29 March 2016

Achieving a Natural Hospital Birth

Deciding to go for a natural birth after previously having a fairly easy epidural birth with Henry, was not a quick decision. With Henry I wanted a natural birth but didn't really do much to prepare for or achieve it. After laboring through the night and not having many tools in my tool belt to get me the rest of the way through labor once I arrived at the hospital, an epidural was very much welcome. I wasn't disappointed in myself, but as I pushed and then met Henry for the first time, I remember feeling so disconnected from the process. Here I was, having just experiencing childbirth, but feeling like I hadn't really done much at all. It just didn't feel as euphoric as I thought it would. I in no way think that every person who has an epidural is missing out on something, it's just how I felt. Then came the postpartum period. I didn't feel in tune with my body or my emotions. Henry's hospital stay was anything but easy and left me with very minimal rest and quite a bit of anxiety.
Almost three years later and I knew I wanted to do things differently, but constantly doubted my ability to actually achieve a natural birth. It's quite intimidating to make a goal that makes you really examine your own beliefs about yourself. Luckily I had Ronnie's full support, a cheering squad from friends and family, and divine guidance the entire way. So here are the things I credit with getting me to and through a natural childbirth at the hospital:

1. Surround yourself with support:
When you tell people you want to do a natural birth, you will very quickly know how people feel about it. I really did't bring it up very often with people, but I got responses ranging from "They don't give you a medal for going through pain" to some of the most sincere and deeply touching words of support and encouragement. I was floored by other's trust in my undiscovered abilities.
Ronnie was such a great emotional support. When I would begin to doubt myself and fear would flood my mind, he always seemed so calm and sure that I had this. When I asked him what my symbol would be if I had to come up with one, without hesitation he said "A wagon! You are my pioneer woman!" I often relied on his confidence in me when I doubted my own.

2.Hire a Doula
The best definition I can think of for a doula is to call them a birth coach. They are knowledgable, trained, and purely there to support you. It is an out of pocket expense but one I will happily pay for with each birth from now on. I figured I could either pay for an epidural or pay for a doula. Having actually spent money on one really forced me to put my money where my mouth was and take my goal seriously. I found my doula through a local Facebook group run by the Utah Doula Association. I really had to dig deep and figure out exactly why I wanted a natural birth and what I wanted it to look like when looking for the doula I wanted to hire. I came to the realization that my desire to birth without pain medication came form the same part of my personality that loves living in a 160 year old house; I'm an old soul that loves feeling a connection with the past. I find something so fulfilling in rites of passage and wanted to participate in this one. I was able to find a doula that fully supported my point of view. I had several meetings with my doula before I went into labor to go over my birth plan and desires. I had someone to call and text with any concerns or fears I had. When I went into labor it was so incredibly helpful to have someone who was there purely to keep me comfortable and calm. The counter pressure on my back and coaching on breathing through contractions made labor...dare I say it....enjoyable?! Dilating all the way to a ten seemed so much easier than it should have. Pushing was nothing I daydream about, but having a doula there to help me through it made all the difference in the world.

3. Find a Provider that is Natural Friendly
I can't stress this one enough. When I was first pregnant, I wasn't sure who to go to as my O.B. and went off the recommendation of several people in my ward. I made the mistake of not asking specific questions about his views on birth without many medical interventions. It turns out he was not supportive of my wishes at all. After much prayer and some divine guidance, I found a midwife that was a perfect fit. She was very calm, my visits with her were never rushed, and she was highly supportive of my birth plan. Switching providers at 30 weeks pregnant was worth the hassle, 100 times over. I realize that here in Utah aka. Baby Capitol of the World, my choices in providers are endless, but no matter where you live, I can guarantee there are other like minded women. Find out who they have used and who is known to be supportive of allowing mothers to take charge of their births.

4. Hyponbabies or Mindfulness
I had heard many great things about Hypnobabies from other naturally minded moms. When I looked into taking the classes, I couldn't figure out how we would attend them once a week for 6 weeks, with each class lasting 3 hours. What in the world would we do with Henry? My friend Aly sent me her home study info via email but I didn't really end up reading much. I did download mediation tracks from here and listened to them regularly. This all sounds so "hippy" but really they are just positive affirmations. When I was having a tough pregnancy day or trouble falling asleep, I would turn one on and relax. I didn't end up listening to them while I was in labor, but often used some of my favorite phrases and the breathing techniques to help keep me calm during blood draws, getting shots, and during contractions.

