A Breastfeeding Veteran: This Should Be Simple...Right?

By: Gloria Miles

As the days ticked down to D-Day, I was slightly apprehensive of how breastfeeding would go.  My worries were more about going back to work.  My mother had nursed her children, a lot of my family had done it, though only for a few months.  I read all the recommended books.  I watched the videos.  I thought I was set. 

Yet, I looked at the free formula samples that came in the mail and from the hospital and wondered if I should just supplement. Just in case. I'd worry and fret over my petite newborn. I'd have little support. I was dual-military, meaning both my husband and I were active duty.  I had to learn how to nurse my son, establish a supply, and pump enough for the first days of daycare. 

Those early days were hard. My son was a sleepy baby, something I blamed on the epidural after the fact. I remember crying, wondering how I was going to get enough milk for him when I returned to work.   

But I made it. I was determined and I did it! I had to change my goals and supplemented with formula and donor breast milk for daycare (I could really only pump about half of what he needed on the average day).  But at home, he was exclusively fed from the breast and I was very happy with that.  He'd nurse for two years.  

Then, baby number two came along and breastfeeding was a breeze! It was so easy! His latch was amazing. I was more experienced, I thought. He gained weight easily, was content and efficient. I was a pro!

No pain. No discomfort. No worry. Just a chunky baby. 

 The author nursing her son, Cayden, to sleep. 

The author nursing her son, Cayden, to sleep. 

 

Fast forward several years, a job change (I'm now a doula and student midwife!), and lots of experience, and you'd find me sitting with a very heavy pregnant belly. I wasn't going to go back to work right away. I DEFINITELY wasn't going to be going back at 6 weeks postpartum to 12+ hour days. 

Breastfeeding was going to be easy. In fact, that was one of the only things I didn't worry about at all. (Being pregnant at 30 vs 21 is hard, y'all....)

I was even going to have my fiancee home for 2 weeks. 

Easy peasy. 

But then I had her. 

She latched on fairly quickly after birth. We were set up the "right" way. I was at home, undisturbed, naked baby on naked mama...and her latch was awful. And continued to be awful.

Oh, my goodness, in all of my presumptions, I never thought I'd have to fight to breastfeed her. 

My nipples hurt, the after pains were incredibly uncomfortable (I would probably even throw in painful), and she wasn't gaining like she should have been. 

One would assume a birth worker and experienced mother wouldn't have as many missteps as I did, but one would be wrong. 

Eventually, at three weeks old, I reached out to my community and found some amazing donor mamas who helped me give my daughter enough milk to finally have her gain weight. There were many signs that she was having trouble and it took me a while to figure it out. I should have reached out to my midwife more, I should have asked for extra help earlier. Maybe my supply would have been better.

What I learned, though, was that every baby is different. Something that I tell every mom, and something I had to "discover" myself.

So, as a first time mother or veteran mama, here is what you can do if your breastfeeding journey isn't going as planned:

1. Every. Baby. Is. Different.

Yeah, I know. I'm saying it again. But it's so true! One baby may refuse the breast after being offered a bottle. Another might be a champ at going back and forth between bottle, breast, and pacifier. Some babies might come out with amazing latches. Others need to work on it. Or are sleepy babies. Or you had a cesarean and that interfered with breastfeeding. Or it didn't. Or you had an epidural. Or none. Or. Or. Or. So many factors go into it. Sometimes it makes a difference. Sometimes it does not.

2. Tongue or lip ties.

If you suspect a tie, ask a professional. Get your baby seen by an IBCLC, not just your pediatrician. And remember that there are exercises that need to happen with baby's tongue after a clipping.

3. Be gentle with yourself.

When I was nursing and supplementing with donor milk, I had just finished giving her a bottle. I felt so defeated and like my body was failing my baby. I knew every ounce I was giving her was an ounce my body didn't need to make. She was asleep and content, but I had to lay her somewhere in order to go pump and "stimulate" my breasts to make more milk. Instead, I held her and cried.

Remember that it's not all or nothing. Whether you're supplementing with donor milk or formula, you are still providing baby with nourishment and love. Love yourself as well.

4. Go back to the basics.

I don't care if you're an IBCLC with 30 years experience (hyperbole, I know), if you are postpartum, your job is basically to rest, nurse, be pampered, and that's it. Take care of yourself, take care of baby. You don't need to remember years worth of schooling or experience. Don't be too proud to pull up a YouTube video on how to latch a newborn. It's okay. It's totally allowed. Plus, no one will know. ;)

5. Find out what your resources are: online and out in your own town. 

Save this blog post! Below you'll find a lot of online resources and hopefully they'll be a great starting point. 

How to latch on a newborn: YouTube Video

Kellymom.com

LaLeche League

***The La Leche League also usually has local chapters.  You can easily Google ones in your area.  Sometimes just having peer support is a game changer. 

There are amazing videos on Dr. Jack Newman's website on newborn latch to pumping to building supply. Click here to see more. 

Don't be afraid to reach out to your midwife or ask about a local IBCLC. Some may even visit you at home! 

Additionally, most birth and postpartum doulas have basic breastfeeding education and training and can assist with common problems.  Ask your doula (or potential doula) how she can help with any problems (or just helping you start out well) after the birth.  Some may even be Certified Breastfeeding Counselors.  Also, all doulas will refer you out to someone who will be able to help with more complicated issues (like a suspected tongue tie).  

If you prefer to talk to someone: 

1-800-994-WOMAN

La Leche League: (650) 363-1470

Nursing Mother's Council: (650) 327-6455

You can also visit your local WIC office for more help. 

And now it's time to chime in. Any additional tips and tricks you've learned along the way with your breastfeeding journey? Or do you have questions you'd like to ask? Comment below and don't forget to share this post! 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Should Children Attend the Birth?

By: Gloria Miles

There's probably nothing sweeter than a newborn photo aside from a sibling holding their newborn for the first time. The excitement of a new baby, the awe of what just happened, and the bonding that occurs whether a few minutes or a few days after the birth.

 The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

The author's middle child, Cayden, meeting his sister Thalia for the first time.

When I was pregnant with Thalia, my boys were 7 and 9 years old. They were so excited and were hoping for a sister. How lucky they were that she ended up being a girl! Initially, they both wanted to attend the labor and delivery. I was okay with that decision. Little by little, however, they changed their minds. First, my oldest decided he wanted to be invited into the room when "all the hard stuff" was over. And my second eventually decided he'd play video games until I started pushing. Knowing that I do best with very few people in the room and knowing that lots of noise bothered me, I decided against having them there. What also cinched the deal was that I had weeks of prodromal labor before the birth of Thalia. In essence, we were given a few "practice" labor trials with them in attendance and I found that they really did not like seeing me uncomfortable. More than that, they would try to "help" and I found it almost intolerable. I would assure them I was okay and go hide so they wouldn't see me until after the contractions would stop. The day (well, night) of the birth, my oldest was invited to a sleep over and my second was picked up by the babysitter after I told him I was in labor. The very next morning, they both arrived and were pleasantly surprised.

What was initially planned was not at all what happened. So how do you decide whether to let your little ones attend or not?

Things to Consider:

1. Location

Will you be delivering in a hospital, birth center, or home? Obviously a home birth means that you are 100% in charge with who can attend, but hospitals and birth centers may be a bit more strict. Ask your provider about the policies. How many people can attend? Are there age limits? Sometimes staff can be a bit wary of very young children. Other times there can be limits of how many people there may be in the room at any given time. 

2. Number of People in the Room

The number of people in the room when someone is laboring can affect her very much! Most women do best with minimal participants. I even know a few people who say that every person adds an extra hour to the labor. How high will the body count be within that room when children are added?

3. Yourself

Going off of point number 2, how well do you do with extra people? Will you do well having your children in the room with you? Will you worry about them when transition comes around? Will you worry about what they will think or feel when they see you in discomfort or pushing? Conversely, perhaps having them around you will make you feel like all your loved ones are safe and accounted for. Do you feel energized when the room energy is high?

4. Your Children

Their age and maturity level are both things to consider. The most important part is: Do they want to be included?

A two-year-old will act a lot differently than a 12-year-old. Consider how they normally act when you are in pain, uncomfortable, or need time alone.

The exciting part of labor is the "pushing" part. Other than that, the rest is--to be quite frank--boring. Will your child (or children) want to watch TV or play games while you are laboring?

Do they want to be a part of the labor process? How will they do in a 4 hour or labor or a 20 hour labor? Will they likely nap during? What if a nap is skipped (for your smaller children)? What about snacks and other meals? What if they change their mind about attending after labor has already started? Do they have a place they can "escape" to?

5. Emergencies

Even if you are planning a home birth, things can go way off plan. Suppose you are transferred to a hospital? Or, suppose a cesarean is deemed necessary some time during your labor? Do you have a back up plan for the children? It is highly recommended to have a babysitter who is ready for a phone call saying that child care is needed, even at 2 in the morning.

