Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One month, one heck of a meltdown

This morning I was in tears. It’s the third time I’ve cried since Charlotte’s arrival. The first was when she was actually born, the second was her first real meltdown in that first week when she was crying and looked so helpless and the third was my first real meltdown today. The tears were a breakdown from a culmination of events that transpired the day before as well as a build up of lack of sleep in the past four weeks. I had taken Charlotte to have some newborn photographs done and everything that could go wrong did – she wouldn’t sleep, she pooped on set, she peed on Chad and she cried one hour and fifteen minutes of the two hours we were there. She had hardly slept all day long. Anyone that recommends, “sleep when your baby sleeps” has obviously no sense. How the hell am I supposed to sleep while driving, or while walking the dog? Because that, my friends, is about the only time she sleeps. So don’t tell me to sleep when my baby sleeps because on the rare chance she does let me put her down long enough while dozing I’m doing something that makes me feel human like shower or brush my teeth or eating. Breastfeeding isn’t what makes you lose weight it’s the fact you can’t eat anymore because you don’t have time or if you do eat you now have to eat one handed. Ever tried to eat quinoa with a fork over a baby’s head while she’s breastfeeding? It’s not pretty. When she did fall asleep yesterday it was after our evening walk and she was in the baby bjorn. I put her down in the bassinet after extracting her from the carrier while trying not to wake her and she promptly woke up one hour later.

This morning, at 5:30am after feeding her for yet the third time of the night, I laid her on my chest to try and coax her back to sleep and she puked in my hair. I’m talking puke that went down my neck and onto the pillow case and covered the blanket. I feel like I’m living in a fraternity house because it seems my whole bed is covered in vomit. After this moment I couldn’t help but cry. I was tired, my baby wouldn’t stop crying and best of all would not go to sleep. Chad finally put her in the bouncer in the den, shut the door to the bedroom and told me to sleep and not worry about Charlotte. So I did. Two hours worth of uninterrupted sleep and I felt like a new woman.

I did not get to shower today or put on makeup but I got to sleep for two hours, have brunch with a friend and work out for half an hour. That’s the tradeoff I made.

I know I am not alone in my desperation to sleep. Every parent out there experiences this lack of sleep and knows exactly how I feel. I guess what I’m really mourning when I distress about the lack of sleep, is to some extent, my old life. The life where I could stay up until 1am and sleep in until whenever. The life where I wasn’t awakened every fifteen minutes by some sound Charlotte makes when she does sleep that startles me whether it’s a half cry or a slight whimper. I am blessed with a child but I will never sleep the same way again. For the first three weeks it was manageable but when reality hit me today that this was my new normal, well all I could do was cry. One does not realize how important and precious their sleep is until it is gone. There is no luring it back. I cannot catch up on it and I cannot obtain more of it and now I have to learn to live without something I squandered for so many years. Who wouldn’t cry?!

if only I could sleep this soundly now

After posting on facebook about my lack of sleep I got so many wonderful messages and texts from other mom's and I felt comforted and validated. Sitting in bed, breastfeeding Charlotte at 2:30am while Chad and the cat and the dog all sleep soundly in bed around me can feel lonely. Yet, across the world there are other mom’s doing the exact same thing I’m doing which is reassuring. I know this will pass and sooner than later she will sleep but today the old me finally surrendered. I am weary, I am tired. I do not get to sleep, eat, workout, walk, shower or leave the house when I want anymore. The Natalie I’ve been holding on too for so many months and so many weeks has finally had to say good-bye. I am a mom now. I know it sounds weird but I didn’t realize this until this morning as I was covered in vomit with a baby crying in my ear, breast pads scattered throughout the bed and hair damp from awful night sweats. I am still me but at the same time not. I am sure every woman goes through this moment. For some it may be the moment they give birth, for others like me it may take a few weeks to sink in and that’s ok too.

This afternoon I walked to the Walgreen’s by my house with Charlotte in the baby bjorn and a burp cloth hanging out of my yoga pants pocket. The route I take goes right in front of the high school and it was at that time where kids are leaving for the day and many were gathered by their cars or on the soccer field. I was walking past all these high school kids with a baby on my chest and burp cloth in my pocket and dog leash in hand watching them watch me. To them I am sure I looked like the mom that I am….

I just don’t know why it took me so long to see what everyone else can so clearly. I guess I didn’t want to say good-bye to the old me. I hope she’s resting in peace wherever she is….

introducing New natalie

Monday, April 29, 2013

What you REALLY need post-baby

I attended a baby shower the other day of a very good friend and while at that shower happened to meet another mother who was expecting. We had brought Charlotte with us (instant conversation starter by the way) and the dad of the expectant couple asked me if I had gotten everything we needed at our baby shower. Of course we hadn’t, and I told him so, and he then asked what it was we found we now needed once the newborn was here so they could prepare themselves. What I realized in talking to this man and his wife, however was that most of the things we needed weren’t for Charlotte they were for me! Once you have a baby it’s infinitely harder to leave the house and run to the store for things so I thought I’d compile a list for all my mom’s-to-be out there of things you will need once your baby is born. Some of you may read this, ignore my advice, then find yourself at three days postpartum running to the store or logging on to amazon to order these items anyway so save yourself the trouble now. Forget the cute onsies and baby bathtub, put these essentials on your registry or stock up at Costco:

  1. Lanolin: Be prepared because your nipples are about to become baby’s chew toy. They will give you samples at the hospital so take home as many there as you can but also invest in a big tube. What makes Lanolin so great is that it’s safe for baby so you don’t have to worry about wiping it off before breast feeding. Apply often.

