Friday, May 11, 2012

What is Natural Parenting: Preparing for Birth

This is one in a series of posts about what Natural Parenting looks like in our family. See the rest of the series here.

This was an easy one for me. I have been interested in birth, both personally and professionally, for several years now. I was working as a health researcher on topics related to maternal and perinatal health at the time I became pregnant and had read various clinical guidelines regarding intrapartum care. Now, these weren’t particularly “natural”, nor would I put it on my list of recommended reading for a newly pregnant woman, but it did give me a good understanding of how birth “works” in the English medical system. Since we have midwifery-led care for the majority of women here, there is generally a good emphasis on physiological birth and woman-centred care. It also flagged up a few things, such as routine managed third stage of labour (i.e. shot of Pitocin to help deliver the placenta), that I knew I would want to research more and think about in greater depth.

St Gerard Majella
patron of expectant mothers
On the personal side, I had been following various blogs on natural birthing topics for several years. Favourites include Stand and Deliver, First the Egg, Talk Birth, and Birthing Beautiful Ideas. (I was actually reading Rixa’s dissertation on Unattended Childbirth in North America when I became pregnant. A really fascinating read if you are interested in birth culture and sociology sort of things.) My mind was made up even before I was pregnant that I would strive for a natural birth. A big part of this, for me, was to plan for a low-intervention birth, doing as much preparation that I could. I wanted to know what experiences of natural birth were like, both physically and mentally, as told by women who had already done it. I assumed that my experience, while unique, would in some ways be similar to the experiences of other women, and therefore things wouldn't be as much of a surprise during the event. 

While I was planning my low-intervention birth, I was also mentally preparing for needing to change these plans during labour. I came to realise that the most important thing for me to have a positive labour and delivery was to be able to be an agent in my own birth. I didn’t want other people to make decisions for me (unless in a very severe emergency!). I knew that I might not be able to use my rational brain as much as normal during labour, so if I wanted to be able to make my own decisions, I would have to go into labour with a lot of knowledge.  If a midwife or doctor was going to tell me that X was happening during my labour, I wanted to already know what that meant and what some of the courses of action might be. I obviously would trust my care providers to have my best interests at heart, and I didn't feel the need--or like it was possible!--to become an expert on all things birth-related. At the same time, I wanted any informed consent to be truly informed, and I felt that I could better get that information over the course of many months from many sources, rather than during the intensity of labour. 
So I read. A lot. I drastically increased the number of birthing blogs that I read during my pregnancy. I read several books, but made sure that the books I chose had a philosophy that was encouraging of a low-intervention birth (I didn't want a book to set out to scare me!). Some books that I found useful were
  • Blooming Birth by Lucy Atkins and Julia Guderian—I remember this having a very realistic and approachable tone, with lots of practical tips for birth preparation
  • Birth Reborn by Michel Odent—this was more for philosophy and getting into a positive mindset about birth than for practical tips, although his ideas (found here and elsewhere) about having a safe, relaxed space for birthing definitely influenced / increased my desire for a homebirth
  • Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr Sarah Buckley—this book uses medical science to look at some common interventions in child birth, to help parents come to the decisions that are right for their family. It is definitely pro-natural birth (some might say biased), but has good information. Sceptical me did have to take some of the anecdotes on more mystical elements of childbirth with a grain of salt, though. 

Jon and I also attended an antenatal class run by the NCT, a national charity. This was a 16-hour class (spread over several sessions!) on various aspects of labour, birth, and parenting a newborn. There were 5 other couples expecting their first baby as well. The NCT generally has a very pro-natural childbirth stance (some say too much so), but our class had a really good approach of discussing the pros and cons of various interventions without pushing an agenda. For example, the leader did a very useful role-play activity to show who all the people in an operating room at a Caesarean birth are. One of the fathers laid down on the (operating) table, and the rest of us stood around him, acting as doctors, nurses, and midwives. The goal was to help lessen a parent’s anxiety if they needed an emergency Caesarean and all of a sudden had a load of people running into the room. On the other hand, we also talked extensively about homebirths. It was this class, more than anything, that helped Jon become comfortable with the idea of a homebirth.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
In preparation for what I knew would be a physically strenuous labour and delivery, I tried to keep active throughout pregnancy. I am not really an exerciser, but I do like to walk (and since I don’t have a car, I need to walk a lot, too!). I tried to continue walking as much as possible without wearing myself out. I was blessed with a fairly easy pregnancy and, once I got the iron situation sorted out, more energy than I expected. Although, when I went on maternity leave at 36 weeks, I may have taken a bit too much advantage of the possibility of lie-ins and lazy afternoons on the couch, and probably could have kept going a bit more. (I also blame this lazing about for Gus’s posterior positioning—I should have been scrubbing the floors to keep him in position like old-time midwives used to say!) While I think keeping active is one thing that I’d be more conscious of in a next pregnancy, I have a feeling it wouldn’t be too difficult with a toddler/pre-schooler to look after!

