The Milestones That Will Make Life Easier…and the Hidden Downsides

 

Babies suck. Toddlers suck. Preschoolers really suck. Oh sure, there’s some joy in there too, but each stage comes with new milestones that you can’t wait for them to reach, and then you’re eating your words. Don’t believe me? Either you don’t have a toddler yet or you’re in denial.

1) Mobility. You spend so much time carrying around this helpless little human who just wants to be in arms that you begin to long for the days they can take themselves places without you having to carry them. “Oh what a grand thing it will be to have them mobile” your naïve new-parent self says as you rub your aching back. But then it happens. And suddenly you have this little creature who takes off the second you set them down on the floor to rest your aching back. And oh look, they’re headed straight for that breakable object or piece of paper to put in their mouths or any other number of things that are NOT the millions of baby toys you brought out in hopes of entertaining them. And then they can walk. And they can REACH things now. And they learn how to RUN. And they are FASTER than you. You do laps around the house trying to catch them. You long for the days when they were in that baby carrier and unable to get into shit all the time.
2)Eating Solids. You’ve got a baby at your breast. Or you’re mixing bottles. Either way it’s a constant job just keeping them fed and happy. And you think “oh, I can’t wait until I can just set food down at the table and have them eat it, and not have to do this anymore. And then it happens. And the poop gets grosser and smells. And then you might not be changing their diapers anymore but you’re wiping their butts. And then you’re also fighting with them to EAT THE GODDAMN BREAKFAST THEY ASKED FOR BECAUSE THEY DECLARED THEY WERE HUNGRY AND ACTED LIKE YOU WERE STARVING THEM. In THEORY, they should eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. But instead they’re hungry, have a bite, then say they’re full. Then you shrug and try to take their plate. They scream that they’re hungry. You give it back. They don’t eat. A part of you dies inside and soon you hate mealtime and don’t care if your kid is eating the same apple from three hours ago because at least it will finally get eaten.
3) Talking. You long for the days when your baby stops crying/screaming and can actually tell you what’s wrong so you don’t need to guess anymore. “Oh how much easier will life be when that day comes,” you think to yourself as your baby is screaming in your ear. But then it happens and soon your kid not only knows HOW to ask for what they want, they know how to DEMAND it. They SCREAM it, and you can tell them that they can’t have what they want and it will bring on epic tantrums and “I don’t like you!” and “bad mommy!” From what I remember of my teen years, the hell is just beginning. Are we sure that King Triton didn’t secretly pay Ursulla to take Ariel’s voice? I won’t judge him harshly if he did.
4) Dressing. You spend the first 2 years trying to wrestle a squirmy baby/toddler into their clothes. It takes a lot of effort. Half the time if you’re not going anywhere you leave them in a diaper and the other half they’re in their pjs because the effort is just not worth it. And then magically one day they can dress themselves and you think “yay, less work for me.” Except they can now DRESS THEMSELVES. Wait, wasn’t that kid in a different outfit a few minutes ago? Yes, yes he was. Where is that outfit? On the floor, and the floor is dirty because he used that shirt to mop up the juice he spilled. So more laundry for you. YAY! Wait…why are you taking off your shirt? No. No, honey, that shirt is CLEAN. There’s nothing wrong with it. Oh. You want the Batman one instead. Yeah, I see that, but you don’t need to throw the other one on the floor…yeah, okay fine. Don’t mind me, I just work here.
5) Getting their own snacks. You’re constantly having to fix meals and snacks because your toddler is hungry and you think “won’t it be great when they can get their own snack out of the fridge?” because then you won’t have to be up all the time to do it for them. Except that now they can HELP THEMSELVES TO THEIR SNACKS. And sure, in theory you could put one of each thing in their “snack drawer” and they can go in there for their snacks. But kids are smart and they mock your attempts to be reasonable. I told my son he could have ONE banana and hid the rest up on the top of the fridge. I thought he would respect that rule. I was wrong. Your kid knows where you’re hiding the rest of the snacks. Your kid will sneak the rest of the snacks when your back is turned. It will not get easier as they get older. How do I know this? Because I recall all the times my dad tried to cleverly hide the package of Oreos and I found that shit, snuck 6 more cookies and if he was planning on having a snack after me and my brother went to bed, well let’s just say he’d have figured out that I had found his stash when he opened a half empty bag that had been just bought the day before. If you want to hide the snacks keep them in your room…except that won’t work when they’re older. I found that stash too. You’re screwed. We’re ALL screwed.

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50 Reasons You Got My Voicemail

 

voicemail
I spent 15 minutes yesterday trying to record my active greeting for voicemail. I came up with several variations of saying the same thing, the gist of which is of course, “PLEASE, PEOPLE! I HAVE SMALL CHILDREN! TEXT ME IF YOU NEED AN ANSWER NOW, BECAUSE THE VOICEMAIL YOU JUST LEFT HAS DISAPPEARED INTO THE DEEP BLACK ABYSS OF MY INBOX TO RESURFACE ONLY IN DIRE NECESSITY” followed by “IF YOU’RE NOT FRIEND OR FAMILY AND I DON’T ALREADY HAVE YOU IN MY CONTACT LIST, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SANITY-DRIVEN LEAVE A MESSAGE BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WILL NOT CALL YOU BACK BLINDLY, SO IF IT’S IMPORTANT THEN DON’T JUST ASSUME YOU CAN CALL BACK LATER. THERE IS NO “LATER” WITH SMALL CHILDREN”. And in coming up with these variations as my three year old started screaming in the background for the hell of it (and further illustrating my point) I came up with this list of reasons why you REALLY need to just text me and hope I’m going to be checking on my various mobile games or snapping a picture of my kids being cute in the next few minutes.

1) I went out last night and left my phone in my purse. It is now dead, because the battery life on mobile phones is short.
2) I took it into the bedroom with me when I went to bed last night. In the middle of the night Homer finished his latest quest/task and I was alerted of its completion so I turned on the “do not disturb” feature. My phone has been silent all day and I have forgotten I did this. It is also buried somewhere under the blankets because I couldn’t be bothered to put it back on the nightstand.
3) My three year old had it this morning when I handed it to him to get some extra sleep. He turned off the ringer and it is now buried in the blankets of the bed.
4) My three year old was watching Paw Patrol on my phone and drained the battery. The phone is now dead and buried under the blankets. I will find it several hours from now when I realize I haven’t heard my Simpsons go off all day, after I tear apart the rest of the house. Said phone will then need to be charged for a few minutes before it even turns on.
5) My three year old was practicing his amateur photography skills with my phone. I now have 900 new pictures of the cat, the floor, the TV, his foot, and my phone is also dead.
6) My three year old somehow managed to turn my phone ringer off AND hit “do not disturb” and then left it between the couch cushions.
7) I took my phone back from my three year old and put it on the charger. I forgot to check to make sure that not only was the ringer back on, but that the volume was turned up and “do not disturb” was no longer in effect.
8) I remembered to turn the ringer on and check “do not disturb” but failed to check the volume.
9) I remembered to turn the ringer on, check the volume and disable “do not disturb”, but the charger was doing that thing where the cord wasn’t in the right spot and my phone that was 15% charged failed to charge anymore. It is now dead. I will find its corpse hours later when I need to use it, and curse the gods.
10) My phone is still in the charger in the kitchen. I can’t hear it though because I’m in another room and the kids are screaming for the hell of it.
11) My phone is in the kitchen, I’m in another room, and I can’t hear it because I’m yelling at my three year old to stop hitting his cousin/jumping on the couch/swinging his toys around where his sister is crawling.
12) My phone is in the kitchen, I’m right beside it, but I still can’t hear it because my three year old is screaming that he’s hungry (even though he just ate a whole apple, an orange, and his lunch is still sitting uneaten on the table) and I’m holding a screaming, teething baby.
13) My phone is in the kitchen but I’m washing the dishes. If I like you I’ll call you back after I’m done…if I remember.
14) I was downstairs doing laundry and didn’t bring my phone with me.
15) I was feeding the baby and my phone wasn’t within reach.
16) The kids were napping and I turned the phone on silent. I am currently playing Simpsons, but I don’t want to risk waking them by answering the phone as that might cause my son to suddenly sit up and ask “Daddy?” and then my peace is broken.
17) *I* was napping. The phone is on silent. I’ll call you back after I wake up, if I remember.
18) You called before 10am on a Saturday. You are not my husband. Therefore I turned the phone to silent and went back to sleep.
19) It’s lunch time. Maybe not specifically that time of day, but the kids are having lunch and I just sat down.
20) I seriously JUST sat down. My phone is in the kitchen. Call back later or text me if it’s important.
21) I didn’t recognize the number. If you’re a friend or family, text me so I know you’re not a telemarketer.
22) I was on the other line and didn’t want to end my conversation prematurely.
23) I was on the other line and can’t figure out how to effectively put one person on hold and switch over and then back.
24) I was on the other line and didn’t recognize the other number, so I ignored you. Seriously, TEXT ME!
25) I was actually out shopping, phone was in my purse. In theory I should be able to hear it, but I have small children and stores are noisy. In theory, communism works too.
26) I was out shopping and my phone was in my purse. I forgot which zipper compartment it was in and by the time I was able to dig it out, you hung up. If you wait 5 minutes before calling back and don’t leave a voicemail (if you’re family or friend) then I might just call you back to see what you wanted.
27) In digging my phone out of my purse I then accidentally dropped it. By the time I picked it up you were gone.
28) I was out shopping. My three year old had my phone. He hung up on you because he was watching Paw Patrol or taking pictures of his feet. In his defense, you interrupted him 😉
29) I was at the park with the kids. I can’t hear the phone over the sound of kids screaming everywhere.
30) For some reason the phone was stashed in the diaper bag. By the time I realize this and dig it out, you will have hung up.
31) I have determined that your number is not any that I know or SHOULD know, and that you are a telemarketer. You will further prove my theory correct by not leaving a voicemail.
32) I am in the middle of the chaos that is dealing with small children and just CAN’T deal with another person right now.
33) I’m changing a diaper.
34) I’m trying to placate the whining three year old and don’t have time to answer the phone right now.
35) The kids are napping and I finally have a moment’s peace. I’m not cutting into my break time to answer the phone unless it’s super important. In which case, text me.
36) I’m in the bathtub. I’m not getting out.
37) I’m in the shower.
38) I’m with my husband. We’re busy. If you want to avoid a graphic description you’ll stop asking questions.
39) It’s date night.
40) It’s Mom’s Night Out.
41) The kids pushed me past the edge and I went to bed at 7pm when they did.
42) My husband is home, I’m not expecting any calls today and I didn’t feel like getting up to answer the phone. If you’re in my contact list I’ll text you.
43) I don’t feel like answering the phone. Text me.
44) I’m pissed at you and am now freezing you out.
45) I know why you’re calling and don’t have the information/answer you want and don’t feel like explaining that to you.
46) I got a head’s up from a mutual friend/family member that you would be calling. I need time to think about what I now know you’re going to ask me.
47) It’s easier to just NOT answer the phone right now.
48) I’ve reached my quota on dealing with other humans today. Try me again tomorrow. Or text me.
49) I don’t like you and don’t feel like pretending I do.
50) You’re calling at a time when I specifically warned everyone I would be busy. This could be a meeting OR I could be watching Game of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars etc. Either way, phone is on silent.
More than one reason can apply. Either way, if it’s important, TEXT ME! Answering the phone takes effort and while I’m in the trenches with small children “effort” is reserved for things that are actually worth it. Also, if you pocket dial me, and I actually answer the phone, I will KILL you.

An Intense, but Healing Home Birth: Mckayla’s Birth Story

Part 1: Prodromal Labor

After months of discomfort from SPD and sciatica, as well as nausea and the overall exhaustion, I finally hit 37 weeks and could relax. My daughter could safely be born anytime at home, as planned, and though I’d had a rough pregnancy there were no complications. My midwife was completely supportive of my plans, I had a doula, I had my husband and I had my small support network of friends. It was at this time that I first started having back pains, more nausea, and generally I felt “off” as if labor would start soon. I monitored these symptoms, but didn’t think too much of them. At 37 weeks and 4 days I had some more nausea, and the next morning I woke at 6am with a terrible back ache that felt like early labor pains. I tried to ignore them and crawled into the queen size bed I often shared with my son until 9am when they became more insistent than before. So I got up and went into the master bedroom to tell my husband that things might be starting soon. He asked if I needed to call my doula yet and I told him no, because I was sure things were still too early. But I DID want to get the rest of our home birth supplies, clean up the main areas of the house, and basically prepare our home for the birth. The pains were steady and constant throughout half the day, and I did my best to just ignore them and clean up the house. I swept, picked up clutter, washed dishes, and brought all the linens into our bedroom from where they’d been stashed in my son’s room. I put a plastic cover on the mattress in his room and double made the bed, just in case. I didn’t anticipate my water breaking as it hadn’t broken until he crowned, but as this pregnancy was SO different I decided it was better safe than sorry. Through all this nesting my pains didn’t increase until 6pm, exactly 12 hours after they’d first started. I guessed that things would pick up again in 6-12 hours. My cervix was very much posterior, I had not yet lost my mucus plug, and I had no bloody show, so I was pretty certain that I was still in very early labor or possibly pre-labor like I had been with my son. I could be days, even a week away from active labor. So I took two Tylenol and a Gravol and went to sleep.

