I posted this article on my personal Facebook yesterday, with this statement, "Such a healing article. I have a difficult time in allowing myself any credit, but this was so validating to read. The mere minutes I had to make the decision, I was the bravest I have ever been. Since then, I have had to become the strongest I have ever been. And I can also say that I am now the most blessed I have ever been. Happy 10 months, Bean!"
A distant friend, who is/was a nurse (and who I don't think knows my story), responded with this, "It doesn't matter how a baby is born. My rule is always healthy mom healthy baby. I love birth plan mamas. They just have to remember I'm not the enemy!"
At first, it hurt and I jumped on the defensive. Of course it matters! I was absolutely not healthy! I was in excruciating pain and drugged so hard I barely remember the first week of my son's life! I have PTSD and post-partum anxiety!
But then, I thought... She has a point. I can see her side. Her job is to make sure that both mom and baby stay alive. Her, and the other nurses and doctors, have that responsibility to the mothers and babies. The issue that I am trying to work against is when their convenience becomes a hindrance to birthing mothers, such has restricted movement, birthing on the back, unnecessarily scheduled inductions/cesareans etc. But OBs and nurses are not automatically evil. In fact, I’ve met the OB that I plan to have a hospital birth with once I’m pregnant with #2. She is incredibly supportive of VBaCs (vaginal birth after cesarean), and even gave me statistics supporting VBACs at our initial meeting! Several of my mama friends have or are planning to birth with her, and have given her the highest praise. I feel comfortable with the thought of her providing my prenatal care and assisting me in the birth of my next child.
To me, it did matter how Bean was born. Imagine telling a girl who has planned her dream wedding all her life, has all the vendors paid for, and is getting ready to walk down the aisle, that she has to go to the courthouse and give up everything she has dreamed of, planned on, and paid for. In the end, she is still marrying the love of her life, but what was planned to be a pivotal day in her life has been reduced to almost nothing, comparatively, with none of the memories that she hoped for. For anyone who has not had a similar experience, this is the closest analogy I was able to come up with. In the end, though, we did both come out alive, and for that I am eternally grateful for.
Her statement, “I love birth plan mamas,” got me thinking a lot, though. I was a birth plan mama. Most of my friends are birth plan mamas. In fact, I sat on a pretty high horse with my birth plan. I was literally so set in my birth plan that I scoffed and rolled my eyes while filling out the paperwork required in case of a transfer. I whined to Bear about having to fill it out, and put it off as long as possible. I had a healthy pregnancy, why shouldn’t I have a healthy, normal, natural birth, like women have been having for eons? Isn’t that what the natural birth community preaches, that we were made for this? My mantra, like so many others, was, “I grew this baby, I can birth this baby.” Until I couldn’t.
Coming off of my high horse, the fall was hard. It left me breathless, bruised, and sore. I am grateful, in a way, though, because it opened my eyes. Namely, if I had not been so set on having a home birth, if my mind and heart had been more open to the possibility of something ending up differently, maybe I wouldn’t have suffered so much when plans did change. Perhaps my PTSD/anxiety would have been less, or even non-existent. If the Natural Birthing Community was more open to necessary medical interventions (as my midwife was), perhaps my friends who have had to have them in order to birth vaginally would not be so ashamed to admit so. Is there a chance that the natural birth community and modern medicine could live in harmony, rather than pitted against each other? Working together, maybe an outcome of “healthy mama, healthy baby” would become more often a reality, rather than a distant dream, as it is for so many. To the doctors and nurses and midwives and doulas who really do care about that, thank you. I appreciate you beyond what words can express.
On Facebook, my response was that I was not healthy, I had PTSD and anxiety due to my birth experience, which was met kindly by my nurse friend, but spurred another response which nearly broke my heart and has left me crying all morning.
A distant family member, who I doubt knows the story of Bean’s birth, made the joke that knowing birth could bring on “the same PTSD that soldiers come home from war with” was good birth control.
Oh. My. Heart.
I have PTSD, not because of birth, and, I think, even very little has to do with it ending in a c-section over a vaginal birth. It is from the situation surrounding Bean’s birth. To quote a previous blog post,
"In a matter of minutes, we went from our midwife telling Bear to get ready to catch his baby to our baby being born in a room full of strangers, with the only person in the room who loved him out cold on the table. If that is not traumatic, I don't know what is.”
