My Birth Story Part I: My Journey to Home Birth

Month by Month Pregnancy Photo

Well, here we are, one year from the week I gave birth to my first child. This past year has been so surreal, I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. The fact that I now officially have a one-year-old blows my mind. This year went so incredible fast, I completely understand why some people choose to have several children! They are only so small and sweet for just a short time. Heck, just the newborn phase goes way too fast! When Big Guy was just a newborn someone asked my chiropractor (who has 5 children) what baby stage was his favorite, and he pointed at my baby and said something along the lines of “I’m a sucker for newborn snuggles.” And it is so true. As much as I tried, I didn’t fully understand nor appreciate how precious those first few months were until they were gone forever. Now, I officially am the mother of a toddler and it’s frightening!

So much thought, prayer, research, anticipation, and consideration went into the process of getting and being pregnant, and then preparing for the birth. Growing up, the idea of natural birth scared the shit out of me. I was that person who heard all the horror stories, and believed birth was the most painful thing that could happen to you aside from getting tortured. I also have a fear of needles, especially large ones that go straight into your back, as well as pretty much anything doctor and hospital related. Since I can remember I have always wanted to adopt, so growing up I told myself that if I could not get pregnant, than I would be fine with adoption instead. I got married and while my husband fully supported the idea of adoption, he most definitely made sure I was on board with trying to have our own biological children first. That meant I would need to figure out this whole scary birth thing. I was scared of pain, I was scared of doctors and hospitals, and I was scared of needles. A simple internet search told me there were no birth centers, so that left me with only one option in the area we were hoping to raise a family in: home birth. At the time, I didn’t know a single person who had experienced one so I had a lot of research ahead of me!

So for a couple years while still living in NYC I read tons of positive birth stories, followed natural birth and parenting groups on Facebook, watched home births on YouTube, and discovered Hypnobabies. Four and a half years after being married, we moved back to Pennsylvania. Within that first year back, I finally felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to get pregnant. For six months leading up to Big Guy’s conception, my husband and I even made and drank a green smoothie everyday to help detox our bodies, along with eating a mostly organic diet, and I had also read it may help deter morning sickness which I was also very scared of! I also learned a new friend of mine had home-birthed her two children, and the most recent one was with the same midwife I had found online years prior. It was such a relief to finally know someone who had gone through the experience I was hoping to have. After three very long months of trying, we finally got pregnant in November of 2012. Around the same time, that same girlfriend told me she was 3 months pregnant and using the same midwife as before! I immediately called that midwife to make sure she was available, and thankfully she was. We ended up waiting 8 weeks to tell a single soul other than our priest and midwife. I was in a private and protective state then, and honestly, kind of liked having such a big exciting secret all to ourselves for so long! If we’re ever blessed with another pregnancy, I plan to tell close friends and family much sooner. If anything bad would happen, I would definitely want their support and prayers. Plus, I often hear those who miscarry feel so alone and there is no reason for that when it happens to so many families! It is far too common not to be talked about more often and openly.

Anyways, I loved being pregnant and I didn’t have morning sickness as long as I ate pretty much every hour. I still eat just as ravenously now that I’m breast feeding as I did while pregnant! The only real pains I remember having were sciatica pain the last month, and these awful, awful shooting pains starting in my pelvic area going down my legs that would occur late at night when I laid in bed the last few days before birth. I believe Big Guy was trying to get into position but he just so happened to be pushing on very, very sensitive nerves! I do recall crying to my husband that if I couldn’t handle this, how was I supposed to handle the actual birth? Spoiler alert: I handled it. I had some other typical, expected pregnancy symptoms but they really didn’t compare when I remembered I was literally carrying creation inside of me.

The only person who knew our estimated due date (EDD) of July 25th was our midwife. We told everyone else “early August”. We did so for two reasons: 1) If I was “late”, I would be more mentally prepared as I myself believed my birthing time was “early August” and 2) I wouldn’t have everyone and their mother pestering me on my EDD or later, and worse, pressuring me to do something about it as if it was not normal to go past an EDD. Medical intervention is an amazing thing for medical emergencies, but shouldn’t be so loosely thrown around and abused in what is the most normal, natural human experience: reproduction.

Meeting monthly with our midwife, whether in our home, hers, or her office, was what I believe every pregnant woman deserves. We met for at least an hour each time, talked a lot, and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. There were no scary stories. No pressure. No exams. No judgement. If I didn’t feel comfortable with something she brought up, then we didn’t do it. It was my choice. Now, I honestly miss my midwife. So much so, that I stopped procrastinating and called her to set up an appointment to have a pap smear done <gasp> since it has been a couple years. This isn’t uncommon either. Many women in the home birth world admit they miss their midwife, and are sad to not know when they will ever see her again, especially if they don’t plan on having more children or she is retiring or moving away. To build such a close and respectful relationship with the person who will share in the most intimate experience of your life should not be uncommon!