I thought about hypnobirthing or hiring a doula, but I decided against both of them. There were no local hypnobirthing classes at the time, and I didn't think I would have the discipline to listen to the tapes every day. (Plus, I think Jon would be very skeptical about hypnobirthing. While that wouldn't stop me if it was an idea I was committed to, having Jon's full support during the labour and delivery was more important to me).   We didn't get a doula because I wasn't sure if I would like another person there during the labour. I think I would seriously consider getting one for a next birth, though. I think the whole day was quite draining for Jon, so it would be good to have some support for him. He was an amazing support person for me, but there were times when I knew what I needed to do, but I needed to hear it from someone else in order to get up the energy. The midwives weren't the right support at the time, and Jon didn't have enough knowledge about birth to know specifically what to say, so I think I would like a doula to fill that gap.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What's new with Gus

It seems like every other week Jon and I talk about how Gus is learning so much and picking things up more quickly than he has before, as well as how much fun the little guy is. This week has been no different.

Gus continues to makes leaps and bounds in his language development. Last time I talked about how he had started to put together two-word phrases. Now he regularly is using two- and even three-word sentences. Along with that, more verbs and other words are entering his vocabulary; just yesterday, he started adding too to the end of sentences: "Grandma come too".

He has also picked up a lot of phrases that Jon and I use, and it is the sweetest little thing.  I first noticed him saying "Ooo-kay!" last week, just like I always say. Next came "Dear me!"; it took me a while to figure out where that one came from, as I was pretty sure that I didn't say it. Apparently it is a regular part of Jon's vocabulary, though. I've also heard "Oh dear" and "Oopsy-daisy" (or oop-day, as he is more apt to pronounce it). It is really cute to hear Gus say things that we regularly say, but it does remind you to watch what you say in front of him. The other day, Jon and I were watching something on television, and Supernanny came on before we got round to turning the tv off. We started talking about spanking, when all of a sudden we hear Gus saying "Tan hide. Tan hide." Oh dear! I knew that Jon sometimes says the phrase "tan your hide" in a joking manner, as he thinks it's a really funny Americanism. But I didn't realise that Gus had picked up on it, or really knew what it meant. We're not into corporeal punishment here, and it is not really a phrase that I want Gus going about saying!

Gus is starting to get the hang of quantities. He says two whenever he sees more than one of something.  I try to say something like "yes, there are a lot of cars there", but he does like me to repeat exactly what he says. So if we see four cars, he'll keep repeating "Two cars. Two cars" until I also say "two cars". I'm sure he'll figure it out soon enough, but it seems wrong to me to reinforce incorrect usage.  He has also started saying one. It's kind of funny that he started saying two first, but I guess there is no need to point out one of something until you can wrap your head around the concept that there might be more than one. Other is another common word at the moment.

He is starting to pick up sounds that he previously wasn't able to pronounce, but he is definitely still in the stage where only Jon and I can understand a lot of what he says. And even then, it is not a guarantee. There are times when he is obviously just playing around with sounds and not trying to say a specific word (lately he has been having fun with dubba-dubba-dubba), but there are also times when he repeats something over and over and I have no idea what it might be. I throw out guesses, and he just looks at me--you know he is wondering what in the world I am talking about and wondering why I can't just do whatever it is he is asking!

It has been raining every day for the last week or two here, so we have had a lot of indoor play recently. I got out the play-dough one day last week, and Gus loved it. We had done a bit of play-dough before, but it hadn't really captured his interest. This, week, though, he has spent hours with it. He just loves chopping it up with a little butter knife, often while saying "Chop chop chop". He has also had some good fun pouring puffed wheat cereal from one bowl to another and colouring with crayons. Well, I do most of the colouring. He picks a crayon out of the box, we say the colour, I colour with it a little bit, then he tells me to put it down on the table. Good times. Surprisingly, he is starting to be able to identify some colours. Orange is the one he knows best, probably because he loves to eat oranges, so that makes it a bit easier. Blue and green are pretty good, probably right more than half the time, but they get mixed up easily between them.

hours of fun!
He also, very surprisingly, can identify the letter G. I didn't realise that we had pointed it out that much to him, but apparently we had. He has a little wooden G in his basket of toys, and one day he just picked it up and said "G Gus". I thought it was a fluke, but he has repeated it with other blocks and things that have Gs on them as well, so I guess he knows it. Although I think he recognises it the way he can recognise a picture of a duck or something like that, rather than having an understanding that it is a letter that makes up words to read and write. It still was kind of cool, though.

One funny thing he has been doing this week is walking on his knees. I have no idea where he picked it up--maybe Jon or I do it when we are down on the floor with him? Or maybe he just figured it out for himself. Either way, it is pretty funny to see him shuffling around on his knees, arms out to balance, usually while saying "Walk knees. Walk knees". It's a good family game as well, walking on our knees, then falling down and making a big deal of it. Falling down always makes kids laugh :)

we've also been walking in the rain and splashing in the puddles!
Gus is really getting the hang of people's names. Jon's aunt and uncle came over one day last week, and Gus had never said their names before. Within a couple of minutes, though, he was using their names over and over. I thought, well, he knows them, so it is not surprising that he started saying their names. Yesterday, though, we were staying with my in-laws, and their neighbour girls, Maisy and Alice, came over to see Gus. He had a great time with them. At dinner that evening, we were all talking about the girls, and I hear Gus say "Mai bye-bye. Al bye-bye." I was really impressed that he knew exactly who we were talking about and remembered them. I don't know why I was surprised, though--he usually has a better memory than I do!

