What’s more important: childbirth education or having a doula? My answer, you need both!
When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t want to spend the money on both. After convincing my husband, we luckily decide to get both. After having my son, I truly couldn’t tell you which was more important.
Without education, I wouldn’t have known what was going on during labor. When going through labor, one’s mind changes. I became quiet and went into my mind, it was hard to speak. I was only able to listen to my doula and my husband. They were quietly cheering me on, reassuring me that everything was going well. I could tell what my body was doing and how I was progressing through labor because I had studied it so much. I knew when I was in transition, and even though it was incredibly difficult I knew the hard part was almost over. I knew how to breathe my baby out and how to use my pain to guide me through pushing.
When I think about labor without a doula, I really don’t think I could’ve done it. Even though I was educated; like I said, your mind changes. You can’t make decisions clearly. It is hard to even talk at times. My husband wouldn’t have been confident that things were going well. He wouldn't have known how to support me. I think I would’ve read off of his anxiety and not been able to stay calm.
Being educated is imperative to having the base of knowledge needed to be present and confident in your ability to birth your baby. You need to know what’s going on to be able to advocate for yourself. If things change and you need to make important decisions, you know what interventions you want and what path you want to take. A doula not only sits by your side the entire labor, she supports dad. She shows him that things are going well, and can help catch signs that something is going wrong. They are that constant, calm voice of reason.
The difference between my two births was my husband. During my first birth, he sat quietly reassuring me, following my doulas lead. She showed him how to support me. After birth, he was in shock. He just smiled but I could tell he couldn’t believe what we just did! During my second birth he was my active supporter. My doula was the one this time who sat quietly supporting me. He confidently caught our baby and was calm and relaxed after birth. The education we received and what our doula showed him during out first birth experience empowered him and made him confident in his ability to support me. He knew things were going well and what I needed from him.
Long story short: birth is a big deal and you need to be prepared. Setting up your birth team with educated people that you trust is imperative to having a great birth experience. You only get one chance to birth your baby, spend the time now to ensure you are prepared.
We all know those people who have the calmest, most content baby’s on the block. They "sleep through the night by six weeks" and just lay around and smile... Well when I had my first child, those people were... hard to talk to. By week two, my husband and I found ourselves with a tiny human who only wanted to nurse or cry. He was inconsolable. I knew no different. He was only content while nursing. So that is what we did. We nursed ALL. THE. TIME.
Along with the nonstop daily screaming, my son had a facial rash that looked like red acne, and mucous filled stools. I went to a breastfeeding support group and they suggested I try cutting dairy from my diet. I didn't want to do that and hoped he would just become a happier baby.
When my son was six weeks old we attended my grandma's birthday party. Jonah screamed the entire time. My mom, grandma and aunts all kept saying something was "wrong" with him. When anyone tells you something is wrong with your child you immediately get defensive. I didn’t want anything to be “wrong” with my child. I tried my best to soothe him, but I was feeling defeated.
I went back to the breastfeeding support group. I was desperate decided to try a dairy free diet like they recommended previously. I cut every source of dairy from my diet. Within one week my son’s stools no longer had mucous and looked like normal breastfed baby poo. His facial rash also disappeared. I was excited that such a simple thing was helping him.
Being a newly breastfeeding mama I was STARVING… all the time. During my pregnancy I craved dairy. I ate cereal and yogurt every day and I sure liked my ice cream. Being starving and not being able to eat my favorite foods was torture. I was willing to do it though because I wanted to take my baby’s pain away. I was upset to find that Jonah was still screaming all day. I went to my chiropractor and she suggested I cut soy, the second most common dietary culprit. I had just started to get the hang of a dairy free diet, and replaced a lot of it with soy based products. I now had to replace BOTH of them. I was now not only hungry, I was HANGRY. My poor husband would come home from work and I would scream "I NEED FOOD!"
