedative and anti-anxiety blend, Serenity will be diffused in the labor room to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere, as well as quell any fears and anxiety I may have.

Peppermint– Not to be used topically as it can inhibit milk production, but can be inhaled for energy or to quell nausea, as well as put in the toilet to help dilate the bladder so I can pee.

Lavender– Great for relaxation, as well as perineum care. Will also be used in postpartum pads and peri-bottles and spray.

On Guard- An immunity blend that is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, we’ll be using this in an all-purpose spray to sanitize the birth room, and also the birth ball.

Deep Blue– A pain relief blend, I have been using this every night on my back for the past few weeks, and will continue to use during labor, especially for back labor.

Breathe– Many mothers suffer from a small degree of pregnancy-related congestion, and I have been no exception. Should it become worse during labor, this respiratory blend will come in handy.

Clary Sage– This is used to make contractions more effective and also to restart a stalled labor. Is also effective in helping to deliver placenta.

Coconut Oil– Used to apply any of these oils topically, as well as for perineum care during second stage labor. We will also apply this to the baby’s bottom with her first diaper to make her first poops easier to clean up!

HOMEOPATHICS– While my education in homeopathic medicine is very much beginning, I have been advised that there are a few remedies that are great for labor and delivery:

Pulsatilla– Given that baby girl has a tendency to be posterior, pulsatilla is very useful for babies that aren’t in an optimal position.

Nux Vomica– Useful if mama is nauseous during labor, particularly in the transition period.

Arnica– Great to help aches and pains subside after birth, as well as speed the healing of bruising and swelling. Can also be used for baby in the event of a traumatic birth.

FOOD– Yes, I am allowed to eat during labor- actually not just allowed, but encouraged. I’ve got a litany of high-protein snacks on the docket- both for Matt and I to have to keep our energy up. Homemade energy balls, trail mix, and brothy soups will be at the top of the list. In addition, the birth center requires me to eat a decent meal before we are discharged- haven’t decided what that will be just yet, but that’ll get packed as well.

DRINKS– Many ‘hospital bag checklists’ encourage moms to chug gatorade during labor, but I just can’t do it- too many chemicals and crazy ingredients in there! Instead, I’m making my own homemade ‘labor aid‘ to take with me- something that I (hopefully) will be able to easily whip up in the early stages of labor while I am still at home. In addition, I’ll be bringing coconut water, some of my home-blended pregnancy support tea (which also balances hormones following the birth), and ginger tea, in case I get nauseous. I will likely also make some strong red raspberry leaf tea to then freeze into ice chips art the birth center- keeping me cool and refreshed but also strengthening the uterus during labor!

MUSIC. Music is a big part of our lives, and can be a great relaxation aid if you’ve been using it correctly! We’re making labor playlists, loading them onto our phones, and bringing a bluetooth speaker.

CLOTH DIAPERS– We went back and forth on this for a while, but yes- we will be using cloth diapers from the beginning. We were gifted with some beautiful newborn diapers, and we’ll just use disposable inserts in the inside until all the meconium passes. From then on, it’s all cloth, all the time! Of course, we are going into this process with a standard of grace- if the cloth is too much to handle in the beginning, we will simply use disposables for a while. But, for the time being, that’s just the backup plan.

SHOWER SUPPLIES– I’m not 100% that I will take a shower at the birth center before coming home, but I’d like to have my own things with me if I feel like it! I got a nice exfoliating washcloth and packed a travel size of my favorite natural shower gel.

CLOTHES FOR MOM AND BABY– This might seem like a given, but the way the pregnant brain works, it’s best to put it on the list. Though I am not set on organic cotton on the whole, I have been gifted some lovely organic baby clothes that I’ll be bringing to the hospital for the little girl- just because it feels special πŸ™‚ For me, it’s all about comfort, of course! I’ll be bringing a few changes of comfy outfits (in case the nasty takes them hostage haha), and then something clean to save to go home in. Very important- cheap or old changes of underwear, and cheap, dark socks. These things tend to get messy during a natural birth, so the dark colors come in handy.

BIRTH BALL– this is actually provided in many birth centers, but I’m bringing mine just in case. A birth ball is nothing more than a large exercise ball– you can spend more money and get one that says ‘birth ball’ on it if you really want to, but they are all the same. The rolling and bouncing motions that the birth ball supports allows the mother to remain in motion with very little effort, which can be soothing, help dilate, and fend off muscle cramps.

REBOZO– This is something that I had never really heard of until I took Bradley Method classes and our instructor introduced us! A rebozo is nothing more than a long, wide scarf that can be tied in different ways around the mama and used to support the belly or even lift the baby into a more favorable position. It’s useful in the weeks leading up to labor to encourage good positioning, as well as during labor to correct, if necessary. Also, they’re really pretty πŸ™‚

RICE SOCK– So easy! We made these in our Bradley Method class, and they are so great. Simply take a large men’s athletic sock and fill it with rice. You can then heat it in the microwave or even cool it in the freezer to provide gentle relief wherever you need it. You can also use a few drops of essential oils for a great aromatherapeutic experience! (If you just want to purchase, grab this one!)

DISPOSABLES– For me. While I’d love to employ the use of MamaCloth or something similar, cloth diapers will be enough to wash! I am bringing padsicles and also some women’s disposable underwear– definitely not glamorous, but will be easy and one less thing to worry about.

BLANKETS– 2, to be precise. One receiving blanket to wrap baby in after the birth, and a heavier one to snuggle around her in her car seat on the way home. (ps: this is our fave car seat!)

SWIMSUIT TOP– Who knows if I’ll actually use this, to be honest. More women lose all inhibitions in labor and end up walking around naked (in a natural birth) and given that I am a human heater already, I’m betting I’m no different. But, if I am looking for some sort of modesty, I want something available to me, particularly for birthing in the tub.

SITZ BATH HERBS– Because I am sent home (if delivery is routine) between 4-6 hours after the birth, I don’t know if this is something that I will actually use at the birth center or if it will be used at home instead, but I’ll be bringing it just in case. A sitz bath herb pack includes an herbal blend that is designed to speed healing of the nether regions following birth and sooth any discomfort down there. A shallow bath is drawn and a ‘tea’ is made with the herbs in the bath- you relax and heal, perhaps even with baby in with you! Ready-made sitz bath herb packs are available, or you can prepare your own sitz bath herb blend.

I personally received this gift set with my last baby, and it was amazing. I’ll gift it to every new mama from now on!

Last, but not least, PERSONAL COMFORTS. This could be anything- for me, it’s a range of anything from my favorite pre-packaged facial cleansing wipes to the best lip balm, natural hand sanitizer to significant jewelry.

Did you have a natural birth- in a hospital, birth center, or at home? What was on your packing list? Let’s see if we can grow this list as a resource!