Broccoli with a Side of Amniotic Fluid

Imagine a world without finicky eaters, where even infants readily devour broccoli, kale, garlic, and onion.  Sound too good be true?  It appears that the key is to start out young–very young, as in before birth.  More and more evidence is showing that taste and flavor preferences, especially those for healthful food selections like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, start in utero and continue forming in the first months of breastfeeding.  This positive impact on food preferences and willingness to try new fare is likely to continue into childhood and beyond.

The nuances of every morsel a mama puts in her mouth pass into the amniotic fluid.  The growing baby bathes and drinks in the fluid, in essence sampling foods from the outside world. From those first tastes, children are then more likely to crave similar foods when they begin eating solid foods in infancy. In addition, developing babies pick up on every spice, seasoning, and flavor from the food that their mamas eat, creating a palate that is open to a wide variety of foods. Thus, eating a healthy, varied diet translates into having a child who does the same. On the flip side, women who consume highly processed, fat-laden foods and/or a fairly bland diet throughout pregnancy could be more likely to have offspring with similar eating preferences.

This palate-shaping isn’t just taking place in the womb. After birth, a mama’s breast milk also possesses elements and flavors from the foods she eats, which then are passed on to baby.  Breast milk becomes an ever-changing taste sensation, preparing babies for the cuisine that is to come. The most formative time to shape tastes happens between months 2-5 after birth — yet another great reason for exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months or so.

This makes sense from the simple logic that, “If I give you A, you will like A. If I give you B, you will like B.”  Also, from an anthropological standpoint, an infant needs to be primed for the culture that it is being born into. For most, if not all, families, societies and ethnic groups, food is at the forefront.  Basically, if you want to fit in, you eat what the group eats.

Now, are you destined to have a child who only eats french fries and ice cream if that’s all you ate throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding? I think it depends on whether or not you continue to eat french fries and ice cream as your child grows. A huge influence on what a child prefers to eat comes from what food is available in the home and how a child’s role models (namely parents) eat. Looking at my own study group (i.e. my 4 children) I definitely see evidence of my prenatal eating habits and how they have influenced my children. While none of them are “picky eaters,” my 8-year-old, who was a product of a less-than-stellar diet including lots of pasta with a few veggies sprinkled in, definitely has more of a preference for junk food and is less adventurous when it comes to food. (I used to get a cheeseburger after each of my prenatal appointments and now he insists on one after every visit to his pediatrician. Coincidence?) My 18-month-old, whose amniotic fluid was doused with unending salad and spicy food, definitely prefers vegetables over mac & cheese and eats crushed red pepper without batting an eye.  Our family’s shift towards healthier eating in general has made a huge impact on what everyone eats. We all eat whole grains and vegetables–though some members of the family take a bit more convincing than others.

The bottom line?  Eat as healthfully as you can, as soon as you can, and pass that wonderful gift on to your child!

Here are some references to studies on the subject:

Bayol SA, Farrington SJ, and Stickland NC. 2007. A maternal ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation promotes an exacerbated taste for ‘junk food’ and a greater propensity for obesity in rat offspring. Br J Nutr. 98(4):843-51.

Bilko A, Altbacker V, and Hudson R. 1994. Transmission of food preference in the rabbit: The means of information transfer. Physiology and Behaviour 56: 907-912.

Capretta PJ, Petersik JT, Steward DJ. Acceptance of novel flavours is increased after early experience of diverse taste. Nature. 1975;254:689–691.

Cooke LJ, Wardle J, Gibson EL, Sapochnik M, Sheilham A, Lawson M. Demographic, familial and trait predictors of fruit and vegetable consumption by pre-school children. Public Health Nutrition. 2004;7:295–302.

Gerrish CJ, Mennella JA. Flavor variety enhances food acceptance in formula-fed infants. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001;73:1080–1085.

Hepper PG. Adaptive fetal learning: prenatal exposure to garlic affects postnatal preferences. Animal Behavior. 1988;36:935–936.

Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling’s behavior. Pediatrics. 1991;88:737–744.

Mennella JA, Jagnow CP, Beauchamp GK. Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics. 2001;107:1–6.

Mennella JA, Johnson A, Beauchamp GK. Garlic ingestion by pregnant women alters the odor of amniotic fluid. Chemical Senses. 1995;20:207–209.

