Follow Friday | Postpartum Resources for the “Longest Shortest Time”

The “Longest Shortest Time”…the best description EVER of life with your newborn, borrowed from the brilliant podcast of that name. I like to be really real about the highs and lows of newborn parenthood. It’s important that we talk about postpartum honestly so we don’t feel alone, judged and inadequate. The voices in our own head are tough enough, but let’s support one another; like one big sleepover (without the sleep). Here are some of my favorite places online that I hope will help carry you for even a moment through the longest shortest time. Plus a hug from me. I am just a phone call or text away if you need me.


1:  Postpartum Support International: They have a 24-hour confidential helpline with over 300 trained support professionals who will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement and connect you with local resources if needed, available in English & Spanish

“You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.”

Call: 1.800.944.4773. Text:503.894.9453. 

2: Healing Baby Bath | This video of a newborn bath given by Sonja Rochel, a baby nurse at the Thalasso Clinic in France, captures how she helps newborns transition from the womb to the world in the most healing way. After watching this, you’ll want to know what she says about how to do this safely at home with your newborn (or somehow magically appear moments after you’ve given birth).

img via fb.com.ThalassoBainBebe

“I take the time … for such a young baby so soon after birth, the memories of being in their mommy’s belly are still very vivid … and with the bath I want her to re-live those beautiful moments, and cherish them.”

You can read more about Sonia Rochel’s ‘Thalasso Baby Bath’ technique here.

3: Dr. Angellique Millette |  She is a gift to all of us around infant, toddler and child sleep. She is a trained midwife, infant and pregnancy massage therapist, birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation educator, parent coach, and child and family, therapist. Oh, and she has her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

The biggest plus is that Dr. Millette is one of the kindest people I know. Sign up for her newsletter and check out her archived webinars on all sleep topics for instant help. I also LOVE this Hands To Heart Sleep Swaddle that Dr. Millette created based on her work.

BONUS: Watch & Listen

The Longest Shortest Time.” You won’t feel so alone when you listen. Especially the earliest episodes. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Hillary Frank.

Reflections of Motherhood. This is your “virtual village” of mothers to mothers.

Follow Friday | About Breastfeeding

Last week I shared with you some of my favorite places online for all things birth-related – this week I’m focused on some support-full Breastfeeding Resources for all of you new and expecting parents. Breastfeeding is a duet that requires practice by you and your baby. Preferably without any “shoulds” and with all the nonjudgmental support you deserve.


1:  Waiting to Inhale; How to Unhurry the Moment of Birth by Mary Esther Malloy is a beautiful commentary on keeping birth for the parents.

Riley is born into her father’s and midwife’s hands.

“But just as we are now appreciating what occurs when we respect a baby’s ability to find its mother at birth, what I am seeing with Laura and other mothers is heightening my respect for and understanding of our own abilities as women to find our babies at birth. When we do not rush through the moment of birth, but honor the pause that marks the center of this sequence, what happens, in my experience, seems to be nothing less than a paradigm shift of equal significance.

For we are not only finding our babies, we are also finding ourselves as mothers, and finding our way into a new state of being.

2: KellyMom.com | All too often, breastfeeding sites are more dogmatic than I feel comfortable with.  I’m drawn to the lactation consultants who subscribe to the “let’s just feed the baby” non-dogmatic support camp. Kellymom is a great site for up to date, evidence-based information around all things breast and bottle feeding that just does that.  

3: Mamava | So proud of Mamava, a Vermont based company started by two women.  Download their app on your phone to locate one of these wondrous pods to breastfeed in a clean and private space.  Imagine that…

Img via FB.com/mamavaVT

BONUS: What To Watch | Here are a series of videos on Baby-Led Latching that offer an alternate perspective to the current “put the baby to breast immediately after birth”.  In these videos, you’ll see these most remarkable instincts and skills with which babies are born to find their way to your breast on their own, known as the “newborn crawl”.

Baby-led latching video by Milk Meg

Baby Led Latching video  by Breastfeeding for Parents

Scarymommy Newborn Crawl to Breastfeed video from the World Health Media Project

This video helps you see and hear how it sounds when your baby is swallowing so you can hear the “clicks”.

