Seasons change...but timing? Sometimes timing stays the same.

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Timing is an interesting thing. Why certain things align at specific times is a bit of a mystery, but it draws our attention and leaves us pondering…

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a mom. I pretended often as a little girl and looked forward to the day I would have my own sons and daughters.

In 1990, my dream began it’s fulfillment with the birth of my first baby - a beautiful 7 lb boy we named Taylor. He and I embarked on this new journey and we learned the mother/son thing together. We learned to nurse, sleep (or not!), deal with illness, start walking, and talking. We played in the dirt, sang silly songs together and enjoyed all the fun things that came with having an amazing, sweet and bright little boy. I loved him completely and enjoyed all that we added to each others lives.

Two and a half years later, March 24 of 1993, we were again at the hospital in Edmonton, about to have our second baby. Like the first pregnancy, we had chosen not to find out what we were having and let it be a surprise. When that little girl was placed in my arms, she added another dimension to our family and I eagerly anticipated enjoying the mother/daughter bond with her that I had shared with my own mother. As I thought about taking her home I had a sudden desire to do what all good mothers and daughters do - go shopping!!  She needed a dress. 

 

So with a 6lb 6oz infant just over 27 hours old, I left the hospital and went directly to West Edmonton Mall. Carrying this tiny bundle in my arms, I went shopping for the tiniest dress I could find. (Of course it was crazy. I know that. But at the time, post birth euphoria was clouding my rational thinking. And as a doula I would NEVER recommend this!!) 

 
 Jaedyn in all her 6 week old glory!

Jaedyn in all her 6 week old glory!

 

 

Jaedyn definitely brought some sparkle and our family of four grew in some new ways. There were music lessons, American Girl dolls, and tea parties. She enjoyed figure skating and playing hockey, horses and jr. dragster racing along with her brothers. More siblings were born and she had friends and friend drama. There was teen angst, slammed doors, and tears of reconciliation. 

Then in March of 2011, Jaedyn & I went away together to celebrate her 18th birthday. Graduation was coming up and she needed to get something to wear. There was dinner out, a nice hotel, laughter and of course, shopping. I was sitting outside a fitting room in a store in West Edmonton Mall when it suddenly hit me. Here we are again. Mother and daughter, in Edmonton, for her birthday, shopping. For a dress.

 
 Grad 2011

Grad 2011

 

 

A few months later, she graduated from high school. There was work, then college in California, new friends, and international travel. There was a season of helping us at home, then moving out, pursuing dreams, starting a business, and falling in love. Then a couple weeks ago, on a frozen mountain lake in Kananskis, there was a ring.

 
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It’s March again, and this past weekend we went away to celebrate Jaedyn’s 25th birthday. Her two sisters came, and her friend from Minnesota, as well as her future mother in law. And somewhere in there, it hit me. Here we are, Jaedyn & me. Mother and daughter, in Edmonton, for her birthday, shopping.

 

For a dress.

 
 She said YES to the dress!! Pictures to come ... in the future! 

She said YES to the dress!! Pictures to come ... in the future! 

 

A Personal Breech Birth Story

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The constant ringing of my in-laws doorbell that evening will forever be etched my mind. The sound announced little trick-or-treaters all dressed up, eagerly anticipating some special treat dropped into their bag. My own anticipation grew with each ring, but for different reasons. For several hours I had been having regular strong contractions that were increasing my hope that my long awaited first baby may be on the way….

 

Four weeks before, I was sitting in my Dr.’s office for a regular prenatal appointment. After a normal and healthy pregnancy I was getting excited to meet my baby soon. For my entire pregnancy I had been travelling 3 hours to the closest city for my prenatal care and was now staying with my husband's parents until baby made his or her arrival. This appointment felt like any other and I will admit it didn’t really register when my Dr. informed me that day that my baby was currently in a breech position. No big deal, I thought. Baby moves around all the time and will get into the right position I’m sure. By the next visit, however, my OB reaffirmed that the baby was still breech and we needed to start making other plans for delivery - meaning scheduling a C-section. At this point I woke up to the fact that things were not at all how I had planned and I began to question and… bargain. Young and inexperienced (maybe a good thing?) I insisted that I didn’t want a Caesarean and pressed for other options. My OB, a warm and grandfatherly type, let me know that generally, breech babies were best delivered surgically, but after begging him to “let me try” (?? whatever that meant to me?) he scheduled an ultrasound and said he would consider it. The ultrasound confirmed that baby was in the “Frank breech” position (bum down and legs up against the chest) and my Dr. agreed to let me attempt a vaginal breech delivery. 