5. Write up a Birth Plan
I dragged my feet on this one. I didn't know how I could write my birth preferences when I had no clue what I would prefer once I was in labor. I am so glad I did end up writing one because it forced me to do some research about where I was delivering and all the things I could say no to that I had no clue about. I asked for minimal monitoring which meant they only monitored my contractions and blood pressure for the first 20 minutes while I was at the hospital and then unhooked everything and let me move freely...so straight to the tub I went. I didn't want IV's so they let me get my fluids from drinking. My cervix was only checked twice: Once when checking in, and a second time when my midwife could tell my labor sounds were sounding different and I was probably near transition. It was so nice to not have hands up me every single hour. Teddy spent a good hour on my chest before being taken to be weighed, measured and checked. It was so nice to have him to hold and love on to distract me from being stitched up.

6. Read Books/ Watch Movies
Continually immersing myself in natural birth knowledge and literature helped to keep me motivated and interested. I highly recommend Ina May's second book as well as The Gift of Giving Life. I also really enjoyed watching other people's birth videos and drawing motivation from their beauty. I can readily admit Theodore's birth was not as beautiful and calm as many of the videos I watched, but all that goes out the window when you just need to scream that baby out haha!

I hope this is helpful to somebody. Take what appeals to you and adapt it to your preferences. Giving birth should be personalized to your needs and personality. Even if you do want drugs, you can make sure you are well informed and things are more customized to you! Isn't it amazing what our bodies can do?!

P.S. Theodore's birth story is coming as soon...

04 March 2014

Baby Led Weaning(ish)

***** It's been a few months since I posted this originally and am still getting lots of questions from people about Baby led Weaning. That combined with the fact that this post has somehow gotten over 600 views (people read my blog?!) I can't help but think I should come back and add some more and expand on things I barely touched on. I'll mark areas I've updated with an asterisk**********

*I am by NO MEANS and expert on this topic, but I can tell you what has worked for us and that I would definitely recommend BLW to anyone and everyone!*

I am not a wonderful blogger because documenting life with instagram is SO much easier. I added the hashtag #babyledweaning on one picture and have had TONS of questions since. I am by no means an expert in baby led weaning but I have loved this approach to introducing solids to Henry so much I thought I would dedicate a post to it and so I could refer friends to it when I am asked about BLW.

The term "baby led weaning" isn't the American use of the word weaning, but the British, meaning introducing new foods. So, let me clear that up for you if you think I have transitioned Henry off of breastfeeding and onto solids. Breast milk is his most important and nutrient dense food for at least the first year of life. It is comforting to know that on days he eats only one "meal" or mostly gets his food on the floor, it's ok! He is just practicing and most of what he needs comes from me!

I will explain the theory of BLW as I understand it and also let you know we do not practice fundamental BLW. I read up what I could online and then adapted it to Henry and our lifestyle.

The main difference between BLW and the way Americans traditionally introduce solids to babies is that with BLW, you put baby in control of feeding himself from the beginning. Food is introduced for reasons much more than just simply eating. Mealtimes are social experiences, provide a perfect setting for sensory exploration, fine motor practice, and the practicing of so many more skills than just simply eating. My friend Aly was the one who introduced me to BLW and the more I read about it the more I liked it. She has been an excellent resource for me!

With Baby Led Weaning, introducing solids happens when baby is DEVELOPMENTALLY READY and not just a certain age. It is encouraged to wait until at least 6 months (because that is typically when the developmental signs of readiness occur and the gut is developed enough to handle solids). With Henry we started at around 5 1/2 months. Here is how we knew he was ready:
He was extremely interested in the social aspects of meal time. He was also sitting independently well, wasn't just reaching for our food to touch it but I could tell he genuinely wanted to taste it. He intently watched food go up to our mouths and would subtly imitate what our mouths were doing as we ate. He wanted to be eating because we were.
I love parenting strategies that involve lots of observation and that just make sense. It makes sense that babies aren't very good at purees when they can't even sit on their own. If they can't control their large muscle groups, why would they be any better at all the intricate muscles it takes to get food off of a spoon, into the back of their mouth, and down the chute?