2.   Breast pads: you won’t think you’ll need these until you leak through your first
      bra or tank top then you will invest. I have been so paranoid about clogged ducts
      so I change mine often. Invest in a box of 60 or more to start with but you’ll need
      more guaranteed. They also have washable ones that you can reuse but if they are 
      anything like baby socks they will probably disappear in your laundry then you
      will just go out and buy the disposables anyway.
  1. Breast pump: I have united healthcare and my insurance covered one 100 percent so find out if your insurance does before you buy one. Just call your insurance and they will give you a list of wholesale providers and you pick the one you want and order from there. I wish I had mine to start with because I could have been pumping right from the beginning instead of waiting two weeks for mine to arrive.

  1. Breast milk storage kit: If you are going to pump you will need bottles to pump into so invest in a storage kit and a few bottles to feed your baby with. Look for one that has freezer bags so you can stash some for later like when you return back to work. Being able to pump a bottle gives me the freedom to leave the house and attend yoga for an hour which has been a sanity saver to say the least.
  1. Colase: Here is the not so pretty truth – childbirth and then breast feeding takes a lot out of you. You need to drink more water than ever so you don’t dehydrate and get, well, backed up. They will probably give you colase in the hospital but keep some on hand at home too. With the million other things going on in your mind you will probably forget to hydrate and this will come in handy when you do. That being said, remember to keep a glass of water by you when you breast feed and drink the whole thing and you won’t need the colase to begin with.

  1. Medicated Wipes: When you are in the hospital you will get your very own squirt bottle and I suggest you bring it home. You will use this as a means to clean yourself after you use the bathroom (don’t worry you’ll realize what I mean after giving birth if you have your baby vaginally). Medicated wipes with witchhazel will help you on your bathroom adventure as well. The non-generic types go by the name of “Tucks” and they can be found by the Preparation H which you might as well throw in the shopping cart as well. I know some of you reading this aren’t going to do this…and then you will send your husband out for these items anyway so save him the trouble.

  1. Nightime nursing bra: Buy yourself a nice nursing bra before you have your baby but don’t go crazy stocking up because you won’t know how big your boobs will be until your milk comes in. Then they will be huge and then they will settle to meet the needs of your baby/pumping. You will also need a nursing bra to wear at night as well which ideally is made from stretchy sports-bra like material. My boobs hurt so much in the beginning I didn’t want anything touching them so I slept without a bra – big mistake for my sheets the next day. Tuck some nursing pads in them and you’ll be set until baby wakes you up at 1:30am.

  1. Nursing tank tops: Although you may be able to fit into your regular clothes post-partum the trick then becomes finding something to wear that is “nursing friendly” as I like to say. Basically you will need a few tops that you can wear out in public and easily nurse in without completely having to undress yourself. Also now you will find with your expanded bra size many of your shirts are too small so invest in a few and you’ll be happy you did. If you plan on breastfeeding a year than consider that when purchasing as well.

  1. Pads: another not so pretty fact of vaginal childbirth is the postpartum bleeding. I recommend an assortment of absorbances because you have no idea how long you might hemorrhage. Another item you do not want to run out and buy at the store post postpartum. As a side note stock up on the mesh panties the hospital gives you. Trust me.

So that should cover you postpartum. I must also insist if you don’t have a nice robe buy yourself one for days you can’t get out of your nursing bra and pjama pants. It will help you look decent when UPS comes to the door to deliver all those baby gifts your aunt sends. A few things I can recommend for baby are newborn clothes and pampers swaddler diapers. Everyone will buy you 0-3 month which your baby will be swimming in so look for things that say newborn on the tag. I urge you to hit up your local consignment store for this purchase because your baby will outgrow these items quick. As for the diapers, I registered for some organic ones to last us through until we cloth diaper and I hate them. The swaddle diapers have this nifty yellow line that turns blue when the diaper is wet. They also have a little lip that goes down to avoid the belly button when baby still has its umbilical cord stump on.

Everyone, including you, is investing in your baby right about now but you need to remember to take care of yourself as well. None of the above listed items are exactly exciting to purchase but I guarantee you will be so happy to have them in your arsenal so that when your baby does arrive you can enjoy life with a newborn and not worry!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Congratulations, you had a baby...now what?

