Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Five Favorite Postpartum Wellness Items


I'm supposed to be working out homeschool plans for the fall that are rapidly becoming due but I am the worst decision maker on the face of the planet and I've missed this place.  So instead I'm avoiding and stalling and I'm going to tell you what have been my five favorite self-care items this postpartum time.  Bueno?

1.



This stuff is the aftercramping elixir of God.  We all know that the afterpains and contractions get worse with each baby and they can hurt.  And if you didn't know that, now you do.  About an hour after having Ben I took some AfterEase and continued every few hours for the first two days spacing it out longer and longer.  Seriously, this stuff is magic or something.  I had virtually no afterpains.  A few times I felt small cramping that was wince worthy but it was only after it had been a good 4-5 hours since taking the last dose.  In less than two days, I had nothing and my uterus was still going back down to non-pregnant size at a fast rate.  I never even took an ibuprofen and only went through less than half the bottle.

2.

I've talked about this before but the herbal bath tea really does help with healing tissue and soothing all the parts that are so achy after birth.  The water looks disgusting and you need to do a quick scrub after or it colors your tub (at least, I  have to because I'm a neat freak.) but so worth it.  About a cup of epsom salts added to a pot full of the tea (recipe here...this time I used calendula, lavender, comfrey, and a small bit of plantain) that's simmered on the stove for 20 minutes or so and soak as long as your husband and newborn baby will let you.  (Or bring baby in...that works, too.)

3.



In the past I've been pretty happy with the crocheted wool nursing pads I got from an Etsy seller years ago but they're small, I only had one pair, and sometimes I had to double up with something extra underneath so I decided to try these out.  They are GREAT.  They absorb a lot and (important) they don't show under clothes or make embarrassing crinkly noises like the disposable.  I haven't had them leak through yet.  The bamboo is super soft and they can be washed with a normal wash (I wash them with the diapers, actually).  You get three pairs and for the price, totally worth it.

4.


The Squeem

The modern day corset with an even more torturous sounding name.  I really wanted to take advantage of the postpartum healing mojo and work more on getting my diastasis recti back together this time around.  I ordered a medium and small Squeem to bind my belly and started about three days after he was born.  It was TIGHT and I could barely breathe but I got those clasps hooked without actually busting the thing open.  Within a week or so I moved down to the small.  This thing is serious.  It really holds you in and while I wouldn't say it's comfortable at all, I really liked feeling "bound" and felt like it helped things go back down quicker and get all my organs where they should be.  Abdominal bindng is a common practice in other cultures but we do a pretty bad job of postpartum care in that department in our culture resulting in more prolapse and abdominal weakness which leads to other issues (back problems, incontinence, etc.).  I think I've reached a stasis, though.  I still have a small split and I still have extra weight to lose but I do think the Squeem helped a bunch.  At the very least, it has helped me fit into clothes I otherwise couldn't ;)  Oh, and it comes in a much more usable nude color if the black little number isn't your postpartum thing ;)

The ever popular perineal care product.  A product no postpartum care list would be without.  Used in spray or on frozen pads or wipes.  Good for tears, soreness, hemorrhoids, and more.  Don't leave a vaginal birth without it.  (And don't buy that fancy stuff…the $1 bottle from the drug or dollar store will do.)


And an Honorable Mention must go to:
A Massive Full Freezer

Having a big upright freezer has been HUGE in the postpartum mental wellness department.  I froze a bunch of meals before his birth and that was supplemented a bunch more by family and the lovely women from my women's group.  It has been amazing.  While Brian was off he cooked a few meals and I've cooked a handful of meals but for the most part, those first few weeks we were so set on meals. It feels like absolute luxury to just pull a meal out of the freezer and I'm so so grateful for all the time and love that went into them.  We make it a point to pray for the giver of the meal before we eat.  (If you were one of the meal preppers, again thank you SO much!!)

Any particular products or things that helped you postpartum?  Share with the rest of us!


Linking up with Jenna for Five Favorites.  Go on and check the rest out.

