Friday, October 26, 2012

The POWER of natural, pain medication free childbirth experience...

I've had a several people ask me about my birthing experience with Breanna and the title of this post instantly came to light.  THE POWER OF LOVE...because that's what it really is all about.

I'll start from the beginning...

When I found out I was pregnant with Breanna, I knew I wanted to do things differently this time around.  So, how would things be different?  I guess I have to tell you about my birthing experience with Brock first.

My pregnancy with Brock would be the first time I would experience becoming a mother.  I gained almost 50 pounds with Brock, had extremely high blood pressure throughout my pregnancy, and was diagnosed with Graves Disease (Thyroid Disease) about 35 weeks into my pregnancy.  At my 40-week appointment, my blood pressure was 180/104 and a urine test confirmed that I had protein in my urine and I was diagnosed with Preclampsia.  I was immediately sent to Portsmouth Naval Hospital where I was to be induced.  I didn't know much about my options, about what to expect, or what I really wanted out of my birthing experience.  I just knew I was tired of being pregnant and that being induced, at this point, didn't sound too bad.  To make a long story short, I was induced, given an epidural, and had Brock almost 18 hours later.  I tore pretty badly while delivering Brock and had over 30 stitches.  I didn't get to hold Brock right away, they whisked him away to the warmer and cleaned him up before I was able to hold him to my chest.  We were in the hospital for 3 days because my blood pressure wouldn't come down.  3 days later, we went home to start our life as a family of three. And 2 days after that I ended up back in the hospital from severe, crippling pains in my abdomen. I would spend 3 days in the hospital with every test known to man being run on me, including a test that required me to be injected with radioactive dye, only for them to never really be able to make a diagnosis.  They chalked it up to some odd post-pregnancy illness.  My husband was at home with a newborn baby on his own for those 3 days, I didn't get to bond with my son like I should have, and breastfeeding quickly went out the door.  It was chaotic and stressful but at the time, I was just thankful to finally go home and take care of my son.

Fast forward to 5 years later.  As I said, I knew I wanted to do things differently.  I did my research, did a lot of reading, and decided that I wanted to have a natural, pain medication free delivery, on my own terms, this time around.  I honestly believe that it was a combination of the epidural and being induced that made me so ill after I had Brock.  I didn't want to go through that again and felt strongly that if I could avoid medical interventions and let my body do what it was born to naturally do, that things would be different.

After much research, I decided that I wanted to deliver my baby at DePaul at the Midwifery Center.  The Midwifery Center at DePaul offers women who are seeking natural birthing experiences a support system, education, wonderful medical care, and a place to comfortably birth your child naturally while still being within the confines of a hospital, should any complications arise.  Once the decision was made, Andy and I attended an Open House and we instantly felt at ease.  The environment in the Midwiferey Center is so much calmer than your typical Labor and Delivery room.  One of the requirements to deliver there is to take a Natural Childbirth Education class.  So, Andy and I  enrolled in a class taught by the Birth InSight Doulas and let me tell you, we learned SO much in that class.  We walked away with a better understanding of the birthing process, knowing different positions to help cope with the pain of contractions, about different supplements to take to aid your body during labor and delivery, and about the mechanics of a woman's body and why laying in a bed with your legs up in stirrups is about the WORST position a woman can labor in!  We also decided, after taking their class, to hire Birth InSight Doulas to attend our labor and delivery.  Because we weren't sure whether Andy would be around or not, we wanted to make sure to surround me with a support network that would help me get through the process and be there to assist me as I labored and offer suggestions to help me focus on the end result...meeting my baby.  So, we had our hospital picked out, had chose the Midwiferey Center, had taken our natural childbirth class, and had hired a Doula.  Now, I just needed to take care of myself and get ready for Breanna.

I worked out my entire pregnancy, right until the last week.  You wouldn't believe the crazy looks I would get in the gym but I kept going.  I worked out, stayed active in general, and focused on being as healthy as I could be for my baby.  I gained 25 pounds with Breanna...half of what I gained with Brock.  The weeks came and went and as my due date came closer, I became more nervous about my decision to have a natural, pain medication free birth.  It didn't help that anytime I mentioned my plans to someone I would get looks of horror, people telling me I was crazy, and just a general non-understanding of why I would want to go that route.  But I knew why - I wanted to be an active participant in my labor and delivery, I wanted to be healthy after my delivery to be able to care for my newborn baby and my son, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it...that my body was made to labor naturally.

