Postpartum: What You Should Know

My blogger friend, laughingpromises, is 10 weeks postpartum and just wrote a post about the stuff that happens after you have a baby.  I empathized with her post so much that it made me want to write a postpartum post of my own.  I’d been meaning to write about this stuff for awhile, anyway.

Postpartum is TOUGH TOUGH TOUGH!  Maybe it’s just because I had a complicated delivery and maybe it’s just because it was my first baby, but I’ll bet there are plenty of women out there with easy deliveries of their second or third babies who will have had similar experiences postpartum. I can honestly say that the postpartum weeks were the most difficult part of my entire baby-having experience.  And because I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be, I was kind of caught off guard.  I mean, I knew that adjusting to life with a new baby would be a big thing and I knew that my body was going to have to recover from a pretty serious feat, but I just didn’t know.  I just didn’t know.

First of all, you have to understand that what makes the postpartum time so challenging is that it is extremely intense in a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual way.  All at once.

Physical

Our birth class instructor told us that within a week of having a natural birth, we’d feel like we hadn’t had a baby  I was planning a natural birth; therefore, I expected to feel pretty much 100% in seven days’ time…. HA!  I still don’t know just how off-base my instructor was since my birth turned out to be quite complicated, but I can’t imagine that even a very straightforward birth would leave me feeling tip-top after a week.

Episiotomy/Tearing

What I do know is this: If you end up with a complicated birth (like forceps and a 4th degree episiotomy, for example), it will take weeks- no, months- for you body to feel mostly normal again (I say mostly because I still have tenderness going on).  I was absolutely thrilled to have sex mostly without pain for the first time the other day (and it’s been 4 months).  The first two weeks were. so. horrible.  I couldn’t make a single move without pain and I had to think through what I was going to do before I did it.  Nursing sitting up was awful because I was sitting right on my undercarriage sutures, but nursing lying down wasn’t an option because that also hurt + my baby couldn’t latch that way for some reason.  The simple act of going to the bathroom was something I dreaded because when I sat on the toilet it felt as if my insides were going to fall out if I relaxed at all.  The only way I could pee at all for 2 days after giving birth was to kneel on a stool in the shower, and I was terrified the first time I had to poop.  You don’t realize how much you use your pelvic floor muscles until they’ve been cut in two.  I had to sit down to sneeze, cough, or even blow my nose because I simply didn’t have the support to do it standing.  It was embarrassing to have guests over for the first couple of weeks because I really needed to actually hold my hand underneath myself for support whenever I walked, and I just wanted to sit on ice all the time.  I remember the very disconcerting feeling of passing a little gas about 2 days postpartum and literally having no muscle strength to control it.  It felt like a liquid just flowing merrily out of my behind, and for a bit I thought I’d had diarrhea or something.  I ended up taking a few Tylenol every day for awhile.  When you give birth without drugs and then take them post-partum, you know it’s bad.  I did it just so I could even lift and carry my baby across the room or position myself in bed to nurse him.

Blood Loss

I never realized this before, but significant blood loss is a big deal, and it isn’t something you recover from quickly, especially when your body is already taxed beyond measure trying to make milk to feed your baby.  I was so weak and faint that I could barely walk across the house.  For a week or two, I literally only went downstairs once a day and even that was rough.  I almost passed out after the delivery twice, and each time my hearing faded.  My nail beds were white for at least 6 weeks.

Breastfeeding

Ok, yes breastfeeding is wonderful and extremely important for your baby and a wonderful bonding experience, but folks, it ain’t easy!  It’s so easy and convenient now, four months later, but for the first 2 and a half to 3 months it was NOT.  I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but I do think that women should go into it expecting it to be one of the most challenging things they have ever done in their lives.  I know that some babies and mamas pick it up so easily, but more often there are significant challenges.  By day 3, when I’d spent 3 hours in the middle of the night trying unsuccessfully to help my desperately hungry and frustrated baby to latch and nurse, I understood completely why so many women give up.  There were many tears (and my baby cried too).  Breastfeeding can seem awkward at first.  It can really really hurt at first.  It’s messy.  It’s time-consuming.  It’s confusing.  It will make you wish you were a camel and could drink gallons and gallons of water at a time (seriously, don’t EVER try to nurse the first couple of weeks without a huge glass of water within reach)! But, it’s worth it.  I was so determined not to give up and I am now being rewarded with a wonderful nursing relationship with my son.  I wish, though, that I’d known how tough it could be at first.