I will share the actual nitty, gritty details of Big Guy’s birth story in my next post. Just know that discovering the beauty of home birth and getting to experience it is something I will forever be grateful for. Whether you decide to birth in a hospital, birthing center, or at home, birth does not need to be scary, dangerous, or painful. It can be safe, beautiful, memorable, and even pleasurable! Stay tuned for the Big Day…

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My First Maternity Photo Shoot

Every since the weather warmed up, leaves began growing on the trees, and the birds started singing I’ve been feeling immense nostalgia for the birth of my first son. He was born at home in our bedroom in the heat of summer on July 25, 2014 at 6:28am. I distinctly remember hearing the wind in the trees and the morning calls of the birds while in the “pushing phase”. It is not a bad or painful memory at all, rather blissful and ethereal.

maternity photo in the woods

maternity model photo

This past weekend last year would have been when my best friend and uber talented photographer Courtney flew out to my house from NYC to take my maternity photos and help with my baby shower. Since I hadn’t yet started this new blog then, I now feel compelled to share the beautiful photos she captured during that special weekend. Especially since now I’m researching ideas for my son’s 1st birthday photos. Has it really been a year already?! Today I share with you my favorite maternity photos by the lovely Courtney D’ne Brown Photography.

maternity photo in the woodsmaternity photo in the woodsWe took all of the photos on our property and the creek at the bottom of our property. Our wood piles for our future outdoor wood furnace ended up becoming a magical backdrop.

maternity photo with dog

We of course had to have one full family photo including Miss Kona Behr. She had no idea what was coming. Poor thing.

maternity photoshoot maternity photoshoot

I wanted some fun photos of my husband and I before our lives changed forever. For real. Forever. We had no idea what was coming. We didn’t want the typical cheesy cliche “hands on belly” photo, but still secretly wanted it, so this was the best we came up with. I love it.

husband kissing pregnant belly

hands on belly maternity photo

Then we headed down to our creek for the remainder of the photos. This creek is one of the main reasons we fell in love with our property. God’s beauty.

IMG_3791 maternity photo in water

I loved being pregnant. Well, until the last month when I had really bad sciatica pain. Other than that, I never felt more beautiful and grateful. The mystery of being so intimate with creation is not one to be taken for granted.

maternity photo from above

If you are contemplating getting maternity photos taken, just do it. You won’t regret it, but you will probably regret not doing it. There have been so many times when I look at them and am so grateful to have such a talented best friend who doesn’t mind taking my photos. Once that special time in your life is over, it really is hard to remember the details. Now, as for photos of the birth and my son’s first day of life, we majorly dropped the ball and hardly have any “sharable” photos of him, us, or me with him. God willing there’s a next baby, there will probably be too many photos to make up for the lack of any with this child.

Thank you Miss Brown for capturing that precious moment in my life: my first time being pregnant. My mommy brain probably wouldn’t remember it if you hadn’t!

The 4, 6, 8, 10 (or 3, 5, 7, 9) Month Sleep Regression

There seems to be a trend in our western culture that there are certain tips and tricks to get a baby to sleep through the night. Why we even think babies should be sleeping better than us adults, is the very first place we go wrong. Yes, some babies are deep sleepers and are able to sleep 12 hours through the night without waking from 2-3 months on. I even have a good friend who has experienced this. If you’re expecting a baby, or are a new parent, just do yourself a huge favor and remove the thought from your brain right now that your baby might do such a thing though. That way, if it does happen, you will be stoked at your immense amount of luck. Chances are it will not, and you need to be mentally prepared. If there is one thing I have learned about motherhood, being mentally prepared that a certain baby behavior or bodily function is completely normal, is the first step to accepting life gracefully and moving forward peacefully.My mommy brain doesn’t remember much these days, but I cannot get this one specific conversation out of my head. Our midwife was over the house for our last postnatal visit around 8 weeks postpartum. She asked how Big Guy was sleeping, and I responded with something like, “He sleeps about 12 hours at night, only waking once! We really lucked out. Maybe next baby we won’t be so fortunate.” My midwife said something of the sort, “That’s great to hear Anna! I know my kids were great sleepers for a few weeks, and then we’d have a few weeks of not-so-great sleep, so I hope he stays a good sleeper for you.” Then I responded with something like, “Yea, we’ll see!” I. Was. So. Naive.Sleeping Newborn Photo

Just a few days before Big Guy turned 3 months old, we were at my nephews birthday party when a woman asked how he was sleeping. I told her, and she said her sister’s baby was 1 1/2 years old and still not sleeping through the night and they couldn’t figure out why, so we were very lucky to have a good sleeper on our hands. That very night, we put him down to bed, and all of a sudden 3 hours later, he woke up crying. My husband and I just looked at each other in disbelief and wonder. This continued for the rest of the evening, every 2-3 hours until morning. My husband had to leave the next day to go to NYC on business, and the good sleep did not return. It was a very exhausting week alone. This went on however, for about 5-6 weeks. During this time I learned about the “4 Month Sleep Regression“, or 3 months in my lucky case, and the wide world of The Wonder Weeks. I kept asking, “WHY HADN’T I HEARD OF THIS BEFORE?!”, and no one in my circle of friends and family seemed familiar with it either. Then I begrudgingly remembered the above conversation with my midwife, and realized someone had warned me, I just chose to ignore it.

