Tag Archives: delivery

Showers, champagne, and flame trees: Celebrating and commemorating birth

It is 7:45 on Monday morning. I have been up for two hours already. Dominic’s “secondhand milk” score this morning is my hair, two of my tee shirts, two of his outfits, his play mat, and our bedspread. When he’s not fussing at the moment, he is lying around looking like a tiny, grumpy, Dr. Evil (Austin Powers, for those of you not familiar with that reference). Given what I wrote last week about how actions determine attitude, this seems like the perfect morning for me to write about celebrating Dominic’s birth.

So, celebrations. The first thing I did to celebrate Dominic’s birth was take a shower. Trust me, after you’ve gone through labour and delivery you experience (and remember) that post-birth shower as a celebratory event indeed.

But moving right along to communal activities where everyone was fully clothed and no one was hemorrhaging…

The first thing Mike and I did together to celebrate was drink champagne. Yes, we took champagne and glasses in a cooler to the hospital. In fact, we managed to remember to pack the chilled champagne when we left for the hospital at 5AM but not the apple juice I was planning on drinking during labour. Maybe I should have tried drinking the champagne during labour, come to think of it. If there’s ever a next time (which is still very much in doubt) maybe I will.

Three days later, my first evening home from the hospital, we had a welcome home “wine-o-clock” and baby’s first tasting. It was a gorgeous evening out on the deck. I had my first brie in nine months and Dominic had his first taste of anything but me. Yes, we did feed our three-day-old baby wine (if you can call a drop or two on the end of Mike’s finger “feeding”). The wine was a Bowen Estates Shiraz – one of the few bottles that was left over from the rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding. As you can see, Dominic loved it.

The next day we planted Dominic’s commemorative tree.

The story behind the tree started during the last trimester of pregnancy, when Mike was in Laos and I was attending childbirth classes in Australia by myself.

The woman running the childbirth classes was not only a fan of natural childbirth, she was a fan of burying the placenta.

“She said that women need to honour the placenta,” I told Mike one night via skype. “She says you should respect this organ that’s nourished your baby for nine months by taking it home from the hospital and having a burial ceremony, maybe burying it under a tree. Honour it? I don’t even want to see it. As far as I’m concerned the hospital can totally keep it.”

I waited for Mike to agree with me that this practice of honouring the placenta was weird and sort of icky.

“I don’t know,” Mike said. “I think it’s sort of cool. The Hmong here in Laos consider the placenta the baby’s first and finest clothing. They bury it close to home, or under the house, and believe that when a person dies their soul must retrace it’s journey to the placenta’s resting place. I want to bury Dominic’s placenta under a tree – a new tree that can grow as he grows.”

“OK,” I said, sighing and resigning myself to entering into the spirit of things for the sake of my spouse. “Dad’s going to love this. Now he will not only get to worry about protecting the tree commemorating our wedding from any wandering goats and the ride-on mower, but the tree commemorating his first grandson.”

In the end Dominic got two trees. We picked a Blood Tree the first time we went to the nursery, and then decided we didn’t like it as much as an Illawarra Flame Tree. We planted them both anyway. Mike symbolically shed a drop of his blood over the roots of the Blood Tree using the diaper pin they’d given us at the hospital and we planted the flame tree over the placenta (don’t worry, I’m so not going to show you any photos of placenta). Then we prayed together for Dominic and for this journey we were embarking upon – this journey of parenthood.

Over to you: How did you celebrate and commemorate the birth of your children? Have you heard any cool stories of how other people did? Share them in the comments section below (or just say hello, that’s fine too). 

Lessons learned during labour and delivery

I don’t really know where to start when writing about labour and delivery. For starters, it was such an intense experience that even now, almost two weeks later, I’m struggling to find the right words (any words) to tell the story well. And secondly, while I was pregnant I was incredibly curious about other women’s experiences of the whole process. Yet I’m not sure that hearing all those stories actually served me well.