Emotional/Psychological/Spiritual

I really looked forward to that hormone surge and the wonderful feelings that I’d have after finally birthing my beautiful baby, but I didn’t realize how much of a mixed bag it might be…

Postpartum High

Giving birth is so emotional that you will probably feel like you’re another planet for a few days weeks months.  I loved loved loved the emotional high that I experienced the first couple of days postpartum.  It was like nothing else.  I really did feel like I could conquer the world.  My husband experienced an emotional high as well, probably because he had been so involved and present during the entire experience.  He couldn’t speak of our son or our new family without crying with overwhelming happiness.  I had really never seen him cry before, so to see him cry multiple times a day at the drop of a hat was really new for me.  I felt so so close to him and really felt that we connected emotionally in a way that I’d never imagined was possible.  He took to fatherhood so naturally and assumed care of our son and of me like he was always made to do it (he was,really).  He told me so many times how amazing I’d been and he looked at me in awe like I’d performed a miracle right before his eyes.  I think he saw me in a completely new way, like I was some kind of goddess.  Not gonna lie, I really enjoyed that part.  🙂  Every time I looked at my little baby boy, I felt like it was some kind of dream.  We’d sit in bed at night and just watch him sleep, marveling at every feature of his perfect face and delighting in every little sigh, every sleepy expression.  We were smitten together over a tiny little boy.

Postpartum Blues

At the same time I felt such love and joy, I also felt the most horrible sense of defeat and disappointment over the way the birth hadn’t gone the way I’d hoped.  It was a dizzing mix of elation and depression that had me cycling between high and low.  Completely exhausting.  On our second night in the hospital and I cried and cried and googled “home birth transfer” while my husband and baby slept.  Birth is such a rite of passage and such an important event in a woman’s life.  They tell you to have an open mind regarding how it will go, but it’s impossible not to have hopes and dreams.  It took me a long time to begin to really come to terms with reality vs. my own wishes.  Emotional healing can take even longer than physical recovery, and you really need to allow yourself the time you need.  Writing out my birth story helped tremendously.

I also experienced a very dark period during the couple of weeks after giving birth.  I wanted to just feel happy, but after you give birth all of the hormones that you had during pregnancy begin to shift and it takes its toll on you.  I felt that I was in a deep pit.  I felt angry.  I felt hopeless.  I felt terrified and trapped.  I wondered what I had gotten myself into and wondered if I’d ruined my life.  And I didn’t want to admit that I was feeling that way because it seemed so wrong.  I was ashamed of myself, but I know now that those feelings were normal.  Postpartum depression lasts longer and affects fewer women, but postpartum blues are very common.  I was so relieved when those feelings began to subside.  Getting out of the house a little bit helped, going places with my baby helped, and becoming more confident as a mother helped.

Mothering Instinct

I was shocked at how visceral my reactions to my baby’s cries were.  They could make me frantic, even angry.  I had such a strong strong drive to take care of him that when he cried I felt that I must find the reason and stop it as quickly as possible.  In the beginning, it’s tough because you don’t have the experience yet to always know what’s wrong or how to fix it. You have to get to know your baby.  If he was hungry, I could not allow myself to do ANYTHING else before feeding him.  It was such a strong compulsion, and my body would react by letting my milk down right away and I’d leak all over the place.  I could not rest knowing that he needed me.  Sometimes it seemed that he was crying because he was angry at me, and in my hormonally-charged, sleep-deprived state, that made me feel angry too.  At him, even though I knew that he was an innocent.  Feeling such strong feelings really scared me, especially the angry part.  I remember at times just laying him down for a few moments in order to collect myself because I was in no state to handle him.  I guess I just want other moms to know that it’s probably normal to feel this way and that you won’t feel that way forever.  Maybe I just have a low tolerance level for unexplained baby cries, but this was one of the toughest things for me, emotionally.  I would often just cry along with him because I felt it was a safe way to let go of my frustration and stress.  I often felt so upset at myself for not having more patience.  That has definitely improved with time, thank goodness.  🙂  Sometimes, though, I still have to pray for patience on really tough days.  Prayer- don’t forget it!

Body Image

I felt simultaneously so proud of my body for performing such a wonderful and difficult feat and so sorrowful over the beating it took.  I looked with a mirror at the damage about 3 days afterward, and it wasn’t a pretty site.  I will say that it was not as bad as I had expected it to look.  Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t look earlier because my husband was already telling me I was healing up so quickly and so well.  The hospital doctors said the same thing.  Still, I dissolved into tears one evening over the fact that I’d never have the same body I had before.  My perineum, though it’s healed up so much better than I ever thought possible, will never be the same.  My tummy, though I am blessed to not have any lingering fat, is still soft and weird and weak and bulges after a big meal.  I have an awkward skin tag that somehow got created when they sewed me up.  My boobs are bigger (ok, that’s actually great) and my nipples are forever changed (They may point down or sideways and be two miles long by the time Alex is done with them).  Yes, our bodies were made and specially designed by God to give birth, but birth also forever changes our bodies.  I had to mourn that.  We may have stretch marks, scars, dark lines, and tenderness that will never fade and we have to accept this about ourselves.  We have to let ourselves love our new bodies for the miraculous vessels that they are.  I will never again look at a pregnant woman without feeling a huge sense of pride and joy over the sacrifice her body is about to make to create life.