 

As my due date approached, he let me know that to go ahead as planned, I would need to go into labour on my own as the hospital frowned on what I was attempting and to add induction would be “too many complicating factors” for their protocol. I’m not sure how, but after some more begging I had somehow won his heart and he agreed to wait. I was scheduled for an NST (non-stress test) Wednesday the following week - 3 days post EDD. The NST revealed regular contractions and they sent me home to wait, but the following morning when the contractions had not produced a baby, my Dr. called and said if I did not go into labour that day, he would see me at the hospital Friday morning to begin an induction. 

 

Here we go

Sometime around 4PM that day, I had a contraction that I felt in my gut was the beginning of labour. Those contractions continued at 10 minute intervals the rest of the evening and as the little trick-or-treaters arrived at the door, my excitement over the reality that my baby was coming increased. By 10PM the contractions were still manageable and my husband had arrived from home so I decided to get some rest if possible. I actually slept off and on most of the night though the contractions continued. We arrived at the hospital around 9AM for my scheduled induction but when they discovered that I’d been having contractions for 17 hours, they decided to wait on any medications to see what would happen. The most challenging thing at that point was the NPO order (nothing to eat or drink) as they clearly believed I would be having a C-section at some point (after I had “tried” for awhile) and my stomach would need to be empty as is regular surgery protocol. They hooked me up to an IV for fluids and I began the process of waiting out a hospital delivery.

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My husband and I walked and walked, alternating with regular fetal monitoring. By 4PM (after 24 hours of regular contractions and hours of walking with nothing to eat or drink) I was beginning to feel very weary. I was also making little progress. As we made another round of the hallways hauling the IV stand, I suddenly had a contraction that made it difficult to stand, breathe, or move. I knew my labour had shifted into a new intensity and I soon found myself back in bed with pain that was previously outside of my thought realm. Crazy pain. Pain that blurred my thinking and shocked me at it’s intensity. I had no idea it would feel like THIS. 

 

Privacy please!

I will digress at this point to a previous office visit with my OB. As fairly private and concerned about my personal vulnerability, my husband and I were asking my Dr. about who would be in the room during the birth. I made it clear that I wanted NO ONE there except dad, Dr. and maybe one nurse. That was it. My modesty and self protection was at stake, and I was not up for any other non-essential spectators at my birth. No way. I remember his response so clearly. With a gentle smile (and somewhat knowing, almost amused twinkle in his eye) he assured me (without telling me who EXACTLY would be there) that only the people who NEEDED to be there would be there. I felt reassured, thinking that meant just the four of us. Naive.

 

After about 3 hours of this ridiculous pain, I remember one trip to the bathroom where my husband actually had to physically help me there. As I sat on the toilet, door open with him holding me up, I remember hearing a strange voice call my name. Without any hesitation I told the man to come on in. A new Dr. introduced himself as my OB’s partner, filling in for the next hour or so while my Dr. was on a supper break, and checking in on me to see how I was doing. I chatted with him as I was able, telling him my story thus far, and somewhere in that conversation, with the three of us all cozy in the bathroom, me sitting on the toilet, hubby holding me, Dr. standing there…. I suddenly realized I had lost all sense of dignity!! I was in so much pain I didn’t even care who was there. A new reality. I laugh now and remember my Dr.’s wise and gentle answer to my concern for privacy. He knew I would get to this point.

 

Give me drugs. Now.

Somewhere in the hour that followed, I lost my ability to cope with the pain and gave in to the continual offers for pain medication. My plans for an unmedicated birth fell by the wayside as I grasped for relief. My resolve probably collapsed after the internal check that revealed I was only 5-6 cm (when I had been in labour for so long and was SURE I must be almost at the finish line..) No one told me that the first 6 cm were the longest and hardest, and that the rest could go quicker. I thought I was in for another 12 hours of this to get fully dilated. They gave me one shot of Demerol and it made me incredibly groggy. I could hardly stay awake between contractions and was woken up by the pain when I was already too far into the contraction to get on top of it with my breathing. It barely touched the pain but completely destroyed my own sense of control and being able to manage. It would be the only pain medication I ever accepted for eight pregnancies.