Almost no one I talked to spoke positively about labour and delivery, and it seemed that for every woman who had experienced a relatively trouble-free birth there were two more who spoke first (with the haunted look of a trauma survivor) of how badly they tore, how intense back labour was, or how everything went wrong and they needed to have an emergency caesarian. Then there were the real horror stories, of which I heard several.

So I’m unsure of how much detail to go into. I mean, do you really want to know that at 8AM I was 5 cm dilated, throwing up, the contractions were coming one on top of the other almost without pause, and that I told the obstetrician I was dying? Maybe you do, but does knowing that actually help anyone? I’m not so sure.

So instead of giving you the blow by blow, complete with timeline, I think I’ll just talk about a couple of things that I learned or that surprised me along the way. But let me say this before I say any more – overall I had a reasonably good experience of labour and delivery. At eleven and a half hours from first contraction to delivery it maybe wasn’t quite as speedy as I had hoped for, but quicker and generally more manageable than I had feared.

Now, lessons and surprises…

I was more capable of managing the pain than I’d feared I would be: I won’t lie – the pain, especially during the last seven hours, was intense, all-consuming, and like nothing I’d ever experienced before. All that work I’d done creating birth playlists and packing movies we could watch in case of a long labour – none of it was needed. I was completely incapable of concentrating on anything except what was happening in my body.

What helped me the most during labour was keeping my eyes closed and counting my breaths during contractions. As long as I could do that I stayed focused and calm – almost as if I were in a trance. At no time was there any screaming, or swearing at Mike, or biting. Apart from the rough patch at 8AM when I said that I thought I wanted an epidural, I didn’t ask for medication again. In the end I was more afraid that my focus and self-control would completely disappear if I opened my eyes long enough to ask for pain relief than I was of continuing to endure without it. The end result? A completely natural birth.

Labouring in water was a big help: After my waters broke at 8AM I got into an inflatable tub full of warm water and stayed there for the next several hours. The warmth and being comparatively weightless when I wanted to shift position was a huge help in dealing with the contractions.

Having a doula (a birth coach) was a big help: Partly because of the risk that Mike would miss the birth, we decided to hire a doula to be with us during labour and delivery. It was a great decision. Jade was able to stay with us the entire time, whereas the hospital midwives had to keep coming and going as they attended to other patients. She massaged my back at key points, sponged off my face with cold water, gently nudged me to change positions at certain times, kept a vigilant eye on the process, and was able to reassure Mike that things were progressing normally. Left to my own devices I suspect I would have stayed curled up on the bed with my eyes closed the entire time, labour would have been longer, and I probably wouldn’t have made it without pain relief. If you’re pregnant and considering whether or not to hire a doula, hire one.

Moving on, here’s one that I could never fathom how it would be possible beforehand… The women who tell you that in the later stages of labour you will not care if you are stark naked and in the most unflattering position when three total strangers walk into the room… they are right. 

That oft-talked about magical moment when they place your newborn on your chest right after delivery? … Not so much. I was surprised how out of it I was immediately following delivery, and how long the whole after-birth process took. After he was delivered I went into shock and spent most of the next hour shaking uncontrollably while I was being stitched up and delivering the placenta. The baby was on my chest, but it was all I could do to hold him and pat him. There was no incandescent moment of mystery, connection, and wonder as I gazed into his eyes or kissed his little face (which was mostly screwed up, purple, and screaming). He pooed all over me. It was all much more earthy than magical.

Later that night though, when he was all bundled up and I was alone with him in the hospital, and he started to squirm and make unhappy guinea pig noises and wouldn’t settle down again until he was cuddled up right against my chest… that was pretty magical.

So there you have it. If you’ve had a baby or witnessed a birth, what did you learn or what surprised you about the whole process?

