Category Archives: Birth

[Virtual Baby Shower!] Supporting a Family During the Postpartum Period

I know it has been quiet around here for awhile! The kids and I are on Spring Break now, so I’m hoping to get a few things scheduled, as much is bouncing around in my head following Annabelle’s birthday (a month ago now!), an amazing time at the American Montessori Society’s annual conference, my first night (four nights!) away from the kids, and the everyday awesomeness of the classroom. We’ll see how much I can get in writing before the final weeks of the school year and the arrival of our littlest family member. Speaking of new arrivals, the incredible Multicultural Kid Blogs bloggers are hosting a virtual baby shower and many bloggers are writing baby or baby shower related posts as part of the celebration, including me! Read on for more:
Multicultural Kid Blogs - Virtual Baby Shower Continue reading

Image Credit: andreannaarambula on Flickr

Montessori and My Journey Through Childbirth Education

Julia of the blog A Little Bit of All of It has started a ten week series on preparing for birth, and her topic this week is Childbirth Education. She has invited other bloggers to write on their own experiences with childbirth preparation, a topic I realized I haven’t discussed much here. I’m grateful for the inspiration, and thought I’d take this opportunity to write about my own journey with childbirth education, which began long before I was considering pregnancy. A portion of this post is modified from a previous article on my old Montessori teacher blog, so if you’ve been with me since way back then, it may sound familiar. I’ll be back tomorrow for Keeping It Real, even if I am a day late!

For most of us, childbirth education begins long before adulthood. We may see women in our lives preparing for their own births and later hear them sharing their stories. Some of us may even have the honor of being present for the birth of a relative or loved one. Even those of us who are not around birthing women will see depictions of childbirth in television and movies, and all of this plays a role, whether we realize it or not, in our subconscious feelings about birth. Continue reading

My first "unique baby," one week after her birth. Photo by Amanda Cox.

Unique Unto Itself

Welcome to the first edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama!

In the month of January, we start afresh, a new year, new ideas. Hence, our participants have looked into the topic of “Birth and New Beginnings”. Take a look at the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants.

***

My first "unique baby," one week after her birth. Photo by Amanda Cox.

I’ve been preparing for my second birth, which should take place sometime in late July or early August, by using the Hypnobabies home study course. I did the same during my first pregnancy, but this time it means so much more. This time I have a toddler following me around, repeating the “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” she hears me listening to daily. One of those affirmations provides a reminder that, “this is a new birth and a new baby, unique unto itself.” While I consider my first birth to have been a beautiful experience, all but perfect for the time and place we were in, I am looking forward in so many ways to the opportunity to have a new and different experience with our second child. Continue reading

Five Suggestions for a Natural Hospital Birth

On the subject of preparing for pregnancy, birth and parenting, I have seen far too many staunch homebirth advocates pull the “fear card” (for which they so criticize doctors) on women who are planning a natural birth, but have decided for whatever reason that birthing in a hospital is the best choice for them. 


Empowering women to take control of their birthing situations is a noble cause, and I admire all of the women I personally know who advocate for home birth. I would have loved to birth at home myself, but chose a hospital for various reasons. I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate, however, to tell any woman where she should birth. It’s all about informed choice. It was for that reason that I wrote the following article for The Natural Parents Network several months ago. It is not meant to be prescriptive, but it is my way of sharing what worked for us. If you did not read it back then, now is your chance. I would love to hear your advice and stories in the comments.
________________

I am a huge supporter of home birth, and a believer in the idea that we should trust the natural process of birth. I do not believe that a normal birth is a medical event, and I feel that in most cases, medical intervention is a detriment rather than a help. I also birthed in a hospital.

