Why Go Drug-Free?

After reading Leo’s birth story, some might wonder why a woman would choose to give birth without drugs.  I cannot speak for all women, but I can give my personal reasons.

I should start by saying I’m allergic to -caine drugs, the most common local anesthesia, and so an epidural has never been an option for me.  Even if that weren’t the case, my low blood pressure would possibly make the epidural unwise, since it can further lower blood pressure.  My fast labours also make it a non-option for me, as it can’t be placed until a woman is dilated 4cm, and when I reach that stage, I’m in transition and soon to give birth.  But even if those things weren’t true, I wouldn’t want the epidural.  In the majority of cases, it confines the woman to bed, instead of allowing freedom of movement. I know for me being confined to bed isn’t ideal.  It also necessitates an IV and continuous monitoring, further limiting mobility.  While few studies have compared those who receive epidural a with those who go natural, there are indications that the epidural may negatively impact early breastfeeding, which means it also affects overall breastfeeding success.  Breastfeeding is extremely important to me, so I don’t want to jeopardize that.  It also increases chances of instrumental delivery.

Ok, so the epidural is out, but what about opioids that are either injected or placed in an IV?  For one, it can lead to a similar problem with early breastfeeding, since it can make the newborn tired at birth.  I know from experience that such drugs are highly effective with surgical pain, but the pain of labour is not at all like surgical pain, not even during the raw, primal pain of transition.  But I also know from experience that receiving those drugs in labour didn’t lead to decreased pain.  An outside observer wouldn’t realise that, though, as it gives the appearance of decreased pain and of being calmer; in reality, I was simply unable to respond to the pain, while still acutely feeling everything.  My friends who had opioids in labour have reported the same feeling. It’s anecdotal, I know, but it’s enough for me to decline such drugs in labour again.

Then there are things like gas and air (sadly not widely available in the US).  I personally didn’t like it in labour, as it made me feel nauseated (I take pain over nausea), which is a common side effect.  I say “sadly” in regards to its being unavailable, though, because any effects are short-lived and it doesn’t adversely affect the baby, to my knowledge. I did like having it for getting stitched up after birthing Kieran, though.  Thankfully I’ve not required stitches after the others.

My main reasons for going natural? The ability to move as I wish and the absolute euphoria after birth.  The birth isn’t a haze, but is something I experience completely, not just feeling the pain but the endorphins.  Baby and I are both alert after, so the baby can breastfeed immediately before we both sleep.  It’s an amazing thing.  I will say, though, that it doesn’t just happen.  But how to accomplish it is another post.

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Crazy Intense Birth

You know those birth stories where the mother speaks of a peaceful birth wherein she breathed her baby out? This isn’t one of them. (if any reading are pregnant with the first, note that most don’t have such fast labours!)

On Thursday, I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant and had a midwife appointment. I’d been having more Braxton-Hicks, and the midwife actually saw one, but nothing more.  Baby was lower, but not engaged, and all was well. I told her I’d see her next week.

When I got home, I started having niggly contractions that didn’t go away with activity, but also weren’t really painful. I installed the car seat, filled a Doomoo seat (they really need to sell those things in the US), and was happy my birth kit had finally arrived. The contractions stopped by evening, and I figured it would be at least a few more days, minimum.  My husband and I hung out a bit after the other kids were in bed, then I decided to try to sleep.

As usual, I was up and down in the night, moving to the couch at one point.  I’d wake periodically with back pain, change position, and go back to sleep.  By 6.25, it finally dawned on me that the back pain was back labour, and I decided to take a shower for relief.  I had to step around Cosmo, which should’ve been another clue, as he watches over me when in labour.

The shower helped, and I was convinced I was in early labour. My husband was awake by the time I got out, so I told him I thought it was baby day. Charlotte wanted to snuggle, so we did, and then went up for breakfast.  Strangely for me, I wasn’t very hungry, and just had some Weetabix and sat on the birthing ball.  I also decided to start timing things and found they were 10-15 minutes apart, lasting 30-45 seconds. I could easily breathe through them, though counter-pressure helped.

Knowing this was likely it, I told my mom she needed to cancel her lunch plans so she could take the kids for us.  I also told the kids they’d get to spend the day with Grammy and PowPow.  Charlotte seemed concerned and wanted to be held, and I actually ended up leaning into her for a few contractions. I was starting to vocalize, softly.  Kieran asked me what I was doing and I explained that I was in labour. His eyes got huge and he said “you mean we’re getting a baby?!”.  It was precious.  He also tried showing me a book, but I was getting in the zone. I was also getting annoyed with noises, so I asked my parents to take the kids. I hugged them and they left. It was 10.00.

My contractions were then 5-7 minutes apart, lasting 50-70 seconds.  I wondered if the jacuzzi would feel good, so I asked Bart to check on it while I phoned the midwives, as Ashley, knowing my history of fast labours, had given strict instructions to phone when they came at 6 minutes or less.  There was soap residue, so he set about cleaning that, which further irritated me and made my contractions slow a little.  The receptionist phoned and said I needed to come into the birth center, which meant I was even more annoyed (if two women are in labour at once, you have to go to the birth center).  We got things in the car and went, and my labour, predictably, stalled.

Upon arriving, Ashley greeted me and apologised for making me come in. The other lady had given birth, but would be there another hour or so, and Ashley wasn’t comfortable telling me to wait that long (it was 11.00) – she was right.  She checked me and got me in he room, and I requested a bath.  The hot water was nice, but after 30-45 minutes, I’d had enough and wanted the birthing ball.  Shortly after that, the larger room was available, and we moved in there.  My contractions were getting more intense, my vocalizing less controlled, all with my wonderful husband providing counter pressure each time.  Ashley requested that I get on the bed, so I alternately leaned on the headboard and went on all fours.