Introducing Dominic McKay Wolfe

Dominic McKay Wolfe

Born Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 1:14 PM

3.62 kg (8.0 pounds)

53 cm (20.9 inches)

More to follow after I get some more sleep and Mike and I figure out which way is up (so maybe you should check back in a couple of years). But in brief:

  • Mother and baby are both well.
  • After being very skeptical about whether I was capable of natural childbirth, I surprised myself by making it through the eleven and a half hours of labour and delivery without any pain relief.
  • Dominic surprised me by coming out with one hand up beside his head – a surprise that has granted me an unhappy number of stitches.
  • I still think marsupials and birds have it all over mammals in the birthing department, but my body has surprised me by what it is capable of enduring and how quickly it can transition from “incubator” to “milk factory”.
  • Mike has not surprised me – he’s been calm, supportive, enthusiastic, and capable during and after the birth. For this, and for many other things, I am extraordinarily grateful.

Push It: Music for labour and delivery

A couple of days ago now I asked my facebook community a question. I do this regularly and it usually yields fascinating information (or at the very least some good laughs). I’m often surprised by how much people know (or appear to know) about the most obscure topics and how widely opinions can diverge among my friends.

A month or so ago, for example, I asked my facebook friends the following question: “To circumcise or not to circumcise – that is the question. Thoughts?”

I wasn’t at all sure anyone would touch this topic with a ten-foot pole so I was floored when this status update was the recipient of not just a couple, but several dozen comments. These ranged from the laconic and wildly funny, “At his age, I’d say Mike shouldn’t bother”, to more than one diatribe that basically equated circumcision with crimes against humanity. There were also a variety of stories about botched circumcisions or infections in the teen and adult years that were the result of not being circumcised as an infant. Some of these stories were so graphic and horrifying they belonged in book entitled True Life Stories of Controversial Medical Procedures.

Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the entire discussion thread when I was trying to remove some nude spam video from my profile. I took this as a sign that my next book should not be True Life Stories of Controversial Medical Procedures.

This week’s baby-related status question was this: “Thinking about music for a labour-playlist. Did you play music during labour and birth? Any good suggestions?”

Well over half of my own interactions on facebook trend towards flippant or sarcastic, so I’m not exactly sure why I expected people to take me seriously and flood me with advice regarding soothing cello concertos and celestial orchestral pieces. Perhaps because when you’re the one who’s staring down the line at this aforementioned “labour and birth” experience in less than two months it doesn’t look much like a laughing matter. Whatever the reason, I was honestly surprised at the recommendations I did receive. When I could actually bring myself to read them, however, I did laugh. Sort of. A little.

In no particular order, here are ten of the most outstanding (or egregious) recommendations I received for a labour playlist:

  1. Push It (Salt n Pepa)
  2. Gotta Get Out of This Place (by Barry Mann and Cynthis Weil)
  3. Hold the Fort (by Billy Bragg)
  4. The First Cut Is The Deepest (by Cat Stevens)
  5. Hurts So Good (by John Mellencamp)
  6. Bleeding Love (by Leona Lewis)
  7. Only Women Bleed (by Alice Cooper)
  8. Give Me Novocain (by Green Day)
  9. Take Away My Pain (by John Petrucci)
  10. This Party Sucks (by The Slicky Boys)

Thank you, facebook friends.

Now, for everyone who may actually be looking for something along those cello or orchestral lines I recommend the following:

  1. Suite No 1 in G Major for Solo Cello BMV 1007 (The Essential Yo Yo Ma)
  2. Thais: Meditation (The Essential Yo Yo Ma)
  3. The Lady Caliph – Dinner (Yo Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone)
  4. Amazing Grace (Duane Funderbunk)
  5. Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor (Classical Chill Disc 2)
  6. Pachabel: Canon (Classical Chill 1)
  7. Haydn: String Quartet in C Major Op.76 No. 3 (Classical Chill 1)
  8. Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.2 in C Minor Op.18 (Classical Chill 2)
  9. Grieg: Piano Concerto in A Minor Op.16 (Grieg: Greatest Hits)
  10. On Earth As It Is In Heaven (Ennio Morricone, The Mission)

What about you? Did you play music during labour and delivery? What? Got any recommendations to add to either one of these lists?