The weeks went by as I approached 37-weeks I had started to dilate and efface.  I thought for sure I would have this baby at any time.  But then I hit 38 weeks, and then 39, and then 40 weeks with little to no "progress".  I would soon hit 41-weeks which meant I would need a non-stress test, an ultrasound to check my amniotic fluid levels and make sure Breanna wasn't too big, and a regular appointment.  All went well and everything looked perfect.  I had another appointment on that Friday, I was now 41 weeks and 3 days.  My wonderful midwife, Jennifer, sat me down and told me if I didn't have Breanna by Monday morning that it would be medically necessary to induce me.  Being induced would mean I couldn't deliver in The Midwifery Center, that I couldn't have the water birth that I had so long envisioned, and that I would be attached to monitors throughout my labor...I was devastated.  I had tears in my eyes but Jennifer re-assured me that just because I was in Labor and Delivery didn't mean I couldn't have the birthing experience I wanted - I could still go pain-medication free.  But I had my doubts.  Knowing that Pitocin makes your contractions stronger and that your body is not working with you as it would if you went into labor on your own scared me...actually, it terrified me.  I went home on Friday and talked to Breanna, told her I needed her to come on her own, that mommy needed her to listen.  Friday came and went and then Saturday came and went.  I had all but given up hope.  And began.

I started having contractions just after midnight on Sunday.  I relaxed and listened to my body, as my natural childbirth class had taught me, got up and walked around and drank some water.  Around 1AM my contractions started to get noticeably stronger, more painful, and closer together.  I knew this was the real thing.  I woke Andy up and he got in the shower.  By the time he got out of the shower, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and were very intense, it was time to call our Doula.  He called Aimee and she suggested that I get in the shower and try to relax but I refused.  I don't know why, I just did.  S0, Andy called our Midwife and after she heard me laboring, she suggested we come in.  So, we called our neighbor who came and got Brock and we headed to the hospital.  The drive to the hospital was painful, very painful.  Sitting down was the worst possible position for me, it made it harder for me to work with my body through the contractions.  When we finally go there, I was relieved to see Aimee had arrived as well.  I had to brace myself before getting out of the car but Aimee was right there telling me to take my time, to breath, relax, and try to loosen up my body.  We walked into the ER and up to the check-in where there were 3 quite horrified nurses looking at me.  One of them immediately brought me a wheel chair but I refused, sitting down was the last thing I wanted to do.  Again, she insisted and I refused and this time Andy and Aimee both shot her looks and Andy reiterated that I wasn't going to sit down.  So what does she do?  She goes and grabs a stretcher!  Look lady, if I'm not going to sit down I'm sure as HELL not going to lay down.  One of the nurses said she didn't want me to have the baby in the ER...well, then I guess you should just let me walk myself to the elevators and into the Midwifery Center, shouldn't you?  And that they did.  It took what seemed like forever to get up there because I had to stop every minute to minute and a half, brace myself against a wall, and work through my contractions...but we got there.  And when I saw my midwife, I instantly sat on the floor.  I felt SAFE here, with this support team, with this doula, with this midwife, and with my husband by my side.

