For the Love of Foreskin, Stop Cutting!

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It's true.  Foreskin is loveable.  It's not just unsightly waste to be removed from male babies as soon after birth as possible, so everyone can just forget it ever existed.  It is a beautiful, functioning part of the male human body that serves in the most intimate of human interactions. I love foreskin.

When my tiny baby boy was born, I looked upon him as my most perfect creation and never thought for one moment that he needed to be altered.  As a Mother, there are many reasons that I left my son's sexual organs intact but first and foremost there is the simple reason that they are not my parts to alter.

As a woman, though, there is a different reason why I advocate against routine infant circumcision.  As a woman, my own sexuality is effected by the circumcision of my partner.  Circumcision changes the way a man makes love to a woman...and I mean the actual mechanics of sex.  The way a man moves during sex is directly related to the stimulation of his penis, which is completely different without foreskin to aid in that stimulation.  Without foreskin, lubrication is removed from the vagina making it more uncomfortable.  Sometimes without the soft cushion of a foreskin, sex can feel a bit like sitting on the handle of a broom stick.

Circumcision alters the most intimate of human interactions.

This is not to say that circumcised men are bad lovers and should just throw in the towel and join the Priesthood though.  Great sex depends on much more than the hardware you are working with, but having all the perfect tools for the job makes it much easier and much more enjoyable.  Make no mistake, an intact penis IS the perfect tool for the job!
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That's the Plan

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With 15-ish weeks left, I am ready to begin preparations for my home birth experience.  I have my wishes and wants for the experience (which I have been thinking about since before the 2 little blue lines appeared) and a general birth plan written out, but getting the home birth supply list from my midwife yesterday made everything suddenly feel so much more real to me.  I've been planning a home birth, but now will start to actually prepare for one!!

So, based on what my midwife has suggested and suggestions from other sources, here is my supply list for a home water birth!

1.  Pool.  Obvious enough!  One thing to consider, though, is where exactly the pool will go and what the flooring underneath it will be.  I had originally planned on having the pool in the kitchen until I realized how uncomfortable the tile floor would be not just for myself but for the midwives and various guests who might gather around.  Instead, I will have it in the living room just off the kitchen, which sports a cushy carpet.  

2.  Liner for Pool.  I am borrowing my birth pool and many people do, so a liner will protect the pool for future users.  Even if I wasn't borrowing the pool, I think I would still use a liner for easier clean up.

3.  Towels.  Lots of towels.  My midwife suggests 10 or so for a water birth and about 5 for a birth on dry land.

4.  Washcloths.  About 10 washcloths to be used as warm perineal compress.  Also, a bowl for warm water or better yet a crock pot!

5.  Pillows.  Cover them in plastic bags and then pillow slips to protect them.  

6.  Floor Coverings.  Plastic picnic table covers with flannel backing works great on carpeting.

7.  Bed.  Make bed in layers that can easily be removed.  First clean sheets, then a waterproof layer and then another clean sheet covering over the waterproof layer.  Even if you are having a water birth, you may want to delivery the placenta in bed so after that is over you can peel off the top 2 layers and have a freshly made bed to cuddle in!

8.  Roll of paper towels.

9.  Bowl for placenta and a container for storage.

10.  2 large waste baskets or garbage bag lined boxes.  One for dirty laundry and one for waste.

11.  Peroxide and salt for removing blood stains.

So those are the supplies suggested for the birth itself, but what about everything else?  Here are a few other things (so far) that I am planning to prepare for the birth.

1.  Food.  As well as having a few frozen meals prepared beforehand I am going to make sure there are lots of healthy snacks for me and all my guests to snack on.  Fruits, veggies, cheeses, dips, spreads, breads, muffins, and nuts all prepared and waiting in containers to be easily accessed by everyone.  I will also try to have a soup or stew slow cooking on the stove (since I will be using the crock for the warm compresses)

2.  Birth Day Loot Bags...for the kids!  I will be creating a box of fun for each of my kids to keep them busy on the big day.  Colouring books, crayons, art projects, movies, books, games all brand new and waiting to be explored by bored little children!

3.  iPod Playlist!!  That's a work in progress.  I keep going back and forth on what I might want to listen to during labour.  I think I will make up a few different ones, each with a different 'mood' in mind.

4.  Clothes.  I have started looking for some ideal clothing to wear during the birth and so far all I have decided on is a nice light flowing skirt.

So that's what I have so far, and it seems to be a pretty thorough list.  If not, I can always send Daddy out to pick up anything I need when the time comes.  That's what I keep him around for!

I.  Am.  So.  Excited!!!!!

Spring Cleaning

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Garbage OnlyImage by Peter Kaminski via Flickr
It's March and the snow appears to have left us for the most part (knock on wood) so here in the Goddesses sanctuary, Spring Cleaning has begun.  One of my biggest goals for this year was to get seriously organized not only for my sanity and for preparing for a new baby but preparing for the move that is in our near future.  There is no way I will be lugging a half tonne of random junk half way across the country.  I just about pulled my hair out moving it all 4 blocks!  Not that I really need an excuse though, since this needs to be done regardless!