Going it solo in childbirth classes

I haven’t been blogging as much as usual lately, I know. This is partly because Mum and Dad refuse to get a puppy, despite my constant pestering, so I am without cute puppy stories to share. And it’s partly because Mum and Dad don’t seem to want me to put up stories about them, so I am without entertaining parental stories. But mostly it’s been because I’ve been tired, tired, tired.

I’m now feeding the baby extra iron and calcium every day and hopefully that’ll help on the fatigue front.

So I went to my first childbirth class yesterday. Alone. Reminding myself that plenty of people do this solo for real so I have few grounds to be indulging in self-pity on that front. This stern talking to mostly helped. Mostly.

Anyway, maybe there was some good that came out of Mike not being able to be there (namely that he didn’t get to compare me to the three other women in the class and wonder just how far off the normal beaten path I habitually wander). For if Mike had been there, he would have witnessed the following moments:

1.     The birth educator (who will also be my doula, let’s call her Jade) asks each of us to introduce ourselves and explain the sort of birth we would like:

All three other women speak with great fervour of their desire to have a natural (drug-free) birth. One insists that she has her heart set on a lotus birth (and whoever knows what that is, fill me in below). I say, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m interested in learning about natural birth, especially water birth, but I totally have not ruled out the use of epidurals, pethidine, and maybe general anesthetic.”

2.     Jade describes with misty-eyed nostalgia how, when she was thirty weeks pregnant and fully into the nesting stage, she used to buy lots of tiny new baby clothes. Then she’d put them away neatly, only to find herself going to her baby cupboard every two days to hold these clothes up, marvel at how small they were, and imagine her baby in them. Jade turns to me (since I’m the most pregnant in the class by several weeks) and asks if I’ve found myself doing that.

“Ah, not exactly,” I say. “I haven’t actually bought the baby any clothes yet, but lovely friends have given us some and the other day I did sort them into two piles – ‘clean’ and ‘needs washing’. That’s a good start, isn’t it?”

3.     Jade informs us that it’s not unusual for pregnant women to have very vivid and unusual dreams and asks if any of us have been having any of those.

“I have!” I said. “Last month I dreamed I was a brown bear and when I woke up I was still convinced I was a bear. I mean, I sometimes wake up forgetting where I am, but I’ve never woken up really thinking that I was a different species before.”

“Um,” Jade said, after she stopped laughing. “Anyone having unusual dreams about babies?”

Oh, right… unusual dreams about babies. Nope. Not unless my one dream that I forgot to feed the baby all day, and then left it behind when I went out to dinner with Mike and my parents counts.

Actually, that probably does count. So maybe I’m normal on this front after all.

4.     Jade tells us that we’ve all probably received mostly negative messages about labour and birth from the media (who tend to turn it into a dramatic plot-point) and maybe from our mothers as well. She tells us that she wants us to practice replacing the word “pain” with the phrase “strong and powerful experience” whenever we think about labour. Then she instructs us to close our eyes and do a visualization exercise where we focus on the word “pain” and then on the word “soft” several times. Then she asks us all what we noticed.

All the others in the class speak quite poetically about how they felt their attention narrow and their bodies tense up when focusing on the word pain, and relax and soften when they focused on the word “soft”.

“And what did you experience?” Mike asked, when I described this whole exercise to him later via skype.

“Well, uh, I was a bit distracted,” I said. “For one, the baby was stamping on my bladder. And I was also busy being annoyed that we couldn’t just call a spade a spade, acknowledge pain as pain, and just talk about these exercises as pain management strategies rather than trying to put a ‘strong and powerful’ gloss on it.”

“Well,” Mike said. “You are, as usual, making a very good and logical point. But given what I know of labour, it seems likely that you’ll get to the point somewhere during the whole process when all of your considerable and logical intellect isn’t going to do you a single bit of good. So perhaps next time you should consider not being quite so logical and just enter into the spirit of things.”

So it seems that Mike doesn’t need to be physically present to put his two cents in, and perhaps it’s wise he voices these opinions while he’s still safely out of reach.

Have you ever attended childbirth classes? Did you learn anything especially interesting or helpful?