My experience is rare, and shared in the hopes of 1) finding and offering solidarity with and to other women who have been through similar experiences and 2) to educate people who have not been. The last thing I want is for my experience to be used as something to scare women away from having children. Even though it was said in jest, I have been in tears over that statement since I logged into Facebook this morning. I will be honest and say that statements like these are what make me not want to share anything about my experience, but also spur me to do it. I would not change what I have been through for the world, and I am grateful every day that such a great blessing as Bean came out of what occurred. Despite this “joke”, I will continue to share and be vulnerable, even if I only reach one other person for the good with my experience.
Holy cow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated about Bean. He’s going to be 8 months this Saturday (Valentine’s Day!).
Why didn’t anyone tell me that he would grow up this fast?! J/k, j/k. Plenty of people did, I just didn’t believe them. It’s been a good 3 months since I last posted an update. I actually had to read what I wrote to see how far he’s come, and it’s far!
Bean now sits up on his own. In fact, he can now get himself up into the sitting position from being on his back or belly. He still scooches more than crawls, and since my friend called him Lieutenant Dan, I giggle every time he drags himself around with his arms, his little legs dragging behind him.
He went within days from being able to pull himself up to his knees to pulling himself into a fully standing position. He loves to stand up, but he’s not sure what to do from there!
Bean has also started eating from the table – well, his high chair. So far he has tried (and liked!), in no particular order:
He is still mainly breastfed, and I hope we continue through at least a year or longer! He’s mastered pinching with his thumb and finger, which is great for him eating, but not so good when it’s Mama or Papa’s skin.
Bean cut both bottom front teeth on Christmas Eve! I guess that’s all he wanted for Christmas. Haha! He’s also still a babbler. No words yet, but he understands “milk” and “more” in sign language, and has recently begun to sign “milk” when he gets hungry. Yay for communication!
He has become increasingly independent in his play, and he now loves Veggie Tales and Baby Einstein. He takes fewer naps (cries to self) and is sleeping longer periods through the night.
Bean loves when Bear or I blow raspberries on his belly, and he’s recently begun blowing raspberries on my belly! It is the funniest thing! If I lay down on the floor with him, he will pull himself to standing next to me, pull my shirt up, and start blowing at my belly. Sometimes he actually manages to get his face on my belly, and comes up with a grin of satisfaction after hearing the funny sounds he makes.
Bean loves being around other children, though we’ve had to limit his exposure due to the height of RSV and Flu season. He is usually gentle with other children, doesn’t get overwhelmed with having several others around, and likes to smile and laugh at them.
We got to visit our sweet friend in the hospital the day she gave birth to her second son. Bean was very curious, and not the least bit jealous when Mama held the new baby. I was so proud of him! It’s hard to believe that Bean was ever that itty bitty, and yet it seems like yesterday. I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure I have the fever again… Baby fever!
Since posting a few times about my experience with cloth diapering, I have had several friends ask how to get into it. I'll admit it, when I was pregnant I tried and tried to research, but pregnancy brain got the better of me. There are a ton of great resources out there, and I'll probably only be repeating pretty much anything else you can read out there. However, I'll be writing this as if to myself a year ago, when I had no idea what anything meant.
My sweet sister, author of Fantastic Actuality blog, has agreed to help me co-author this series. She was the one who broke everything down to me in "For Dummies" style, which was when everything finally made sense. She has even sent pictures to help the visually inclined (like myself).
In this post, we'll be covering the basic of the basics: old-school cloth diapers (like what your grandmother would likely have used), and different cover options.
Prefolds, Flats, and Fitteds – These are the absorbent options to go inside a cover. Prefolds and flats are your "grandmother’s cloth diapers.” A prefold is a piece of fabric that has been tri-folded and sewn together, generally with extra padding in the middle. They can be wrapped around a baby and held in place using a snappi (a silicone "T" with shallow teeth at each end to hold the diaper together), diaper pin, or other fastener. They can also just be folded and placed in a PUL cover. A flat is similar, but it is not pre-folded so you need to do all the folding to either wrap around baby or put in cover. A simple and inexpensive flat option is a flour sack towel from Wal Mart (I used them on Bean along with a prefold for overnight).
A fitted is an absorbent diaper with no waterproof layer. It generally closes with snaps or aplix (hook and loop, like Velcro), though you may need to use another fastener, like a snappi. It is already fitted to the baby with a diaper shape and elastics for a tight fit. Prefolds, flats, and fitteds all require a cover of some sort. You can buy them from most cloth diaper realtors.