{this post contains affiliate links…when you shop Amazon (anything!) through this blog I get a tiny cut to help run this place!  Thank you!}


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Monday, June 22, 2015

Born Footling Breech - Baby Ben's Birth Story


Disclaimer:  This is a birth story.  It will talk about birthy things.  It’s also an atypical birth story and I want to be clear to those who are reading, especially those who are pregnant or who have never been, that what happened is NOT a normal birth.  I’ve got a few of those stories on this page.  This one was atypical and I have no doubt that for whatever reason, it was supposed to be.  But I don’t want someone to read this and cause unnecessary fear of something pretty rare.  So that’s my disclaimer…and I welcome any and all questions in the comments!  Also, it’s long.  Like really long.  Because I like details and it’s my blog.  So grab something to drink and get ready to hang out for a bit ;)

The Birth of Benedict Raphael


The Lead Up
Exactly one month ago, he was born.  My Benedict Raphael, my blessed healing of God.  The most different of my five full term pregnancies, the most different of my births.  The whole pregnancy something felt just…different.  I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was but I certainly battled with a lot of fear of the birth and the pregnancy itself was harder than my others.  More sickness, more fatigue, more swelling, more weight gain, way more emotions.  While I felt the similar readiness at the end to be done being pregnant, it was coupled with a fear of what adding another baby to the family would mean as well as the knowledge that there was no way out of the pregnancy than through birth.  And some part deep down inside of me knew that this birth would be different.  I didn’t know what that meant so I just planned as best I could for a normal home birth.

My inclination that this baby would be born earlier than the others was wrong, though.  I should have known that they would be since all four others were born right in the 39th week and that this baby would follow suit.  But the weekend I reached 39 weeks, I went to bed praying that labor wouldn’t start.  It had been an absolutely crazy weekend filled with a family party, baseball games, and notice that we had to go pick up our two new hives of bees.  I knew there was no way I’d be able to give birth in the exhausted state that I was in, weary to the core and not getting to bed until almost midnight.  Thankfully, labor didn’t begin that weekend nor in the few days after.  But his head was definitely down low and engaged and I knew we were both physically ready and it would be soon. 

A few days later I felt him shift a bit and I could tell he had moved but it simply felt like he was just a little crooked.  It was uncomfortable and I felt off but I wasn’t worried since after a few babies, it becomes more likely that baby doesn’t engage until right at labor.  It now felt like his head was in my lower left side of my pelvis and his bottom was diagonal to the top right underneath my ribs.  I figured he would settle back into place soon and smoothly at any moment.  But it was extremely uncomfortable and forced me on the couch for most of that evening. 

The next day I had a late afternoon appointment with my midwife Khristeena and mentioned how uncomfortable I was and how he had shifted.  I was beginning to get concerned (and therefore emotional) because he hadn’t moved from that uncomfortable position and it had made it nearly impossible to sleep.  As she checked his position, it became increasingly clear from his heartbeat, her palpitations, and from where I was now feeling movement that he had flipped breech.  Completely footling breech at almost forty weeks.  I don’t think it hit me when she first said it what that all meant.  I was so sleep deprived and emotional that it truly felt surreal.  Surely he would just flip back into place!  Surely this would somehow figure itself out…and besides, maybe we were just making a mistake and he was totally fine.  I left with an appointment first thing next morning with a Webster chiropractor, some discussion of getting an ultrasound to verify his position, a plan to work that night with exercises to help flip him back, and the mention of a cesarean section if he didn’t flip. 

My friend Lori (who is also a doula and my midwife’s assistant) came over that evening and we did a round of exercises and positions to try to help turn him back head down.  Hanging upside down from the couch, laying on the dining room table, all sorts of floor exercises that look and feel ridiculous but are helpful in giving babies room to move themselves into an optimal position for birth.  I didn’t feel much.  Brian mentioned as I laid on the dining room table and was questioning everything and especially wondering why a previously engaged and head down baby would turn so last minute that maybe there was a good reason he had turned.  Just maybe he had to unwrap himself from a funny cord or for some unknown reason he had to be in this position to get out.  I wasn’t as positive but it did help a bit to think of things this way.

I felt a lot of pain that night and barely slept.  I was having strange contractions but it didn’t feel like normal labor, more like my body trying to move him into correct position.  But still he wouldn’t budge.  I tried doing more positioning and I listened to the Hypnobabies “Turn Your Breech Baby” soundtrack.  I finally slept for a few hours around dawn and woke up feeling more normal.  In fact, it almost felt like he was in a better position!  I was slightly hopeful that even though I hadn’t felt a big turn, that maybe by the grace of God, he had turned on his own.  I waddled on downstairs around 6:30 feeling a growing sense of hope that things were fine and he’d be born that day.  I went to the bathroom and had some bloody show.   My hopes surged that the baby was now back in place, that it had all just been a small bump in the road, and that I would be birthing him soon. 