The next big part of BLW is letting the child feed themselves. I can't tell you how great it is to just hand something to Henry and let him go at it. No battle of wills or fighting the gauntlet to try and get a spoonful of food into his mouth. The mouth is a very sensitive and guarded area of the body. I would not like anyone else being in control of what goes into it either!

***I think it is important to note that we approached introducing solids as a social experience, and not so much about actually eating food. It was more about us sitting together as a family, Henry observing our mealtime routines and being able to take part in them, and using mealtime as way to teach a variety of other skills. We started using some simple sign language to help Henry communicate More, All Done, and Please. It can be easy to get caught in the trap of being overly concerned with how much baby is eating and totally disregard all the other lessons happening beyond the food that makes it into their stomach. I constantly had to remind myself to just sit and observe, let him be in control, and look for all the other good thing Henry was experiencing at meal times. Did he spend a lot of time figuring out how to use new fine motor skills? Did he pay more attention to what and how we were eating than his own food? Did he have fun squishing, smearing, and experiencing food with his other senses? These are all good lessons to be learning that may not look like eating, but contribute to healthy eating habits.

I often saw the phrase "food before one is just for fun" in my BLW research. I do think that it is important to get nutritious food in their belly. Technically a child can survive on just breast milk (or formula)for their first year of life, but I would never force Henry to ONLY have breast milk for his first year. I think of it this way: Just because reading the scriptures is the best thing you can read, it shouldn't be the only thing you read. There is a lot of value in experiencing the other great literature there is out there. Just because breast milk is the best thing for Henry, I would never imagine keeping him from experiencing the joys of other foods out there. So with all of that said, "Food before one, is Mostly for fun" haha!***

The first food we handed Henry was Watermelon. We gave him a big slice and he went to town on it! I can practically hear the gasps right now. A huge slice? But won't he choke? Nope. Not once. He has yet to choke. Has he gagged? Yep. But he always works the food back into a good position in his mouth and figures out how to spit it out or chew it up better. By handing him large slices of food first, he learns to pick up, hold food, and bring it to his mouth, how to chew, move food around in his mouth, and how to tolerate a variety of textures and flavors, all before swallowing one nibble. Doesn't that sound like how we eat? There are so many things to learn before simply shoveling food down the hatch. (Go back and read those last few sentences again if you want. It really is surprising how much is involved in eating)

I still spoon feed Henry some foods. He adores Greek Yogurt and I make sure he gets plenty of prunes and pears to keep things moving (if you know what I mean). But for the most part, he eats what we eat! It has made me switch up a lot of what we eat to much healthier options because I don't think it is appropriate for some of his first foods to be processed or fried. Yep, you heard me. This woman who loves a good french fry has banned them from her son. And what about all those "baby foods" we see at the store? I like to think God came up with better baby friendly food than Gerber ever could. What is more baby friendly than an avocado, or sweet potatoes, or peaches? ***Besides, I am sure if all of our ancestors saw that we buy special foods for babies, they would think we were crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if Baby Led Weaning is just getting back to what parents have done since the beginning of time.***

Henry had zero teeth when we started and after only a few weeks he could down slices of peaches and bananas like it was his job! He eats a greater variety of foods than most toddlers I know because he has never been limited to "kid foods". Here is a little list of some of the foods Henry enjoyed just in the first month or two of eating solids:

avocado,zucchini, cooked onion, carrots, peach, mango, mushroom, raspberries, olives, watermelon, sweet potatoes, bell pepper, asparagus, noodles, rice, beans, chicken, ribs (you read that right), toast, yogurt, smoothies, apples, spaghetti squash... the list goes on and on

***Now that Henry is one and has four teeth on the bottom and two teeth barely poking through up top, he has gotten really good at taking bites out of food, chewing, and swallowing without having food to be as soft. I now give him smaller chunks and he will usually gobble down just about anything we offer. He has gone through some pickier stages, but with persistence, he would always come back to eating a variety of foods and textures.***

We are not perfect in what, or how, or when we feed Henry, but I like to think we are much better off than we would have been without BLW. If you were looking for more info, I hope this helped. I know this will help me the next time we have to introduce foods to a little tike. If you want more info read up HERE or join the baby led weaning facebook group. Oh! And also don't be shy to ask me more about it! Heaven knows we parents need a support group of friends to help us through it all!