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I wrote this post just to share my experience and to talk about the stuff that women don’t always talk about, either because we feel we should be focusing on the joyful parts or because we don’t want to scare other future moms.  I also wrote it as part of my own healing.  I don’t want to scare those of you who haven’t had babies yet, though, because the truth is: IT’S WORTH IT!  Yep, it absolutely is!  The joy I receive from the special smile my baby reserves only for me is like a huge thank you card that gets better and better each time I read it.  I fell in love with my son the day he was born, but I also fall deeper and deeper in love with him every day.  As he grows and reveals more and more of his special personality, my bond with him grows and just affirms that, yes, postpartum struggles are nothing compared to years of joy.  🙂  

When you hit the bottom of the well after your postpartum high runs out, just remember that women everywhere know exactly what you’re going through.  They made it, and so will you.

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Labor is Like….

I’ve spent some time trying to imagine what kind of mental, physical, and emotional effort labor will require.  In conversation with my husband one day, I thought of some of the most difficult things I’ve done in life and attempted to make comparisons.  I also remembered what I needed to do to bring me through those experiences and how I might be able to apply that to labor and birth.

I know that nothing can ever truly prepare me for the birth experience because it is as yet unknown, but I’ve done what I can.  Here are my comparisons.

Mental:

When I was in graduate school to earn my MS in Biology, I had to take something called “comps”.  Comprehensive exams, that is.  It was basically a huge open-book essay exam that took a week to complete.  And I do mean a full week.  I did nothing that week but work on the exam.  I may have eaten and slept, but I’m not even sure I showered.  Each question required the equivalent of a research paper to answer, complete with a bibliography of peer-reviewed references, a table of contents, and who knows what else.  I’ve successfully blocked some of that stuff from my memory for self-preservation.   The questions were not easy- neither to understand nor to answer.  It was the most mentally exhausting time of my life, and I thought many times that I may actually not be able to do it.  Even completing the task felt like an impossibility, but I definitely doubted my ability to make a passing score.  But I did finish.  And I did pass.  And it felt amazing, both when I turned in the finished work and when I learned that I’d actually passed!  I could continue graduate school!

What got me through was sheer willpower, dogged determination, and a surrender to the inevitability that I must keep going day after day.  Yeah, I could relate that to labor and birth, especially a long labor.

Physical:

The first thing that comes to mind is climbing mountains.  Well, hiking might be a better word.  I’ve done a few hikes up mountains in my lifetime that really tested the limits of my physical endurance.  I would feel that I couldn’t take another step, but I would keep going.  Another switchback, another corner, another scramble up a steep part.  The thing about climbing a trail that you’ve never climbed before is that you really don’t know for sure when it will be over.  The trees get in the way, each summit looks like the last- until you top it and see the next one waiting.

What got me through these experiences was usually a couple of things.  I often didn’t want to lag behind or let those behind me pass me up because it would be a blow to my pride.  I wanted to look strong and tough and keeping my place in the group provided excellent motivation.  I also knew that EVENTUALLY I’d reach the top.  Every trail has an end, and every mountain has a summit.  It may seem to go on forever, but it cannot.  Definitely some parallels to labor and birth, which also cannot last forever.

Emotional:

While the mental and physical challenges I’ve experienced definitely all had emotional components as well, I wanted to come up with something primarily emotional.  That would have to be breakups.  A broken heart can be very difficult to pick yourself up from, and I know that well.  I remember one particularly devastating winter when every morning for months I awoke with fresh horror over the realization that my heartbreak wasn’t a dream.  I’d have to get out of bed and go through the motions of getting dressed, eating breakfast, and driving to work even though it all felt secondary to what was going on inside me.  I was like a zombie.

What got me through that experience was a combination of moving through life even when I doubted my ability to do so as well as taking the time to give way to my emotional pain- to really feel it and give a name to it and express it.  Being honest with myself about the horrible things I was feeling inside made me less afraid and more alive.  I could apply this to possible emotions during labor such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety that could really slow things down if I try to deny them or push them away instead of just admitting that they are there and allowing myself to work through them.

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I have no idea how difficult labor will be, but I do expect it to be one of, if not THE MOST, challenging thing I have ever done.  I expect it to be hard physical work and require mental determination and emotional fortitude.  I expect that I will doubt myself at some point.  I expect that I will have reach deep in order to keep going.  I also expect that I will feel amazing when I have accomplished it.  I imagine feeling the success of passing comps, the victory of conquering a mountain, and the relief of surviving heartbreak- but with the added component of overwhelming love for the baby that has been birthed as the result of my hard work!  When I think of the end result, I really cannot wait to make the journey to get there.