At 6am I awoke to period-like cramps. They remained consistent and I was quite nauseous. I ate some scrambled eggs and did my best to just go about my day, resting and eating when I felt the need. I texted my doula to let her know what was going on, but told her I didn’t need her to come out yet as it was still early. At 9am the pains were a little stronger. I took a nap and my husband finished up cleaning the house and putting up the sheet near our front entrance to our living room for privacy. We checked off the last of the supplies and bought some more groceries. I rested comfortably but at 3pm I couldn’t sleep anymore. The pains had increased and I felt that these were just not going to go away. I called my sister and told her that it might be a good idea for her to come take our son for the night, as he was getting anxious and I might go into full-blown labor. She took him at 6pm and I was sitting on my birth ball, trying to take my mind off the pain in my back, hips, legs, and abdomen. At 9pm they again became stronger. My husband and I watched a movie to take my mind off it, and because our son wasn’t home we took his mattress out of the bedroom and placed it on the floor of our living room so I would have a more comfortable place to watch TV or a movie and cuddle with my husband. We went to bed and at 3am contractions had become harder to ignore. I timed them as 5 contractions in 10 minutes, because they were irregular in their intensity but definitely getting closer together. By 6am they had become 4 contractions in 10 minutes. I texted my doula and told her that she might need to come out soon, if only to bring the last of our birth supplies and the pool liner to start setting up the pool. Upon checking myself I noted that my cervix was still posterior and I could barely reach it. There was no bloody show, but my mucus plug was starting to come loose. I figured labor was days away, but with the intensity of the contractions it was best to send my son to his grandmother’s as my sister had to go back to work. So around 4 pm she brought him back, my doula went home to feed her kids dinner, and by this time my contractions had started to slow down anyway so I could eat and get some rest. I spent some time with my son, having him look through baby clothes with me and talking to him about his baby sister. It was peaceful having him home, but I knew that he was also getting anxious and that it was best he go with grandma. So she picked him up at 6pm and I spent the rest of the night with my husband. We watched another movie, went to bed, and even made love to try to get things going.

Things had slowed down completely by morning. I was still having some pains, but nothing had shifted and I accepted that like the last time with my son, this wasn’t it. Besides, I was only 38 weeks and it was best to wait another week anyway. So we brought my son home and I slept with him in the master bedroom, while my husband took the bed in the living room so as not to disturb me. It made the most sense as the bed in my son’s room had a very high bed frame and with my SPD it was hard for me to get out of bed to use the bathroom. The master bedroom however had a low mattress and an ensuite bathroom, which made it easier for me in those last few weeks. By Thursday, contractions had completely stopped. I consulted with my midwife on whether it was best to just go back to my normal routine and watch my sister’s kids during the day, and she agreed that I should maintain normalcy. So on Friday the kids came back and I resumed life as normal.

That weekend I had on and off cramps and contractions, but nothing had really changed. I accepted that I was in prodromal labor and simply chose to ignore it when I could and just do my breathing and exercises with the rebozo sifting to try to make myself more comfortable. I decided that I wouldn’t be in labor for real until I had my bloody show. For the next several days things alternated between back pain, cramping, contractions, nausea, and exhaustion. I rested as much as I could during the day and nested when I had the desire to do so. At 39 weeks I started having more nausea and exhaustion. I ignored it best as I could. There was NO way this kid was coming on Easter Weekend; I reasoned with myself. I was extremely tired though that weekend, and I slept for most of it. Contractions were mostly in my back and made me sweat. I felt that another week of this was likely in store for me, but I texted my doula, told her that I was still in prodromal labor, and that I was at least coping well. I was fast approaching my due date, and I was getting antsy. Would I have my daughter this week, or would she arrive at 41 weeks like my son? I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea of having her a week “late” anymore; all the prodromal labor had really been frustrating me, and even though I was more informed than most women and had a vast support network of women who believed in birth and were cheering me on, it was still exhausting emotionally. I was ready for this baby. I continued to drink my red raspberry leaf tea every night and dutifully took my vitamins. I had my husband do some rebozo sifting just to get her to move off my bad sciatic nerve and give me some relief. On Monday, the cramping had stopped once again.

 

Part 2: Nesting, Early Labor, and Finally Active

Monday morning, the day before my due date, I woke with a lot of energy. I had this overwhelming desire to clean up the house, and once again make preparations for this birth that I was so sure was a week away. But I just couldn’t shake that feeling that I needed to prepare anyway, so I cleared off the clutter on the kitchen table, washed dishes, washed the towels and linens, and made a quick grocery list of items I felt I needed, including more Powerade. When my husband told me “but we have 3 bottles in the fridge still” I told him that we needed more. I reasoned that IF this baby came over the weekend, then I would need every ounce of those drinks for hydration in labor AND for breastfeeding afterward. So he went out and bought everything on the list and I set to work on organizing the last of the supplies in the closet. Labor didn’t start that night, although I did start to feel very nauseated the next morning. I spent most of the day lying on the mattress in the living room while my son, niece, and nephew played and watched their shows on Netflix. Thankfully my sister had an appointment that day, so she picked the kids up early, just after lunch, giving me only six hours of babysitting instead of the usual ten. This freed me up to go to my son’s swimming lessons. By that time I just had some cramping in my back and I was still nauseated, but it was manageable. I figured that labor was still a week away, so I did my best to just ignore it, but after WEEKS of prodromal labor I also gave my daughter a few pep talks, telling her that it was time to come out. Her due date had arrived, and her time was officially up. Mama was tired, Daddy was more than a little worried, and her big brother was getting anxious and wanted to meet his baby sister whom he’d seen growing in my belly for so many months. I went to bed that night with the same dull back cramps and nausea, drank my tea, curled up with my son and went to sleep.

At 3am I awoke to some sharp contractions, lasting about a minute long.  I tried to breathe through them and go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I texted my sister to let her know not to bring the kids. This was the text I sent at 3:28 am:

Ow. Ow. Ow. Can’t sleep through these. Keep trying but not working. Also nauseous. I think this is it. Will see how things are at 7am.

I also texted my doula at 5:04 am:

I haven’t been able to sleep since 3am. Tried many times but just can’t sleep through these. Still about 7-10 minutes apart, but there is a sharp point to all of them. I think I remember this. Tightening in my pelvis mostly, and have gotten stronger over the last few hours. Waiting until 7am  to see how much stronger, but pretty sure this is a shift now.

By this point I was hungry, and lying in bed was just too uncomfortable. I had tried to time the contractions, but they were so irregular that I soon gave up and just downloaded an app. I timed them by each contraction that had an actual peak, meaning that I basically ignored the early start of each one and didn’t have an actual idea of how long they were. However, based on the seven contractions the app had timed, it suddenly popped up on the screen “Go to the hospital”. I rolled my eyes, because obviously I wasn’t going to go to the hospital AT ALL! And besides that, the app said they were only seven minutes apart. That was still early labor. If this app was telling women to go to the hospital so early then it was clearly a stupid app and I wasn’t going to use it anymore. Instead of “going to the hospital” I just got up out of bed and grabbed the other half of my sandwich from the night before. My husband was sleeping on the mattress in the living room and asked me what was wrong.

“I can’t sleep,” I said. “And I’m really hungry.”

“Come lie down with me?” he asked, patting the side of the bed and pulling back the blankets.

“After I eat,” I told him.

I finished a few bites of my sandwich, but since I still felt sick I couldn’t eat the whole thing, so I put it back in the fridge. Then I climbed into bed. As if my husband had read my mind, he started to initiate sex and while I still had contractions they were just strong pressure in my belly and didn’t hurt anymore. I was able to get twenty minutes of sleep before they started up again. It was 6:30 and I had thought it had been closer to 7am.

“Any change?” he asked. It was one of the most constant questions in our home since my prodromal labor had started. We had started to mark my “progress” by whether or not anything had changed from what I’d already been through. I said I wasn’t sure. But they WERE sharp. I was getting nauseous again and while I felt it was still early, I suggested that my husband set up the pool.

“Should I go to work?” he asked. I wasn’t sure. I told him that I would text my doula after texting my sister, because obviously if things were this strong then it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to watch her kids that morning and she needed to know before 7am.

Me: OWWWW. Yeah, it’s labor. Not sure how fast it’s gonna be, but this is not easing up AT ALL. I maybe got 10-20 minutes of sleep and only because Ty helped get my mind off it at 5:30.

Her: Ok

Me: F-ing hurts. I forgot this. And I think I need to time them again. Feel like they are closer.

And how can I be hungry an hour ago and then get nauseated again? This sucks.

I continued to deal with the intensity, all the while my husband was setting up the pool. While he did that I climbed back into the bed. Our son woke up in the bedroom, calling for me. My husband brought him out and asked him if he could cuddle with mommy, because she was hurting. I was grateful that he could read my mind; I felt I really needed a distraction, and cuddling up with our sleepy firstborn was a good one. But the contractions kept coming and I couldn’t lie still for long. My sister continued to text me, asking whether I’d had a bath. Telling me that she went through this with her daughter too, and had her by 11am. I told her that I had long labors and that wasn’t bloody likely, but that this hurt a lot and it sucked, and I probably had hours to go before I even hit active labor. I texted my doula and told her what was going on and that my husband was setting up the pool. I also said that he was going to go to work, but that I would need her help while he was gone, just so I wasn’t alone with my son and things got too intense. Right after I sent that text, I felt so nauseous that I ran to the bathroom and dry-heaved into the toilet. Because of the force of the heaving I had toilet paper between my legs to catch any stray urine that might be leaking at the same time, and when the heaving finally stopped and I wiped myself, the tissue was streaked with pink mucous. My bloody show had arrived at last. This was it.

I came out of the bathroom and told my husband that I had my “show” and that I was going to text my doula again. He was hesitant to go to work, so I asked her what she would suggest. Because he would only be ten minutes away and she’d be here with me, she said he should go work as much as he could, if only for a few hours. He would be home for lunch, at which time we would decide if he could finish up the day or stay home with me. I distracted myself by fixing myself and my son some oatmeal, watering mine down so that it would at least go down easier. I prayed that I wouldn’t throw it up; I was still extremely nauseous with every contraction.  I sat on a white towel on the bed, so that any show would be visible, and so I wouldn’t get it all over the sheets as I lay down to rest when I needed to, and sit up when I needed to. I found that I had to change positions several times, often a different position through every contraction. The pain of them would dissipate if I found the “right” position, but the intensity and pressure remained. My son rubbed my back and talked to me, telling me it was “okay mummy” and I did my best to smile for him. I didn’t want him to be afraid; this was what I wanted him to see—that birth wasn’t scary. That birth was natural and that mommy was strong. That thought got me through the tougher parts of the contraction. I’d breathe deeply, sometimes moan, but for the most part I was in my “labor trance”. My female cat was going insane at the door, scratching and meowing as if she wanted to assist me. She had gone berserk the day before as well, as if she could sense that I was in labor. It was even more proof that she shared that mother-bond with me, and since I’d been there for her labor and birth (as if she gave me a choice; she wouldn’t let me leave the bedroom) she felt I needed her at mine. It would have been amusing if I wasn’t already in so much discomfort.

My doula arrived a little after 8:30 and let herself in with the house key we’d lent her. I was sitting on the ball at this point, trying to take some of the pressure off my legs. We did some more side lying inversions and did what we could to help position my daughter and take pressure off my back and hips, but she remained fixed in where she wanted to be, and since my labor seemed to be progressing at least we decided that we would just focus on making things as comfortable as we could. I labored some on the toilet, on the ball, standing up, sitting down, on my hands and knees…really, any position that felt right in the moment was the one I got into. My doula was a great support for my son in this time. She showed him how to “rub mommy’s back” and showed him the birth pool while at the same time keeping him from climbing into it.

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I popped chicken strips in the oven for lunch and set the timer for 25 minutes on my phone so that we could go out into the front yard. My son needed to burn off some of his energy and it was a beautiful, warm spring day. I thought it was a perfect day to welcome my daughter into the world. I sat on my ball, did some swaying, and just enjoyed the sun. It had been months since I’d been able to fully enjoy being outside, and now that it was spring the sun had finally come out and I could walk; today my daughter had decided to give my poor nerves and muscles a break, and I was enjoying every second of my mobility. After the timer went off, we returned into the house for lunch. My husband came home soon after that, bringing with him a frozen lemonade for me and coffee for himself and our doula. He asked if there was any change, to which I told him that there WAS, but that it was still early enough that he could return to work. I just wanted him to put our son down for his nap first, because at this point lying down in bed sounded like torture. I had a midwife appointment that day at 3pm, which I wasn’t certain I would go to now that labor had started. We decided to go for a walk around the block while my husband put our son down, and as we walked I told my doula how much more relaxing this was. I was SO grateful that I wasn’t in hospital. I knew from my research that they would not have “liked” my labor pattern. They’d have pressured me to “do something” and speed it up. They would have wanted to hook me up to the monitors. But at home I was coping well even when the contractions were quite powerful, and I was free to do as I liked. I wasn’t on anyone’s clock or timeline, which meant that even if labor was long no one would really KNOW that except for me, my husband, and my doula.

At 2pm we had to make a decision; go to our appointment or call the midwife and let her know that labor had started. The thought of getting in the car was detestable; I’d been in the car in early labor with my son and it had been excruciating. I called the midwife clinic and got through to the receptionist, who then got my midwife on the phone. I told her what had been happening, mentioned that I had my bloody show, and while it was minimal it was still consistent. I told her that there was NO WAY I was climbing into the car at this point, and that unless things got very intense between now and 5pm when clinic hours were over I wouldn’t need her to come out right away. I just wanted to inform her because I was going to miss my appointment and simply re-schedule it for her to come out to the house after clinic instead. She said she’d be over by 5:30 to 6pm to check on me. My husband went back to work to finish up the day, and my doula stayed until 5pm when he got home. She went home to make dinner for her kids and said she’d be back later if the midwife said I was making progress.