I got to my room, a little before 3:30AM, and was put on the monitors for the required 20 minutes.  In the Midwifery Center, you're only monitored upon admission, to make sure baby is going well, and every so often.  Jennifer checked me and I was only 5cm dilated.  5 cm?!?!?  "MY GOD!" I thought to myself, if I'm in this much pain at 5cm HOW am I going to make it to 10cm and pushing a baby out?  Jennifer and Aimee kept reminding me to breathe, relax my body, and to make lower toned groans to help loosen my body. They knew I wanted to get in the jacuzzi tub to help myself relax so I was given an enema to clean me out, as is suggested, before getting in the tub.  Within minutes, everything I had eaten in the last day was expelled from my body...gross as it sounds it was also a relief.  I went to the bathroom to finish and also clean myself up a bit. It was at that point that I started to feel a different pain, as I sat there on the toilet, and I thought to myself, "MY GOD, I'm going to have this baby on the toilet!"  I couldn't speak because I was in so much pain but a power came over me I had never felt before and I got up and walked back into the run where the jacuzzi tub was waiting.  I didn't wait on permission, I took off my clothes and climbed in.  My body relaxed instantly as I entered the water.  This was my happy place, this is where I wanted to be.  But within 5 minutes, I felt the most unbearable pain I had ever felt.  I looked at my midwife and I remember saying, "I can't do this...I just can't.." And I don't remember exactly what she said to me but it was along the lines of, this is what you wanted, what you're feeling is your baby coming down, this is what you've prepared for, now do IT!  And Aimee was right there telling me my body could do this, it was made for this...I felt the urge to push and I remember letting out this animalistic grunt and just pushing.  And with that push Breanna's head was out.  My midwife had my turn over on all fours in the water and she had me deliver Breanna in that position.  Breanna was here...and I had done it.  I had just delivered my baby...Breanna and I had done things on our own terms, on our own time, in our own way...and the way nature designed us to do it.  When she came out, she was blue and not crying but I was reassured that this was normal for babies born in the water.  I was handed my baby, who was still attached to me by her umbilical cord, and on my own power, I got up, got out of the tub, and walked to the bed where I would spend the next hour and a half holding my baby close to my chest, bonding with her, and in pure amazement of what we, as a girls...had just accomplished.

Looking back now, I can't tell you how I got through those labor pains.  I went from being 5cm dilated to 10cm and delivering a perfect baby girl in less than an hour.  But you know what?  I do know how I did it...the POWER OF LOVE.  It was pure, unselfish love for my baby...that's what got me through our labor.  Knowing we were doing this together, we were doing what we were made to do...and knowing I would be meeting my baby girl soon, that's what got me through it.  Those labor pains would only last a short time but the love I have for my little girl will last me a LIFETIME.  As I sit here writing this, watching Breanna in the living room napping on Andy's chest, I'm still in amazement at what we accomplished.  It was almost an out-of-body experience.  I don't remember all the fine details but I remember the pain, I remember the fear I had, I remember finally letting my body take over and do the work, I remember having people surrounding me KNOWING I could do this, and I remember meeting my baby girl, as they pulled her out from the water...looking at her and knowing we had just accomplished our first big milestone together...welcome to the world my beautiful little girl.

In the days following, things have been so much better than they were in comparison to after having Brock.  I am taking it easier, knowing I need to take it easy to recover faster, and focusing on establishing a good breastfeeding routine with Breanna.  I feel 100% better, I don't feel sick at all, and I feel...relieved.  It will be an adjustment, adjusting to being a mommy to two children but I will tell you Brock is adjusting beautifully.  He LOVES his baby sister, loved holding her, loves helping take care of her...and Andy and I have made a very strong effort to make Brock feel special.  He's got special toys and special time with daddy too.

For those of you that have asked, the best advice I can give to you is to follow your heart and know that you have options. Research your options and choose what is best for you and your baby.  If you truly want to experience a natural childbirth, without medical interventions, you CAN do it.  It may not be for everyone but I truly believe that if you WANT to do CAN do it.  It has been perhaps the most painful experience of my life but the most rewarding, empowering, and most unselfish act of love of my life as well.  The power of love is truly the most beautiful power of all.

Monday, April 4, 2011

April is here...

And today some warm weather finally followed.  This winter has seemed so long and I'm so tired of the cold.  The biggest news since my last post (long ago) in January is that Andy is now deployed for 7 months.  He's been gone almost 2 weeks now and Brock and I are just now starting to adjust to life without him home.  The connection that Andy and I have is hard to explain but it's very hard when he's away and I don't have him here to talk to.  I know this is something every military spouse goes through when their significant other is deployed and for all those out there that are supporting our guys and gals from home - thank you - it's hard; physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Brock and I are going to try to stay busy to make the time go by faster but we miss Andy every day.  To anyone out there that says "It will go by so fast!"....yes, in hindsight, I'm sure it will.  But, right now, it doesn't seem that way and we're just going to try to make the best of it. 