I still cannot believe it, but our doula told us that she loved being in labor so much that she “would do it every day of the week”!  It’s pretty exciting to hear something like that and to realize that an event most women in our society are taught to fear can actually be something that you look forward to- not just the end result, but the process itself.  It truly is rite of passage that every woman must take to get to motherhood, and I dream of a time when we can treat it as a privilege and a wonderful experience instead of scaring each other with our horror stories and fearful tales.

 

38 Weeks, 6 Days: Labor is Closer!

December 9, just 10 days from our due date!  Everything is so exciting now because I know that birth can happen any time and that the more time goes on, the closer we are to meeting our baby.  🙂  My sister and her boyfriend were here for the weekend, so that was really fun!  It also pushed us to go ahead and finish up all the big stuff we had to do before Baby is born.  We still have some little things we wouldn’t mind finishing, but I think both my husband and I feel pretty relaxed now and ok with the baby coming at any time.  I would like for my mom and sister to be here, mostly because I know that they really want to be.  I’m sure that I’ll really appreciate their support as well when the time comes, but the thought of it just being me and my husband doesn’t bother me at all.  Our midwife talked to me at her visit last Wednesday about when to call her and that she wouldn’t want us to be panicking that she wouldn’t get there in time…. Yeah, that doesn’t worry me at all.  I would almost feel fine about no one but my husband being there, but because I’ve never had a baby before or even seen a birth I feel that it’s smart to have someone there to know what’s normal and what’s not.  Our midwife will also know what to do in case something is not normal.  But I definitely don’t worry about her not arriving in time (such as if I had a crazy fast birth or something, not that I expect that at all).

The midwife also told me that she doesn’t expect this baby to be born much past the due date (she knocked on wood as she said it, lol).  Her reasons for thinking this are that that baby is in a great position and already very low, I’ve been contracting for months now, and I’m not a large person (I guess that makes babies more likely to want to be born so they can start getting some milk and keep growing 🙂 ).  I don’t have a whole lot of water, she said, but the baby has a very reactive heartbeat (it goes up every time he moves) and is still moving around a ton, both signs that Baby is doing just fine.  I’ve been feeling a bit paranoid about my water levels, and I’m really trying to drink enough water every day.

For a few nights, Baby was kicking me so brutally that it was becoming an extremely painful experience!  I was getting clobbered in the ribs, belly button, round ligament, sciatic nerve, bladder, and cervix- sometimes all at once.  I kinda dreaded going to bed because I knew I’d be attacked from the inside again as soon as I lay down.  One night it was so awful and I was so frustrated that I finally just sat up in bed and cried.  My midwife suggested not eating late (and indeed, I had eaten a whole plate of food right before bed the night it was really bad).  I tried her suggestion, and I think it might have helped some.  Either that or baby is finally accepting the lack of space and settling down a bit.  I’m still getting plenty of movement, night and day, but it has felt a little gentler lately.  Whew.

I keep feeling like the baby may be early, but we are getting so close to the end of “early”, so maybe not.  Still, there are some new things happening that I feel signal labor is closer.  Yesterday morning we had sex and afterward I had some quite crampy contractions all during church and lunch.  Braxton Hicks have been feeling lower down and crampier at times for the past week ever since I really noticed how much Baby has dropped, but yesterday’s were just a little bit stronger and more noticeable.  We had a choir concert for church and I really loved it when the crescendo of the voices matched the peak of my contraction- makes me wish I could have a choir sing to my labor- ha!  😀  By last night, however, most of the crampiness was gone.  I feel like I have a tough time telling whether I’m having cramps because something is happening with my cervix or because I need to poop (yeah, we’re going to talk about that).  Pooping is feeling a little different lately, and sometimes quite painful, probably because the baby’s head is so far down in my pelvis that he is totally crowding all my vaginal and rectal space.   Silly baby 🙂

This morning after breakfast we watched a little TV with my sis and her boyfriend and the whole time (a couple of hours) I had rather painful Braxton-Hicks-like contractions, but it only hurt on my right side.  I assumed it was my right round ligament being all tight, or maybe the baby was in a position that pressed against my ligament during a contraction.  Either way, I felt a little distracted from the TV by what I was feeling.  I sat on my exercise ball and moved my hips in circles for a long time.  I experienced this same feeling last Wednesday night while I was trying to go to sleep- every Braxton Hicks (and I was having a lot of them) made my right side hurt like a fire poker.  I finally got up from bed, walked around the house, did hip circles while sitting on my exercise ball (and I feel super tired in an almost drugged way the whole time, which was weird), the cat pose exercises my chiropractor gave me to do, and finally was able to get to sleep.  I assumed that was my round ligament too, but who knows.  I love for these cramps and pains to be a sign that something is happening with my cervix!  I’ve done some self-checks lately, but while I’m able to feel the baby’s head with no effort at all, I can only just barely reach what I think is the very edge of my cervix.  I can tell that it’s extremely soft, but I can’t get to the middle of it to see if I’m dilated at all.  Oh well.  That will happen when it will.  I think as soon as my family is all here we’ll start having as much sex as we can to help my cervix soften up really well.  It’s tempting to start doing stuff like that now, but I really have no reason to rush the start of labor (as if I could), so I’ll just wait.