 

In a home birth, having someone who can stay with the children in the event of a transfer is important. This may or may not be their other parent. However, keep in mind, that if you want your partner with you during a transfer, they cannot be the caregiver of the children during labor. Remember that midwives, doulas (unless otherwise asked and agreed to), nurses, doctors, and other attendants cannot keep an eye on your little ones.

6. Caregiver for the Children

Aside from the small possibility of a transfer or emergency, children should have a caregiver present whose sole job is caring for them. First, should your child change his or her mind about attending, now they have someone who can either bring them to a different part of the house or who can take them home. Second, this person is the one who can deal with any potty breaks, food, or drinks your child may need or want.

Having a dedicated caregiver for your child or children ensures that you will not have a support person (like your partner or doula) deciding between helping your child or assisting you. It allows everyone to be able to focus on their job and to feel calm.

Ultimately, the decision is between you and your children (with the caveat that a hospital may not allow children under a certain age or may ban children altogether). There is no right or wrong way to birth. It is just important that you feel safe, loved, and respected.

 The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

The author's oldest son, Christian, meeting his sister Thalia the next morning. 

For my family, it turned out that sleepovers while I was laboring was the best thing. They didn't feel they missed anything, because they were able to see me after I was comfortable in bed and their sister was just a few hours old. They do not regret deciding against attending. I also felt calmer being with just my partner, my midwife, and her assistant. It was much more intimate for me and I didn't have to worry about them, either.

However, I have attended births where siblings attended and it was beautiful. Brothers were able to cut cords, sisters were able to dress and weigh the newborn. In every way they were invited to participate, there was excitement.

Like anything else with labor and birth, having plans and back ups are important. I hope this helps you choose the best fit for your family! Did you have your children present at the birth? How was the experience? Any tips you would recommend for others who want their children present? Comment below!

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Meconium: Tips and Tricks for the First Few Days of Baby Poop

By: Gloria Miles

Everybody poops. They even wrote a book about it! Clearly, this part is not a shocker. What can be a shocker are those first few days of baby poop.

It's baby poop. Newborn poop at that. How bad can it be?

First, let's talk about what it is: meconium is the baby's first stools. It's made up of amniotic fluid (your baby was swallowing amniotic fluid for weeks before he was born), lanugo (fine hair that used to cover your baby...the earlier your baby was born, the more he still has on him), mucus, bile, and other cells that were shed. Basically, it comes from everything that was swallowed prior to baby's birth.

It's black (well, really it's greenish-black), sticky, tar that will not scrub out of anything. Okay, it does scrub out, but it takes a little bit of elbow grease. And I'm not talking about some meconium (mec for short!) not scrubbing out of a receiving blanket. That stuff holds tight to that sweet little baby bum as well.

Do you know how many wipes I wasted the first few days of my first child's life? My wallet still weeps at the memory.

Okay, so what can you do to make this little chore a little easier?

  • Oil your baby's bum!

    Seriously. Slick that little baby booty down with any oil you have handy: olive oil, baby oil, coconut oil (though that might not be as convenient as a liquid oil), whatever is easiest. What this does is create a slippery barrier so that poop slides right off with one wipe.

    You can carry oil easily in a spray bottle or a little tupperware container in your diaper bag (not that you should be traveling much those first few days). Easy peasy!
     

  • Use wash cloths, not baby wipes.

    Some people find it easier to wipe with a soft wash cloth and warm soapy water, rather than a baby wipe (or wipes). This is a great tip for when you forget to oil your baby down.
     

  • Skip the cloth diapers for a few days.

    Use regular disposable diapers until baby's bowels start processing the food he is eating. In a few days, you'll find that your baby's stools start changing color. Breastfed babies will have stools that start getting greener and eventually will turn  yellowish-orange seedy mixture that is super easy to wipe up and wash off of cloth diapers.

    Note: I realize that some women actually use cloth from day 1 and have no problems with it. However, these women use sorcery and probably fold fitted sheets like champs. If you're like me, don't feel guilty about skipping the early days of cloth diapers.
     

  • Don't change diapers.

    You're bleeding, leaking breast milk, a little sore, and trying to sleep when you can. Delegate diaper changes to your partner, family members, and/or friends. (Or a postpartum doula!!)

    This is probably the best "hack." I highly recommend this one. You'll get your chance to change a thousand diapers eventually. Pawning off a few changes won't hurt anyone.

I hope these tips make diaper changes a bit more convenient. Parenthood, especially the newborn period, is all about finding short cuts where possible! Let me know if you used any of these tips and how they went for you! Or add your own short cuts to the list down in the comment section. 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Pregnancy

By: Gloria Miles

14435323_10154120433172054_2733754522931380927_o.jpg

Whether you planned this pregnancy or it was a surprise...you're going to be surprised by something. Every pregnancy is different, so your experience will be different than mine. Heck, my experiences were different each and every single time! Still, there are certain truths that happen to a majority of women. For example: stretch marks! Yes, there are some lucky women who get away unscathed, but for the most part you should expect them.

During your pregnancy, you will be seen by your healthcare provider, an obstetrician or midwife. Their concern is a healthy mama, a healthy baby. And yet, there are definitely some normal, yet somewhat weird, things that can happen throughout your pregnancy.

Keep in mind that not all women experience the following examples. However, many do and if you are experiencing any of what is listed, remember that you are in good company!

  1. Beautiful, thick hair.

    Everywhere...and I mean everywhere. See those few extra strands on your chin? Or maybe you found that your belly has a little bit of a fuzzy layer on it now that you're pregnant. In a nutshell, changing hormonal levels lengthens the resting phase of the hair follicles (meaning they don't fall out) and increase how quickly hair grows.

    Sometimes hair changes texture or even color! Craziness, I know.

    What not to do: Don't use bleach or harsh waxes to get rid of unwanted hair. These can deposit some unwanted things into the bloodstream which can affect baby.

    The Good News: All the excess hair will eventually go away in the postpartum period.

  2. Constipation is an issue.

    This is something that you should report to your healthcare provider. However, rest assured that it's a fairly normal annoyance. It first occurs in the first trimester because of fluctuating hormones (yay).

    What to do: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It helps in any situation. Eat things high in fiber and stay away from foods that cause more constipation (sodas, pasta, etc). Don't strain if you can help it when having a bowel movement.

    What not to do: Don't take any OTC (over the counter) stool softeners without the approval of your healthcare provider.
     

  3. Hemorrhoids. *Cue horrified expressions*

    I know that hemorrhoids are more common in women who are in subsequent pregnancies, but first-time moms can definitely have these little nuisances flare up. Most of the time, even if you get hemorrhoids, they're not too bothersome. However, some women can get them so bad that they are painful and/or need surgery. (Don't freak out. That's an extreme case.)

    Hemorrhoids can also cause bleeding after bowel movements, so if you wipe and see pink or red tinged toilet paper, don't immediately freak out, either.

    ***Any blood should be reported to your healthcare provider with amount and where it is coming from (vaginal or anal).

    What to do: Basically, you should do what is recommended for constipation issues. Additionally, try not to strain when using the bathroom. Also, if they are external, you can apply pressure or push them back up. (I know that sounds horrifying, but it's not as bad as you think.) Don't be too shy during your prenatal visits, either. Your healthcare provider may suggest better remedies.
     

  4. Pregnancy Brain is real!!

    Okay, don't laugh too hard, but I have searched for my glasses while wearing them. I have looked for my keys while holding them in my hand. I have told someone I have to find my phone before leaving my house while talking to them on the phone.

    But don't worry. It goes away after pregnancy. Then comes mom brain...which is worse...
     

  5. You break out like a teenager.

    Some women have glowing faces, less break outs, and beautiful skin during pregnancy. I was like that my first two pregnancies. Then, my third came around and I felt like I was going through my awkward teenage phase again.

    Also, I think that hormones are permission to smack anyone who tells you this lovely tidbit of info: "You can tell you're having a girl, because girls rob you of your beauty."  What a lovely way of telling me I look like sh**. A-hole.
     

  6. Charlie horse cramps.

    There is nothing worse than those calf muscle charlie horse cramps that make you want to stab your peacefully snoozing hubby for daring to sleep so comfortably while you're in agony. Seriously, those things are brutal.

    What to do: I wish someone had told me this my first two pregnancies!!! Typically, cramps are from a magnesium deficiency. Pick up some cal-mag supplements from Vitamin-Shoppe or Amazon. Those things made the biggest differences between my first pregnancies and my third.

    ***Discuss any supplementation with your healthcare provider prior to taking them.
     

  7. Pregnancy insomnia.

    Sometimes your brain is on overload and you can't sleep. The worst is looking over at your partner and wanting to smother him or her for being so blissful. Why the anger? Probably hormones. Doesn't matter. It just matters that even the most serene woman can contemplate murder at 3 a.m. when their significant other is fast asleep.