I sincerely wanted a home birth, but there were many reasons why I eventually decided that a hospital birth this time around was the wisest decision for me. I never intend to birth in a hospital again, but I know that I made the right decision for my first birth. For those mothers who desire a natural birth, but for whatever reason must have (or simply would rather opt for) a hospital birth, I want to share my story.
I should note first that I did not just “luck out” and end up in a particularly naturally-minded hospital – in fact I birthed in a military hospital, with the OB on call. I didn’t know which OB or nurse would be present for my birth until I arrived at five centimeters dilated. I still had a wonderful experience, and I hope that you can, too!
Here are the things I found to be integral to my success in having the birth I wanted, even though it was not in conditions that I considered ideal:
When preparing for birth in the medical system, any number of tests, procedures, and medications may be suggested. If you’re not well versed on normal (natural) pregnancy it’s hard to decide what is sound advice, and what is unnecessary or even harmful for you and/or your baby. When you’re proactive and know what to expect, it’s easy to respectfully decline anything that you do not feel comfortable with. Just because a doctor suggests something does not mean it’s right for you.
2. Learn to smile and nod.
Doctors will give all kinds of advice, and some may even attempt to tell you that you must do x, y, or z. Family friends, and even perfect strangers may chime in as well. Ultimately, every decision is yours to make. When it comes to decisions about your pregnancy, learn to trust yourself and your body and take outside advice with a grain of salt. Smile, nod, go home, do your own research, and make your own decision. Of course some will choose to share information with their doctor, in hopes of opening their eyes to alternative ways of doing things. I chose to avoid debate in my attempt at a stress-free pregnancy.
3. Have a birth plan.
There are differing opinions on the usefulness of a birth plan. For me, it was indispensable. I was working with multiple OBs and did not know before my birthing day which one of them would be attending my birth. Because of that, I brought my birth plan to prenatal visits and had each and every doctor look it over and talk to me about anything I was planning that they were uncomfortable with. This was extremely helpful because I was able to share sound research to support my decisions in advance, so that when the big day came, there were no disagreements and no questions.
One doctor, for example, had never had anyone ask to delay the clamping and cutting of the umbilical cord. It was against his usual way of doing things and he was not comfortable with the idea at first. I had the opportunity to explain to him why I wanted to delay, and why it was actually better for my baby to do so. In the end, he was supportive of my wishes and I was at ease, knowing that everyone knew what to expect.
Even if you choose not to share your birth plan with the hospital you’re working with ahead of time, at least have it for yourself, so that you know how you will respond to every question you’re faced with during and immediately following your birth. This is especially important since many things aren’t presented as a choice, but rather as simply-the-way-things are-done. Everything is a choice. It is your birth.
In my case, I opted to wear my own clothes instead of a hospital gown so that I wouldn’t feel like a “patient.” I chose not to have an IV. I chose to eat and drink during my birth. I wanted the lights in my room low and for those who came in to use soft voices. I wanted my daughter placed on my chest immediately, and didn’t want her to be bothered with a bath on her birth day. Had I not specifically stated my wishes, I would have been told to put on a gown at arrival, given an IV, and subjected to the usual overhead lights and whatever noise level the doctors and nurses were used to. Every doctor has their way of doing things, and often they forget to consider that their way does not work for every patient. It’s okay to remind them. Make your voice heard.
4. Have a support team that is respectful of your wishes and that will put you at ease.
I absolutely love the idea of having another mother, another woman, there to ‘mother’ you through your birth. The idea of a doula is a fantastic one and I think that every woman who wants a doula ought to have one. I also know myself, and I don’t like people in my space. I’m not comfortable with having things done for me. It can be hard for me to accept advice and support and help without feeling patronized. I met with the only doula in my area and ultimately decided that anyone other than my husband would put me on edge rather than at ease. I chose to have only him at my birth.
I discussed my birth plan with my husband and we worked through a number of “what-ifs” together, in hopes of being prepared for anything and everything. He was wonderful, and I was pleased with my decision to make our birth just about us. Of course I know many women who adored their doula, or are so happy that they had their mom, their sister, their best friend, but everyone is different! Assemble your team, and make sure they’re there to protect your wishes.
5. Take a childbirth preparation course and/or do plenty of reading on birth.
Taking a childbirth preparation course or reading a book like Pam England and Rob Horowitz’s Birthing From Within will give you strategies that you can use to work through any discomfort that you may feel on the day of your birth. It will also help you to know what to expect during each stage.

Personally, I used the Hypnobabies Home Study Course and read several books such as Birthing From Within, and Dr. Sears’ The Birth Book. On my daughter’s birth day, I had intense “back labor,” but thanks to my reading, knew of several ways to ease the discomfort and work through it. Thanks to Hypnobabies, I was also well-practiced with a number of relaxation tools to help me remain calm until the discomfort passed. At one point during my birth, I began to think I may not be able to handle much more. Fortunately, I had read several times that this was a common feeling during “transition” (or as Hypnobabies refers to it: “transformation”), and knew that this meant my baby would likely be born very soon. Instead of becoming frightened and questioning my ability to continue without pain medication, I became more excited and worked through the intensity.
Natural birth may not belong in hospitals, but the two can coexist peacefully with mindful preparation.

This post has been edited from a previous version at The Natural Parents Network

Preparing For Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

This post is the first in a series examining the principles of Attachment Parenting. The goal is to explore what the principle is, why it’s important, and what it looks like in different families and different homes. That last bit is where you come in! I can share how these things play out in my home, but I would truly appreciate hearing wisdom from your journey as well. 
___________
It’s hardly necessary to build a case for the first principle of Attachment Parenting. Preparing for pregnancy, birth, and parenting is not unique to those who practice AP. People of all different backgrounds and parenting philosophies are getting ready to start this life-changing journey every day. It is commonly understood that having children is hard work, and that the decision to become a parent is not one to be entered into lightly, and so we prepare.

“A parent has the potential to gain what is without a doubt the highest satisfaction a human being can enjoy-the gratification of nurturing the development of a child into an emotionally stable and mature young man or woman. There is no greater reward for the adult; there is no greater gift to the child.” 

Richard A. Gardner 
Preparing for Pregnancy

Annabelle’s conception, like that of roughly half of babies born in the US, was unplanned. If I am to trust the early ultrasound-based dating from my pregnancy, I conceived on the very same day that the daddy and I  got married in the courthouse without telling anyone eloped. I was prepared in the sense that I was in a committed, loving relationship with someone I intended to raise children with, that we were reasonably financially stable, that we had access to health care, and perhaps most importantly, that we had discussed how we wanted to parent.