 

Finally giving up

I think the nurse said I was around 7 cm when I finally gave in. It was about 9:45PM and I was done. I’d had enough. The pain was too much. I wasn’t progressing. Hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since 8AM. I was exhausted and couldn’t carry on. The nurse called my OB and he came into my room at 10PM. We talked for a few minutes (I mostly cried) and he said he would advise a C-section as I wasn’t progressing and he could see I was out of strength. I said yes, it was time. I almost screamed when I heard him say he would book the OR - for 11PM!!!! WHAAATTT??! I had waited until I couldn't handle it any more so I meant PUT ME OUT NOW!! I didn’t want to experience even ONE MORE CONTRACTION!! I was devastated and began to cry more. A nurse came in to start prepping me for surgery which at that point still meant shaving the incision site. That was done by 10:08 and she left the room for supplies to start a catheter.

 

Wait, what’s happening?

A minute after she left, I had another contraction and felt my water break. I told my husband to call the nurse and she came in response to our call, ready to insert a catheter for the surgery. I had an intense sensation of needing to have a bowel movement and moaned that I needed to get to the bathroom. She checked me and immediately told me I didn’t and started rushing around, calling for another nurse and yelling for my OB. Everything was a blur as my pain, Demerol fog, and inexperience left me lost as to what was happening around me. I remember being annoyed at this nurse who wasn’t taking my bathroom need seriously (If I say I need to go, how can she tell me I don’t?? Fine, I thought. I’m going to go right here…) There was sudden tension and arguing between the nurses and my OB as the nurse prepared the room to deliver right there and the Dr said no, get everything to the delivery room… My husband and I were lost in the confusion and didn’t realize until a few minutes later that the baby was already presenting!! 

 

We were quickly transported, and in a delivery room full of specialists and nurses, including a paediatric team (I hadn’t fully understood all the risks to the baby of being delivered breech..) our son made his entrance into the world at 10:27PM, bum first, minutes after my water breaking and with only 3 pushes.

 

The baby was immediately taken by the paediatric team and required some oxygen, but was healthy and beautiful. His head was perfectly shaped as is often the case with breech babies as their head hasn’t experienced any of the pressure normally placed on the skull during the birthing process. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and grateful to be finished. He was taken to observation and while my husband called our parents (who still thought I was in the middle of a C-section) a lovely nurse brought me hot blankets, some toast and tea. It was the most amazing meal I could remember as I was completely famished! Toast never tasted so good. 

 

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That was November 1, 1990 - twenty seven years ago, and yet I remember it like it was yesterday. The baby I had dreamed of my whole life had finally arrived and with him came the new identity - mother. He chose to come into the world in his own way (which would be a sign of things to come!) and turned my world upside down with love!! <3<3 

 

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Take aways from my breech birth:

  1. I was incredibly blessed to have a Dr. trained and skilled in breech delivery who was willing to listen to a naive new mother who begged “Let me try.” Sadly, fewer and fewer doctors are trained in this skill as Caesarean delivery has become the norm. As a doula I had a client several months ago with a breech presentation so I did my research in an attempt to find options for her. Besides all the options for encouraging baby to turn, I was disappointed to find only two doctors in the entire nearest city who will attempt vaginal breech deliveries. They both also attempt ECV’s (external cephalic version) prior to labour, not an option I was given 27 years ago.
     
  2.  I was informed prior to my breech attempt that I would definitely have an episiotomy. Though not my desire, it was the trade off to reduce the risks as there is no way of knowing how large the baby’s head is and once the rest of the body is already delivered, it’s not a time to have baby get stuck. Despite the speed at which things happened after my water broke, the episiotomy still happened to ensure my baby’s safety. The healing was long and painful.
     
  3.  Breech deliveries can be long. The whole process took 29.5 hours, (only the last six were really intense labour) though we’ll never know if that would have been the same had he been head down and was just a typical first delivery. Many normal labours go longer than that and it was probably pretty average but my Dr. did forewarn me that breech labours can take longer simply because bums (being soft) don’t always dilate the cervix with as much pressure as heads (which are harder.)
     