Today I showered, ate lunch, and was able to take a walk all before two o’clock. To my kid-less counterparts this might not seem like a big deal but for me with having a newborn this is monumental. I’m actually sacrificing my nap time to write this blog. When I was pregnant people would offer me all sorts of advice- solicited and un-solicited. I got advice on what to eat, where to buy maternity clothes, insights to birth stories and horror stories about child births gone wrong. Men, women, young or old it didn’t matter, everyone I met or passed by on the street had something to offer me about their experience or their cousin’s mother’s step-aunt’s experience. I read books and browsed the internet and felt fully prepared to have a child by the end of nine months. What no one tells you or offers advice about is what to do after you have the baby. Once you leave the hospital you are on your own and once family leaves and your husband heads back to work you are TRULY alone.

just me and the lil' lady
This is when you might feel depression start to creep in.

No one likes to talk about the baby blues or post-partum depression. As if for some reason it’s shameful. It’s most likely that every woman will suffer some sort of baby blues. Symptoms include: mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration and trouble sleeping. I know I experienced all these symptoms, sometimes simultaneously. For me, my baby blues started once I headed home from the hospital. I had a house full of people and so I felt overwhelmed. I remember walking out on to my deck with my new baby so she could get some sun for her jaundice and feeling physically ill when I looked over the railing of the deck. I panicked thinking that I might somehow accidentally drop her over the edge. Knowing that I was now responsible for the care and well being of another human made me somehow feel inadequate. No one told me how hard breast feeding would be. When you see pictures of women who have had new babies they are smiling and laughing and kissing their new babies. No one posts pictures of themselves at 2am, sleep deprived with a screaming baby, milk leaking from their boobs as they are trying to change a diaper and then trying to get baby to latch. The reality is that while I had friends and family offering their support to me, no one could do the hardest job I needed help with which was breast feeding. It was frustrating, it was hard, my boobs hurt and sometimes the last thing I wanted to do was to feed my child. I just wanted to sleep or pee by myself or put the baby down for a minute. When they cry you think they are going to cry forever. It breaks your soul.
I can see how the baby blues, which typically lasts from a few days to a week or two, can turn into postpartum depression. Symptoms for postpartum depression include: loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family or friends, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. I think a lot of factors can lead you down this path and there is no way to predict who it will affect. I know for me on the days it has snowed it has been a lot harder for me. Not being able to leave the house made me feel isolated and trapped like a prisoner. The days feel extra long when you have a newborn. I cannot imagine having to go through a whole winter being indoors day in and out like a lot of women have to do.

For me, I had the ideal birth experience that I wanted but if I had not there would have been a grieving process for that as well. If you are depressed post partum ask yourself if your birth experience could be the cause. A lot of women have trauma during birth experiencing anything from an unwanted c-section to an un-supportive birth partner, midwife or OBGYN. Do not be afraid to let yourself feel grief because what happened in reality is different than what you envisioned for yourself.

Week two is when I started to feel myself hit a wall and start to slide down the black hole that is depression. It was the first week I was alone every day with my daughter and it had also snowed several days in a row. Most all of my friends were heading down to a yoga retreat in Costa Rica – a trip I would have been on had I not had my daughter. After confessing my sadness to my husband he suggested that I take some time for myself and go to a yoga class at my studio. While my midwife had wanted me to wait six weeks until working out, my post partum bleeding had subsided and I felt good enough to start exercising again. What a difference this made in my mental health. My yoga practice isn’t just about getting in shape or looking good…my studio Qi is my happy place. While I initially felt guilty leaving the house I also knew that it would give my husband a chance to bond with the baby by himself. Whether your happy place is the library, a running group, the yoga studio or the mall I encourage any woman to get out and about sans baby as soon as you feel ready. What ever makes you feel like your most authentic self is what you should do for yourself so you can heal. I was only gone from the house an hour but in that hour I missed my baby and it made me feel happy to come home to her again with a new perspective.
two days post partum

three weeks out - after two yoga classes, one kore barre and two runs on the elliptical plus lots of walks
In addition to combating the baby blues by working out and eating healthy I have also been taking placenta pills. I know my mother would cringe to hear I am talking about this (“Natalie please don’t talk about eating the placenta” is what she specifically told me awhile back) but it’s something that has helped me and might help other women.

Before Charlotte was born I researched placenta encapsulation and felt it was the right choice for me. I am someone who is prone to depression and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure I was in the best mental and physical state post partum to care for my baby. I can’t remember how I first heard about placenta encapsulation but my midwives didn’t seem surprised when I asked them about saving the placenta so the two seem to go hand in hand.

