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Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond
By: Jason Noxon
www.nokkusan.wordpress.com

Introduction

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a child trapped in the body of a 37 year old.  I know this because children gravitate to me like I am an ice-cream truck.  I am one of them.  So you can imagine that the thought of having a child myself scared me to no end.  It was the subject of several arguments, fights and, honestly, the possibility of the end of my relationship with my wife.  This was a big deal, and all of the drama was created out of my concern that I wouldn’t make a good father or, even worse, that I couldn’t be a father (like, I really couldn’t do it)!
I don’t want to leave you out on a limb, so to speak, so I will just say that this story has a happy ending.  On May 26th, 2010, my daughter, Violet, was born.  She is healthy, happy and perfect in every way.  Each day, I look her in the eyes and ask her, “What on Earth was there to be afraid of?”  Her eyes squint and she smiles and squeals with joy, stuffs her hand into her mouth and says, “Everything, Dad.  Everything.”

Toward Pregnancy The road is not always lined with roses.
By: Penny Simkin

Our road was harder than some, not as hard as others (it can always be worse).  Miscarriages are so common, as it turns out, but for some reason people keep it a secret.  Is this because people think they’ve failed themselves or others in some way?  As fate would have it, a miscarriage would test our mettle in both our relationship and our own psyche – twice.
The first miscarriage was around six weeks into the pregnancy.  We were disappointed to be sure, but to this day I still see a miscarriage as a woman’s body saying, “you know, this pregnancy is NOT perfect…I need to stop it now so we can rest and start again.”  Keep this phrase in a card in your pocket in case you need it – it does wonders and is absolutely true.
I can be honest and say that I did not handle the first one as well as I should have.  When life changes, it is an opportunity to step up and be more than yourself, if that makes any sense at all.  When you’re a birth partner, you are total support.  You have needs too and that is totally understandable, but these needs have to be put aside temporarily in order to just be a set of arms, a kind voice, a partner in crime sometimes and sometimes just a friend.  I failed this first test and I selfishly went inside myself and huddled there for a while bemoaning my life and counting this occurrence as further proof that I should not have a child.  However, life being what it is, I would, unfortunately have a second shot at being all the things I needed to be for my partner.
The second time around, things were more serious.  Eleven weeks rolled around, my wife was showing and was sick in the mornings – so things were good!  We had a ten week ultrasound scheduled because (after the first miscarriage, we really wanted to know what was happening).  But, as you probably guessed, we were again disappointed.  This time it was a blighted ovum.  The sac had been created to hold the baby, but there was no fetus.  I can’t recount the specifics for two reasons: One, it’s just too painful and two, it seems so long ago.  The bottom line is that my wife required a dilation and curettage (D&C) which she handled so well that this was the first moment that I realized that she was Super-Woman.
In the end, if you’ve had trouble conceiving or carrying to term, take heart: there are people out there that are having the same issues as you are; and if you’ve had a perfect pregnancy with no complications, be grateful every second of every hour of every day.]

No Turning Back Finding out your partner is pregnant!
By: Carmen Mojica Fabian

There is one and only one time in life when it is socially acceptable to carry around a stick covered in your own pee (trust me, I’ve tried it other times and it does NOT go over well).  But when someone is waving that plus sign in your face, you can’t help but be overjoyed and scared to death all at the same time, when your partner is pregnant.
The mind is a powerful thing.  Once I had decided that it was time in life to have a baby and that I could be a father, your mind rearranges thoughts and feelings and I was ecstatic at the news that my wife was pregnant for a third time.  I had a choice: I could have been reserved and waited to make sure that everything was okay and not be disappointed again or I could live now and be here now (really the only time there is) and be overjoyed by the news.  I picked the latter and it’s true what they say: the third time is, in fact, a charm.

 

