Archive for January, 2011

The last two weeks I have filled my calendar with time set aside to catch up with different groups of friends.  The time has been precious to me and full of laughs and reflection.  I’ve told a couple people about the fact that I’ve realized that I almost subconsciously stuffed date after date with my friends into my last couple weeks before becoming a mom, and one of them mentioned “get it in now!”

I see what she was saying, but that’s not really the way I am looking at it.

I know things will change after we have this baby, but my friendships and life will go on. To me, I’ve looked at the time I’ve carved away for my friends over the last two weeks as time spent in reflection with them before embarking on the journey of labor and motherhood.  This idea reminds me of one of the best (having not gone through labor myself yet) articles I’ve ever read on the stages of labor — The Holistic Stages of Labor, written by Whapio Diane Bartlett and shared, when I read it, on my doula group’s blog.  In this article, Bartlett writes about the first stage of labor as one of “embarkation.”

And I do feel a sense of embarkation — a sense of a journey I am about to embark upon.  My bags are packed — literally and figuratively — and I can feel my body moving closer to labor (although I know it could still be a couple weeks away.)  I feel her shifting downward, with more pressure between my legs, and have been losing bits of my mucous plug over the last couple weeks (and more than ever over the last couple days.)  My Braxton Hicks have started growing just a bit more uncomfortable, and accompanying those I have been feeling mild menstrual-like cramps sporadically over the past week and a half.  So I feel like I’m standing on a shore, looking out to sea…about to embark on one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

With one friend I reflected on the past.  We drank Thai iced tea and talked about darker times in our lives, and the things we had to face to be where we are today. With another we talked about marriage and change…about what it means to recognize and face dysfunction, and create a new life for yourself apart from that.  She and I also talked about the way I have learned that my mother cannot fill the role I wish she could as I embark upon this journey, and that while I have accepted that, I still wish things could be another way.  This weekend a larger group of girlfriends and I went to brunch, which to me became almost a celebration of womanhood.  They reminded me of the strength and diversity of all my female friends — all so very different yet so the same, and all so strong.

These last couple weeks have been a special time of reflection for me.  I can’t believe I am so close to embarking, but yet I am ready.  And hubby is beside me, ready to go on the journey with me, as much as he can as my partner.  I suppose this means I will be manning the sails and he will be coaching me as I put to work all the lessons of the past nine months, reminding me of the strength and tools I have to make it through the storm if there comes a time I am afraid I cannot navigate us safely to the other shore.

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Some of you may remember the invitation we extended to our baby to join us in my womb before we conceived. Today, at 38 weeks pregnant, we extended another invitation to this little one:

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For the last post in my mini series on labor tools that I believe may help me, I am going to discuss my labor and birth affirmations list. Both my doula and my childbirth class instructor suggested compiling a list of birth affirmations to help me during difficult parts of my labor — or even before, during pregnancy. In fact, I chose three that resonated with me and I felt weren’t particularly specific to labor itself (for example, I don’t want to focus now on anything involving my cervix opening up!) and posted them in three places I am often (on my bathroom mirror, my cube wall at work, and on my iPhone’s background.) These three are:

  • I am a strong and capable woman
  • I accept myself completely here and now
  • I am completely relaxed and comfortable

I have looked at these affirmations so much I can honestly say they are pretty well ingrained in my head now, and I imagine I could easily call upon them during a time of struggle. There are so many birth affirmations to choose from (try googling them — I bet you come up with a ton of options!) and it’s important to choose ones that resonate with YOU. These are the ones (along with the three I listed above) that resonated with me:

  • I can feel my body opening up like a flower
  • Every surge brings my baby closer to me
  • This is a healthy, positive pain that I can handle
  • I allow my body’s natural anesthesia to flow through my body
  • Inhale peace, exhale tension
  • I have the energy and stamina to birth my baby
  • Today is the day I have been waiting so patiently for
  • I am not afraid
  • I trust my body to know how to birth this child
  • The power of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me

I think the power of our thoughts is an amazing thing, and by allowing peaceful, powerful thoughts such as the ones above to dominate your thoughts regarding your labor and delivery I believe it can do nothing but help. Most of all, I am thankful for an amazing team in my husband, midwives, and doula. I know we’ve assembled the right team to bring our daughter safely into the world, and for that I am so thankful.

I hope these posts have helped you think about what might help you during your labor and delivery. As always, all my best wishes go out to you!

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This year I decided to take part in Etsy’s Special Delivery service project, and today I crafted three Valentine’s cards to be delivered to the elderly and homebound along with Meals on Wheels on Valentine’s Day. You can participate too! Click here to find out more about the who, what, when, where,, and why of this very-fun service project.

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Hey blog friends! So in my last post I discussed a relaxation/guided meditation CD to serve as a second step in your coping techniques during labor. When — or really, the key word is if, because for some people, the first two steps I discussed may really be all you need — that isn’t working for you as far as pain coping anymore, you may want to consider having a list of graduated breathing techniques along with labor positions.

I know at this point during labor I will not be in any mindset to be checking out my printouts of labor tools from my bag, so Hubby will help guide me through the techniques from this point on. If I tell him a breathing technique isn’t working for me anymore, for example, or if I seem to be struggling — losing my rhythm, focus, and limpness — he will suggest elevating the breathing technique and/or trying another position.

Because I don’t want to give away all the “tricks” of my wonderful childbirth class, I won’t go into detailed descriptions of the techniques here. If you have specific questions, leave me a comment with your email address and I will try and email you more information. You should be able to research most of these though to get a better idea of how they may work for you.

Breathing Techniques (remember these are again ordered in a list so that you can graduate to the next when the first isn’t helping you anymore, etc.)