I could probably go on and on, but I think there comes a point where any additional anecdotes are only interesting to my mom!  Till next time :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Day in the Life

I'm joining Laura at Navigating the Mothership in documenting a day in our life. I think it's really neat to see how other people spend their days, and also to be able to look back in so many years' time at what we did day in day out way back when. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

5.30am  Jon's alarm goes off. Usually I ignore this and pretty much sleep right through, only half-waking to say goodbye to him as he leaves. But today I woke up, so I got up and ironed his shirt for the day. This is one thing I quite like to do for him (although usually not in the morning)--somehow it seems to epitomise taking care of your husband to iron his shirt for work. Plus, when he gets up this early, if he misses the bus, he has to wait 20 minutes for the next one, so running late because you forgot to get a shirt ready is no fun.

After Jon leaves for the day, I'm for some reason not particularly tired (very unusual!) and am tempted by the computer. I resist, as I know I will only regret it later if I don't sleep now, but it takes a while to fall back asleep. In the meantime, I take a picture of Gus sleeping.

8.30am  Gus and I wake up. Actually, I think I wake up, hoping to do some blogging or reading before Gus wakes up, but no joy. Lately it has been almost impossible to get up before him--he can sense when I am awake and decides he should wake up to. So we go into his room (yes, he does have a room!  It just has no bed and half of it is used for storage. He still quite likes it in there, though) and read some books.

I soon notice that his diaper is leaking--oops! Head downstairs for a diaper change and some breakfast. Gus isn't so interested in breakfast, but does enjoy some play-dough (to play with, not eat). Second day in a row that he has been digging play-dough, which is pretty cool. Plus, it gives me a chance to write an email that needs to be sent.

The rest of the morning is spent inside playing trains

and outside exploring the area in front of the house. It is actually not raining today (mostly) after a couple of weeks of rain every day, so it is good to get out a bit. Gus has recently learned to throw, so he is practicing by throwing rocks from the neighbour's garden.

We also spend some time looking out at the cars going past

I know he doesn't look very excited, but he really does love it!
Laura encourages us to include pics of ourselves in these posts.
I did take others, but they were all kinds of hideous, so this will have to do!

and, of course, getting Gus some milk. Can't forget that one!

12 noon  I make lunch, seeing as I can't seem to go more than 2 or 3 hours without food. We have some pasta with peas, pumpkin puree, a bit of cream, and a bit more cheese than I meant to put in. But it tasted really yummy. And only took about 10 minutes to make--win!

I also mix up some homemade tortillas for tonight's dinner, based on this recipe. Thanks to Melissa for sharing it!

they need to rest...

Gus spends some time looking out the window at the cars (he loves this and would spend half the day up there if we let him!), then it is naptime. He normally sleeps at 1, but I put him down a bit earlier today, a) because he woke up a bit early, and b) because we are going to a friend's house this afternoon, and we need to leave before his normal wake-up time to get there. It actually worked quite well! I, of course, do very little that is productive during nap, but I do get to have a good read around the internet. Which is rather more enjoyable than the alternative of washing dishes.

car. van. big van!

Awake time!  And we are off.

It takes about 45 minutes to walk to our friend's house. Unless Gus decides to walk rather than staying in the stroller.

aah!  the wind!

But the weather is still pretty nice (other than getting nearly blown over by the wind), so it was a very pleasant journey. And Gus saw 2 buses, so he was happy!

5.30pm We had a good time seeing our friends (and of course forgot to take any pictures), but now it is time to head back home. We need to stop at the store for fruit and yoghurt (like we do every other day!), so we walk back via the lake, which is near the grocery store.

Gus walks more than rides, which is fine, but for some reason he kept on sitting down on the ground. It made the going rather slow, but I wasn't really in a hurry.

helping me push the stroller

We finally get back home, and I make the taboulleh, tortillas, and guacamole for dinner. Sounds a bit weird, but trust me, it's yum.

more tortilla making

While I am doing that, the best part of the day--Jon arrives home!!

Gus usually spends about 20 minutes (or more) every evening before Jon gets home asking "Pa? Knock door? Pa [on the] bus?" It is lovely how much Gus looks forward to Jon getting home, but since that coincides with when I am trying to make dinner and he often wants to be lifted up to look out the window to see if Jon is walking up the path, it can be tiring. But, Jon gets home, they play, we eat, and then we all chill out for a while.

9.00pm  We all head up to bed. Gus spends some time trying out his new trick of walking on his knees, but I figure that's a good way to tire him out for bed :)  We all settle into bed, and as Gus falls asleep, Jon and I watch an episode of NCIS. Good night, sleep tight.

bedtime. can't you tell?