Monday, January 7, 2013

Help a new momma out

It used to be that when I went to visit a friend with a new baby, I always thought of the baby and what little gift I could bring for them. But by the time the baby comes, it has everything it needs. Baby showers and grandparents take care of that.

Where the gift is really needed is with the new mom. And I don’t mean a spa treatment (though I’m sure no one would complain about such a treat). I mean a gift like food, extra hands, and your time.

At the end of my childbirth class they gave us a page to put on our fridge for visitors to see. It had suggestions of what friends visiting can do for you- like take out the garbage, load/unload the dishwasher, or bring a meal.

We live in a time where being a supermom is praised and I think the best way to be a supermom is taking care of yourself and baby and letting other’s take care of you, especially in the beginning.

I was horrified by an article I read recently where a woman was gloating that hours after giving birth she was on her Blackberry, answering emails for work. That to me is not a supermom. That is just sad.

Traditionally, in Asian cultures, mothers are treated like a Queen for the month after giving birth. It is called Zuo Yue Zi, or sitting month. The mother’s only responsibility is to feed her child and rest. Her own mother or other members of the community take care of the rest. They see the month after giving birth as the most important of all. The mother needs this time to restore her health and energy and prevent future illness. Overall, it is the crucial time that will sustain the well-being of both mother and baby for life.

I love this idea of taking care of mom so she can take care of herself and baby. Mom has been through a lot over the past nine months and it ends in a marathon called labor. Besides the UFC throw-down her body has just been through, she now has a large wound inside uterus (approx. 9 inches round) that needs to heal- I’m talking about the exposed wound from the placenta. And there may be other parts of her body, lower down, that need healing. So give the girl a break.

Bring her food, lots of food, and good food that will nourish her body (not that it has to be rabbit food- just leave the In & Out burger for a later date). Or show up empty handed, with good intentions. Do a load of laundry, wash a dish, or massage her feet (if she’s had time to wash them!). And if you think the first visit is gonna be about you, stay away. No high maintenance friends needed (luckily, I got rid of those a long time ago!).

Eventually, the new momma will settle into her new normal and she can try her hand at multi-tasking again but during the first few months, the only multi-tasking she should be doing is feeding the baby and having her back rubbed.

I wish I had known this sage advice before now. I would have been a much better friend to the new mommas in my life. Sorry ladies! Next time, I’ll step it up!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wait, what did you just say

When I say I’m having a homebirth I have been pleasantly surprised by people’s support and awe. They stare in wonderment at me and say how impressed they are. But at some point in the conversation it will come around to pain. Everyone asks what medicine I will use for the pain. When I tell them not only will I not be using any drugs for pain, but I will not even have the option, that’s when the look of terror sets in. Man, woman, young, or old, it is all the same. I have lost them at this point. I can see written across their forehead, is this woman insane.

It has now become very clear to me that all people think about when they think about labor is the pain. No one can see past it.

Women go to great lengths to protect their unborn child from harm throughout their pregnancy (many won’t put anything more than a Tylenol into their bodies over the nine months), but when it comes time to bring their child into the world to take its first breath the mother yells, pump us up with narcotics to the max!

I definitely thought that would be me, but it’s a funny thing when you become pregnant. Suddenly everything changes and instincts kick in. Through my research, I discovered that labor doesn’t have to be surrounded by fear or pain. And yes, labor will most likely have some pain but it will also have great joy.

There is so much more to labor than pain. Pain is one aspect and there are many tools I can use to manage pain. These tools have been around for centuries, before medical science stepped in and took away a woman’s role in childbirth.

If you are curious, here are some of the tools we have been taught and will be using; counter pressure, breathing, visualization, movement, massage, a birth ball, birthing exercises, gravity, a rebozo, a birthing pool, and hypnosis. Hypnosis is the tool we will be relying on the most. Women who use hypnosis have a significantly shorter labor and are much calmer (I’ll go into more detail about hypnosis and birth in a latter post).

All those tools aren’t just for pain management. They are tools that when utilized make your labor faster and easier because you are using your body as it should be used in labor, to work together, with the baby, as one unit in an organic way. If the baby is not in the optimal position to be birthed, this can be painful. In a hospital you have no choice (a lot of times) but to accept that the baby is positioned in a way that makes you both uncomfortable and sometimes will even mean distress for the baby, which can lead to a C-section or a painful labor.  Yet, if you use a rebozo, or get up and move, or let gravity assist, the baby will work with you and shift to a more comfortable, safe position.

Women have been giving birth for thousands of years and in many countries around the world (yes, I’m talking first world countries, too) do not use pain killers and/or only use something like nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to take the edge off (Australia, for example), which is not even offered here.

I know that my body knows how to birth a baby, just like a cow trusts her body to birth her calf (okay, that is the only time I’ll be comparing myself to a cow!). And, yes, thank God we do have the medical professionals to be there when or if a mother or baby does really need it.

I have met and seen a multitude of women who have given birth naturally, without pain killers, and the question that is always asked is, “would you do it again?” And the answer is always a resounding “YES!” 

That tells me everything I need to know.