Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon

As Jamie and I have been preparing to invite a new team member into our home, we have been doing a lot of reading and trying to soak up all of the wise counsel that friends and family have been willing to offer. Among the books we have been reading, NaturalChildbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon has been incredibly helpful as part of final preparation for labor.

While the book is over 20 years old, given that it is talking about natural childbirth, it isn’t like the information is going to be obsolete any time soon. The book does a great job of taking this incredibly miraculous process and giving expecting parents a pathway for preparation.

For most women who have never given birth there are stereotypes and stigmas at work that can cause significant anxiety. Some women tell horrible stories of the extreme pain and trauma that their bodies went through during labor. Television and movies almnormal, but we still were not sure what normal was/is.
ost always portray childbirth as happening while lying on one’s back, in stirrups, and with lots of newspapers, towels, and hot water around. At the same time, television and other media portray husbands/fathers as helplessly sitting in a waiting room anxiously pacing with cigars or bubble-gum to hand out to everyone as he proudly announces that he is the father of a boy or girl. Having spent some time in other parts of the world, and having several friends who have given birth, we knew that these stigmas and perceptions were not

Reading Susan McCutcheon’s book, helped us both shatter stereotypes, and have prepared us both to be able to contribute strongly during labor. Of course, Jamie is in the driver’s seat, and I am confident that she will perform like an Olympic athlete bringing her very best self to the unfamiliar to her, but well established by women, path through labor to bringing a new life into the world. For my part, I plan to bring my very best self to lovingly support her, relax her, advocate for her, and help her to focus on the fact that her mind and body (and the baby) are ready for her to go through this miraculous process.

The book is filled with relaxation techniques, positions to try, and encouragement that childbirth is normal, and we have a number of medical advances that can support us if complications arise, giving birth naturally is a strong possibility for most women and that it is worth giving the effort. If you are looking to learn more about natural childbirth be sure to give Susan McCutcheon’s book a read.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reflection: Birthing Class

Recently in preparation for the arrival of Baby Williams, Jamie and I took a two day birthing class offered at Mon General Hospital in Morgantown, WV. The class cost $60, but one of the teachers said that it might be reimbursable through insurance. Regardless, I believe the class was well worth it.

Here are just a few reasons.

1)   During the class we were able to watch multiple videos of childbirth, and it really helped us reframe a number of our perceptions around childbirth. Neither myself nor Jamie have spent much time in a labor and delivery area (other than visiting friends and relatives after a birth), and so it was incredibly helpful to see several couples choosing to go a natural route with childbirth. The philosophy at Mon General is to encourage natural childbirth when possible, but be prepared for whatever is needed.
2)   Skills and tools for coaching, support, and relaxation were provided, and we were able to practice a few of them. These included experimentation with different positions that Jamie could take during labor, relaxation and breathing techniques, and massage and other support I could offer during labor.
3)   The class had more than a dozen couples in it, and it was a very tangible reminder that there are many other couples who are proceeding along a similar timeline, and who also are looking to learn all they can about the miracle of childbirth before their baby arrives. While intellectually we know that people are having children every day, there was something comforting about knowing there were so many of us locally preparing for the birth of our first child.
4)   Developing a birth plan and preferences. We had heard a good bit about birth plans before the class, but after taking the class, we have a better idea of what we want to include in Jamie’s birth plan, and have begun to lay out those preferences.
5)   Reduced anxiety around labor and childbirth. Well-meaning people tend to open up to Jamie about the trauma of their labor and childbirth, and much of what is available in the media portray childbirth and labor as EXTREMELY painful and traumatic. Those stories and portrayals serve to only amplify our own fear and anxiety. After this class, our perspective has been reframed to begin thinking about labor as something that does not have to be traumatic or EXTREMELY painful. We have no misgivings that it will be an easy process, but I believe the class has left us more excited about the process, and we are planning to go through as much of the process as we can at home. We will still give birth in a hospital, but we now know that we don’t need to speed to the hospital the first time Jamie has a contraction.

I could list many more reasons to take a similar course, and I’m sure Jamie could add several as well but we both wanted to encourage folks who are expecting to make the investment in a course. If you are local to Morgantown, Pam Po and Rhonda Hopkins at Mon General Hospital both do an incredible job teaching/facilitating the class.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam

During this season of anxious anticipation of the arrival of Baby Williams, Jamie and I have been reading a wide variety of books on all that we are embarking upon. The most recent of these books has been On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.  The book was recommended by a good friend, and while my book queue has been growing longer, I figured it was a worthwhile move to bump this text up on the priority list. It was a fairly easy and straightforward read.