When the midwife arrived she assessed my progress. She asked if she could check my cervix, which I had earlier decided I didn’t want, but now I was just too curious for my own good and I wanted to know. So I consented and she said I was 3-4 cms! I couldn’t believe it, because after checking myself earlier in the day I couldn’t even REACH my cervix. Things really WERE moving! I figured I would have my daughter by morning.

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My husband came home from work soon afterward and when I told him that this was labor he took our son with him to the store to pick up some groceries and other things we might need for the next day or two, in case we were in for a long night. When he returned an hour later the midwife suggested we fill up the pool. I was SO relieved; I had been waiting to use this pool for weeks, and the thought of being able to relax in the deep, hot water sounded like heaven at that point. I texted my doula to let her know to come out; it was 7pm, exactly 12 hours from the time when my show had first started. My husband put our son to bed soon after the pool was filling up, and my doula arrived not long after that. I climbed into the pool and felt immediate relief! It was everything I’d imagined it would be, and while I was in there I felt another shift. The contractions were a lot stronger; some even pushing into my bottom. I could feel myself opening up through them, and I had to vocalize through them. I kept my sounds low, my mouth open, just as I’d read to do from all the natural birth articles and books I’d read over the last two years; it really DID help. When I needed to empty my bladder I would go to the toilet and sit through 3 or 4 contractions, and they’d become even more intense, almost like my body wanted me to push through them. I kept my pelvis open and very gently I would push enough for a trickle of urine to come out. It was so slow that my midwife had to ask me if I was peeing or if my water had broken. I assured her that hadn’t happened yet; I was hoping for a caul birth, after all. I didn’t want my water to break until I was at least pushing if it was to break at all.

By 9pm things started to slow down. I consented to another check, but it was so painful and I didn’t like it. I was still 3-4 cms and the midwife suggested we try to get things moving again. She had already called the hospital, and I was “on the clock”. Being that she was still newly certified she had to follow their “rules” and though everything with me and the baby was fine, she knew that if there wasn’t progress soon she would have no choice but to consult an OB. We all knew what would have happened then, and we were on our guard. I tried different positions and exercises, but the contractions didn’t seem to change in intensity and by midnight it was clear to everyone that I was getting tired. I was also hungry again, so I ate the leftover chicken strips, had some cut up strawberries while resting in the pool, and drank as much water as I could. My midwife checked me again and I was 5-6 cms during the contraction, but would then close back to 3-4 afterward. She knew that things would likely not progress any further; I was tired. I needed sleep, and my body was going to give it to me.  She decided that this wasn’t labor; that I was still in prodromal labor and that once again my body had tricked us. I KNEW in my heart that this wasn’t true; I knew from my reading that my “abnormal” labor was just how my body did things, and that likely things would pick back up after a long rest. I’d been at this for 24 hours, I reasoned. My baby wasn’t stressed; the midwife confirmed that for me. I was fine; baby was fine. I agreed to take a Gravol and some Tylenol and go to bed. It was 2am and I had been laboring for 24 hours, possibly longer considering things had been strong when I’d gone to bed, but I hadn’t thought anything of the pelvic pressure at that point.

“If things DO pick up again AND you call me, I will have to assess you again,” my midwife said calmly. “If you haven’t progressed, then we will have to consult an OB, and I KNOW you don’t want to do this, but we might have to break your water and consider induction.”

I didn’t like that at all, and neither did my husband. We agreed that everyone would go home, get some rest, and I would sleep as long as possible. I climbed into bed and got a call around noon from my midwife. By this point I had decided that I would tell her things had stopped completely, and for now they had, so it was easy to pretend it had just been more prodromal labor. I grabbed my sandwich from the fridge, ate it in bed, then slept for a few more hours. My son was feeling sick, so he slept soundly beside me. At 2pm I finally got up. I had some very bad cramping and my cervix hurt a lot, which I simply attributed to the cervical checks I’d had the night before. I already regretted them, and I was angry at myself for having been so stupid as to think they’d “mean anything” in the first place!

My husband decided that he’d slept enough and went to work, intending to finish up the rest of the day at the least. I continued to eat and drink, as I was starving. I put on Paw Patrol for my son and laid down on the mattress in the living room for a bit, but the cramping was getting worse. My husband returned home half an hour later; they had sent him home for the day as they knew he was tired and that I had been laboring all night. It was a good thing they did, because it gave us time to discuss something that had been on my mind: what were his thoughts on NOT calling the midwife until I was in transition or just before I started pushing? Would he be okay with that? It turns out that he had been thinking the same thing, and he just wanted to know what our doula would say about that idea. I KNEW she would be all for it, as she was supportive of that plan when I’d first brought it to her before I’d found my midwife. But I texted her anyway, and she told us that we would simply need to sign a waiver in the event that the midwife didn’t arrive in time and we were facing an unassisted birth. My husband was okay with that, because he had it in his head that our doula would catch if necessary. Little did we know how close we would come to doing it all on our own…

Part 3: A Fast Labor and Birth

Around 5pm I ate the last of the hamburgers that my husband had made a few nights before. I was getting increasingly uncomfortable sitting on the chair to eat, as I still felt a lot of pressure on my cervix with these cramps. But then it hit me; these had a sharp peak to them and weren’t cramps at all. I sat still for a few minutes, monitoring them. Nope, definitely NOT cramps. I texted my doula to let her know that I was likely picking up again and the contractions were STRONG, just like they’d been the night before when I’d gotten into the pool. I felt I needed to empty my bladder, so I went into the bathroom and had another strong contraction on the toilet that I had to vocalize through. My son followed me in there, worried. I told him I was singing, and asked him to sing with me. That seemed to calm him, and it was a good thing, because I had another one right after I told him that. When I wiped, the toilet paper was streaked with blood. More bloody show, and it was a lot more present than it had been last night. I had a few more contractions in there, and sure enough there was more show present. I knew that my body was opening up again, and that since I’d already gotten to 6 cms the night before it would likely go faster this time. I figured I would have my daughter by morning.

I texted my doula to let her know that I needed her for at least an hour, just to keep the pool warm and so that I wouldn’t be alone. My son had his swimming lesson at 6:30 and my husband was still going to take him. He was anxious leaving me, but it was easier knowing that our doula would be here. They really ARE an asset when it comes to home birth; especially a long labor such as mine. My husband had been able to go into work, get groceries, take our son to lessons, and basically just continue a normal routine for much of my prodromal and early labor.

When she arrived I was already in the pool. She read the records my midwife had left on the counter, telling me that during the cervical check my cervix had opened to 6 cms on contraction but then closed up. She said that the baby’s heart did not decelerate and had remained steady, that I had been coping well, and that there were no issues. Basically, she explained, my midwife had wanted to close that file up for the night as badly as I did, and by agreeing it was prodromal labor the hospital had taken me off the board. I was, as far as the health authority was concerned, NOT in labor. So I could just relax and do my thing, and we would call my midwife when I got closer to the end. I was thankful that I was off the clock; that I had a supportive birth team; that I had done all my research and read all those empowering birth stories, and that I was confident enough that I could trust my body to do what it needed to do. I simply had to LET IT.

My doula stayed until 8pm when my husband put the mattress back into our son’s bedroom and put him to bed. Things hadn’t progressed, though contractions were still quite strong. We figured that things would remain this way for at least four hours or more, and probably pick up at 3am or in the morning. She went home to give us some time to ourselves, thinking that maybe what I needed was some time to just rest and relax with my husband. Soon after she left, my husband asked if it would be alright to head to the store. He said he’d be back in 15 minutes or less, and I let him go because the water was hot enough that I didn’t need him right that second. While he was gone I had a few more powerful contractions, though I don’t remember how many. I used the toilet, found more show, and then went back to the pool. I had another contraction and leaned back in the water just as my husband got in the door. Immediately I felt his hands on my shoulders, and I leaned back into him. Having him there, helping me get through these was all I seemed to need. As he cleaned up the kitchen I rested between contractions and made sure to drink lots of water and go to the bathroom as I felt I needed to. I had a bowl of cold water filled with washcloths and I reached down over the edge of the pool to place one on the back of my neck. My husband called his mother, who was now home from work, and told her that we might need her to take our son in the morning if I hadn’t had the baby by then. While he was on the phone, things really picked up. He rushed to my side and rubbed my arms as I vocalized long and low, taking four deep breaths between each vocalization. This one was my strongest yet, and it was SO sharp and SO intense that I sobbed at the end of it. I also had to push through this one, and my bottom had a lot of pressure. I wondered if this was transition, and didn’t know how much longer I could hold on. If this was what the next two hours were going to look like, I needed my husband to call my doula NOW. According to the time on my phone, when my husband texted her, I hit transition at 11:22 pm. While he was texting her, I had another one. This time I REALLY had to push, and it was FIVE vocalizations and then I suddenly reached a higher pitch as I felt a sudden pop of water pressure at my urethra. It shocked me out of my trance and I knew right then what had happened. I told my husband “My water just popped” and my husband thought I meant the pool. I shook my head. “No, my water broke.”

“What?” he asked. “I can’t hear you.” I had been talking into the edge of the pool and my arm, because I was leaning so far forward.

“MY WATER BROKE!” I said, lifting my head.

He was still texting my doula. My water broke at 11:29 pm.

My husband panicked and asked if we needed to call the midwife. At first I thought that I would get an hour’s break at least, or maybe my water had broken too early.

“Not yet. Not yet.” I started saying, but then I felt another contraction and some burning as her head started to come down. “YES!” I cried. “She’s coming!”

My husband was in shock and couldn’t believe it. He asked if I was sure, and I said “SHE’S COMING NOW!!!!” I could feel her head pushing upward, and I knew that I could NOT be on my hands and knees; it was far too intense and she was coming way too fast.

I wanted to see if there was meconium, but aside from the “slight discoloration” my husband mentioned (which was the amniotic fluid mixed with my show) there was nothing. Relief swept over me; my daughter would be fine, and if the midwife didn’t get here in time I could handle it. I couldn’t say the same for my husband, who had looked over and nearly had a heart attack.

“Oh my god, Baby, her head is RIGHT THERE,” he exclaimed, starting to freak out. I told him I already knew, that I was okay, and to just call our doula and midwife.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” he moaned.

I put my hand up (the one that wasn’t touching her head) and told him “It’s okay. I’ve got this.”

Everything was burning and I was very thankful that I was in the water because this baby was not slowing down at all. With every contraction I had to pant through it, because they were doing all the work of pushing my daughter out for me and if I pushed with them I knew I was going to tear. Soon the midwife arrived. She used the Doppler and assured me and my husband that the baby’s heart was still fine, even with the force of which she was being born. She asked my husband to call for an ambulance, which again sent him into a panic until she assured him that there was no emergency; she just needed backup, and our second midwife wasn’t here yet. While he called 911 and waited for the ambulance outside, I was panting beautifully and the head was almost out. My midwife barely touched me at all; she just placed her hand in the water to make certain that the head wouldn’t hit the bottom of the pool. Another contraction and the head was out; I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking I had some time to catch my breath…then the shoulders were forced out with another powerful contraction which made me cry out in shock and surprise. I couldn’t believe it; she was out. My midwife lifted her out of the water and placed her in my arms, telling me to be careful because the cord was short. I sank lower in the water to keep warm, staring in awe at this tiny baby girl who hadn’t cried yet but was definitely alert. I cried for her, saying “I did it!” I couldn’t believe how intense and fast it all had been, but now suddenly she was here! The EMTs came in with my husband in time to see me holding her, and that’s when she let out her first little cry.

“So are we going to the hospital?” One of the EMTs asked.

“No,” I said, “It’s a planned home birth. She just came so FAST.” My midwife explained that we’d just needed backup, but that they could leave as soon as our second midwife arrived. The EMTs congratulated me. I was sore and tired, but high on endorphins and oxytocin, and I felt as if FINALLY I had healed from the trauma of my son’s birth. It was true: WHAT happened wasn’t as important as how I felt about what happened. This birth could have been traumatizing to someone else, but to me it was an empowering experience. I had been able to move around and just do what I felt I needed to do in every moment. I made every decision in my prenatal care. I’d even come close to delivering my own baby, without any assistance. My body was AMAZING! It currently hurt a lot, like a horse had kicked me in the crotch, but it WAS amazing. The best part was that in birthing my daughter I was able to see and know in my heart that everything I’d read and started to believe was also the truth: Birth WORKS. Had I been in the hospital, under constant monitoring and subjected to the regulations and restrictions in that institution I am sure that my story would have been very different, and the birth far more traumatic than it ever needed to be.

 

 

Part 4: After Birth

My daughter was still not ready to nurse right away while we were in the pool, and when the cord finally stopped pulsing we had it clamped. I forget if my midwife cut it (my hands were full) or if my husband finally decided to. I know that they had asked him, and he’d been a bit squeamish, but I was so busy looking at my little girl that I didn’t notice who actually cut it. I do know that afterward, because she still didn’t want to nurse and I had a gush of blood, that my husband took her and gave her skin to skin and both my midwives helped me from the pool. I was a little dizzy, and after considering it for a minute or two I decided that I wanted the shot of oxytocin/syntocinon to help deliver the placenta. Gravity on its own didn’t seem to be dislodging it, and I didn’t want to have to go to the hospital to have it removed manually. They readied the couch for me, placing down the plastic cover and the old bed sheet and towels, and I got onto my hands and knees. I passed a few clots, and finally I felt the placenta coming out. I had to cough a few times because it was so big, but it was all intact and my bleeding slowed after that. After the clots and placenta were removed from the towels and fresh ones put down, my doula arrived and took pictures of my husband holding our daughter. Then she was brought back to me to nurse, and she took to it immediately. Of course since we hadn’t weighed her yet that meant that she was cheating on her birth weight, but none of us were too concerned about that. The midwives filled out the paperwork and her birth time was pronounced to be 11:40pm based on the time on our oven clock. But since it was a few minutes ahead, her actual birth time was closer to 11:38pm; she had wanted to be a March baby and probably thought this labor and birth would have been too cruel a joke to play on us had she been born after midnight on April 1st.

