Saturday, April 11, 2015

The 34 Week Birth Prep Plan (and why I'm no birthing superstar)


So here we are.
I am officially 34 weeks gestated.  Twoish months to go before this wee one comes out.
And I should probably admit something here.

I don't want to do it.

I think people assume that when you're a birth junkie and a doula and enjoy talking about and advocating for healthier, better births, that you're super duper excited to do it yourself.  Not this time.  Proof in point:  Long before this baby was even conceived, maybe even a year, I was sick with a stomach bug that felt remarkably at points like labor.  I remember with tears in my eyes, pleading with the husband, "I can't have another baby.  I can't do this again."
I wasn't even remotely pregnant.
SO there's that.

Birth is HARD.  But you know, this baby has got to come out, y'all.  And I have to be the one to do it.  So slowly but surely, the Lord has been giving me more and more grace to realize that yes, I can do this again.  I'm no birthing superstar.  I love birth and I love being with women when they birth.  I love the strength that it shows and the raw beauty that a woman in labor holds.  BUT while with other births, I felt prepared and confident and, dare I say, even excited to take it on, this time I'm working through a lot of fear.  For some reason, while Luke's birth was beautiful and uncomplicated and on the outside went perfectly fine, it left me feeling like I could never ever do that again.  I was very much in my head during that birth and those raw sensations never really fuzzed over with time.  For up to a year after, I could still physically feel the sensations of labor.  From intel I'm gathering from other moms who have done this numerous times, there seems to be some sharing of this experience once you hit birth number four or five.

Anyway, God is faithful.  He will not bring me to that hour without giving me the grace and strength to do it.  In fact, the Sunday readings from a few weeks back really gave me some peace and perspective on the whole thing and a certain part jumped out at me and I think I have a 'birth verse':

I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.


And as Father talked about the seed falling to the earth and cracking open so that new life could burst forth, I felt a reassurance.  It wasn't a happy, fuzzy feeling (I mean, cracking open and all…I think I winced.) but a confidence being planted in my heart that I can do this again and He will be the one getting me through.  That this was the point of it all.  All.  Not just pregnancy but life.  Dying to ourselves for the sake of the other.

But at the same time God is also awesome because while ultimately it is His grace that gets us through, He puts a lot of that preparation for birth in our own hands.  I firmly believe that a great birth doesn't happen in a vacuum and it's not about luck.  There are plenty of things I can be doing now to prepare my body, mind, and soul for this birth.  So I've been coming up with a birth prep plan for this time around to prepare myself for the cracking.

Walking
At the beginning of this pregnancy I was going to the Y and doing some biking and swimming which gradually subsided as things got more difficult and my heart would feel off after.  Plus it was the worst winter ever.  My hope is that as the weather improves, Brian and I can start taking brief walks in the evening to just keep me moving, a little active, and not all blobular, which is exactly how I'm currently feeling.

Eating All the Dates
I found out about a year or so ago about a study that the NIH did on eating dates the last four weeks of your pregnancy.  The results were pretty stunning.  While it wasn't a huge study (69 women) the women who ate a regimen of six dates a day the last four weeks of pregnancy were more likely to go into spontaneous labor, had their membranes intact longer, were more dilated upon reaching the hospital, and (get this) had early labors that were almost cut in HALF (8.5 hours vs. 15 hours!).  My midwife has said she's noticed a difference now in the women who have done the dates.  There's something about them that seems to prepare a mom's body for labor.  So I'll be all about the dates those last few weeks of pregnancy.  If anything, it's not going to hurt, right?  Stay tuned for the verdict.

Prepping the Pool
I was on the fence about getting a pool again but I ended up getting one thinking I'd rather have it and not use it than want it and not have it.  I splurged and using a coupon code got the fancy one this time, too, because the tropical fish plastered all over the cheap one are visually offensive to my birthing sensibilities.  It is really nice having the water during labor.

Doing the Squats
Starting today I commit to doing 8-10 squats a day.  Which sounds like nothing, I know, but try doing them with forty extra pounds strapped to your stomach.  Squats are good for helping baby descend and for strengthening the perineum.  I've torn for all four births because I'm a Super Pusher and while my hopes aren't super high that it won't happen again, wouldn't it be lovely if this helped to prevent one??

Magical Birthy Herbs
I saw this stuff on Amazon while shopping for other baby things (that "Others Also Bought" toolbar is dangerous, isn't it??).  After reading the reviews I thought it wouldn't hurt to try it.  It's an herbal supplement filled with good birthy herbs.  So once I hit 36 weeks, I'll start it and see if the herb magic works.

A Sip of the Vino
There shall be a bottle of wine available for a small glass of midwife-approved vino to help me relax when the time comes.  Not sure if I'll be in the mood for it or not but I like the idea.

