My personality is such that I never want to miss a trick even, as it turns out, when it comes to childbirth. I wanted the full experience — for better and for worse.
I figured I’d only be doing this twice in my life and if all those women before me could do it drug-free, why not me? When I’m an old lady some day, I want to look back and say, “Yeah, I did that.” I don’t want to have felt that I missed a life experience.
Of course, I could have chosen a hospital birth and then simply not taken painkillers. But, I knew that giving birth would be hard work, and I was concerned about being offered pain medication when I was most vulnerable. So that got me thinking about an out-of-hospital birth.
I did a Google search for midwives in the Denver area and discovered the Mountain Midwifery Center. It’s a stand-alone birth center with midwives, located across the street from a hospital in case there was an emergency. I thought, this is just the ticket! I wanted to surround myself with experts on natural birth so that I could accomplish this great goal, but also have back up in case things didn’t go as planned.
Both our son’s and daughter’s births went very smoothly and were both so different! Here is the story of our daughter Elsa’s birth — she, by the way, is the first girl on my husband’s side of the family in 150 years!
Elsa Joy — a bit of a piece of work from the start! She couldn’t quite make up her mind and was not interested in being rushed. On a Friday about a week before her birth, Elsa began to stir. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. with contractions that lasted throughout the day and then settled down at sunset. Grandma (Don’s mom) was not to arrive until Tuesday, so we were all a bit frantic when these stirrings began three days before our extra pair of hands was due to arrive! To make matters worse, both our back-up people who were going to watch Aidric weren’t available that weekend. Being the sweet Grandma she is, she changed her flight and arrived the very next day with plans to stay for 2 weeks. Phew.
And what happened next? Absolutely nothing for the whole week! Grandma’s reassuring presence ensured that this girl would come when she was good and ready! With our time with Grandma ticking by, we began Operation Encourage Birth.
Sunday my girlfriends planned a trip to a salon for mani/pedis to celebrate the coming of Miss Dew. I brought Grandma along too. People had mentioned that reflexology during a pedicure is a good way to get labor going. I told the gal to go for it — hit those pressure points! Didn’t do a thing to start labor, but I loved having time with friends and picking out fun nail polish so that I had pretty toes to look at during labor.
Tuesday I went in for my 38-week appointment and they did a cervical swipe, which sometimes helps things along. Fingers-crossed! Alas, nothing happened.
The next day, Don and I went out for spicy food at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I even ate a whole roasted jalapeno! All the spice didn’t do a darn thing though.
Then I went swimming at the Rec center. Twice. Friday evening, after the second swimming outing, I lost the mucus plug. Hurray! But then I read that that didn’t actually mean that labor would start anytime soon. Oh well.
Then Friday night came and the full moon appeared, so we were curious if that would help get labor started. No such luck.
I was tired of speculating when the baby might come. And even though everyone was really sweet and encouraging, I still felt like they were all waiting for something to happen with my body.
Feeling under pressure, I decided to get some alone time. Grandma had taken Aidric up to their second home in Winter Park on Thursday for the weekend, so it was just Don and I sitting around and waiting.
Saturday morning came and it was sunny and warm. After working from home the whole week, Don was itching to go for a mountain bike ride but nervous about leaving me alone. I told him to go anyway, and he was out the door.
Wouldn’t you know, while he was gone, I stood up to use the computer at 11:50 a.m. and my water broke! My first thoughts were, yippee, this baby will probably be here within the next 24 hours, I’ll finally get to meet my daughter and I’ll no longer be pregnant! I was absolutely giddy!
I rang Don on his cell phone, but he must have been in a poor reception area because it took three calls to reach him. Once I got the message through, he zipped home and even caught a ride from a guy in a pickup truck for part of the ride home. He got home at 12:30 pm and jumped into the shower and we scurried about the house making sure everything was in order.
What happened next? Absolutely nothing! Hours later, still not a single contraction. We were getting very good at sitting around and looking at each other. Uhhhg!
The birth center wanted to see me in active labor by the 12 hour mark (midnight) otherwise we’d be pushing our luck with having our baby at the birth center. The rule is that you need to be in active labor within 24 hours of the water breaking otherwise a trip to the hospital for medical intervention is needed. At 6 p.m., Sarah, the midwife on call, suggested I take a dose of castor oil to get things moving. It is a stimulant laxative that helps induce contractions. Two hours ticked by, and still nothing happened. Sarah explained that sometimes it takes two doses, so I took the second shot at 8 pm and lay down to try and get some sleep.
I was disappointed. The whole day I had been so excited thinking that I’d get to have a daytime labor/delivery and how wonderful it would be to not have to pull an all-nighter like we did with our son. But it was not to be.