Soon I found online support groups on Facebook. These women seemed like professionals and had tons of great recipes and tips to help me. I quickly found food substitutions that I liked and a few restaurants that were accommodating to my diet. Within two more weeks my son was like a new person! He was no longer crying all day. He was no longer in pain. It was so amazing to see. I knew that this new diet was worth the hassle.
People ask why I would do something so drastic and why I wouldn’t just put him on formula. Well first of all, I have always wanted to breastfeed. I wanted the bond and benefits for myself and my baby. Secondly, formula is dairy based, or soy based. If you want something allergen free, it is very expensive. These formulas are made up of broken down proteins and are able to be digested without an immune reaction. Research shows these formulas will work in 90% of babies with cow milk protein intolerance.
After 6-12 months being dairy free, a baby can be challenged with cow's milk, and if they don't have a reaction, it can be reintroduced. It is important to check with your baby's doctor about when and how to reintroduce allergens back into their diets.
Food intolerance often runs in families. Symptoms include: fussiness, infrequent watery stools which may contain mucous or blood, reflux, spitting up, nasal congestion, skin rash, weight loss, or repeated vomiting. As a treatment, the breastfeeding mom should remove the irritant from her diet. The commitment is hard but worth it. Continuing to breastfeed is still the best nutrition for your baby and the immunities breastfeeding provides will assist in the healing process for your baby.
Babies with milk/soy protein intolerance also do better if solid foods are not introduced until around 6 months of age. Ask your healthcare provider in what order to introduce solid foods. A dietitian can direct you to certain food items and brands that are milk and soy free, and help find hidden sources of dairy and soy in foods and drinks. The dietitian will also make sure you are getting the nutrients that you need while breastfeeding and suggest non-dairy food sources of calcium.
Dairy and soy sensitivities are common. It is hard to have an unhappy baby but getting to the bottom of the issue is important. It is important for mom to have a healthy gut. Ways to improve your gut is to start your pregnancy out with a healthy diet full of whole foods. Taking a good probiotic and a digestive enzyme can also be helpful. Probiotics help normalize the digestive flora in the gut and they work with digestive enzymes to break down the foods eaten so they don't cause damage to the digestive tract. If our gut isn't healthy or we don't have normal flora or enzymes, then the larger proteins get into our milk and irritate the baby's digestive tract, leading to sensitivities.
If you find yourself facing this problem seek out help. Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in your area and trouble shoot with them. It is helpful to try an elimination diet to get to the root of the problem. Know you’re not alone, and things will get better. Keep advocating for your babe and soon you’ll get the hang of things.
P.S. I have a ton of great food alternative tips if you are needing a little help. I'd love to chat.
Milk Soy Protein Intolerance [Online] November, 15, 2015.
What is MSPI? Complete Children's Health. [Online] August 21, 2014.
Cow's Milk Protein Intolerance. GI Kids. [Online] August 14, 2014.
Mellanie Shepard, IBCLC
When we got to the hospital I asked if we could make it through one more contraction before I walked in. We signed in at the front desk, the lady asked me what number baby this was for me and when I told her my first, I could sense she was in no rush.
We sat in the waiting room and I felt good, for a few minutes. Then another contraction hit me and it felt like things were picking up. A nurse finally came and took me up to the unit, very slowly, in a wheel chair. I was feeling very hot and sweaty. When we got up to the unit I was having another contraction, I signed some papers at the front desk and they wheeled me into my room.
I got into the bed and they immediately attached two monitors to my belly to watch the baby’s heart rate and contractions. I was suddenly hit with another wave of nausea, good thing I still had my grocery bag in hand because I lost my red raspberry tea right then. The hot flash and nausea made me think, this might be transition!
The nurse then asked to do a cervical check. I told Jared, “Watch I will be 3.25 cm dilated.” The nurse shockingly said, “You are 6cm dilated and fully effaced!” I was excited, I had dilated three more cm since the previous day! They then had me fill out tons of paperwork. Jared was able to help me and it was hard because it seemed my contractions were coming back to back. Being on my back in the bed was very uncomfortable.