I called Khristeena to let her know what was going on and wondering if I should still go to the chiropractor appointment that was scheduled in an hour.  She said she would stop by to check what was going on.  She arrived to our house soon after and to my disappointment my hopes were unfounded.  He was still completely breech.  Because of the circumstances and needing to know if I was in labor or not, she performed a vaginal check and didn’t feel any dilation.  That was really hard to hear but at this point, things all just felt so surreal and I almost felt like I was on auto pilot. 

Brian decided that he would take off from work because of the uncertainty of what was going on and we headed out to the appointment.  I felt sure that if baby were to turn, that labor would be immediate and fast and I wanted him with me.  On the way there we prayed a Rosary.  The appointment was with a Webster chiropractor but I was surprised and a bit disappointed that she didn’t do anything different than she did at normal appointments.  Not sure what I was expecting but was hoping she’d have some fancy moves to help baby flip.  Fifteen minutes or so and it was over and we left to go back home.  Mom left and we were back in a sort of limbo mode.

I can’t say even now what my state of mind was during all this and for the majority of this day.  It was part surreal, part exhaustion, part robot-mode.  Brian took care of the boys while I spent hours alternately resting and trying to get the baby to turn.  As the boys played and laid mulch with Brian, I did more of the positioning exercises, took a bath (while contorting myself into all sorts of strange positions), listened again to the Hypnobabies audio, prayed, rocked on the birth ball, put ice and peppermint high on my belly to try to motivate him to turn, and even manually tried moving him myself (he would only move the tiniest bit but then wouldn’t budge past a certain spot).  I made an appointment for the next morning at an acupuncturist.  I emailed a couple friends asking for prayers.  My appetite was nonexistent and I barely ate.  In the early afternoon I realized that no matter what happened, I probably wouldn’t have the chance to do some of the birth things that I had planned.  If baby did turn, I knew it was going to be fast and furious.  If he didn’t, I knew I was destined for the hospital.  It was just a matter of when.  So I decided to take out the birth puzzle I had made (yes, I did end up making one!) and did it while sitting on the birth ball or doing my different positions.  I listened to Colleen from Marian Grace, the music I wanted to have with me during birth.  I began to pray for all the intentions on my list.  The day was so emotional and utterly draining.  I left a message that afternoon for Khristeena that nothing had changed.

In case you wanted to see my fancy birth puzzle.  I was kind of proud of it…it's a St. Brigid's anemone flower opening (patron of midwives and newborns) and the prayer is this prayer for expectant mothers.

The Birth
A short while later, at 6:13 p.m. to be exact, Khristeena called and said she wanted to come over to talk about our options.  My stomach sank and I could tell from the sound of her voice that she was going to recommend we go to the hospital.  While delivering a vaginal footling breech baby is possible, there are risks involved that make it current practice to recommend the hospital and most likely, a cesarean section.  The primary risk is that mom’s water will break and since the cervix is not “sealed” by the baby’s head, the cord can slip down and get pinched as baby descends and cut off baby’s oxygen supply.  Obviously a big deal.  But a vaginal delivery is certainly possible for a frank (bottom first) or footling (feet first) breech.  In fact, in Canada, they now recommend a vaginal birth over cesarean and are requiring that obstetricians be once again trained in safe and healthy breech birth as preferred to an automatic surgery.   Unfortunately, here in the United States, most providers are not trained at all to handle a breech vaginal birth and the skill has been mostly lost, making cesarean birth almost the only viable option.

I got off the phone with Khristeena knowing that my options were limiting themselves by the minute.  We didn’t want my water to break or me to go into full labor at home with a breech baby.  Several minutes after getting off the phone with her, I suddenly began to shake and felt extremely cold.  That trembling shake that you can’t stop.  At first I thought it was my nerves knowing that it was almost inevitable that we’d be going to the hospital soon.  That sometimes happens to me when I get nervous.  But then a contraction hit…a crazy hard stuff-is-getting-real one.  The kind that drop you to the floor.  And I knew instantly that it wasn’t nerves at all but transition.  This baby was coming and very very soon. 