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My son woke up very briefly and my husband went to get him. He brought him out to see his new baby sister nursing in my arms, but our boy was so tired that he just snuggled back into his shoulder and we decided we would wait until morning. We did the vitamin K shot while I nursed, then my husband took our girl to be measured and weighed. She was 7 lbs 14 oz and about 21 and a half inches long. Her head circumference was the same as her brother’s, in the 90th percentile at 36 cm and she was an ounce heavier and half an inch longer! While my daughter was with my husband the midwife examined me and found that I had two small labial tears that needed stitches. I was anxious at first, but when I talked it over with everyone (most of all my husband) I determined that yes, I did need them. My daughter’s head had not molded at all, and with how fast she came out I wasn’t surprised that there was some damage. Fortunately they agreed to numb me as much as possible with the lidocaine, and after squirting as much as they could I had the stitches done. It was easier to relax on the couch, in the comfort of my own home, and afterward I did feel much better. I also was hungry, so upon learning that there were NO pizza places open at 2am, my husband went to the 24/7 drive thru at McDonald’s and I had a ten piece chicken mcnugget meal with a coke (because why not?). I figured the caffeine would at least encourage my bladder to get full faster, since I had emptied it constantly in labor and knew I would need to pee before I went to bed. An hour after I ate I had my midwives help me up and I went into the bathroom to have a bath, pee, and just relax for a bit while my husband got to bond with his little girl.

I could FEEL my bladder this time, which was something I hadn’t been able to do with my son, and when I was finished in the tub I put on my underwear and pad, wrapped myself in a towel, and climbed into my own bed. My daughter slept soundly beside me.

The pool was drained, the linens bagged for washing, the towels in another Rubbermaid tub for washing as well. Everything was cleaned up, I was comfortably lying in bed, and the midwives and my doula left around 4am. Since I’d only been awake since 2pm and had taken little catnaps between contractions in the early evening I was still wide awake. I tried to sleep, but my brain wouldn’t shut off. Eventually, around 6am, I finally did sleep.  When I woke up again it was past 9am. Our son had awoken and when he heard the baby’s cries I overheard him say “baby out! See baby!” My husband brought him into our room, and he immediately lay down next to me and his new sister. The four of us remained in bed for over an hour, just cuddling and talking, with no interruptions and no sense of urgency or feeling like we needed to go anywhere; I was thankful that I’d trusted my instincts and chosen to birth my daughter at home, because in that moment there was nowhere else I wanted to be except right here with my family. Though the birth experience had been longer, more intense, and more painful than with my first, it had been exactly what I’d wanted; a perfect birth the way it was meant to unfold, with complete trust in my body and what it was capable of doing. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way! ❤

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So You THINK You Want Another Baby? A letter to my future self

To my non-pregnant future self,

Hey girl. So if you’re reading this then it’s likely two or three years into the future and your last baby has either weaned completely or she’s about to. And you’re probably looking back on her baby days with nostalgia and tears in your eyes because you will never ever have another baby in your arms nursing at your breast.
Yeah, I know how much you love the baby snuggles on your chest; the milk drunk sleep that follows a nursing session. I know you’re probably remembering when she was fluttering inside your belly, and how magical that time was. You’re probably remembering that moment of elation when you finally gave birth, and how the oxytocin was flowing to the point that you were overwhelmed with love for that tiny baby, same as with her brother.

You’re probably looking at all the cool things that happen in birth with fascination, wishing you could do it over again and try for some of them. Well, I’m here in the past/present at 39 and a half weeks pregnant with said daughter, and I’m telling you lady to CUT THAT SHIT OUT RIGHT NOW! Seriously, STOP IT! WE ARE DONE! NO MORE!

See, I knew that you wouldn’t remember this shit, because you sure as hell didn’t remember it with your son. You forgot the pain in the ass that was having to pee every five minutes. You forgot the pain in your ribs as he hung out there for the last month and a half. You forgot the prodromal labor. You forgot the excruciating back spasms you got at 25 weeks. You forgot how goddamn itchy your belly got. The exhaustion. The roller coaster of emotions. And that’s just for your son. He was the EASY pregnancy!

With your daughter, the baby who is growing up before your eyes, it was worse. OH it was SO much worse. I’m pretty sure that had you known ahead of time what you would go through with her, you would have stopped at your son. Nature is a tricky son of a bitch for making us forget. Well, I’m going to remind you right now, while I’m still IN this hell that is pregnancy. Because girl, you seriously need a wake up call if you think that going through this AGAIN is worth it!

You planned this one; I know. I remember how you got your first period in 33 months after your son was born. How awful it was; how furious you were. How you vowed to get pregnant right the fuck now, so that you could skip it for another 33 months or longer. Look, I totally get why you did that, but your son was barely two years old when you made it your monthly goal to get yourself pregnant. And yeah, you and the husband had a hell of a month and it totally worked, but here’s the thing about that “working”.

You were sick from conception to 16 weeks! We’re not talking “throwing up in the toilet” but the queasiness did NOT go away. You ate, you felt like shit. You didn’t eat, you felt like shit. You constantly felt like you were going to throw up. You dry heaved and gagged, and SOMETIMES you had a bit of relief, but most of the time, this was your existence. It sucked. Oh? You think that Vitamin B might help? It won’t. Magnesium won’t touch this sickness. Diclectin just makes you drift in and out of consciousness for 16 hours of the day. You might escape this hell, or it might be worse. What if you have another girl instead of the son you’re envisioning right now?
No? I haven’t talked you out of it just yet? Okay, well say you avoid the sickness this time…you have other issues, lady!

You can’t escape the extreme fatigue. The kind that has you lying on the couch unable to wake your ass up, and meanwhile the toddler is wreaking havoc all around you. Remember the cocoa powder your son spilled all over the floor. Remember how you couldn’t even get up some days to do laundry. That tired feeling sticks with you right into the fifth month, then comes back at the start of your third trimester. And know what ELSE comes up in your second trimester????

Remember the back spasms! I KNOW you thought it was a fluke with your son; that you just pulled something. But it is SO easy to aggravate that muscle and nerve; you know, the one that causes pain worse than labor, that causes you to throw up uncontrollably while at the same time aggravating your bladder or worse? The pain that sends you to the hospital to get a shot of morphine just so you can sleep, even though the second you wake up again you’re going to throw up. The pain that causes you to not be able to eat anything, or stay hydrated, or MOVE at all, THAT pain is a guarantee, my friend! It’s something to do with your uterus moving out of your pelvis; that shit just messes you up for a few weeks and no matter HOW careful you are, that spasm WILL happen. You think you can avoid it? You have two kids now. You’re more likely to injure yourself TWICE! And while I’m on the subject of back pain…
Yes, you have a damn good chiropractor. You probably COULD budget for that again. But you need to remember that SPD gets worse with every pregnancy, and there was NOTHING she could do except keep things somewhat “comfortable” for you a few days out of the week. Your hips and groin still ached and some days the sciatica was so bad you couldn’t walk without it feeling like a knife was stabbing your thigh. You sometimes has it so bad you couldn’t sleep. The bigger you got, the worse it became. By your 8th month it felt like your leg was being torn from your hip as you tried to walk. The hell that is SPD was SO debilitating that you couldn’t do much of anything. Shopping trips had to be cut short. You couldn’t go for walks outside. You couldn’t lift your son. Laundry and dishes piled up; toys were all over the floor because you couldn’t get down there to pick them up. Woman, I will seriously CUT you if you even THINK about putting us through that again!
Oh, and if all that hasn’t convinced you, how about this? Prodromal Labor. Remember what a BITCH that was the second time around? Well guess what? It’s worse with every pregnancy you have. So “early labor” contractions from 37 weeks and ramping up to “active labor” contractions as you got close to 38 weeks, and then stopping, and then starting up again, and then stopping, and feeling like you have to puke during some of these sessions, and the hot flashes, the night sweats, the pain in your ribs from the strength of the contractions in addition to tiny feet always finding their way in there…yeah, it might be WORSE if you are stupid enough to do this again!
What I’m trying to get through to you is that labor and birth are the EASY part! Hell, we can deal with that no problem; especially when we’re having a home birth. But that other stuff lasts for ten months! It’s ten hellish months of pain and misery and sheer exhaustion, and that last month is the one that sucks the most because of all the prodromal labor and the SPD!
Look, I’m sitting down at the table typing this out in our comfy chair, and my left thigh is throbbing because our daughter is lying on the sciatic nerve. You know, because our babies drop early and yet don’t seem to get into a nice position that doesn’t cause us pain! My belly feels like it’s stretched to the limit and I’m so uncomfortable and just want real labor to start. I’m not even 40 weeks yet, and I’m DONE! Seriously DONE! And I know that in 3 years, when I’m YOU, I’m going to be looking back on this time and forget all this discomfort and this DONE feeling I have right now, and I’m going to be considering something incredibly stupid!
Well, this is me, your past/present self demanding that you stop this right now! You don’t want to be ME in this moment. You really, really don’t. If your husband has not had that vasectomy yet, I urge you to go grab his welding tools and do it yourself. Cauterize those fuckers and spare nothing! Or just make that appointment with a urologist for him and tell him he’s fucking going, because we are DONE! Our reproductive system is screwed up enough as it is; we are not getting surgery and risking it being even MORE screwed up! And for the love of god, woman, remember to keep taking that pill! Because I shouldn’t have to remind you what ELSE comes back when you’re fertile again.
Yeah, didn’t think so!

I Read My Birth Records and I Was RIGHT

Back in the early days of my pregnancy I interviewed every midwife practice in the city except for one (because I couldn’t get on the wait list there for an appointment). I knew right away that ONE practice was absolutely out of the question, because SHE was now working there, but I wanted to see what they were about anyway. Then I went to my old practice and mentioned the growth restriction and how I’d had to abandon my home birth. “That’s funny,” the midwife who was not at the practice 2 years ago said, “your records indicate the ultrasounds all came up fine.”

Cue Jim Carrey’s “re-he-he-heeeeelly” because that’s news to me. I was aware that Jules thought they were WRONG, but I didn’t know that they were all NORMAL. What the ever loving fuck?

Anyway, long story short, I went with a completely holistic practice also known as Midwife Interview #3. I then asked if I could see my pregnancy and birth records, because going to the hospital to request them seemed impossible for me at that point. I hadn’t gone through all my birth trauma counseling sessions yet, and I couldn’t even think about setting foot in that place just to REGISTER. So she photocopied them for me, handed them to my husband, and told him to read them first in case he felt there might be something that would upset me. She wanted me to have a stress-free pregnancy; totally understandable.

So for most of my pregnancy I was unaware (but very curious) of what was in those records.

Then a few weeks ago I finally saw them. Nothing triggered me because the trauma counseling helped me move past it all, but I DID get mad. Furious, actually.

BECAUSE FROM 37 WEEKS UNTIL 39 WEEKS, SHE KNEW THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG.
Was my son’s head larger than the rest of him? Yes. His head measured far ahead of the rest of his body, meaning that was the first part that was finished growing. His belly was obviously the last; he was still just putting on the weight at 35 weeks. But all the scans done over the course of that month, all FOUR additional scans, said GROWTH NORMAL.
GROWTH F***ING NORMAL!

Know what I heard at each appointment, every week, when SHE was on rotation and I inquired for the 100th time on how his growth was doing, and whether or not I could have a home birth because I REALLY didn’t want to be in the hospital?

“He won’t tolerate labor. He’s still in the 2nd percentile. He’s not big enough. Go for more tests if you don’t want to be induced. But you have to have him at the hospital so a pediatrician or another specialist can monitor him”.

And I f***ing believed her. I thought “she wouldn’t say this if there wasn’t a concern” and I went for more tests. I read up on c-sections and got overly anxious. I cried. I pleaded with my son to come out soon, because I just wanted this nightmare to end. I wanted it over and done with. And I was devastated that I had to be in the hospital.

I went through all that fear, all that pain, all that trauma, all that frustration and annoyance and irritation with the nurses and the hospital for not letting me leave right after the birth. I went through all that denial, the anger, the “well meaning” and “placating” comments of the family and friends who just didn’t get why I was so upset, because the hospital couldn’t have been “that bad” and “better safe than sorry” and “get over it already” FOR NOTHING.

Know what could have happened a WEEK after that follow up growth scan? At 37 WEEKS I could have learned that growth was normal; he was just really far down, and it messed with the fundal height, and his big head had thrown off the rest of the growth measurements, and he still had lots of time to put on weight. I could have learned that because there were NO issues with the cord or placenta that it was impossible for him to have a true growth restriction. At 37 weeks, I could have gone ahead and ordered the birth pool liner (the midwives had a pool for me to use) and gathered the last bit of supplies I needed. I could have gone ahead and had the beautiful home birth I’d envisioned. I could have pushed on my hands and knees, instead of semi-sitting (which I’ve since learned is JUST AS BAD as if I were flat on my back) and I likely would not have been stressed, fearful of being cut, and I certainly wouldn’t have suffered that tear. I would have spent the night home in my own bed, instead of lying in a semi-conscious state in that hospital bed while women down the hall screamed their babies out. I wouldn’t have re-lived the trauma of my birth in that “sleep”. I wouldn’t have had to fight nurses off in labor to just leave me alone because damn it, I already said NO three times to the blood draw and you’re STILL not leaving!