I have my baby sister's wedding coming up and so I'm planning a Bridal Shower for her at the end of this month and then a Bachelorette Party the week before her wedding in May.  On top of that I'm still taking classes and I'm ready for this semester to be over with.  It's been a very TRYING semester with way too much writing involved.  Work is going well  - I finally have a regular route where I drive the same students every day so that has really helped to lessen my stress levels.  I'm finding myself quite busy with my rescue work with New Rattitude lately and I'm thankful for my involvement with such an amazing group of people.  My last foster, Kirby, went home last week and he's doing great.  The newest foster, Ed, will be here this Saturday and I already have an applicant interested in him.  It's very rewarding work and for any of you that are dog lovers, I highly recommend getting involved in either your local rescue (SPCA/Humane Society), an all-breed rescue, or a breed specific rescue (like New Rattitude) of your choice.  The rewards are endless and I can assure you it won't be a decision you'll ever regret. 

Brock and I have several trips planned this summer including a trip to MI in August and hopefully a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC in July.  We're also tossing around the idea of going back to Destin, FL to visit one of my good friends Jennifer and then there's also a few DC trips planned this summer as well.  Mom and Dad Swartwood will be here at the end of the week and for this I am thankful - Brock has really missed his Mimi and Papa and I think having them here will help lessen the sense of loss he's been feeling with Andy gone.  And yes - I can tell he misses daddy.  There are tears at times when there aren't usually tears and then tantrums over things he wouldn't normally get upset over - I know this is his way of communicating that he misses his dad and we're working through it with me just trying to be understanding of his feelings. 

Since the last update - Brock is also 100% potty trained.  No more pull ups at night either - he's so reliable now and it seems like ages ago that he was still in diapers. 

If you want to keep up with this blog via email, just use the box to subscribe at the top of the blog and then as new posts are made, you'll be notified.  I'll also be adding a slideshow of photos once I get them uploaded to an online photo album.

Thanks for reading and thank you to everyone that has offered your support to help Brock and I through this deployment while Andy is gone.  We appreciate you more than you'll ever know.

And I'll leave you with something I've found very true the last couple weeks..."A Navy wife's work is never done..."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The New Year has started off with a BANG...well, not really.

So, here it is January and what has changed?

I'm PROUD to say that Brock is almost completely potty-trained now.  We're going pee pee AND poo poo in the potty 95% of the time these days.  I will say...things got quite frustrating for a while there and I didn't think we were EVER going to get the hang of it.  But, now he's doing so well and I have almost completely forgot the days of diapers.  I never thought I would be so excited to hear him say he has to go pee pee, all on his own, without any prompting at all.  My little man is growing up.

Spring semester has just started and while I did have to drop one of my classes due to Andy's work schedule, I'm still taking two, which is my goal.  I'm hoping I'll still be able to take a few this summer, even though Andy will be gone.  I'm hoping some neighbors or friends will help watch Brock...I just want to get this degree done and over with.  If I'm not taking classes, I'm not working towards that goal.

Andy is set to deploy sometime in the next couple of months.  I can't say exactly when and shouldn't.  Deployment means everything on mom again; housework, yardwork, care of Brock, and care of the dogs while still trying to manage school work, volunteer work, and work work.  I will admit that I am not thrilled at all about the perspective of having to take all of these things on by myself again and I'm even less thrilled that it will be for 6 months or slightly longer.  With the being said, as much as I may gripe about it, Andy and I have a strong relationship and I know we'll make it happen.  We've been through a deployment before...just before Brock.  Hopefully Brock will occupy my mind and keep me from focusing on the days going by.  I know I'm a strong person and I know that while it won't be easy, I can do it...just like so many other spouses do when their significant others are deployed and sometimes for much longer than 6 months.  I guess, in reality, I should consider myself lucky that it isn't any longer.

I'm still hitting the gym hard.  I'm still at goal weight, even though I gained a little over 3 pounds over the holidays.  I just need to get back into more of a routine, with set days to workout, like I was before Andy got back in town from 1st class dive school.