My nipples are really leaky tonight too.

One thing I’ve found strange lately has been the lack of cervical mucus.  I thought I’d have TONS of it at this point in pregnancy, but I’ve had even less than I did earlier.  So weird.  I’m hoping at least that will make it really easy to tell if I lose my mucus plug.

I put plastic under the sheets on our bed (just a simple shower curtain), a towel beside the bed, and have begun sitting on a towel in my car- all ready in case my water breaks in a gush!  I kinda down expect it to, though, because my mom’s never broke before labor.  Hers never broke spontaneously, actually, because during both her births they ruptured it in the hospital.  It will be interesting to see when mine breaks.  I wouldn’t mind it staying intact during the first part of labor if it will make things a little easier on me.

I feel that I’ve done just about as much preparing for birth as I can do.  I’m still reading Birthing From Within, so that would probably be a good book to finish, but even if I don’t it’s ok.  I’ve also ordered a belly mold kit that I’d like to be able to do, but there will hopefully be another baby if we don’t get the chance.  I think my husband and I are both starting to feel pretty ready to give birth so we can see our baby…. bring it on, labor!

36 Weeks, 5 Days: Engagement, Birth Pool, and Thanksgiving

Time is kinda flying by now.  And standing still.   I vacillate between wanting the baby to come RIGHT NOW and wanting to hold off until everything is “ready” (which will never really happen).

Our midwives visited Wednesday, and will come at least once a week from now until Baby arrives- it’s the big time now!  Everything was good:

  • I’ll get the ridiculous one over with right away… Our midwife took her shoes off at the front door! 🙂  Not sure if it was the fun sign I posted or the millions of shoes in the entryway, but it worked and I was relieved.  Even more so when she put them back on and I noticed they were really dirty, leaving dirt clods everywhere.  What cracked me and my husband up was that she somehow bypassed the huge tiled hallway space available and had her feet on the carpet while putting on her dirty shoes!  We waited until they pulled out of the driveway and then my husband had to vacuum that spot.  It’s ok, though.  At least she didn’t track that all through the house!  I feel a tad more respected now 🙂

  • Baby has dropped!  That’s right, we’re in a GREAT position and engaged at about zero station.  I couldn’t really tell from looking at my belly or anything, but I guess I am having a little better time breathing during those nighttime Braxton Hicks.  And someone at church last week did comment  that I was carrying super low.  Our midwife told me that Baby could descend further at this point, into +1 or +2 station (or is that the other way around at -1 or -2?….), but then I’d just be super uncomfortable for the last month of pregnancy, so the way things are now are really the best we could ask for.  Did my chiropractic visits help this happen?  I guess we’ll never know, but they couldn’t have hurt.  My pelvis is getting looser and I’m going longer between visits now.  My round ligament is still tight and I can kinda tell because Baby has begun to punch it- ouch!
  • We got our birth pool!!!  Yay!  The mom who was “in line”  to use it before us gave birth the day before they came, so it worked out perfectly.  We had to blow it up to finish drying it out, so we got a good look at it.  It looks so nice and I’m excited that I get to birth in it if I want to!