The daddy and I could hardly be happier that Annabelle came into our lives, and our planning for her began as soon as we knew of her impending arrival, but I did not prepare in any specific ways for my pregnancy itself, since I initially intended to wait a bit longer to get pregnant. Preparation for pregnancy can be very beneficial, however, and will ideally involve a great deal of thought and soul-searching on the part of the parents-to-be as well as efforts to prepare the body physically. Physical preparations may include things like exercise, excellent nutrition, and the avoidance of substances that accumulate in the body and could be harmful to a developing fetus (types of fish that tend to be high in mercury, for example). Crystal at Prenatal Coach has written several great articles on the topic of pre-conception that are well worth the read. 
Preparing for Birth

“But what care have men taken to assist the child as it makes the most difficult adjustment of all, that of passing from one mode of existence to another? At no other period in his life does man experience such a violent conflict and struggle, and consequent suffering, as at the time of birth…it has grown in a place where it was protected from all assaults, from every change of temperature, in a fluid created for its rest. And in an instant it has changed this dark and silent home for the hostile air… The doctor handles it without any particular regard, and when it starts to cry in desperation no one takes it seriously…”

Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child 

While it is well worth every ounce of energy required, giving birth is one of the single most challenging things a woman will ever do, and ‘the business of being born’ is taxing for her baby as well. The decisions made in preparation for and during the course of a birth are a large part of what determine the outcomes, so they should be made with great care.
Parents-to-be will want to consider what type of prenatal care to seek and what type of care provider to use on the day of the birth. Many attachment parenting families make more “natural” choices, but there is nothing inherently wrong with choosing to birth in a hospital with an OB in attendance. I did
It can also be extremely helpful to educate yourself on the process of birth and what to expect from this challenging, rewarding, and life-changing process. Reading books like Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth or Dr. Sears’ The Birth Book, or taking a series of childbirth education classes, like a Bradley Method or Hypnobabies course can be a great help. Each of these will help you decide how you want to give birth, and how you would like your baby to be welcomed into the world. Learning about the potential benefits and the potential risks of each the many routine procedures that care providers may perform immediately following birth will help parents-to-be decide what to allow, and what to decline. A great way to make sure all of your birthing decisions are clear is by writing a birth plan, and talking it over with everyone who will be present at your birth.
I have talked a great deal about Annabelle’s birth here already, so I won’t go into detail on our birth preparations, but you can look at my posts on birth if you’re new to the blog and are interested to know more. I also have an article over at the Natural Parents Network called “Five Ways to Prepare for Natural Birth in a Hospital” and there’s a great piece from Luchska of Diary of a First Child with Tips for Preparing for a Natural Childbirth. What I may do in a separate post, particularly if anyone expresses interest, is share the “why” on each of the preferences listed on my birth plan. 
Preparing for Parenting

Photo Credit: hopealso on Flickr
Used by Creative Commons License
While a great deal of parenting is instinctual, the way society has ‘evolved’ has caused parents to become increasingly disconnected with these instincts. This leaves us with the task of rediscovering many things that should come naturally, like how to breastfeed. There are many paths toward this type of discovery, but the biggest and most important thing is simply to ensure that you’re ready to welcome a child into your life and to sacrifice whatever is necessary to accommodate their needs. A beautiful piece on mental and spiritual preparation for parenting is “When it Takes Time for a Reason” by Arpita of Up, Down, and Natural.
Preparation for parenting doesn’t stop when a child arrives. As parents, we constantly have to change, learn, and adapt to meet the evolving needs of our children. Personally, I’m always attempting to prepare for each new stage and challenge by reading parenting books, keeping up with a handful of inspiring blogs, and using the amazing mothers in my community as a resource. Attempt is the key word, and I can’t do it alone-I’m incredibly thankful to have mothers to seek advice from.

One of the most valuable tools I have found for parenting preparation is writing. This blog is immensely helpful to me as I explore new ideas, reflect, and examine my own successes and failures as a parent. The responses I receive from readers give me insight that helps me grow as a parent each and every day. I’m so thankful for this community!

In addition to personal preparation, the importance of making sure you’re on the same page as your co-parent, if you have one, cannot be overstated. If one parent wants to co-sleep and the other doesn’t, or one plans to spank and another plans to practice gentle discipline, there will undoubtedly be problems. The daddy and I talk much and often about how we want to address certain things and why. We talk about what our goals are as parents, and what we want for Annabelle. We’re not perfect, however, and oftentimes issues come up that we haven’t thought to talk about. When this happens, his immediate reaction and mine are seldom the same and until we have a chance to discuss the issue at hand, I sometimes find myself feeling like we’re anything but on the same team. Communication is a huge part of our preparation for parenting, and it helps us connect with each other as well as with Annabelle.
As with pregnancy and birth, there is no prescribed way to prepare for parenting, and there is no way to be prepared for everything. We simply do our best. The underlying principles of respect for our children and their changing needs, and a desire to foster our connections with them is what leads each of us along our individual paths as parents. 

How did, or do you prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting? What worked, and what didn’t? What do you wish you had done differently?


For a wealth of resources on this topic, you can also visit the resource page on the Natural Parents Network