  • Slow-paced breathing
  • Slow-paced breathing + effleurage
  • “He” breathing
  • Accelerated/decelerated “he” breathing
  • “He”-Blow breathing (in ratios of 5:1,4:1, 3:1, and 2:1, for increasingly shorter goals, if you are having a hard time meeting the longer goals)

Labor Positions

A key to note here is you/I really have no idea what will be comfortable to you during labor. At some point, I will probably be getting into a birthing tub for my labor, so I may use some or even none of these. But on the suggestion of my childbirth class instructor, I went ahead and listed the labor positions that resonated with me in an order I thought I might enjoy:

  • Walking
  • Rocking on birthing ball
  • Laying over birthing ball
  • Hands and knees
  • Modified child’s pose with butt in the air
  • Supported squat
  • Standing with one leg up on chair (kind of a lunging position) with partner’s support
  • Leaning on partner
  • Leaning over back of chair
  • Side lying (I imagine I would use this only if exhausted)

One thing to note is that you can combine any of the above with different comfort techniques, such as a shower, hot/cold, touch/massage (suggested between contractions only, not during), and hand massage. As always, make sure you are remaining limp and letting your uterus do its work. Your partner can help make sure your body remains limp and that you are maintaining whatever rhythmic ritual you are following. If you start to fall off that rhythm, he or she can help you regain focus.

Hope these tools help you as I believe they will help and empower me!  In a few days, for my last post in this mini series, I will share with you my labor and birth affirmations.  All my best wishes to you.

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Welcome to the second post of my mini series on childbirth and labor coping techniques I’ve learned during this beautiful nine-month journey! Last time, I talked about the power of distractions during early labor. This time, I’d like to share what my second step will be, when distractions don’t work anymore!  The key with each of these steps is that you follow them until they can’t possibly distract you from your discomfort any longer. This way, you have tons of tools in your bag and go slowly through your tools, leaving lots to the end, when it may be hard for many of us. Don’t fly through your coping techniques. Really be purposeful about when you progress from one technique to the next.

So when distractions don’t work anymore, my second step (recommended to me by my wonderful childbirth class instructor) will be to pop in a relaxation/guided meditation CD (actually already loaded onto my iPhone so I can play it no matter where I am) and go through the CD of guided meditations…until that can’t possibly work for me anymore.

So for this second technique, I selected a guided meditation CD that we practiced with in class and that I really enjoyed. Check out this woman’s list of pregnancy-related guided meditation CDs here, or just pick out a guided meditation CD you like that relaxes you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pregnancy or labor specific. I purchased the “Imagery and Meditations for Labor and Birth Preparation” CD, which is also available, I believe, as an iTunes download.  One key to the success of this step is practicing with your CD from the moment you get it…our instructor suggested doing a meditation every day so you practice that deep relaxation. I have to admit I haven’t done it every day, but I have done it at least a few times a week and really enjoy it — even Hubby enjoys doing them along with me! Her voice is so soothing.

Make sure during any of these steps you are remaining limp through your contractions…as I learned, our only responsibility as birthing mothers (up until the pushing phase) is to remain limp and let our uterus work and bodies open up. When you tense up, you work against your contraction and also don’t release the pain — rather storing that energy in your muscles. So relax, breathe, and listen to your CD until you can’t possibly listen to it any longer.

Later this week I’ll talk about the breathing techniques and positions I will use during active labor and transition. As always, I can only share what I think might work for me, but as we all know none of us truly know what our experience during labor will be or what will work for us. I encourage you to do research, take a class, and find something that feels it will be a good fit for you!

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Today I’m beginning a mini series in which I will share some of the wisdom and knowledge I’ve learned while studying childbirth and labor throughout my pregnancy and in a wonderful childbirth class focused on natural childbirth and coping techniques. In this post I will focus on the importance of distractions during early labor.

Early labor, on average, may last about nine hours (keep in mind that’s an average — yours may or may not be near that number at all.)  During that time, most women will experience contractions of mild to moderate intensity, but it will not yet be time to venture to the hospital (if you’re going to one) or to focus on your contractions.  I will not be focusing much on the ins and outs of early labor here — so if you’re curious about how often contractions come during this period, or how much you are dilating then, please feel free to do some extra research.

One thing I learned and do want to share with you though is that if you focus on those early contractions for a long period of time you will almost begin to want them to feel intense because you’re hoping so much for progression…with all that focusing on each contraction you’ll begin to focus on the increasing pain rather than coping with it/breathing through it, which doesn’t help for those who want to labor all the way through unmedicated — because you’ll have a lot stronger contractions ahead of you!

Instead, our childbirth class instructor suggested coming up with a list of distractions for early labor — a list that you can pull out when the time comes and you are so excited that you want to focus on your labor but know that it will not be in your best interest to do so yet. I did ask our instructor about those who may already be dilated to a three or so — do they still go through this time of early labor? She said they may not, or may not notice it, or it may just be for a very short time.  If it’s a noticeable amount of time, my plan is for hubby to go straight down the list suggesting things for us to do, and for me to call out yay or nay for each item:

Our Early Labor Distraction List

  • Go to the grocery store
  • Go to Barnes & Noble
  • Cook/freeze something
  • Watch a movie at home
  • Take a walk
  • Look through wedding album
  • Go to the mall or movie theatre
  • Write a letter
  • Work on baby album
  • Play with the cats
  • Go out to eat
  • Do yoga or stretches
  • Write a blog post
  • Nap
  • Write a poem
  • Play drum and/or guitar (hubby plays the guitar, not me — but I could dance or sing!)
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Start a journal of labor

I learned that there will come a time when early labor approaches active labor that you will no longer be able to be distracted during a contraction. This is the time to pull out the next in your line of coping techniques and labor tools, which I will discuss next time. To each her own, and the two of us are excited about this loose plan for labor!

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