Yesterday, the SO and I tackled our biggest challenge which was our bedroom.  Now, our bedroom has always been the dumping ground for the overspill from everywhere else, a laundry room and a storage room.  It's the last room to get any attention...which means it really doesn't get any attention at all.  By the time we make it there, we're just too tired to put the effort into it.  This time, we started there and thank GODS we did!  It was a disaster.  So bad, in fact, that I considered writing a Last Will and Testament just in case I never returned from the back hole it had become.  It's almost embarassing to admit the amount of crap I removed from my room yesterday, so I won't.  I'll just say, it was an embarassing amount.  

It felt amazing to purge.  I felt like I was losing pounds off of my body, to be honest, from the amount of physical relief I felt doing it.  I could breathe in there.  I stood in my bedroom without feeling anxious!  It was so motivating and empowering to let go of all that shit I had been hoarding for so long.  Seriously...I had clothes that haven't fit me in 6 years and never would again, even if I sawed my body in half.  SO's contribution was a few hundred pounds of computer parts, which I finally convinced him was actually junk.  To see that computer crap go was my biggest victory of the day.

Clearing some space was a good move, as yesterday my Mother dropped off a load of brand new baby stuff for the belly bean.  I forgot how exciting it is to get all those tiny little shirts and booties and put them in their place (with the help of future Big Sister L).  She helped me 'test' out all the blankets, to ensure their softness.  I didn't realize just how prepared I already am for this baby until I saw it all put away...and then I cried.  I love that about pregnancy.

The next big step is taking another look through the clothes and thinning out the laundry pile a bit further and then going through the kids rooms in search of broken toys.  After that, we will focus on organizing a bit better in hopes that we won't get back into this place again!  

Any organizational tips for this decluttering Goddess?

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The Birth of Kael: A VBA3C Victory

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After three Caesarean sections, I knew I wanted a natural birth for my fifth child. I had written a detailed birth plan describing how I was to be involved and treated during my labour and birth at the hospital, with as little intervention as possible. My plan notwithstanding, this is my story of the very difficult labour and birth of my son on February 8, 2010.

by Danielle Arnold-McKenny

It all started with a week of annoying, stop and start prodromal labour. There really is nothing quite so frustrating as playing the guessing game every time the contractions start. Is this it…this time?! But after a week of lots of contractions and various other questionable symptoms, early evening on Saturday (February 6, 2010) I was pretty certain that we were onto the countdown.

Contractions continued during the night for the first time. Although they slowed right down and became erratic, they kept getting stronger. Sunday morning they slowed to a halt for about three or four hours. When they started up again, it was like being back at square one.

So I kicked my husband Nick and the kids out of the house to go to a friend’s to watch the Super Bowl. Then I set out to do some serious relaxing: filled the living room with candles, put some of my favourite aromatherapy oils in a burner, put on soothing music, got settled into my super comfy rocking chair, and just…R E L A X E D.

Soon enough the contractions became steady at about 8–10 minutes apart. Nick brought the kids home and tucked them into bed late that night, and we called my best friend Lynda over to be with us.

By 3 AM I was definitely in labour. While still only about 6–8 minutes apart, the contractions were strong enough for me to need to support myself and focus on breathing through them—rocking and swaying. We called our midwife, to put her on alert that the party was definitely on. By 5 AM the contractions were still 6 minutes apart but very strong. I had to decide what to do next.

I knew that the kids would be waking up soon and really didn’t think I could deal with my labour and them. So I made the decision for us to head off to the hospital. It was too early—I knew it was—but I was so tired, having not really slept in two nights. 
I just wanted to know where I was in my labour, to know how far/fast I was progressing.

I think that this is one of the worst things that most labouring women do—worry about the numbers: how many minutes apart, how many centimetres dilated, how many hours of labour…This turns so easily into a downward spiral.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were met by one of our midwives—and so started that downward spiral. She checked me at 6:30 AM. I was only 3 centimetres…3? 
Just 3 centimetres?!? Oh gods!!! Immediately I became depressed, completely despondent. Three centimetres was exactly where I’d been when I’d gone to the hospital in labour with my youngest daughter Keira, and exactly where I stayedwith that labour, which this one had so far exactly mirrored. Keira’s birth ended up being a Caesarean section…

On my midwife’s advice, Nick and I started walking the hospital hallways, to try to “ramp up the contractions,” as she was convinced that I wasn’t in active labour yet—another very disappointing announcement that brought me down even further. How was I supposed to continue like this? In my opinion, my contractions were damn strong, as strong as they were when I was close to transition with Quinlin, my home-birth, vaginal-birth-after-one-Caesarean (VBA1C) baby.

So we walked the halls, stopping to lean on whatever I had available during contractions. We talked and I cried. I was so despondent, and after two nights of almost no sleep, I was completely exhausted. How was I going to make it through this if the contractions were already this strong and I wasn’t even in “active labour”!?!

Nick was a huge support both physically and emotionally. While we walked, we talked: about my fears, about the “options,” both of us knowing what the “option” was…We returned to our room and talked to our midwife about the jumble of emotions, about the labour and my fears. We decided that we would talk to the obstetrician on call. Even then I knew that we were taking the first step down the road to another Caesarean. But I was so caught up in my anxiety and despondency that I had lost hope.

When the doctor arrived finally at around 9 AM, I was desperate for some relief from the contractions. Luckily I had an OB who wasn’t a pusher. Oh, he definitely wanted me to have the C/S, to remove the “risks” of my trial of labour, and to save the staff from the obvious stress of having a VBA3C on their labour & delivery floor. But he suggested that he see how far along in my labour I was before we made the final decision. For this alone, I have much respect for the man, because at that moment I was so vulnerable that he could have pushed me right down to the operating room himself and knocked me out. I wouldn’t have uttered a peep. But instead he checked me over.

