Open Letter to All of the Well-Meaning Suggestion-Givers:

Open Letter to All of the Well-Meaning Suggestion-Givers:

I know you mean well. I know you are only giving me suggestions because you care about my kid, and me. I know that your words are coming from a place of love and caring.

But I need you to put yourself in my shoes. I need you to hear your words from my seat here, trying to rock my child to sleep.

What you are saying is, “Why don’t you just ___?” What you mean is, “I hate seeing your baby cry, and I don’t know how to help.”

What I hear is “Even though I am not your child’s parent, I know more about how to comfort her than you do.” And that is so incredibly hurtful.

This is not the first time you’ve asked questions like that. Last time was because of my choice of diapers (“Why don’t you just use ___?”). And it hurt just as much then. It hurts just as much every time you question any of my parenting decisions.

I try to brush past your question, telling myself that you didn’t mean to be insensitive, that you don’t know the wounds your words leave on my heart.

But then you repeat yourself, this time directing your words at my partner, the one who has gone through this entire parenting journey with me, the one who has given their own tears and sleep and made all of their own sacrifices for this tiny human we love so much. “Why don’t you guys try ___?” I can see him flinch as he looks at me, see my pain reflected in his eyes. He won’t let you know how much you’ve hurt him. Society has told him he needs to be a man, and these things are a woman’s domain. So I interject.

“This is how we do it.”

A few minutes pass in silence, apart from our poor baby’s unhappy fussing, as my partner tries in vain to rock her to sleep. And then you feel the need to speak up again.

“Seriously, I don’t understand why you guys don’t just ___.” I’ve had it. I have had enough.

There are a hundred reasons why we don’t do whatever it is you are suggesting we do. But all of it boils down to this: I AM doing the best I can for my child, whether or not you see that. THIS is the best way for us. For me, for my partner, and most importantly, for my child.

What you don’t know is the countless hours I have spent, while I was pregnant, and since having our baby researching and stressing and reading and researching more on every possible baby-related thing under the sun. The pros and cons of natural birth, C-sections, epidurals, and Pitocin; breastfeeding, milk supply, formula feeding, introducing the bottle, when and how to start real food (purees, baby led weaning, making your own baby food, organic vs GMO); sleep patterns and what is normal for children, how to get babies to sleep through the night, how to get babies that have days and nights switched around into a more adult-tolerant orientation; how to properly install a car seat, how long a baby should be rear-facing, and what are the safest brands to buy; cloth diapers vs disposable, the effects of chemical and other environmental factors on my child’s growth and development, what brands of diaper rash cream to use, how to treat yeast infections; how to handle time outs, tantrums, and throw up; what to do when your kid asks about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and sex; how to kindly explain to your kid that no, they can’t marry Daddy, because he’s already married to Mommy; how to handle a pacifier, taking it away, and when to potty train; how to introduce TV and video games (or not), and how to navigate the tricky waters of too much screen time versus “I WANNA WATCH MORE SESAME STREET!”

Trust me when I say that I have done so much more research, and stressed about so very many things you do not even understand than I could ever tell you. Trust me when I say that my child’s crying tears at my heartstrings more than you will ever know, and I want my child to stop crying more than you ever will. Trust me when I say I have tried other methods – I’ve tried ALL the methods. And this is what works best for US. Trust me when I say “This is how we do it.” Don’t push. Don’t justify. Just accept that this is the way it is in our family.

If you don’t like that, go have your own children, and raise them however you want. I PROMISE you I will stay the hell out of it.

Sincerely,

Doing the Best I Can

Advertisements

Mother’s Day in the Mountains!

Our last day in the mountains was Mother’s Day! It was my very first Mother’s Day, and it was just lovely!

72/365

The morning started mellow, with a tea and cupcake breakfast with my mom and Blueberry.

image

We took a fun off-roading trip to go see the “Pregnant Tree.” (And get some awesome ideas for geocache hiding spots)

100_0979

Pops got some cuddle time with Blueberry while Jeremy and I went on a quick and easy geocache up the street.

image

And then we cleaned up the cabin and headed back home to dinner at my Uncle’s house. Overall, busy but mellow day.

image

Traveling with Babies

This week is a whole slew of special occasions. Thursday is Jeremy’s friend’s birthday. Friday is my Mom’s birthday. Saturday is Jeremy’s birthday. Sunday is Mother’s Day…

KODAK Digital Still Camera

So naturally we are getting the heck out of dodge this weekend to avoid all that crap! Haha just kidding. Well, we /are/ going out of town, but not to avoid it. We will be going up to my parents’ cabin in the mountains with them this weekend (where we will, indeed celebrate both my mom’s and Jeremy’s birthdays). My mom and I are leaving to go up on Friday mid-day, and my dad and Jeremy will meet us up there on Saturday, since both of them work until Saturday morning.

Just a short trip, nothing major. But we are looking forward to doing some geocaching in nature (urban geocaching definitely has some limitations… like LOTS OF MUGGLES EVERYWHERE!!), and mom says there is even a place that does karaoke on Saturdays. 🙂

As I talked to my mom about heading up there this weekend, my brain went into overdrive just thinking about all of the extra crap I’m going to have to bring now that I have a baby! On top of all of my own clothes and toiletries, I will also have to bring Blueberry’s bouncer, enough cloth diapers to last her the weekend, warm clothes and blankets in case it gets cold, shorter sleeved clothes because it’s hot during the day, her carrier, diaper wipes… I could go on, but I think you get the gist. (Not to mention I need to bring cake mix to bake a cake up there for the birthdays)

I guess I’m just coming to the realization that the baby is going to need a duffel bag all to herself, whereas Jeremy and I are planning to share one between the two of us.

