Home Water Birth

“Why are we not in a hospital, why are we not in a hospital, oh why are we not in a hospital.” My husband told me he kept thinking these words over and over as I was in the depths of labour. It all started about nine months beforehand when we found out we were going to have our first child. I am an avid researcher, so even then, I was planning on how I was going to deliver our baby. It took a lot of dedication, including continual mental and physical exercise, and even more research. I would spent about two hours a day completing a meditation routine combined with walking, attended weekly prenatal classes, and read every positive home birth story I could get my hands on.

Nine months later, I was ready, or as ready as I could have been. My Midwife gave me one piece of critical information that I couldn’t have found in any book. When early contractions start, do not push it along, try to have a nap instead. She told me many women get up and walk around to help it progress, eager to meet their baby. Your body just isn’t ready at that moment, it’s prepping itself, and you will need the precious little energy your expending as you walk up and down stairs, trying to hurry things up, later. Most dearly, you will need it later.

I was ten days past my due date when it started. In those ten days, I went on two outings, a wedding and a trip to the farmers market. The rest of the time, I rested. Feelings of tightening had started happening
on the eighth day past due. For two days, I warded off labour with regular naps and gravol.

On the tenth day, I told my husband we needed to go into the city, to his Mom’s house, as I was now in labour. In the car on the way there, I had two contractions. They weren’t bad at all, totally manageable, so when my husband wanted to stop for McDonalds, I had no issues. He, on the other hand, regretted it entirely as we sat in a lengthy lineup. I recall him saying one thing to me that was just audible through the constant motion of wiping his face in anxiety, “God, I hope our baby isn’t ugly.” I burst out laughing.

At his Mom’s, which was vacant at the time, labour pressures increased. I recall crawling on my hands and knees and leaning on things during contractions. To those women I’d seen walking through contractions, I’ll never live up to you. These were hard. My husband kept bringing me ice creams and water. Ice cream, meditation, and breathing exercises were what I used, and they worked wonderfully. We called our Midwife twice. She talked on the phone with me and from my jokes and laughter, said it was still too early.

Apparently all love of the world is lost when you’re really in labour, and as far as she could tell, I wasn’t in enough pain to stop making jokes. So we waited. I asked my husband to pour the bath. It was pleasant being in there. I had a small tablet and watched my favourite funny show in the dark from the safety of the warm water. As contractions came, I would wake from my reverie, but otherwise, I was able to meditate myself into a shallow sleep between them. This went on for a few more hours. My husband came to check on me a few times and, when I was in enough pain to start crying, he called the midwife (with a little too much ferocity in his voice). She came rather quickly and once there, moved with lightning speed. She had never been to the house before but seemed to know her way around. I could hear her stripping the bed, laying down towels, preparing her equipment, and even moving small furniture.

She came to see me a few times between her prepping. She checked the baby’s heartbeat and happily told me that my baby didn’t even seem to know it was time to be born, that he was as comfortable to go through labour as I was uncomfortable with it. She told me I had to lay on my right side for a few contractions, so that I would be effaced on both sides (I had been labouring on my left side only). She told me I had to try to use the toilet. I tried twice with no success. The second time, I had the strongest, most painful contraction I’d ever experienced (both labours combined). It caused my water to break.

My husband quickly helped me back into the tub. He has a very good poker face as he looked at me with the utmost calming expression before telling me he would be right back. On the other side of the door, I heard him tell the Midwife that he could feel the baby’s head. She came back into the room hurriedly to check. Indeed, our baby was right there, and I felt like pushing. Every time I did though, I would instinctively slam my legs together to prevent the pain, pushing my baby back up. My Midwife would encourage me to try again, and each time, I forced my legs to slam shut, repeating the whole process that my baby and I were enduring together. After these failed attempts at willfully birthing my baby on my own, she eventually told my husband to hold my legs open. Out popped our baby’s head, under the water. I couldn’t see him, but my Midwife told me he was there. I recall greeting him, “Hello Baby.”

One more contraction and he was out and on my chest. He was quiet at first, so my Midwife kind of poked him with her finger, making sure his mouth was clear and he let out a wail. We all rejoiced!

The entire (and new) family moved to one of the bedrooms, the one that had been stripped and prepped. We called our families to announce the baby had arrived in the wee hours of the morning. My Midwife did a quick check of our son’s vitals, after which, she gave me no warning before she plopped the baby on to my chest to nurse. What an odd sensation. Our families arrived and my husband brought the baby to see them so I could have a bit of privacy to get fixed up. Yes indeed, labour takes a toll on the body and I felt a little like Frankenstein as I was patched up. I was a new woman, my Midwife told me. I didn’t feel very new, but was happy all the same. Our families then came to join me as we watched what I call the Baby Proceedings. The Midwife weighed and measured our baby, checked his muscles, joints, mouth, eyes, and tested his blood. He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz. and was 21 ¾” in length. I recall looking over to my Mom and seeing her eyes bulge at the news. She later told me that as far as she new, no woman in our family had ever birthed a baby that big.