There are also hybrid fitteds which include a layer of fleece either on the outside of the diaper or as a hidden layer. These diapers are not completely waterproof or resistant and will leak if not changed quickly but provide a good option for a breathable diaper to wear at home or at night. Hybrid fitteds are WAHM made and do not require a cover in most circumstances.
Covers - There are 3 styles of covers. The most common is PUL or polyurethane, which is a waterproof plastic-like material. Generally they snap or aplix (hook and loop, like velcro) closed. Common cover brands are Blueberry Coveralls or Thirsties Covers. Unless the diaper cover is soiled, you can wipe it out and reuse it 3-4 times before needing a new cover. They require some sort of insert to go in the cover, such as a fitted, prefold, or flat, to absorb waste.
Fleece covers are made from fleece and usually pull-on rather than have snaps or aplix. While not waterproof, fleece is water resistant. It is also very breathable. Many people use fleece at night either over a heavy-duty fitted or another PUL style diaper for added protection from night leaks. Fleece is generally WAHM (work at home mom) made.
Wool is similar to fleece but is more natural and requires a little more work. Wool is also water resistant instead of waterproof, but many people use wool and fleece with no issues. Wool is naturally antibacterial and absorbs order. You can purchase wool covers from companies such as Sbish or from WAHMs (like me!). Unlike PUL covers, wool and fleece can be made in pants, shorts, footies, and skirt versions so no other bottoms are required!
Part 2, "Not Yo' Grandma's Cloth Diapers", coming soon!
Last week, I with dealing with almost constant anxiety, as several women I knew were being induced or having c-sections scheduled to get babies here before Christmas, and I was reminded every time I logged onto Facebook. This article was the catalyst for a very serious thinking session. Then I realized something very important for myself.
It was my choice to have a cesarean.
Absolutely my choice. Just like it was my choice to labor at home, to limit the number of tests run, to limit the number of ultrasounds done. Just like it is my choice (and Bear’s) to have Bean on a selective/delayed vaccination schedule, to take him everywhere with us instead of having a babysitter, to use homeopathic and natural remedies for ourselves and Bean unless we need something more, to cloth diaper.
I had (and have) complete faith and trust in our midwife, but I could have told her, “no,” when she told her assistant to call 9-1-1. I could have refused to allow the paramedics to take me into the ambulance. I could have denied consent to the operation by not signing the papers presented to me at the hospital. I could have said, “no,” until the very moment the anesthesiologist injected the stuff to knock me out.
I am one of the very lucky women in this country to have an emergency cesarean section without being bullied or forced into it. I agreed to this decision because it was the best choice for my baby and me. I made the choice based on the sound advice of my trusted practitioner, who actually had nearly the same exact thing happen to her.
While the whole experience was very surreal and seemed to happen in both an instant and an eternity, I was still completely aware of what was going on. Even though I wasn’t in control of how my baby acted during the birthing process, I was in control of my reaction to his actions.
I have known this, to an extent, since it happened. I guess the PTSD is blinding in a way, and that this is another step in my healing process. I still hate that I had to have a c-section, but I’m hating it less. My scar is less of a painful reminder and more of a source of amazement (my kid came out of that?!). I even managed a trip the other day to the maternity ward we lived on for a week after his birth, to bring cookies to a friend who just had her baby, and left without a panic attack.
I’m still dealing with a lot of “what-if”s and anxiety, panic attacks, hard feelings against the OB who performed the c-section for threatening me afterwards, and frustration at memory loss from moments I was hoping to cherish forever. I still have a long way to go, but I’m so grateful to have gotten this far.
I recently had a friend diagnosed as gluten-intolerant ask for a list of foods she can eat. Happy to oblige, I thought I'd make my list readily available to all of my friends and readers! I would first like to share a quick story of my history and what lead me to a gluten-free lifestyle.
I have battled with my weight since puberty. Summer of 2007 I was severely overweight, and was diagnosed with severe acid reflux and sludge in my gall bladder. I was told to change my diet, and there would be a chance of my gall bladder clearing itself out. I stopped eating fast food, red meat, and anything fried. I also cut out as much processed sugar as possible. By way of elimination, I discovered that I was lactose intolerant. The severe gas pains I experienced nightly went away when I stopped eating my traditional after-work bowl of cereal. That summer I switched to soy milk and cut out ice cream, cheese, and yogurt completely. I was able to avoid having my gall bladder removed, as well as lose about 50 lbs that summer, and mostly maintained that for several years.