All of that aside, I am definitely looking forward to heading up there this weekend, and getting some time out in nature. Hiking, biking, swimming in the lake, snuggling up by the fire… 🙂

This will be our first real trip going anywhere with the baby, and I’m sure I’ll probably forget SOMETHING that’ll make me kick myself… Does anyone have any tips for traveling with a baby? Or anything that I absolutely NEED to pack?

The Story of the Pink Elephant Feetie Pajamas

The story of the pink elephant feetie pajamas is meant to be a funny one. It is also meant to be a “learn from our mistakes” type of story. It is the story of how my little Blueberry ended up with not one, but two pairs of identical pink elephant feetie pajamas, and why I was ok with this.

For those of you who follow @CloverBlueberry on twitter, you’ve probably seen these pink elephant feetie pajamas before. For those of you that don’t, you should totally follow @CloverBlueberry on twitter… and also here’s the pajamas I’m referring to:

1 Month

Now, this outfit was supposed to be her coming home outfit. But for those of you that remember her very first whiteboard picture, she was not wearing this cute little ensemble.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

See? Purple polar bear. Not pink pachyderms.

After I had Blueberry, I unfortunately had to be transferred to the hospital for observation. You can read all about THAT adventure in my post titled “My Birth Experience.”

Jeremy had changed Blueberry’s diaper only once while we were at the midwife’s clinic, and one of the midwives was there to help talk him through it. Once we got to the hospital, I was too exhausted to get out of bed, and he was on his own. He unbuttons her cute little pink elephant feetie pajamas, opens up her diaper, gets her all cleaned up, and then takes the old diaper out from under her butt. Before his inexperienced hands can shake open a new diaper and get it settled under her bum, she decided it would be a fantastic time to poop.

All. Over. Her. Pink. Elephant. Feetie. Pajamas.

It was like someone turned on the soft serve machine at the local DQ. And for those of you that have ever had a baby, you know just what newborn baby poop is like. Sticky black tar comes to mind.

Jeremy just watched with horrid fascination as she just kept going and going and going. I just laid on the bed laughing and laughing and laughing. Finally she stops, and Jeremy looks over to me with these big, pleading eyes, “Help?”

I managed to get out of bed and shuffle over to the table he was changing her at. “Well, that’s gotta go…” I said, still laughing, and pulled the baby out of her pink elephant feetie pajamas, and wrapped her up in a fresh clean diaper. There was absolutely no hope for those poor pajamas. They went straight into the trash can at the hospital. Unfortunately, being a first-time mom, I had not packed a backup onesie for her, so she spent the rest of the day snuggled up in a blanket with me until one of our parents brought her some spare clothes.

When we got home, I lamented the fact that they were gone. They were the only article of clothing we had bought for her (everything else was gifts from other people), and we had picked the outfit out special for her. We made the decision to go out and buy another pair of the pink elephant feetie pajamas, so I could dress her in them and take adorable pictures.

Moral of the Story:

1. Always have the next diaper ready (and preferably already under the baby’s butt) when you take the dirty one away.

2. When you go into labor, always have a spare onesie for the baby, just in case YOUR little Blueberry decides to poop all over their too!

3. Laugh it off! Parenting is hard, we are all going to make mistakes – especially the first time around! Clothes can be replaced, and memories like this will last a lifetime!

32/365

Cloth Diapers (I swear I’m not crazy!)

My last post was about diapers… This one is also about diapers. With a new baby in the house, it is a topic of great discussion around here, so you’ll have to bear with me as I discuss it in public as well. (Hey, I’m not forcing you to read this blog, so if the diapers and poop talk bugs you, you should probably find another blog to read until Blueberry is potty trained!).

Even before Blueberry was born, Jeremy and I had discussed the possibility of cloth diapering her. I had cloth diapered before when I was a nanny, so I came into this conversation with a lot more knowledge than he had about the subject (although I have since learned that I initially knew jack shit, despite my short forray into it a few years ago). I loved the idea of using cloth diapers. Call me a hippie, but yes, I want to save the world. Also (and this was the big benefit that got Jeremy on board), it’s way freaking cheaper over the long run than using disposables (which were only introduced in 1948 – they’ve been around less than 60 years!).

Of course, we had initial concerns – how do we deal with poop? What about our laundry situation? How much is this going to cost us up front? And the biggie – with so many choices nowadays, where the hell do we even START?!

Poop. This was Jeremy’s biggest concern – and rightfully so. There are a couple different ways to deal with baby and toddler poop in a cloth diaper. If the baby is being exclusively breastfed (as ours happens to be), they say you don’t even need to wash the poop off. Just chuck that sucker in the laundry and you’re good to go. Now, I’ve yet to do that. We have a community laundry facility, and I have a feeling if people see me throwing poop-covered diapers in the machines, they might just have a heart attack right then and there. Once baby starts eating solid foods, you’ll need to get rid of the poop before you wash anyway, so at some point you’ll have to deal with it.

Method 1: Toilet “swishing.” From what I understand, you throw on a big yellow rubber glove and dunk that sucker a couple times… sounds fun.

Method 2: Toilet spraying. Attach a little specially designed hose thing to your toilet and hose the poop off.