The baby was laid to sleep in a crib beside my bed. My Midwife congratulated me and told me I was one of the fastest first timers she’d ever had. She also told me that in these next few hours, I would need to sleep. That many women feel the desire to watch their sleeping baby rather than sleep themselves. She left, promising to return in a few days to check us all again. As my husband laid down next to me, both of us trying to get some sleep, we both found ourselves turning towards our son, watching him snooze peacefully beside us. It was wonderful to fall in love so quickly. At the time, he was the most beautiful child we had ever seen. He was bald and wrinkled, with splotches of pink on his skin. Indeed, he was a little ugly.

It’s Potty Time

Today I wanted to touch base on a long and tedious battle between the toilet and my son.

My husband and I started potty training our oldest son, our Grizzly Bear, at two years of age. At the time, my second child was well on his way to being welcomed into the family and before then, we thought we’d try to make things easier on ourselves by potty training our first born. He was a smart lad and willing to learn new skills, this was going to be easy.

We started out with the old fashioned portable potty. Sat him on it and tried to keep him there with books, toys, food, and even the television. Each strategy worked well for a little while and then psychological warfare would have to be kicked up a notch as our Grizzly Bear would grow tired of sticker rewards and saying bye bye to his pee as it swirled around in the flushing toilet.

Fast forward eight months. You read that right; eight months………
By this time, we’d pulled out all the stops including following expensive and temper tantrum inducing advice from family, friends, and internet strangers (like myself).

My sister told me she purchased special underwear for her child, dawning his favourite movie character. When he pooped his pants, she made him throw the undies in the trash. He hasn’t had an accident since. He was three when he successfully potty trained. I tried this tactic with our Grizzly Bear at 2.5 years and the only thing accomplished was the purchasing of very expensive soon-to-be garbage. No success there. My Mom secretly fed Grizzly Bear Smarties for every successful potty pee/poop. This only resulted in my son having extra sweets as he still only used the potty half the time and even expected a candy after going in his pants. Grizzly Bear has a slight addiction to Smarties now.

Internet sensations indicated scheduling potty breaks and determining your child’s poop schedule through what I can only assume is psychic reasoning. It is true that my son is a regular pooper and predicting his bodily functions wasn’t too difficult. That is until he got a cold or slept funny the night before or was fed prune juice at his dayhome.

In the end, my husband suggested one last tactic that we hadn’t heard anywhere before. We were a bit desperate to try anything at this point as it was hard to keep up diapering two children. However, let me start out by saying that this experiment did not work and should not be tried ever again in the history of potty training.

We decided to put Grizzly Bear’s potty in his room with him at bedtime and let him sleep in the half nude. We figured he would either go in the potty if he needed or fall asleep without pants. No big deal right?? Big deal it turns out. I hear him 10 minutes later saying he went in his potty. I enter his room with excitement and joy only to stop short with wide eyes and a speechless expression.

He did pee in the potty (hooray!) but then, in his infinite wisdom, he picked up his potty in an effort to bring it to the big potty and dump it, only to spill it all over the hardwood and attempt to clean it with his bare hands. That’s right, he was covered in wee. I ran for a cloth and began soaking up the mess as my adoring toddler comes up behind me to offer encouragement. I cringe as the smell rolls over me, my toddler stroking my hair, saying “that’s a good girl, mommy.”

Although none of the “tactics” we used worked for our Grizzly Bear, he did eventually potty train at 2 years and 10 months. He did not potty train as a result of our hard work or ingenious potty plotting, but simply as a result of being ready and willing. After reading this, I’m sure you’ll agree that my husband and I are no experts on toddlers and the wonder that is the toilet.

We simply reflect upon the last year and agree that every child is indeed different and each learn on a different time schedule. We had some good laughs and are even looking forward to our next potty trainer, our Polar Bear!

Breast Milk

We’ve all heard it – breast is best – but do you know why?