Spring of 2012 I was working out and eating a healthy, whole gain diet, but started packing on the pounds again. I had been put on pain management medication for undiagnosed pain and gained 20 lbs in 2 months. After weaning myself off the meds, I continued to gain weight, despite working out several times a week and being extremely conscious of my diet. I gained a total of 50 lbs in less than 6 months. When I suddenly became so exhausted I couldn't stay awake even after 12 hours of sleep, I had my thyroid tested and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
Once I was put on the right level of thyroid medication, my weight plateaued. I continued to eat as healthily as I could and exercise regularly (I was able to run and enjoy doing so for the first time in my life!), but I was not losing any weight.
February of 2013, I was complaining to a friend about how I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired. I told him I always felt run-down regardless of how much I slept; how I always felt like there was a rock in my stomach; how my acid reflux was worse than ever; how I was never hungry because it felt like my body wasn't digesting any food; how I rarely went a day without throwing up; how I was always bloated and passing the worst kind of gas ever. This particular friend has Celiac's, and told me that was precisely how he felt before he was diagnosed. Because I could not afford medical testing at that time, I did an elimination diet again, this time cutting out all gluten. Within a week, my energy levels rebounded, I felt like my food was digesting, my acid reflex had all but disappeared, I was always hungry, I hadn’t thrown up in several days, and I was no longer bloated! Because gluten was the only thing I eliminated that week, I knew it was the culprit, and so am self-diagnosed as gluten intolerant, and have been gluten-free ever since.**
For me, it took the right combination of thyroid medication, diet, and exercise to become healthy again. Last summer I lost 25 lbs in less than 2 months. I was able to have my thyroid medication lowered, and immediately thereafter became pregnant after trying for several years!
For my family and me, being gluten-free does not mean a lot of the "specialty" gluten-free items, although I am thrilled to see so many more options available than there were when I started my gluten-free lifestyle nearly two years ago. What it does mean is a lot of whole foods and preparing our food at home. We avoid fast food, since there is a huge risk of cross-contamination, and we are very careful of what we order at sit-down restaurants.
I also do not believe that a gluten-free lifestyle is necessary for everyone. I have not done much research into the fad of gluten-free, but I have known a few people to try it that it had no effect on whatsoever. However, if you feel it is beneficial, absolutely make the change!
A typical shopping trip for my family consists mostly of fresh produce, eggs, chicken breast, ground turkey, olive oil, coconut oil, rice, and beans. There are two things about this list - one is that all of these things are whole foods and so naturally gluten-free; that is, none of them contain rye, barley, or wheat, which are natural sources of gluten. Second, most of these things can be found by shopping around the perimeter of the store. The aisles are what contain the most processed foods, which are more likely to contain gluten or have a chance of cross contamination during processing. The less processed = the least likelihood of gluten in naturally gluten-free foods.
Other items on my shopping list sometimes include:
Simple condiments, such as mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup, do not generally contain gluten, although I do still check under the ingredients list to make sure. Many other condiments, such as soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauces, marinades, and salad dressings DO contain gluten, or are processed in plants that also process gluten, so be diligent to check under the ingredients list. Even if it does not say that the product contains wheat, I do not purchase unless it specifically says “GLUTEN FREE” or has the Certified Gluten-Free logo of Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO). Our local grocery store chain has even started labeling gluten-free food items on the price tag, making them easier to locate throughout the store! I still recommend checking the labels, however, as I recently found several mislabeled items in my store (they were all natural, but not gluten-free).
Living gluten-free does not have to be expensive – most of the above brands are not much more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts – or difficult, though it can take some getting used to. I find the easiest way to stay gluten-free is to meal plan and grocery shop specifically for that. Pinterest has been a lifesaver for me, especially for simple, easy, gluten-free dinners. I plan to share these recipes and a brand-new Pinterest board with you all soon, so stay tuned!
*The author has not been compensated by any of these brands in any way, and all opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the author’s.
**I am not a doctor, or a nutritionalist, and so none of this should be taken as medical advice. This is simply my experience with food and going gluten-free. Please consult your doctor if you are considering making any dietary changes.
My cloth diaper journey began when I was just a baby. My mother tells me that I was terribly allergic to disposable diapers and had awful rashes until she switched to cloth. Of course, back then, it was still the giant square folded and held together with a big pin.
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.