I had two or three more of those crazy contractions before Khristeena got there and when she did I was having another on the toilet.  You know things are getting real when you no longer care and invite someone right in to the bathroom as you’re sitting there ;)  One look at me and she could tell what was happening.  As she sat on the bathroom floor, she checked his heartbeat (it was perfect) and went over our options, asking which hospital I preferred.  I told her which one I would rather go to and asked if Lori could come.  Khristeena called Lori who then called our friend who is an obstetrician at said hospital.  While she wasn’t available to come in, she did say she would phone Dr. P., the head of obstetrics at the hospital, part of the same practice, (and a Catholic homeschooling dad and friend) and ask if he could come in. He graciously agreed.  She told Lori that they could try an external version (the manual turning of the baby) and if it worked, that I could then go home to have the baby.  I don’t think she realized how close I was…if baby did turn, there was NO way I was going to be able to go anywhere as I knew he’d be popping out immediately ;)  But I still appreciated that consideration. 

Lori headed over to meet us and Brian called my mom to come over to watch the boys.  In the meantime, I somewhat randomly wandered around the house trying to figure out just what the heck I was supposed to bring to the hospital.  Brian grabbed some extra clothes while I made sure we had phones, my crucifix, a few of my prayer cards, the camera, and I had brushed my teeth.  I can’t even remember what other random things I threw in that bag.  I said goodbye to the boys and I think that was one of the hardest parts of the whole day.  Knowing how much they wanted to be at the birth and knowing it wasn’t going to happen while making sure they weren’t scared (they weren’t).  They said they would pray.  Lori and my mom got there around the same time a few minutes later.  I don’t remember much from those few minutes except Lori saying, “right now, every step you make has to be towards the car.”  And I remember as we walked outside getting the reminder that if my water did break, I needed to get on my hands and knees with my head down and bottom as high in the air as possible to avoid a cord prolapse.  I think that’s when it hit me the potential seriousness of the situation.  That this birth was happening and it was happening very differently than it ever had before.  We decided to take Brian’s truck since I could have the whole backseat and the van is filled with car seats.   He threw a blanket down, Lori got in the backseat with me, Khristeena followed us in her car, and we headed out.  I think I had a contraction on the way and then about half way there another one hit and I felt the pop. 

My water broke. 

At that moment, I can’t even tell you the amount of peace that flooded me.  At what should have been the scariest moment of all, I just felt peace that no matter how things played out, it was as it was supposed to be.  I wasn’t afraid and I felt completely present to the moment.  I told Lori and right away I got on my hands and knees on the back seat of the truck, head laying on the seat, as she helped me out of shoes and pants and checked for a cord.  None.  (In hindsight, yes, I’m very very grateful for dark tinted windows, though at the moment I didn’t care much at all ;).  She called Khristeena who was right behind us and gave the status and Khristeena then called ahead to the hospital so they could have a stretcher ready at the entrance to take me back to the operating room.  Through all of this, Brian drove fast but didn’t at all panic. 

We pulled up to the hospital doors a few minutes later and there was a stretcher and a few people waiting.  Khristeena came to the truck and checked me to again make sure there was no cord (still none) and said she could feel a foot.  She checked his heartbeat and again, it was perfect.  He was healthy and constant during the whole birth.  I was told I needed to back out of the truck on hands and knees and climb onto the stretcher which was quite…amusing?  Fluid leaking, people watching…I remember climbing up onto the stretcher and looking up at all the faces (while still on my knees with head low) and saying hello to everyone.  They thankfully covered me completely with a sheet while wheeling me down the halls.  I remember tracing and following the path to labor and delivery while I kept my head down and peeked at the rolling wheels of the stretcher.  I heard Khristeena giving all the stats and information that they needed.  When we got near the operating room, I looked up to see them holding Brian back which panicked me for a moment and I asked if he was coming in.  The nurse reassured me that he was, he just needed to get the surgical gear on.  Khristeena also was able to come right into the room with me as well which was such a huge blessing.  I wish Lori could have come in, too.