Mennella JA, Turnbull B, Ziegler PJ, Martinez H. Infant feeding practices and early flavor experiences in Mexican infants: an intra-cultural study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105:908–915.

Nicklaus S, Boggio V, Chabanet C, Issanchou S. A prospective study of food preferences in children. Food Quality and Preference. 2004;15:805–817.

Schaal B, Marlier L, Soussignan R. Human foetuses learn odours from their pregnant mother’s diet. Chemical Senses. 2000;25:729–733.

Skinner JD, Carruth BR, Wendy B, Ziegler PJ. Children’s food preferences: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2002;102:1638–1646.

Sullivan S, Birch LL. Infant dietary experience and acceptance of solid foods. Pediatrics. 1994;93:271–277.

Varendi H, Porter RH, Winberg J. 1996. Attractiveness of amniotic fluid odor: evidence of prenatal olfactory learning? Acta Paediatr. 85(10):1223-7.

Ina May Gaskin: A Visit From A Legend

In the birth world, few names carry the honor, inspiration, and pure devotion than that of Ina May Gaskin. She is honest, trusting, and legendary. In her work as a midwife on “The Farm,” a birth commune of sorts, in Tennessee, she has welcomed hundreds of babies into the world with minimal interventions and remarkable outcomes for moms and babies. Her writing has empowered women for decades, helping them to understand the physiology behind pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, encouraging them to trust the process, and reminding them that they are strong.

Needless to say, when word got out that Ina May was planning a visit to the Twin Cities, MN, nearly everyone in the local birth community wanted the chance to be in her presence. The main event was a lecture at the University of Minnesota, promoting her latest book, Birth Matters. Like her other publications, this new book describes the negative implications of modern birth practices, encouraging society to bring normalcy back to birth.

However, one night with Ina May just wasn’t enough for us Minnesota birth junkies.  Local doulas, midwives, and non-profit organizations planned a four-day Ina May festival. Her arrival was kicked off by a benefit at Everyday Miracles Pregnancy Center to support her Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, which raises awareness for maternal mortality in the US.  I was thrilled at the possibility of meeting her, as was my mother (former labor and delivery nurse, childbirth educator, and inspiration for my birth work). As we arrived at the party, I was devastated to learn that she had left just five minutes before. It sounded like it was a mob scene, so I told myself that I wanted to meet Ina May under different circumstances anyway. The following evening, Ina May joined fans for mocktails and book signing. I, however, was teaching a childbirth preparation class, so I missed my chance again. The next day, a small group of lucky folks dined with the legend at a fundraiser for Mama Latte, an area breast milk donation organization.  This time, yours truly was in attendance. A last-minute opportunity brought me to the table with Ina May, seated directly across from her. I maintained my composure as we talked birth, politics, education, and life in general. It was an incredible honor and an opportunity that will probably never present itself again. As I walked her to her car, I asked her, “Do you feel like a celebrity?” She humbly replied, “At things like this I do, but back home, I’m just the one who takes out the compost.” How can you not love her? Area midwives enjoyed some intimate Q and A time with Ina May, all before the climactic lecture at the University of Minnesota.

Much like the “birth high” we feel after supporting incredible families, there was undoubtedly an “Ina May high” here in the Twin Cities after her departure. Though it’s been a couple months since her visit, her energy and wisdom remain, reminding us all of the power of a mother, the importance of a baby’s journey into the world, and the simple fact – birth matters.

The Mind-Body Connection: A Powerful Force

The mind-body connection — it’s something we hear a lot, but what exactly does it mean?  In short, the thoughts and emotions in one’s mind have the capability and potential to affect the physical body and its reactions, as a result of a complex system of hormones coursing throughout the body. This mind-body connection is evident throughout all aspects of life, but is especially notable as far as pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting is concerned.

Right from the beginning of pregnancy, a woman’s thoughts and emotions can affect her growing baby.  When a woman is fearful, upset, or anxious, her body releases stress hormones. These hormones enter the bloodstream, traveling through the placenta, and then on to her baby. Some studies suggest that this early exposure to these stress hormones can cause a baby to be more fussy and irritable once he or she arrives.  On the contrary, mamas who spend time relaxing every day doing such activities as meditation or yoga, pass that same sense of calm and well-being to their little ones.