Method 3: Disposable poop liners. These are real thin, biodegradable, flushable sheets (they come in a roll like paper towels, and look kind of like bounce dryer sheets, and function sort of like women’s sanitary pads). You put it in the diaper as the top layer, and if baby poops, you pull it off, and chuck the whole thing in the toilet and flush. If baby pees, the pee wicks through the liner and soaks into the diaper like normal.

For now, we just rinse them and then throw them in the laundry. Later, when Blueberry starts eating real people food, we will be opting for Method 3. Just a personal … thing, I guess, but I just can’t stick my hand in a toilet.

Laundry. Like I said, we have a community facility, which happens to be the most expensive I’ve ever come across. That being said, we had to weigh the cost of laundry versus how many diaper covers and inserts we bought (I’ll talk more about what we actually got later). The more covers and inserts, the higher the cost up front – but the lower the laundry costs because we could go a little longer between washes… What is nice is that both of our parents will let us throw a load through when we visit, so that usually saves us a load a week or so (right now we are having to do a diaper load once every other day, but once our order of additional diaper covers comes in, we should be able to stretch that a little longer to every 3-4 days).

Cost. Cost really varies between which kinds of covers and inserts you get. Covers are roughly $15-20 each from what I’ve seen. Inserts can be as cheap as $2 each (for flat diapers) up to $6-8 each (for hemp and organic bamboo inserts). It also depends on how heavy of a wetter your kid is. Laundry is also a concern (unless you use a diaper service). Anyway, the math that I came up with said that if I cloth diaper for 2-2.5 months or so, I will break even. Jeremy and I made the commitment to cloth diaper for 2.5 months. If we absolutely hate it at that point, we will give up and go back to disposables without having lost any money. If you’re on a tight budget, cloth diapering is definitely something to look in to.

Choices. There are SO MANY CHOICES for cloth diapers. And what works well for one baby won’t necessarily work well for another. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Types of Diapers/Covers:

Prefolds/flats: These are the classic diapers most people think of when they think cloth diapering. It’s what your grandmother would have used with the safety pins and the rubber pants. These can also be folded and used as inserts under other diaper covers.

Pros: Tend to be the cheapest option. Flats dry faster in the dryer or on the line. Cons: Need to be folded prior to each use. Work best with safety pins or Snappis.

All-in-ones: These work just like disposables in that you use a new one with each changing.

Pros: No need to stuff or fold anything. Cons: More expensive total because you’ll need more you can’t reuse covers between uses.

Pocket: These covers have a pocket, which you stuff an insert into.

Pros: Easy to use. Don’t have to worry about insert shifting. Cons: If baby pees, you have to reach into the pocket to pull out the liner and then put in a new one. If the baby poops, you’ll need to use a new cover.

Hybrid: Like a pocket, except the liner goes on top of the cover, and isn’t held in. Some hybrids have little flaps in the front and back of the cover to help hold the insert in place better.

Pros: Can reuse the same cover over and over without washing in between. Cheapest cover option. Cons: Insert can shift, causing leakage.

Rubber Pants: These are the old-fashioned kind – looks sort of like a underwear. Plain, with elastic around the waist and legs.

Pros: Probably the easiest to use. Cons: Hard to find. Typically only come in plain white (all-in-ones, pockets, and hybrids are now all offered in a myriad of cute colors and patterns).

Types of Inserts:

There are a couple different kinds of choices for the inserts you use. Except for all-in-ones, you will need some type of insert. These are the workhorse of the diaper. Inserts catch all the waste, and the cover keeps it from leaking.

Flats: Again, these are the old-fashioned kind you fold up. These can work two ways: 1. Fold it around her like a diaper (old-fashioned way) and then pin or Snappi it up, and put a diaper cover over it. You don’t NEED to use pins or Snappis, but it makes it much easier to get the cover on a squirmy baby. 2. Fold it into a rectangle and put it into a pocket or hybrid diaper cover like a normal insert.

These are the best as far as how quickly they wash and dry. Generally these are made of cotton or bamboo.

Prefolds: These are very similar to flats, but they are essentially folded and pre-sewn. They can also be used two ways. 1. You can find larger ones that can be folded into a diaper shape, just like flats. 2. You can fold these in thirds and use them as inserts for pocket and hybrid diapers.

These are the medium choice as far as how quickly they wash and dry. Generally these are made of cotton or bamboo.

Inserts: Normal inserts can be made of a bunch of different materials, or a mix of fabrics. The most common materials are hemp (most expensive), bamboo, microfiber, minky, terry cloth, or cotton (least expensive). The type of material used determines the thickness of the insert. Some also have a layer of fleece to help wick the liquid away from the baby. These come in a couple different shapes – rectangle, oval, contour, etc.

These tend to take the longest to wash and dry. Some fabrics can hold onto smells over time. Some inserts are designed to be folded in half to help cut down on wash time (thinner fabrics dry faster, and there is less likelihood of funky smell buildup).

What’s nice about all of the options nowadays is that you can mix and match most of these different options. We are currently cloth diapering a couple of different ways. We have hybrid diaper covers (4 Mabu Baby covers with the little flaps to hold inserts down – no longer sold in the U.S., and 6 Blueberry covers without the little flaps). We are using inserts that fold in half when we go out and about (20 of them). These can be used with either cover style. We use flat diapers around the house, and fold them in the old fashioned diaper way, with the Blueberry covers (18 of them, but I might buy another 6-pack).