If I’d known what I know now, I could have spent those months enjoying my son, without constantly having that cloud of regret and anger hanging over his birth. I wouldn’t have had to recount every part that went “wrong”. I wouldn’t have become so obsessive over planning the next baby. I wouldn’t have approached two of my son’s birthdays with nightmares of the birth itself, and the anger and regret and despair wouldn’t have poisoned that month for me.
But she LIED.

I don’t know what her motivations for lying to me were and honestly I don’t care anymore. She had NO RIGHT to destroy that experience for me. NO REASON to tell me to keep going for tests when she KNEW we couldn’t afford to have my husband miss time from work. NO REASON to keep me in a constant state of anxiety (and she KNEW I was anxious) because I really, really, didn’t want to abandon my home birth. Hell, I planned to just not go into the hospital and just say I changed my mind; I didn’t know that policy would screw that up.

So I wrote a letter to the Registrar after I read the records. I filed a complaint, after two years, because I can no longer give her a pass. I used to wonder if maybe she didn’t know. Maybe the growth scans weren’t saying enough until 39 weeks when Jules called me?

Maybe there was that small chance they were right?

But no, the truth is in black and white, plain for me to see. My medical records are my proof that it wasn’t a “mistake”. It was a blatant lie, either to cover her ass or because she didn’t want to deal with a home birth first time mother, or for some other selfish reason that had nothing to do with actual necessity.

So I don’t care what trauma she’s dealing with. I don’t care one bit what this letter might mean for her professionally either. She screwed up, and it was deliberate. And you don’t f*** with me! You don’t put me through HELL for no good reason. You don’t LIE to me. You don’t ruin my ONE chance to have a beautiful first birth, my introduction to motherhood, unless there’s a legitimate medical reason.

I did not receive Respectful, Evidence Based Care from her. I did NOT have my right of Informed Consent. Instead I was told “this is what you have to do; just accept it. Don’t question it. I’m right, you’re wrong.” And because I didn’t know any better back then, I listened. And all I can say is that it’s not MY fault. It’s 100% on her, and I will NOT give her the benefit of the doubt anymore.

Here’s hoping the registrar gets back to me soon!

When to STFU and When to Comment: A Guide to Being a Decent Human Being

When to STFU and When to Comment: A Guide on being a Decent Human Being.

The internet parenting forums are a place where common sense and decency seems to go off to die, and then two seconds later someone gets offended by that statement 😉 I have always tried my best to navigate this landmine-filled place as best as I can, but it seems other people still have difficulties. So I’ve compiled a handy cheat sheet to follow with several scenarios. If your answer isn’t the one that’s in bold-face type, then you’re doing it wrong.
1. You come across a post from a mother who states “I’m letting my baby cry it out” or some other statement that implies a choice has already been made. She is asking OTHER moms who have done the same thing what methods worked for them. You don’t believe in Crying it Out; you’re a Co-sleeper. You know all the benefits of co-sleeping and yes, you do feel sorry for those babies who are left to cry. However, this isn’t YOUR child. Do you…

a) Scroll past without leaving a comment and don’t give it another thought
b) Leave a comment stating the harm of crying it out and tell this mom that she needs to stop immediately
c) Mention that you have no advice because you didn’t/couldn’t do this to your own precious baby and how much “better” your way is

2. You come across a post from a mother who asks “what are the risks/benefits of this method vs a different method? I want different opinions so I can figure out what will be best for me.” Do you…
a) Get into a lengthy argument with everyone in the forum who disagrees that YOUR way is the BEST way
b) Provide the information requested, based on the research YOU did, and explaining WHY your way worked for your kid, but leave the decision up to the mother and respectfully stay out of any wars raging in the comments section
c) Tell the mother that all the other ways are stupid and she just needs to do what YOU did, regardless of whether or not it will actually work for her

3. You come across a post from a mother who is asking for advice on an unnecessary induction for just being past her due date, but she is just being told to “do what the doctor tells her”. She doesn’t want to do this and wants to know her options.
a) Tell her that YOU were induced and it was horrible/the best thing ever, and to just suck it up because a healthy baby is all that matters
b) Scroll past; you don’t have any evidence to help her, just experiences or anecdotal stories as to why she needs to just suck it up and do what the doctor says
c) Provide her with the evidence, link to articles supporting this evidence, and let her know that it is always her decision, because you DO have information to share. Then you offer to give her more info if she’d like and let her make the next move.
d) Get into a lengthy argument with everyone else in the forum who disagrees with you, ignoring the original poster’s questions and not posting any helpful information other than opinion.

4. In a forum where people are discussing natural birth/opting out of unnecessary testing etc, of which you share their views, someone who clearly DOESN’T pipes up and attacks you, saying you’re “killing your baby”. Do you
a) Call her an ignorant bitch and proceed to tell her off for daring to question you, then getting into a lengthy troll-war with her that results in name calling and mother shaming.
b) Respectfully tell her that it’s your choice and the choice of every other mother who has commented thus far, and that you all have done your research and feel this is the right decision. If prompted further, you continue to present the evidence, your perspective, and tell her she’s free to disagree, but based on your evidence you and other women still feel that what they are doing is not harming anyone.
c) Ignore her.

5. A mother has posted an innocent question about home birth or some other “controversial” issue AND a choice has clearly been made. You notice the commenters are being very mean to her, not supporting her at all, and ignoring her question entirely. You have information that will help her, and you don’t want to leave the poor mama thinking that she’s wrong for what she feels is right for herself and her child. Do you

a) Tell off everyone in the forum who is shaming her
b) Post the information she’s looking for and treat the post as if you were directly speaking to her (ignoring the haters)

6. You come across something that is incredibly offensive to you. You seriously can’t EVEN! Do you…
A) Immediately comment about how sick everyone agreeing with it is
B) Scroll past and hope the admins take care of it soon
7. You see a picture of a mother breastfeeding her child. You know it’s technically allowed and that it’s not actually “offensive” but you don’t want to see it. Do you…
a) Immediately post about how disgusting all these breastfeeding pics are or comment on the photo itself
b) Scroll past and ignore it
c) Complain to the admin about yet ANOTHER breastfeeding picture and demand they remove it

8. After being in this forum/group you’ve noticed that nothing supportive is ever acknowledged and it’s a toxic and nasty environment. You’ve had enough! Do you

a) Post a lengthy “goodbye” post calling everyone out for their nasty behavior and announce you’re leaving

b) LEAVE THE GROUP

As you can see, it’s really not that difficult to navigate the forums and NOT be an asshole. But when in doubt, please keep referring back to this cheat sheet. Hopefully those who WANT to be decent human beings will benefit, and those who obviously don’t, well, now you know that you’re an asshole. Feel free to comment about how offended you are by that statement while the rest of us ignore you 😉

Yes, I DID Get Him Out of My Bed Without Sleep Training

To the Concerned Family and Friends Who Said Co-Sleeping Was a Bad Idea…

 

I don’t like to brag, gloat, or say “I told you so”, and I’m in no way a “perfect parent”. I’m aware that every child is different, every parent is different, and every family is different. I am in no way judging you for YOUR choices that YOU feel were right FOR YOU. But for just one moment, I need to say this…

 

I TOLD YOU SO!

 

Remember when I first brought my son home and let him sleep on my chest? How I rarely put him down in the crib or bassinet? How I nursed him whenever he wanted it? I do. And I also remember this:

 

“He’ll never sleep on his own if you don’t put him down in his crib. He’ll come to associate nursing with sleep, and he’ll NEVER break the habit. You’ll still have to rock him to sleep every night. You need to sleep train that baby.”

 

So I tried to put him down in his crib, but neither of us liked that arrangement. So I went back to doing what worked for me. Then he hit six months old, when everyone else I seemed to know had “trained” their babies. Three days of inconsolable crying, they said. That’s all I had to get through, and then he’d fall asleep on his own without a fuss. Well, I couldn’t do it. So when my son was getting too heavy for me to be holding in my arms during naptime, I moved nap time to the bedroom. I laid down with that little boy, let him nurse and snuggle against my chest, and I spent those two hours on my tablet playing games and reading whatever I wanted to. Or I napped WITH him. And for this I heard…

 

“He’s too old to still need to nurse off you to fall asleep. He should be sleeping in his own room. You will NEVER break him of that habit of needing you to be next to him while he’s sleeping. You’ll NEVER get anything done!”

 

And I ignored this ‘advice’ because I liked napping in the middle of the day and it was really no big deal. I had my tablet and my Nintendo DS to play with. And eventually I got to the point where I COULD slip away for an hour or two while he napped, or when he went to bed at night. Sure, he would wake up and cry for me, and I’d come back and nurse him down to sleep. Sometimes I stayed, other times I left to watch the rest of my movie with my husband. But the older he got, the more time I found I could spend away from him. Then he hit 18 months and I started hearing it again…

 

“He doesn’t need you. He needs to be a big boy and sleep in his own room. You will NEVER get that child out of your bed now!”

 

So I moved him into his own room and I set up a floor bed for us, because my husband getting up in the morning for work (or snoring) was disturbing our sleep and there wasn’t room for all three of us in bed anymore. He was 20 months old when I did this; almost a year ago. And I still nursed him to sleep, still held him and let him snuggle against me. And I would slip out of his room and go spend time with my husband or get things done during the day, and he would wake maybe once or not at all. And I heard…

 

“You should just be sleeping in your OWN bed and when he cries, go to him, put him back to sleep and then leave again. You shouldn’t be staying in there all night. You will NEVER get that child to sleep without nursing or sleeping without you. He’s too old for this!”

 

And I ignored them, because once again, I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong. As far as I was concerned, progress HAD been made. Was it as quickly as other people might think I needed it to be? No, but it WAS progress, and in all the progress I’d made not ONCE did I have to resort to weaning my son or leaving him to cry.

 

So he hit 2 years old, and some days he nursed in the middle of the night and in the mornings and some days he chose to nurse only once or twice to help him fall asleep at naptime and bedtime. There were nights when he’d roll away from me after he had nursed, and he’d be asleep for hours without me having to wake him. Good thing, too, because it was around this time that my fertility returned and I was trying actively to get pregnant again. But still, people were telling me…

 

“He’s too old to still be nursing AT ALL! You should just cut him off. And stop sleeping in his room. Are you going to still be doing that when you’re six months pregnant???”

 

Well, let’s just say that I continued to cover my ears, because this mama knows what works for her. And so yes, I stopped nursing my son when at 8 weeks pregnant I realized that continuing was aggravating my nausea too much. For the record, I would have happily nursed him longer had my daughter not made that so uncomfortable for me, but after a few months of slowly weaning him off his last nursings I was done with that part of our relationship. He took instead to wanting to cuddle, hold my hand, or weirdly enough, stroke and hold my hair. He still woke up in the middle of the night if I wasn’t beside him, but it happened a lot less frequently. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was sleeping in bed with my husband some nights (though I still mostly slept in my son’s room) and Christmas Eve he slept in his room by himself ALL NIGHT.

 

Now it’s January. He still wakes sometimes (particularly more often when his molars are bugging him, because molars are EVIL) but here’s where we are at right now:

 

  • He’s no longer sleeping ON me for naps and bedtime
  • He no longer needs me to nurse him to sleep
  • He’s in his own room in his bed on the floor
  • He is no longer needing to sleep with me beside him the entire time to STAY asleep
  • He sometimes wakes and falls back asleep before I get to his room
  • He is sleeping ALL NIGHT without waking unless his teeth are bugging him
  • He is also now sleeping ALL NIGHT in his own room WITHOUT me having to be there
  • The older he gets the more progress he makes toward independent sleep WITHOUT any effort on my part

 

So yes, I DID get him out of my bed. I DID get him to sleep without nursing. I DID manage to sleep in my own bed apart from him at least part of the time. And I did it ALL without any sleep training.

 

Did it take longer than if I had forced my son to sleep on his own before he was actually ready to? Yes. It took 2 years and 9 months. But it DID happen, and now that I’m past all of that I can look back on that time and see just how short it really was. It wasn’t “forever”, even though in the beginning it seemed like he would remain in a certain stage for eternity. But all kids grow up, and I’m glad that I went with my instincts and just did what felt natural and right for me and my boy. He’s napping right now, as I type this; has been for just over an hour, and likely to sleep a little longer. He’s in his own bed in his room, and it took less than 15 minutes for me to settle him down and then slip away. Just six months ago it used to take far longer to get him to calm down enough for sleep. A year ago I couldn’t get him down unless he was nursing. A year before that he had to sleep in my arms and if I moved away he’d wake up crying after 30 minutes.

 

But now he’s independent, and he will CONTINUE to make progress until the day he announces he wants his own big boy bed in his own room apart from me and his sister. And that day will come sooner than it may feel like it will, just as the day will come when my daughter no longer will need to sleep in my arms either. Will it be in the same time frame as her big brother? I don’t know; all babies are different. This one might break away sooner, or she might snuggle a little longer; but eventually she too will move on. And then the big bed will be mine and hubby’s again, and the kids will be “too old” to want anything to do with cuddling mommy and daddy. They will want their own space, and that’s the way things are supposed to be. But while they’re still little and still want me around, I’m not going to push them to grow up. I will enjoy the baby and toddler cuddles while I can, and know for a fact that no matter how many times someone tries to convince me that I will “NEVER GET THE KIDS OUT OF MY BED”, I now have the experience to know that’s simply not true. You just don’t appreciate how short the time really IS until you’re past it.