During labor and birth, the mind-body connection is amazingly powerful.  In order for a woman to progress in her labor, she needs to really let go, trust the process of birth, and dig deep within herself.  The logical, thinking part of her brain is pushed aside, as her primitive, instinctual part of the brain comes forward.  When she is able to do this, her body responds, and labor is often shorter and easier, requiring little to no outside intervention. If she is stressed, anxious, afraid, nervous, hungry, thirsty, scared, uncomfortable in her surroundings, or concerned with the well-being of those around her, her body will release stress hormones. These hormones impede the production of oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions of the uterus. When the oxytocin isn’t flowing, labor will often slow or stop until she feels safe and secure in her environment. Think of a wildebeest laboring in the wild.  If a lion attacks, will she continue to labor and birth her calf? Certainly not.  She will get to safety first before bringing her little one into the world. In the birthing world of humans, we often forget our animal roots. Much of the time, this slowing of labor leads to interventions that are designed to speed up labor artificially, when what a woman really needs is to talk about her fears, eat something, or be reassured that what she is experiencing is normal.

After birth, the mind-body connection continues. When breastfeeding, a woman needs to be very relaxed. Oxytocin plays a crucial role in breastfeeding, causing the milk ejection or “let-down” reflex. Just like in birth, if a woman is stressed, her oxytocin production is diminished and she’ll have difficulty getting her milk to flow. If she is uncomfortable or anxious, not only will feeding be more difficult, but also parenting in general.  Babies pick up on positive and negative energy of their caregivers, so a calm parent will make for a calm baby, while an anxious parent will make an anxious baby.

Throughout pregnancy and beyond, take time every day to improve your mind-body connection. Relax in a warm bath, talk about your fears, meditate, practice yoga, do some deep breathing, and connect with your baby–your mind, your body, and your baby will feel the positive effects!

 

What do you do to make sure you find time to relax in your daily schedule? 

Mama and the Media Part 3: Surfing the Net During Pregnancy

In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at one of the most powerful influences on your life as a parent–the media.  I’ll give you my doula/childbirth educator/mama scoop on what’s most likely to build your confidence and what’s just going to freak you out!

Without a doubt, most mamas today look to the internet for guidance.  A Google search for “pregnancy” yields about 314 million results.  Type in “birth” and you’re looking at about 696 million!  Think it might be difficult to sort through what is worthy of a bookmark and what deserves a spot in your trash? Oh, yes!  This is by no means a complete list, but here’s a few that are definitely worth your click:

lamaze.org –This is NOT a shameless plug.  Lamaze’s website is a fabulous resource for expectant families to find evidence-based information, videos of Lamaze’s “Healthy Birth Practices,” a directory of childbirth educators, a community of support, and my personal favorite, the weekly email newsletter, Building Your Confidence Week-by-Week. It is hands-down the best one out there, giving you real, useful advice, not just telling you what item of produce your baby most resembles each week.

childbirthconnection.org – I am a firm believer that if you aren’t informed about your options, then you don’t have any. Childbirth Connection’s slogan is “Helping Women and Health Professionals Make Informed Maternity Care Decisions,” and their website definitely delivers.  It is chock-full of information about medical procedures, interventions, and serious scientific evidence in a very user-friendly format.  The icing on the cake is the Listening to Mothers survey, a compilation of data from thousands of births coming from the mamas themselves. It’s an invaluable tool in making informed decisions and also in transforming maternity care to make it safer and healthier for mamas and babies.

mothering.com – From pregnancy to puberty, you will find it here!  This site is a perfect combination of solid information and interactive community.  Mothering.com covers pregnancy, breastfeeding, parenting, and more, with a natural approach that’s not “hippy,” it’s healthy. The MotheringDotCommunity message board has dozens of groups–you’re guaranteed to find a least one where you belong.

babyfit.com – A healthy mama is a happy mama, but it’s not always easy.  This site offers nutrition and exercise advice from preconception, pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond complete with online support groups, personalized nutrition and fitness trackers, and several great email newsletters.  The best part?  It’s all free!

breastfeedinginc.ca (formerly drjacknewman.com) – If you are breastfeeding, you NEED to bookmark this site.  Dr. Jack Newman is North America’s lactation guru.  His website offers incredible information about why and how to breastfeed, dozens of articles to troubleshoot common problems, and videos so you can actually SEE how to nurse your little one comfortably and successfully.  Even more amazing is that if you need extra help, you can contact the good doctor himself, and he usually responds within 24 hours.