Follow Friday | About Birth

While there is no shortage of online resources for new parents, not all advice is created equal. That’s why I thought it’d be helpful to share with you two of my favorite and most trusted resources on all things birth related. Do you have a go-to resource, not on this list? Let me know in the comments!


1: Rebecca Dekker | I consider Evidence-Based Birth one of the MOST IMPORTANT resources for expectant parents. Rebecca Dekker, a nurse researcher with her Ph.D., did a TON of research as a result of her first birth experience (which was not good).

Evidence-Based Birth provides us all with the most current, high-quality research evidence around birth practices When you want to know what the evidence REALLY is around any subject/issue in childbirth, go straight here. Print the research evidence one-pagers to bring to your OB/Midwife to start the conversation when they tell you something is “routine” or “best” practice.

 

2: Birth Monopoly | BirthMonopoly.com was started by Cristen Pascucci, former public affairs person turned into birth rights advocate, after her not good birth experience (see the pattern here?). No pressure, but It would be really good for you to have a sense of your rights and options in birth BEFORE you go into the hospital.

Here are a couple of examples (quoting Cristen here) of where care providers (maybe unaware of the legality) are violating your informed consent (which is often confused with the consent form). They present things as routine procedures and not optional:

“Okay sweetie, I’m going to give you your IV now.”

Ok. First of all, “okay sweetie” is patronizing and infantilizing. You are an adult. Next, do you want an IV? Were you told about the pros and cons of an IV as well as the alternatives? Have you consented or politely declined an IV as a result of this conversation?

“Now, if you haven’t progressed in another hour, we’ll get you started on something to help you along.”

Wait. Why do I need to progress in an hour? And what is the “something” you’d like to start me on? What are the pros and cons of holding off? What are alternatives we can try to move my labor along if we’d like to do that?

BONUS: This Brazilian OB dances with his mothers in labor to bring the baby down! Anyone danced with their OB in labor???

Go Bag Go-Tos | Customizing Your “What to Pack for Labor” List

Surprise! My second daughter is pregnant with her first baby – so we’re going through her labor-pack-list! Keep watching to learn why lip balm is a go-bag essential in my book.

Here’s the complete list:

Your own pillows:

They smell like you and home. That’s what makes them great for under your head and to wrap yourself around when you’re lying on your side. You can use the (very thin) hospital pillows between your legs or behind your back for support. Just put colored or printed cases on your pillows so they don’t get lost in the hospital laundry.

Something Cozy:

A blanket throw or shawl that you love –to spread over the (very thin) hospital-issue blankets.

Clothes To Pack:
  • An oversized t-shirt/yoga pants/pajama shorts/robe to labor in if you don’t want to wear the hospital gown
  • Your favorite comfy socks.
  • Slippers or shoes that are easy to slip in and out of if you want to walk around the maternity floor.
  • A bathing suit/sports bra/bathing suit bottom if you’re modest and want to labor in the shower or tub if there is one.
  • Flip-flops if you have a thing about being barefoot on hospital bathroom floors
  • Hairbands, barrettes –whatever you use to keep your hair out of your way.
Toiletries:
  • Lip balm, lip balm, LIP BALM! Trust me, you’ll be so chapped after all that breathing during labor!
  • Massage Oil
Tech:

Your phone, iPod, tablet, or computer (wherever your music is) if music is important to you. Remember a dock, speakers and extra long chargers.

Setting a soothing scene:
  • Scented Oil (along with a diffuser would be great) – lavender (relaxing) or whatever scent you like. A couple of drops on washcloths in different locations take away that hospital smell.
  • Peppermint Oil – smelling it will help you pee if you have trouble doing so after delivery.
  • LED candles if you love candlelight.
  • A string of “fairy lights” (aka Xmas lights) helps to enhance the magic happening in your room.
Last but not least, A Big Bag of Food!!!

Optimally, you will eat throughout your labor to fuel your body in work and your partner also needs to eat to keep up with the hours of supporting you. Bring sandwiches (pb & j is a staple) and plenty of snacks. Offer food right after the baby is born as it really helps women find their way back into their bodies after all the hours of intense work. Pack at least two sandwiches or servings of whatever it is you eat easily for just after birth. Make extra of the smoothie you were sipping from in labor at home and bring it in a thermos to the hospital/birth center.