I really like the flat diapers. She is currently too small to fold them up like inserts – makes her diapers too bulky, but folding them around her seems to work the best. We currently are not using pins or Snappis, but we are planning on picking up some Snappis this week. For us, the flat diapers seem to hold in the poop the best – we haven’t had any leaks at all so far from using them. The folded inserts are made of microfiber, with a fleece layer. These are easier to use on-the-go than the flats, but we have definitely had some leakage issues with these, so we always need to keep an extra cover or two in the diaper bag…

UPDATE 5/2/14: We now exclusively use OsoCozy flat unbleached diapers (30) with Blueberry covers (4 with the snaps, and 2 with the velcro) 100% of the time. We have the pink, green, paisley, and elephants in the snaps, and the butterflies and the swirls in the velcro. I fold all of her flats when they come out of the laundry, so they are ready to go, whether I need them around the house or out and about. We use Snappis, not pins, and they are AWESOME. Using the flats, she has only had 1 blowout that got on her onesie (and it was only a VERY small amount), as opposed to the insert-style, where we had several, and disposables, where she was having one every day or two. We now just throw the diapers into the wash (no pre-rinse), and they come out just fine.

If you are using cloth diapers on the go, you will want to invest in a wet bag of some kind. They are made of waterproof material, and you just stick the wet and dirty inserts inside until you get home. These also work great for older kids to throw wet bathing suits into!

Benefits of Cloth Diapering:

1. Much cheaper over the long run than disposable diapers. This cost is reduced even more if you have a second or third child, and reuse the same covers and inserts for both!

2. In most cases, babies tend to have fewer cases of diaper rash when using cloth diapers (but be careful! If your baby DOES get diaper rash, you will either need to buy an ointment that is safe to use with the cloth diapers, OR switch to disposables for a couple of days until the rash goes away. Traditional diaper ointments will ruin both the inserts and the waterproof qualities of the covers).

3. Have you ever seen how much crap they put in diapers? Those crystals that absorb like 1000% their own weight in urine… not natural. They can also absorb moisture from baby’s sensitive skin. Not to mention dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, propylene, etc. These are chemicals that have been linked to cancer, asthma, allergies, reproductive problems, diabetes, chemical burns, immunotoxicity, etc. Do you really want all that toxic crap touching your little bundle of joy? 24/7 for the next 2-3 years?

4. Yes, yes, I’m a tree-hugger. Get over it. But when you consider that over the course of you baby’s life before they potty train, they will go through several thousand, you start to see that even 1 baby switching to cloth diapers can make a big impact! National Geographic says the average American goes through 3796 in their lifetime. I find that a little hard to believe. If your baby potty trains at 2.5 years old, that’s only 4 diapers a day! Toddlers typically use 4-6, and my 1.5 month old goes through about 8-10 (up until a week or two ago, it was 10-12). It is estimated that disposable diapers take 250-500 years to decompose. With 27.4 BILLION diapers being consumed in the US every year, that means there will be at LEAST 6850 BILLION more diapers in landfills before your baby’s diapers decompose. Wanna join me on the tree-hugger side now?

5. Cloth diapers can have multiple lives! If you aren’t having any more kids, flat diapers and prefolds make fantastic burp cloths, can replace paper towels for cleaning and dusting, and can replace women’s menstrual products if you so desire.

6. Bonus benefit: cloth diapers are adorable! They make tons of covers in all kinds of cute colors and prints to match all of your baby’s outfits. (Today, my baby is wearing a light pink one to match her totally pink ensemble!)

Rant

So, I don’t often go on rants about stuff, but I think now I am going to…

This rant is about preemie diapers. Now, when Charlotte was born, we had newborn sized diapers and we had size 1 diapers. People always told us to make sure we had some of the larger size just in case she was a large baby and wouldn’t fit into the newborn size for long. What we didn’t have (because we didn’t realize we would need them) was preemie size diapers.

Now, most people need preemie size diapers because they have preemie babies. We happened to need preemie diapers because, while Charlotte was full term, she was only 6 lbs, and very very thin. The newborn size just slipped right off her bottom when you went to put any clothes on her. We made due for a couple of days, but when my mom offered to pick up a couple things for us from the store, I begged for some preemie diapers.

The first problem we ran into was that NO ONE CARRIES PREEMIE DIAPERS! With 10 bazillion different kinds of diapers on the market, you would think that stores like Albertson’s, CVS, Walgreens, and Ralph’s would carry at least one brand of preemie diapers in store. Alas, they do not. My mom had to go to 5 different stores to find preemie diapers. Eventually she found 3 small packages at Target, but only got 2 of them because she felt bad taking all of them just in case some other poor soul came looking for them and found none.

Well two packages lasts about 4 days… so she tried to find some more for us. Unfortunately, when she went to the other Target, they were out as well. Her local Walmart grocery had 1 small package.

Finally she got fed up driving to every store from here to kingdom come, and decided to go right to the source – Babies ‘R’ Us. You’d think a store that specializes in baby stuff should for sure have lots of preemie diapers, and plenty of options, maybe even some bulk boxes, right? Apparently, you’d be wrong… Babies ‘R’ Us only had 6 small packages, and there were no bulk options at all – in stock or not.

The real problem we had with Babies ‘R’ Us, however, was the sale they had going on. When you buy two packages of 28+ diapers, you get 1 free. Awesome right? Unless you need preemie diapers. See, the biggest package of preemie diapers they sell is 27.