Happy browsing, Mamas!

Mama and the Media Part 2: What to Watch During Pregnancy

In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at one of the most powerful influences on your life as a parent–the media.  I’ll give you my doula/childbirth educator/mama scoop on what’s most likely to build your confidence and what’s just going to freak you out!

Saturday night date night has most likely taken on a new form during pregnancy.  Skip the trip to the theater and watch these great birth flicks in the comfort of your own home, where it’s totally acceptable to wear those super stretchy and oh-so-comfy pajama pants and the kicks you feel aren’t on the back of your seat, but from that tiny little guy or gal in your belly!

Orgasmic Birth – Yes, you read that right!  We’re talking orgasms and birth, together in the same movie. While the title may raise an eyebrow or two, this film is absolutely my favorite to show the amazing strength, power, and inner wisdom that each and every woman possesses.  It’s not a “how-to-have-an-orgasm-during-birth” guide, but rather honest, straightforward information about the physiology and hormones of pregnancy and birth, the mind-body connection, and some incredible birth footage (yes, there is a little orgasm in there too.) This film is also available in a condensed form, Organic Birth.

Birth As We Know It Another favorite that really gets to the heart of pregnancy and birth, this one gives you an inspiring look into the world of birth. Though much of the footage takes place in Russia (including AMAZING water births in the Black Sea) the message is universal:  birth is normal and women are strong, intuitive beings.  I showed this DVD to my husband shortly after I began working as a doula and he was amazed. I believe his exact quote was, “Wow, that kind of makes me realize how insignificant my job is.” (He works in sales, which doesn’t usually involve world-altering, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.)  This film also has a shorter version, Birth Into Being.

The Business of Being Born – This eye-opening documentary definitely paved the way for the influx of birth films in the past several years and for good reason!  Former talk show host Ricki Lake takes you through an in-depth look at birth practices of the past and present.  For many, the information may be shocking, but my hope is that it will inspire you to make informed decisions, ask questions, and find the provider that you feel will help you to have the birth experience you want.

Birth Day (the DVD, not the TV show) — If you want a film to remind you that birth can be a calm, tender, moving experience, this is it. Birth Day takes you into the home of Naoli Lopez for the birth of her third child.  This is a great one for every expectant family, especially for those looking for a video to share with children who may be at the birth. Even though this one is 100% homebirth, I think it’s a powerful reminder that great birth can happen anywhere.

Laboring Under An Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing – If my past self (who has a journalism degree with an advertising emphasis) and my present self (birth junkie in every way, shape, and form) had a baby together, it would be this documentary.  You see birth from the mass media point of view, which undoubtedly shapes a woman’s perception and confidence in the birthing process from a young age, and then see real birth, something few of us ever actually witness. This one is totally a must see!

Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices — Lamaze offers free, online informational videos that illustrate real women demonstrating each of the six healthy birth practices. Each video is less than 4 minutes long and provides simple, useful tips to keep birth safe and healthy.

 

My final plug for confidence-building:  do not, I repeat DO NOT subject yourself to any of the “birth” shows on television. This includes “A Baby Story,” “Bringing Baby Home,” “Deliver Me,” “Birth Day,” “One Born Every Minute,” or any other crazy show that you may find.  They are likely to instill fear and confusion, often depicting a highly medicalized, worse-case scenario image of birth.  There is very little that is real about those reality shows, so please stay away.

Now it’s time to pop that popcorn and get watching, mamas!

Mama and the Media Part 1: What to Read During Pregnancy

In this series of posts, we’ll take a look at one of the most powerful influences on your life as a parent–the media.  I’ll give you my doula/childbirth educator/mama scoop on what’s most likely to build your confidence and what’s just going to freak you out!