Heidi made it to the hospital shortly after this and immediately asked if I wanted her to run me a bath. That sounded fabulous. By the time we were done with paperwork and labs being drawn, the bath was ready. I got in and it felt so nice. Jared sat on a stool by my head and massaged my arm and neck. Heidi sat next to him. During contractions Jared did a great job encouraging and massaging me. Heidi was calmly reassuring me that I was doing a great job and at times when she could tell I was really in pain she was helping me do guided relaxation. She poured water over my belly during contractions and that really helped with the pain. She guided me to “float over the contractions” and to let myself become “jello.” This went on for two hours, but it only seemed like one to me.
Sara, Teri’s midwife student came to assist. They encouraged me to use get out of the tub and try a different position. Once I was out of the tub I started feeling pushy. They asked if I wanted to try and labor in the bed. I agreed but once I got on my back I had a lot of pelvic pressure and pain. They checked me and I was fully dilated. I tried many different positions but couldn’t find a comfortable one. Sara recommended I stand and do slow side lunges. She said this can help if there is a small amount of cervix that still needs to dilate. This actually felt good and I was able to breathe through the contractions.
I was starting to feel the urge to push so the they recommended I try the squatting bar on the bed. They got it out and Jared helped set it up, being the handyman he is! This was really uncomfortable for me and tiring. They raised the head of the bed and had me put my feet up on the push bars. I didn’t feel a strong urge to push and things slowed down. My contractions spaced out more and didn’t seem as painful when I was lightly pushing. It was about 7am when Lisa took over for Teri as my midwife.
She told me I was doing great, after 1 hour of pushing they could see the baby’s head. Lisa said I could stay at this pace or she could help me speed things up. I told her we could speed things up. They got a mirror out so I could see my progress. This really helped. Sara the student midwife used mineral oil to help me from tearing. They also used warm compress and pressure when I pushed to help. They dropped the bottom of the bed a bit so I was in a more inclined position, I started to feel the urge to push much stronger.
I opted out of constant fetal monitoring so they were periodically checking. The nurse checked me and they said the fetal heart rate was dropping a little more with each contraction. I heard Lisa ask for the nurse to call the NICU team in “just in case.” She looked at me and said, “Okay, were going to get this baby out with your next contraction.” That was all the motivation I needed, I took a deep breath and pushed my baby out. I felt a huge feeling of pressure and relief. We immediately heard the baby cry.
Once I opened my eyes I looked down and saw that my baby was a boy! I could not believe he was a boy! No one had announced it and Jared must not have noticed. I must have said one hundred times, “It’s a boy!?” I was convinced he was a girl because I thought I accidentally saw on the ultrasound nothing between the legs. I must have been looking at an arm pit ha!
He was perfect. His APGAR scores were 8 and 9. We let the cord stop pulsing and Jared cut the cord. We did skin to skin and Jonah was able to latch on and breastfeed for an hour. He then got weighed and measured. 7 pounds, 7 ounces, 20 inches long. 13.5 inch head circumference. Our baby was finally here!
I looked at Jared and asked “Is he a Jonah?” We had decided on the name Jonah Edward months before delivery. I loved the name in Sleepless in Seattle and was watching it one day. I mentioned it to Jared and he liked it to. I then thought that Jonah had all the letters of John, my father and grandfather’s names. I then thought Edward would be nice as a middle name to honor Jared’s dad and grandfather.
So, that is how we got our little Jonah Edward.
Our birth story started June 30 2015. I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I slept in that morning until about 10:30. Because I was so pregnant, I needed to hoist myself out of bed. While doing this I suddenly felt fluid running down my leg. I quickly made my way to our master bathroom, only three steps away to assess the situation. It was only a small amount of fluid and I wasn’t sure what had happened. I was instantly excited but apprehensive, could this really be it? My mother’s first labor started two weeks early with her water breaking. My pregnancy was taking after hers so I kind of thought my water might break.