A lot of things began to happen at this point in the space of a few minutes.  I remember an I.V. going in and asking what was in it.  I remember the resident in the room checking me (I wish he hadn’t.)  I remember asking if I had to get antibiotics.  (I think people thought I was in denial about what was going on or was even being stubborn or idealistic or something with some of my comments and questions, but I was completely aware and at peace with what was happening, enough to be able to not be freaking out and to ask what was happening and why they had to do certain things.  I don’t think they’re used to that ;)  I remember someone telling me my scapular was beautiful and asking me where I got it.  I remember them saying they were giving me terbutaline to stop the contractions.  I remember Brian pressing a rosary into my hand.  I remember my very first ever catheter going in (OUCH.).  I remember thinking about all the intentions I had been given for this birth.  I remember them telling me I had to flip over and get on the operating table and me laughing.  (I still can’t get over how they call that thing a table!  It’s like two inches wide.  But somehow I managed to flip over and do it despite me thinking they were obviously joking.)  I remember the anesthesiologist asking me questions about when I had eaten.  I remember asking if I really needed to have my arms strapped down (that freaks me out).  I remember Khristeena walking me through what they were going to do.  I remember how ridiculously cold the room was.  I remember looking up while on my back and seeing a whole slew of people staring at me.  (Weird.)  I remember the obstetrician on call getting in.  Dr. S.  I didn’t recognize her.

Khristeena told me later that when Dr. S. came in she asked Khristeena if I knew I was getting a cesarean and she replied that I did.  She told me she was going to do another check to see how dilated I was.  She did and then, I think to everyone’s shock, she pulled out a foot.  Then she reached in and pulled out another. 

Suddenly, I was being told to push.

I don’t think I’ve ever pushed as hard in my life.  No contractions, no urge, flat on my back.  Exactly how you aren’t supposed to push a baby out and pretty much the hardest way to ever try.  Nurses were pushing my knees back by my face and I pushed.  I felt a bottom come out and with the next push the shoulders and arms.  Then they reminded me that I still had to get the head out.  Yikes.  With my other babies, once the head was out, the rest sort of slipped out…this time I was going easiest to hardest.  And this is where a footling breech can also have some risk.  If mom is not completely dilated at this point, the head can get stuck.  But I pushed with everything in me and I did it, his head was born!  He (another he!) was born!  My baby boy was here!  

I remember Khristeena saying his apgars were 9, 9 (near perfect…very few babies get a 10) and her telling them to hand him right to me.  And they did.  He was brought right up to me and I took him while doing the post-labor uncontrollable shaking thing and overhearing the neonatologist someone had called in berating Khristeena for not giving him the baby.  I love that she was totally respectful and professional but completely assertive.  The baby was fine and there was no need for him to intervene in any way.  He stayed with me.  There was a feeling of awe in the room and I don’t think it was just me projecting.  Most of the people in that room had never seen a breech vaginal birth.

Let me just add right here that we arrived to the hospital at 7:56.  He was born?  At 8:08.  All of this happened within a crazy whirlwind of twelve minutes.  I don't really know how to count actual labor.  I feel like it only makes sense to count when those hard contractions hit so that would be about an hour and forty minutes or so?  (I think those dates and herbs actually did make a difference!  I wonder how fast it would have been had he been head down...)
 
Not right after he was born…we only got a couple pictures in the O.R., none of them internet appropriate ;)  So much for that fancy birth photographer I was excited to have!

Dr. P. came in shortly after he was born and I think was surprised at the outcome.  He took over from there and Dr. S. left.  I didn’t get to see her again.  We waited a little bit for the placenta to come out and the whole time the cord was left intact to finish giving our little boy his blood.  I was still shaking and could barely push out that placenta but I did.  (And they saved it!)  They finally cut the cord and it was ridiculously long since he was still on me and the cord and blankets and sheets were all tangled up all over me and rather than disturb us, they cut it down low. 

Dr. P. checked and not surprisingly, I had a second degree tear.  Before he could fix that, he said he needed to check my cervix for tearing since I wasn’t completely dilated when he came out.  Let’s just say I never ever want to think about that again.  It was horrifically painful and I couldn’t help but scream.  I’m no wimp when it comes to pain but there was no way I couldn’t.  I just remember locking eyes with Brian and trying to “blow” like they said and feeling like this would be how it would all end.  Thanks be to God, there was no cervical tear but the checking was awful.  As was the stitching up of the exterior tear.  If you can avoid tearing, please please do so.  There should be a better process to all that, I think.  At least I got to hold my little one through all of it.

Dr. P. thought I was bleeding too much and recommended a Pitocin drip to which I agreed.  It wasn’t worrisome, but he said if I had that for a few hours and the bleeding was controlled then I’d be able to leave the next morning as soon as the pediatrician gave clearance.   I didn’t have much energy or desire to argue especially since he had come in to help anyway.

Who needs fancy birth photographers when you can get swollen faced gems like this all on your own? 