How to Make Hospitals More Home-Like (for REAL)

How to make Hospital Birth the same as Home Birth?

So many times I hear (or read) the opinions of others that home birth is risky, while hospital birth is safer, and that therefore the only thing we need to do is make hospitals more home-like. Rather than get into all the ways why that will never work, I figured I’d humor those people for once. So, let’s say we could make hospitals just like being at home. What would that look like? Well, if we’re going to bring the home birth to the hospital then here’s a few suggestions…

Abolish the routine admission testing and procedures

You know how you call your midwife at home in labor and she comes over with the urine test kit, the electronic  fetal monitor (complete with the actual machine that prints out the strip), and a bunch of needles for the blood draw? Or how she immediately insists on checking your cervix for dilation without asking you if you actually WANT to be checked? Or how she makes you get onto a really uncomfortable bed, on your back, for all this stuff? And how you have to labor for 20 minutes on your back and try to stay completely immobile so that the fetal monitor can pick up the heart rate and contractions without slipping? If you’re saying “hey, wait a minute, they don’t do ANY of that!” then you’ve already figured out one major difference between home and hospital. Now, you can absolutely refuse the blood draw; I did, and it took 5 minutes (or however long it took for me to get through 5 really hard contractions) to kindly tell the nurse I was declining this routine procedure while she was standing outside my curtain waiting for me to consent to it so she could check it off her little checklist. Had my midwife not been there to “catch” her, she probably would have just walked in unannounced and been even more confrontational about it. But everything else, I was powerless. I was told I “had to” have the electronic monitor and I “had to” give a urine sample, even though peeing was very low on my list of things I needed to do at that moment and I didn’t feel like sitting on their cold toilet seat while in hard labor. As for the cervical check, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I thought I “had to” do that as well. I now know that I don’t have to consent to anything I don’t want, and that cervical checks are pointless unless there’s an actual suspected problem that would warrant assessing progress.

So, if we’re going to make the hospital into a home birth, then we need to get rid of these things for low risk mothers, or at least give them the option of declining. That means that rather than this being “routine” on a checklist, the nurse comes in (if the midwife hasn’t arrived yet) and greets the mother. She ASKS if the mother wants to do an electronic strip, or if she’d prefer a quick auscultation with the Doppler for one or two contractions. The nurse or midwife explains the benefits of movement in labor, and that it might be more comfortable with the Doppler, but that the strip provides a read-out of the contractions as well as the heart rate, however the mother would have to lie for 20 minutes on the bed strapped to the monitor. She would mention that lying down in labor can be more uncomfortable and the restricted movement may cause more pain or for baby to not be able to move down into the pelvis effectively for those 20 minutes. You know, INFORMED CONSENT. At this time she would also mention that there’s an optional urine test and blood draw, and explain what exactly they are testing for and what the potential outcomes would be if the results come back a certain way. Mother weighs the risks vs benefits of all these tests, and chooses what works for her.

IDEALLY, this would all be explained at a later prenatal appointment before labor begins, and the mother would go over this with her midwife or doctor and have all these things either checked off as consent or decline, so that upon arrival at the hospital the nurses already KNOW what has been consented to and what has been declined. Anything that was checked off as “consent” would once again be discussed with the mother, although more briefly (“do you still consent to x procedure/test?”) in case she has changed her mind. The longer explanation would only need to be done in the event that the mother shows up in labor before she has had a chance to have this important consultation with her doctor or midwife.

One Midwife for Every Woman

Obviously if a mother is at home she has a single midwife attending her for her ENTIRE labor. In the hospital, however, the mother may end up meeting a midwife or doctor, or even an OB whom she has never met or only met briefly, or with whom she does not feel a connection to. Even the maternity nurses change shifts, and if labor is long that means that the mother may see many different people all of which can interrupt her concentration on laboring effectively. The reason home birth is so appealing is because THERE ARE NO SHIFT CHANGES. The same midwife remains with the mother from start to finish, and more than likely the mother has had MONTHS to build up a level of trust and comfort with that midwife, which allows her to let go and just BE. So, if we want home birth mamas to choose the hospital, then we need to provide real one-to-one care. That means ONE midwife stays with ONE woman in labor or ONE nurse is assigned ahead of time to each mother scheduled to give birth in the hospital. They would be on-call, just like the midwives. They would meet with the mother during all the scheduled OB appointments. Ideally, midwives would take over the role of OBs and nurses in the majority of women needing care, but OBs and nurses would be the “high risk” option for those women who need more specialized care. Until complete funding was available to hire this many midwives to replace the OBs and nurses in hospitals, doulas would also be funded through the healthcare budget (which would suddenly have a lot more money since we’re not doing all the expensive interventions for EVERY woman) for every mother unable to have a full-time attending midwife, or for who just wish to have some extra non-medical support.

Birthing Tubs in Every Room

One criticism I have about the hospital is their policy that you can labor in the tub, but you’re out the second you start pushing. I’m sure it’s not this way in ALL hospitals, but it is true for most of them. At home, water birth isn’t only possible, but it’s pretty commonplace. So when women want to choose a water birth, then they really only have the choice to birth at home. In this new hospital-as-home environment we’re hypothetically creating, that choice would be available and encouraged in the hospital. There would be large tubs with unlimited hot water, and even Jacuzzi jets if the laboring mother wanted them. There would be no pressure to pull her from the tub as the baby started to descend into the birth canal, and baby would be born into the nice, warm water. Then the tub would be drained and cleaned as the mother climbs into her cozy bed with baby in her arms. Which leads me to…

 

Better Beds

Let’s be honest here; nobody likes sleeping in a hospital bed. They are cramped, uncomfortable, and the sheets are scratchy. They restrict your ability to get into a comfortable position and basically just SUCK in comparison to being in your own bed. Home birth mamas get to climb into their own beds with fresh, clean, soft sheets. They get their own pillows and blankets, and depending on the size of their bed there’s LOTS of room to have the whole family join her in snuggling up with baby. If she had a water birth, that bed is even MORE inviting, because she didn’t just give birth on it. So the simple solution to the bed problem is to give maternity rooms a major upgrade! Let’s replace the traditional “birthing bed” with a lovely Queen size bed with the option for mothers to use their own sheets, pillows, and blankets if they so choose after birth. Let her snuggle up with her family in that bed. Before the birth, have a plastic sheet over the clean sheets (to protect them) and then the hospital grade drapes over that sheet, since that’s pretty much what a home birth setup for birthing on the bed would look like.  Of course, we’re not restricting mothers to just birthing on the bed, so these sheets might not even be used at all, and then the drape and plastic can be re-used since it wasn’t touched. That reminds me…

ACTUALLY letting mothers birth in any position they want, ANYWHERE in the room they want to

I KNOW what you’re going to say! “But don’t hospitals already do this?” Well, in written policy, yes, but in practice…NOPE! 95% of women are STILL giving birth while lying on their back, either flat on it or semi-reclined. Both positions SUCK at facilitating an easy birth and do a poor job of decreasing the chance of tearing or need for an assisted vaginal delivery with the vacuum extractor (and the accompanying episiotomy). Home birth mamas KNOW this, and we’d prefer NOT to tear or get our perineum cut, thank you very much. Most home birth videos have mothers in uprights positions, either squatting, sitting, or hands and knees. Very rarely are they lying down on their backs. Maybe they’re on their sides if they’re tired, but hardly EVER on their backs! Yet when I tried to lean over the bed that the nurse insisted I get onto, and I tried to squat down, I was firmly told “no” as if she was talking to a toddler or a dog that was doing something they weren’t supposed to be. It was infuriating. And guess what position I ended up in, after my side-lying position “wasn’t working”? On my back. For THREE HOURS!

So how do we fix this? WE JUST LET WOMEN PUSH IN WHATEVER GODDAMN POSITION THEY WANT, EVEN IF THEY END UP ON THE FLOOR OR LEANING OVER THE COUCH OR BED. Midwives are already trained to handle any birth position because they DO HOMEBIRTHS. Hell, most of the midwives I’ve met have had their own babies at home, so I’m pretty sure they understand that whatever position mothers assume is the one their instincts are telling them is right. Rather than force all women to birth a certain way, how about we have hospitals start letting women birth THEIR way. For real, not just in theory.

Banish the Arbitrary Timeline

Birth takes TIME, and not all women are the same. Some take a longer time than others to dilate and that’s OKAY! See, if we’re monitoring with the Doppler while mom is doing her thing, and baby’s heartrate is okay, then there’s no need to intervene AT ALL. So she’s taking 12 hours to dilate while the book said she should only take 5! SO WHAT? The only reason you’d even KNOW that would be if you were doing cervical checks, and as I explained earlier, the routine use of cervical exams to assess dilation should be OPTIONAL for women. In home birth, women have the option of having one or even zero checks for dilation and nobody freaks out. So rather than say “well, she’s only at 5cm and it’s been 4 hours” just accept that her labor is going to take a while and back the hell off! There is NO need to start pitocin or break her water (both of which carry risks that are rarely if ever told to the laboring mother). You know very well that if her water breaks then she’s on (yet another) arbitrary timeline before you whisk her away for a c-section. Or that pitocin can cause harder contractions that she can’t cope with (which leads to an epidural) and can cause fetal distress (which leads to a c-section). The same goes for pushing, people! In a home birth setting, as long as baby is doing fine and the mother is okay, then she can push for as long as she needs to. In the hospital there’s often a time limit before intervention is “needed”. I am SO lucky that my midwife was a tough woman who took crap from nobody, and who told the OBs to back off and let me just push; because three hours isn’t standard protocol for that hospital, and anyone else would have cut me. I cannot stress enough how much her presence in that hospital saved me that day!

Furthermore, the arbitrary “due date” needs to go the way of Twilight Sleep and become nothing more than a terrible chapter of our past. All this does is increase the rate of unnecessary inductions and c-sections that could have been avoided. Babies are all different and some take more time to mature than others. Also, how can you be 100% certain that the baby is “overdue”? If mother has no medical issues and baby is doing well, then it is safe to go to 43 completed weeks’ gestation with careful monitoring. The arbitrary policies of induction after a certain number of days past the “due date” cause more harm than good, as not all women will be ready for labor at that point and then they’re giving birth by cesarean for no other reason than the fact that the induction “didn’t work”. Failure To Progress is a Failure to WAIT; it doesn’t mean that women can’t birth their own babies, it just means that women aren’t given the CHANCE to birth them.

So here’s what we would do: get rid of the chart that says that women must be assessed and progressing at x number of hours. We assess women instead on the basis of how well THEY are coping, and how well their baby is doing. We stop ordering c-sections just because birth is “taking too long”. We stop ordering Pitocin to “speed up” normal labor, and we stop rupturing the membranes to “get things going”. We become OKAY with a longer pushing stage if it means that the mother is less likely to tear, and we become OKAY with the idea of babies being born in the caul (bag of waters intact at or just before birth). Finally, we stop pushing induction just because a mother has gone past 40 weeks, and instead look at her individual risk factors and the health of the baby. Once we do that, I pretty much guarantee that the rate of induction, augmentation,  and c-sections will decrease and we’ll be able to re-allocate that money into a budget for extras like…

A TV complete with a Blu-Ray player, access to Netflix, and the ability to bring in one’s own Blu-Rays and DVDs

Let’s face it; labor sometimes takes a long time, and in early labor it might help to take your mind OFF the contractions. At home I have the option (and I intend to use it if needed) of watching a movie or several while in labor, so that I can relax, laugh, keep my oxytocin levels up, and take my mind off those contractions while I bounce on my ball or lounge in the tub. Obviously there will come a point when it will be an annoyance, in which case I can turn it off. But right after birth, while baby is sleeping and possibly my hubby is too, and I’ve had a nap but am now lying awake unable to sleep…yeah, it would be nice to have a show to watch to pass the time. In the hospital I was bored out of my mind, because I had to stay overnight and then I woke up in the morning and my hubby was still sleeping, and my phone didn’t have enough juice left to keep me entertained. It would have been so lovely to have been home and been able to pop in a Desperate Housewives DVD, but alas that amenity wasn’t included in the hospital. So if hospitals want to be more home-like, then they need to provide entertainment for us tired new moms.

A fully stocked kitchen attached to every birthing suite.

