Tuesday, May 13, 2014

4 Things I'm Doing Differently with #4

Well, it's official. I am 40 weeks pregnant and still...well...pregnant.

Not surprising, really, as all my children have come a couple of days "late." Honestly, the weather's been gorgeous here in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm taking every chance I can get to be out in it with my three other, beautiful, rambunctious children before this little one arrives.

Which brings me to the first point in today's list of 

4 Things I'm Doing Differently with Baby #4
  1. I'm not worrying about my due date.

    I mean, sure, ask me in a week. Maybe I'll feel differently then. As it is, I've treated this due date as a very flexible landmark, which really it is. Some babies are born before their due date; some are born after. I know which end of the spectrum I'm usually on, and I'm not about to be discouraged over it. The important thing is that when the time comes, the baby is ready, and I feel ready, which brings me to point #2.

  2. I'm more prepared.

    I have done more during this pregnancy to prepare myself than I ever have before, and whatever comes, I'm going to feel very, very good about that decision. What have I done to prepare? Notice it has nothing to do with nursery decor or clothing (although, I've got all that fun stuff set, too).

    - Froze a chest freezer full of meals, including plenty of breakfasts. (I don't know about you other mamas, but the last thing I want for breakfast when I'm nursing a newborn is a bowl of cereal - I mean, cereal is a snack when you're nursing! Bring on the cinnamon rolls!!)

    - Two different precious friends have offered to set up meal trains for me for the first few weeks postpartum. This was something that friends from the same group of wonderful ladies offered to do when Abby was born, and it was such a blessing! I am so, so blessed to have such generous, incredible women in my life. If you're in a community where this is not a regular occurrence, I would so encourage you to set something up for a new mom or someone struggling through an illness or the loss of a loved one - it means the world, and is just what some people need to keep their head above the waves and remember how our Father provides.

    - Met with a lactation consultant prenatally. I've never had a problem breastfeeding in the early postpartum period, but around six months, my milk supply tapers off significantly and my babies drop sharply down the growth curve. I wanted to take precautions to try to avoid the same scenario this time around, and while I have no way of knowing whether my LC's recommendations will work, at least I have a game plan and a trusted resource to turn to if need be.

    - I met with a counselor who's expertise is postpartum mood disorders. In all honesty, I'm really hopeful that I won't suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) this time around, and my counselor shares my optimism. The important thing, though, is that I know I have her in my court if things go south. I have established a relationship with someone I now trust who knows me and my history well and can hit the ground running if treatment is needed. I won't have to seek someone out in the midst of my struggles, if it comes to that. The peace of mind from knowing I've done all I can is invaluable.

  3. I'm planning a home birth!

    I haven't spoken too loudly about this, as it can be a very controversial topic and, well, I haven't actually done it yet!

    I delivered my first child with a midwife in the hospital, hooked up to Pitocin and penicillin drips. It was not the right environment for me, and I felt pressured to make choices that were good for the hospital, but not necessarily right for me and my baby. Fortunately, I had strong advocates in my midwife and husband and, apart from the drugs already mentioned, I was able to have what their staff termed a "natural birth," meaning I received not pain medication and delivered vaginally. Still, I knew, if I could avoid it, I never wanted that experience again.

    My second and third births took place at a free standing birth center about a block from the same hospital - both in the same room, with the same midwife! Giving birth at this place and with these compassionate, capable women was a more tremendous blessing than I can possibly describe. It was wonderful, and I would gladly deliver there again.

    However, while I've stayed with the same midwifery team, this time, they and I decided that a home birth is probably the ideal option for our family. For one thing, I don't enjoy laboring in water, so I don't need a birthing tub, but really, that's a superficial issue.

    Among the more important items we considered are the length of my labors: they are short. Getting child care and then moving me to the birth center was pushing it with James. I only labored for an hour there before I started pushing. In that case, I'd already woken up in active labor. With Abby, my third, I experienced early labor in the evening, so we went in as soon as my contractions were regular but not particularly strong. Even so, I was only there for 4 hours before she was in my arms.

    Fourth babies, so I've been told, tend to come faster.