I didn’t, and still don’t, have the time to read The Wonder Weeks, so I downloaded their app on my iPhone for $1.99. It basically explains the “mental leaps” that every baby goes through and the possible side effects. The peace of mind that came along with knowing it was completely normal is underrated. I also happened to text with a girlfriend whose baby is 5 weeks older than Big Guy, and she was going through the exact same thing. Not feeling alone, feels so good. The bad news was that every few weeks another mental leap would occur, and every few weeks we have gone through a 4-6 week long sleep regression. Not just a sleep regression either, he wants to nurse to sleep during this time, when before he didn’t need to. He cries more often upon waking, when normally he wakes happy and plays with his toys (he sleeps on a Montessori floor bed so is able to move about his room). He also doesn’t do this “happy squeal” my husband and I like to call it during these mental leaps. It is quite incredible to watch, when I can get past the sleep deprivation and often fussy baby. Like clockwork, as soon as the app tells me that mental leap is ending, he goes back to “normal”!Father Son Sleeping Photo

Now, I must admit that after his 5th mental leap at around 6 months old, he never went back to only waking once in the night, rather twice. Then after this past 6th mental leap at 8 months old, we only had a few days of him waking only twice, and the last week he has been up seriously every 1-3 hours. There is apparently an “8, 9, or 10 Month Sleep Regression” also. He typically can nurse back to sleep, but I also don’t want to always rely on that either, so if my husband is still awake, he tries to settle him first. I’m in a conundrum the rest of the time, more sleep vs. bad habits. Don’t worry, more sleep wins almost every time and I’m not going to stress about it. Every time I stress about it, I have a few moments or nights of “normalcy” to reaffirm that our good habits are not lost forever. Like I said before, it’s much more common and normal than people realize for babies to not sleep well until they are developmentally ready to on their own time, regardless of the tips and tricks people want to sell you. When he wakes, he means business. I can only dream that he will be as determined and passionate as an adult as he is when waking in the night!

Baby Sleeping on Airplane Photo

 

Like all parenting choices, I need to do what I need to do for everyone to get the best rest possible while remaining respectful to the needs of our child. I might try putting Big Guy in the pack-n-play at night instead of his floor bed, to see if that will help. The last few nights, I have fallen asleep next to him and he will wake up part of the way fussing, and literally doing barrel rolls down my body until he tries to get off the bed and escape for the door. I do wonder if he was confined to the pack-n-play during this time, he might settle himself back to sleep. He is also teething. Then again, my mother-in-law always tells me how my husband did not sleep well until his brother was born when he was just shy of 2 years old. I very well could have a while to go here…

They’re only babies for a very, very short time and like everyone always says but it’s oh-so-true, “This too shall pass.” It’s easy to think it’s not passing soon enough, but then I’d be missing the wonderful things happening right now, so it’s just not worth wasting time worrying about it. I have faith I will get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep again one day but at the same time I will be sad that the days of Big Guy being a little baby will be gone forever. I’d much rather enjoy the present moment for all it’s ups and downs, sleep deprivation and all.

Happy Baby Outside in Stroller Photo

Restful Sleep Even If It Is Only An Hour At A Time,

Anna

*07/23/14 Update: We have now entered the fussy phase of Leap 8 this week, the “world of programs”. Sleep is still horrible, but again it did not get better after Leap 7 ended. I am convinced we created a bad habit somewhere along the line, and he almost always requires nursing back to sleep now, even when some nights he falls asleep all on his own without nursing. On Monday, 07/07/14 I had lost all hope he would ever sleep better until he is like 2 years old but then read “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley the very next day and regained a little bit of hope again. I am currently in the process of implementing her suggestions because waking 3-7+ times a night is not working for me after 12 months. I will keep you posted on the outcome! P.S. During a mental leap we have noticed he is more tolerable to diaper changes while laying on his back, but when not in a leap he absolutely refuses to lay on his back. It makes changing a dirty pre-fold cloth diaper an Olympic sport.

**09/27/14 Update: After implementing Pantley’s main suggestions for over 30 days with even worse results, I decided to use all of her “if you are about to give up all hope, your child may need you to do ___”. When he would wake up, we stopped going into his room, rather my husband went to the door and said something along the lines, “It’s time for bed. Go back to bed. I love you. Good night!” More often than not, he cried for a little bit longer, then stomp-crawled back to bed. After about 4-5 days of this, he finally slept from 7pm-3am without waking! After a few weeks of this, he has finally slept through the night a few times. I think it’s safe to say we’re on the road to recovery. Until next baby.