I guess I should add that while BLW can be extra messy, it really is worth the effort because all that mess now means less mess and fights over food later.

11 February 2014

One Whole Year

How can it be that I have had my sweet Henry Boy for one whole year? And why is it that when I finally understand just what it is that brings me true joy in life, time kicks it into high gear and speeds right along? This past year of life has been a level of joy I never knew was possible to obtain.
To celebrate Henry's first birthday, I felt a little silly throwing a party when I knew he wouldn't know the difference, but when I found out about a place in Provo where you can rent puppies, I knew that I just had to rent Henry a couple of puppies. It was so fun to get family and friends together and see just how much Henry is loved! We have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams with an abundance of friendship. Henry is a lucky boy to have such an endless amount of love.
Henry is doing so many cute things lately that it really is hard not to be his biggest fan. I've written a few things in his baby book, but since I haven't given an update on here in a while, I will use this first birthday milestone as a way to remember all the cute new things he is doing now before he moves onto even newer things.

Henry crawls all day long and loves to explore and touch everything. The night lights I have plugged in around the house are a particular favorite of his to track down and unplug.

He loves to imitate the things we are doing and has become so interactive and fun. If I am talking to someone on the phone, he loves to have me hold the phone up to his mouth so he can squeal and babble into the phone. If his cousins are laughing at something silly, he is pushing out a laugh to fit right in. It is so great to see him doing so many social things and to see them come so naturally.

Books. Henry has a serious thing for books. He has for months now, and it makes me so happy that he enjoys them so much. He has yet to go through the rip out pages or just chew on books stage. He loves to pull them off the shelf, turn the pages, and "read". He is particularly fond of books with animals. He will point to a book with a cow in it and say "moo" to get me to read it to him. For church and long car rides I can generally just bring books and that will keep him entertained.

Henry is still a great eater. The other day he chowed down asparagus,tilapia, and scalloped potatoes with us, and just like his mama, he loves pasta and anything bread. He drinks great from straws and loves a smoothie in the morning with me.

Henry's communication has really taken off in the past month. I am constantly amazed at everything he understand and all the words and sounds he is picking up. Just the other day we noticed that he can follow really familiar one step directions: "Go get the ball"

The sounds, words, and signs Henry are using:
Signs: more, all done, please, dog, cat, elephant, bird
sounds: cow, dog, cat, elephant, lion, car, and monkey
words: Ball, Mama, Dada, bye bye, no no

Henry has recently started dancing along when he hears music and will sing in a soft, high voice singing "nanana". He also loves to wave hello and goodbye to anyone and everyone and well as blow kisses. It's truly hard not to just give him everything he wants when he does that.

I can't believe how much he has changed and grown in the first year of life, and am continually in awe. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this next year will slow down, even just a little bit.

04 February 2014

What did you do today?

The other day I had a friend drop by for a few minutes. She caught me at a less than glamorous moment (smudged make up, dirty house, no bra, yoga pants, and a long list of other embarrassing bullet points I try not to think about). I know this friend wasn't judging me and I enjoyed our little conversation as we chatted and I pushed a ball back and forth with Henry. She asked me a few questions about motherhood and than said "So this is what you do each day?"

I will admit, at that particular moment I wasn't giving the stay at home mom gig a great image. Even so, I could tell that thought of pushing a ball back and forth and saying "Yes, the cow says Moo" for the 7,000th time looked terribly boring and mind numbing to such a beautiful and inquisitive mind like hers.