    What to do: Cut caffeine in the afternoon. Exercise! Hydrate. Eat well. And try to form a bedtime routine that you do in order to "prep" for going to sleep. Cut out screen time (including your phone!) for a few hours prior to bedtime, if possible.
     

  8. Crotch Lightning.

    Sometimes you get stabbing or shooting pains that seem to shoot down your vagina or even anus. It's always abrupt and can make you jump. I don't even know how to explain it better than that. It's common, but also hard to explain to the people you just scared by being pregnant and startling.
     

  9. A Colorful Vulva.

    Yes, you read that right. Everything on your body is changing in color and looks. Increased blood volume and swelling of certain regions means that your vulva may end up with a redder, bluer, or purple tinge to it. It may also look and feel more swollen.
     

  10. Increased Discharge

    Every woman has to deal with discharge. The vagina is self-cleansing and you have things like cervical mucus, etc, that leads to discharge. This discharge can range from watery, to creamy, to sticky. Cervical mucus changes based on your hormones, too, so you don't have to be pregnant in order to see these changes. If you pay attention, you'll notice thicker or thinner (or barely any) discharge throughout your cycle month.

    During pregnancy, discharge usually only increases in amount and viscosity. (Woo.) Some women wear panty liners, because they dislike the feeling. However, be careful with wearing liners for too long. What I did was change my underwear throughout the day.

    Note: Make sure to report any changes in discharge to healthcare provider, especially if it is accompanied by a foul odor, itchiness, burning, has a different consistency (like cottage cheese), or is a different color. These can be signs of an infection.

    Have anything that you wish you knew before becoming pregnant that you'd like to add to the list? Please share!

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

 

The Last Days of Pregnancy

By: Gloria Miles

 Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

The last days, maybe even weeks, of pregnancy could span a century.  Nine months of growing, changing, slams to a halt; time passes differently.  The discomforts of pregnancy are now highlighted with every step.  Every day crawls, every night is long. 

The Virginia air had been thick as syrup with heat and humidity.  The air stirred itself around, lazily passing by people who braved a walk.  The heat felt stifling for this pregnant woman.  

Eventually, dark clouds rolled into the area, the sky crackling with anticipation of relief.  The sky opened; the rain poured. The relief was felt in a dramatic drop in temperature.  The wind had picked up and the trees chattered in excitement.  

The past days for me have been filled with the sort of anxiousness and discomfort that one only feels when in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  It's amazing how quickly nine months can pass.  And yet, the hours slip by slow as molasses. 

"You look tired," my husband said.  He stood behind the kitchen island, prepping items for breakfast.

"I woke up to pee last night six times. And this morning, my hips feel like they're on fire from that hard bed," I replied.  

He laughed. "Maybe a week left for you. You're so close!" 

I knew he was right.  "That makes me want to strangle you."

"What?" he asked. "Why?" 

"You might as well have said another year." 

"Is it that bad?"

I gave him a look. 

"Maybe...I'll just keep making breakfast," he said. Then added, "I'll rub your back before bed."  

The evening is cool and windy.  I want to walk outside in the coolness.  I let my husband know so that he keeps an eye on our toddler.  

"Walking the baby out?" he asked. 

Most days I wake up wondering if this is the last day I'll be pregnant.  Each evening I hope that real contractions will begin.  Every new morning I'm disappointed at the lack of labor, of no newborn.  

This evening, however, I just want to reside in the moment.  I want to walk and feel the muscles in my legs work.  I want to listen to the trees rustle and speak among themselves.  I want the cool air to play with my hair.  

"Just walk," I answered. 

The family joined me and we walked around our property, through the trees, and down a short patch of our country road.  I breathed deeply and was purely in the moment.  I didn't worry about labor.  I felt the small braxton-hicks contractions intermittently but I paid them no mind.  Fetal kicks and punches marked the time between them.  I smiled and rubbed my belly.  

Most days I'm cranky and irritated.  I sleep too little, I feel too irritable, and I walk the way one does when there's a fetal head slowly entering the pelvis.  I know that labor is on the horizon.  I know that pregnancy doesn't last forever.  One day or evening or night the familiar rushes of labor will begin.  And yet, it feels so distant.  

I think, though, that sometimes it is necessary to get to this climax of pregnancy, similar to the climax before birth.  There is a time within labor that most suddenly feel overwhelmed.  Cries of not being able to cope or continue are normal.  Sometimes there is a moment of panic.  The contractions are no longer surges but just a state of being.  Labor seems to take over one's body.  There is doubt, maybe fear.  And then the peak is reached and all doubt is removed.  Birth is imminent and then there it is: pressure, pain, power.  The pelvis is filled and then it shifts.  Crowning, then a head, then a body.  Then: I did it!

Pregnancy is similar.  It is uncomfortable and not everything is exciting, but it's tolerable.  Suddenly, it's overwhelming, it's miserable, it's never-ending.  But one day, like in labor, like the storm that's on the horizon, relief will be felt.  The first surges will start and excitement will replace it.  

Labor will start.  Everyone is right.  It's so close.  It feels as distant and as close as mountains on a horizon.  But it will start, it will finish.  A new life will be born.  A lifetime will begin. 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Making The Most of the Day: Fun, Educational, Indoor Activities for Kids

By: Jenny Wise

 Photo by Voyagerix/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Voyagerix/iStock / Getty Images

Bad weather can have a major effect on kids who would rather play outside. It can also leave
parents at a loss on how to entertain their children in a fun and educational way.  Whether from heavy summer rainstorms or winter snowstorms, a child stuck indoors can mean boredom and frustration for everyone in the household, especially if school is called off for a day or two.

Fortunately, there are several places you can look for fun activities no matter your child's age or interests.

Search the Net
Technology has certainly gifted us with the ability to make life easier. The internet offers tons of ideas when it comes to helping kids find something to do when the weather gets rough.  Look up nearby museums or indoor play areas.  Or search for drawing tutorials. There are options for every grade level.  

Find a New Instrument
Learning to play an instrument can have numerous benefits for kids:  improved math and reasoning skills, boosted social skills, and focus. Many schools offer music classes where kids can choose an instrument to play, but if your child’s school isn’t one of these, look for an online class that will teach the basics. You can buy or rent your own instruments online at a good price. Talk to your child about what his interests are and look for the right piece. Saxophone, clarinets, trumpets, and flutes are all great places to start.

Learning Sites
There are several websites that are tailored specifically to a child’s learning and organized by age and grade level. Use these sites to keep your child occupied with fun games.  Watch him learn about spelling, math, science, and more while playing games. Consider what he’s already interested in before you suggest a specific site. Look for one that will give him more information on the things he enjoys, such as dinosaurs or cars.

Create some Art
Most kids have a creative side to them, and it’s important to foster that creativity so your child
can rise to his true potential. Look for drawing tutorials and provide him with paper and various
forms of media so he can experiment. Crayons, watercolors, finger paints, and colored pencils
are the most popular tools for young children. You might also want to create a place for him to
work, such as a space in his bedroom with room to keep all his tools.

Get Them Moving
Since many kids burn off energy running around outside, it can be hard for them to sit indoors
with no way to release it. Look for ways to get them moving, such as a dance tutorial on
YouTube. Push back the living room furniture to give them room to get active. Not only will
this help your child burn off excess energy, it will also keep him healthy.

Get Experimental
Science is one of the most popular subjects for kids these days, in part because there are so many fun experiments you can perform at home with ordinary household products. Look for some online and help your child learn about chemical reactions, like this one, which will allow you to create your own lava!

Making the most of any day is important, as it teaches your child how to look for fun even when
their plans don’t work out. Look for the best sites and apps that will help your child get through a bad-weather day without complaint -- and bookmark them for next time.

 Jenny Wise is a homeschooling mom to four children. She created Special Home Educator as a forum for sharing her adventures in homeschooling and connecting with other homeschooling families.

If you have any contributions that you would like to submit to the website, please email rdoulas@gmail.com. 

Marianna's Birth Story: An Out of Body Experience

Edited by: Gloria Miles

Shared with permission of the mother, though anonymously. Names changed*

I didn't have the best pregnancy.  I think pregnancy is supposed to look better than it did on me.  I had hyperemesis and if anyone knows that is, it's morning sickness on crack.  I lost weight all the way until seven months pregnant.  I couldn't even keep down water.  I was admitted into the hospital to rehydrate and nourish my body several times throughout the pregnancy.  It was almost a miracle when it finally stopped.  When it did, I gained twenty pounds that first month.  I gained twenty-five overall.  

I remember the doctor weighed me and said, "I know we said we wanted you to gain weight, but we didn't exactly mean to gain twenty in just one month.  That's a lot."

I was 41 weeks pregnant when they said I needed to be induced, so I went into the hospital.  I wanted it completely natural, but I guess it wasn't meant to be.  I managed the labor pain well until my water broke.  I asked for an epidural, but they said the baby's head was visible.  