A Puzzle?
I've never heard of anyone doing this and this may be the oddest birth idea ever BUT I'm going to buy a puzzle for when labor starts.  I'm such a nerd.  Over Christmas I realized that when a puzzle is out, I get a wee bit obsessed with finishing it and can ignore almost everything else going on around me to work on it.  I have this idea in my head that if I start a smallish puzzle in labor I'll be able to focus on that rather than on getting too in my head and over analyzing the birth stuff.  And I totally plan on having a puzzle made that's a good birth visual because I find visualization very helpful while in labor.  

Bringing the Word
I plan to make a little visual of that verse up there and also have my Scripture cards on hand for Brian or anyone present to use as needed.  I'm not sure what exactly that will look like but I love the idea of being surrounded and strengthened by His Word during the birth.

Labor Serenades
There will most likely be some music on, I just haven't figured out what yet.  Last birth, I had the same perfect Advent birth song playing over and over for a good six hours.  We'll see what I can come up with to torture serenade my birth team with this time around…

All the Prayers
Most importantly, I'll be relying on grace and prayer.  I haven't been shy this time about asking other people to pray for me and for this birth.  And soon, I'll be asking for your intentions to help me use those contractions for all of you, too.  Brian and I have already started praying for my courage and peace and for a healthy and holy birth.  I've never been one to tell people when I'm in labor but who knows, maybe I'll even let people know via Facebook when things are starting this time around so I can have people praying me through it.  (No promises, though!)  But you could totally start some of those prayers for me now and I sure wouldn't mind ;)




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33 comments:

  1. Fascinating about the dates!! If I ever have another baby, I'm definitely going to try that.

    And, thank you for sharing your fears about the birth. It's good to know that even doulas have birth fears.

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    1. Yeah, I think sometimes people in the natural birth world don't realize that some fear is normal and just needs to be processed rather than ignored or talked away. That doesn't mean we don't value the same reasonings for natural birth but just that we also completely realize the sacrifice and strength that it takes…and it's HARD. Like I said, I'm tending to find that women who have done it four or five or more times really empathize with it and it's been helpful getting their perspective.

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  2. I'm not a date fan but I heard that right after I had Peter and want to figure out a way to enjoy them next pregnancy so I can try that!

    Also, I think a puzzle is a really good idea. May I also recommend throwing a birthday party? That worked really well to help me ignore being in labor!

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    1. Well, we do have two birthdays in our house right around then…I'll see what I can do :) One of my first thoughts upon finding out it'll almost 100% be a May baby was just how busy May already is! I've seen recipes where you use ground up dates as the sugar rather than normal sugar. I may have to start doing that because I can see myself getting sick of them real quick.

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    2. Lara bars would be a super easy way to get dates. I like the cherry and cashew cookie. No added sugar so no added guilt;)

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    3. Thanks for the tip! I've heard of them but didn't realize they were made of dates!

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    4. Dates and almond butter ! Yum!

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  3. I had never heard that about the dates but I will keep that in mind for the next time!! I hope your birth team consists of a doula for yourself because it sounds like you need someone else to be confident for you because you can do it! We'll be praying for you and Baby Grape. (That's what I've been calling your baby in my prayers.)

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    1. Thank you so much for the prayers! I'll have my midwife and her assistant/my doula, as well as Brian…not sure who else yet. But Brian and I have been talking a lot about how I'll need to draw from his strength a lot more this time than others and I told my midwife that I'll probably be looking for a lot more emotional support this time around.

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  4. I love the puzzle idea. Maybe one of the Sistine chapel, or another beautiful piece of art. I will be praying for all of you.

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    1. Thank you so much, Ann-Marie! Hmm…we actually have a Sistine chapel puzzle but it's a 1000 pieces. I really hope I'm not in labor long enough for that one!!

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  5. I just heard about the date thing a few hours ago. Crazy! This woman told me she ate dates every day and end up delivering 2 days past her due date, instead of way past it like her others. That anecdote alone was not enough to convince me I confess but I would be interested to hear your post labor thoughts on them.

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    1. It's really interesting. My clients who have done it have also had fairly simpler births. One of them was a first time mom and her active labor was only about 2-3 hours long! It makes me wonder what's in them and why the NIH decided it was worth a study in the first place...

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  6. This is a great list. And I'm a birth junkie, I used to teach Bradley classes, and my fourth labor was a big fear thing for me too. I will pray for your fear to be gone but also for a smooth delivery.

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    1. Thank you! It's been a really interesting process to go through and work out. Figuring out what is triggering it and how to work through it and all.

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  7. Bacon wrapped dates...Yum! Trust me

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    1. my thoughts exactly. I wonder what would happen if I started inhaling them now at 23 weeks. (aside from, you know, 30 extra lbs of unintentional weight gain.)

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    2. Oh man. Yeah, I think I've already gained way over what I normally do but…bacon...

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  8. I'll be praying for you, Mary! I am definitely an odd ball because I've never had any fear about birth, but so many of my friends and family members have and it seems to be so crippling!