My baby sister will be getting married at the end of May so I do have that to look forward to.  All kinds of things to do like planning her wedding shower and her bachelorette party.  And I have to look good in the pistachio colored dress so that keeps me motivated at the gym as well - thanks Sam!  :)

Well, that's all for now.  Hopefully I'll stick with this whole blogging thing a little bit more consistently this year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Judgmental Much?

Recent events in my life and the lives of others very close to me have made me really think about what family truly means to me.  Here goes...

FAMILY is: (Below are several dictionary definitions...)
  • All the members of household under one roof.  So, related or not, if you live together, you would be family.
  • A group of people sharing common ancestry.  This is the most typical and accepted definition of family.
  • Two or more people that share goals and values, have long-term commitment to one another, and usually reside in the same dwelling place.  This is a less common definition of family but makes a lot of sense to me.
I suggest yet another definition, a definition that is more personal to me.  I suggest that family is a network of people, whether related or not, that supports your life endeavors, are non-judgmental (as much as humanly possible), will be there for you in good times and bad times, and will love you unconditionally, whether they disagree with your life decisions or not.  In my opinion, THAT is what family is truly about.  We ALL make mistakes, we are all imperfect.  It's how we rebound from those mistakes that really makes or breaks us.  And a strong family will support us, even through our failures.  A strong family will be there for you and at least make an attempt to not judge your mistakes as- let's face it- we're all human and we will judge others, no matter how hard we try not to.  A strong family will lift you up when you're down and celebrate with you when you have triumphed. 

Family should NOT constantly focus on your failures, make you feel like less of a person, put you down to make themselves feel better, downplay your successes, or force their views upon you.  To me, these are things our worst enemies would wish upon us...not family. 

Therefore, I would say that FAMILY, is not necessarily just those that share common ancestry.  Family are those around you, whether through ancestry or not, who share common values and beliefs, and who provide a network of support in which you can rely upon, whether times are good or you've hit rock bottom.  Family is there when you need them, a network in which you can depend on when you're down.  I know who my family is...they're the people who know me best.  The people who know my fears, who have shared in my failures, and who have celebrated in my successes.  Family are the people I know I could call at 3AM when I'm worried about something or the people with whom I could share my deepest thoughts without fear of being judged.  For those of you who I consider family, thank you for being there for me.  Thank you for loving me as I am, for knowing that I have my weaknesses but that together, as family, we can overcome these weaknesses and that our relationship makes us better people.  Thank you...

A few people I consider family, although not related by ancestry...

Susan - What I've gained from our relationship... a sense of hope.  You have shown me that no matter how difficult things seem to appear, nothing is impossible.  You grab life by the reins and you MANHANDLE it girl!  You are wonderful mom, a fantastic wife, and a true friend.  I hope you realize how much you mean to me, even though I don't always express it.
Kate - What I've gained from our relationship... confidence.  You've shown me that I have to be confident in myself to be able to exude that confidence to others.  You are a prime example of today's modern woman and you should be proud of that.  You are a great mom and a wonderful friend and I'm so glad we met.
Mary - What I've gained from our relationship...inspiration.  You put the WOW factor in everything you do.  You busted your butt to change your lifestyle and become healthy, fit, and happy.  You completely left your old life behind to make changes that you knew were necessary to grow as a person.  I'm so proud to know you and so glad to benefit from your inspiration.
Autumn - What I've gained from our relationship...strength.  You are, out and out, one of the strongest women I know.  You have made a life for yourself, without depending on others.  You have been a beautiful role model to your boys.  You have been there for me when I needed you and you always have an ear and a shoulder to lean on.  I hope you know that our friendship means a lot to me and that I am always here for you, however I can be.

And to my sister Samantha....
Life will throw you lemons...and you have been thrown too many of them to count.  You have made your mistakes but you have miraculously rebounded.   Even when things look horribly depressing, you have a sense of optimism that always shines through.  As a first-time mother, you have made your mistakes, as have I.  But you have shown your daughter the most important thing of all...the power of love.  You've shown her that for love, we will do anything and you've shown her this by working to improve yourself - as a person and as a mom.  You are creating a life of love that will surround her when she needs it most.  My life would not be the same without you.  You are piece of my heart and when you hurt, I hurt.  I love you...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Military Wives...the Unspoken Heroes

Anyone that knows a military wife knows the struggles she goes through--while her husband is gone on deployments or trips but also while he's home.  Andy and I have only been through one deployment since we've been married.  We recently went through a 3-month separation while he was at 1st Class Dive School and we have a deployment ahead of us in the near future.