We were brought to a normal birth room and finally it was just us again – Brian, Khristeena, Lori, me, and our new little one.  I think Khristeena’s first words were a stunned, “Mary!  You just had a footling breech vaginal birth!”  And I had.  It was all still sinking in and it felt amazing to finally be in a quiet room and to have him here.  To know what that "different" feeling had been all about and to be at peace.  He wasn’t wanting to nurse until then and I got him latched on and he nursed off and on for most of the night.  The nursery nurse came in and weighed him and measured him.  Seven pounds one ounce, though a part of me believes that with that crazy long cord and the bracelets and monitors and stuff already on him, that his true weight was six pounds 15 ounces just like three of his older brothers ;)  Twenty inches long.  He got the vitamin K shot and the nurse was very kind and “missed” his eyes with the eye ointment and I rubbed the tiny little bit off his skin right away anyway.  (In New York state, you can’t refuse the eye ointment in the hospital without a call to CPS.  It's pretty ridiculous.)    

Now please do CHECK OUT THAT CORD.  I told you they left it long!

Khristeena and Lori made me eat and drink and we chatted a little bit about how everything happened.  We made a few phone calls and let family in on the news of the newest little man.  They left soon after and we were brought up to the maternity floor for the night.  While the hospital is not my ideal place after having a baby and there is SO much I would change about how they do things, I have to say that everyone minus that one neonatologist was incredibly respectful and helpful.  There were lots of the routine interruptions but the nurses I had were friendly and kind and the overnight nurse was even a woman I knew from birthy circles who had had two home births herself!  

Still laughing about that ridiculous cordage

In the morning, we waited two hours on the phone to order breakfast and still didn’t get any (seriously.  What the heck, hospital??) but the pediatrician did come in by ten or so and did a quick check of the baby.  Once I told him that Khristeena would be doing the PKU and heart check in the next few days he gave us clearance to leave.  Dr. P. came in a few hours later for the final check and we chatted for a little bit.  I tried to make sure he knew that we weren’t trying to have a breech baby at home and that labor had started that crazy quickly prompting the rush to the hospital.  I wanted to make sure none of this was misinterpreted and that no one would be thinking this was a home birth “failure” but rather an appropriate response to an atypical situation.  He let us know that had he been there when we arrived, he wouldn’t have done what Dr. S. did.  Apparently, she is the only doctor old enough on their entire staff to have been trained in breech birth and with the experience to do it.  I have no doubt that God’s hand was in that.  Apparently, when she went to check me she was assessing dilation and determining whether or not she thought I could get the baby out.  Khristeena had also told her in the room that I had four previous full term vaginal births so that also played into her quick decision to go for the vaginal birth.  I’m so thankful that she happened to be there at exactly the moment that I needed because that split second assessment and decision was the difference between a surgical birth (with the risks and recovery of such) and not. 

Welcome, sweet baby!

His Name

We left the hospital about 2 p.m. after finally making the agonizing decision of his name.  We were literally filling in the birth certificate paperwork with the final decision as the man was waiting with the wheelchair to bring me down.  Benedict was never even remotely on the radar for a boy name this time.  When I was holding him in recovery, though, the name Ben popped into my head and seemed just…right.  Raphael has been a patron of our Marriage and family for some years now and it’s been a name that was always in the back of my mind.  Together they mean Blessed Healing of God, which seems appropriate in so many ways for our family this past year.  I know there are people who think it’s a bit weird (they’ll get over it ;) but I feel so much peace that this is his name.  The boy name I had been rooting for all pregnancy was Augustine, though Francis (Frankie) also had some discussion.  A girl would have been Brigid or Therese, with Mary or Marie/Maria as a possible middle name.

After he was finally named, we headed home to my relief and to the welcome of four very thrilled and excited older brothers.  This boy is pretty blessed to have so much love.

Gone less than 18 hours but I still got a banner :)