If you are lucky like I was, the midwife will show you your placenta after the baby is born. It is a most impressive organ which happens to look like a tree with all its veins and large round shape (it’s often called the tree of life) that is grown solely for the purpose of keeping baby alive as it doesn’t exist before pregnancy. It grows with your baby and implants on the wall of the uterus. The umbilical cord is attached from the placenta to the baby and this is what feeds and nourishes your child and where they get their oxygen from. Babies can be born in the water since they get their oxygen from the placenta via the umbilical cord and continue to receive oxygen until the cord is cut. After the cord is cut the midwife or OBGYN presses on your uterus from the outside and the placenta detaches and is birthed. As long as you sign a waiver, bring your own container and your placenta is whole it is yours to keep. The hospital will just throw it away otherwise.

I will spare you the bloody placenta picture I have but here is a placenta print - not mine because I forgot paper to do this
My doula took my placenta to the placenta lady that I had found via the internet. Most people who do placenta encapsulation are also doulas and may incorporate this into their services if you so choose. Many will also come pick it up from your house or hospital and deliver it to you once it has been encapsulated. They will want it within the first 48 hours for safety and health reasons and also because you are likely to feel your worst emotionally on day four or five. The process is fairly simple – after being refrigerated first it is washed well and any clots and blood are removed. In accordance with traditional Chinese medicine it is then steamed (with or without herbs) and finally dehydrated and ground down into powder form and placed into vegetarian capsules. You can expect to receive around 100-200 capsules. My placenta lady also dried the remaining attached umbilical cord and made it into a circle for me to keep. The umbilical cord is symbolic because it attached Charlotte to me and like that circle, this new bond that we have has no beginning or end.

So what are the benefits? It is believed that consuming the placenta can: help to balance your hormones, replenish depleted iron levels, assist the uterus to return to pre-pregnancy state, reduce post-natal bleeding, increase milk production (this has been proven in a study), make for a happier post natal period and increase your energy levels. Not a lot of research has been done on placentophagy but it makes sense that at a time in your life when your hormones are under a major upheaval and you have lost a great deal of blood, that the placenta can provide these needs, to help avoid iron deficiency as well as its side effects of depression.

Before you judge – ask yourself this, have you ever eaten a hot dog? Do you drink milk which is from a cows utters? Do you eat eggs which are essentially a chicken’s period? If you think about the things you consume on a daily basis, eating a placenta (which by the way animals do in the wild although let it be noted cows do NOT drink their own milk so marinate on that one) in capsule form is not that crazy. For me, I would rather consume something that my body grew which I know to be safe than be prescribed drugs manufactured in a lab to treat depression or iron deficiency.

do you know how this is made? pretty gross so don't judge
I can only speak from my experience and that is that before taking the pills I felt more anxious and overwhelmed than I did after taking them. Anyone who has seen me in public lately has commented how much energy I have and how happy I seem. I owe it not only to the placenta pills but to a combination of getting back into my workout routines, eating healthy and having a great support system. While I was fully prepared for my labor and delivery, having a baby full time is something that has been a huge adjustment for me. While trying to heal my body I also had the task of providing for another beautiful human life and the weight of that responsibility is enormous. Taking care of yourself and recognizing the signs and symptoms of the baby blues can mean the difference in having a rough couple of weeks or a volatile few months. If you do develop post partum depression don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help! Taking care of number one- you will make for a much happier baby in the long run. There is no turning back once your baby is born, so you might as well pave the road ahead as smoothly as possible.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two weeks out

I can hardly believe that it’s been two weeks since Charlotte’s arrival. To think that three weeks ago she was living inside my body and now I have her to hold and look at all day long.

 It has been a whirlwind since she got here and we have been fortunate to be surrounded by family these first two weeks. Week one was the hardest for me though my in-laws, doula and mom were here. I felt overwhelmed with trying to breast feed and I wasn’t sleeping much and couldn’t take naps since we had a house full of people. Chad went back to work after a week so then it was just Charlotte and I after my mom, the last of our house guests, left last Sunday. With no one but us home, Charlotte and I could become more familiar with each other and got into somewhat of a routine. On a typical day she will wake up around 5:30am and I feed her then we both go back to sleep until about 8. I feed her again then shower while she sleeps. If I am lucky I get an entire shower in and can blow dry my hair and put on makeup and get dressed before she wakes back up. Then it is time to feed her again, play, feed myself and nap time for the both of us. In the afternoon I try and take a walk if it’s nice to get us out of the house and then we feed again and hang out until Chad comes home. My whole day is centered around her and doing whatever I can to make her happy.

In almost two weeks I had not tried to leave the house via car. I just didn’t feel up to trying to get her in the car seat and put her in the car and go anywhere. A baby’s schedule revolves around feeding so if you do want to leave the house you have to time it so the baby is fed, changed and sleepy. I know after I feed Charlotte I have about a 2-3 hour window where I can get things done if she happens to nap afterwards. Fortunately my sister came in town this past Thursday so I had some entertainment for the rest of the second week. Although I hadn’t felt up to having friends visit or leaving the house I was excited to have my sister arrive.

my sister- baby whisperer
Having my sister here was the best medicine I could possibly ask for. With her help we actually left the house and went shopping for baby clothing and to Target. Small errands I took for granted when I was baby-free that seemed overwhelming with Charlotte here. My sister made it possible though and I felt more comfortable having someone help me get her in and out of the car. On Saturday Chad had to work so we met him downtown at the end of his shift and not only walked around on 16th street mall but had lunch at Lucky Pie AND went to Denver Beer Co. for a flight of tasters. Charlotte rode snuggled in to my chest in the baby K’tan and was fabulous the whole afternoon. I did have to change her and feed her in the car while Rachel and Chad went ahead inside the brewery – just one of the many adjustments I have to become accustomed to now that I have a baby.