I think people forget how MUCH a military wife truly does to support the household and the family while her husband is away and at home.  My good friend is currently raising her little man on her own.  She's going through all the trials and tribulations of a first time mom without her husband by her side because he is currently on deployment, serving his country.  And while the deployment is hard on him because he's missing out on a lot of his son's first and of course the comforts of home too, it's just as  hard on her, in my opinion.  Not only is she taking care of the household, but she's caring for her 6-month old baby, handling bills and house repairs, all of the doctor's appointments, and still managing to find time to care for herself.

I think being a military wife, especially with children, makes you a stronger woman.  You realize that you can do things you didn't think you could do.  While Andy was gone, I took up mowing the lawn & caring for the pool.  I didn't have much problem with the lawn but the pool proved to be my arch enemy.  I swear if Andy is gone during the summer again I'll be hiring me a pool boy...seriously!  As military wives, we are often forced to drop everything to change our lifestyle while our husbands are absent.  Now, I wouldn't have it any other way because I'm proud of my husband, proud of his service to his country, and love him more than words can describe.

And then, when our guys are home, while things are definitely easier, we our their sounding board for all the craziness that comes along with being in the military: the mindless regulations, early mornings and late nights, last minute trips, the stress of advancement tests, and more.  And it seems that sometimes it's almost harder when they're home because if their work schedule changes at the last minute...we can be stuck left in a bind with not much time to change plans to accomadate the last minute changes and are left scrambling to make back-up plans.  For me, as a part-time college student, late nights at work for Andy mean I may have to find someone else to watch Brock and I may not know until the last minute.  Luckily, I am surrounded by wonderful friends and neighbors that are always willing to help when needed.  But not every military wife has this support network.

I guess I've been rambling but the point of this post is just to say, not only THANK YOU to the military men and women that serve this country, but also to say THANK YOU to the families that stand behind them.  Without the support of their families, these men and women would not be able to clearly focus on the task at hand, protecting our country.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Potty Training 101

I recently started potty training my 3-year-old son, Brock.  I looked online and researched several different potty training methods but finally decided on a method used by a mom who had recently, and successfully, potty trained her son.  She sent me the guide and I read up.  I set forth with an artillery of weapons: big boy undies (and lots of them), a small potty seat as well as a potty seat for the big boy potty, pull ups for naps & night time, and most importantly, rewards!  Days 1 and 2 were a whirlwind of peeing on the potty, changing underwear what seemed like a million times, lots of praise and by the end of the 2 days...a very depleted stash of M&Ms.  Days 3 through 7 brought LOTS of frustration as my son acted like he had no clue what the potty was for and was peeing everywhere BUT the potty.  By the end of Day 7, I was all but ready to completely give up.  We took Day 8 off...a time for me to renew and Brock too.  We started back with a vengeance on Day 8 and now, here were are on Day 9 and we've only had TWO accidents in two days.  I can't believe the progress Brock has made!  Several friends just told me to stick with it and that he would get seems he's really starting to get it now.  I'm sure we will have many more ups and downs.  As a first time parent, and a virgin to potty training, I have found this experience to be both rewarding and also very frustrating.  Knowing my son is intelligent, it has been hard for me to cope with those times when he acted like he didn't know what a potty was used for.  But, I realize that him being intelligent has nothing to do with just needing practice.  This potty training process is definitely exhausting but I know it will pay off in the end.

New to Blogging...

So, as a way of expressing my thoughts, my fears, my failures, my triumphs...and life's journeys in general; I thought it would be interesting to start a blog.  I haven't ever been much of a "blogger" but figured I would give it a shot.  This blog will serve as a way of me sharing things that are going on in my life...a chronicle, if you will, of life's journey.  Here we go...