The Agnus Dei
I can’t end this birth story without mentioning a gift someone had given me that week which I feel strongly played a part in Ben’s healthy birth.  A few months before I was due, I was chatting with a fellow homeschooling, homebirthing friend at our learning center.  I was telling Francine about all the inexplicable fear that I had surrounding this birth.  She is one of the most sincere, generous, kindest women in the world and she stated that I had to have an Agnus Dei and that she would get one for me.  I had no idea what that was but she explained that it’s a long forgotten sacramental of the Church.  It’s a piece of wax from the Easter Candle in the Vatican and is blessed by the pope and imprinted with a stamp of the Lamb of God symbol.  (You can read more about it here.)  One of the uses is for protection and blessing during childbirth and our local cloistered Carmelite nuns makes little cases for them so that they can be worn on a chain and they provide them for those who ask.  As my due date approached, I thought maybe I wouldn’t get it in time or that it had been forgotten.  I saw her two weeks before and she remembered and said that it had been ordered and “don’t worry, you’re not going to have the baby before we get it to you.”  The next Tuesday evening (just a few short hours after I think he flipped but didn’t know it yet) her husband made a special trip out to drop it off to my house.  And that’s when everything sort of started.  I wore that Agnus Dei around my neck from that evening until a few weeks after the birth.  I can’t explain it but I truly feel like the grace given through that little object (through God's power, of course) made a difference in the outcome of this birth. 

I’m so so grateful for the gift of our Benedict Raphael.  He is beautiful, looks just like his brothers did as newborns, and is so loved by everyone in our home.  His life and even his crazy birth are a gift to our family and we feel so very very blessed to have been given this precious boy.


Benedict Raphael
Born May 22, 2015   
8:08 p.m.
7 lbs. 1 oz. 20 inches


Lastly, a few of the frequent comments and/or questions I’ve had surrounding his birth:  
(She’s really not done yet!?  Almost.  Don’t worry ;)

This is why I could never have a home birth…something like this could happen.
And that’s why we didn’t ;)  I honestly feel like this is a homebirth success.  An atypical situation was identified and the appropriate measures were taken to account for that to give both the baby and I the safest birth with the knowledge that we had.  I’m incredibly grateful for a humble and capable midwife who, once we presented a situation beyond her scope of practice, was able to help us have the best birth we could have given the circumstances.  I feel like that’s how birth practices should work.  

Do you wish you had had a planned hospital birth?
I actually wonder what would have happened had this been a planned hospital birth.  Would the breech position have been identified?  If my appointment had been before he flipped and I went into labor without that knowledge, things could have been different.  I’m not sure I would have gotten to the hospital in time without Khristeena and Lori coming to my house and moving me along and then we would have been dealing with a breech birth on the side of a busy city highway.  And if the breech presentation was identified with a planned hospital birth and while I was prepared to have a cesarean when we did go in, I don’t think that the vaginal birth would have been even remotely a possibility.  Honestly, there’s just no way to know what didn’t happen and I’m very very grateful things happened the way they did and I have no doubt that God was a part of all of it.

Do you feel like you failed or are you disappointed with this birth?
No.  Not really.  For whatever reason, he was born the way he was supposed to be born.  If there was something I could identify as having been done wrong, I might feel that way, but this was just a weird situation.  I mean, there are things I definitely wish hadn’t of happened at the hospital (catheter, vaginal check by the resident, arrogant neonatologist, etc.) but in the situation, the staff was doing what they felt was merited given the circumstances and I had a lot of peace about it all.  Brian was a little disappointed he didn't get to cut the cord or catch the baby like he has with the others.  But more than anything I just feel blessed to have had such a weird situation turn out the way it did and that I was still able to give birth naturally, have the cord clamping delayed, and not have my baby separated at all from me.  Oh, and I never had to have those antibiotics despite being GBS+ so that was good, too. ;)

Would you ever plan another home birth?
I don’t know.  There’s no guarantee I’ll ever be giving birth again but if I do, this certainly didn’t scare me out of homebirth or change any of the evidence of its safety.  So I guess, yes, if I were to ever be pregnant again a home birth would definitely still be an option.  I’ve been around birth enough to know that far more complications happen as the result of unnecessary interventions due to hospital protocol or poorly trained/informed providers.  With birth (heck, with life) there are no guarantees.  For us, the small (but relevant) risks of a planned home birth are far less weighty than the much more common risks of a hospital birth.

Has the recovery from a breech birth been different?
Not really.  The only thing identifiably different was holy moly, were my upper legs sore for three full days afterward!  I realized that it was because of the crazy way my legs were positioned while pushing so hard flat on my back at nine months pregnant.  That position is just not right pretty much ever but especially when you’re hugely pregnant, out of shape and pushing your brains out.  My leg muscles were so so sore, like I had done the thigh workout of all thigh workouts, enough to even keep me awake at night.  Other than that, pretty much the same.  Oh, I have had crazy itching spells that I never had before, especially in the week or two after.  But that's not breech-related.  Just weird hormonal stuff, I guess.

