birth supplies

In an effort to pull my thoughts together on the final things that need to be done to prepare for our birth, and knowing that for those of you that don’t home birth or have never experienced one, questions and curiosities abound, AND because I happen to know of at least one other Mamma who is trying to pull it all together… I’m going to blog my check list.

The first curiosity that most people seem to have is, “Does the midwife bring pain medication?”

The short answer is, “BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAH AHAHAHAHAHAHA… NO.” She does, however, bring some supplies such as oxygen tank, suction tubes, various herbs (such as Angelica or Shepherd’s Purse, in the event the placenta is unwilling to cooperate or if there is slight hemorrhaging), and at times even some pharmaceutical drugs for bigger emergencies. Also baby scales and scissors for cutting the cord and that sort of thing, generally falls under her realm of “stuff to bring.”

First is the preliminary stuff…

  • Announce my plans to the Health Department and get them to send me the Home Birth Certificate Kit. (By the way, no one has ever told me that I could not have my baby at home. They simply send me the work sheets for obtaining the birth certificate, and tell me to mail it in after the baby is born. Not an eyelash batted.) DONE
  • Update Driver’s License to display our current address to make getting said birth certificate somewhat easier. DONE
  • Burn music onto CD for the birth DONE
  • Charge cameras
  • Find box of birth supplies DONE
  • Find baby clothes DONE
  • Turn up water heater a bit
  • Blow up birth pool and clean it out. (I’ve used the same one for all of my births. We’re going for a record.)

…which we did today. And every time I turn around and see the pool sitting there, it dawns on me that shortly I’ll be birthing another human being into our family!! This seems to be one of the standard pools used for water birthing. Of course, there are the fancy pants ones that look absolutely divine, but Brent says we aren’t shelling out $300 when we’ve got a perfectly good $7 pool that has served us well. And it has. I could write a poem to this pool. How many hours have we spent together, pool? Hmmm… A good 10 hours for the first birth were spent in the pool, 3 for Charis, and about 3 for Ezra as well. 16 hours! This pool has been my companion and comforter, giving me a soft, warm place to relax, giving me a fluid environment to rhythmically move through. It has softened the blows of transition…THREE TIMES! It has welcomed my babies with gentle warmth and sheltered us as we first gazed into each others eyes…THREE TIMES! And yes, on occasion, it has been the family summertime pool. Oh, birth pool, how I love thee.

And what I like to have on hand by way of “Supplies”:

  • Aforementioned birth pool. (I got this one years ago at www.qualityinflatables.com or you can try www.yourwaterbirth.com) CHECK
  • Fishy net for removing…uuhh… debris. (For obvious reasons, we buy a new one for every birth)CHECK
  • Water thermometer (we keep the water between 98 and 100) For some reason, these never survive storage and we have to buy another. CHECK
  • Tarp, for protecting the floor from any splashing of water and other umm…wet stuff. CHECK
  • Plastic sheet/shower line/painters cloth for in case I decide to go mobile and give birth out of the pool on the couch or bed or something. CHECK
  • Fountain pump, for quickly draining the pool. These can be found at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot in the garden section near the fountains. The more expensive the pump, the faster it drains. And when you are trying to get luke warm water out so that you can add more hot water, in the midst of contractions, trust me… you want the faster pump! It’s also handy for emptying the pool after the birth. We drain it into a toilet or out the window, depending on which one is closer. CHECK
  • Clean hose for filling pool. (Also, troubleshoot ahead of time to make sure it hooks up to your faucet the right way.) CHECK
  • Lots of large pots for boiling water. (No, we’re not THAT archaic… this is just a really expedient way to heat up the water in the pool in case the birth goes long, or your hot water heater gives out on you…) CHECK
  • Birth Kit (this contains sterile gloves for midwife and Brent, syringes, alcohol swabs, cord clamps, newborn hat, gauze pads, bulb syringe, etc…) I usually get mine from either www.everythingbirth.com or www.inhishands.com (favorite).  CHECK
  • Beach towels for placing on top of tarp to make it less slippery for bathroom trips. (I don’t have any and couldn’t find any, so I think we’ll just use an old blanket or something) CHECK
  • Chux pads, chux pads, and more chux pads. CHECK These usually get used for the placenta birthing. Midwife prefers I not deliver the placenta in the birth pool, so that we can more carefully monitor blood loss on dry land. So, once baby and I have checked each other out, pillows and stuff are usually gathered on the floor next to the pool, covered in chux pads. And I sit there and bleed…and bleed…and bleed…. and at some point, those lovely pads are used to wrap up and deep freeze that placenta until I figure out what the heck to do with all of them. Oh, and chux pads are GREAT for putting underneath to catch milk overflow, spit up, leaky diapers, leaky mamma pads,  and all the other really gross stuff that comes out of you and your baby for the first few days. 
  • Next, I prepare a large paper bag with lots of fluffy towels for both me and the baby and several receiving blankets, possibly with a lavender sachet inside, stapled shut and labeled so that no one has to ask me what’s in there. Some folks stick this bag into the oven and bake it so that it’s warm and extra sterile after baby comes out. CHECK
  • Another paper bag is filled with clothes for me for after the birth, including underwear. (Am I the only Mamma who gets behind on laundry in her 9th month? How awful would it be to not have any clean underwear to put on at this point?!? LOL) And then clothes for the baby- I usually do a girl outfit, a boy outfit, and a gender neutral organic gown, plus booties, organic undershirts, hats, and a soft thick blanket. Did you know that the #1 risk to a home birth baby is hypothermia due to not being adequately kept warm after the birth? My midwife is neurotic about hats and having lots of towels and blankets on hand.. and of course, putting baby skin to skin with Mamma is the very best way to keep warm. =) This bag is also labeled, and no one has to ask me where to find clean clothes for me after I’ve given birth. Also, even if you know the gender of your baby, you should have more than one outfit planned… they tend to poop and pee everywhere, you know.  CHECK
  • And yet one more paper bag is prepared with clean sheets for my bed. I have no idea who usually puts these sheets on, but someone always gets that bag and puts clean sheets on the bed so I have a nice clean place to land after the post-birth shower. I think I’ll toss a lavender sachet into this one this time as well. =) CHECK
  • Herbs and container for sitz bath CHECK
  • Goldenseal powder for cord care CHECK
  • Mamma Pads (cloth this time and they are sooooo cute! Photos coming…) CHECK
  • Premixed herbs to drink during labor, along with crackers, cheese squares, and grapes. I can’t imagine going through the hard work of labor and not being allowed to eat!! Although, with my last birth, I never got hungry, but I was starving afterwards and rewarded handsomely for my hard work with a nice plate of waffles, followed by a steak dinner… Oh, and I usually have some Recharge (the natural equivalent of Gatorade, minus the HFCS and other yuck), but this time I went with an Emergen-C drink. CHECK
  • Tinctures- Angelica and Shepherd’s Purse, in case midwife doesn’t make it or is missing hers. =) CHECK
  • Tennis balls for back massaging CHECK (These are new. I’ve never used them during labor before, but Brent massaged my back with them the other night and it was AWESOME)
  • Herbs for a special baby bath CHECK (also new, but  I’m looking forward to soaking in rose petals with my bebe
  • 2 Rolls Viva Paper towels CHECK (Midwife requests these every time. I’ve never seen her use them, but they get used each time!)

It sounds like a lot, but it’s not that bad. And truthfully, not much is actually needed to have a baby, but I’m Type A, you know.  I like to have my bases covered. I’ll be editing and adding to this list as I remember stuff. I’ve already thought of several things that I had forgotten about since the last birth.

Truthfully, I am looking forward to it! I take no issue with the pain of child birth. It hurts. BAD. But just for a bit, and then it’s over with. I just can’t wait to have my sweet baby in my arms, and NOT MY BELLY! My skin is stretched to maximum capacity, and baby has run out of room to move. It might just be time to add an evening walk into our nightly routine. 

i'm my own midwife

Yesterday as I was huffing down the street I had that little tune playing over and over in my mind. These are my “official” prenatal records, in case you didn’t know. I usually record this info in a notebook for each child, but I can’t seem to ever remember where I put it. 

Of course, I have a wonderful community of midwives- friends- that keep their beautiful eyes on me from time to time, but for the most part, it’s just me.

I’ve hit those hard days of the last trimester. Crying for no reason, extreme exhaustion, insatiable hunger, hip pain, etc etc. I really thought I was going to lose it for a couple of days. I feel so guilty when I call Brent, who is contentedly doing his job at work- probably humming a happy tune- and have to sob into the phone some really pathetic thing that totally upset my day and has made me certain that I cannot continue. He’s a good man. He refuses to come home and “rescue” me. I can count on one hand…no, three fingers… the number of times he has come home early or called in to work because I was sick or feeling overwhelmed. I like it. It forces me to deal with life. The last time I could hear in his voice that he really wished he could come home and help (they get written up for leaving work early, even if they are sick!) but just couldn’t. He begged me to please stop crying and tried to help me get a grip. The really annoying thing is that in the rational part of my mind, I knew that there was nothing wrong. I was just tired (and sick). The kids were fine, life was fine, the sun was shining… I was just losing it. 