We took walks, we ordered in food, took photos, watched movies and Rachel even cooked us dinner Sunday night. The time went by too fast. I was feeling better than I had before and Charlotte even slept 7 hours on Saturday night. The weekend was over before I knew it and today Rachel had to say good-bye and head back home to San Diego. When I went to the pediatrician this morning the doctor commented that she had never seen the mom of a two week old so well rested – I attribute it all to my weekend of gaining confidence which has led me to feel like myself again.

While I can’t believe Charlotte is here finally, I also can’t imagine my life without her. I cannot believe I ever thought this is not what I wanted or needed in life. Nothing else seems important anymore. I find it hard to post things on Facebook (and anyone that knows me knows I love facebook) because I can’t find anything important enough to say because the only thing that’s important to me anymore is Charlotte. I don’t want to be one of those people that posts pictures all the time of their baby or posting every thing they do so I don’t say anything at all. As much as I am open and public about my life, I don’t want to expose everything about her to the world. I want to keep things between us. I don’t think there are enough words in the world to express how I feel about her so I can’t even begin to try.

What I know is that now my life is different but its better. My sister is the first person who showed me that I can still do the things I enjoy doing I just can’t do them all at once on the same day anymore. I want so much to get back to working out and toning up but at the same time I don’t care that I don’t have the 6 pack abs right now. I don’t want to leave the house for a long period of time just to work on me. There is plenty of time in the future for this. My sister showed me that it’s ok to stay in the house and take naps and just enjoy the company of Charlotte; to not be in a hurry and to enjoy every moment. Before Charlotte, when I would take walks with Bebe I would have my cell phone in one hand and her leash in the other. I was outside but I wasn’t focused on the beauty around me because I was glued to technology. Now when I walk I have Bebe’s leash in one hand and the stroller in the other and there is no time for the sidetrack of technology. I am fully present and more aware than I have ever been before to not only Charlotte but everything around me. When I nurse her I may have the TV on but the majority of time is spent staring at her. I am in awe of this little being that I created and I can’t help but be mesmerized by everything from her cry to her slight smiles.

I am so fortunate to have family that has traveled to be with us these first two weeks. No doubt they were some of the hardest days in my life. The adjusting, the uncertainty, the self-doubt and the enormous weight of having to care for someone who is so tiny and helpless was a lot for me to digest. Now that Charlotte is here there is no break time for me. My old life has been replaced with days that are filled catering to someone else. But for the first time in my life I feel like I truly have a sense of purpose and duty. I may not be making an income right now or working on having the best handstand but I’m responsible for the life of another human being. There is nothing that can be more important than that. My sister, my mom and my in-laws helped me take care of myself so I could care for someone else….and that is the greatest gift of all.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Birth Story or Climbing my Everest

“At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

March 31, 2013 – the day I climbed my personal Everest.

I had been training and preparing for this day for the past 9 months. After much researching and thinking I had decided I wanted to have a natural birth. Watching, “The Business of Being Born,” as suggested by my friend and doula Casey was the first time I realized child birth wasn’t an experience to be numbed. Then I read Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth which opened my eyes even more to the possibility of going un-medicated. I started to see there were few reasons to have drugs and that labor was painful but it was not suffering. So just like putting together a team to hike Everest I organized a team I knew would see me to the end of my goal. A team that would ensure my success, and get me to the top of the mountain.

38 weeks and ready to climb
Choosing a midwife was the first step for me. As I’ve said before many people automatically thought that because I chose a midwife I was having a home birth. In fact people thought a lot of things about me choosing a midwife. I even had a flight attendant say to me something along the lines of how I probably chose a midwife because it was “cheaper.” It’s actually surprising how little people know about midwives. They can and do everything an OB does but are not trained to perform a c-section. They are natural birth minded and take the approach that a woman’s body knows what it’s doing from the moment it conceives. There were no invasive cervical checks. They supported my decision to decline certain after birth treatments for my baby. They supported my decision to encapsulate the placenta. I wrote a birth plan but it turns out I didn’t even really need it because they did everything I wanted them to do.

I chose the midwives associated with Colorado University Hospital because in addition to having a midwife I also wanted to try a water birth. After researching I saw they were the only midwife group in the state of Colorado that also had water births. A lot of hospitals will let you labor in a tub but make you get out for actual pushing. I wasn’t sure if the water would feel good or not but I knew I wanted that to be an option for myself.