I quickly called Jared and told him, “Well I either peed my pants or my water broke!” He was instantly excited but said, “Well how do you not know, wouldn’t you know if you peed your pants?!” I called my midwifes office to let them know. I had an appointment that day at 2pm and they said if nothing else happens to just get checked at 2pm when I come in to the office.
The morning went by normally, I had no symptoms of labor. I thought for sure I had just peed my pants. At my appointment my midwife tested the fluid on a pH strip and looked at it under a microscope. She said both tests were negative. While we were chatting, she noticed that the pH strip started changing color. She said she now didn't know what to think, my water might have broken.
She said she was going to send the sample off and get it tested and we would know for sure in a little while. With all the excitement I decided to get checked, I was 3 cm dilated, 80% effaced and -1 station. Jared was excited, thinking for sure my water had broken, while I was still unsure. He decided to go back to work and I was planning on just calling him with the results of the testing.
About a half hour after I got home, my midwife called me herself stating, “Well the sample was positive, your water broke!” I couldn’t believe it.
I had two options; either go in tonight and get induced, or wait until 7am and then I had to go to the hospital and get induced. I was scared, I had worked so hard to prepare myself to get through labor naturally and learned all the risks of induction and I didn’t want to go that route. I chose to wait until morning and was determined I was going to get this labor going.
I decided to get my membranes stripped. I didn’t feel anything and it didn’t start labor. My midwife recommended I see a chiropractor. I had been seeing Dr. Pulse my whole pregnancy. I called her office and she was out of town and her partner was too! I couldn’t believe it. I had a tilted sacrum my entire pregnancy and wanted to make sure that was aligned before labor. I called two more chiropractic offices and neither could get me in. It was about 4:30pm by this point and I knew all other offices were probably closing soon. Heidi let me know there was one open until 6 and I was able to get in. They were so accommodating and nice to us, maybe thinking we were going to have this baby right in their office! He said my spine was aligned and he did pressure points.
We then came home and went on our first walk. During the walk I had three sharp shooting pains in my pelvis. Other than that I felt normal. We then came home and tried using my breast pump… that was awkward and didn’t do anything either. We had supper and kept talking about what we could do next. I had heard about an astrological phenomenon that was to be seen that day. The Star of Bethlehem was going to be in the sky for the first time in 2000 years. While on our second walk we saw it and it was almost overwhelming to me. I took it as a sign that our baby was coming, of all nights on the night the Star of Bethlehem was in the sky?!
When we got home I talked to my doula again and we made a plan. I would let her know if anything started in the night and if not she’d meet us at the hospital at 7am. Jared and I went to the store to get red raspberry leaf tea, our last attempt at inducing labor naturally. When I came home I drank a cup while I did hip exercises on my birthing ball. I was staring to get upset because I was worried we would never get things going. Jared encouraged me to get showered and try and rest because we were going to have a busy day the next day (boy, is he a smart guy.) We went to bed about 11 pm.
My mind was racing, I kept praying things would start. I wasn’t sleeping and then by 11:30 I started having contractions. They were 7,9,8,5,8 and 12 minutes apart. They were too painful to sleep through. They were about a minute long. By the last one I needed to wake Jared up, I needed his help. It was about 2:30 by this point. My contractions were now 2.5 - 5 minutes apart. I sat on the toilet backwards and asked him to rub my back through the contractions. The baby’s head was pressing against my pelvic bone so this was very uncomfortable. I asked Jared if we should let Heidi know what was going on, I didn’t want to wake her if this wasn’t the real thing but Jared thought we should text her.
By the time Jared had texted Heidi to ask her, I knew it was time to go. I knew we needed to get there, I didn’t want to have this baby at home!
It was pouring rain as we ran to the car. The ride to the hospital was a good one, I felt okay and was making it through the contractions. I knew that adrenaline can slow things down so I was trying my best to remain calm. I remember vividly that as we passed labor ready there were 7 men sitting in the rain waiting for it to open so they could have jobs for the day. Seeing this while I was experiencing labor pain made a profound impact on my heart. I was physically struggling but seeing this made time stand still in my mind.
Stay tuned for part two!