When the water burst, the urge to push came quickly and violently.  A few pushes later and Marianna, cord wrapped around her neck, came out limp and not breathing.  

I know I sound crazy, but when they pulled her out, cut the cord, and put her over to the warmer, I felt like I died.  I think I died.  I remember seeing my baby being worked on.  I remember seeing the top of the heads of the doctor, my mom, the nurses...everyone.  It was a crazy out of body experience.  

They eventually got her breathing and I felt normal again.  They handed me the bundle and I remember looking down wondering who she was.  I didn't feel like she was my baby, I didn't feel that instant bond with my baby like I think you're supposed to.  It made me so sad.  Now she's older and I love her more than anything, but immediately...I didn't feel that connection.  I don't know why, but I know I didn't.  It took time to love my daughter like a mom is supposed to.  There was a disconnect.  I wish I knew why.  

Note from the editor:

There are many other mothers who have shared having an out of body experience during their labor and birth, whether it was a "traumatizing" event or not. I encourage you to speak out about it. Every birth story matters and counts.

Also, the immediate bonding and "love at first sight" feeling happens to many women. And, on the other end of this spectrum, there is no bonding or "love" feeling that occurs for many other women. It is not a shameful secret. It may indicate a problem with possible postpartum depression, but sometimes love grows slowly. Keep your friends and family in the loop. Let others know how you are feeling and doing. Never be afraid to ask for help whether it's doing small chores or needing to talk to a professional.

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Best Advice from Richmond Doulas: When Babies are Over Five Years Apart!

Written by: Gloria Miles
Contributions by: Richmond Doulas Members

So you're expecting! Congratulations!  Except this kind of feels like starting over because the age gap is a little more extreme than most.   So what does Richmond Doulas advise regarding this type of age gap? 

Cristina Evans:  I have a twelve year age gap between my youngest and oldest children! I think that an age gap can be both fantastic and a challenge. I love watching my kids with my one year old. I loved that they got to see me pregnant and talk about things regarding pregnancy and childbirth in a positive way. I love that they get to watch her grow and will remember her being little and will be able to teach her things as well.

They were incredibly helpful during postpartum. The gap and this work allowed me to think of all the things I wanted to do differently or try that was new (or more available) since they were born.

It’s also challenging at times. The family dynamic totally shifts. Your sense of independence that you start to regain as your children get older is gone again for awhile (man, oh man, do I miss not needing a sitter!). You have to adjust to the new pace of things. Your baby gets dragged along to everything because you’re a busy family now.

Eventually she will be the only child in the house (in only 5 years!). She may not have a close relationship with her siblings because they’ll be gone already and basically a whole different generation from her. Most people aren’t going to have such a big gap but these are just some of the things from my view of life at the moment.

Erica Angert: My two older kids were 6 and 8 when we had our third, and it's been kind of magical for me. A lot of that is that I've raised two kids past baby, toddler, and preschool age so I really had a chance to think about what would work best the third time around.

The things that used to make my husband and me really anxious or angry or worried when our other kids were little seem so simple and normal now. It all just rolls off our backs and we're much calmer about dealing with the tough milestones and behavior things.

It has also been beautiful to watch my oldest have such a sweet relationship with his baby sister from day one. He was old enough to really understand how to treat babies and has been very responsible and helpful. Both older kids definitely notice the change in lifestyle, though, like having to be quiet during her nap time, not being able to play a family board game or watch a whole movie or ride roller coasters all together, but I have felt like those things are temporary and it's already starting to get better now that she's 2.

Gloria Miles: One of the best things regarding an age gap this big is that the older children are much more able to help.  My children are 11, 9, and 1.5 years old.  It's nice to having older children that can watch a toddler while I wash dishes.  Or having a child who--sometimes--will change a wet diaper.  Plus, it's beautiful to see them playing together and trying to teach her things.  

Some people have asked if it feels like starting over...and it doesn't.  It feels like starting with experience this time around, rather than with a million questions.  

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

I Hope You Don't Remember Me

By: Gloria Miles

An essay. 

I hope you don't remember me. I hope that when you think of your birth, I am not part of what happened. Or if I am, that I am part of the wallpaper that surrounded your room. 

I hope that if you do have memories of me, they are from prenatal visits, from social visits, from discussions, swapping jokes, and stories. I hope that if I cross your mind, you think back of the laughter shared and the deep conversations we have had. 

As a doula, midwife's assistant, midwife's apprentice, (and one day just midwife), I hope you do not have a place for me in the memories of your birth. I hope that you realize that all of the strength that was within you during those difficult hours was yours alone. I hope you never think to utter the words, "I couldn't have done it without you." I hope you never want to thank me for being your strength or for giving you something that you didn't already have. 

You conceived and grew a human being all by yourself. You're amazing. You gave birth to this child. You did. Even if it was assisted with medication or surgery, you are still the one who underwent all of that. I hope you know how bad ass you really are. (Excuse the language, but there's not much else that conveys how amazing you are.)

I'm honored to attend every birth I'm invited to join. I'm privileged in that I get to assist you while you give life to the newest soul on the planet. However, I do nothing more than fan more air onto the fire that is a woman birthing. If nothing else, I provide some comfort, some encouragement, and sometimes some assistance. However, I am dispensable. I will not make or break your experience, because you are the one who does it all. 

I hope what you do remember is your strength. I hope you remember your triumph. I hope you remember what you did. I hope you remember that YOU did everything. I did not push you along. I walked alongside you. 

 

 Photo by RyanKing999/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RyanKing999/iStock / Getty Images

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Navigating the First Trimester

By: Gloria Miles

Congratulations! You were either trying or surprised, but you've tested and came back with a BFP (big fat positive).

BFP!

Due 2019!!

You're pregnant! You have so much to look forward to in the next nine months! I'm assuming that you are in your very first trimester (and that's why you've clicked on the blog post).

Sometimes women don't realize they are pregnant until much later. Very rarely women show up in the emergency room with intestinal distress only to find out they're actually in labor. (We've all heard the stories!)

Either way, we'll assume the first trimester. 

Now what?

The very first step (aside from figuring out how to announce it your partner, friends and family) is setting up your first prenatal appointment. Most providers advise starting care between 8-12 weeks of pregnancy.

Whether you are birthing in a hospital and wanting an epidural as soon as the party starts or wanting a hospital birth completely sans medications, have your heart set on a birth center birth, or at home with a midwife, prenatal care is very important. It all looks fairly similar and the standard of care will include blood work and an early dating ultrasound unless your health care provider states otherwise. 

Appointments in the beginning are generally set for every four weeks. After your 28th week it'll increase to every two weeks, and after your 36th week, it'll increase to weekly visits until your delivery. Of course, if issues arise during the pregnancy, extra visits may be necessary.

And so you're pregnant and have your first appointment set...and....you look about the same. Everyone is asking about due dates and looking forward to the end, even now, but life goes on about the same. Or does it??

What is going on with you right now?

Nausea/Vomiting

Not everyone will become nauseous during their first trimester, but morning sickness is a fairly common complaint. Really, it should be called all day sickness, because it can strike at any time. 

What can you do about it? Well, eating smaller, more frequent meals can help. My general rule of thumb is: if it smells questionable to you, even if it smells great to everyone else, stay away from it. Drink plenty of water and fluids with electrolytes, especially if you're vomiting. Eating blander foods may help: toast, peanut butter, salted or unsalted eggs, crackers, oatmeal, etc. 

Prenatal vitamins may contribute to the nausea. Check out reviews for ones that don't mess with women's tummies and ask your health care provider for recommendations. 

Sometimes morning sickness is bothersome enough that medication might be advisable.  Your health care provider may suggest over-the-counter supplements or prescribe something like Zofran to help combat the nausea and vomiting. 

The good news is that this typically passes by the 13th week of pregnancy. 

Note: Sometimes, but not as commonly, women will suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are throwing up everything and not able to keep fluids down, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

Constipation

This one is super fun, especially in combination with feeling bloated. Changes in hormones can cause changes in regularity. As with morning sickness, your body will adjust and you will go back to your normal schedule. 

What can you do about it? Taking a probiotic can help. Remember to take a probiotic with a prebiotic in it. If you do not, then the probiotic will not help, regardless of how many billions of strains it has. Most of the time, the ones who have both are in the refrigerated section of your health food store. 

Foods with natural probiotics are: yogurt, greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, dark chocolate (heck yeah!), pickles , honey, bananas, artichokes, and more. 

Eating food high in fiber can also help with regularity: lentils, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, kidney beans, wheat bran, oat bran, just to name a few. 

And, of course, like most things: water helps. Hydrate!

Bloating

You're pregnant, but you feel more fat than anything. That's pretty normal. Constipation can contribute to bloating.

Making sure to drink plenty of water and have an adequate intake of salt will help. It'll pass.  As always, if you feel something is off, contact your health care provider.  