Hospital food SUCKS, and trying to pack enough food in your tiny little lunch box or cooler is a pain in the ass. This is one of the major perks of home birth; you have your own kitchen so that after birth or during early labor you can have someone fix you a snack to keep you going or replenish the energy you exerted birthing that baby. So if the hospitals want to be like home, then there needs to be a small kitchen for every birthing mother, so that her husband or doula can go in there, fix her or themselves a snack, and have it be hot, nutritious, and to their tastes. That means that there would obviously be all the essential spices, bottled sauces, canned, and dry goodies as well as the more perishable fruit, veggies, meats, eggs, etc in the fridge and freezer. The option to bake a “labor cake” to distract the mother from contractions and provide a yummy treat is especially appealing, though that could be because I’m currently almost-seven months pregnant and craving a yummy cake right now complete with boston cream filling, strawberries and whipped cream. But seriously, nobody wants to eat the hospital food. Even the TOAST was gross, and HOW do you screw up buttered toast? I’m very glad that I had pizza in that mini fridge otherwise I would have starved in those 12 hours after birth that it took for them to finally discharge me, despite me getting up at 7am and being not-so-patient and saying “I want to go home now” and then having to wait HOURS for them to finally get their crap together so I could actually LEAVE! Oh, and that reminds me…

Let Women LEAVE When They Want To

Yes, I’m aware that it “takes time” to discharge a patient, but we’re not actually patients. We’re women who gave birth and chose to do so in your facility rather than at home. That doesn’t make us prisoners, but it sure as hell FEELS like we are (or maybe that was just me). This is another reason home birth is so appealing to me: I don’t have to feel like I’m trapped. I could get in the car and go shopping if I felt like it (I probably won’t, but I’m just saying that IF I wanted to get in the car I COULD). In contrast, the hospital has their policies and their own schedule, and I was just another number on a list, WAITING for them to get to me so I could get the hell out of there. I was pretty much at their mercy, you might say, because until they gave the “okay” I couldn’t leave the damn place! How annoying do you think this would be for someone who was talked into staying overnight, even though she didn’t want to stay and lived 5 minutes from the hospital, and would have preferred her own bed? Like, on a scale of one to ten? And being assured that she could “go home first thing in the morning” only to then be awake at 7am ready to leave but being told she had to wait another hour. Then two. Then three. Then it was almost past lunch time and the pizza has been eaten and she’s starving, but she’ll be damned if she’ll eat that bland hospital concoction they call “food”. So then the doctor comes in (not her midwife, because her midwife has gone home to sleep for a few hours) and tries to get her to stay ANOTHER night because they can’t schedule the newborn hearing test until a certain time after birth. But she’s determined to go, because she’s now been in this hospital over 24 hours and she was sick of it the second the baby was out. Now, all this frustration could have been avoided if, at 7am or even right after birth, she had been able to pack up all her stuff, get herself and baby dressed, walk up to the nurse’s station, sign herself out like she was checking out of a hotel, and LEAVE! All without the interference of silly protocols, policies, or the need for someone to have the TIME to show up at her room and discharge her right when she wanted to go home?

So, what exactly would fix this annoyance? You have a sign in/sign out sheet. As soon as the mother feels up to leaving the facility she just signs herself out and goes home. Do we really HAVE to debrief new parents right after the baby is born? I mean, can’t we just assume that if they need help with something like putting the car seat into the car that they’ll ask for it? It’s a little ridiculous that I had to wait for someone to sign off on me bringing my own baby home, as if I’d not be able to put him in the car seat properly! You know who doesn’t do this? Midwives at home births! I seriously doubt that after birthing my baby in the comfort of my own home, that my midwife is going to make me dress said baby and then demonstrate that I know how to put her into the car seat in my car. But yet hospitals insist on it, and it’s just yet another thing that gets in the way of NORMALCY! So here’s the new plan: if parents would like to have someone help them with baby care or proper car seat safety, then they can check that on the little box on their list of preferences, just as they do for all the “routine” procedures they either consent to or decline. They can arrange for this to be done ahead of time, and then someone will be there to assist them. They might have to wait a while longer to go home, but that is their choice. It’s not imposed or forced on them to wait. If they decide they actually can figure this stuff out on their own, they simply make note of that on their sign out form and away they go! And we would stop making the hospitals liable for what individual adults choose to do, because it’s ridiculous to think of grown ass women and their partners as helpless children. Really, all it does is further enforce the false belief that new parents don’t know the “right” way to do things, should ignore their instincts, and just do what someone else says is right, even if it doesn’t work for their child or for themselves. And by that I mean…

Let Moms Co-Sleep (if that’s what they want to do)!

Obviously in the hospital it’s greatly discouraged for moms to sleep with their babies. Baby belongs in that plastic box, wrapped up in all those blankets, not in mommy’s warm arms where the breast is readily available and mother doesn’t have to press a button to get someone to bring her the baby! Everyone knows that! Even the other animals who…oops, they DO sleep with their babies, don’t they? Now, this isn’t saying that it’s wrong for mothers to NOT sleep with their babies, because to each their own, but for those of us who prefer co-sleeping it is damn frustrating! I really do NOT like sleeping away from my child. I never realized this preference until after my son was born; in fact, I was convinced that six months in my bedroom in a bassinet he would drive me insane. But then I realized that he was so content in my arms. He rarely cried. He LOVED skin-to-skin contact with both myself and his daddy, and he could sleep for hours just lying on our chests. He nursed in his sleep, and I could nurse him while sleeping. That sleep deprivation that they say all new parents go through? It didn’t happen unless I was TRYING TO BE “GOOD” AND PUT HIM IN HIS BASSINET. Once I stopped forcing myself to stay awake to do that, night feedings were so easy I literally did them in my sleep. My son rarely made a sound when he was able to access the breast within seconds of rooting for the nipple, compared to the cries of hunger that would rouse me from a deep sleep while he was in his bassinet away from my warmth. At 2 and a half years old he is content now to just hold my hand, or simply have me beside him. He drifts off SO easily! But that first night that I was forced to stay in the hospital, my baby boy wasn’t in my arms. I missed out on some precious bonding time with him, and I’m so looking forward to reclaiming it with my daughter at home. Because at home, there will be no nurses to whisk my baby away to the plastic box the second they catch me sleeping. There will be no scolding. My midwife co-sleeps too, so there will be no wagging fingers when I get out of the tub and curl up with my little girl in my nice warm bed.

So this one is really simple, especially if the upgrade from hospital bed to Queen has been implemented; you just let mom sleep with her baby. You might explain what to do to make it safe, but you certainly don’t insist baby sleep in the plastic box if the mother would rather have her baby in her arms. Maybe have her sign a form much like the “breastfeeding plan” where it outlines the risks and precautions to take to minimize those risks, and then you BACK OFF and let the mother make her choices. It’s HER baby, and honestly if you discourage her from sleeping with her newborn in the hospital that doesn’t mean she’s not going to go ahead and do it when she gets home. So rather than say “don’t ever do this” why not just provide the information a mother needs to make her own choices that are best for her?

***

I realize that all these changes would mean a complete overhaul of the entire institution, and that it might be costly, time consuming, and that there would be a lot of annoyed doctors and nurses. However, if you’re really dead set on changing the minds of the home-birth minded mamas, then these changes are necessary to truly turn the hospital into a home birth setting, because in the absence of any one of them you’re once again turning it into a HOSPITAL birth, not a home birth, and as I’ve already pointed out, home birth mamas don’t WANT a hospital birth. We prefer to have a more comfortable environment free of distractions,  unnecessary interventions, or policies and procedures that don’t serve US, but instead serve the institution. We birth at home because at home we are FREE! We’re free to decline anything we deem unnecessary or uncomfortable, we are free to birth in any position we like, we get to immerse ourselves in a birthing pool, and we have a nice big bed to climb into after all is said and done. We are also not prisoners in our own home; we could go out to the store for some ice cream if we wanted to, or simply send our partners or friends out to get some for us. We can distract ourselves in labor by baking a birthday cake to eat after the baby is born, and we can watch our own TV shows and movies as well. To say that the hospitals are more “home-like” these days is a silly notion when I think of all the things that are different between what I’m planning at home for my daughter’s birth, versus what I experienced with my son. In the hospital I was on a strict timeline, and I KNEW it. I didn’t have to be told that I was on the clock, I could sense it in the way there were more people coming into my room. I sensed the OBs out in the hall, looking at their watches, tapping their feet, and basically wondering why the hell my midwife wasn’t letting them in to “save” my baby with a c-section. I felt the urgency in my midwife’s tone when she said “there’s the OB; she’s going to give you an episiotomy if you don’t push RIGHT NOW” and I believed her. She said she never would have let that happen, and I believe that she would have fought for me, but at the same time she might have been overruled by the head of the hospital, and then I would have had no choice. I don’t think I would have known that much THEN, but I certainly know it NOW. My work with Improving Birth, all the research I’ve done, and all the midwives and doulas I’ve spoken to have all confirmed that I was extremely lucky to have avoided a c-section. I don’t feel like being “lucky” again. I feel like being SUCCESSFUL, and the only way I can feel that sense of control and power over my own birth is by staying as far away from the hospital, in its current form, as I can.

Maybe, if the above changes to the institution were implemented, less women would choose home birth, but it would likely be the ones who wanted the security of the hospital all along, not the ones who preferred to be home. Some women don’t choose home birth because they WANT to be home; they do it because the alternative of over-intervention and routine care practices and little say in their experience (despite what the brochures and websites tell you) and they want better than that. But until we have birth centers here in the lower mainland and the rest of the country, one in every major city, the option remains to be in the institutionalized environment of the hospital, or to remain at home where mothers can call all the shots and control their environment and the people they invite into their homes.

So how about we stop telling women to just “go to the hospital” and instead focus on the real reason why women are choosing to birth at home, and why it would take so much more than just a few pictures on the wall and soft music to transform a hospital room into a home birth environment.

After 2.5 years I’m Finally Okay; but I’m Still Having a Home Birth

At the advice of two of my best friends and fellow team members for Improving Birth Abbotsford, I saved up the money I needed to get birth trauma counseling a few weeks ago. I figured that it couldn’t hurt, and I still had a lot of stuff I needed to process and work through, so that it wouldn’t trigger me anymore. Well, it worked!

I had an AMAZING two days working as a vendor at the Baby and Tot Show last weekend. I talked to SO MANY women who have been traumatized by the hospital birth setting out here in the Fraser Valley. I also talked to a few women who had empowering births (not at MY hospital, not surprisingly) and even a woman who insisted on a vaginal birth with TWINS!

And throughout all this awesome networking and information and connecting with all these women, I didn’t get overly upset. Well, I WAS upset in the sense that our maternity care system sucks and that none of these sad stories should have happened AT ALL, but as for emotionally triggered back to my own birth…nothing.

I can tell my birth story and not get anxious halfway through it. I can tell it without crying. I can think back, and it doesn’t automatically raise my blood pressure and heart rate. I texted my doula this week to confirm that she was still available for my birth in April. She is. I also asked her, point blank, if I was right that the only reason I didn’t end up in the OR was because Jules stood up to the hospital staff and told them to give me that extra hour to push. I was right. Their policy is TWO hours, not three. I don’t know what other things she went against protocol for (vaginal exams, maybe?) and it doesn’t matter anymore. I KNOW that my hospital sucks. I know that their “mother and baby friendly” maternity ward is all smoke and mirrors. But that’s fine, because I’m past that. I’m moving on from that experience and I’m going to use my knowledge to inform other moms of their options. I’m going to empower other moms to ask questions and challenge policy, because I’m PROOF that policy is not serving women. Policy doesn’t allow for women to birth their babies in their own time; healthy and without a scratch. I got a skid mark at best, and again, that’s only because I HAD to get him out right then because the extra hour that wasn’t actually allowed was almost up. Jules was under pressure. It wasn’t her call to make anymore. I can accept that now. I know what my body needed. SHE knew what I needed. She did everything in her power to help me do what I needed to do, but in that institutional setting her hands were tied on a lot of things. A less vocal midwife might have given in and let the OBs have their way; but Jules was not afraid to stand up for me. She was my hero that day. And I will be forever grateful.

It’s funny, but for the first time in two years I can look back at everything and I can smile. She DID minimize my trauma. It could have gone so much worse, and I’m glad my son had the sense to wait that extra week and extra day after triggering labor to make sure SHE was the one to catch him. He must have known, on some instinctual level, that I wouldn’t have been safe if it wasn’t Jules on the ward that day.

But now that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the system failed me, I am even stronger in my convictions that things need to change. And also, I’m having my baby at home.

It’s going to be awesome!

I Voted For Trudeau, and It Wasn’t Just for the Child Benefits!

There are a few things I really need to say, and it might be boring to anyone who isn’t into Sociology, Politics, or Economics. But if you’re a citizen in Canada then you should probably pay attention anyway because if you’re freaking out right now about the future of our economy what I have to say might start to make some sense to you. Or it might not. No biggie if you think what I’m saying is wrong; it’s only my personal opinion and the way I happen to view the world.

As you all know, Justin Trudeau won the election this week. I’m not ashamed to say that I totally supported this win! I supported it from the moment I watched the election debate and heard him speak, and when I was reading his platforms. I’m thrilled and I think that it’s going to help out a lot of people who just don’t realize it yet. Those who aren’t thrilled are focused on two things: higher taxes for the 1% of the population making $200,000 a year (that’s $16,660 per month before taxes, by the way) and running a deficit and not balancing the budget until 2019.

The first one is ridiculous, because under Harper everyone was getting taxed at about 23-30% anyway, and the middle income tax bracket increased at $32,000 approximately. Basically you make a living wage and you’re SCREWED. Because you also have to start paying MSP premiums, with the lowest amount being $79 per month and the highest being $144 per month. At $34,000 you were charged the full premium (for one year my husband hit this tax bracket). You also had to pay back your student loans or at least a partial amount, based on what your GROSS income was for three months; NOT your net income. And if you happened to have a better month than average but at the time of filling out the repayment assistance form and you were facing a few bad months, too bad. Can’t pay? It goes to collections and Revenue Service Canada takes your entire tax return.

Now, I know that the richer people are all wagging their fingers and saying “well if you hadn’t taken out the loans in the first place…if you were living within your means…if you spoiled millennials just paid your dues and worked hard…I work hard for what I earn and I shouldn’t have to pay more in taxes to sustain YOUR lazy lifestyles and give you handouts…” and let me stop you right there, with a big middle finger while I’m at it. Because here’s something you continue to fail to understand or fully grasp: WE DO WORK HARD. WE DO LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS. BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH.