    By the time we get our friends to come over to watch the kids, transfer might not be an option. We wanted to be prepared - and then we thought, why not just plan to stay put? No stress, no worry. My husband and I are organized and Brian feels capable to help with delivery if needed. We live only one exit from the birth center and hospital if transfer is required. Besides all that, I prefer to sleep immediately following delivery. My body doesn't respond well to adrenaline. You know, that "fight or flight" hormone? Well, I don't really do either. I just sort of "shut down." Apparently, my body prefers to play possum.

    At home, my midwife and her assistant will be able to monitor me for the recommended 3-4 hours without my feeling the urge to stay awake because I know I won't have to be "transferred" home after that time is up. I can simply rest with my baby in my own bed and soak up those precious first hours - along with some much-needed shut-eye.

  4. I'm staying put.

    Not just for the birth. I mean, I am staying in my home, preferably in bed, for a good long while after this baby comes.

    In the past, I've considered it a sign of strength of capability if I'm somehow on my feet, out and about as soon as possible after delivery. With Sophia, I was running errands the first day out of the hospital. With James, I wound up in a NICU 24-hours postpartum - at a hospital where I could not get a room for myself. With Abby, I could tell my body wasn't going to take the beatings I'd let it endure the first two times around, but I was still attending gatherings within the first week, and since my husband only had a few days off and was working a crazy schedule, I was back to my regular routine of grocery shopping (now with 3 children in tow!) by Week #2.

    People complimented me, and that felt good, but eventually, it took it's toll. I felt strong, but I also felt depleted. Underneath the stable exterior, I was cracking, because I knew I couldn't handle (at least not emotionally) the pressure I'd put myself under.

    So this time? I'm taking it easy. I'm staying in bed for three whole days. For many cultures the world over, this is the bare minimum - some women don't venture out of their rooms for six weeks! I won't go that far. But, I am going to soak up every bit of down time I can. My calendar is clear. Except for a small birthday party we're throwing for James (and I'll have help for that) at the end of May, the first "appointment" I've given myself is the baby's baptism in mid-June.

    I know that I can't fill up others if I'm not filled. I need to rest, recuperate, and take time to reconnect with myself and my God if I'm going to be a good mother. That takes time, and time is the gift I'm giving myself this time around.


  1. Oh Best wishes I am so excited for you! And I agree with you about the staying in bed part after having a baby. I make it a point to stay in my pajamas (or something very close to it) for at least two weeks after. It sends a clear signal to everyone that I am not ready or should be expected to jump back into normal life. It really is important to give yourself time to recover, physically, spiritually and mentally. I will send prayers and best wishes your way!

    1. Thank you for your prayers, Heather! And I like your "pajamas for 2 weeks plan." I may have to consider that... :)

  2. Hey Bethany! I actually just had my baby a bit over a month ago, so I am just past where you are. It is #5 for me, and our circumstances are similar in some ways (no family nearby etc), and I too have dealt with post partum depression in varying degrees after the births of my babies. I wanted to give you a slightly different perspective on it, hoping that perhaps my own experience could be similar to yours and perhaps would help... I know you are a writer/actress and are creative and such. So am I. I was trained as a potter/painter in college and play the violin and guitar--well, I DID, I WAS. Not any more. I haven't touched clay for more than 8 years and I am lucky if I play my fiddle more than twice a year( I do play guitar for my kids since we can sing with it). I haven't drawn or painted anything to speak of for ages and the most creative I have been is some intermittent sewing for myself or others (other than with food/meals). Most of my days are simply taken entirely with housework, schoolwork, or seasonal work (like strawberries, garden produce etc). I am also the type than can spend HOURS alone, reading, drawing, painting etc. It has been a struggle to resign myself to the degree of sacrifice and death to self that motherhood has required. I often wonder if some of my own struggles with PPD have been a sort of "death trauma" as the stress and extra self-sacrifice of a newborn sets in... You know how it is, things get a bit easier, the kids grow a bit, the evenings start to be your own again, and then BAM new baby, no sleep, no husband time, and you are on demand by all the other children as well. It is overwhelming and tiring, and often the flesh just rebels at how much of us this motherhood takes, and I sometimes struggle with being bitter against my children, as I look at the years that have gone by, and how little I am doing with myself because of the time and energy they require. Over the years, I have dealt with it better as God has wrenched open my hand little by little, showing me how tightly I was holding onto everything, MY time, MY energy, MY dreams/ambitions, MY creativity etc. And He has shown me [over and over] that my life needs to be about Him, not me. And motherhood is a calling (especially of several children) a role that will drive anyone bats if try to make it about us, and not Him. I'm not saying that I do this perfectly, and still get frustrated when things get harried, and the baby's crying, children are being obstinate about school work, supper's not even thawed out yet (at 5pm), hubby's working second shift and I'm all alone for the evening, the living room is covered in k'nex pieces and shards of lunch are still under the table, (not to mention the three loads of wash waiting to be hung on the lines, the counter full of dishes waiting to be washed, and the budget sitting on the table, waiting to be updated and balanced). On those days, I struggle as much as the next mom, not to speak sharply or lose my temper, I struggle not to lapse into self-pity, or just plain loneliness, and some degree of boredom with the drudgery of the same chores over and over. But I am learning to say, "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, BLESSED be the name of the Lord". (in that He gives time/resources, and can remove them, He can give ease/comfort or take it, and yet He knows what we need to mold and shape us into the image of His Son, who is the epitome of sacrifice and humility, and what other calling changes you so much? Other than motherhood??) I found that I often felt (and still feel) like instead of me GIVING of myself to my children/hubby, things (time energy etc) were being taken or even stolen from me by all these needy people... It helps to try and adjust your mindset that I choose to GIVE to them... Prayers for you as you adjust to this new season of life! --Laura