Living in a time when there are probably about as many schools of thought on caring for an infant as there are infants, Jamie and I have kept a mindset of “Test everything and hold on to that which is good” in our reading and applications. We feel like our parenting will likely be as unique as our child, but we are grateful to be building on best practices from a few thousand years of bringing up children.

The focus of the book is working to get an infant on a consistent sleep schedule early on because that will increase rest for both parents and the infant, and that, in turn leads to a healthier baby, healthier parents, and a mom who is well rested and able to produce food for the child. I found the tips to be pretty practical, and the outline seemed to reinforce what we had already been learning from watching a few of our friends working with the rhythm of their infants.

One of the best pieces of advice in the book other than its emphasis was this note. Our child does not need to be the center of your world, it needs to see a family that loves each other, and that as parents, our best gift to our child is demonstrating that they are a part of something greater, that, while they are important, they are no more important than Mom and Dad are to each other, and I would add, that both of those relationships need to be secondary to our primary relationship with God.

Much like any book on child rearing, parenting, or even pregnancy, the book seems  to hold some strong positions, but rather than get caught up in those positions and any sense of guilt or disappointment that could arise over how individuals raise their infants, I find it easy to take a step back and apply those pieces that seem to make sense, and again, to ‘test everything and hold on to that which is good.’ Looking to learn? I recommend giving this book a read, but also taking time to explore other major schools of thought on helping an infant develop, and discussing these different concepts with pediatricians and other parents, but by all means give the book a read.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Reflection: Squash Blossom 2016

Each year, as our garden grows, I love to see the emergence of the squash blossom opening its petals in the early morning glistening and greeting the sun. My ancestors, and many other Algonquian speaking peoples have woven squash blossoms and vines into artwork for centuries. These large open flowers fill my heart with joy each summer as I spend time around our small garden. Almost every year, I take time to pause and admire these flowers. I attempt to take time to write a brief reflection.

The squash blossoms are large, beautiful, and frail, and they point to the arrival of summer and fall foods. They are also a source of nourishment for our body themselves, and if we are willing to pause, I believe they are a source of nourishment for our souls. I often wonder if this is why my ancestors had such a deep love for squash blossoms and included them in so much art. They are a small gift that reminds us, if we are willing to listen and witness, that life is fragile and beautiful—all of it, and that we should step delicately on the earth, and savor each passing moment. These flowers only emerge for a small season, and in the sweltering heat of summer they invite us to refreshment for our spirits, and to look forward to a satisfying harvest in the weeks ahead.

Even as I write this, these blossoms are giving way to squash and zucchini around the garden, and we are beginning to be able to enjoy the harvest. May we each take time to enjoy the simple beauty that God blesses us with each day, and may we learn to walk the earth in this beauty as well.  In addition, may we each look forward to the wonderful future gifts that these flowers point us toward, but not so far forward that we fail to enjoy the wonder of the present moment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: I’m Pregnant! By Lesley Regan M.D.

Shortly after we first discovered that Jamie was pregnant, we were having a discussion with another new mom, and she told us about this really great book by Lesley Regan that she felt was one of the best books out there to understand pregnancy, and track along with all of the changes happening in a mother’s body.

As a person who is utterly amazed at this mystery of life, I personally found it helpful to begin understanding all that was happening inside Jamie, and how this little miracle was beginning to develop week-by-week. Jamie also found the book incredibly helpful, and each week as we would read along together, we would discuss all of the amazing changes that were happening in her body and all of the progress our child was making in development.

The book gave us perspectives on Jamie’s changes, the baby’s changes and growth, and even what to expect from each of our ante-natal visits and checkups. The book is filled with colorful photos and diagrams that describe just about everything that a mother carrying a child would want to know. And as the book progresses along the 40 week timeline, it has helped us prepare as parents for these checkups. We have learned good questions to ask, and we have been able to think about what a birth-plan and a “go bag” might look like for us. Every family is different, and we love that the book offered suggestions but did not direct us toward what “must” happen.

If your family is expecting, or even if you are just curious about what is happening in a woman’s body as a child develops inside her, thisbook provides insights in easy to understand terminology. It has been an incredible tool for us as we have walked through each of these last few weeks in awe of what is happening inside of Jamie.