Sleeping didn’t happen and at 9:30 I became violently ill from the castor oil. I threw up several times and was on all fours in our bedroom unable to move. The castor oil gave me severe abdominal cramps and then I was getting starter contractions at the same time, so it was all one big cramp with NO break in between. Panic, fear, pain… at this point all I wanted was an ambulance ride to the ER!
After 30 minutes of this, Sarah said to go ahead and come down to the birth center. You didn’t have to tell ME twice! Meanwhile, Mother Nature decided that since it hadn’t rained in Evergreen since October, that this would be a good night to shower the road with some nice freezing rain. So with rain coming down and temperatures falling below freezing, Don nervously drove us the 26 miles to the birth center, which took about 45 minutes that night. We tried not to notice the pile of cars and emergency vehicles as we pulled onto the interstate.
We arrived at the birth center about 11:30 p.m. and I made a beeline for the bathroom. I spent a good hour getting sick and then lay down to rest on the birth center’s big log bed with Don. Sarah explained that after the castor oil effects had worn off, my contractions would regulate and active labor would be underway.
Sure enough, about 12:30 a.m. I started breathing through contractions and Don was there to time them. About 1:30 am, I was too uncomfortable to lay in the bed anymore so I stood up and used the hammock sling thingie suspended from the ceiling. It took a lot of the weight off and I was able to sway and breathe in rhythm during the contractions. Sweat poured out and began to roll off my face like nothing I had ever experienced before.
Things were getting intense, so Sarah checked me. I was only 6 cm dilated. I was so disappointed! I thought for sure we were farther along than that. She suggested I get into the birth pool at that point.
The warm water felt good and I tried my hardest to relax during contractions. I wondered if I would be in for another marathon 18 hour birth that I had had with our son. But much to my surprise, I watched as Sarah started laying out chux pads (absorbant sheets) on the bed and a towel on the floor. “This is for when baby is here, which will be very soon”, she exclaimed. I was in disbelief!
I then felt some pressure below, as if baby was at the gate. Was it time to push? Sarah checked with her flashlight underwater and said, “go ahead and push, you are fully dilated at 10 cm and I can see her head!”
This was all happening so fast, how could it be? The huge holy-hell–why-am-I-doing-this contractions had arrived. I pushed a couple times and Sarah excitedly announced that her head was out. Again I was in disbelief! Sarah explained that once baby was out, she would pass her through my legs and I could pick her up out of the water.
With that I got a nice burst of motivation — I was almost to the finish line, I could DO this! A couple more ‘rrrrahhhhrrrrr pushes/contractions’ and Elsa came out. Sarah passed her through my legs like a little football, and into my arms she landed. Pure joy, relief, happiness, disbelief, amazement and love! Don bowed his head, completely overwhelmed with emotion. We did it.
Kate, our nurse, wrapped Elsa in a blanket and hat while we were still in the pool.
Then we stood up and shuffled our way over to the bed with umbilical cord still attached. Don was at my side on the bed and held Elsa in his arms as I delivered the placenta and dealt with after-birth pains (just like contractions) and uncontrollable body shakes. That was a bit of a raw deal — to have contractions even after delivery.
It was wonderful for the three of us to lay in bed and snuggle. Don and I marveled at how tiny her hands and feet were, how beautiful her little face was and how long her fingernails were. Our precious daughter was finally here, wow! Elsa latched on without a problem, that was nice. Don ceremoniously cut the umbilical cord and also went with Elsa to see her get weighed: a healthy 7 pounds, 5 ounces. I took an herbal concoction to help with the pains and later took an herbal bath that also helps with that. Afterward, I changed into a nightgown and got to cuddle with Elsa and Don and EAT!
Sarah said that I had only pushed for 10 minutes. The labor was 5 1/2 hours if you count from the time the castor oil kicked in, or 2 1/2 hours if you count from when the castor oil effects subsided and real contractions began. The only people that were there for the birth were myself, Don, Sarah, and Amy, the photographer. Kate, the nurse, arrived moments after birth. I felt completely safe and supported the whole time.
Looking into my husband’s eyes and hearing his comforting and encouraging words really helped get me through. Sarah was awesome. She chose her words well, always kept me informed as to what was happening, and was just an excellent coach. It was a small group, but it was all I needed. Even Amy helped out and held my hand while the placenta came out and offered reassurance when I got Elsa latched on for the first time.
I feel so fortunate, blessed and proud to have had a beautiful, natural birth. It is truly a miraculous event that I will remember always.
Bio: Kelli Stapleton graduated from Kalamazoo College in 1995, where she then worked as a scientist/molecular biologist in both academia and industry. She gave up her short term genetics projects to work exclusively on three long term projects. They are her children McEwen, Isabelle, and Ainsley.