The c-section rate is abysmally high in the United States; one in three women have one. The success rate for climbing Mt. Everest is about 31%. If I wanted to climb my personal Everest I needed another key support person on my team – a doula.

I don’t think a lot of people understand what a doula is. When I told people I was having a doula they would respond with, “Oh well that’s what my husband is for.” Let’s be clear – your husband is not your doula. He can’t be. He is there to support you in your birth but he isn’t a doula. He doesn’t have the knowledge of childbirth a doula has. He doesn’t know the signs and symptoms of labor, the optimal laboring positions or how to best support you in your birth. A doula is the mother to the mother. She is there for you, for emotional and physical support.

My doula happened to be my best friend of 15 years. We had Casey fly out the Thursday before my due date in hopes that this would give her plenty of time to be here before the birth. I knew having a midwife would help support my dreams of a natural childbirth but a doula was another measure to ensure my success. Having my doula be at my house when my labor actually began was amazing.

me and my doula
On Saturday March 30th, I felt a calm come over me. My mother had arrived in town, my doula was at the house and so were my in-laws. I had attended a Friday night party at my gym that was my last opportunity to see all my friends. I felt in my heart it was time. Just like the first time I told the baby I loved it, I put my hand on my stomach and talked out loud in private to the baby. I told the baby I was ready for its arrival. I was excited to meet it and I wasn’t afraid of what I was about to go through. I set my intention not only to the baby but also to the universe. I was ready to start the climb.

On Sunday March 31st at 6am I woke up having a crampy feeling. Contractions, feel like menstrual cramps and in the beginning they were uncomfortable but not overwhelming. After two or three runs to the bathroom I told Chad to start timing what I thought were contractions. He noted they lasted a minute each and were about 5-6 minutes apart. No one was awake in the house yet but Chad and I both looked at each other and realized this was happening. I sent my sister a text that said, “I think today is going to be the day.” Then I took a bath and rode out some of the contractions there, followed by a shower – noticing as the contractions grew stronger I would have to lean into the wall or hunch over the tub. I proceeded to get ready as usual, even attempting to blow dry my hair but the pain was becoming more intense. Once I vomited after a strong contraction my husband thought it was best to notify Casey that things were happening. Casey knew that my vomiting was a sign I was dilating faster than even I thought. She suggested we call the midwife. She helped me labor at home for the next hour (the midwife’s suggestion since after talking to her on the phone she noticed I could still talk through the pain) until I vomited again and Casey firmly said it was time to go to the hospital. Honestly I had no urge to go to the hospital. I would have had no idea when it was time. Although we were timing my contractions and they were close, it still didn’t seem like that day would be the day.

last pic of preggo me before heading to the hospital

family of two soon to be three
Because my doula was at my house she was able to help me with one of the worst parts of labor which was the car ride to the hospital. I sat in the back seat with her and she waved a fan on me to keep me cool. She tied bags on the back of the front seat in case I got sick again (which I did) and encouraged me to suck down honey sticks and drink water. Since she was taking care of me Chad could focus on the driving and I could focus on turning inwards to manage my pain. Casey would make moaning noises to encourage me to make a low “om” sound to get through the pain. It sounds strange but making noises out loud seems a little embarrassing. Even in front of your own husband. To have someone make them with me was like having someone sing with you – you don’t feel so awkward and you don’t feel so alone. Once we got to the hospital Chad was able to get the bags while she helped me in. She whispered in my ear, “This is going to be the longest walk of your life. Take breaks when you need to and lean on Chad.” Her advice was amazing because it gave me permission to take my time. I’m probably one of the few pregnant women who was in labor who walked themselves into the hospital and up to the 4th floor to check in. She had my purse with my ID and everything in it so that when we were checking in she could answer questions and let me focus on my contractions.

Once we checked in at the hospital we didn’t automatically go to a birthing suite I had to go to triage first. Ideally the midwife would have come in and checked me for dilation here before admitting me to a birthing suite. My midwife was attending another birth so the nurse had to hook me up to a fetal heart rate monitor and contraction monitor to see how the baby’s heart rate was and how far apart my contractions were. Here again having a doula was key. The three of us were left alone in the room and lying on that bed was even worse than having to walk in to the hospital. They wanted me to be on the monitor for at least 20 minutes so they could get a good reading. It was 20 minutes of torture. Before this point I was accustomed to doing whatever felt natural to work through a contraction – squatting, getting on all fours, swaying, bending over, just whatever came to me. Now I was tethered to a bed and asked to remain still so they could get a good reading.  I vomited again and Casey was able to capture it before it hit the floor. I found a rhythm where I could roll on my side and hug her while Chad rubbed my lower back. It took two people to get me through and had it just been Chad and I, I know the situation would have been much more stressful and overwhelming.