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  • Everything is good with me and the baby.  My midwife mentioned fluid intake again, but said she isn’t worried.  I told her I’ve been making sure I get at least a minimum of 8 cups/day (although I think I should be drinking more and probably actually am). I drink half my water at night because every time I get up to pee (every 1-2.5 hours) I feel so thirsty!   The only reason she mentions it is that she can easily see from the outside of my tummy how the baby is lying, especially when I’m contracting.  I wonder though if part of that is just that I have no fat layer to smooth things out?  It’s just skin, uterus, baby.  Anyway, I’m sure she has had moms like me before, so I’ll just keep paying close attention to my fluid intake and trust her that everything is fine.
  • We talked about some other stuff (our midwife really likes to talk in long-winded paragraphs- hopefully she knows how to shut it when I’m in labor 🙂 ), including the newborn screening test.  My husband thinks we should do it.  The only negatives: heel poke, extra $98 cost, and the possibility of false positives.  The last negative is the only one I really don’t like, but I guess we’re going to do it, and I’m fine with that.  The only thing we have to decide is whether we want our midwife to do it or a pediatrician.  I don’t really want to have to take the baby out to a doctor in those first few weeks, but my husband  thinks insurance may cover the test if we do.  The whole pediatrician thing is something we still need to decide on, though- do we want to establish a relationship with one right away or wait until/if Baby actually needs to see one?  I’m not feeling like a huge fan of pediatricians right now, but we do have some recommendations for some non-traditional options.  I just need to check them out.
  • We showed our midwife the birth plan we wrote, and she seemed really happy that we wrote one (which made me feel relieved because I was feeling kinda anxious about it, for some odd reason).  She read through it and talked about each point.  She had a few minor suggestions (if I transferred to a hospital for a cesarean, for example, I’d probably have a spinal instead of an epidural), but for the most part I didn’t change anything.  Most of what she said was explaining how she agreed with what we’d written (her particular biases are against  induction, separation of mom and baby, and… one other one that I can’t remember) and would never do anything differently, which is what I’d figured.  She took awhile with her explanations, and the whole visit lasted about 2 hours instead of 1!
  • Both midwives keep telling us that they don’t think my labor will be very long.  Their reasons are they that think we have a great attitude and a particularly healthy pregnancy.  They see that we don’t expect it to be easy (we know it will be hard work and will probably hurt), but we also are relaxed about it.  I appreciate the vote of confidence 🙂
  • I haven’t had any internal checks my whole pregnancy, but our midwife told us that my husband or I could check me if we want- both to feel the baby’s head and check for cervical dilation- and she described what to look for.  I can VERY easily feel Baby’s head through my vaginal wall, near my pubic bone!!!  It is the coolest thing ever, and also crazy weird.  It really made me feel like Baby is so close to our outside world and helped me picture how birth will happen.  Try as I might, though, I couldn’t reach my cervix.  I guess that means it’s still very high and posterior.  Apparently it does that during pregnancy to protect itself and will then move down/anterior closer to delivery.  I never knew that before.  I’ll maybe try to find it again in a week, just out of curiosity, though I know that being dilated or not dilated at this point will really be no indication of when labor is to begin.  I used to to cervical self-checks all the time when we were TTC.  After I got pregnant, I did feel my cervix once and was shocked at how different it felt- not nose-like anymore, but gushy like puckered lips!  I was a little taken aback.  It was also very high and I could barely reach it (pre-pregnancy my cervix was always very low and super easy to find- right where the baby’s head is felt now, actually!).  I think that was first trimester.  During second trimester I looked for it once again and couldn’t reach it.  Anyway, maybe my husband would be able to check since he wouldn’t also have to do contortions around a huge belly, but he surprisingly declined and thought it would be “weird”, saying maybe another day….  Ok, whatever.

For Thanksgiving we went to my husband’s brother’s house.  I felt soooo out of it all day!  Just super sleepy and tired, and couldn’t figure out why.  I felt badly for not being very sociable or helpful.  My niece kept wanting me to play with her and I did, but then I’d have to take a break to sit in a chair with a back.  I felt so zoned out.  I actually took about a 2 hour nap in their guest room after lunch while everyone else watched the football game (which didn’t interest me at all).  Anyway, during the night my throat felt super dry and scratchy, and the next morning (yesterday) I woke up coughing weirdly and feeling rather sick.  So I guess that explains my extreme tiredness.  I also hadn’t taken all my vitamins the day before, and as soon as I took them yesterday and drank my tea, I magically felt sooo much better!  It was like some kind of miracle cure.  I actually feel quite normal and well today, but I still stayed home from church because I was so tired this morning I couldn’t seem to wake myself up enough to know if I was well or not.  I feel like such a lazy bum for staying home, but maybe it’s good that I did.  I might take a nap in a few minutes.  I couldn’t sleep again last night and can’t wait for my next chiro adjustment on Monday so I can zonk out before 2 am…..

Chiropractic Care and Pregnancy

I spent most of the last two weeks dealing with some persistent, and pretty severe at times, hip pain.  From my oh-so-proficient Googling, I’d figured out it was originating from my right sacroiliac joint, but after icing and staying off my feet for several days didn’t seem to work very well, I was getting frustrated and discouraged, afraid I’d struggle with this until the birth and be unable to even walk around the house to carry out simple chores (do you KNOW how frustrating that is in the middle of out-of-control nesting?!?)  😛

Then, like so many times during this pregnancy, God answered my prayers and sent me to just the right place to find help.  Both our doula and one of my friends recommended Dr. Dan, a chiropractor in our Metro Detroit area.  He is experienced in the Webster technique, which is used to correct any imbalance in the pelvis and is very successful in pregnancy for giving breech babies room to turn (86%) and for giving all babies room to get into an optimal position for birth.  I spoke to this Dr. on the phone when making my appointment and almost cried because he was SO nice and SO helpful even during that short phone call.  He described what he does, and I knew immediately that he could help me with my pain.  I think even just knowing that relief was in sight helped me to begin feeling a little better that night.