I was 8 centimetres!!!!

From down in the valley of emotional despair so dark and heavy that I could barely breathe, I flew up to the top of the tallest mountain of elation!! 8 centimetres?!? I 
could do this!!!! Nick’s face lit up in what I knew was a mirror expression of my own. Eight centimetres were unimaginable.

“What do you want to do?” the OB asked. “I want to continue to labour!!!” I almost shouted in excitement.

He then started on the litany of risks, and rules I “had to” follow. He suggested that we break my water to help get things moving along. I readily agreed. Hell, if he’d suggested cartwheels while holding a bottle of nitroglycerine, I’d have eagerly agreed with him!

So he quickly broke my membranes. With a huge rush of lovely, clear amniotic fluid, I instantly felt Baby Boobalumba (as we had nick-named him) drop down a bit farther. Continuing with his sermon, the OB warned me that he’d give me one hour to show some progress, and that we would discuss “the options” when he returned.

For 20 minutes or so, the contractions eased off in severity, while coming closer together. I was laughing between contractions and joking with Nick and my midwife. That break was short-lived, though. Very soon transition fell on me like a lead curtain.

Oh, it was 

After an hour, the doctor returned and checked me again. Still 8 centimetres. “Tsk tsk tsk” is what I got, and again he started listing the risks and lecturing me on the dangers of having a uterine rupture if I didn’t hurry up and progress. I argued that Boobalumba moving lower
was progress. I immediately lost my high regard for him when he began shushing me and telling me off like a naughty child.

Have I mentioned that I don’t take lightly to someone treating me as an inferior being? Hackles were raised, and Nick quickly set about to calm me down. We were given another hour.

Oh gods!!! Contractions were now never-ending waves that carried away any semblance of humanity I had left. The logical Dani was left behind by the primal Dani, who ruled unchecked over the writhing body that had been human just a few hours before.

Occasionally the logical Dani had flashes of insight that penetrated the haze of transition: thoughts of caged mountain lions screaming in rage at their captors; the lone wolf caught in a trap that gnaws its own leg off to try to escape…for I was the trapped animal, trapped by the hospital staff, policies, doctors, and my midwives. I was hooked up to a fetal monitor that inhibited my ability to move. I was suppressed by people telling me where to go and how to position myself, and reminding me of the clock that continued to tick towards the “deadline.”

Some of what happened that I’m about to relay, I learned later from Nick. At this point my chronological memory that was recording the events as they happened became seriously erratic (resulting in gaping holes big enough to drive a truck through).

At some point during my transition to a blubbering mess, my friend Lynda showed up after taking my kids to her parents’ house. Between Lynda and Nick, I had a small bit of calm to cling to. They took turns talking to me, feeding me sips of water, rubbing my back, and helping me be as comfortable as possible.

Then my second hour was up. The OB arrived and announced that I was still just 8 centimetres and my cervix was inflamed.

I begged for relief. The last piece of human Dani was ready to admit defeat. But I managed to beat back the primal contractions and somewhat coherently tell the doctor that if I could just relax for a minute, just have a moment’s respite to regain control of myself…If I’m heading down the hallway to the operating room anyways, then give me the epidural so that we can try just one last time to finish this dilation thingy that you’re all so hyper about!!

Then the human spark slipped away, having said its final piece, and the primal Dani took over again. Nick discussed it all with the doctor. They arranged to get me an epidural, and Nick bargained a further half hour to see if we could achieve the final 2 centimetres that they wanted.

Immediately the room seemed to fill with people. Two maternity nurses bustled in to set up an IV…I remember biting the head off one for even thinking about putting the IV into the back of my hand…my second midwife was there.…the noise levels rose substantially and I felt like I was in a stadium surrounded by overwhelming crowds. I vaguely recollect my midwife checking me again and saying that she thought the cervical lip could be moved…and she did something down there that wasn’t pleasant.

Then they all decided that I needed to be lying down 
right now. “Take the pressure off the cervix”…“let the swelling go down”…snippets of directions, with me arguing that I didn’t want to lie down. I can’t lie down, I won’t lie down…yet somehow they had me down flat on the bed, taking away the last vestige of control that I had over this three-ring circus.

More people flooded into the room. The anaesthesiologist came with cartloads of paraphernalia. At some point they kicked Lynda out of the room on some flimsy excuse, leaving me with one fewer island of support to cling to.

At this point I remember feeling “the push.” I told “them” that I needed to push, that I felt 
that pressure, that I needed to poop…and I remember “them” telling me not to push, that it was too early, that I wasn’t fully dilated to the golden 10. They rolled me to my side to get ready for the epidural, hands on me everywhere, voices ordering me to do this and do that, curl into a ball, hold still, don’t move…I tried to follow orders. The small inner voice of logic screamed at the primal me to listen: “Don’t move, you idiot!! That’s a needle in your spine!!!”

All of a sudden my primal self was engulfed by an all-consuming command to push…Out of the confusion of the moment, standing out from the roaring crowds came the scream: 
“I have to push!!! I have to push!!!!!”