Once we moved up to the actual birthing suite my doula took charge. 

view from our suite - you could see pikes peak from here
They were quite busy at the hospital that morning so we were brought to the room and let in and then left alone with the promise that the midwife would be in as soon as she finished with another birth. Chad began filling up the bathtub and Casey went and told my nurse that I was getting in it. Normally they do not want you to labor in water until you are at least 5cm dilated but we still hadn’t been seen by my midwife for a cervical check so we did what we needed to do. I had a strong urge to get in the tub. I knew the water would make me feel weightless and help relieve the pressure I felt in my lower abdomen. Once I got in the tub I felt the relief of the warm water enveloping me. My labor and delivery nurse came in and set up a pillow for me tethered to the bath rail and then suggested the best thing ever – that some laboring women liked the spray nozzle sprayed on their bellies. So that became my ritual. While Chad or Casey would hold a wet cloth on my head (thank you again doula for thinking to bring plenty of wash rags!), the other would spray my stomach with the warm water when I let them know the contraction was coming on. They took turns alternating this, feeding me ice chips and draining the water so I’d stay warm. Chad could not have done this alone and there’s no one else that would have been there to do this for me at that point. At first I was crying out in pain as the contractions built in intensity but then I began to channel my yoga breath.

with my midwife anne
Yoga and knowing how to breathe became key at this point in labor. I cannot thank yoga enough for teaching me how to breathe and how to make the most of a full breath. Each contraction lasted about 7-12 breaths. The best way I can describe a contraction is to liken it to a wave. I would feel the wave start to build up and I would fill up my lungs, then I would exhale fully. I would do this again and again and when I got to 5 I knew that I was on the downhill slope of pain. Chad said that at first he noticed I was erratic and then I became calm. I labored in silence. I would let them know when I felt the contraction start to build and whoever had the spray nozzle would start to spray me with warm water. I don’t know why this felt good; I can only think that the sensation of warm water on my skin gave me a different sensation to focus on other than the pain in my uterus. I vomited again when I was in the tub and it was a good thing my doula was there by my side to catch it in a garbage can.

I had my IV inserted for the penicillin dose for my strep B and then my midwife came in and checked me for dilation  while I was in the tub and to everyone’s surprise told me I was 9cm and my water bag had not broken yet. She then informed me that at this point I would probably start crowning in the next 15 minutes. There wasn’t time to set up the big water birthing tub but I could push and have the baby in the tub where I was at if I wanted. At this point I had been in the water about two hours. My midwife went to tell the nurses to prepare the room for the baby to be born and again my doula took over monitoring me for when I felt my water break. At the suggestion of the midwife I began pushing with the next contractions which became more intense and I focused on breaking my water. Chad was able to help me get through the contractions while Casey was the liaison between me and the midwife – relaying information on when I thought my water broke. It was amazing to have two people that were there for me and could help me through the transition to the next stage.

My water broke in the tub and when I was checked again I was at 10cm. I moved out of the tub so they could refill it in case I wanted to push in the water. I labored on the toilet for about 15 minutes and then the midwife wanted to put oxygen on me and monitor the baby’s heart rate better so they had me move from the bathroom to the bed. It took all the strength I had to move and honestly the very very short walk was a blur. I remember collapsing by the bed and it took Casey, Chad, my midwife and the nurse to lift me on to it. The oxygen was more for the baby than me because its heart rate was a little low which is pretty typical when they move through the birth canal and get squeezed. I was also hyperventilating with the pushing contractions so the oxygen gave me a burst of energy. My nurse Ann played a crucial role in reminding me to breathe deeply on my rest breaks between pushes – and because of yoga I was able to know how to use my breath fully as fuel for my body.

it hurts

My pain had been manageable up until this point because I could find a hypnotic rhythm but pushing was by far the hardest and most painful part. Here was the final summit push to the top of my mountain. The part where you know the end is in sight because you can see it but it still seems miles and miles away. Nurse Ann had one leg, my doula had another and Chad was able to stand behind me at the head of the bed and encourage me while keeping a cold rag on my head. My midwife was amazing at coaching and did things while I was pushing that kept me from tearing. Everyone had a different role to play and they all helped me on the last arduous part of my journey; like sherpas guiding the way up Everest. At my request my doula was also documenting this journey via  photos in which I told her to not censor anything because I wanted to remember everything that happened. I do not even know how she got half the photos she did while holding my leg and giving me water but she multi-tasked like no one I’ve ever seen do in their life. I didn’t even notice her taking photos because my eyes were closed and I was going inward and concentrating on Ina May’s biggest suggestion that stuck with me which was, “Let your body do the work.”

Pushing was the only time I wanted to pack it up and go home. It was hard, it was painful and it seemed to last forever. I didn’t feel like I was making any progress – taking one step forward and sliding five steps back. Anyone that’s ever climbed a scree covered mountain knows this feeling. You are so close yet you feel so far away. I kept asking, “how many more pushes?” and everyone kept telling me, “Just one more!” this was a lie but an effective one. Yoga and working out were definitely my saviors for this part as well because I am familiar in stepping into and standing in the fire that is my own body working hard. I have held plank in yoga for 14 minutes. I have held a handstand for three minutes against the wall. I have preformed cardio bursts in yoga sculpt to the point of feeling nauseated. My kettlebell training made me want to die. I channeled the physical and more importantly mental strength that I knew I had. There were moments where I said out loud, “I can’t do this, it hurts!” and my support people would say, “yes you can!” And then it would sink in and I would say, “Yes, I can, I can do this.”