Let me tell you something about my family. Both my husband and I were poor when we were kids. I was in a single parent household where my dad worked his butt off as a waiter for years, often needing to work two jobs to support us. He had a little help from his parents and siblings, but mostly it fell on his shoulders to put food on our table. He had to take out a ridiculous student loan to pay to go to university when I was 11 years old, and then some crap happened that was beyond our control and we had to move closer to the coast because of it. No one in his family was able to just help him out anymore, because they were four hours away. So if we needed groceries he had to find some way to pay for them; often needing to let a bill or two slide until the next payday. It was survival at that point and with my mother often working low paying jobs we didn’t get much in the way of child support either. Child tax credits dwindled as my brother and I got older. My dad had to start paying on his student loans for five years before he could take out another loan to go back to school. At this time I had to take out my own loan to go to college. At one point I was buying my own groceries to help out (and also to ensure I got a lot of the food I wanted but we used to not be able to get all the time) and working two part time jobs while going to school. But classes got harder and more writing intensive and I just couldn’t keep up with the demand of both school and work. I sadly ended up leaving school because I saw how big the loans I was taking out each semester were, and I knew that if I continued down that path I would be stuck living at home for three more years. I couldn’t do it. My home life was becoming unbearable because I did not get along with my dad’s girlfriend; she was too critical of me and I was becoming depressed and feeling trapped.

My prince rescued me at age 23. He gave me a way out, and even though my job as an assistant manager at a retail store only paid $10 an hour and I would be LUCKY to get 35 hours per week (because the big corporation didn’t like to pay their employees fairly, no matter how hard they worked or how devoted they were) I took that chance. I moved into an apartment with him that was $900 a month. I made less than $1200 monthly and paid half this rent. I also covered the cable/internet bill, my cell phone (we did not run a landline because nobody was home all day) and my credit card bills (for the times when we needed groceries and I had no money in my account). This was barely sustainable. I had $10 left over after paying these bills, and though my husband was making good money ($20 an hour) it was in the flooring industry and was a major victim of the recession. When people are broke they aren’t so concerned with getting their floors done or investing in new properties. So jobs dried up. He ended up having to go on EI, all the while trying to find a job that would pay him what he was making before. He could barely find one that paid over $12 an hour.

This man, who worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met in my generation, who would scrub septic tanks if it meant a decent wage, could not find a job. He applied to employment agencies and was even more discouraged by the lack of opportunities. In all this time I had to use the credit card to get our groceries and pay our bills. I put myself in such debt that there was no way out. I couldn’t leave my job and find another one. If HE was having such difficulty, then I stood NO chance. I tried a few multi-level marketing/direct sales opportunities, but they all fell flat for me. I don’t know a lot of people and it’s just not my strong point. Some people are good at it; I just wasn’t one of them. And in the meantime, I had put MORE money on my credit card to get into these businesses!

We moved to a smaller place; a basement suite. Four months later we hired the wrong person at work and because I was supervising that night I lost my job (he had already been fired earlier in the week for something else, and they needed a scapegoat). They tried to deny me EI, and I was on the phone in tears trying to get my compensation. I got it, thankfully. But with jobs drying up my husband took out a student loan and went back to school; this time for autobody. He excelled in it and found his passion, and he got an apprenticeship lined up. Unfortunately this was about the time that the landlord told us she needed our suite back because her son was moving home early. So we had to pack up, with neither of us knowing how the hell we’d pay for the first month’s rent and damage deposit. I used paypal to “pay” my husband the money off my credit card, so I wouldn’t have to do a cash advance. We used that to pay for the apartment. It was $300 more than what we had been paying in the basement suite. I didn’t find a job until August and we had moved in December. I used EI to cover my half of the rent…and that was about all I had. Bills piled up. I had to ignore them. I let collection calls go to voicemail and didn’t answer any number I didn’t know because telling them “I’m sorry, I have no money to pay you” didn’t go over so well and they got mean. It caused me such anxiety I had nightmares that I would be arrested. My husband started his apprenticeship and was off of EI, so we had him making $14 an hour and I made nothing.

I got a job at The Bay. It required an hour long bus ride into town, and I started at 7am every morning. I got up at 4:30 everyday. I was paid $10 an hour, and I loved the work. I was getting lots of hours. And then the big corporation that bought The Bay decided that the marketing department could function on less hours for employees. TWO four-hour days per week! That was all we got. I was lucky that my manager liked me, because any extra hours she got for the store she gave to me. I was able to stretch my four hours into six hours, eight if I was extremely lucky. I got called in on weekends. I would get called in at an hour’s notice on my day off, and I’d bus in and stay as long as she needed me to. And I still couldn’t pay my bills.

I went into bankruptcy, but my student loans survived. When I started bankruptcy my husband and his father had decided to get a house together. It would save us money on rent. Where we were currently living…it was a slum. There were people on either side of us always screaming. Sometimes cops were called. I found used needles outside in the parking lot. It was not really “safe” for me to be walking to the bus stop in the wintertime because it was so dark. I was often on high alert for the slightest footstep behind me. So getting the hell out of there, where we were paying almost a thousand dollars a month even though the stove didn’t work very well and there was mold in out bathroom, and silverfish, it seemed like a hell of a good option!

So we moved to a small three bedroom home with a basement suite for his dad. I started looking for a new job and found one. I was getting paid $12 an hour.

Things were starting to look up for us.

Then I found out I was pregnant.

They “let me go” from my new job the day of my first prenatal appointment; said it “wasn’t working out”. Two weeks before they had been so impressed with me. I knew that news of my pregnancy had leaked from my husband’s workplace to mine; it was obvious because the whole reason I got that job was because of contacts through his shop. But I couldn’t prove it, and I was on probation so I had no case. I probably couldn’t have afforded a lawyer anyway.

So now I was pregnant, on EI, and knowing that all I could get would be $10-$12 an hour I saw little point in working only to have to leave once I started to show (which would be in less than three months and they could just fire me again for no reason) and I couldn’t afford daycare (and didn’t really want to leave my child to be raised by a stranger; especially since I intended to breastfeed exclusively) so I just became a stay at home mom a little earlier than I’d planned to. I used my EI payments to pay my bankruptcy fees. I was discharged two months before my son was born and EI switched over to maternity pay…which would only pay out until June because I’d exhausted it by not having enough workable hours from both The Bay and the other job wasn’t even being factored in because I hadn’t worked 600 hours there. Child tax benefits kicked in right away though, so that helped a bit.
Thankfully my husband had started a new job back in October. It paid $22 to start, then he kept getting raises. It had health benefits and dental. For the first time in our lives we felt we had a chance at living comfortably. But his wages capped at $25 and he was only there for less than two years. He saw no chances of getting any higher up the ladder and he went back to flooring. It had real promise. They were paying him $30 an hour. But the economy hadn’t recovered enough and few people were willing to get their floors done. By November work had all but dried up, and he had to spend $300 in gas each month and pay for the bridge tolls each day to commute all the way to Vancouver where the jobs were. And the collection calls for student loans started coming. We were already stretched beyond our means, trying to pay off debt incurred from the autobody tools he had been REQUIRED to have when he was still an apprentice, as well as the necessity of buying a car that would fit a car seat and stroller. I had to file several hardship forms with the CRA to get them to back off a bit, but we still had to pay the very little we could afford (and I had to beg and plead them to take that amount because they wanted more than that). It wasn’t enough to take what little we had each month, they also took our entire tax return; money we had been counting on to help cover several bills and the property taxes for the house.

My husband left flooring. He took a job close to home and took a pay cut down to $22 an hour…flat rate. So hours were billed based on the job, not the actual hours it took to finish it. Sometimes this was a good thing, because he is a hard worker and can get things done quickly and still have them look perfect. Other times it meant his bi-weekly paychecks were under $900 after deductions.

I do what I can to help him. I sell things we no longer need for a few dollars on bidding sites. I figure out what bills need to be paid when and try to cut down on as many expenses as possible. We have very basic cable and internet. I cancelled our one extra cable package to pay for the $15 unlimited internet service because otherwise we’d be screwed on data after one day. I figured rather than pay for the shows I wanted to watch I could just stream them on the computer. Why pay for a handful of channels when you can buy the whole internet instead? I cancelled the data plan on my cell phone and got the lowest plan I possibly could. I’ve clipped coupons and discovered that the stuff that’s “on sale” is usually garbage that we don’t even eat anyway. I watch for ACTUAL sales instead. We do without when we don’t have enough and I’ve become pretty good at stretching a hundred dollars to last us two weeks if need be.

We don’t have emergency or maintenance savings in our budget because after bills and groceries and gas there isn’t money left for that. We’ve done all we can possibly do, and we’re not able to get ahead.

And my husband works on average 96 hours bi-weekly to try to keep us comfortable. He uses his down time to make whatever he can that he thinks might sell online. He goes through his things on a regular basis and tries to sell them to make extra cash. I use my child tax benefits to cover some bills and groceries.

All this is survival for us. And we’re tired of just surviving. We’re tired of having to field calls with collections and student loans and MSP and tell them that we just don’t have the money to pay back what they want us to. We’re tired of the big corporations taking all the profits and enjoying the tax breaks, while my poor husband tries so hard to get ahead and can’t, because nobody wants to pay him a fair wage and no one can afford to hire him to do their floors. We’re tired of making under $34,000 a year and still being in ‘too high’ a tax bracket to actually get a break from student loans and MSP payments.

So when people say that Trudeau’s vision of taxing the richer citizens and giving more to the middle class is bad, it makes me angry. It’s NOT a bad idea; it’s f***ing brilliant!

If you give more money to the families who need it, then we can have some breathing room. Those of us unable to do so before will be able to afford life insurance, put away for retirement, have emergency savings, be able to budget for maintenance costs on vehicles and appliances, be able to afford to buy a home rather than rent out an apartment in a crappy part of town, be able to save for our children’s education (or ours), be able to repay student loans and other debts without having to go into bankruptcy, be able to invest in businesses of our own! If you give money to families in the middle income tax brackets, we will be able to BREATHE more easily in our finances. We can afford to go back to school, get better jobs or be promoted, be able to give our children the chance to raise their own economic standing when they grow up. My husband, who has worked for someone else his whole life, could finally start putting money away for that shop he’s always dreamed of. He could be his own boss; a dream that so many people have but can’t afford to make a reality except through multi-level marketing opportunities that aren’t as simple as so many involved in them would have you believe they are.

If you invest in the rest of the population and not just the corporations, then yes, a few corporations might decide they don’t want to pay the 3% raise in their taxes. They won’t like that they’re not getting the tax breaks they don’t actually need. And they might leave. But that’s looking at the short term, and those same corporations that only care about the bottom line are the ones who aren’t likely paying their workers a fair wage. They’re the ones who, instead of taking cuts to their own salaries, would rather pink slip hundreds of people who work for them; the faceless “numbers” that are draining their profit margins.

What else will happen is that those who weren’t buying consumer goods beyond necessities, who were therefore “hurting sales profits” by not being willing to spend the money on what the poor retail associates are told they need to sell to keep their jobs, they will be able to AFFORD to buy those things again. The economy will flourish even without those corporations because more people than just those making over $40,000 a year will be able to buy from the local businesses that pop up in their place. More people will be able to start up (or sustain) their shops and offer their services to the public and people will be able to renovate their homes. Remember how I said that my husband couldn’t sustain an income in the flooring industry because there was no work for him? Well, if more people are able to actually afford to renovate their homes (the tax incentive was great, but it missed the mark because not many people have $10,000 sitting in the bank to renovate their home) then those workers will have jobs, won’t they?
As for the deficit, here’s what makes sense to me about balancing the budget in 2019; if you’ve been raising the taxes for the wealthy, and boosting the economy by giving the middle and lower classes more breathing room in their finances AND incentives to invest in businesses and purchase goods and services beyond the basics for survival, then that money is going back into THIS country. If we can afford to buy our groceries here instead of hopping the border to the states, then that’s money back into Canadian treasuries. If we can afford to start up our own shops and offer our own services, then THAT’S money going back into Canada. So many people lament that nobody is investing in local businesses anymore; that big box stores are taking over and pushing people to work less hours and make less money, and that it’s killing our economy because most of those corporations that own (or bought out) the box and department stores are foreign and not putting that money back into Canadian pockets.

Well, how do you expect us to get rid of the box store monopolies and invest in local businesses if 99% of the population can’t afford to start up those businesses or buy those local goods?

How do you expect the economy to flourish if you’re only focusing on the very rich with tax breaks and incentives? Nobody else can afford to buy anything. Nobody else can get ahead. The budget can either balance by increasing the earning and spending power of 99% of the population, or by letting the economy stagnate and continuing to let the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Personally I think Trudeau is a genius for seeing what I’ve been thinking all along: raise the standard of living for the many instead of just the few, and there will be a surplus of resources because people will be able to contribute MORE than they could when they were starving. There are so many things I’d like to do, that I can’t. I want to help empower women through setting up an Improving Birth chapter here in Canada, so that more women are informed on what respectful care and informed consent actually ARE and can have access to the resources they need to get that level of care. I want to be able to donate to animal shelters, children’s hospitals and women’s shelters. I want to be able to say YES when worthy charities ask for small donations instead of having to sadly turn them away because we can’t afford to give what we don’t have. I want to be able to donate to cancer research and other currently incurable diseases and disorders. I want to be able to HELP people, and I can’t do that where I am right now. I don’t think very many can. And that’s not helping anyone. The richest corporations tend to give money to popular charities for the publicity and the tax incentives it brings them; I want more of us, who know what it’s like to claw your way up from poverty and hardship, to be able to give back because we know it’s the right thing to do, and that it can be the difference between barely surviving and being able to breathe.

Others might not feel the same way, but I say WELCOME, Mr. Trudeau. I’ve been waiting over ten years for someone with your vision and I’m so happy that so many people have given you the opportunity to change things for the better; even if they aren’t quite sure what that means yet.