The crowds yelled back at me: “Don’t move!!” “Don’t push!!!”…

What came next is a moment of clarity that I will remember to my last breath. It came so clearly and so powerfully that it is permanently etched into my brain. I
 pushed. With every fibre of my being. Every muscle, every tendon, every vital organ. I pushed once, then again. And I felt Baby Boobalumba burst through some invisible barrier and move down into my vagina. I felt every contour, every millimetre of his descent.

A primal growling scream rose out of me that was pure energy. I was filled with a sense of exhilaration as endorphins flooded my system. I CAN DO THIS!!!! I CAN BIRTH MY BABY!!!—only to be cut off by grabbing hands and barking orders from the madding and maddening crowds…“Stop!! Don’t push!! Don’t move!!”

Voices tumbled overtop each other. “Is the baby coming?” “Can you see the head?” “I can see the head!” “Turn her around!” “Lie on your back!” Voices bellowing at me…

The human Dani fought with the primal Dani to take back control. The human Dani 
knew logically what she needed to do. Knew that she needed to retake control of her body, not just from the primal Dani, but from all of these people who were trying to control her.

I needed to get up. I needed to get off my back and upright. I needed to find my voice and make these people all shut up and
 listen to me.

Another contraction and another push. This time my midwife cheered me on: “Push!!!!!” and I did, feeling the baby’s head start to crown, the burning that brought with it that all-encompassing need to keep pushing—only to have it all come to a crashing halt. The epidural kicked in, to block all sensation of the contractions.

The voices yelled at me to push, but the urge was simply gone. Along with the realization that my guide had disappeared came the awareness that I couldn’t breathe. “They” kept yelling at me to push, to lie back and grab my legs and pull them back…but I couldn’t find my centre, couldn’t breathe in the air deeply enough to get a full breath, couldn’t feel the contractions to cue me to push…I needed to get up. I 
had to get up, I tried to tell them to let me up…but they just kept pushing me back down and telling me to grab my legs…

“Tsk tsk tsk we missed another contraction.” “Dani, you have to 
push,the baby’s head is half way out!!! You have to push!!!”

HELLO?! I’m perfectly aware of exactly where the baby’s head is, thank you very much!!!!

I tried again to tell them that I couldn’t feel the contractions, that I couldn’t breathe…but the crowds drowned me out with their incessant commands and annoying nattering verbal diarrhea.

I reached down and felt the top of my baby’s head, and ran my fingers through the masses of soggy hair. Someone pushed my hand away and forced me to grab the back of my thigh. The human Dani sighed in resignation. They couldn’t hear me, they wouldn’t listen. I had no choice but to do it “their” way. So ignoring the roaring of the masses surrounding me, I breathed in as deeply as I could and P U S H E D.

The relief of his head coming fully out is one that every woman who has given birth can no doubt relate to. Again I reached down. I wanted to birth my baby. I wanted to grasp his slippery body as it came out of me, as we started our journey as two separate beings. I wanted to be the first to hold him. Then someone pushed my hands away again and forced them back to my legs. And so again I pushed as “they” ordered, and Baby Boobalumba was born.

Strange, but as soon as he was delivered onto my belly, the human Dani completely took over. I immediately reminded my midwife not to clamp the umbilical cord, and asked for a warmed blanket to put over both of us.

Once the cord was cut a few minutes later, my midwife asked me to push to deliver the placenta. At that point one of the nurses made a motion to press on my belly. I immediately slapped her hand away and told her No, then told my midwife that I did not want any cord traction applied. As the epidural was now firmly in place and I had no feeling at all, I concentrated on muscle memory and pushed…
hard, delivering the placenta in one quick swoosh.

When one of the nurses tried to rub Boobalumba down with a towel, I pushed her away again. After that, no one interfered with me and the baby; no one tried to weigh him or measure him or clean him. They left me alone to be with my baby.

Now that clarity had returned, I could concentrate on him and interact with the people around me as a rational being again. I immediately started asking Nick for details and found out only then that Lynda had been kicked out of the room and he had run out into the hallway as soon as Boobalumba was born to grab her and bring her back in. He also told me that the nurses wouldn’t allow him to take a picture as our son was crowning. That made me so angry.

Oh, I was 
mad, really mad!!!

But on the surface I was able to enjoy the victory for what it meant to me personally: a validation that I was not broken. Though the birth had not gone even remotely as I had wished, and my birth plan was basically trampled on by galloping hordes, 
I did it.

Writing this down now, a little over a week later, I am able to verbalize many things that at the moment were just notes stored away for later analysis. The basic need for understanding and support for the VBAC mother. Support and care that are different from what other birthing mothers need.

My personal story is one of vindication of a VBA3C mom. We are not broken. We are perfectly capable of birthing our babies without the surgeon’s knife. My story will, I hope, inspire those that were there—the OB doctor, the labour & delivery nurses, my midwives—to realize that it
is possible if only women are given the choice.

I wasn’t given the “choice.” I 
demanded that they allow it. I didn’t have their support or their understanding. I had to rely solely upon myself and my husband, knowing that if we wavered even for a moment, as we came so close to doing several times, we would be engulfed by the medical machine and processed as yet another number.

Sure, our birth is a number, but a very different and more important one: the first VBA3C in Cambridge Memorial Hospital (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada) and by the Cambridge Midwives Group. I hope that through my experience they will open doors to more VBAC mothers. I hope that my story inspires others to make choices for themselves and to learn from my mistakes and my victories. We 
can do it. But we have to fight for our rights and continue to fight to make changes so that other women will not have to fight the battle I did

Check out Dani's blog Informed Parenting

The Birth of Chloë

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Note:  My apologies for the white text background.  I have tried to the point of tears (hey, I'm pregnant) and it will not go away.