When my labor started and I was working through the contractions at home both Chad and my doula said to me at separate times, “Remember what you want to do today. Be strong and know you can do this.” Both knew I wanted a natural childbirth and they supported me from day one and they kept supporting me through to the very end. I will tell you that the word “epidural” never entered my mind. It was never offered to me and honestly I don’t think I could have had one anyway with how far dilated I was when I arrived at the hospital but still I felt no urge to numb the pain. The calmness around me reminded me that my body was made to do this and it could if I allowed it.

After 7 hours of labor and 1hour 15 minutes of pushing, Charlotte Kennedy was born weighing 7lbs 4oz and 20 inches long. I had reached the top of my Everest. I couldn’t help but cry. When she finally came all the way out the midwife said, “Reach down and grab your baby!” and I opened my eyes for what felt like the first time and put my hands under her armpits and pulled her up to my chest. This was me standing at the top of my mountain. Glory as far as the eyes could see. I felt relieved and overjoyed. They rubbed her back with towels to encourage circulation and I heard the baby cry out. I could see her purple fingers digging in to my skin and curling around. I then lifted the baby up and saw she was a girl.

“I knew it, I knew you were a girl!” I said and everyone in the room around me laughed.
She was crying and I looked at her sweet beautiful face and said, “I know baby, I know, it’s been a journey for me too.” We had both been on the journey together, walking up opposite sides of the mountain. She was on one path and I was on another but it didn’t matter because we met at the same destination. We cried to meet each other for the first time. Here was the person I had created and carried inside me and now I knew she was a SHE and I could call her by name.

My sweet baby Charlotte.

I would not only like to thank my doula Casey, Chad, my midwife and my labor and delivery nurse but every single person that told me I could not make the journey. When I would tell people I wanted a natural child birth I heard everything under the sun:

“Don’t be a hero, take the drugs”
“You’ll change your mind once you are in there”
“I tried and I couldn’t do it so good luck with that”
“Why wouldn’t you take advantage of modern medicine?”

Well I’d like to thank these people. Every negative comment, every doubt, every person that shook their head at me, that told me it couldn’t be done, that questioned my sanity and that smirked and looked at me like I was ignorant and said, “yeah let me know how THAT goes” – thank you all because you fueled the fire. I’ve been building this fire inside for the past nine months. Every yoga class, every push on the spin bike, every kettlebell swing, yoga sculpt, burpee, run, every “no you can’t” I turned into a YES I CAN.

I  made it to the top of my Everest - having a natural childbirth without any tearing.

I know people say all that matters is a healthy baby, but a healthy mom matters too. As my friend Tania says, having a natural childbirth is like eating healthy food, it’s harder to do but the long term benefits pay off. I could walk right after I gave birth. I felt the wave of natural oxytocin overcome me. I was able to breast feed right away. Giving birth, to me, was not an experience to be numbed. To me it would have been like driving a car to the top of the mountain – I would have arrived at the same destination but I would have missed the view along the way. Since I did not have an epidural I could feel everything and knew when to push and how to guide my body. Yes it was pain but I never suffered.

I know even now that my story is done that I might have people say negative things to me. I know that because other people did not have the birth they wanted they might try to take away from my experience by saying hurtful things. I didn’t write this story to open myself to criticism I wrote it to inspire other women. To take the fear out of birthing the way women have done it for eons.

When I was pregnant one of the most powerful things that I did was to read birth stories. My doula would send me at least 2 stories a week from birthingwithoutfear.com about all these women from all walks of life who were able to have natural childbirths. She empowered me and didn’t even flinch when I had her take the placenta from the hospital to the placenta lady to be encapsulated (for more on placenta encapsulation or the wonderful lady who did this for me read here). She cooked for me and cleaned after we came home and even decorated the house to make us feel welcome.

 My doula’s encouragement throughout my pregnancy was unbelievable – sometimes she’d just call to leave me a voice mail saying she knew I was strong and that I could do this. She made me realize that you don’t need a whole world of people to believe in you -You just need to believe in YOU. If you are blessed then two or three other people will do the same. My midwife, my husband, my doula – they didn’t think I was crazy for wanting to climb my Everest. They never told me I couldn’t. They looked at me and said, “You can and you will.” 
sad to see my doula and her beautiful daughter go
with my mom and chad's parents

Right after I gave birth, I looked at my daughter lying on my chest, a new life here in the world that we created and then looked up at my husband and through tears in my eyes said, “Honey, WE did it!

“No,” he said, “YOU did it.” 

Now I just have to think, “What else is possible?”

my loves