April 19, 2011

Crunch Time

I have reached the last two weeks of pregnancy. Hooray!  However, this could be the longest two weeks of my life with the exception of the two weeks before I missed my period, when I was waiting to find out for sure if I was pregnant.  I wrote a post about that. Remember how I talked about putting your mind into other useful things, like organizing drawers, trying to relax by going shopping or reading a good novel.  Well, these suggestions are not very useful this time around.  Firstly, because my nesting instinct is in overdrive.  I'm spot cleaning every corner of this house, and doing laundry like a maniac.  Where is all this energy coming from? From cleaning the inside of the fridge to dusting under the bed and sofa, I find myself completely possessed. Also, my sleeping has deteriorated. I can't seem to fall asleep easily unless I listen to my hypnobirthing recording, then I can usually relax. (That's how I know it's a great relaxation tool, which I can't wait to try during my actual labor).

I have come up with 10 things to do in preparation for the arrival of your bundle of joy.

1.  This one is pretty obvious. Clean every surface you feel needs cleaning.  The bathroom tub, the kitchen floor, the top of the fridge, the inside of your closets.  Whatever your cleaning heart desires, because after the baby is born, you will not feel like cleaning at all.

2. Make sure you have everything the baby needs, including baby gear.  The last thing we bought was the car seat.  This weekend we will take it out of the box, assemble it and put it away in the hallway closet.  We are not planning on taking it with us to the hospital when we go into labor.  Since my mother will be going to the hospital with us and I will be taking pillows and my birthing ball, we won't have space in the car.  But since the hospital is really close by, my husband will come home everyday to feed the dogs and walk them and then he can bring the car seat with him.

3.  Prepare your hospital bag.  I will be doing it this weekend.  Items that you should not forget:  heavy flow maxi pads, old underwear if you don't mind wearing the hospital-provide ones, a nursing bra, and nursing pads, an old nightgown, slippers or socks, your own pillows, toiletries (don't forget the lip balm), the going-home outfit, some snacks (boxed juices, lolipops, plenty of drinking water, snacks for your coach -I will be baking some brownies for the nurses), ipod and speakers (calming music), phone and camera.  Baby bag:  going home outfit, a few onesies, receiving blankets, diapers and socks, hats and mittens.

4. If you have to drive to go to the market, then make sure you do enough grocery shopping, for at least two weeks.  But since we live right across it, we don't need to bulk up on things.  Besides our kitchen is tiny and we can make daily trips if necessary.

5.  Make sure your car is vacuumed.  Since we have a dog and he comes with us every weekend to do errands, we need to make sure the car is cleaned and vacuumed.

6.  Get a wax.  Not everyone gets one, but I will be getting one.  This of course is a bit of a controversial subject.  A few years ago, they used to prep women in the delivery room with a shave and an enema.  Can you imagine, having contractions, dealing with major pain and some nurse you don't know is "cleaning you up down there?"  The nerve!  This is a practice that was been widely abandoned in hospitals here. But we still have long ways to go to give women back their dignities and their rights in the birthing room.  

7. Find and meet your Pediatrician. Once you know who they are, be prepared to give the hospital their name and contact number when you arrive, so that they can ring the Pediatrician once your baby is born. 

8.  Make sure you have the necessary things for perineum care in your house.  Witch hazel has a calming and anti-inflammatory effect.  You can douche with it or just soak a wet pad with it and wear it in your panties.  Believe me ladies, your bottoms will be sore!

9. I have decided to post a few positive affirmations around the house so that every time I walk by them, I read them and embrace their message.  I have post its in the bathroom, in our computer desk, and in the kitchen.  Sentences like:  I will visualize my uterus working in harmony to open up or My baby is relaxed and calm during birth. Reading them everyday creates confidence and builds your trust from within.  

10.  And finally, if you are planning on laboring and birthing without meds, then you should be practicing, practicing and practicing your relaxation, deep breathing and visualization techniques.  I know I am!

April 18, 2011

Everything But The Cake: A Doula's perspective on Birth

These are a few excerpts of one woman's experience with being a Doula and witnessing hundreds of births in many different settings.  She is an advocate of a woman's right to choose her own birthing experience. She talks about the journey of giving birth just like the journey to the underworld, where a mother goes deep inside herself to birth her baby and with it, her hopes and dreams.  It's like she says it: Birth is a not medical situation.  Birth is a human situation.
I'm just saying. I am so tired of watching women give away their bodies, their journey, their rights, and sometimes even their dignity to a system of medicine that, when it comes to childbirth, is unnecessary and out dated. I mean, why would a perfectly healthy woman with a normal pregnancy choose to have a surgeon, an OB, attend their birth? Do you know how many Labor and Delivery nurses say to me, I've never seen a natural birth before? Why would a woman think someone like that would be equipped to take care of them?