In her free time, Kelli is the producer and host of the wildly popular !Birth Stories on Demand internet radio show. She is also the author of the Birth Stories on Demand Presents series of books written to entertain and inform women about childbirth.
Kelli is also aspiring to take over the planet!
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Winter was brutal this year, with record snowfall, ice, high winds, cold, and isolation befalling most of us like never before. Helpless through most it, we could only ride the wave, and I often thought that both nature and the indomitable human spirit are driven by natural forces just beyond our control. Whether physical, spiritual or emotional, like it or not, these forces become the conduit for change on the earth.
Tonight, as I sit here quietly, it seems like our planet is under siege, even more so than usual. A massive earthquake and tsunami have spelled disaster in Japan. Itʼs what I always imagined the end of the world would look like if it happened to me, but it didnʼt… it happened to them and I watched a little, before I could stand it no more and turned away.
I saw a recap of the Japan disaster on a cable news channel known for its right-wing views. I only watched a little before I felt tears welling up behind my eyes. So, I took a breath, turned off the television and walked outside to clear my head. I looked up, and there before me — hanging in the twilight, eerily, momentously, was the biggest full moon Iʼd ever seen.
The spring Equinox had arrived and brought with it a super-moon, as NASA is calling it. Wow. Iʼm no Carl Sagan, but this was big and I couldnʼt help but feel differently. I noticed a yearning for newness; an invigorating pull towards fresh beginnings and a desire to shed more than my winter clothes. I was moved to read about the super-moon, because it felt monumental, inspiring, and because I needed to take my mind off those poor souls in Japan.
I wonʼt regurgitate most of what I learned about lunar phenomena. Sufﬁce it to say, this lunar effect is being felt by many in ways big and small and you donʼt need to be a rocket scientist, Wiccan or medicine-wheel elder to notice.
But what mattered most to me as I read about tides and rotational axis is whether weʼre dealing with a lunar pull, a tsunami or a human voice calling out from rubble striving for healing, each voice matters and has as much signiﬁcance as a million.
As I thought about rockets launching in Libya and radiation exposed milk in Japan, my recent woes with my son and his school seemed small and perhaps they are. But this is exactly what the beauty of tonightʼs rare moon signals to me as spring alights my doorstep.
The heavens are brilliant because of the totality of the celestial bodies emanating at their own destined level, pace, energy and speed. It is the cosmic weave of this heavenly tapestry that reminds me we are each here for a purpose, to learn life lessons, to love and be loved, to mourn, to suffer, to rebuild and to move on.
Each lifetime is comprised of an intricate coalescing of all the events, experiences and expressions we offer as spiritual beings living a human life.
So as I write this I am reconnecting with the power of my celestial light. Being a fierce mama-bear wiling to take on any issue on behalf of my children, raising awareness and my voice is my way of trying to add some light to the vastly illuminated heavens.
Itʼs not easy competing with natural world wide disasters, so the best we can do is just be present and show up as our authentic, impeccable selves. And the rest, as they say, is in Godʼs hands.
BIO: By day Shira Adler is a cantor, spiritual vocalist, certified pastlife regressionist, voice-over artist, producer, performer, writer/blogger and mompreneur and by night… well, she is actually the same person at night though she does admit to wearing fuzzy socks when no one can see her and hiding a secret stash of Mallomars somewhere near her writing desk for those late night pick-me-ups. In, around, and between her various work activities, she is raising two beyond-the-spectrum children as a single mom (though lovingly gives a shout out to her best friend, editor and soulmate whom she considers the bees knees). Is it any wonder her website’s tag line is One Voice Many Paths? Seriously, look up the definition of a multi-tasking Mama and you will find her picture there. But when it comes to living a life of connection, faith and consciousness Shira is the gal to call — or if you’re fresh out of Mallomars — she’s always happy to give you one. For more information visit: ShiraAdler.com, read her blog at Diva-Mama.com; Social: Twitter (1DivaMama), Facebook (DivaMama1), Tumblr (not really sure, but the name is cute) and LinkedIn (because doesn’t everyone?).
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Regardless of whether you’re working because you have to or because you want to, we, as mothers, all face similar challenges in establishing a balance between work and home. But Diane Lang has some suggestions and ideas for modern moms seeking ways to ease the stress and relax that push/pull of work and family life while still holding onto a sense of self.
1. Career vs. Job — Do what you love. Imagine you have a job where you work as least 40 hours per week, and then add an hour commute each way; that’s a lot of time to spend doing something you don’t like. If you’re a parent then you have two jobs. Parenting is a 24 hours, 7 days a week, no holidays or vacation time job. So, you’d better like your job outside of the home or it will make a very stressful, unbalanced and unhappy life.