Once that positive pregnancy test confirms you’re on your way to mamahood, the reading begins.  Books, books, and more books have been written about preparing for pregnancy and birth, but which ones are worth the read and which ones are better used to prop up a wobbly table?  Here’s a list of my top picks and why:

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin — This book is hands-down, without a doubt, my favorite to read during pregnancy. As one of the leading midwives in the country, Ina May shares inspiring birth stories in the first half of the book. The second half gives an incredible insight into the physiology of birth and the female body, something that I feel not only builds confidence in the birth process, but as a woman in general. Dig in to this one and you’ll find your “inner mama” for sure.
  • The Official Lamaze Guide by Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries — The subtitle to this book is “Giving Birth With Confidence” and that’s seriously what reading this book will do (and I’m not just saying that since this is the Lamaze blog.) I feel this is the perfect blend of crunchy, earthy birth and evidence-based information. I’m not required to give the Lamaze Guide to all of my students–I choose to because it’s that good!
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, & Ann Keppler– If you’re looking for a complete guide to having your baby, this is it. Step-by-step, you’re guided through what to truly expect when you’re expecting without any of the scary stuff.  It also includes accurate information about birth procedures and interventions, and good insight into what to expect for mama and baby in the early postpartum time.
  • Birth Day by Mark Sloan — This book is one of the few out there that answers the questions that often go unasked.  Why do so many women push on their back (spoiler alert: it’s NOT because it’s easier for mama or baby)?  How do babies make that transition from womb to world (it’s pretty amazing)? Will my partner really get me through birth and on into parenthood (one word: hormones)?   Birth Day provides an amazing history of pregnancy, birth, and babies, tying it in with modern day practice.  I think to truly understand what you’re getting into, you must know how we got there, and this one does it in an entertaining, yet informative way.
  • Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent — If you know the basics of birth and don’t need another how-to guide, check out this fabulous collection of birth stories written by a midwife.  As you follow her professional journey, you’re invited to dozens of amazing, raw, empowering, and emotional births.  From home, to hospital, to houseboat, there is never a dull moment.  The stories will make you laugh, cry, and make you realize–hey, I can do this!!

Happy reading, Mamas!!

Great Expectations: Liz (& Isadora) @ 3 Weeks Postpartum

My darling Isadora is three weeks old!  She is a fabulous baby, nursing well and sleeping for long stretches at night (don’t hate me–I have three others to chase after and need the rest), and even starting to smile! She definitely loves her mama, wanting to be held more than her siblings did, but I don’t mind one bit.  I gladly snuggle with her as much as possible and am very thankful for the fact that she loves hanging out in the sling (READ: get a good baby carrier and/or sling.) It’s odd to me how she’s so new, yet I feel like I’ve known her forever. It probably doesn’t hurt that she looks so much like my other three that it kind of freaks me out from time to time. Her siblings love her to pieces, showering her with kisses (that sometimes involve a transmission of chocolate milk mustaches and bread crumbs to her forehead) and affection.  My oldest two proudly brought a picture of her to school the day after she was born, and my son requested to bring a different one the following day, this time of her nursing.  As much as I promote breastfeeding, I decided that it was probably not something that he should share with his first-grade classmates.

My fabulous birth high was met quickly with heartache. The day after Isadora was born, I learned that my other two daughters also have mytonic dystrophy, though not quite as severe as my son. Last week, the results came back for Isadora, and she, too, is affected.  We are thankful that it is not so severe to have impacted her at birth, but it is making for an exceptionally emotional postpartum time.  I have, once again, found myself heeding more of my own advice for the postpartum time. I have been asking others for help (namely my husband and mother, but I know there will be many others added to my “village” in the coming months), had a friend set up a meal delivery schedule for me (check out www.foodtidings.com or www.mealbaby.com to do the same), and have been trying to take it easy, as much as a mother of four can.