From “Natural Childbirth” Devotee to Doula | What I Learned As A Young Mother

I once was a “natural childbirth” devotee. I was teaching Lamaze classes before I’d even had my own children. I fit the perfect prototype; grew up in the 60’s (minus the drugs), vegetarian since sixteen, attended Hampshire College at the beginning, wore only sweaters that I knit myself and raised my black lab, River, before I became pregnant with my first.

I approached my labor as serious training. I had danced professionally for a living so I took ballet class every day, swam a mile and ran through my fifth month of pregnancy.

I labored for thirty-six hours, the last ten of which were driven by Pitocin. I made it through every contraction, fighting my way through the pain. This was familiar. Give me any physical challenge and I could and would make my way through it. But I was adamant with everyone in the room that there would be no drugs.

I never made it past three centimeters after all that work and ended up with a C Section for “failure to progress”. I’ll never know if I had tried an epidural as a last-ditch effort to avoid a C Section if I would have slept and dilated. If only someone had helped me connect the dots that I would ultimately have an epidural for a C Section so why not give it a try beforehand?

Dogma. I learned so much about my own dogma from my first birth. My dogma around no drugs left me without being open to utilizing a tool that might have prevented my C Section.

Lisa Gould Rubin and her first Child IndyFrom then on, when helping people prepare for their births, we talk a lot about staying flexible in order to make decisions that are aligned with your goals, especially when things aren’t going the way you imagined.

I refer to what I call the “leaving no stone unturned” question. Ask yourself – when you are in labor, what does leaving no stone unturned mean to you around what you are willing to try in order have the birth that’s right for you? It also means trusting yourself to know when you feel you’ve tried enough for you.

Another way to look at it is this: if you were able to have hindsight in advance of your birth and ask yourself “what would have happened if…?”, and then try to take care of your “if’s” in advance. It helps to alleviate second-guessing yourself at the other end.

What would one of your “ifs” be?

The Whole College Thing

I read in the NY Times this past weekend that Jose Arguelles passed away. He was the guy who organized the Harmonic Convergence in 1987 where people from all over the world gathered that August to hum, handhold and meditate. I can tell you that it sure looked like some weird version of that these last few days here in our household.

Today marks the end of the week in which Liberty, my 17-year-old, heard back from all of the colleges to which she applied. There was something to be said for the fact that hundreds of thousands of high school seniors were having the same experience all over the country and, because college application has gone global, all over the world.

I can say without any equivocation, that the whole college process is crazed. It has spun itself way out of control. We have spun it way out of control. Obviously, it is different from when I applied to college in 1971. It is absolutely different from when Liberty’s eldest sister applied in 2001 and different again from when the next sister applied four years ago. All sorts of things are different, but from what I gather, it’s really our fault, we baby boomers. There were lots of us and we had a lot of children. And apparently tons of kids abroad want to go to college here too. I keep envisioning that little square plastic puzzle where you have to move the little tiles around in an attempt to get the numbers to line up.

Seems like the bar is so high, no one can see it anymore. The Race To Nowhere, a powerful and timely documentary highlights how we are putting our children at risk given the educational system right now in this country. I joked with Libby that my mistake may have been not signing her up for the Peace Corps when she was five.

Libby had her “college plan” –

1. Avoid going to school where it was cold

2. Not attend school in CT just because her sisters did and they thought it had a kind of karmic symmetry

3. Try on living in a city where she wouldn’t ordinarily see herself because when else in life would she be able to do that with as much freedom (so much wisdom for one so young, I thought)

4. Not be daunted by being a plane ride away (I was daunted by this one)

5. Not be located too close to home (Ok. I get it…)

So much for college plans, not unlike birth plans. Within the first few minutes of visiting a college she felt she “should” see, where the winters are intense and last forever, Libby fell head over heels in love. The “there is no one else” kind of love.

She applied early decision. She was deferred.

I was not prepared for just how painful this was for me to see Libby in so much pain. I am no newcomer to the college process. This was my third and last college applicant. And, I am completely committed to the construct that wherever my children land is where they are and that affords them the opportunity to find their way in that exact place. Having been with hundreds of women in their pain, I have discovered that I am not always such a good “daughter doula”…

Libby chanted (through her tears) all those things that thousands of kids chant – I worked so hard – I am a really good student – I am a really good person…..

That was the one that jerked me out of my disappointment for Libby and launched me into some kind of ancient Talmudic call and response embedded deep inside of me by my own mother.
I chanted back…..