Since that little interaction I have been trying to put into words for myself what exactly it is I "do" everyday. It only took Ronnie a few times of asking "So what did you guys do today?" before he quickly learned that it is the worst possible question you can ask a stay at home mom. You see, when I try and answer that question it comes out sounding so boring and unimportant. I hear myself rattling off words like nap, lunch, clean, and play. If I try and go into further detail it gets even more depressing because there are only so many times you can say "we did the animal puzzle and read books" before it hits you just how many times you've done those things. It's so hard to put into words what we have "done" each day because what we are really doing is hidden beneath all those boring explanations.
Yes, there were messes at breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. There were toys pushed across every square inch of floor and diapers messier than you can imagine. Somewhere in the mess of toys, and repetition of animal sounds for the millionth time, something that can only be explained as magic or a miracle happens. That glorious little brain of Henry's make beautiful sense of the world.

So yes, to many it looks like we are stacking the same old blocks, and knocking them over...again, but when I spend each moment of the day doing these things, I see that it is SO much more than that. I see that amazing brain of his connect words and sounds with objects, understand balance, and cause and effect. I get to see his face light up when he rediscovers that ugly little stuffed lamb that was hiding at the bottom of a basket, and watch as he kisses and hugs it because thats what he has learned to do when we love something. Watching Henry grow isn't simply just looking for milestones and checking them off as soon as he has accomplished them. I get to watch in awe as he observes, practices, tests, repeats, and discovers who he is, one messy day at a time.

01 November 2013

Our Favorite Baby Things

I've recently had many friends get pregnant and ask me what some of our favorite baby products are and what things you actually need for a newborn. It is easy to start looking at all the baby products available and feel like you need to build a whole house just for baby gear. We were very blessed and were given so so so very much from loved ones and depended a lot on their wisdom. Instead of sending an email each time I'm asked about gear, I thought I would just direct them to this blog post and it could be a reference for myself when in the very very distant future we enter back into babyland and I need a reminder what works for us.

Our apartment where we brought Henry home to was itty bitty (and perfect for us)and there was not much space for bulky baby gear, so we try and get things that can grow along with Henry or serve more than one purpose.

Sleeping in our room: I knew I wanted Henry in our room for the first few months of life. As cute as a cradle or bassinet are, I knew they would only be useful for a couple months and then take up a lot of room once out of use. My aunts got us this pack n play that has a bassinet/changing table option and we can actually use it again once he moves out of our room.

Henry eneded up in bed with us between using the pack n play and being in his own room. My friend used a much much smaller option with her baby and I think next time we will do that than the big pack n play.

Bathtime: Our bathroom doesn't have any room to store a bulky baby tub. I hesitated buying this tub because it isn't cheap but knowing that it would enable Ronnie to help out and participate in bath time a little easier is what pushed me to buy it and I am SO glad I did. Bathing a squirmy little newborn is hard enough, but this tub makes it so much fun! We hang it on the back of the bathroom door and it doesn't take up any extra space.

My cousin Rachel sent us these Aden and Anais swaddle blankets and they are most definitely our favorite! They are light enough to shove in the diaper bag and perfect to wrap a little one up tight without worrying they will overheat. I have even ditched the carseat cover and use these blankets instead.

Because I loved the light stretchy fabric of the muslin swaddle blankets, when I saw these Weegoamigo blankets for half price on Babysteals I snagged a couple and love them. They are bigger than the Aden and Anais blankets which make them perfect for nursing under.

My friend Val introduced me to the Woombie. The real ones are something like $25 each so I bought the off brand on amazon 2 for $15 and they work great (and it especially nice to have a second one around when there is a middle of the night blowout). It is so nice to just zip those little arms in and not worry about achieving the perfect swaddle.

At my baby shower, my friend Charity gave us a ziploc bag full of organic coconut oil and we have put it to good use. Henry had a rash on his cheeks and side of his head that would not go away. We tried switching soaps, I quit using scented soaps thinking it was my skin causing him to break out in a rash, and I tried all the special lotions for eczema. Coconut oil did the trick! It absorbs so well and he smells so delicious. There are about a million uses for coconut oil and we love it!

My sister gave us her bouncer seat and we ended up using it a lot more than I thought I would. It was great for setting Henry in when I needed to cook dinner or clean up the house a bit. He loved loved loved the toys hanging from it and would kick and squeal when they moved. We only did the bouncer and not a swing because we A. didn't have room for both and B. I didn't want to rely on a swing to get him calm. If we don't have it, we would never need it.