Fatigue

Any pregnant mother can attest, the early weeks are brutal when it comes to fatigue. It's hard work making a baby! You may not look pregnant, but this first trimester is when the most work happens! You're busy creating a complex organism from two little gametes (sex cells). You're creating a heart, a spinal cord, lungs, a nervous system, eyes, skin...a whole being! Of course you're going to be tired! 

What can you do? SLEEP! I hear all you moms with littles laughing. I know how hard it can be to sneak naps in, but whenever you are able to: sleep. Tap in your partner whenever you can. Let housework slide a little. Be kind and gentle with yourself. It's just a season that'll pass by about the 13th week.  However, it can also reappear in the last trimester.

Besides sleeping you can also check your iron. This will be in your first prenatal blood panel. If you are anemic, this will also contribute to your sleepiness. You may be told to take an iron supplement. Ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations. Foods may also help keep your iron at a good level, such as dark leafy greens and legumes. Again, speak with your health care provider regarding their recommendations for your diet and/or iron supplements they may want you to take. 

Exercising During First Trimester

Exercise will help with energy. You can continue with the exercise routine you've already been following for the most part. High intensity workouts or heavy lifting may have to be cut back. Most importantly, follow what your body is telling you. 

If you are new to exercising, don't worry, you can start. Plus, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy are plentiful! It cuts down on fatigue, limits excessive weight gain, leads to a healthy pregnancy, helps with labor, gives you strong abs and back which will cut down on back and pelvic pain, and boosts your mood.

Unless a medical reason is given, most women can exercise during pregnancy. 

Great exercises, especially for beginners, are walking, swimming, and yoga. Running is fine and can be continued for as long as it's comfortable. Weight lifting can be continued by most, but just remember that relaxin, a hormone that relaxes tendons, will begin flowing through your body.  Lowering the weight and paying attention to good form is important.  Additionally, center of gravity will be shifting as your uterus expands which may mean avoiding certain movements. Also, some movements (such as planks) may have to be modified or avoided, because of your growing abdomen. 

As always, consult your health care provider.

Cramps

Some women experience cramps in early pregnancy. These aren't necessarily a symptom, but they're common enough and not generally a worry. Some women fear this means they may miscarry, but cramps on their own can be normal. 

The uterus is a muscle and every time it is messed with, so to speak, it'll contract. Sometimes these contractions will cause cramping. Reasons you may be cramping: you just had sex, you have a full bladder, or your uterus is growing. 

Note: If you are experiencing cramping and bright red bleeding or spotting, call your health care provider or go into the ER. 

This blog post should not serve as a substitute for medical advice and is purely for informational purposes. Every pregnancy is different. Trust your instincts and always check in with your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have, even if they are listed as "normal."

So congratulations and hopefully the first trimester treats your kindly! 

Remember, this will pass and the second trimester will be here before you know it. Comment below with anything you felt helped you get through the first few months. 

Hope's Story: Sometimes Love Takes a While

Edited by: Gloria Miles
Shared anonymously by the mother. Permission received to share. *Names edited.*

Hope is my second daughter.  My pregnancy with her was great.  I could eat and drink and keep it down.  After a pregnancy with hyperemesis up until the eighth month, it was a welcome relief.

I was at home with my mother when I went into labor.  I told her and she immediately freaked out because her van was broken and we had no working vehicle at her house.  Since the hospital was only half a mile away, I decided we could just walk.  I think that's why the birth went so quickly.  

We walked block after block very slowly since we had to stop during my contractions.  I got half way through a cross walk at a very busy intersection and had one.  The light turned green and traffic had to wait for me to finish the contraction and then waddle to the other side.  Fun.

When we reached the hospital and I was admitted, my mom said she'd be right back, she was going to call my ex-boyfriend, Mark, the father of my first and second.  "Don't push yet!" she cried out.

I was on the bed, waiting for the nurses to get organized and start an IV line.  "Sure," I told her.

She left.

My water burst and like my first, the pushing contractions came violently.  The nurses abandoned their IV equipment and ran about me frantically.  I'm sure they were following some sort of protocol and paging the doctor and all of that, but from my vantage point, they were running around like crazed chickens.  

I cried out for an epidural, but the baby was born instead.  

I held her, pissed off.  I had walked half a mile to get here, just so I could birth the baby, essentially by myself.  I could have probably stayed home and been more comfortable.  Start to finish this was a 35-minute labor.  

I waited for an instant bond to come with this birth, but it didn't.  Like my first, there was a disconnect.  I held her.  My baby.  She didn't feel like my baby.  I didn't feel like she had came from me.  I guess I was still processing or something.  I don't know why this happens to me, but I wish it wouldn't. 

My mom and ex arrived about thirty minutes after the baby was born.  "I thought you said you wouldn't push!" my mom accused. 

I shrugged and she laughed.  She looked at her new grandbaby and cooed at her.  She held her a little while and showed Mark.  Marianna had been a copy of him.  I thought that Hope looked like my sister.  He'd tell me later that she didn't look like his baby.  It was a bit of a fight, but when we got the paternity result, he found out that she was his, through and through.  

She's much bigger than a newborn now and I love her like crazy, but it definitely took a little time to get that "motherly" love, rather than just this feeling of obligation to care for her because I knew I had to.  I really wish I knew why I can't be like other moms who just get that instant "love at first sight" feeling.  My sister did tell me that it's more common than I think, but I don't know.  At least I'm lucky, though.  I love them with all my heart and they drive me crazy, so at least the feeling of disconnect doesn't last. 

Let's Talk Kick Counts

By: Gloria Miles

 The author's daughter, in utero. 

The author's daughter, in utero. 

A fetus has sleeping and waking cycles.  One of the most exciting parts of pregnancy (for most), is feeling those little tiny movements and kicks.  They are very reassuring for the expectant mother and elicit a range of emotions for both those expecting and those allowed to feel the movements.  

I know that for my husband and children, it's a bit of bonding that occurs before the birth.  My sons love to hold their hand on my growing abdomen and feel the little rolls, elbows, and kicks. "I felt the baby!" they'll squeal. And, for myself, I'm always reassured to feel this little life growing and moving about. 

Okay, so what are kick counts? 

Kick counts are sort of what they sound like: counting baby's kicks.  Though, of course, it's not exclusive to kicks. Rolls, stretches, punches, and any type of movement counts as a "kick." 

I'm not feeling movement yet. When do I start? 

For most people, movement is felt starting between 18 to 26 weeks.  It really depends what number pregnancy it is, the lie of the baby, and where the placenta is located.  If the placenta is anterior (meaning against the uterine wall that is against the abdomen), movement may not be felt until later in pregnancy and with less frequency.  

Most providers advise to begin kick counts around 28 weeks.  However, ask yours for specific timelines and guidelines. 

How are the kicks counted? 

Choose a time a day that you know baby is most active.  Lie down on your left side and start counting movements.  You're hoping to feel ten movements within two hours.  Most likely, you'll feel that long before the two hour mark.  

Keep a journal or log.  You can write it down on a paper, use an app, or simply mark it on the calendar.  This also helps you see a pattern in fetal movement.

I didn't get ten kicks/I don't feel movement/I feel decreased movement.

First, don't panic.  Try eating a snack or drinking juice (though, ask for advice from your provider if your diet has restrictions in place) and try again. 

If you still do not get ten movements within two hours, if you think there's a significant decrease in movement, or if you have any concerns regarding fetal movement, call your provider for advice.  

 

Chime in! Did you or are you counting kick counts?  Did your provider recommend this practice?  How did you fit it into your routine? 

Note: This blog post is purely informational and not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or attention.  Please direct any questions or concerns to your own medical provider.  Whenever there is a question about fetal movement, a licensed health care professional should be consulted.  

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Staying Hydrated Even When Water isn't Appetizing

By: Gloria Miles

The hot, muggy days of summer are here.  While hydration is very important to anyone, it's especially important during pregnancy! Good hydration can keep individuals healthy and happy.  

During pregnancy, blood volume expands to about twice its normal volume.  Water is a crucial part of this equation.  Dehydration can cause a whole host of problems during pregnancy. 

 The author at about 7 months pregnant. 

The author at about 7 months pregnant. 

The impact of dehydration

Dehydration can lead to: 

The benefits of hydrating well

Adequate fluid consumption helps:

I understand that I need hydrate, but I can't really stand the taste of water!

Some people have no problems drinking water, but others may struggle to get the appropriate amount of glasses down.  There are many ways to help with this.  Sometimes it's as simple as making the water very cold or adding ice.  But for some, the taste (or lack of taste) really bothers them. 

Tips to Increase Water Intake

  • Add some fruit or veggies! Add some lime or lemon juice, dilute a little bit of juice to add a splash of flavor, or stick some cucumber wedges into a pitcher of cold water. 
  • Use sparkling water to satisfy a carbonation craving without dealing with all the sugar of sodas. Add a splash of fruit juice if you need a little extra flavor.
  • Eat your veggies and fruit! Watery fruits and vegetables also count towards the day's water consumption.  Cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, celery, and grapes all have a lot of water content. 
    Note: Careful with fruit consumption if you have gestational diabetes or other complications that warrant counting sugars.  Always follow provider recommendations.
  • Carry a water bottle around with you.  Sometimes access is the best way to increase your consumption.
  • In a similar vein, leave water bottles around your home so that whatever room you're in, there's always some water available. 