Thanks goes out to Emma Kwasnica for sharing with us the amazing story of Chloë's birth.  Chloë was born at home in October of 2009 under a full moon.

Finally ! At 42 completed weeks of pregnancy, and after a week of prodromal labour, I was OVERJOYED to have contractions for which I actually needed to lean on the table and breathe through (they were immediately regular, too - every two to three minutes right from the get-go). They began at about 10:45 pm, Saturday night.  I sent out the "IT'S ON !" e-mail to close friends and family in between two hard contractions, shortly after mum took this picture of me (because I said to her "Quick ! please take one last pic of my pregnant self !"). I also phoned Sinclair (my primary midwife) at this time, and believe it or not, told her she might even be able to go back to sleep for a bit... !?!? Yes, days of pre-labour will do this to you, ie., cause you to be in complete denial when it actually does happen, and even when everyone else around you knows it's the real deal. 

After I called my midwife and Minerva (my good friend and photographer for the birth) to let them know this was really it, I headed straight to the bedroom with Seb to begin working through hard contractions. I took a few - maybe two ? - kneeling on the floor and leaning onto the bed before I said to Seb, "Oh, Gods... this isn't going to cut it. Fill the tub - NOW !" I staggered into the bathroom once he'd got the tub filling (it's a nice big, deep soaker tub - the one in the background of all my 'pregnant belly weekly update' photos), and I took a few contractions seated on the toilet. As much as I hated going through contractions on the toilet for both of my other births, and as much as I feared the violent intensity of the position, I ultimately knew that it would help me to meet my baby sooner. With Seb in front of me, my arms thrown around his neck for dear life, we worked through several back-to-back rushes like this, just until the bath was full. And they were intense. Such power forcing my yoni open ! I almost uttered those famous words (I CAN'T DO THIS !), but I knew the bath was almost full, and we managed to get through three or four like that (and I am convinced now that the majority of dilation happened on the toilet). So into the bath I tumbled and oh ! what sweet relief to feel the warm water on my belly. I find it interesting now that I remained forward-leaning for the entire duration of my labour, but was blissfully unaware that Chloë was heading out of my womb "sunny side up", or posterior. Remembering, of course, that this labour for me was such a whirlwind, and that not even an hour and a half passed between that first real contraction and the birth of my baby.

I am not sure if it was the warmth of the water around me, or the relief of being off the toilet, but the next contractions that I experienced - leaning forward onto the edge of the bath, knees spread as wide open as the walls of the tub would allow - well... they were, indeed, orgasmic. And so the great myth is confirmed ! I was able to relax right down into myself, and the position I was in only encouraged this kind of pleasurable feeling, as it just so happened to be our preferred position for sex over the last months of pregnancy. I allowed myself to open completely to the tightenings and pressure going on inside me, and moaned loudly and deeply through each one (Seb says I was actually chanting "open, open, open" with every contraction, and he says it certainly sounded like I was heading towards orgasm by the intensity of my vocalizations...). For the record, I don't think I could have climaxed, ie., had a full-blown orgasm at any point during my labour, although the contractions I experienced at this point in the tub (and whilst pushing later on....) absolutely did provoke sexual, sensual and pleasurable sensations within me. Could they have brought me to full-on orgasm ? I'm not certain, but oh, how I would love to find out, to push that boundary, and get the chance to give birth just one last time in order to know for sure ! And needless to say, if I wasn't a birth junkie before, I sure as hell am one now.  *grin*

The contractions continued to get stronger, but it felt good. I was in control and I was staying on top of them. I felt strong and powerful and soft and open all at once. Seb was in and out of the bathroom and bedroom now (stepping out on to the back deck to snap a photo of the incredible full moon we had that night), and I reckon that I slipped off at this point into Labourland - a place where I didn't need him anymore, and one where I couldn't take him, either. Physiology had taken over. Each contraction required more focus than the last, and I realised after the fact that my body had started pushing a little with each of them. That's when my water broke. And I said aloud (because in my haze I wasn't sure) : "Something just gushed out of me.... it was more than just 'bloody show'.... oh, it's the water bag... I just broke my water, Seb". All very matter of fact. No panic. But what a bizarre sensation to feel such a strong gush of fluid exploding out of my vagina while submerged in the water; I remember feeling vaguely disappointed that none of my babies would be born in the caul (with both of my other births I had asked to have my bag of water broken for me at 9-10 cm, and I was not in the water at the time).