The History of the Mammary Gland:

Breast milk has been researched for hundreds of millions of years. You read that right, nature has been perfecting this food source for longer than bees have been perfecting honey. You can read about the evolution of breastmilk here. BBC goes into detail on how mammary glands and breast milk came about and why they had the evolutionary advantage. Shockingly, mammary glands are thought to have evolved before mammals did. Once leaving the water, animals either made soft or hard shells. Hard shells had the advantage of not drying out but soft shells, well they supported the transfer of water. So mama walking-fish would have soft-shelled babies and bring them water in a gland on her body in the hopes they wouldn’t dry out. This gland, after many generations, evolved to secret antibodies, fats, carbohydrates (sugar), etc., which was now food for her babies (they could eat it once it absorbed into their shells). After baby hatches, the gland still produces and the baby has a wonderful mama walking-fish to feed him. Magic, right?

Now, after millions of years, only mammals (and primitive egg-laying mammals) have this ability. Females of the lactating species are called mammalia which means “of the breast.” It’s pretty cool to be defined by a highly respected evolutionary trait, one that has led our species to care for our young in the most effective way.

The Contents of Human Milk:
Going into detail about humans and why human milk is so precious – please check out the amazing infographic (found at the bottom of this section) of the contents of what you are feeding your baby (or toddler). It dives into each component, such as the fats, nucleotides, enzymes, carbohydrates, and antimicrobial components, just to name a few.  These contents, components, molecular compounds – whatever you want to call them – have astonishing properties that protect your baby (and read what’s going on in his body – seriously). The infographic (with supporting references) was made by a group of women and men who found that human milk was just so amazing, they had to compile the info.

I’m going to list one (maybe two) benefits from some of the milky component categorized in the infographic – the ones which were my favourite and little well-known:

Carbohydrates (Sugars)
• Breastmilk contains over 200 sugars. Some of these sugars can only be digested by bacteria which easily promotes a healthy gut microbiome.
Enzymes
• Lysozyme is anti-inflammatory and bacterialcidal (destroys bad bacteria) and is particularly effective against E. coli and salmonella.
Antimicrobial
• Lactoferrin inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and Alpha-lactabumin has pain-relief abilities.
Vitamins
• Vitamin E is an antioxidant which inhibits or removes oxidizing agents (free radicals) from within you. Free radicals are uncharged molecules that are extremely reactive and can break down cell membranes. In chemistry, for those that know a bit about it, free radicals form when a molecule loses or gains an electron. Our bodies use antioxidants to balance free radicals (give or take an electron to neutralize it).
Mediators
• Stem cells – that’s right, breast milk contains stem cells! They can self-renew to repair any organ or system in the body.
Hormones
• Oxytocin creates positive feelings. This is super beneficial for both Mom and baby. For Mom, it helps stop bleeding after birth and shrink the size of the uterus. For baby, promotes feelings of well-being and relaxation.
• Leptin, a hormone like a switch, it turns on a gene that tells the baby when he is full. This is a gene that prevents overeating as an adult.
There are more (lots more) and you can read about them or check out the infographic here.

My absolute favourite though was learning that Momma’s body, through baby’s saliva, identifies what bacteria or virus the baby is currently fighting and produces antibodies specifically designed to fight those infections. Talk about Mom-baby communication.

Lastly, Let’s Not Forget the Bonding:
One thought before I move on to the science behind the bonding – I miss breastfeeding. The connection I felt to my babies was so strong and comforting. I recall the first time each of my boys made true eye contact with me – it was while they were breastfeeding. Snuggles aside (snuggles aside!?), the best moments were the eye contact in which I knew they felt safe.
And now the science – I bet you knew there were benefits to a baby’s social well-being that came from breastfeeding but did you know there were health benefits for Mom too? Yes, yes, the benefits for baby is higher communication scores and increased cognitive ability (it’s important but I’m excited to get to the next bit).

For Mom, according to the American Psychological Association, breastfeeding increases and lengthens maternal sensitivity. Maternal sensitivity is the Mother’s responsiveness to her baby and her affect, flexibility, and ability to read her baby’s cues. The study conducted (located here) goes into detail on the Mothers that were interviewed and noted how the longer breastfeeding was the norm, the longer the sensitivity continues for Mom, expanding as the child grows (such as respect for autonomy, supportive presence, and withholding hostility). Amazing, right? By the by, breastfeeding also has been shown to decrease the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

And one awesome detail that some of us forget – it’s way cheaper than formula. Eating a little extra during the day and make your own tiny human food? Super budget friendly.

So, are there cons to breastfeeding?
I did it with both of my kids (and nearly made it to the one year mark each time) and I only noticed two cons. One, it was really painful for me for the first couple of weeks. Two, I got some funny looks from friends, family, and strangers.

Yes the pros outweighed the cons for me but I did find some ways around the unpleasantness.