I can't keep water down!

If you are someone who has a hard time keeping anything down, including water, please seek medical attention.  Similarly, if you have any signs of sever dehydration like dark yellow urine, very little urine output, signs of an infection, or any other concerning symptoms, please call your provider or seek medical attention.  Some women can suffer from conditions like hyperemesis which severely limits the amount of things, including fluids, that they can keep down.  This is much different than normal morning sickness and needs the oversight of a medical professional.  

 

 Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by orinoco-art/iStock / Getty Images

What are your best tips and tricks? 

And now it's your turn: What are your best tips and tricks for upping water consumption?  For myself, I love icy cold water.  I tend to drink that a lot more consistently than room temperature water.  I also really love watermelon and cucumbers, which I feel helps me hydrate as well.  During my winter pregnancies, I added soup to my list of ways to get water, but I shy away from this during summer months. 

Comment below with what helped you during pregnancy or just any other time in life! 

The Importance of Birth Stories

By: Gloria Miles

 

 Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

It's so important to me to remember the stories of my births.  The details may be a little fuzzy after some time, the events might not be recollected in exact sequence, but the important parts are all there.  I do enjoy sharing them, especially with my children.  

I believe that everyone who has given birth should share, in part, their stories.  At the very least, to those who are important to them: their partners, their close friends, children.  This benefits the listener but also the person telling the story.

Before we had textbooks, before we had blogs and seminars and classrooms, we taught each other by storytelling; sometimes by songs.  This act of passing along wisdom and lessons through storytelling has been going on since we could speak and across cultures.  

Why share birth stories? 

Birth stories are part of this culture, believe it or not.  However, most are in the form of fictional stories spread through television or movies that are erroneously displayed as this terrible event that must be endured in order to meet one's baby.  Others are more dramatic and shown on the evening news as an event that could have gone so wrong! And yet, miraculously, everyone is somehow fine. Learn more at eight!

Birth stories from real individuals, shared in a safe space, can be a way to educate everyone who may give birth in the future to their first or even fifth child.  Every birth is different. Every story is different. Every experience is different. Sharing birth stories adds to the normalcy of this biological act.  Most birth stories are lovely but uneventful.  When pregnant, it's important to be reaffirmed that this is a normal, biological experience that one is equipped to handle. Normalizing labor and birth is important. 

Some people want to give birth in a manner that is very different from their mothers, from their friends, or from the disapproving individual on social media.  If this happens, it's even more important for that person to hear of labors that went along the lines of what that individual was planning.  For instance, if one chooses water birth, it's awesome to hear all of the water birth stories.  If one chooses to give birth in a birth center, then hearing all of the birth center experiences can be affirming and uplifting. 

Of course, this is also true for those who need a cesarean or who may be higher risk.  Sometimes fear comes from simply not understanding or knowing what is to come.  Anxiety and fear can be eased what will happen is explained. 

Not every birth story is bright and happy. 

Sometimes labor or the birth or both ends up being scary, traumatic, or simply traumatizing.  Perhaps the epidural didn't take and the experience was not what was planned.  Perhaps the birth center water birth ended up being a hospital transfer.  Nothing "terrible" has to happen in order for the individual to feel disappointed in the experience.  

And yes, sometimes terrible events do transpire during the labor or birth or both.  We've all heard the stories of a patient being abused by the hands of those who are supposed to be helping this laboring individual.  Sometimes a birth does not have a happy ending.  These births, while very difficult to share, should still be allowed to be shared with whomever the individual wishes and in a safe environment.  This can serve as a way to process what happened.  It can help heal.  Bottling these stories up within oneself in order not to scare or offend can be very harmful.  

I sometimes feel as though these birth experiences are muted and not allowed to be shared within the same walls of others and I wish that would stop.  I left a Facebook group once that was supposed to be a safe and open place to share experiences of "natural" births and the owner would chastise anyone who used words like "painful" or "scary" or the like.  A birth story was shared that ended with, "I think any mother will understand. Birth is the best and worst experience ever [because it hurts]."  The group owner congratulated her and asked she refrain from discussing the pain more or to edit her story. 

Validation and processing

I think it's important to validate every feeling.  My second labor felt uncomfortable but I was surprised at how little it really seemed to hurt.  I remember walking into the hospital and hoping I was actually in labor.  When I was admitted, I was nine centimeters with a bulging bag.  With my third, she was a whirlwind of a birth and labor was so intense--and yes, painful--that pushing was a relief, an experience I hadn't felt before. These are my experiences.  As I sit writing all of this, about eight months pregnant, I wonder how my fourth experience will transpire.  And yes, even with the variety of discomforts, pain, and elated emotions, I am planning another home birth.  

It's important for us to process our experiences.  This is how we learn from ourselves, this is how we heal, this is how we grow.  

The good of it all. 

However, as birth stories are spread, as people share, and as others listen, it will become obvious that for the majority, labor and birth is simply part of life.  Most are satisfied with their experiences, most are proud of what they accomplished, and most will remember these events for the rest of their lives.  This means that sharing these stories, all stories, will show a pattern of how normal this is, of how it's okay to daydream about the day, of how there's not really much to fear.  And for some, sharing their stories will be part of the healing process that's crucial and necessary for their own mental and emotional health.  

Before childbirth education classes, before doulas, before books and websites with advice, there were just stories passed from one generation to the next.  This is how childbirth education was taught.  This is how support began.  

Want to contribute? 

Please email your story to rdoulas@gmail.com if you would like to share.  You can share with your name and pictures, with no pictures, or even anonymously.  

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Rainy Day Fun

By: Gloria Miles

Rain seems to be in the forecast until about 2050.  Okay, so perhaps not that far out, but Richmond, VA may be competing with Seattle, WA.  Our current season is Wet.  First there's clouds, then lightning, then pouring down rain.  Rain trickles to a stop, puddles start to dry up, and a light shower to make sure no one is complacent with their umbrellas. 

Farmers must be rejoicing. 

Parents may be feeling a little stir-crazy. 

Not to worry, though, below is a list of things to do around the Richmond area, your home, or even just the backyard. 

 Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

*ANY AGE/ANY TIME. Sometimes indoor play is the best kind of play.  This is mostly free except for material costs: Get construction paper or large sheets of paper that will allow you to trace the upper body or entire body of your child. Let your child color it as he or she wishes. Cut out the profile and post it up as wall decorations. 

*ANY AGE/ ANY TIME. Window paint is super fun for children of most ages. Write messages to the rain or sun on the windows. Enhance the gray clouds with some bright images courtesy of your 4-year-old. It's all up to you!

*Toddlers/Monday, June 4th: Yoga with the Tots! at My Birth. 

*11 and under/ Mondays: Children Museum of Richmond: the CMoR will offer FREE admission to military, first responders, veterans, law enforcement, and their families. 

*3-5 YEARS OLD/ Monday, June 4thHenrico Public Library will be making sassy summer snakes. FREE. 

*Tuesday, June 5th: 11am.  Pottery Barn Kids, Short Pump Mall.  Kids can enjoy some of their favorite books read aloud. FREE.

*May 25th through Labor Day, admission to the Mariner's Museum and Park will be reduced to $1 per person to engage as many people as possible because through the world’s waters, through our shared maritime heritage, we are all mariners.

*ALL AGES/TUESDAYS: Every Tuesday, during the months of June, July and August, children ages 16 and under are admitted free with paying adult. Learn 18th-century history, explore the gardens and grounds, see our ninth president’s birthplace and walk the same floors as our founding fathers. Children’s activities included. Adult admission is $12.

*ALL AGES/ANY TIME: Host a movie night at your house for you and some friends. Rewatch a classic or pick up a new one from Redbox. Pop some popcorn, let the kids help with snacks, and enjoy!

*ALL AGES/ANY TIME: Provided there is no lightening outside, put on some rain boots and go splashing in the puddles! I feel like too few people take advantage of all the fun that is right at their fingertips. Afterward, warm up with some dry clothes and board games. 

Great indoor places to visit (costs vary) for when the kids are stir-crazy and you need some inspiration: 

Children's Museum of Richmond

Science Museum

Jumpology

Peak Experiences: A Rock Climbing Gym for all ages (recommended for 7 and older)

Monkey Joe's

And now your turn: What are your favorite go-to activities or places during the wetter summer days? 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Hold Onto Her: An Essay

Cat Ennis Sears is a writer, a doula and a mother in Richmond, VA. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in Printer's Devil ReviewNecessary Fiction, and other publications.  