The happiest/balanced people will tell you they have a Career. They enjoy going to work because it’s their passion. The first step you need to take to create a balanced life is find out your passions and strengths. Take a personality test if you need to and ask yourself some questions:
2. Personal and Professional Growth — To remain balanced, we need a mix of both professional and personal development. The happiest people are always growing and learning in both areas of their lives. If we stop growing both professionally and personally we becomes stale and stagnate which can lead to depression.
3. Are Your Basic Needs Met? You won’t find any balance if you’re not taking care of yourself. This involves taking care of basics such as: sleep, eating healthy, exercise, etc. The other part is self-care. We usually feel unbalanced because we give a 100% to our work and then a 100% at home to our family but what about ourselves?
For me self-care is a necessity; I schedule in “me” time. I schedule in daily activities that will be two-fold. I will be putting myself first and also doing things that cause happiness. This includes: gratitude checks ( morning and night), exercise, reading, etc.
Write a list of activities that you love to do that involve your strengths/passions. Then schedule yourself in your daily calendar. What keeps me motivated to add self-care is my child. A positive parenting tip: kids are visual learners. Telling my daughter she needs to take care of herself is one thing but showing her is even better. When my daughter sees me exercising, reading a book, going out with friends, etc., I’m showing her respect for oneself and how to be happy.
4. Visualize What Your Balanced Life Would Look Like — I have clients come to me and say that their lives are unbalanced. When I ask what would make their lives better and more balanced, they aren’t sure. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed out, and tired that we forget to focus on what we want. What kind of life do you want? Do you need more vacation time? Time with your family? A different job? You can’t make changes until you know what they are.
5. Control — Most of us spend a lot of time on what we CAN’T control, and all that does is take up a lot time and negative energy. We can’t control anyone but ourselves. Write a list of everything you can and can’t control. The list with everything you CAN’T control, rip up. If you can’t control it, let it go. Take the list of everything you can control and ask yourself this question: What can I do about it now? What changes can I make?
6. Be Honest — A lot of times we feel unbalanced but really we aren’t happy in our lives. So, take some time to be honest with yourself. What are you feeling? I have seen clients preoccupy themselves with so much “stuff” that they felt unbalanced and overwhelmed but after a lot of thinking, they realized they were filled up with “filled” activities. They would keep busy but it wasn’t anything important to them. They were avoiding their real feelings.
7. Be Realistic — I haven’t met anyone who has a perfectly balanced, happy life. We will have bad days, days we are rushing and feel stressed out. When this happens, remember: it’s only TEMPORARY. We won’t feel this forever. Odds are you will be over it in a few hours. It’s okay to feel stressed out sometimes. Remember, too, that stress can be good. Good stress motivates you to move forward and be the best you can be. So, don’t always be turned off by stress.
Bio: Diane Lang is an educator and Life Coach. Diane has dedicated her career to helping people turn their lives around and is now on a mission to help them develop a sustainable positive attitude that can actually turn one into an optimist, literally. A therapist and educator of Positive Psychology, she has seen that it can provide a strong foundation for finding great happiness and is gratified that it is becoming a mainstream method of treatment. As an expert in her fields of therapy, Diane has been featured in the Daily Record and Cookie Magazine, seen on NJ 12 TV and the national television program “Fox & Friends”. She has also participated in a reality-based Internet show, Ourprisoner.com, hosted Generation X-tinet and appeared in various educational videos. In addition Lang writes a bi-weekly column “The Balancing Act” at www.thealternativepress.com and sharing her expertise on parenting and living a positive lifestyle on The WTBQ Expat Show.
I remember when I was pregnant and many well-meaning friends said to me, “Get your sleep now because once the baby arrives…” I did not get enough sleep once my daughter arrived. I would stay awake watching her breathe. I loved seeing her stomach move up and down and I smiled at each breath because she was alive, she was here, I was a mom.
What does it mean to be a mother? It means to laugh when I find green Play-Doh smashed in my pocket. To not worry or care that I haven’t washed my hair in a five days because all the other moms haven’t either. To enjoy all of the children’s music that plays over and over again in the car while we drive and get excited by a different interpretation of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
My life has changed and it has grown bigger, fuller, and richer. I have someone in my life who spontaneously runs up to me, hugs me, kisses me, and tells me she loves me just because. Just because. How lucky am I!
Bio: M.J. Kang is a stay at home mother based in Santa Monica, CA. She was born in Seoul, Korea, raised in Toronto, Canada and has lived anywhere work has taken her. Prior to being a SAHM, she was an award-winning playwright with seven produced plays and a recipient of multiple awards, grants, and several playwright-in-residencies. She has been named in Canada’s Who’s Who since 1997 for her work as both a writer and actor. The photo above was taken the day before they hiked Machu Picchu. M.J. Kang blogs at Natural Traveling Mama.
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