I had my first appointment with him the next day (Wednesday of last week, and my sweet husband left work early to drive me since I was not feeling well).  The visit was GREAT- he was very personable, even said hello to Baby, explained everything very thoroughly, took care to make sure I was comfortable, and gave us extra information and goodies about natural birth (his 4 children were born at home many years ago!).  He found that I had a “right Webster” in both front and back.   So that was the right sacroiliac joint and the right round ligament (maybe that’s why all my ligament pain has been on the right side this whole time??) not moving as freely as they should.  After his treatment, I felt better right away- still sore, but without the shooting pains I’d been experiencing with every step!  I was soooooo happy.

Thursday I felt even better. 😀

Friday, I went in for my second appointment to see how my body was handling the adjustment, and was already feeling almost as good as I had before this problem began.  He said there was still some interference and worked on me again.  I’m just so happy that #1 I feel SO much better and that #2 if he can get my pelvic joints all moving freely in the next few weeks, the birth should be faster and easier- maybe even less painful since I’m less likely to have a posterior baby and back labor if there is plenty of room in my pelvis and uterus.

I have my next appointment later today.

I found this fantastic article about chiropractic care and pregnancy written by a chiropractor in Burleson, Texas who frequently works with pregnant women (even during their labors) and has had great success.  It’s an excellent read, and I’d now really encourage anyone who’s pregnant to see a chiropractor!

While in Dr. Dan’s waiting room on Friday, another pregnant mom was in there (2 days until her due date!) and she told us the story of how her baby had been breech and then ended up turning after she got her pelvis adjusted- FANTASTIC!  😀  Stories like that make me feel so excited because #1 that’s another avoided cesarean section and #2 people are taking advantage of non-invasive treatments that work on the natural principles of the way our bodies function.  I am all about that. 

34 Weeks, 6 Days: Sacroiliac Joint Pain, Leaky Nipples, and Surrender

I’m mad at myself.  Things were going so well and I feel like I just screwed it up.  I can barely walk and and it’s all my fault, so I’m going to complain for a bit here.

Monday, I spent about 4 hours digging up some iris that need to be replanted.  It was hard work, but I was really proud of myself when I was done.  I also felt really good that day, probably because I spent all that time in the sunshine and fresh air.  It really made my hips hurt, though, and the pain didn’t go away until Thursday.

So, on Thursday when my friend asked if I wanted to go to yoga, I went.  I thought it could only be good for me, and I was feeling so guilty that I hadn’t gone SINCE I’VE BEEN PREGNANT!  …Well, I guess it was a bad choice or I just overdid it or wasn’t fully recovered from Monday because my hip (to the right of my sacrum) began to hurt again right away.  😦

Friday my hip was really hurting, but I “had” to go pick up some groceries for the weekend, so I pushed the cart around the store for at least an hour (mostly because I had to walk so slowly).  By the time my husband got home Friday I had cooked 3 recipes and was ready to cry because my hip had been hurting so much all day.  I was really feeling sorry for myself, suffering alone all day.  Still, I went to the bonfire event for the youth group we’re helping with in our church.  I felt so old, though (college students asked me what I do and then looked taken aback when I told them I was getting read to be a mom… guess I look young still- that should make me happy), and a little disoriented in the dark with the uneven ground and all the people.  I seriously worried that someone would knock me over.  Pathetic.

Yesterday, I went to church even though I had to move at a snail’s pace.  It was embarrassing to walk 0.3 miles/hour.  After church and lunch with my husband’s parents, I took a nap and then we went to dinner and a movie with 3 other couples- THAT was really fun!  One of the other girls is pregnant and due about a month after me.   The entire evening, though, every step brought shooting pain and I began to plan all my movements carefully to avoid moving very much.  I realized with great regret that I should have been completely off my feet for the past couple of days instead of walking around the grocery store, cooking, walking around on uneven ground, or going to church even.  😦

A little bit of Googling tells me that it’s my right sacroiliac joint that’s torturing me.  All that relaxin made me so flexible- TOO flexible- and I’ve injured myself somehow.  I’m so frustrated because, even though I’ve accomplished most of the more physically intensive tasks that need doing to get ready for the baby, I still have plenty to do each day that involves just WALKING, and that is now really difficult to do.  Switching out laundry, walking to the bathroom, getting some food from the kitchen….

I want to believe that a few days of rest and icing will make this better but, like every other pregnant malady, I feel like it’s going to last until the baby is born, and that really freaks me out!  I don’t want to deal with this pain too during labor!  I want to be able to walk and move and do distracting activities and change positions!  If the problem doesn’t improve in the next couple of days, I need to find the appropriate Dr. to see about this, but I’m not even sure who the heck that would be.  I’ve e-mailed my midwife to get her suggestions, and I’ve gotten some advice from friends, so I’m not totally without resources.  Mostly, though, I just feel discouraged and severely limited.  I think I’ve figured out that I can handle about 2 days of pain and then it really starts to get to me.  Hopefully I’m not in labor for longer than that…..