Then you look at the price of the diapers to begin with… and it gets even more frustrating. Larger sizes of diapers are $9 for 28 diapers. Preemies? $12 for only 27. That’s 1/3 more per diaper, and you can’t even take advantage of the diaper sale!

Now, the real obnoxious part (can you believe this could even GET more obnoxious?) isn’t even with the retailers. It’s with the manufacturers. None of them (NONE OF THEM) offer bulk boxes of preemie diapers! Most people who have babies that need those diapers are already having to contend with babies that are too small, potentially sick and needing extra medical care as it is, and they can’t even get a decent deal of freaking diapers! I’m sorry, but that is just beyond my ability to comprehend.

I know this doesn’t affect most of you, and while I was lucky enough to have a baby that isn’t sick, just small… there are a lot of people that this does affect. It just doesn’t seem fair or right to me to penalize people for having a small child…

My Birth Experience

So today I wanted to talk about my birth experience. I decided – with approval from my healthcare providers – to have an un-medicated, all-natural birth. I want to be perfectly clear that I do not think that having an un-medicated birth makes me or my baby any better than anyone else, and I completely understand that for many people, this simply isn’t an option. This is NOT about bashing people who choose an elective c-section, elective epidural, or any other choice. This is simply me wanting to share the experience I had before, during, and after giving birth to my little baby. Because there is currently such a stigma in our culture (one that is largely ignored/unnoticed) about choosing to have an un-medicated birth, I feel like this is an important thing for me to open up a dialogue about. This was something that I felt strongly about from the beginning, and I was lucky enough that my pregnancy was not complicated, and I was allowed to proceed as planned. I want to share my experience – the good, the bad, and everything in between. I will attempt to be as tasteful as possible in my discussion of things, and I will not be graphic or gory. If you have specific questions that may offend more sensitive readers, please feel free to message me about them privately – I am totally fine answering any questions you might have about the way I chose to birth.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Choosing to Go Epidural-Free:

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was with Kaiser Permanente. Now, I know many people who love KP, swear by KP, and would never switch away from KP in a million years. I, however, did not have that experience. While with KP, I was sent to 5 different doctors at 4 different KP locations for checkups, had appointments cancelled on me without notice, and eventually had my entire policy cancelled on me two days before an appointment – again with no notice – and I did not find out until I was attempting to check in for said appointment.

Now, the reasons behind the cancellation are not something I really care to go into right now, but the fact still stands that they cancelled my policy without notifying me, and I only found out when I showed up to a prenatal appointment (the one where I was supposed to find out if I was having a boy or a girl, no less) to find out I no longer had any health insurance.

I know, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with my decision to have an all-natural birth, but I promise, it does play a part. See, when my insurance got cancelled, I started looking into alternatives – through my work, through third party insurance carriers, etc. My work policy was too expensive for me to be able to afford, and would double as soon as the baby was born. Because I was already pregnant, I did not qualify for any third party carriers because pregnancy is considered a “pre-existing condition” and would not be covered under any policies they could offer me. That left me relying on government help – not something I was entirely happy about, but I really had no choice.

I applied for, and received Medi-Cal. Then I realized I had an entirely new set of problems – who the heck accepts Medi-Cal?! Answer: not many people. I made phone calls for hours trying to find primary care physicians in my area that accept Medi-Cal (and to this day, while I WAS able to find a pediatrician for Charlotte, I still have not found a doctor for myself). Then one day, I came across a piece of paper that had been sitting in my “to sort” mail bin for a few months – a flier from Beach Cities Midwifery – and right on the page “We accept Medi-Cal!”

Huh. A midwife. It was a possibility I hadn’t truly thought through, because until this point I thought I was stuck with KP. Now I had this other option – a non-hospital option that I really hadn’t thought about. See, I have this intense and paralyzing fear of needles – particularly IV needles and needles that draw blood. Getting shots I can handle alright, but ones that stay in me for longer periods of time freak me out and I tend to have very bad panic attacks and anxiety when I have to deal with them.

This was an option that allowed me to (1) not be in a hospital, which, who really likes being in the hospital?, and (2) would have the minimal number of needles being stuck into me. Yes, it was going to hurt like hell. But women have been doing this for thousands of years drug-free, and I would be in a safe environment, where they could handle emergencies if they arose, and I didn’t know that I could handle having IV and epidural needles to contend with while being in labor… And don’t even get me started on the potential for a c-section! Those panic attacks make my needle-based ones look like child’s play!

Note: I did NOT have a home birth. (1) I live in a tiny apartment, and I could not fathom having my neighbors hearing me giving birth and then having to face them in the following days and weeks postpartum, and (2) I have a small, very codependent dog that would, for sure, want to be in the middle of everything, and plus she’s terrified of strangers and would probably have barked incessantly at the midwives the entire time… Instead I went to a birthing center to have my baby. For the most part, they function just like a normal doctor’s office – they have a waiting room and a couple of exam rooms to see patients, complete with the bed with the paper sheet on it, blood pressure cuffs, stirrups to do pelvic exams, etc. The difference is that they also have a couple of birthing rooms in the back. They’re set up exactly like bedrooms – big comfy bed, rocking chair in the corner, big attached bathroom with a giant tub to labor in… All the comforts of home, with none of the mess, inconvenience of neighbors, and potential for people to show up unexpectedly during labor!