I made up my mind that something had to be done, so we made some rules. Rule #1:Kids are not allowed to drink from my water bottle or eat my food. Okay, so we really only made one rule. LOL

I’ve started taking a prenatal vitamin, because I just can’t get it all in with my diet right now. I’m trying, but it’s not happening, so my Plan B is a  prenatal. =)

It struck me the other day that I’m about to have another baby. I usually prepare for this as one prepares for a marathon. A good birth doesn’t happen accidentally very often, and  I like to try to have my body ready for the hard work of labor. SO, I’ve also just started walking every day. Today is the third day. I know, I know, if you are pregnant with your first or maybe second child you are probably wondering why it took 28 weeks for me to start walking. I did that with my first pregnancy. I did everything perfectly and looked at older fatter moms of many and wondered why in the world they didn’t take better care of themselves. Fast forward five years, and three and a half kids later, and I totally understand. “Yourself” comes last. Folks, I can’t even poop without some sort of interruption. My bottom hit the toilet seat at 6 a.m. yesterday. Prior to this event, it was peaceful and quiet in the house- no one was supposed to be up yet. As soon as I sat down, someone immediately began to yell and woke everyone else up. I could hear the pounding and banging through the ceiling as WWIII broke out above me. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to give those of you who haven’t walked a mile in these shoes the idea. You think that it is as simple as planning it out, making room in your schedule, blah blah blah. It’s not. Take my word for it. It is downright impossible to work out inside your house because someone is going to hurt themselves just as you are striking the yoga position, and you are going to hurt yourself trying to get to them quickly. When your husband is gone for 9-10 hours a day, the last thing you want to do when he gets home is leave to get some exercise by yourself… but now I do. Just 30 minutes of walking. We have some perfectly slight hills, and as soon as Brent gets home I truck off in my tennis shoes. And gyms with nurseries are not an option. Germs and perverts- need I say more?!?

Anyway, my blood pressure was 106/64 last time I checked it, and baby’s heart rate was 152 last time I checked. (Which was several weeks ago since I loaned out my dopplerI was feeling all baby’s movements way down low, but since I’ve started walking they have moved to around the middle and into my ribs. Miraculous.  Walking is so good for mammas and their babies. My hips have started to hurt in the tell tale way that lets me know my bones are softening and moving to let a human being pass through them, so I’m trying to sit on that yoga ball more often to help facilitate that. 

Oh, and I’ve gained 43 pounds. I usually slow way down with the weight gain and start to gain more baby and less…ME… at this point, so I’m looking forward to that. 

I’ve started mentally preparing for all the changes and activity that will be taken place. Making lists in my mind of things I need to do before having this baby, things I will need to have this baby, and wondering with great curiosity what life with four little people will be like. I vacillate between being totally terrified and somewhat confident that one more baby isn’t going to make that big of a difference. Today when all three kids were loaded up in the van I started to talk with them about where we thought the best place to put the new kid would be. We all agreed that the new baby should sit in the middle aisle next to Arwen. Maybe this time I have a hope and a prayer of at least having someone to hold the pacifier in the baby’s mouth while we drive. (I usually do this WHILE driving. It works about as well as it sounds like it does. My babies don’t take pacifiers. I’ve tried every single kind. They just don’t take them unless you physically hold them in their mouths, and that defeats the purpose.  ). Charis is really excited about getting to see the new baby be born, and I’m going to talk to Brent about letting Arwen cut the cord this time, since he gets to catch the baby. I’ve explained to them all again, that Mommy is going to be making noises and moving and not to worry- it’s good pain that helps the baby come out. 

I’m also tinkering with the idea of setting up in the soap room. It’s such a big room, and it smells nice. LOL. However, it would put me further from the bathroom, and that is no fun, so maybe we’ll keep it in the living room after all. There’s still time to decide.

I’m off to find some protein. 

The industrial revolution of birth (alternate title: Why I won't stop talking about it)

I am reading this fascinating article. I know it’s way too long for most people to read through (although I thought it was worth it), I’m sharing my favorite points. =) Enjoy:

I have seen, over years of practice in maternal-fetal medicine, an odd and somewhat unsettling pride among women who announce that they have a “high-risk pregnancy.” Although the inherent literal meaning of the term high-risk pregnancy is one that entails a greater risk of a poor outcome (for mother or baby,) the subtext seems to be that high risk equals high value. In some cases it is difficult to persuade a low-risk woman to continue her care with a general OBGYN practice instead. “But I’m high-risk,” she says. Does she really mean, “I’m high-status,” or “My baby is high-value,” specifically, more precious than someone else’s? Is it a statement of importance? Does it mean that she is special? Or is it a Disneyfication of a primal human endeavor, longing for the synthetic and dramatized experience in preference to the authentic? These questions are raised, but cannot possibly be answered, in this commentary.