Painful Start to a Happy Ending:
The nipple shield – sold at Toys R Us or online and comes in various sizes. This nifty gadget is fantastic to protect Mom from a ravenous infant. I recall my first encounter with my midwife after nursing my firstborn for a few days. She asked me how bad it hurt and when I likened it to giving birth again she asked if she could see my baby. She laid him in her lap, backwards so his head was touching her tummy. She then stuck a finger in his mouth and cried out “Holy, you are vicious!”.

She promptly directed me to the nipple shield, which worked like a dream. It’s a plastic nipple that fits over your own and protects Mom from baby’s who have mouths like a shark. And it’s only ten bucks. My midwife did caution me to use it sparingly however, as it makes it a little more difficult for baby to nurse, which in turn decreases your milk supply. Funny Looks and Squeamish People My Dad (Grandpa) has a hard time staying in the room with a nursing Mom. He squirms in his chair if someone just says “breastfeeding.”

Perhaps I’m more like him than I thought. I found it difficult to feel comfortable breastfeeding around people, any people, even when wearing a nursing cover. Just knowing that they knew what I was doing made me feel awkward and as if I had to hide it. So I did – and this is how:

For those of us that are shy and don’t want to be the confident woman who tells people to just get over it, do what I did and get a baby backpack. The Ergobaby Baby Carrier was my favourite because it was so comfortable, I could wear it for hours, and did. I would just pop the hood over top of my baby’s head and no one, not even my Dad knew that I was breastfeeding. It simply looked like I was carrying my child in a fashionable carrier. Pretty sneaky, no.

So there you have it, breastfeeding in two swollen nutshells. If you were moved by this blog (I totally get it), and want to discuss your breastfeeding options or find breastfeeding support, here are two resources you may find helpful:

• Alberta Health Services (AHS) Healthy Beginnings Hotline (24/7) – 780-413-7990
• La Leche League (breastfeeding info and support) – 780-478-0507

Summertime Tips

Can you imagine one day without hearing your child laughing? How about imagining a day without spending time outside together? When the warm weather rolls around, I could never live without an abundance of both.

I am a mother of two amazing children (what child isn’t amazing?) and have the time of my life making them smile. Many of those smiles happen when we spend our days at KARA Family Resource Centre. Now, I’ve been with KARA as both a coworker and as a friend; as both a Mom and as a Mom-to-be. I’ve enjoyed all of my moments with my KARA family and know the truth about who I am and who my children are; we would not be the same without KARA (what KARA family would?).

Now for the summer part: when it comes to my children, I’ve come across a few summer related mishaps. By sharing these tips with you, I hope you’ll come out ahead.

Sunscreen. Yes, lather up your little ones (and yourself) with sunscreen SPF 30 of higher. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a rating of how long sunscreen will protect against UVB. Now, the sun emits both UVA and UVB (among other wavelengths) and the higher the SPF factor, the longer the protection against both UVA and UVB. For those of you with kids with an … interesting taste for adventure (pun intended!), make sure to lock up the sunscreen after you’ve used it. My kids don’t have a taste for it but my dog does. It’s best to put it out of harm’s reach either way. For youngsters, and I mean six months or younger, sunscreen is not recommended. Instead, grab a sunshade for the playpen or stroller.

Shades. How many times I’ve tried to convince my baby that sunglasses need to be worn outdoors will astound you. I originally purchased sunglasses without a strap and didn’t have the funds to buy a second pair so I opted to make my purchase work. It took quite some time to wear him (me?) down but this most amazing trick saved us. Every time I put the sunglasses on his face, I’d call him “Cool Dude” and he’d revel in the compliment of being called “Cool”. I learned this trick from a KARA family Dad.  Now, sunglasses should always have 100% UV protection. Choose shades that curve around the face to provide protection from side sunshine. Just like skin, the sun can damage eyes. The damage is worse when you have low levels of vitamin C, so bust out those oranges and strawberries!

Water bottles! Every child enjoys owning their very own accessory, and Mom’s enjoy not sharing the backwash. Get a water bottle that your child finds interesting and easy to use. Write your child’s name on it so it doesn’t go home with a friend. Plastic bottles decompose over time from our own saliva. Heat will also make plastic bottles break down. If you choose plastic, be sure to hand wash it directly after use. Don’t let it end up in the hot dishwasher. You can’t taste plastic but you also can’t digest it. Another, more convenient choice, is a stainless steel kids bottle. A little more expensive but they are relatively indestructible. They normally come with silicone straws (a natural material) so there isn’t anything to worry about when it comes to cleaning.

Lastly, get out there and enjoy summer! Your kids will have a blast at the KARA Summer Program and you’ll have a chance to use these helpful tips! Don’t forget, you’re a “Cool Dude” yourself!