In the event that something went wrong, and I needed to be transferred to the hospital, the local one was about a 3 minute drive. (I did end up being transferred to the hospital, but it was not in an emergency setting, and I will get to that).

How People Responded:

Almost everybody I talked to who asked about my planned birth asked, “So what hospital are you going to?” It’s an automatic assumption in our culture that all women labor in the hospital. Many people were confused, some horrified, and a few completely indignant when I told them that not only was I not going to give birth in a hospital, but I was also not having an epidural. “Wait, WHY?” was the most common follow-up question.

I found myself immediately on the defensive, reeling to explain that between the insurance, the needle-induced anxiety, and the general dislike of hospitals and unnecessary medicine in general, this was a decision that made sense for me. I found myself dreading these questions and conversations, and a couple of times gave noncommittal answers rather than having to discuss these things with people I didn’t feel as comfortable with.

I found myself constantly barraged with questions and comments like “But why would you go through the pain if you don’t HAVE to?” “You’re having your baby at HOME?!” “There’s no way you’ll go through with it.” and “You’re insane.” So I did what any rational, level-headed woman would – I started to doubt myself. What if I couldn’t handle the pain? What if I really was crazy? No, I wasn’t having my baby at home, but was I putting my baby’s health (and my own) at risk by choosing to go this route? Wasn’t there probably a reason most women labored in hospitals these days?

Yes, I started to freak out. I tried to reach out to people close to me to get the emotional and mental support that I needed during this time of personal crisis, and found little to be had. My mom thought I was totally nuts (and if you heard her birth story, you would understand why she thought that). I tried talking to some of the other moms at my work, but none of them had chosen to go this route before, so there wasn’t much support there (plus, most of them thought I was crazy, too).

One of my aunts was my saving grace. She is a nurse, and yet she still chose to have her boys with a midwife (albeit at a hospital, but still, with a midwife). Just hearing that somebody else I knew had gone through this not once, but twice, and come out of it alright was just the boost of confidence I needed to fully commit myself to this birth experience.

The Bradley Method:

Now that I had made the ultimate decision, I realized that I was going to need more than just one aunt’s confidence in me to get me through labor and delivery – I needed a professional. I had been reading some pregnancy books, and doing research on my own, but what I really needed was someone to sit down with me and tell me “Here’s what you need to know, here’s what it’s going to be like, and here’s what you can do to prepare as best you can to make this as easy and smooth as possible.” What I found was the Bradley Method, and who I found was Melissa.

Melissa was a godsend. Knowledgeable about pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum, lactation, and willing to pick up the phone at all hours of the day and night to answer questions and soothe frayed nerves, Melissa is a HUGE part of how I made it through this entire experience without (1) strangling Jeremy, (2) seriously hurting myself during labor (thank you prenatal exercises!), and (3) having any signs (at least so far) of postpartum depression.

The Bradley Method is also called “Husband-Coached Childbirth.” It focuses on drug-free childbirth, and preparing you to have a healthy pregnancy, drug-free labor, and encourages breastfeeding postpartum. It also teaches husbands how they can be involved and helpful during all stages of pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. I highly recommend taking Bradley Method classes EVEN IF YOU PLAN TO HAVE AN EPIDURAL! If you plan to go to the hospital and have an epidural, they will still make you labor at home until you are 5-6 centimeters dilated! If you are less than 5 centimeters, most hospitals will SEND YOU HOME! Early labor hurts too! I labored at home for 26 hours before going to the birthing center! That’s a LONG time to be in pain if you don’t have any skills to cope with it. Plus, knowing which laboring positions would be most conducive to speeding things up was helpful as well – who knows how much longer I would have been in labor had I not known that squatting and pelvic rock positions could help speed things up while easing pain.

Side note: A week before I had Charlotte, I accidentally stabbed myself in the thumb with a knife and ended up needing to go to the ER at midnight. The skills I learned from the Bradley Method actually helped me cope with this type of pain. I was able to remain calm and collected as we left for the ER, got checked in, and as they patched me up. Since learning these skills, I have been able to handle the multitude of blood tests I’ve needed (again, I’ll get to the postpartum hospital stay, stick with me!) since having Charlotte much better than I ever used to handle them. 4 postpartum blood draws, no crying or hyperventilating! Now back to the main story…

After taking the classes, I felt so much better prepared to cope with labor and delivery, and it gave me the information and terminology to be able to have educated conversations with the midwives about the process both before and after labor.

Labor:

Charlotte was due February 28th. I started going into labor about 10pm on February 27th. By the third contraction (even though they were still pretty far apart), I had a feeling this was the real deal. The contractions were much stronger and just felt different than any I had had previously. I had already been awake for 12 hours at this point.

That night, I tried in vain to sleep between contractions, but only managed to sort of doze off before being fully awakened again by pain pulling across my abdomen and lower back. I soaked in the bathtub for a while to ease the back pain, but after a while, even a more relaxing position doesn’t help. I labored through the night, and around 3 in the morning Jeremy came to the conclusion that he would not be making it to work that day – despite the fact that the contractions were still about 10 minutes apart, they weren’t going to slow down any time soon.

Literally all day of the 28th I was in early labor. Sitting on the couch helped for a little while. I think I took 3 different baths that day (not to get clean, just to soak and try to relax), and just sat until the water ran cold. I labored in bed, leaning against chairs, anything I could to try to ease some of the pain. And to a large extent it worked. While I couldn’t actually sleep, I at least knew how to relax my body fully and completely between contractions (and as much as possible during) to help me rest and keep my energy up. I made use of as many of the labor positions as I could to find what was working for my body to help ease the pain.