Great Expectations: Liz’s Birth Story

As I had predicted, our nugget waited until I finished teaching my last class, and then decided to start the birth journey.  On my drive home, I felt my first mild, but different contraction, which continued every ten minutes or so throughout the evening. After a bath and some final preparations, I went to bed around 1:00 AM, sending a heads-up text to my three doulas just before laying down.  As much as I tried to go to sleep, it was difficult to do so since the contractions seemed to be coming a little bit closer and more intensely.  I was feeling it a lot in my back–very reminiscent of my last birth. I focused on the energy in my uterus, trying to think of it as a warm intensity.  This was working pretty well and I started vocalizing with a quiet, “Ooohhhh,” so as to not wake Chris.  I gave up trying to sleep, but continued relaxing in between them.  This was fine until I started thinking about logistics with the kids, who really wanted to be at the birth.  About 2:15 I woke up Chris to formulate a game plan. I was too much in my head, and I knew that I couldn’t labor well and think at the same time, though I didn’t really believe that I was actually in labor–I just was thinking ahead. Our plan was for our “kid doula” to come to the house and we would go to the hospital to get settled. Then, she would bring them up when were were closer to the time of birth.  Once I was up and moving, things picked up a lot. I labored a bit on the toilet, but was having a really hard time sitting down because of my back.  Mostly I leaned over the sink or the bed and did big hips circles, saying “Oooohhhh,” really deeply.  I visualized everything opening up and sometimes could even feel my body opening up.  As long as I was vocalizing, everything felt fine.  It would only get really intense when I took a breath, so I tried to make my “Oohhs” as long as possible.  Chris was getting things ready, but when he was in the bathroom or our bedroom with me, I would lean on him. I didn’t want other talking or touching. Ironic that I teach comfort measures and use them as a doula, but didn’t want them at all for myself. By about 3:00, I was fully out of denial that I was in labor and that this baby was, in fact, coming.  I rethought my plan about the kids, deciding to bring them with and  have our doula follow us instead.  My oldest daughter, Gianna, was a little confused as I had a contraction leaning over the kitchen counter, as my “Oohhs” were getting louder and deeper.  “What are you doing, Mom?” she asked, but then realized I was having a contraction. She remembered what she had learned from the birth video we showed them in preparation, pressing her little hand on my back. It was too darn cute, and did actually feel nice.  By 3:15, we were in the car. Chris turned on my birth music mix and we headed out in the snowstorm for the much-dreaded trip to the hospital. I alternated between being on all-fours over the back of the seat and on my side to avoid pressure on my back, neither of which helped much. The contractions seemed to space out a little which I was grateful for, as we crept along the snowy road.

We were greeted at the hospital by my wonderful midwife and favorite nurse.  We made our way up to maternity and I asked if they could start filling the big labor tub, something I had been looking forward to as the only way to alleviate my crazy back pain.  She said, “We can try, but I don’t think there’s going to be time.  I think you’re going to have this baby within the hour.”  I totally did not believe her at all. The contractions were definitely intense, but didn’t seem like they were lasting that long or that close, so I didn’t think I could be that far into labor. We got into the room about 4:15. I was able to somehow lay down long enough for her to check me–6-7 cms, 90% effaced and baby was -1 station. I was definitely happy with the progress since I feared I would be 3-4 cms. I was hoping to get in the tub soon, but my midwife wanted to monitor the baby a little. I tried to oblige, but things were just so intense and I could not hold still or lay down. I told her that I needed to at least be in the shower. Chris put the shower head on my back which was the only thing that remotely provided relief at that point. In class, I often tell mamas “Just when you can’t take it anymore, it’s over.” I started thinking, “I’m almost at the point where I can’t take it anymore, but could I possibly be that close to the end?”  There was seemingly no break from the contractions, and I had to switch up my vocalizations to include “I can do this” over and over. Chris affirmed “You are doing this!” (a line I teach labor support in class). This got me over my self-doubt, and I switched to “Come on, Baby” to encourage the little one out. My water was still intact, and I felt like I needed to do something to make it break, remembering that once it broke with Lucia, she came sailing on out. I squatted (not an easy feat with the excruciating back pain and intense pressure) and it worked!  I felt the water release and said, “The baby’s coming!”  The midwife ran into the bathroom, urging us to get out of the shower NOW.  I climbed up on to the bed on all fours and felt her hand on my perineum. “The baby’s here and there’s meconium,” I heard her say. I had a brief moment of panic that it would mean separation and deep suctioning.  I felt my first break in contractions, but with the next one, I was full-on pushing and not being quiet at all about it.  The midwife wanted me to slow down a bit, but I just needed to get the baby out.  I turned back briefly when I heard Gianna crying (pretty sure it was my noise level), and saw Giacomo and Lucia’s eyes open wide in amazement. Once the head was out, I was able to calm myself a little, knowing that very soon, the most incredible release one can feel in a lifetime–the birth of the body, and thus meeting of my baby, was about to happen.  With the next contraction, and one big push, our little nugget arrived at 4:41 A.M., less than an half an hour after getting into our room.  It was crazy!  I flipped back over, immediately shocked at the lack of a penis, but thrilled to hear her crying heartily.  The midwife suctioned a little with the aspirator, but then I just grabbed her and put her right on my chest.  It was so amazing–all that stress of wondering if she was okay, the team on standby (that I never even noticed was there), even the meconium at the end, and everything was just fine.  The kids came around to meet her, completely in awe.  It had been the plan for them to announce the gender, so Giacomo looked between her legs, saying, “It’s a vulva!”  They were all so adorable and excited. They were also amazed with the “tour” of the placenta the nurse gave them. Shortly after, my two other doulas arrived, completely in shock they had missed the whole thing. Since we had been convinced it was a boy, we really had no girl names picked out. After some debating (and Internet searching) I had Chris write down our options to see what looked best. Once he stated, “I think she’s Isadora,” that was that. Welcome Isadora Abbene, 8 pounds, 10 ounces, 20 ¼ inches, and 100% fabulous!