It was then that I reached down and felt my cervix. I could feel it was really soft and stretchy around the head (what a trip for a future midwife to feel her own cervix as her very first palpation of a cervix in labour !). I was probably 8 cm dilated, or so, but I knew something didn't quite add up, as the head was not well applied, kind of coming at the cervix on a funny angle... but again, no true realisation that she could be posterior, just that the head at my fingertips did not seem to be coming straight on to my cervix.... how weird it was for the midwife in me to be still vaguely trying to assess things at this point, while ME, the birthing woman, was actually, literally, on another planet entirely. I totally get what Michel Odent says about stimulating the neo-cortex of a labouring woman, and why it's not a good idea, and why in some cases (as it was here in mine), it just won't bestimulated ! It was as if I couldn't get my 'birthing woman' head out of the fog to realise what my fingers were trying to tell the midwife in me. In any case, and in typical fashion once the waters are broken, the intensity of the contractions, the pain, the grunting and 'pushiness' (oh, all that pushiness ! another sign that I missed that should have told me she was posterior) - it all picked up after that, and the sensual, orgasmic nature of the beast had all but disappeared. Several more contractions, and I remember trying to prepare myself for the hardest part of labour, saying to myself at this point to be strong, stay open, that it's almost over, but not yet, NOT YET.... when before I knew it, the time between contractions increased, the intensity of them tapered, and then right out of the blue, and completely unexpectedly, I was having what many call the "rest and be thankful" stage. I was incredulous. I had gotten through transition, and didn't even know it, and was now saying to myself, "This can't be !? Am I resting and being thankful ? ALREADY ?" And that's when I realised my midwife had arrived, and was busy in the bedroom getting her supplies ready. "Sinclair, I think I'm pushing." "Ok," she says, "not a problem, I'll be right there." And right then I knew I wanted to get out and continue pushing on the bed. I had my first contraction since the restful phase, and I thought I'd try out the pushing a bit, so I just added slightly to the physiologic pushing my body was doing already, and it felt right. Excellent. No vaginal exam necessary (not that Sinclair had even offered); I knew I was fully dilated, and now it was time for the bone-stretching work of the second stage to begin.

I will admit to a little fear at this point (Right. Who's kidding who ? I was scared shitless), as two and a half years earlier, Sophie (9 lbs 3 oz) had been born with a nucchal arm (her arm up alongside her face). The pelvis-splitting pain of pushing during that birth will forever haunt me, and apparently the memory of it hadn't left the recesses of even my primal brain, as the fear was most definitely within me in that moment, as I looked ahead to what pushing might bring. . .

Before the next contraction began, and without a word to Seb or Sinclair, I got out of the tub and bee-lined for my bed. Straight onto my hands and knees, and buried my head into the pile of pillows and the bean bag chair at the head of the bed. More testing out of the waters, by me consciously adding a little bit to the next pushing contraction, and I felt confident I could now push as little or as much as I needed to, and began the task of figuring out the whole pushing thing all over again. Push too little with the contraction, and it hurt... push too much, and it hurt. I was into the swing of things soon enough, though, and quickly got the hang of it. With the confidence that my body was on track and doing what it needed to do, the fear had melted away. I relaxed deeply once again, and those sensuous, orgasmic feelings came rushing right back --how wonderful ! Oh, pushing felt AMAZING ! Well, as long as no one touched my lower back, that is. I winced in pain and cried out several times for them NOT TO TOUCH MY BACK (still no clue that she was posterior, of course).

I really need to say that I just loved the silence in the room while I was pushing. I am so grateful to Seb and Sinclair (and to Minerva, who was so supremely discreet - just as I knew she would be) for respecting me, my wishes, enough to just let me do what I needed to do, and to support me through it... in silence. What a gift. I was able to tune right into my body and I experienced an entirely physiologic pushing stage as a result. And that perfect silence was only broken by Sinclair, when she joyfully announced "I can see the head now, Emma. She's got lots of hair !"

To view the rest of this amazing story complete with some incredible images, and some info on placenta encapsulation, CLICK HERE.

Friday Favourites Roundup

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This week has been a slow week for this particular Goddess.  My little ones have been sick and in need of extra Mommy time, so my internet time has been limited.  Today I was fighting a migraine.

I have also been working on a new project at the local level which has stolen a lot of my mental power (which I am seriously lacking these days already).  I am hoping to bring together like-minded parents in the community and connect them with the resources available, as well as offer support and info to parents-to-be and anyone else seeking it.

Next week should be a more productive week for me...I hope!!

Now for the Friday Favourites Roundup!  

My favourite post this week BY FAR was from PhD in Parenting's formidable article entitled "Breaking it Down for Facebook".  This was a brilliant summary of the breastfeeding photo ban on Facebook and why the reasons for the ban are "dumbass".  Loved it.

In keeping with the Facebook/breastfeeding theme, my next favourite post of the week was "An Open Letter to Facebook" by April at Eclectic Effervescence after having an amazing tandem nursing photo removed by the Facebots.  All of the following posts on the same subject are also on the list.  Read them!

And in keeping with the theme, check out these pair of tits.

Happy Friday!!

Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

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An illustration from Köhler's Medicinal Plants...Image via Wikipedia

aromatherapy: aro·ma·ther·a·py - noun - The use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.

The principle of aromatherapy has been practised for thousands of years starting with the Ancient Chinese and Egyptians whose use of scent and oils is well documented.  Though the use of aromatherapy has continued well into our time, recent interest has refueled the use of essential oils for therapeutic, cosmetic, fragrant and spiritual use.

In the early days of my pregnancy, I asked good friend and qualified Holistic Aromatherapist, Gillian Joseph for some advice on how to aromatherpay could benefit me.  (Thank you Gill).  The following advice is for women with no history of miscarriage and no health problems.

Here are a few ideas that might help relax and invigorate you during your brand-new, exciting and wonderful pregnancy. 

One of my favourite blends during pregnancy is petitgrain and ylang ylang. It's such a "summer"-feeling aroma, really uplifting and great after a long day or when you just need a lift. As another plus-point, neither oil is particularly expensive (petitgrain being known in the trade as "poor man's neroli"), which is a benefit for broke lassies like me!