Finally around 8pm, after a very long and frustrating day (contractions would get ALMOST close enough together to call the midwife, and then space back out again a little bit – over and over and over), I gave in and called Melissa. I told her I was exhausted and in pain, and I had been having contractions for 22 hours, but they were still too far apart to call the midwife. I asked her if she thought it was possible I could be having false labor. She talked to me, calmed me down, and listened to me go through a contraction. Hearing me over the phone having the contraction, she told me that it was very unlikely I was in false labor, and that I was probably just still in early labor and would have to just wait it out. She told me to call back at any time of the night if I needed more reassurance, had any questions, or if I needed anything at all.

Around 11pm the contractions were finally coming at 5 minutes apart. Jeremy had finally fallen asleep after being awake with me for over 24 hours, and I felt guilty waking him up, so I let him sleep as I called the midwife. I told her my contractions were exactly 5 minutes apart and strong, and she asked if I wanted to come in, or if I wanted to stay at home until they were closer to 3-4 minutes apart. I looked over at Jeremy, finally getting some much needed rest, and told her I’d wait a little bit longer before coming in (Plus, we live about 30 minutes away from the birth center. If I got there too early, and wasn’t 5 centimeters yet, I was going to be VERY upset about having to come back home for a while longer! I wanted to make sure if we were going in, that we would be staying!).

Half an hour later, the contractions intensified very rapidly. They were no closer together really, but they were much, much stronger. I woke Jeremy up and told him it was time to go to the birth center. I called the midwife back to let her know we wanted to come in, and she told us to meet her at the birth center at 12.30am. We packed up the few remaining things we needed (bag was already packed, but we needed to round up a couple of snacks and things), and we headed out the door.

When we got to the center, the midwife sat me down in the exam room and determined that I was 5-6 centimeters dilated and fully effaced. Yay! It was at this point that Jeremy sent texts to both of our parents letting them know that I had been admitted to the birth center and was in active labor (We decided not to tell them earlier, just in case it was false labor. Then we didn’t want to tell them we were on our way to the birth center just to get them excited/anxious, and then disappoint them if I wasn’t dilated enough to stay).

I labored for a long time in the bathtub at the birthing center. When I went into transition (often described as the most difficult part of labor), I moved from the tub to the bed, so I could move from side relaxation between contractions to pelvic rock during. The midwife and the assistants were there with me every step of the way (as was Jeremy, and my support person, Katy). They gave me warm towels, a hot pack for my back, helped arrange pillows, and coached me through the contractions. This was definitely a difficult part of labor for me, and honestly it was also the part I remember the least. I was in such a haze the entire time. I remember asking how much longer it was going to be (over and over and over), and saying that I couldn’t do this anymore (over and over and over). But that’s where Jeremy would rub my back, tell me how amazing I was doing, kiss my cheek, etc. The midwives assured me it wouldn’t be much longer now (over and over and over).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Finally I got to the point where I didn’t want to move to pelvic rock position between contractions. I asked Jeremy to just hold my leg for me, and seconds later my water broke. Within 30 seconds, I had an overwhelming urge to bear down, and just like that I was through transition and on to the pushing phase.

The midwife was amazing at coaching me through the last phase. I was no longer hazy and out of it like I had been in transition, and could now comprehend what people were telling me, and could answer questions. Between contractions I just kind of slumped back and didn’t move much.Yes, it was painful, but once that baby was born, I promise you none of it mattered.

Total, I was only pushing for about 30 minutes, which is very fast for a first time mom. Total labor: 36 hrs.

I gave birth to Charlotte Juliette Kennedy at 7.45am on March 1st, 1 day after her due date. She was 6 lbs exactly, and 20.5″ long.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

As soon as I gave birth to her, they put her up on my chest. My friend Katy cut the cord (Jeremy didn’t want to). Charlotte scored 9 and 9 on her APGAR tests, and was left with me 100% of the time (aside from 5 minutes when they took her to weigh her and measure her, but that was after about 1.5 – 2 hours of bonding time with me).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

After I gave birth and we had some bonding time, Jeremy ran out to grab us some food (we had brought snacks, but not a real meal), and Katy left to go to work. Then Jeremy took a nap with Charlotte on his chest while they checked on me and made sure I was doing ok (blood pressure, pulse, temperature, etc). They found that my blood pressure was a little high, and told me they hoped it was just dehydration and asked me to drink as much water as I could. They continued to monitor me every 15 minutes for the next couple of hours, hoping my blood pressure would go down. It didn’t.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

They asked for a preeclampsia panel to be run (blood test) to make sure I was doing alright – and would then decide based on the results if I could go home, or if I should be transferred to the hospital for observation. After they took my blood, I told them that honestly, I felt fine (I wasn’t showing any other signs of symptoms of preeclampsia), and that I thought that what I really needed was some sleep. They agreed to leave me alone to sleep for an hour, since it would take that long for the lab work to be back anyway.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

An hour later they came in to check my blood pressure again, and found that it was almost back to normal. However, the blood panel determined that my liver enzymes were high and my platelet count was low. Unfortunately that meant I needed to be transferred to the hospital for observation and possible treatment.