I guess it comes down to this: I believe in birth. I believe in midwives that are properly trained and experienced. I believe that more often than not, birth is not an emergency. I believe that more often than not, birth is not a medical event. And when birth becomes a medical emergency, I believe in the ability of my care providers to act quickly and accordingly. I believe in the awesome power of modern medicine to save the lives that nature tried to claim for her own.

Birth is wild; it is achingly heartbreaking, awesomely powerful, deeply terrifying. It is unpredictable, and uncontrollable. There is nothing like it in the world.

She talked about the journey the baby makes on its way out of the womb and into an independent life--well at least far more independent than it was in the womb--and how this journey is very important for the baby to make. In fact, nature intended babies to make this journey. 

And that's what I'm trying to say now. Maybe this journey that we make as babies trying to arrive on the planet is incredibly important. Maybe what we learn as infants as we make our way out will already hold lessons that teach us how to survive independently. Maybe taking the helicopter to the top--when not medically necessary--really does leave us asking, "this is it? Where's the magic, what's so special?" Maybe skipping those trials by fire and water and whatnot leave us ill prepared to face a life full of gravity, bacteria, by-products, disappointment, and broken hearts. Maybe we don't learn that things will get uncomfortable and shitty but we will survive and adapt. Maybe we don't learn how to cope with the unending hardships of life.

Babies born vaginally and without the use of pain killers (to the mom) are high as kites. They are pumping out a good chunk of endorphins as a response to being forcefully ejected from their happy warm watery home and squeezed through a tube into the light and cold and microbes and noise and gravity and weirdness that is this world we live in. So, yeah, babies learn that things can get bad, very bad, and that Normal can change drastically, but the reward for enduring the change and bad times is a nice natural endorphin high. The first lesson babies learn is that stress, adapt and change = magic carpet ride.

(Aside: Newborns also learn that they NEED PEOPLE. They learn that life is not to be lived alone. If everything goes well the baby can go straight to mom after being born, and baby learns that feeling high = mom [and dad]. A sort of biological dependence is thus created between babies and their parents. Babies equate happy and high with mom and dad, therefore they can eventually equate happy and high with being in the company of other people. We need each other to be happy and cope. We can't do it alone. Nature sets it up for us to learn that from the very beginning.)

So yeah, it seems pretty obvious that babies who are born by cesarean have a harder time surviving. They didn't get time to learn how to do it. They didn't learn how to struggle, endure, persevere, cope, adapt, and change. And they didn't get their sweet reward at the end. What lessons do cesarean babies learn in the first few minutes? What stories do they begin to tell themselves about how the world works and their place in it?
To read more birth perspectives, check out her blogs at Everything But The Cake and Evil Cake Lady.

April 13, 2011

Let's talk birth plans

I took a copy of our birth plan to our doctor yesterday.  We went over every single item.  She agreed with most of the things I requested, except for a few things, that according to her are just not "physically possible." You may be wondering what?  Well, she says that hospitals do not allow you to burn incense or candles.  That's understandable . There are oxygen outlets in the birthing room.  The other one was the impossibility of letting the umbilical cord stop pulsating while the baby is on my lap.  She says cords are not that long and they need to be clamped and cut right away if I want my baby on my chest.  Well, I'm hoping for a long cord then.

Birth plans are not contracts or a way to control every single thing.  Births are unpredictable, we know that, especially in a hospital setting with all those egos clashing against each other.  The birth plan should be about HOW YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED during this event.  How your feelings and your dignity should be respected at all times. It's about keeping your autonomy and sanity. Let's face it, in the modern medical world, doctors just want things to go textbook perfect at a good pace.  If you have been laboring for a certain amount of time, they think they need to take control over the situation, and this can leave the mother and the father feeling disrespected, cheated and the feeling stays with you until you are ready to try again with another pregnancy.

The most important items on my birth plan are how they are to treat me and what to do with my daughter after she is born. I also don't want an episiotomy.  But hospitals here rarely perform them now. I want to labor in peace and quiet and want my daughter handed to me immediately for bonding.  

Birth plans should not be that long.  This could summarize it in a nutshell.