Life is unpredictable. You have no control over any one’s decisions or behavior but yours. The only person who can truly evaluate your worth is you. What matters most is that you feel good about you and your work. No one can take that from you, but you.

Libby was accepted in the end. I know that the discovery she made about herself this year will far outlast the process. And the joy she felt when she read the email will serve as a touchstone for the rest of her life to remind her to always hold on to her dreams. And, be ready to strategize if it doesn’t work out the way you envisioned.

Over the years, I have offered each one of my daughters the option of letting me home school them for college.

How much will this cost them in therapy in the years to come do you think?

My Black Panther Days of Labor and Delivery Are Back

I’ve seen childbirth in this country go through some real changes. By the time I got involved, the childbirth revolution of the 60’s and early 70’s had already established (in most places) that women could have their husbands or partners with them in labor and delivery and they could choose not to be drugged; the birth of (forgive me) Natural Childbirth

In the later 80’s and 90’s, we childbirth educators were teaching expectant couples to beware the pitfalls of routine procedures like IVs, continuous fetal monitoring, artificial rupture of membranes, laboring in bed, pushing flat on one’s back, episiotomy, repeat cesarean section, and how to advocate for themselves.

The birth plan was created. We encouraged people to list their “preferences” around which birth procedures they wanted and which they wanted to avoid in advance of labor and delivery. Seems reasonable, right, not to have to have some discourse on the nature of episiotomy while you’ve got a human head pressing on your rectum?

Couples were hiring me as an advocate then; to make sure that the things they didn’t want done weren’t and that the things they did were. And I endeavored to do so without creating any conflict in the labor room, which was an industrious goal given hospital politics.

And while we worked so hard for and won the opportunity for women to create the childbirth experience of their choosing – doctor, midwife, hospital, birth center, home birth, unmediated, medicated and VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), there are a ton of mixed messages out there – from all sides.

In this medical/legal climate, we tell OB’s “We’re hiring you to give us a perfect baby and a perfect mother and if you don’t, we’ll sue you”. (This is partly how we all have come to make some sense of the fact that the practice of obstetrics in this country has become so industrialized and full of interventions.) The inherent message to expectant women is that the OB’s are not to be trusted.

The prevailing message from the childbirth community to expectant mothers is that natural birth, now referred to as “normal” birth, is the “best” birth. We’ve gone way beyond the great, International Childbirth Education Association’s (ICEA) slogan, “freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives”. The pressure on a pregnant woman today is to do so much research on childbirth before she has her baby that she could write a doctoral dissertation. And if she doesn’t, she is not being responsible. A woman needs to know all the risks and benefits before she makes any decisions (otherwise she can’t make an informed decision and that’s bad). She is to advocate for herself, even if she is not sure what she is to be advocating for or knows how to do so. A woman is irresponsible if she has a planned cesarean section or chooses an induction or an epidural, no matter how she arrived at that choice. We judge each other for how we give birth, how we parent, whether we stay at home or go back to work.

Here’s what I’m protesting now:

It’s unfair to presume that evidence based medicine means that it’s best practice for every one of us. It’s unfair to presume that every woman is in a place where she needs or wants or is capable at that time of “physiologic birth”. It’s unfair to presume that every woman needs or wants the “journey” and is better off for it. It’s unfair to promote that the best way to give birth is “normal” birth. Normal according to whom?

If we are really going to make a difference in maternity care in this country we have to ask and listen to what each individual mother needs to feel safe and secure. We need to respect each woman’s own perception of her threshold for pain and not presume that if she had only done enough research and/or had the ”right” support, she would do without medication. We need to meet each woman just where she is in her life and not dismiss her choices because she just doesn’t know how empowering a “normal” delivery is. We would emphasize that it is “better” to do whatever – breast feed, bottle feed, practice attachment parenting, let your baby cry it out, stay at home, go back to work, have your baby in daycare or in-home childcare, better to do anything because that individual mother has come to determine that it is better for her. We’d empower each woman by helping her figure out what she wants for herself and support her efforts to get there, not presume that we know what is better for her because we have the evidence based research to prove it.

We have to really listen. And to truly listen, I believe, is to do so without agenda, judgment or dogma.

The new revolution? It’s not really any different than the old one – it’s still about tolerance, respect and trust.