So why did he flip?
I don’t know.  There’s no way to really know why his birth was the way it was.  For a little while I questioned whether I had done something wrong which doesn’t make sense, really.  There wasn’t anything that I could have done to make him turn that way at almost forty weeks.  But I have such an overwhelming peace and confidence that he arrived exactly as he was meant to.   Perhaps Brian was right that this was the safer way for him to come out.  Perhaps his cord was funny before and this crazy birth spared us from something awful.  Or perhaps he just is meant to be our unique little Ben and started life making sure we knew it ;)

Okay, now I'm done.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading and thank you so much to those who were praying for us.  I have no doubt that it made a difference.


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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day Brought to You by the Letter B


Father's Day.

Bacon.
"Why are you taking a picture?  Wait, this isn't going on the internet, is it?"

 Bikes.


Baby.

Beers. 
(I get the good stuff.)

Beef.

And...ice cream.  Not one good "B" word I can find for that. #streakruined




Boys.

Blessed. 

Not pictured: Mass, boy wrestling, and porch napping.
We are all coming out of this stomach flu, praise God.  Michael is at the tail end and everyone else is better.  Thankful that John Paul and I never got it and that Ben only showed some slight symptoms.  At least the weather has matched the state of our health lately.  Rain, rain, and more rain.  Seriously, this June has failed big time at its job of  being summer.  But now we're all better so the sun and heat and pool can come now, right?  Right.

Hope you're all doing well and had a great Sunday/Father's Day!

And because I really liked the second reading from Mass today (great, right??), I decided to have some Picmonkey fun.  Feel free to pin or use however if you like 'em!




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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Month in Boys - June 2015


-a monthly recap of some of the things I just don't want to forget-


John Paul


-has decided he would like a set of throwing knives for his birthday.  (No.)
-is working on mastering the "Papa baby soothing hold and bounce" at the training of the master.
-hit his first home run!
-in a newly desired fad has gotten his parents to relent on growing his hair out claiming "I want to look wild and messy!"  Battle choosing and independence fostering and all that.
-has been working during the past week of rain on a paper model of the St. Peter's Basilica.
-is desperate to camp out with his friends and has been asking for more "adventures."
-thought getting the 10 p.m. phone call that he had a new brother was one of his best memories.
-says the best thing about having a new baby brother is "his cuteness.  And just...himself."

Michael


-at the moment Ben makes the slightest sound, he is right there to soothe him and speaks to him with the sweetest voice.
-spearheaded the sweet welcome home banner that greeted me outside the door after the 18 hour hospital stay.
-took a brief stint mowing with the tractor while Papa supervised.
-is still waiting for those two front teeth to grow in.
-along with David and Luke has been wearing his team kickball shirt nonstop since the big family kickball game. 
-has been getting hits at almost every up to bat lately.
-didn't want to know if he had a brother or sister until we got home and wanted to be surprised.
-thinks one of the best things about a new baby brother is getting to snuggle him.

David


-declared out of the blue, "I love listening to the Mass readings in the morning because when you hear them, it's like, 'wow!'"
-played his first game of Ticket to Ride with his brothers on his own.  And won.
-was the first to come down with a stomach virus that knocked him out for a good three days.  And then began to spread.
-finished his preschool class with our homeschool center and was quite proud.
-still has hair that turns blonde first thing in the summer.
-says the best thing about having a new baby brother is "to love him."

Luke

(cheese face)

-was thrilled with Papa being home for two weeks.
-has started giving random hugs when he sees people.  Even people he doesn't know all that well.  But they're great hugs.
-is a big fan of sweeping the driveway which is actually really helpful since the maple trees were raining ridiculous amounts of propellers a few weeks ago.
-decided that yellow is his absolute favorite color and would like everything in yellow, please.
-has begun a maddening new phase of refusing to answer when you ask him a question.  This boy.  My sanctification.  
-in lieu of the above, won't tell his favorite thing about having a baby brother but he is pretty darn fond of him.

Ben


-was born :)
-decided that the best way to do that was feet first.
-already gives a heart melting smile once in a while.
-is not a big fan of the sleep.  He sleeps about 2 hour stretches at night.  He's taken a few long naps during the day when I have the sound machine on.  He seems more sensitive to noise and I'm really hoping that changes.
-gained two pounds by two and a half weeks.
-is already starting to lose some of that hair…right from the top :(  Ridiculous baby tonsure in process.


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