    About the dates... sometimes I worry about even natural methods to start labor. My daughter was born at 41 weeks 1 day and I trust that my body knew how long she needed to be fully developed. I worry that if I did anything to prompt an earlier labor (even something as natural as eating dates) would that mean that my child were born before he/she was ready? I mean, obviously, being born a week earlier wouldn't have catastrophic results, but I've seen some research comparing the immune systems of babies born at 38 weeks vs. 40 and the difference is quite noticeable. There was nothing particularly "wrong" with the babies born earlier, but in the long term, they got sick more often. Just something I've been thinking about. I actually didn't mind being "overdue" and wasn't at all anxious to go into labor or get the pregnancy over with (again, I'm a total odd ball). But obviously, I'd love a shorter labor, etc. I just wish there was more research on it. And I don't know how I could stomach all those dates. I made a cake a while back that used 10 dates instead of sugar, but if you have to eat six a day that's a lot of cake. (I don't think I could do just straight dates!)

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    1. Thank you so much. I've never had any fears before either so it's interesting to go through. The dates won't start labor…i.e. they would never be used as something to induce. The thinking is more that they may have something…an enzyme or vitamin or whatever that maybe is helpful in having a toned uterus. Something that maybe a lot of us in the American culture aren't getting from our normal diets. I was wondering the other day that maybe part of it is that they ARE so sweet that the other day after eating some I had no desire for other less healthy sugars (which isn't normal for me ;) so maybe it's just that they help cut out the worse things? I'm hopeful they'll be more research on it soon, too.

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  9. Mary, you are so lovely and normal 😊 Tou helped me through my fearful pregnancy, and I wish I could be as inspiring as you were to me. All I can tell you is that the worrying isn't all for nothing, I think it may have helped me prepare for an unendurable labor, and then the one I ended up having was better than I imagined. God uses all for good!! The dates sound like what the red raspberry tea claims, to make your uterus primed for a fast labor. I'd do anything to help, in the very least being regular in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy sounds like s win!!!

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    1. Ha, yes, that should be a bonus, too :) I'm gradually remembering that every birth really is different. Your experience has actually been on my mind, too, so thank you!

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  10. Thank you for the reminder to buy dates! I'm just shy of 38 weeks for #1 and beginning to feel rather nervous about the whole thing so anything to make it better sounds worth trying!
    I was looking for something short and inspirations the other day and found this from Francis de Sales; you might like it as well:
    Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
    rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
    God, whose very own you are,
    will lead you safely through all things;
    and when you cannot stand it,
    God will carry you in His arms.

    Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
    the same understanding Father who cares for
    you today will take care of you then and every day.

    He will either shield you from suffering
    or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
    Be at peace,
    and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

    Sending lots of prayers your way ;)

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    1. Oh, I love this, thank you! I may have to print this out!

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  11. Fascinated about the dates! Just want to encourage you re the four/five baby mindset, boy do I know it, but.. last baby I was determined to tackle my mindset and did change it to more positive. So can be done. Praying for you, and very excited:)

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  12. Mary, I could reach through the screen and hug yoU right now! I do not have labor fear (yet) but I am pregnant with my fourth now and have had increasingly bad morning sickness with each one. I woke up all night long to be sick. I am terrified of the months to come and terrified of future pregnancies. Silly huh? But hearing you are scared too, makes me feel a little less alone. So much in the Catholic blogosphere, I read these great posts about openness to life (that I love!). But now I am feeling so scared and not terribly open to life, and your post does make me feel more normal. Anyway, thanks for letting me spill this all out here! Hugs to you :)

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    1. Not silly at. all. Pregnancy is HARD and it seems to get harder with each one and as we get older. I'm still struggling with being completely open to the sacrifice that motherhood brings but I think the Lord is pleased with even just our desire. Sometimes those sacrifices that require the most selflessness and struggle are the ones that merit the most growth. At least I hope so! Prayers for some comfort and peace for you. You are definitely not alone :)

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  13. I too am feeling fearful about my upcoming birth. I am due with my 7th in early June. I am going to try the dates. And I am in total agreement with the squats. I have read a bit about how that helps strengthen the pelvic floor and position baby for birth. Great ideas!

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    1. I'll add you to my prayers, Jennifer! It's comforting to know that there are other women in there with us!

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  14. Mary, I loved this post! Especially that bible quote. I'm.20 weeks and since the start have been much more nervous/fearful about this birth. Mostly regarding the pain of it! I used to get almost excited but now im just feeling scared :) this was very encouraging. Thank you and hope you are well! You will certainly be in my prayers!! Love, Becky

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    1. Praying for you, too, Becky. I think it's important that women know that fear is normal…that doesn't mean we stay there or shouldn't work through it but to know that they're not crazy or doing something wrong is valuable. Besides, without fear, there would be no true courage :)

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