(I have noticed the same thing. Mothers that are afflicted with various health problems tend to almost seem proud of them. I wonder sometimes how many actually have real handicaps, or which have been fear-mongered by their doctors into believing that they couldn’t possibly survive without monthly or yearly exams, medications, etc for completely preventable conditions.)

But across the developed world, or across medium- and high-income countries, there is no additional benefit of further increase in cesarean rate (Althabe 2006.): Slovenia, with a 12% cesarean rate, has the same maternal mortality ratio as the US. Nordic maternal mortality ratios are only a fraction of the American, at a 50% lower cesarean rate. Neonatal mortality does not change in high-income countries across a range of CS rates from 10-40%. (Althabe) Infant mortality rates as low as 4 per 1000 are achieved at CS rates of 15% in a number of countries, contrasting favorably with the US infant mortality rate of 7 per 1000: the American system results in infant mortality nearly twice as high achieved at the cost of twice as many cesareans. It is hard to make the argument on a population basis that abdominal delivery is safer for mothers or babies, at least after a minimal necessary rate is achieved.

(In other words, while many moms are lead to believe that their c-section was “necessary”, for whatever reason, the facts prove that it simply doesn’t make a difference in maternal or infant mortality rates.)

In the US, we have heard arguments that women are entitled to autonomy in making their birth choices, and that therefore it is ethical to perform cesarean for no reason other than maternal request. Curiously, this vaunted autonomy stops at the door of the labor room. Women are implicitly allowed, or encouraged, to make only those choices which increase the power of the physician and which decrease their own.

(’Nough said.)

 Stipulate that antibiotics and blood banks are good and necessary things, and that emergencies may, in fact, develop: still, the majority of births will be normal. Or they would be, without interference. The species that cannot birth its young becomes extinct. But fear has pushed nearly all American childbirth into the hospital, a campaign which continues even now that that battle looks to have been won. (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2008) Still, despite the implied promise of safety if all the rules are followed—ID bracelets, intravenous lines, electronic fetal monitoring—labor may follow an unpredictable path. The definition of “normal” becomes ever narrower, and toleration of deviance ever lower. The final stage of this philosophy takes the process of birth away from the woman entirely and turns it into a surgical procedure performed by the doctor. Childbirth becomes a manufactured experience, shorn of any real risk or real power, one in which the woman is so far alienated from the capabilities of her body that she is only a package on an operating table for a professional to open.

(Emphasis mine. I had to restrain myself from highlighting the entire paragraph. This is truth right here.)

The industrialization of food production is, perhaps, a harbinger of the industrialization of childbirth. Food production was once local, varied and small-scale, but farms have been taken over by huge conglomerates, and monoculture of a small number of genetically uniform crops has replaced variety. The disappearance of cultivars—that is, the loss of deviants—means that random natural events could wipe out large swaths of the food supply. To draw an even more pointed parallel, meat in America is cheap and widely available because of industrialized animal production. These animals lead narrowly confined lives from conception to death. Reliance on a small number of breeds, confined animal feeding operations, and the production line essentially turn animals into factory products. Industrial animal production has exacted a price in ways that until recently were invisible to the average consumer: the pollution of air and groundwater, the increasing potential for foodborne illness, the escalation of antibiotic resistance which begins in industrial herds but moves into human populations, even the quality of those animals’ lives. Clearly, industrialization has a downside, although we may not notice the drawbacks until all competing models have vanished. While some would object to drawing an analogy between industrial food production and industrial childbirth, I submit that in both cases we see a conversion of a living creature to a commodity, with an emphasis on the end product and a marked disinterest in the natural process over time. Women can be processed through the childbirth machine and handed a baby at the other end, stripping them of their central role at the heart of things, and turning them instead into objects that someone else operates upon.

Sometimes those of us who are birth advocates feel as though we are shouting from the rooftops and being completely disregarded. This is why we feel so passionately about this topic. This article has summed up why it is important that we teach our daughters that birth is normal and beautiful and safe. This is the heart of motherhood and of femininity and it is being taken away from us. Women are becoming like men, and worse- like factories.