A baby carrier! I was a little timid jumping into the "baby wearing" world, but now I am all for it! My sister gave me her old carrier which is super simple and I am sure was much less expensive than other brands, but it also didn't offer much support. When Henry was itty bitty I carried him in a Moby wrap but once he put a few lbs. on, it didn't hold him well. I tried out a friend's Ergo and knew it would be great for both Ronnie and me to use. It is THE BEST for getting grocery shopping done and when we are walking around a lot.

My sister in law also gifted me her old ring sling and we use that daily! It takes some getting used too but I love it! Borrow a friend's carriers and give them a try before slapping down money for these bas boys. Baby wearing is very personal and individual and you want to find what works for you!

As far as bottles and pacifiers and clothes, and all that other jazz, I am sure you will have your preferences and so will your baby. Hope this little list helps and just know that babies really don't NEED that much.

30 September 2013

Silly Boy

Today was one of those days that you dream about when you are pregnant and imagining what life with a baby will be like. We tickled and giggled and went on a walk and played at the park. Henry squealed as I pushed him in the swing and I watched in wonder as a strong breeze blew right into his face and he held out his hands and smiled as he discovered this new sensation. Henry hungrily ate what I made for dinner and splashed happily in the bath right before bed.
After I put him in bed and joined Ronnie on the couch, I could hear him playing in his crib. I turned on the video monitor to see him clapping his hands and blowing raspberries on his fist. After a few minutes of waiting it out to see if he would drift off to sleep, I went up to his room to remind him it was bedtime. As soon as I picked him up he leaned in and blew a raspberry on my cheek and giggled when I began to laugh. He is just like his Dad. His day wouldn't be complete without making sure he made me laugh one more time. He then leaned in, grab my face with his hands, and planted a big, open-mouthed, absolutely perfect baby kiss on my lips.
As if he needed to win me over any more.
We rocked for a few more minutes and he nursed so sleep. I stole a few more snuggles before putting him back into his crib and wishing for the one millionth time that time would Just. Slow. Down.

16 September 2013

It's about time for some pics, right?

I'll make this update quick but make it heavy on the pics. Time seems to be playing tricks on me and just when I think time can't go any quicker, it does. Henry is still just an absolute delight and such a happy, content boy. He sits and reaches for toys but is not so interested in crawling (FINE BY ME!). He will roll around and find toys to play with if one of us isn't right in front of his face, but he is happy to do just about anything.
Henry is a champ at eating anything we give him, well, except peas. Not a fan. He loves chicken, avocados, greek yogurt, peaches, pears, rice, and the list could go on and on. And when i say he loves those foods, I mean the real ones, not baby foods. He loves eating the same things as us and is great at it.
Breastfeeding is still going well and I love my time to reconnect with him and get some of the snuggles he no longer is interested in giving. Henry does love to give kisses and is especially fond of other little kids. He gets excited and squeals when he spots other children.
Henry has two little teeth beginning to pop through and has hardly complained a bit about them. I had no clue he was teething until I saw them one morning while feeding him. It honestly scares me what an angle he is. I am in for it one of these days! He is sleeping better and better and doesn't like to go to bed much later than 7 (jackpot!) He still wakes up to nurse 1-2 times a night but I honestly don't mind being able to know he is ok a few times a night.
The Big Guy recently had his well baby check up. I can't believe how much I look forward to these and that I count down the days. It isn't so much about getting to hear hit "stats" but being able to see our doctor and get his stamp of approval every couple of months. This last checkup he pointed out all the great social skills Henry is displaying and then proceeded to roll across the room superman style on his chair and play with Henry. Definitely worth the hour drive! I am sure there are great Pediatricians here in Utah County, but as you can tell we are quite attached to the one we have. Want to hear his stats anyway? Weight and head- 68%ile and height-80%ile. It makes me feel a little less crazy when I think "This kid must be growing more than usual! He is literally sucking all my energy!" when we see his stats. 18 lbs. 14oz and 28 inches long of perfection!
OK, Picture time!