The Pregnancy Being cautiously optimistic

Not knowing that the third time was indeed the charm, we were, of course, cautiously optimistic for a while.  I mean, we made it to eleven weeks before, so we decided to just live our lives and not think about it too much.  In the end, you can really only do so much and the rest is just biology.  We thought that good energy would help, so we tried our best to create it.
It goes without saying that we were nervous when we had our first ultrasound this time around, but I could see on the monitor that something was definitely there!
My wife, who couldn’t see the monitor, looked at me and I could see her eyes were tearing: “Well? WELL?”
“It’s, it’s…an…owl!” is all I could say.  At least that’s what it looked like: a cute little owl snuggled into her nest.  The technician told us everything looked good and we were driven to tears of joy and excitement.  Our little owl was the perfect size and her heart was beating steady: not too fast and not too slow. (It’s funny to note that once when we were walking with my sister-in-law, Violet made a little hoot to which my sister-in-law asked, “was that an owl?”  Yes.  Yes it was.)
It’s notable to mention that it’s around this time in the process that you, dearest birth partner, will feel about as useful as a rubber crutch most of the time.  It’s also important to mention that it is also at this point that doing the seeming little things goes a long way to keep your partner happy and stress free.  Building a baby, unlike building a bear at Build-a-bear, takes a lot out of a person’s body; so the more you as the birth partner can do the laundry, the dishes, sweep the floor, bring her a glass of water and a piece of toast with almond butter without her asking the happier she will be.  The happier she is, the healthier the pregnancy is and the happier you are!
Flowers and gifts don’t hurt either.

Labor in Real Life It’s not at all like it is in the movies!

This being my first child, I had no idea what to expect during the labor process, besides what I had read in books and seen in movies.  I was hoping we’d wake up at 3am, my wife standing in her coat with her little suitcase packed saying, “it’s time,” and we comically raced to the hospital, walked in, had the baby with a push and a cry and we were on our way.  Ahh, sweet fantasy.
Reality, on the other hand, is much different.
If it wasn’t clear earlier, let me be crystal clear now: do whatever you can to help!  Get a glass of water, a wet cloth, call the doula to ask questions (make sure you have a doula).  Whatever she needs, do it.  If she’s a vegetarian and asks you to stop on the way home and get bacon: do it.
During labor (as well as the birth) the best advice I can give for first time parents is this: be flexible.  You may have a 300 page, minute by minute, birth plan type and bound and available to medical staff on amazon.com with free-shipping – but be flexible because nature will laugh at your plan.  Our plan was to have a natural birth, and for the most part that is exactly what we got – with a couple exceptions.  You will face certain decisions during the process: make sure you’ve built yourself a good team of professionals (doula, midwife, doctors), get their advice and make the decision as a team.
One problem that I dealt with during the laboring was that, after being awake for over twenty-four hours, I finally started to fall asleep standing up.  This is when it was imperative to have a doula with us.  I was useless (even more useless than normal) because I was leaning against a wall falling asleep and would barely wake up for a contraction.  The doula, first of all, reassured me that it was normal (my wife was hopped up on adrenaline and could handle being awake for so long) and secondly, could take over as support for my wife while I got some decent sleep.  Think you can’t sleep with your partner laboring in the other room?  Think again.
If I hadn’t gotten this time to sleep a little, I would have not been able to be as supportive or present during the birth.  Birth partner: listen to your body and what you need when it comes to food and sleep; it cannot be stressed enough: find yourself a doula for support!

Enter: Super Woman

After forty hours of labor (yes, you read that correctly – forty), the pushing finally began.  I am by nature a queasy person – so I was a little hesitant about being able to “see” the birth.  In the end, I had no choice.  When you choose a mid-wife over a doctor, natural is natural – you see everything and it will be the most amazing thing you will ever see in your life, both from the point of a baby actually being born and your partner actually pushing through the excruciating pain to birth the baby.  I told my wife later on that now that’s she done this, she can honestly do anything at all.  I completely believe it.
That all being said, Violet was born on May 26, 2010 at 10:39AM weighing 7lbs 11oz and perfect in every way.  Grateful doesn’t even come close to describe the feeling of, after worrying for over nine months, having a perfect baby in your arms.
I wasn’t totally sure that I would be able to cut the umbilical cord before-hand.  Afterwards, subconsciously I thought, if my wife can go through what she just went through I could be tough and cut the cord.  I’m glad I am so glad I did because it would have been a totally wasted moment.  Although, after the fact, I was thinking that Violet is probably going to use this against me in the future; after all, I am the one who officially separated her from her warm, cozy, bouncy womb which she had called home for so long.

The First Night Home Why does my wife hate my family?