We feel like pulling our hair out when we hear of a friend, sister, or even acquaintance who was forced to experience an unplanned c-section and led to believe that it was necessary for whatever reason. Because we know that it could have been different for her with proper care and nurturing from other wise women (and herself!) instead of a hurried undereducated physician. We mourn the loss of confidence and ability that results. Because ultimately, it does affect every single one of us.

how to make pregnancy tea

My pregnancies have all been fairly easy so far. Not a lot of morning sickness, and I really feel pretty good the entire time, other than some bad attitudes towards the end because I go “overdue” every single time. Up until now, I really had taken advantage of this luxury and assumed it was just luck of the draw or good genes. 

Until this pregnancy.

I have never felt so terrible in my life! For the first 3 weeks I almost felt as if I had the flu and the nausea and exhaustion were literally ruining my life. I wasn’t sure what I was doing differently with this pregnancy until about a week ago. It occurred to me that I hadn’t started on my pregnancy tea yet.

I always liked to think that my easy pregnancies were because I worked hard to follow my midwife’s demands of a gallon of water a day, a regime of preventative herbs and exercises, and avoidance of processed foods (as much as cravings allow!). A healthy pregnancy requires personal responsibility and hard work. When you home birth, you don’t have the luxury of a doctor on hand to fix those things that could have been prevented in the first place. It demands that you purposefully take top notch care of yourself and your baby. I have really taken this for granted since my last pregnancy!

This pregnancy tea is my life blood. I adore it more than coffee, people. Evidently the tea makes more of a difference than I thought! A week ago, my order of bulk herbs arrived and I quickly whipped up a batch. As I took the first few sips, relief flooded through my body and, I’m not kidding you, I could literally feel my strength returning! Eureka! 

I’ve made this tea for my pregnant friends, and some have even attempted to pay me for it. I get a lot…and I mean A LOT of question about, so here it is: 

The Pregnancy Tea Tutorial you’ve all been waiting for

Now, you can buy those pre packaged pregnancy teas, but you won’t get anywhere near the quality of a fresh batch, and you’ll also spend quite a bit more money since it is ideal to drink 3-4 glasses of the stuff a day!

I get my bulk herbs from The Bulk Herb Store. Their prices are great and their quality is exceptional. The original recipe I started with is called “Nourishment Tea” and can be found in Aviva Jill Romm’s book, The Natural Pregnancy Book. Buy the book and look up the recipe, you won’t regret it! 

In my tea, I use the following herbs:

Red Raspberry Leaf : Tones the uterus, prevents hemorrhage, high in iron, high in Vit. C, Vit B1 (thiamin)

Nettle (as in Stinging Nettle): Promotes healthy kidneys, strengthens the blood vessels, prevents anemia, Vit D, Calcium, tones uterus, Vitamin K

Oatstraw: Calcium, Magnesium, gentle nervine, great remedy for cramping or insomnia

Alfalfa: Vit D, Vit K, chlorophyll

Spearmint: aids Digestion

Milk Thistle Seed, ground: gently supports the liver and is a remedy for morning sickness

Fennel: aids digestion

Rose Hips: Vit C

I eyeball it as I add each herb to the jar, using mostly Red Raspberry and Nettle, and decreasing in amount of each herb used as I go down the list. None of these are contraindicated for use during pregnancy and you would have to be trying hard to overdose on them, so exact measurements are not necessary. 

Here’s my Ball jar full of mixed herbs. (Sorry, I can't find that photo!)

I stuff a large tea bag (about five heaping tablespoons), fold over the edge, and staple it shut.

Toss it in a quart jar- I use an old mayo jar, and cover with boiling water. It is really important to keep a lid on this, as some of the useful properties of these herbs can escape in the steam! I painted this jar when I was pregnant with Charis. It was pretty at one time. (Lost that photo too)

One mistake that people often make with herbal tea preparations, in addition to not covering it, is not letting it steep long enough. If you think you can just pour some hot water over some herbs and let it sit for three minutes, you are only getting flavored water, and very little benefit. (Except with delicate herbs and flowers, such as chamomile, but it still needs to be covered. 

Pregnancy tea needs to brew for at least 20 minutes. I let mine brew over night, at which point it actually becomes an infusion. Then I add some stevia and sip on it all day long. I start this regimen (usually) as soon as I find out I am pregnant. These herbs are truthfully the cornerstone and secret to a healthy, comfortable pregnancy! 

Pregnancy Tea is actually great for the entire family. Even Brent enjoys a glass of it, iced, at dinner sometimes! 

Enjoy!