 “You will treat me with respect at all times and I will maintain the autonomy that I had before entering your hospital. Before you touch me or intervene in the normal course of my labor/delivery, you will discuss it with me and obtain informed consent.”

or in clearer words: F__k off!


April 10, 2011

Artists on Breastfeeding

These images are amazing and at the same time, revealing and organic in composition and meaning.  The masters that captured them were individuals of great humanistic sensitivity.

Maternity (Women on the Seashore), 1899

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848-1903)

Maternité, Henri Matisse
charcoal on paper
Drawn in January, 1939

Madonna of the Fields, Gari Melchers, c. 1895, gouache on canvas

Saltimbanqui con una diadema y dando el pecho a su hijo,

Pablo Picasso, 1905.

Motherhood (also known as Woman Breast Feeding Her Child), 1886

August Renoir

Gino Severini, Motherhood, 1916

Ghyakurakan segaki by Utagawa Toyokuni, (1786-1865).
Hortense Breast Feeding Paul by Paul Cézanne (1872)
 Images via Marvelous Kiddo

April 8, 2011

News from the Womb

At 36 weeks, baby's skin is getting smooth and soft, her gums are rigid, her liver and kidneys are in working order, and her circulation and immune system are basically good to go. Her lungs are the only organs that still need to fully mature, but every day she gets a little closer to breathing on her own.

She's also started her descend down my pelvis.  I feel some mild relief from the constant heartburn and shortness of breath.  I can fully inhale into my lungs now. This puts the brunt of the baby's weight solely on my hips and pelvis, making me soon adopt the oh-so-adorable pregnancy waddle. (not looking forward to that). Early this morning, I woke up with a mild, dull stabbing pain in the center of my lower back, right behind the pelvis.  It traveled down my hips and just lingered there.  My husband applied counter pressure and it actually worked!  I'm so relieved to find this out, as this will become handy once real contractions set in.

I have also noticed that my Braxton Hicks have started to get more regular.  I now get them everyday several times, although they feel mild, they can still be annoying.  They start at the top of my belly, making it look like a fist.  At first I thought it was my baby pushing her body out, but then I realized this were the actual BH contractions people talk about.  Sometimes they are accompanied by a twinge or a burning sensation and other times they precede some cramping in the bottom of my belly. 

Wishful thinking for my next prenatal appointment:  To be somewhat effaced or dilated. But this of course is not up to me.  

Less than four weeks until I meet Emilu.  Baby dust to all!

Fill in the blank Fridays

It's Fill in the Blank Friday!. Here are my answers to this week's questions:

1. The best day of the week is  Friday because is the precursor to the weekend.  My husband and I usually start off our weekend with a Friday Night Date that includes dinner out somewhere and then a DVD at home.

2. My favorite meal of the day is lunch because I wait for my husband to come from the office and we both have a sandwich, salad and chips in the comfort of our own home. Sometimes I will surprise him with home-made fries. And we always finish with an espresso and a small cookie to sweeten things up. Ahhh the life!

3. This weekend we plan on visiting a few baby stores to complete our baby gear shopping.

4. Never in my life have I been able to drink coffee with milk or cream.  I am an espresso or coffee-only kind of girl.

5. The only thing better than being at home is being at home back in Miami in my parents' house enjoying a family get-together.

6. I could really do with some time at home starting this Friday's possible government shutdown, however, I couldn't deal with the lack of pay.  We need the money.

7. The most recent thing I bought myself was a pair of wedge sandals in HauteLook, but is looking like I won't get my order because the website didn't stock enough of the merchandise.  Read my rant here.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

April 6, 2011

Cost of Raising a Child

According to the latest survey done by Gallup, here's what you're likely to spend raising a child: $369,810

Expense                    Start Age     End Age           Annual Cost
Housing                      0                  0                     4,590
Food                          0                  0                     2,083
Transportation            0                  0                     1,558
Clothing                     0                  0                      810
Healthcare                 0                  0                      986
Childcare/Education   0                  0                       4,141
Miscellaneous              0                  0                      1,073
College                     18                 22                     26,273

Cost for first year (excluding college) is $14,151
Total cost is $369,810

Housing: Includes the extra amount you'll spend annually on shelter (mortgage interest, property taxes, or rent; maintenance and repairs; insurance), utilities (gas, electricity, fuel, telephone, and water), and home furnishings and equipment (furniture, floor coverings, major appliances, and small appliances) if you have a child. Mortgage principal payments are considered savings and are not included.