For a safe and wonderful pregnancy massage, blend 1 drop each of petitgrain and ylang ylang oils with 10ml (sorry, I work in the new-fangled measurement for work stuff!) of a carrier oil such as grapeseed or sweet almond oil. You could even use olive oil, but it's fairly sticky and has an aroma that tries to compete with the aromatics. If you're using food-type oil, sunflower is a better bet, but cold-pressed specific massage oil would be the best idea.

If adding the oils to a bath, make a mixture of one drop of each oil to 5ml (one teaspoon) of the carrier oil (i.e. the grapeseed, etc.), run the bath first, close the doors, add the mixture to the bath and swirl around. Get yourself in, lie back, and try to breathe in the aroma deeply.

For tummy aches and pains, or pains anywhere else as well as deep relaxation, try the same dilution of lavender and Roman chamomile. There are a few types of chamomile oil, but look for the Latin botanical name Anthemis Nobilis and you've got the right stuff.

For morning sickness (or as I had it, morning/afternoon/night/time-I-hadn't-previously-recognised sickness), you can pop one drop of peppermint oil onto a tissue and place it within sniffing distance. Don't take massages or baths with peppermint during pregnancy, however, as it's a bit stimulating when applied directly to the skin.

There's some debate in the professional aromatherapy world on the best combinations of oils for pregnant women. These are my opinions, but they definitely err on the side of caution as regards safety and effects. 

**Use this advice at your own discretion**

For more information on aromatherapy's healing advantage, check out AromaWeb.
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23 Week Belly Shot!!

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23 Weeks today!!
Got a little more creative with my belly shot this week.
The puckering of my lips is actually me saying "Ooooo" as a pain shoot through my pelvis during a position change.
Turned out to be one of my favourite shots though.

Happy Weekend!!
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Why Water Birth? A Birth Story

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Mother and newborn with umbilical cord still a...Image via Wikipedia

Ever since I started to plan this birth, I knew that water would be a key element.  Water is just one of those things that I can always count on to make me feel just that little bit better when I am sick, a tad more relaxed when I am stressed and revitalized when I am tired.  It only makes sense that I would also use it during labour for the same reasons.

It's not just my personal preferences, though, that make this an appealing choice.  Water births offer proven benefits for labouring women and babies.

For Mom:

Pain relief.  (Through deeper relaxation, buoyancy, comfort, softening of the perineum relieves burning)
Better Mobility provided by the opposition to gravity.
Buoyancy reduces pressure on the abdomen producing better circulation and blood flow.
Relaxes pelvic floor muscles.
Lowers/eliminates need for interventions

For Baby:

Transition from womb to outside world is more gentle (moving from water on the inside to water on the outside)

The overwhelming benefits of water birth make it a increasingly popular birth practice, even in hospital births as many hospitals now offer birthing suites with jacuzzi tubs.  Some risks are attributed to water birth, although these risks appear to be quite low and non life threatening, such as baby breathing under water and cord trauma.  A skilled attendant combined with the low risk, make this a completely safe and viable option for labouring women.

Women who have water birth have overwhelmingly positive birth experiences.  Here is the lovely water birth story of a dear friend, who has been a powerful inspiration to me throughout my own birth planning. <3

A Water Birth Story: Baby Connor
By Alison Kennedy (Written while NAK)

Part 1 - Pre/Passive Labour

My due date is October 7th, 2009 as such I was officially full term on Wed. September 16th. Having been swelling like crazy when I went to my prenatal appointment with my secondary midwife, Rhea, on Monday the 14th of September, I jokingly told her that I was giving out an eviction notice for Wednesday. She said that as long as I waited more than 24 hours to go into labour (in other words Tuesday afternoon) I could still have my homebirth. 24 hours and 15 minutes later my water broke.

Trevor was at his friend William’s house on Tuesday afternoon and Logan had fallen asleep for his nap. I was exhausted, not having slept well the previous couple of nights so I decided to take advantage and nap as well. Good thing! When I woke up a couple of hours later, about 3:30 pm and went to the washroom (downstairs), I was fine. I started walking upstairs for a snack, when as I was walking I thought, “Why am I still going to the bathroom?” The amniotic fluid just soaked my pants so I raced to the upstairs bathroom and continued gushing into it. Two thoughts occurred: The first was – Exactly how much amniotic fluid did I have because it just kept on coming? And the second was “We all live in a Yellow Submarine” (I have no idea where that one came from, but heck, it is such a fun song, why not).

So I called my husband and asked if he could come home. He responded, sure no problem, why what’s up? I replied that I was in labour because my water broke. Pause, he replied, “Alright then, I’ll be home as soon as I can.” I had my primary midwife, Lucia, paged and verified I could stay at home. She said that I could (yay). In the meantime I needed to clear out the kitchen to set up the birthing pool. Contractions hadn’t really began so I was just clearing out the chairs and table and I swept up the floor – didn’t want this morning’s cereal to poke holes in the pool! In the meantime I changed my FB status to read that Alison is in labour and got lots of chatting done with various online friends. I called a few RL friends to let them know what was happening, as well as my mom and my FIL/SMIL. I also called William’s house to see if Trevor could stay longer, and he was able to stay until my Mom came home and he went over there.