I need to preface this section with a couple of back-stories:
First, my wife and I decided long ago that we would not be using a pacifier.  Never, ever, never, ever, ever.
Second, as you probably know if you’re expecting, you get lots of duplicate gifts from friends and families, as well as stuff you just want to return because, well, you hate it.  My wife became an expert at returning items and creatively using coupons to get some serious bargains.
Fast-forward to only a few hours after arriving home from the hospital:  Baby Violet was screaming for what seemed like hours but in reality was about 30 seconds.  We had not slept in about…25 years, let’s say.  I ran around the house looking for the one pacifier we owned that had been lovingly purchased by my adorable mother.  It was no where to be found.  I was out of control and what came out of my mouth went a little something like this:
Where is the pacifier my mom bought us?  You brought it back and returned it, didn’t you?  You never liked my family and you hate everything they give us!
My wife heard this and, while carrying the baby, walked briskly to Violet’s closet and produced the pacifier, still in its wrapper.  She thrust it toward me and said, “Here, you idiot!”
And honestly, all I could say was, “oh”.
This was all very serious in the moment; however, looking back, this is such a funny episode.  The key is to realize how stupid you are due to the lack of sleep and make sure to laugh in these moments.  You will constantly ask yourself, what have I done, but you have to go beyond yourself again and change that question into your own question to her: what can I do?
Nothing is personal with a baby.  A baby has needs – sleep, food, diaper changes, and love – and only one way to communicate: crying.  She doesn’t hate you (it’s a lovely thought that babies don’t even know what hate is, but they sure do know what love is); she needs you and this is yet another opportunity to be part of something greater than yourself.

The First Three Months The incredibly changing baby.

If you like a challenge, have a baby.  The beauty of having a baby is once you get her figured out, she decides she doesn’t really like that way of soothing and really never did.  So you adapt, change your methods and she magically likes the new method and it works – for about a day or so and then she doesn’t like the new way and never really did.
She is changing so quickly sometimes I feel like I come home from work and she looks different than she did when I left in the morning.  Her face has changed; she’s making new faces, sounds and gestures.
Sometimes you think: wow, she’s already three months old!  And then sometimes it seems as if time has stopped and she’ll never stop screaming.  My advice: get a clock.  Things aren’t as long as they seem – especially crying.
Poop, pee, spit-up and drool are going to be a regular part of your existence for a while.  Get used to it.  On any given day, you and your partner’s clothes will be covered in all of these things, so much so, in fact, you’ll feel like a roadie for The Rolling Stones.  Except that I’m sure your baby is already more coherent than Keith Richards.
I had another opportunity to grow at this stage.   Isn’t that a nice way for me to say that I failed miserably?  The truth is that you only fail if you don’t learn anything.  As a partner to a mother who is breast feeding, it is so easy to simply let her mother the child.  I mean, I sleep during the week and get up to change diapers on the weekends, but what can I do when the baby is hungry?  I would, unbeknownst to me, disappear downstairs or outside preoccupied with my own “things”.
The lesson is, there are times when she is not hungry, when she is sleepy or needs a change or just to be loved.  Partners: take advantage of this time!  You can’t do much for feeding, it’s true, but this “off” or “not-hungry” time can serve two purposes: it allows time for you to bond with your precious little prince or princess and it can give the queen in your life a much needed break.  I have also learned that the non-baby stuff (like picking up clothes, doing a load of wash, cleaning dishes – actually cleaning anything) are chores that not only need to be done but will go a long way in relieving your partner’s stress.
Hey, macho guy with the tools!  Don’t start any home renovation projects!  You’ll have time for that later.  Or, maybe not.  Don’t worry about it.  The most important thing right now is to just bond with that little peanut.  The nice thing about having a baby is that you realize a month, two months, three months, etc, are not as long as you previously thought.  Enjoy them now, because they will pass so, so quickly.

Into the Future How do we raise the world’s first super-model painter musician particle physicist?

Who knows what the future holds?  That’s not a rhetorical question: seriously, who knows?  If you do, call me.  But since it seems that we only have this moment right now in order to live our lives, we’re doing just that: enjoying every smile, squeal, squeak and scream as well as the cries and frowns (which are equally as cute as a smile at times).  Doing this and living in this way allows us to capture each moment, to savor each new expression or sound she makes and just – being.
Just loving and falling more and more in love.  I can’t believe I thought I didn’t want kids!
“Violet, you’re so small!  What do I have to worry about?”
“Everything, Dad.  Everything,” she said, and spit up on my third shirt of the day.

Jason Noxon lives in Saratoga Springs with his wife and daughter and becomes more and more scared every day. Check out his blog here.


Getting Ready for Labor

If you haven’t already done the things described in the following, try to get them done a few weeks before the due date, or at least before labor starts.

The Take-Charge Routine
Reserve this routine for any time during labor when the mother reacts in any of these ways:

  • She hits an emotional low.
  • She is in despair, weeps, or cries out.
  • She wants to give up or feels she cannot go on.
  • She is very tense and cannot relax.
  • She is in a great deal of pain.