There have been so many babies the last two weeks. They lay in their mother’s laps in the soft and gathering twilight. The mothers look tired and some are happy and some have a sadness to their eyes and I remember to be careful there, to follow up. There has been my inhale and reminder to only be as present as I can be. I have taken to repeating “hold onto yourself” every time before stepping out of the car. It helps.

 Sometimes I am too present. I leave pieces of myself behind, in their homes, in their labor rooms, in their operating rooms, in the space between their breast and their baby’s grasping lips. I try to remember to gather up each piece of myself before I leave the babies and the mothers, and allow time to put myself back together.

Births take a lot out of me. Preparing women for birth takes a lot out of me. There needs to be an inhalation, taking in what nourishes me. I used to not understand this. I used to think birth work nourished me. It does. But it also does not.

Untitled.png

There are the fearful eyes, the moaning, the thrashing and they ask is this normal, and it is. But that doesn’t make it any easier. There is the wet dark head crowning, the unbelievable miracle of it, the enormity of it. It is everything. There is nothing else. To be human is this moment. This moment contains everything, like a fat bubble reflecting the world, swelling slowly before bursting. I hold a leg and hope I can get that birth photo that everyone wants, the one with the wet baby on the breasts.

Birth has been kind lately. There was a time when I knelt in awe of birth, afraid to make eye contact with what I saw as an indifferent and powerful ancient god, this force that ripped through women I had come to care about. A birth plan ceremoniously presented to a nurse, as if she is control of birth. I felt that I could hear birth laughing at the expectation of control. There were neonatal resuscitations and emergency Cesareans, placental abnormalities, nucahl hands, hemorrhage, cervical scar tissue, third degree tearing requiring operative repair. 

Then there was a string of easier births, tired mothers with glowing eyes, out of breath, proud, relieved, happy, the glow of fresh pink on their cheeks, hungrily eating sandwiches, their babies nestled against their breast as I took my leave.

And still I am in awe of birth. A new mother’s belly, still slack with child, looks vulnerable in a cotton maternity nightgown as she holds her baby wrapped in a green swaddling blanket against her chest. She is in the midst of the shattering. And she says she is fine. But hold onto her. Hold onto her.

Who is Richmond Doulas: Bri Grocholski

A Birth Story

The Third Degree

This is the story of my natural birth in a hospital setting that turned into a medical birth.  My goal is to educate and encourage women to birth on their terms.  Please consider your provider and the location of your birth!

A note from Richmond Doulas...such a huge thank you to Cori for sharing both of her birth stories and the inspirations and wisdom she drew from both her births. It's our dream that women could enter any hospital, be treated by any care provider and receive compassionate care, but until birth culture changes in the U.S., choosing your care provider, as Cori puts it, is time well spent. Here is some more information about choosing a care provider.

Delivery Day

I woke up with contractions around 7 a.m.  They did not subside after an hour like they had the few days before.  I kept busy all day to distract myself but knew it would be the day to meet our baby! 

20171105_064907.jpg

I felt a gushing sensation around 2:30 p.m. - My water broke!  I called my OB and let Donna Westcott, my doula know. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible to make sure I received as few interventions at the hospital as possible. 

Finally at 4:45 we decided to drive to the hospital.  Contractions were much more intense and getting closer.  I continued to breathe through each contraction visualizing the pain going through my body and out my toes.

Contractions were painful but purposeful. And things seemed to be happening so much quicker than I thought they would.

At the Hospital:

My first nurse was a bitch… She wanted to hook me to the monitor immediately; she did not want to undo it so I could go pee. She did not care that I felt nauseous, and she said it was still hospital policy to check me to see if my water actually broke because so many people mistaken it for pee leaking!

Finally, the hospital OB came in but seemed annoyed.  He looked over the birth plan and scoffed at a few things: He said we would only delay cord clamping about a minute and reassured me there would be no episiotomy.  His biggest concern was the possibility that my baby was close to 9 pounds.

He left the room for a while and when he returned he was determined to check my cervix. He was impressed with how far along I had gotten. Again he made me feel unimportant and even though I was determined to birth naturally he seemed like he would rather do C-section to get it over with.  He did not offer pain medication, which I appreciated.  But he did insist on checking me more often than I felt necessary.  The last time he checked me, I peed on him. (he deserved it.)  They also would not let me out of the bed to walk around or unhook me from the monitor.

I remember transition…It was painful.  I also remember that being the only point at which I said: "I can't do this."  Donna, said you can and you are!  Donna’s soothing and calm encouragement was so nice to have throughout the birth!

Before I knew it was time to push… My biggest regret is not waiting for my body to tell me when to push. 

This is the point it became a medical birth and my nurse and doctor were screaming at me to push for ten seconds!  The nurse held my leg and I was lying on my back… They did not know when my body was contracting. I was pushing when they told me to.

I remember a sense of relief during stage two; like my body was doing all the work, there didn’t have to be any actual pushing.

Where it all went wrong:

I should not have been on my back and I should not have pushed for a count of ten, my body was not ready for that! I should have used the positions I practiced.  I should have spoken up and birth the way I had planned.  I should have breathed my baby out.

In a medical birth, the doctor does not listen to the woman… (*A woman’s body is amazing and knows what to do. Let your body do its job!)

Time really escapes you in labor. Pushing didn’t seem to last long.  I remember a burning sensation when the baby was crowning, Donna told me that was normal.  The doctor did not talk me through the birth.  I am so grateful for Donna being there and coaching me through. The OB was more into making sure I pushed hard enough.

After an additional push baby slid out onto the table. (A baby girl was here!)

The doctor was not seated, did not catch my baby, and did not have adequate towels underneath me.

I was numb from that point on.  I suffered a third-degree laceration and had postpartum hemorrhaging (maybe my body was being nice and didn’t want me to remember the pain and it was my body’s adrenaline reaction to go numb.)

But this is where I question if counter pressure on my vagina and perineum and assisting the head and shoulders through would have helped.  I really should have been more determined to ask for different positions during pushing.

The OB tried to partially repair me in the delivery room with no success.  I had a hard time staying still and he continually yelled at me to stop moving.  I only held my baby girl for a couple minutes on my chest before the doctor had packed me with gauze and took me out of the room on the way to the OR. 

The doctor did not explain what had happened. He did not use the word tear or hemorrhage. He just said I had no choice but to get a spinal block and come to the OR.

My husband was left in the room with Donna and a baby who was a few minutes old.  No information was shared with them except that I had to be taken out of the room and they could not be in the OR with me.

In the OR:

The anesthesiologist was pretentious.  He actually said “see this isn’t so bad” when putting in the spinal tap, “you could have done this in the first place.”

In the OR, there was still no explanation of what happened. Dr. G, the OB I had been seeing in the office for prenatal visits, arrived to help repair me.  She did not acknowledge me.  I was awake and aware during the repair and continued to ask them questions: How is it, is it bad, what does it look like, what are you doing?  They ignored me and did not speak to me directly. 

A nurse assistant held my hand and talked with me the whole time (she was so sweet).  Another nurse brought me a phone so I could tell my husband I was still alive and that everything would be okay.

After what felt like an eternity, I finally made it back to the room, with a catheter and no feeling in my legs.  The OB informed me he ‘lost’ a sponge (gauze) that he packed me with when I was hemorrhaging and to make sure it wasn’t still inside me he ordered an x-ray. 

After the x-ray, I finally got to hold my baby and try to nurse her!  She did not have a good latch.  It had been three hours since she was born and hunger had set in. 

Breastfeeding was uncomfortable and I could not feel my legs.  I also still did not really know what had happened… I was disappointed Dr. G. never came in to check on me after I made it back to the room. (So much for being her patient.)

I held my baby all night.  I continued to try and nurse her with little luck.  Instead of sending in a lactation consultant or a nurse who could help me get a latch, one nurse gave me a nipple shield.  (Hindsight is 20/20, the nipple shield may have saved my breastfeeding journey! But it led to many weeks of stress and anxiety that I could not feed my baby without it- Why couldn’t I be coached on getting a better latch instead of using an artificial nipple?) 

In the morning, two nurses came in to help me out of bed and into the bathroom where I passed out and they had to use smelling salts to wake me!  I returned to the bed weak, helpless, and groggy. 

Eventually, I moved to a postpartum room.  Those nurses barely came into check on us.  One did come in to give the baby a bath but did not welcome my help with my child…

Discharge Day:

A well respected and favorite OB discharged me.  She told me three things: 1 Here are your prescriptions for Oxycodone and ibuprofen, 2 you can sit in a bathtub or sitz bath a few times a day for swelling and pain relief, and 3 you need to make an appointment to see this specialist in a week.  (At this point I still have not been told what actually happened, she had the perfect opportunity to show some sympathy and do her job, yet nothing, she didn’t want to be bothered either, I was not her patient….she lost my respect.)

I was so scared to leave the hospital! I cried, a lot. I did finally take a shower but still felt numb, weak, and terrified.