On the positive side, my husband has been so sweet to me.  Helping me in and out of the car, bringing me things so I don’t have to walk, and insisting that I stay off my feet.  He is truly wonderful to me, and I have really seen all the beautiful facets of his personality during this pregnancy!  🙂

My next biggest symptom lately has been lactation.  I’m producing quite a bit of colostrum every day now.  When our birth class teacher showed us how much liquid a newborn’s stomach can hold at once, I realized that I can TOTALLY produce that right now.  That makes me pretty happy because I feel like I won’t have a problem with my milk supply.  I’m sure the raspberry tea is already helping with that.  Anyway, I usually can and do express some colostrum every evening before bed- partly because it’s kinda fascinating and partly because it seems like if I don’t then I leak.  I didn’t express much at all last night and, sure enough, I was startled from a near sleep twice to realize that I was leaking in bed.  I think it’s weird that I seem to make more milk at night than in the morning because I always thought it was the other way around.  Maybe it’s different when your full milk supply comes in or when you actually have a baby that’s draining you at all times of the day.  This breastfeeding stuff is all so interesting and mystifying all at once.  I can’t wait to get started!

I’ve been thinking the  past couple of days about how it makes sense to sacrifice ourselves for our children.  After all, we won’t live this life forever, so why not give our best to the next generation?  I mean, I know that we can’t wreck ourselves at this point because our children need to us to take care of them for many years still until they’re able to take care of themselves (and us), but motherhood and parenting changes us.  My body is undergoing a lot of changes right now, and though I will heal I will never be completely the same.  And that’s ok.  I can surrender to that.  It’s something I want to remember while giving birth, especially when I feel like I’m going to rip in two.

My husband brought out the point though that even though there are changes, they’re not necessarily bad, and I thought that was a really sweet observation.  It’s just change, and my body is doing what it was designed to do.  It’s fulfilling a purpose that it was meant for.  I read in someone’s birth story that she described her body as “enjoying itself” during pregnancy and labor and I really really loved that idea.  Even when it feels to our thinking brains that we are suffering or undergoing hardship during this process, our bodies are living a dream, coming into their own, doing their thing!  I think that if I can get to that more primal, basic, instinctual part of myself I’ll be able to feel that.

I recently began to read the book “Birthing From Within” by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and found this amazing quote near the beginning referring to the experience of a woman in labor:

“The mounting intensity of labor forces complete surrender of our body and will, dissolving our egos, ideas, and familiar sense of self.  We’re not afraid of dying because there is no “self” left to resist and fear.  At that transcendent moment we have become birth itself.  This is the spiritual birth of woman into mother.”

Visualization During Labor

In our birth class, we’ve talked about using visualization as a tool for coping with labor contractions.  You can both plan a visualization ahead of time and wait until you are in lab0r to find your visualization.

Last night I was trying to fall asleep and having a lot of pretty regular Braxton Hicks (as usual).  The last few days they’ve begun to hurt sometimes at the site of my old endo pain.  This seems to especially happen in bed at night (not sure if it’s my position or the baby’s or what).  Anyway, I usually practice breathing and relaxing during these, trying to get a feel for what being relaxed during a contraction feels like and hoping that these little ones are helping prepare me for the real ones.  Last night, in addition to breathing, I tried visualizing one of my favorite places- Rosario Head, a sea cliff on the Puget Sound.  This particular vista was in the state park just adjacent to the marine biology station where I spent two summers during my undergraduate and graduate studies.  I used to go there at night and look down at the waves, silver in the moonlight, pounding the rocks below.  As I imagined the waves last night,  two descriptive words came to mind: fierce and beautiful.  I love the ocean and find it to be one of the most beautiful things on earth, but I also find it a little terrifying.  It’s so powerful, so vast.  It’s fierce.  So I imagined a contraction being the same way- fierce and beautiful- and as soon as I did that, I immediately noticed a difference in perception.  Instead of thinking pain I was thinking power.  Thinking about it this morning I actually feel a little emotional over my visualization.  Maybe it’s because I love the combination of those two words so much, or maybe it’s because I have something to hold on to- one more tool that I can utilize when needed.  I have no idea if I’ll want to attach those words to contractions during labor, but this really gives me hope that, whatever I’m feeling at the time, I will be able to come up with visualizations that help me using this basic strategy.

This has felt like a ramble, but I really wanted to write it down.  All during my pregnancy I’ve felt like I should be doing things to prepare myself for labor, to prepare myself to cope with pain, to prepare myself to endure a potentially long labor.  To my dismay, however, I haven’t done a lot of the things I thought I would do.  I thought I would do yoga ALL THE TIME.  Haven’t done it once yet.  I thought I would reread ALL the birth books I read before.  Haven’t wanted to reread much of anything. I thought I would take a walk EVERY DAY.  I’ve spent my time doing housework instead.  Sometimes I like to remind myself that this is my first baby and I plan to have others, so I can improve on my birth preparation each time.  Sigh.  I’m a “learn by doing” person, so I guess this will be no different.

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