Food: Includes the extra amount you'll spend annually on food and nonalcoholic beverages purchased at grocery, convenience, and specialty stores; dining at restaurants; and school meals if you have a child.

Transportation: Includes the extra amount you'll spend annually to buy new and used vehicles, vehicle finance charges, gasoline and motor oil, maintenance and repairs, insurance, and public transportation if you have a child.

Clothing: Includes the average amount you'll spend annually on your child's apparel such as diapers, shirts, pants, dresses, and suits; footwear; and clothing services such as dry cleaning, alterations and repair, and storage.

Healthcare: Includes the average amount you'll spend annually on your child's medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance, prescription drugs and medical supplies not covered by insurance, and health insurance premiums not paid by your employer or other organizations.

Childcare and education: Includes the average amount you'll spend annually on your child's day care tuition and supplies; babysitting; and elementary and high school tuition, books, and supplies. (You may want to adjust this figure if you know your childcare needs and whether your child will attend public or private school.)

Miscellaneous: Includes the average amount you'll spend annually on your child's personal care items, entertainment, and reading materials.

Higher education: Includes the average amount you'll spend annually on your child's tuition, fees, room and board, books, travel, and incidental expenses at a public or private four-year college, depending on which you choose.

Based on 2009 consumer prices.

More on this.  Read The 369,000 Baby  (courtesy of Babble)

April 5, 2011

Random Rant

As far as online private sales go I'm a member of a few stores including: Joss & Main, HauteLook, Zulily, Send the Trend and Rue La La.

So far I have ordered infant clothing from Zulily and a pair of sandals from HauteLook.  My origjnal Zulily order was ‘updated’ when they realize they didn’t have part of the merchandise I had previously requested. I received a partial order.  After that I placed an order with HauteLook two weeks ago, and finally today decided to call about the status of my order, only to find out that they put a query with the supplier because it looks they didn’t order enough of the merchandise in the first place.  So most likely I will get a refund as well, but before I have to wait another 5-7 business days to confirm this.  This is ridiculous!  These sites pride themselves in unique offers at incredible prices, but orders don’t arrive until after 3 weeks and half of them are not even fulfilled.  I don’t think I will be ordering again from any of these sites.  It’s not worth the trouble, when standards set by Amazon are the rigor and panache of today’s online shopping experience.   

April 4, 2011

You have to be brave!

I want to start this week with a life quote that will help guide my steps in this new adventure I'm about to embark:  motherhood.

This is the final stretch of pregnancy, of carrying this baby inside and soon it will end, and we will have to face each other and teach other so much.  What is to be brave?  Is it worth the trouble?  I know I will have to be brave in situations that I don't have the energy or desire to be.  She will be watching, and learning quietly.  Just like I watch my mom and still learn from her. And I want to teach her so much through actions and deeds.  I want her to know that learning to be brave doesn't have to cost us much.  That bravery is an amulet of choice but it's also one that has its rewards.  And in order to reap the rewards, you have to wear it.

Little Emilu (Emma Lucia) will be brave and compassionate.  That's what her name means to me.  Emma, a brave and courageous one, and Lucia, a compassionate guiding light.  

April 1, 2011

Natural Birth?

As I rule of thumb, I'm skeptical of new things.   I'm always second-guessing people's choices or opinions so naturally it was to be expected that I'd do the same when it came to attempting childbirth without pain medication through a small degree of hypnosis and relaxation. Call it the New Age childbirth mindset.

Nowadays it's so common for women to get epidurals or other pain medications during labor.  In fact around 80% of vaginal births in hospitals fall under this category.  With this pregnancy, I had the choice of an obstetrician in a hospital setting or a midwife in a birthing center.  For reasons that can only be understood from the first child perspective, I chose an obstetrician, being my first experience with birth I wanted to make sure that my baby and I received the full measure of medical intervention. The good one.

I have read extensively about epidurals and pain medication, their pros and cons, and I have decided to AT LEAST attempt a natural delivery, meaning NO DRUGS.  Sounds easier said than done right?  For this, I have two books, Active Birth:  The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally and Creative Childbirth:  The Leclaire Method, which I am currently reading, which boost a woman's confidence and level of connection with their unborn child through meditation, relaxation and visualization techniques.  I'm so glad I'm doing this.  Giving my daughter and I at least a chance at following our bodies' signals without fear instead of being numbed or removed from this amazing experience. We have 4 weeks to learn how to cultivate a calm and collected presence during labor. I have already started to persuade her to remain calm and happy during this intense process.  I hope I can do the same.