The First Days Home:

I don’t remember much except that I was helpless.  (A feeling I do not do well with!) I did not take the oxy but did take ibuprofen for pain and swelling.  I was uncomfortable and spent a lot of time in bed trying to nurse.  I would cry every time she nursed.  I would look down at this perfect little human and knew that I loved her but could not express that love with words.  I continued feeding her and holding her. But all I really wanted to do was leave.  

The Specialist:

A week later I went to see Dr. S., an urogynecologist.  She was wonderful! Smart, direct, and caring.  Finally, someone explained what had happened, she even had an illustration.

She informed me I had an infection in the laceration and listed what we would try to do to fix it.  Surgery was a last resort. My instructions were to sit in a sitz bath at least three times a day, take a whole concoction of antibiotics and drink Miralax to make sure all my stools were super soft! (gross, I know)

I had follow-up appointments weekly.  The only time I left the house was to go to the doctor.  I continued to be devastated and uncomfortable. I blamed myself for the tear and the infection.  I continually thought about what I should have done differently. Not pushing the way I did, not laying on my back, also what did I do to get this infection? Did I deserve it somehow?

20170418_135411.jpg

The Last Resort:

Finally, at five weeks, post-partum, Dr. S. said we needed to go in and surgically remove the infection and repair the tear.  I lost it.  I was so nervous.  I was hoping to go my whole life without any major surgery…

I had two options for hospitals.  I will not go back to the hospital I delivered my daughter in for as much as a hangnail. So I chose a different location.  The surgery was scheduled for the next day. 

I was not prepared to leave a five week old at home without me.  I had no bottles or formula.  No milk pumped.  I barely had the hang of breastfeeding (I was still using the nipple shield).

I had total faith in Dr. S. to get me repaired and keep me safe.  But major surgery is still frightening. 

The surgery was successful and Dr. S. informed me it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be, the infection also was localized and not systemic and she repaired the other trauma to my vagina.

My recovery nurses at this hospital were so sweet and compassionate.  They helped me set up the breast pump and kept all my milk frozen for me.   

I continued to see Dr. S every other week until I got the all clear to resume all normal activity two and a half months postpartum!

The New Normal:

It took me months to feel completely comfortable in my skin (squatting scared me, I felt like I would just rip into a million pieces). At about eight weeks postpartum, I had breastfeeding down!  I nursed my baby lying down, standing up, one handed, with a pillow, without one! 

I continued to have feelings of anger and grief.  I still blamed myself but was mad at the hospital OB.  I didn’t know who to blame.  

I changed to a more positive outlook shortly after.  I realized it could have been worse (I could have died; it could have been a 4th degree tear going through my rectum completely)

The whole experience made me stronger and I couldn’t love my daughter any more than I do! 

Baby #2

I had a lot of anxiety after finding out we were pregnant with baby #2.  I feared that I would tear again, get an infection, and not be able to take care of a two and a half year old and a newborn. 

I told Donna we were expecting as soon as we found out because I knew I wanted her to be there.  She was an amazing resource and coach the first time around!  One of the first things we discussed was what provider I should use.  It didn’t take much convincing to know I should switch to a practice with Midwives. 

I broke down in tears at each Midwife appointment. I was so nervous to birth again.  They comforted me and really encouraged me to be positive. (I read positive birth affirmations daily and those positive thoughts made me believe and trust my body going into my second birth)

The pregnancy was uneventful and healthy and I enjoyed spending quality time with my oldest while she was the only one.

I thought labor was fast the first time…

On the way to the hospital my water broke in the car.   Upon entering the hospital we were met by Donna and my midwife.  Both were so happy to see us.  They were both encouraging and calm and no one was annoyed to be caring for us.  It was a positive experience from the moment we got there!

I birthed my son about twenty minutes after getting to our room.  I was coached and talked through the whole birth.  The nurses were welcoming to both Donna and the midwife.  Everyone respected each other’s position in the room. 

20170226_090257.jpg

I labored in positions that were comfortable to me and I was not yelled at to push harder.

My son’s entrance into the world was calm. 

My vagina was in one piece. 

I felt empowered because my body did what it was supposed to do. His birth was a completely different experience because of my caregivers and I am grateful for that.    

My advice to any soon to be mom, veteran or not, is to choose your provider wisely, research birth positions and use them, but also be ready for anything!

XOXO,

Cori

 

An Exercise: Being Strong in Labor

This exercise was created by Virginia Bobro, formerly of Birthing From Within and Pam England. Check out Pam England's new book: Ancient Map for Modern Birth, or a local Birthing From Within class for more juicy exercises. This exercise was adapted by Cat Ennis Sears, BFW mentor, for the RD Blog.

71b970ed062d0b7a883a2af5671cfeeb-large.JPG

When you're pregnant, a lot of things can alert your worry muscle. Maybe you've heard birth stories from others, things you'd like to avoid, and you are thinking of how you would want things to go differently. Maybe you're worried about your support options, logistics, or needing medical support that you were hoping to avoid. 

Sometimes, we get into a state of avoidance. We put our fingers in our ears (positive birth stories only, please!) with the hope that blocking out the thought of unwished for events will prevent these things from occurring. While it's true that fear is not helpful in labor and birth, and adrenaline can decrease natural birth hormones that make labor safer and more efficient, the act of total avoidance (trying to avoid fear at all costs) paradoxically arises from a place of fear. And completely avoiding the thought of unwished for events does not decrease the likelihood of those events occurring, but does increase the likelihood that you will be unprepared for those events, should they occur.

A positive visualization of how you would like your birth experience to go, without qualifiers and without "if's" and "but's" is the first step toward trusting birth. It's important to know what your ideal birth would look like, what you are hoping for, what your dreams and goals are. Visualization is a powerful tool that evidence suggests actually changes our brains, and can in fact change outcomes.

So go ahead and visualize your ideal birth, without qualifiers, without "if's" and "but's."

Next, I invite you to go one step further in your preparation for birth, and visualize not only your perfect birth, but visualize something unexpected happening. And (this is the important step) don't stop there: visualize how you and your support people will cope with that unexpected event. Visualize yourself being strong and present, giving birth in awareness, being there for the moment, no matter what happens. What, specifically, would help you cope with something you were hoping to avoid? Is it a prayer, is it holding your partner's hand, is it closing your eyes, playing a specific song, or just focusing on your breathing? Close your eyes and see yourself doing that thing.

Birth is unpredictable. Our bodies are fallible. And if something unwished for does occur, it does not mean you did something wrong, or weren't prepared enough, or should have done this or that differently. You can truly trust birth and postpartum when you know that you have coping resources you can pull on, should an unwished for event occur. This is a deeper kind of trust.

Being Strong in Labor

With your partner or support person...

Each of you fold your paper in half twice (once horizontally, once vertically) so the fold-lines make four quadrants. 

In the first quarter: Draw the first image that comes to mind when you think of being strong in labor.

The second drawing: Draw being strong in a long, prolonged labor.

The third drawing: Being strong in a cesarean birth.

The fourth: Being strong in... [choose a situation that is personally powerful to you, something that you are working to avoid]. 

Share your images with your partner.

Did anything surprise you? Was there anything you hesitated to draw? Did not want to draw? The takeaway is that we are often much stronger than we realize. And, in my mind, all of this is already within us. In some ways, this is an exercise in intention.

 

Poem: An Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers

There are so many ways we try to "get it right" as parents. Let's just start with love.

Invitation to Birthing From Within Mothers
This work was compiled and edited by Juji Woodring with contributions from Alejandrina in AZ, Lia from South Africa, Alisa from Texas, Charlene, and Tamara D., with thanks to Oriah Mountain Dreamer for inspiration

image by RVA local doula and birth photographer,  Joyful Birth Services

It doesn't interest me how many
prenatal books you've read,
I want to know if you hear your
child whisper to you
when you lie awake at night.

It doesn't interest me who you are
or where you came from,
I want to know if your authentic
mother warrior will awaken
when you birth your baby with all
that you have.

It doesn't interest me if you have a
birth plan or where you plan to
give birth.
I want to know that you will meet
your birth with an open mind and
open heart.
I want to know if you can fully
embrace the path you must
journey to birth yourself as a
mother.

It doesn’t interest me if you birth
in silence or as a lioness roars.
I want to know if you are willing to
do whatever it takes to birth your
baby, regardless of how you look,
how you sound, or what others
may think. I want to know if you
are willing to journey to your
depths and through the unknown.

It doesn't interest me how many
stitches you get,
I want to know how you are
moving in your body.
I want to know if you can take
each movement of your achy
dripping body and know that it has
done a marvelous, miraculous
thing.

It doesn't matter to me how you
feed your baby.
I want to know if you are willing
to nurture your baby
from the depths of your soul and
with unconditional love.

I want to know if in the dark of
night,
you can raise your tired bones and
weary spirit and do what needs to
be done to care for your children

I want to know if you are willing to
give up your judges and ideals of a
perfect parent and surrender to
your heart and belly
to love your baby until you ache.