It was around noon, and I was definitely in transition.  I couldn’t help screaming, roaring even, declaring “I can’t!”, and crying in pain.  Sometimes I’d notice my crucifix and miraculous medal and try to focus, remembering that I was offering the pain up for some friends who were in emotional pain.  After a couple of those, my body started bearing down, but there was no relief from the raw agony of transition like my other births.  Because I was bearing down, Ashley requested to check me: 8cm (which I knew because I’d seen the second bloody show), and baby was still high.

Another contraction took me as I got back on all fours.  My body was bearing down with everything I had, while I continued to scream.  I knew things were close, but wasn’t expecting to feel the “ring of fire” right then!  Baby was crowning!  Ashley asked if I wanted to go onto my side, and I said no, so she just asked me to go slow.  On the next contraction, the head was nearly out, and Ashley thought baby was posterior.  She had me flip over real quick, and the labour assistant helped hold my leg while I pushed him out in one or two pushes, roaring all the while.

Immediately there was relief and euphoria, as my son, Leo Vianney, was handed to me.  It was 12.34.  The labour had been intense, but the euphoria was equally intense, and the tears were now tears of elation.  I was, and am, overwhelmed with love.  I stayed like that, holding him and nursing him, for an hour or two.  The cord wasn’t cut until the placenta was birthed, and, even though he had a nuchal hand, I had no tearing!  I sipped coconut water and took in my son and thanked my wonderful husband and the midwife.  It was amazing.  Once Leo unlatched, I showered and dressed, and all the checks were done before we headed home.  It may not have been the home birth I’d planned, but it was perfect.

On Voting My Conscience

I cannot wait for the election to be over! I have long been tired of the political adverts.  Part of my frustration, though, comes from the difficulty in voting my conscience.  I am absolutely pro-life, meaning I am against abortion (no exceptions), for programmes that support pregnant women and help with after the birth, against the death penalty, against torture, for affordable health care (minus coverage for abortion, contraceptives [which are potentially abortifacient], and IVF), against embryonic stem cell research, etc.  Finding a candidate that fits that bill is nigh impossible, it seems.

Even so, many tell me I must vote “the lesser of two evils” and therefore must perpetuate the two-party system.  In fact, I was convinced to do just that in the last presidential election, since I live in a swing state; this is a decision I’ve regretted every day since then. See, my one vote doesn’t make a huge difference in a national election, but it does affect me.

This is why, this time, I insist on voting my conscience.  I need to vote in a way I can live, both in protest of the system and for my own soul.  I’m tired of candidates promising to let us live our faith and then reversing once we get them in office, too.

So what will I do? Well, I am heartened in reading the USCCB’s guide “Faithful Citizenship“.  Paragraph 36 states, “36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods ”

I personally don’t like or trust either Obama or Romney, and so will not vote for either of them. I know no candidate is perfect, but I don’t think Romney’s record matches his current promises, and cannot in good conscience vote for him.  I will continue looking at third party candidates to see if there is one I can live with.  While I am not a single-issue voter, I do hold abortion and embryonic stem cell research at he top, for if we do not protect the most vulnerable among us, little else matters.  That being said, I’d love to find someone who also holds the other views I do, but that is unlikely.  If I cannot find an acceptable candidate, it is possible I will abstain from voting for president, though I will more likely write someone in instead of doing that, if none of the other candidates is acceptable.  I do not see such an action as throwing away my vote, or an implicit vote for either Obama or Romney, but as a vote for that candidate.  And yes, it is also a protest of the system, which is in need of changing.  Most of all, however I vote must be compatible with my conscience.

Book Nook

Today we have another Julia Donaldson classic!  When my parents returned from a recent trip, they brought my children the book Room on the Broom, which we’d seen but hadn’t read.  As with her other books, this one was an instant hit with the kids and with us.  It tells the story of a witch who takes in various animals, who in turn help her.  With Hallowe’en coming up, you should pick up this book immediately!

Crafty Thursday

This week has been more of the same as far as projects go, but I actually have photos this time.  Here is the diaper stash (ignore the leopard print, as I didn’t make those).  I finally timed myself, and it takes me about 30 minutes to sew one of them.  Obviously that doesn’t include the time in cutting out and placing the snaps; the snaps probably take about as long as sewing, just because there are 21 snaps that have to be placed before sewing.

Here is a sample of the breastpads I’ve been making.  I’ve mostly used scraps, with some being flannel, some knit.  Some have fleece on top, some have it in back; some have PUL backing and some don’t.  The hardest part is sewing in a circle!

Mama cloth!  I did some of the bases with PUL in between two pieces of fabric, but then decided to start backing them with fleece instead.  I wanted to make them similar to LunaPads in that the absorbent pad is then put on using some straps on the base.  I used scrap fleece for the straps.  The absorbent pads vary in composition, depending on how absorbent it is, so some are flannel, some are knit, some have fleece on top, some are backed with PUL and some with fleece.  I just zigzagged around the outside and then did some topstitching to make a well, as it were, for more absorbency.  I used snaps on the wings of the bases, too.  I made bases and pads of different lengths and thicknesses, of course, though only the heavy ones are shown here.

Finally, here’s Kieran’s sweater!  I just need to finish working in ends.  I love the way it turned out.