    1. Laura, first of all, congratulations on the birth of your fifth blessing!! How wonderful. And thank you for your prayers and your heartfelt honesty. I do know how hard it can be sometimes to stay focused on the blessings of our abundant lives rather than obsessing over the numerous (at least in worldly eyes) shortcomings. Keeping a gratitude journal and making regular *scheduled* time for prayer and scripture study has been essential to me in that regard. And, I do know what you're saying, too, about losing your creative outlet. I, too, could spend hours (days?) reading and writing. That's one of the reasons I started this blog, actually. It was a way to express myself creatively that only took a little bit of time from my day (as opposed to the commitment needed to work on my latest novel). Now when I'm in a season (like now!) when I can't devote myself to my "professional" writing, I still have somewhere to go and pour my heart out in a way that is energizing and uplifting for me (and hopefully others). I hope that you find a time and place to pick up your clay again soon, but if not, I hope you find a substitute that fills your heart in the interim. :-) God bless!

  3. Those sound like plans made with wisdom, all of them! I think preparing for the possibility of PPD since you may be at higher risk for it is especially interesting and a wonderful idea. Perhaps the staying put will go a long way towards avoiding/minimizing PPD as well. Meeting prenatally with an LC is so smart since breastfeeding issues are notoriously easier to deal with as soon as they arise rather than after they've had a chance to derail things. I wish this was more universally recommended, but then, my mother is a former IBCLC so I have the blessing of expert advice over the phone whenever I want it, even if it's just for a little thing I wouldn't think of "bothering" a professional over.

    I've had one baby so far and I had a planned homebirth, too. In this case, my extra-long multi-day labor made my homebirth an especially wonderful choice. I was able to sleep in my own bed during the nights between contractions and I never even got close to exhaustion, nor were any interventions needed - there weren't any problems nor was my baby or I in distress, we just took our sweet time. Plus, at one point my contractions let up and it turned out I was fully dilated but the baby wasn't fully descended so I felt no urge to push. I wonder if this was partly because I was a bit nervous about the pushing stage! Instead of an unnecessary intervention at that point, we went for a genuinely pleasant walk around the block followed by using various positions and such to encourage the baby to descend and, after my lovely break, contractions picked back up and I had a fantastic birth. I'm a huge nerd and was so, so grateful to have access to more evidence-based care than, sadly, is generally available for low-risk births in the hospitals in my area. It was great having my midwives visit me for postpartum and newborn checks in the weeks after giving birth, too, so I didn't have to drag us anyplace before we felt up to it.

    1. What a great birth story, and such a powerful example of what is possible with home birth that is simply against hospital policy! Congratulations on your first little blessing!


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