The Take-Charge Routine is exactly that. You move in close and do all you can to help the mother until she regains her inner strength. Usually her despair is brief, with your help she can pass through it and her spirits will rise. Use whatever parts of this routine seem appropriate:

  • Remain calm. Your touch should be firm and confident. Your voice should remain calm and encouraging.
  • Stay close. Stay right by her side, your face near hers.
  • Anchor her. Hold her shoulders or her head in your hands–gently, confidently, firmly–or hold her lightly in your arms.
  • Make eye contact. Tell her to open her eyes and look at you. Say it loudly enough for her to hear you–but calmly and kindly.
  • Change the ritual she has been using during contractions. Suggest a different position. Try changing the breathing pattern. Breathe with her or pace her with your hand or voice.
  • Encourage her every breath. Say “Breathe with me, . . . BREATHE WITH ME …. That’s the way … just like that …. Good…. STAY WITH IT … just like that…. LOOK AT ME …. Stay with me, Good for you…. It’s going away…. Good …. Good…. Now just rest, that was so good.” You can whisper these words or say them in a calm, encouraging tone of voice. Sometimes you have to raise your voice to get her attention. But try to keep your tone calm and confident.
  • Talk to her between contractions. Ask her if what you are doing is helping. Make suggestions: for example, “With the next one, let me help you more. I want you to look at me the moment it starts. We will breathe together so it won’t get ahead of us. Okay? Good. You’re doing so well. We’re really moving now.”
  • Repeat yourself. She may not be able to continue doing what you tell her for more than a few seconds, but that’s fine. Say the same things again and help her continue.

What if she says she can’t or won’t go on? Here are some guidelines:

  • Don’t give up on her. This is a difficult time for her. You cannot help her if you decide she cannot handle it. Acknowledge to her and to yourself that it is difficult, but remind yourselves that it is not impossible.
  • Ask for help and reassurance. The nurse, caregiver, or another support person can help a lot–measuring dilation, giving you advice, doing some of the coaching, trying something new, even reassuring you that the mother is okay and that this is normal.
  • Remind the mother of her baby. It may seem surprising, but women can get so caught up in labor that they do not think much about their baby. It may help her to remember why she is going through all this.

What about pain medications? Do you call for them or not? it depends on—

  • The mother’s prior wishes: Did she want an unmedicated birth? How strongly did she feel about it? (See the “Pain Medications Preference Scale,” page 163.) Sometimes asking for pain medications is a way of saying “I need more help.”
  • Her rate of progress and how far she still has to go.
  • How well she responds to your more active coaching.
  • Whether she is asking for medications herself and how easily she can be talked out of them.

These considerations can help you decide what to do. It is sometimes difficult to balance present wishes against prior wishes. Try to stick with what the mother wanted before labor regarding the use of medication. But if she insists on changing the plan, respect her wishes. Numerous women have said, “I never could have done it without my partner. If it hadn’t been for him [or her], I would have given up.” By using the “Take-Charge Routine,” you can indeed get the mother through those desperate moments when she feels she cannot go on; you can truly ease her burden by helping with every breath.
Penny Simkin The Birth Partner

From a Doula

I know it has been very hard for me to feel like my presence matters or is even valuable in the delivery room. I would like to recommend that all of you read, “Birthing From Within”. I began reading this last year after my 2nd birth in which I felt like it was my fault that everything happened differently than what everyone expected. In this book, the main idea is that a woman’s most important knowledge is the knowledge she holds inside.
One question that stuck with me from the book was to ask a pregnant woman, “What do you need to know to give birth?” I began to ask myself that question. What do I need to know to help a woman give birth? What do I need to know to give birth as well?
I need to know that I am enough. That I am strong enough to do it. That my body knows what it is doing. That I am skilled enough to help a woman. These answers, while seemingly simple, were powerful in shifting how I have felt about my doula practice and birth. It helped me discover that what I need to know is within me. That I have to be okay with the unexpected. That I am enough.
I share this with you because I feel it’s important that we take the time to ask ourselves where we are blocked, not only as doulas but as human beings. That although we deal with birth in a very literal sense, its effect on us is metaphorical, spiritual, emotional and mental. That to be present at a birth we have to be present with ourselves, with our fears and worries too. And that we are enough. As people. As birth professionals. As loving beings.

I love all of you.
-Carmen

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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