I got into contact with Lucia and as I wasn’t having particularly strong contractions she decided to wait until after dinner to get checked out. I’d called my husband, asked him to pick up some Swiss Chalet and go to the store for a few groceries as I didn’t really want to go myself. He got back around 5:30ish and by the time Trevor came back we ate around 6 pm. Contractions were stronger now – I had to pause between bites for them, but still not that bad. Lucia showed up around 7 pm and did a cervical check (ouch). 2 cm dilated and still about 90% thick. She then said we would have to go to the hospital if things didn’t progress fast enough since my waters had broken. We made plans to go after Trevor was taken to school (his first day of Senior Kindergarten). Oh, I did e-mail his teacher to let her know he might not be there as I was in labour.

Anyhow, we did the whole night-time routine, my SMIL came over and helped put the kids to bed as well as tidy up (God bless her). I went on Facebook and had numerous conversations with many people. By about 11:30 pm the contractions were intensifying, but as I was keeping track of them, they were completely irregular. I contacted Lucia and asked for some pain management techniques so that I could try to sleep (ha-ha). She told me hot bath and Gravol. The bath really relaxed me and I think the Gravol helped to kick start more coordinated contractions. Within an hour, I’d asked Rob to fill in the hospital paperwork just in case. While he was filling it in, I was contracting strong enough to moan. He paused and asked if every time I was moaning it was from a contraction. I replied yes and could he keep track of them. They were about 3 minutes apart and 1 minute long … after about 45 minutes of this I asked him to call Lucia. So he called at about 1:30 am. She got packed up and arrived within 15 minutes (she said that she knows it is time to come when she gets the call from the husband and can hear the wife groaning in the background). In the meantime he started filling the birthing pool – to the perfect temperature I might add!

Part 2 - Passive/ Active Labour

Lucia got there helped me work through the contractions and got set up. She did another cervical check … 4 cm and about 90% thinned out – baby in the perfect position, bent correctly for an efficient birth. Thanks Connor. By this point it was 2 am and I wanted in that tub!!!!

I got in and life was so much better. The warmth relaxed me between contractions, because it was a blow up pool, it was like being surrounded by a pillow, so I could lie back comfortably. We had the digital photo album going with some of my favourite 80s music (although no Yellow Submarine – I’ll have to remedy that). The contractions were intensifying to the point where I had to do deep guttural sounds to keep focused (thanks Paula). By 2:40 am Lucia decided, based on my incredibly pleasant and calm demeanour, to check me again. 7 cm, completely effaced, cervix totally thinned out. She said that I needed to feel the pain and when it moved towards my rear, to let her know because that would mean I was about ready to push and she’d call Rhea at that point.
Rob was rubbing my forehead during the contractions and oddly enough it helped to keep me a bit more grounded – for one contraction he didn’t do it and I was like Rob – forehead – now. I guess I needed the connection.

3:10 am I am very politely saying that this whole no pain relief thing was a mistake and I was an idiot for doing this, I was not strong enough to do it – oh and the pain has moved to my rear. She said she knew it was almost over because when the mom starts complaining like that, she must be almost ready. She called Rhea and went to get her flashlight to check on things. She went to the car and came back, shone the light and said, okay the babies head is right there, and when you feel the urge to push let me know. 3:17 am – I needed to push! I said I have to push now. She said listen to your body and do it. The most intense feeling I’ve ever experienced was Connor moving through the birth canal. Because of the water it hurt, but it didn’t really burn. I felt as though I was just doing one long push with one big contraction instead of a bunch of little ones. Rob was holding up my left thigh, Lucia was holding up my right and I was bearing down – screaming that I can’t do this. His head came out and Lucia asked if I wanted to touch his head, I was like NO, I’m busy. 3:21 am – Connor was completely out and in my arms. I don’t think that I have ever been prouder of myself than I was at that moment – and I would never go back to a hospital birth again. The first thing I said when I saw Connor was “I love you”. Rhea showed up about 5 minutes later – which was too bad because I’d asked her to take pictures of the birth. :( Oh well.

Part 3 - End of Labour/Post Labour

We waited until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsating, about 15 minutes, before Rhea cut it (so that in Lucia’s words, Rhea actually did something to help). We then very gracefully and elegantly got me out of the tub and moved to the mattress that was set up in the living room. I lay down, Connor got some lovely skin to skin with me and he showed his true self – a boob monster through and through. He latched on and I am pretty sure the Jaws of Life weren’t getting him off of me. In the meantime we were waiting for some more contractions to get the placenta out. I waited, and waited, and waited. There were some contractions, but every time I tried to push out the placenta, it just didn’t happen. After about half an hour, they said that we needed to get the placenta out so I could either get an oxytocin shot or go to the hospital to have it manually removed. I basically said that I didn’t just go through all of that to end up in hospital now … give me the shot! Rhea did and 4 minutes later the placenta was out cleanly. Now, the normal range in length for the umbilical cord is 20 cm – 80 cm; the longer it is the more the baby moved around in-utero. Connor’s cord was about 1 metre long, now I can safely say why I didn’t sleep well near the end of the pregnancy. After the placenta was delivered, Lucia looked for tearing and said there was a teeny one at the base of the vaginal entrance that was small enough not to need stitches but because of the placement, she wanted to put in two, so ensure that it would heal properly. I said sure, she gave me some local freezing, as I was getting the shots; I asked why does freezing burn when it goes in? They said they didn’t know, so I asked is it freezer burn? They thought that was funny and in very little time I was all stitched up and ready to start the next phase of my life … mother to three beautiful boys.

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