Unplanned Hospital Stay:

The midwives accompanied us over to the hospital to ensure the transition would be smooth and there would be no mix-ups or any miscommunication, which was a welcome relief to both myself and Jeremy. Upon arriving, one nurse told me that I would be set up in my room and then hooked up to a routine IV. The midwives thankfully jumped in and explained that they had already discussed with the doctor that no IV would be run unless it was decided I needed medicine via IV, and that would not be determined until a second blood test was run.KODAK Digital Still Camera

They stayed with us for a little while after I was set up in the room, and the second blood test was drawn. Then Jeremy and I were left alone to bond with Charlotte until the results came back. Results: Liver enzymes starting to go down, platelets going up, but my blood pressure had spiked again (probably because of the transfer to the hospital and all of the fuss of checking in and what not). They said that they would not give me any medicine yet, but they wanted to keep me overnight and run another blood test in the morning. My parents came to visit us and brought us some food and met baby Charlotte.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The next morning my blood pressure was completely back to normal, but my blood test was off. While my liver enzymes were returning to normal (yay), my platelets had dropped off again overnight. Now they were no longer worried about preeclampsia, but about my blood not clotting properly. The doctor wanted to keep me for another 24 hours and run ANOTHER blood test the following morning. I think he could see the disappointment on my face, though, because he offered me a deal instead. They would run a 4th blood test on me at 6pm – if my numbers were all heading in the right direction, they would let me go home. If not, I would have to stay until morning and have a 5th test. I agreed to take the chance on the evening blood test, despite my serious anxiety with needles, because I was so tired and just wanted to go home to my own bed. Nurses came to check on me every few hours throughout the day. I passed clots (totally normal after giving birth), and they said they were glad to see I was still clotting since my platelets were so low. Jeremy’s mom came to visit us and meet the baby (and bring Jeremy a change of clothes, since we hadn’t been planning on being away from home this long).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

That evening Jeremy’s sister and brother-in-law came to visit while we were waiting for the test results to come back. When it finally did, it came back looking good, and I was finally allowed to go home!

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Lactation:

I do want to make a special note here about lactation. The first couple of days were very easy for me – the baby latched long and well, was very happy, and I was in no discomfort or pain. However, on the day my milk started coming in, Charlotte started sucking much harder – to the point where it was really hurting. She even left a small blister on one of my nipples. I called up Melissa (who also happens to be a lactation consultant), and she tried to talk me through the breastfeeding over the phone – making sure I was positioning the baby right, was pointing the nipple right, and helping the baby get a good latch. I was sure I was doing everything right, but it was still very VERY painful.

Melissa, upon hearing about the blister, decided she needed to see me in person. So the next morning we drove over to her and she did a consultation with us. (Charlotte, btw, decided it didn’t matter who had what going on – she was going to attempt to sleep straight through the consultation. Luckily Melissa had open availability, and was able to sit with us for 4 HOURS while Charlotte mostly slept!). It turns out that I was doing everything as she had taught me to do in our classes. The problem wasn’t with the method. The problem was my nipples. They aren’t prominent enough to sit in the comfortable spot in Charlotte’s mouth. Melissa assured me that within the next week or so, it would get better, but offered to use a nursing shield in the meantime. I told her no, I would prefer not to have to use one if this was going to get better soon, and that I would tough it out.

Melissa also told me that, based on her experience, had I not opted for a drug-free birth, I would not have been able to breastfeed Charlotte those first few days. Between the drugs in her system and my system, and my not-so-prominent nipples, it would have been nearly impossible without a shield.

I’m glad I decided to forgo the shield, though, because while the next 24 hours or so was painful, as soon as my milk came in fully, it has been flowing so easily that Charlotte has hardly had to suck at all to get it flowing. Much less pain, much more happy baby and mama.

Conclusion:

I really hope that this did not offend or upset anyone. Like I said, I really just wanted to get my story and my voice out there. I struggled to find other women who had made the same choice I did, and was instead met with hostility, anger, and a lot of defensive women who assumed I thought myself better than them because I opted to go drug-free. I assure you, my choice to not have an epidural was a completely personal one, and had nothing to do with what you chose to do. Nor do I think any less of anyone for the choice they make/made concerning their birth experiences.

I want other women who may feel the same way I did (unsure, scared, unsupported, and doubtful of their own abilities) to know that you are not alone. Choosing a drug-free birth is not for everyone, and making the decision to go through with it is scary. But don’t let other people talk you into doubting yourself. You are strong and amazing and capable of doing this! And guess what? If you decide in the throes of pain that you can’t handle this anymore, that you need that epidural, then so be it! (Had an epidural even been an option at the birth center I went to, I don’t know that I would have had the strength of will to say no during transition!) If you end up needing it, go for it. Statistics show that the further into labor you can make it without having one, the less likely you are to need a c-section, and the less likely there is to be further complications. So even staving off an epidural for a while can be beneficial in the long run.

My point is this: Why do we as women put so much stock into how WE decided to give birth? Shouldn’t the point be that we all gave birth? We all went through the miracle of creating life, and we shouldn’t be bashing on other women for choosing to go about it in slightly different ways. The end result is all the same – a beautiful new baby in a happy mother’s arms. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. I wish more women I had talked to understood this, and understood the way their words affected me when I was in a vulnerable state of mind. I’m glad I had the confidence in myself to ignore the comments questioning my sanity and strength. I proved people wrong. Not for the sake of proving people wrong, but for proving to myself that I could do this. In the end, my birth experience wasn’t about them. It was about me, Jeremy, and my beautiful little baby Charlotte.

KODAK Digital Still Camera