Great Expectations: Liz @ 40 Weeks

To ease my end-of-pregnancy aches, I went swimming the other day and was pleasantly surprised by two wonderfully sweet older men I ran into.  The first one asked if I was going to be in the water when I had the baby, and before I could even answer, he went on to tell me how he’d been reading all about how great water was for birth.  He then told me, with an enormous amount of pride, about how his wife had all four of their children naturally, without anesthesia, despite the fact that everyone else was being knocked out at the time. He shared how she then nursed their babies and that they were so healthy, so smart, and grew so well. I was still reveling in the joy of that conversation, when another man commented on how comfortable I looked in the water and that he too had been reading about the benefits of water for pregnant women and birth.  I’m not sure what these guys have been reading, but I love it and hope they keep sharing!!

As I go through week 40 of my pregnancy, I am feeling much more relaxed and prepared to birth and meet this little nugget. Just about everything is washed, arranged, and packed in anticipation.  My belly cast is done and drying, courtesy of my doulas and husband. My body is also getting ready–the baby has moved down, finally giving me relief from the constant heartburn, and I’ve started to lose my mucous plug. When it happened, it occurred to me, “Oh, that means my cervix is starting to change. Oh, that means I’m going to have a baby soon!” despite the fact that I had just described to a room full of expectant families what the whole mucous plug thing meant earlier that day.  Most importantly, my mind is ready for birth.  I’ve gotten to a place of acceptance with the entire process–the big change in birth plans, the uncertainty of the health of our baby, all of the unknowns of birth. Rather than play out scenarios in my head, I’m leaving this whole thing up to my baby and the birth goddesses.  I trust that things will work out exactly as they should, that the right people will be there, and that my baby will come exactly when and how he or she is supposed to.

Great Expectations: Liz @ 38 Weeks

Anyone who denies the intelligence of babies, clearly hasn’t met our little nugget.  After only a few days of moxibustion, a fabulous Mayan abdominal massage, and some inspirational somersaults performed by my oldest daughter, the baby flipped and is now in the head-down position!  I really feel like given all of the other craziness that has been going on in our lives, this baby just wanted me to start paying a bit more attention to him/her (behaving like a youngest child, perhaps?).

I had become very disconnected from this pregnancy in the last month and now am getting back on track, making time for yoga, massages, and acupuncture once again.  Last week, a fabulous group of women (including my amazing midwife and wonderful mother, see picture) gathered for my blessingway (a traditional ceremony focused on honoring the mama-to-be), which was exactly what I needed after two days of emotional breakdowns. After going through the “anger” part of my altered birth plans, I’m now truly in the acceptance phase.  It’s very hard to have to heed my own advice about making the best of the birth cards that I’ve been dealt, but I know that it is essential and I can still have a positive experience, even though it’s not what I had planned.

Given that my guess date is only a couple of weeks away, I’ve had the realization that I am not at all prepared.  While I’ve crossed some things off my list like “make birth music playlist,” entitled “Break on Through, 2011,” other items such as: “baby clothes” and “pack hospital bag” have been overlooked.  The last few nights have brought frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, a general feeling of weirdness, and the “Is this it?” thought process. This, of course, tailspins into full-on freaking out at my lack of readiness for this baby to arrive.  So, in my re-connectedness with my babe, we have had many a recent discussion about not coming early.  I am totally fine with several more weeks of pregnancy, at least for now.

***For those of you interested in following our family’s journey with myotonic dystrophy, we have set up a Caring Bridge site, http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/abbene.