  4. Though the delivery went very well, upon examination they found his little hips had been dislocated in delivery so he was fitted by a specialist with a “Pavlich harness” which he wore for the first 3 month of his life. It kept his legs in a frog-like position so his hip sockets would repair and grow deep. At 3 months the Dr. took it off and said “You can forget this ever happened.” And we did. 
     
  5. Vaginal breech delivery is possible and is a good option if the conditions are right. Baby must be in the “right” breech position (my son was Frank breech - legs straight up) While the obstetric community has gone back and forth on their recommended protocols concerning breech deliveries over the past few decades, recent studies are pointing to the safety and lower risk factors of delivering breech babies vaginally. See this article 
     
  6. I'm SO glad I didn't immediately opt for the C-section before pushing to try for a vaginal breech. VBAC's (vaginal breech after Caesarean) were not common at the time and according to my OB, the prevailing thought was "Once a C-section, always a C-section." I had no idea at the time how many children I would later want to have. Years later during a regular prenatal appointment with my sixth baby (I had the same OB for my first 6 pregnancies after which he retired) I recall listening to him discuss my history with an intern he was training. He told her what a good choice he made by delivering the firstborn breech vaginally or I would never have been able to have "all these babies"... I wanted to laugh and gently remind him who it actually was that pressed for that decision!!
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Are you or someone you know facing a malpositioned baby? Reach out and let me help you with suggestions, support and encouragement for your best possible birth!!

 

Do you have a breech story? I’d love to hear it so please share in the comments!!

The Need for Postpartum Rest (from someone who learned the hard way!)

My childhood dream had finally come true as I arrived home with a beautiful 7lb. boy to begin my new career as a full time mom! Friends and family celebrated by bringing me meals for two weeks, and after a 30 hour breech delivery, I barely thought of leaving the house. Exhaustion and healing took priority plus learning the ropes of baby care and breastfeeding. My new little bundle was all-consuming and I had no other responsibilities to speak of. Everyone encouraged me to “sleep when the baby sleeps” and to take good care of the both of us. The flower shop delivered many bouquets, my husband doted on us, and life was grand!

Fast forward nine years. We’d had three more little ones and I was expecting our fifth. My due date was a couple days before my brother’s graduation from Chiropractic college, so I was sad to be missing the big event and family gathering that was being held across the country. When my sweet cherub arrived a few days earlier than expected, I called the airline from the hospital and booked flights out east to surprise my brother and the rest of the family for his graduation. I was barely out of the hospital when I had packed up our family and was on a plane with my 8 day old infant, headed for Toronto. After 5 days of ceremonies, festivities, and touring the area (including nursing a new babe every couple hours through the night and a 2 hour time zone difference for my body…) we were on a plane back home. I barely had time to do all the laundry from that trip before packing up to attend a family wedding the following weekend in a city 3 hours away. And the weekend after that? I loaded up our holiday trailer and we attended the annual family campout with my parents church group. 

The next weekend we had family coming from out of town to meet the new baby and stay with us for several days. Did I mention I was also trying to homeschool during the weeks? Oh, and my family still thought they should eat. And maybe have clean clothes. 

It was a couple of days before our guests arrived that I think I had a full-on break down. 

Complete exhaustion, non-stop tears, and feelings of overwhelm threatened to crush me and I was headed for a train-wreck. About this time, a dear friend (with her own family needs) stepped in and helped me out. She prepared my house for guests, sent me to rest, and helped get a meal on for my family.

Then she talked with me firmly about the importance of postpartum REST!!

Thankfully, I learned some very important things from her and from that experience. Here’s a few valuable lessons I never forgot, and tried to implement in subsequent postpartum seasons:

1. Think about what you’re doing and why.

What really needs to be done? Why do you feel that it needs to be done by you? Whose   expectations are you trying to meet? When I really examined what I was doing honestly, I realized I was feeling some judgement from others over having a fifth baby which was outside their paradigm. Because of this, I subconsciously felt I needed to "hit the ground running” to somehow prove that I could manage and have it all together. Totally foolish. Never did that again!

2. You’ve just climbed Mt. Everest - now take an ever-rest!

Your body needs to recover. This is neither frivolous nor selfish. Your baby (and everyone else in your family) needs you healthy and strong, and the best way to make sure that happens is to take a space of time following your delivery to focus completely on rest and recovery. 2-6 weeks is not unreasonable. Look after you so you can look after everyone else. There is no other way.

3. Let other people help you. Ask if you need to!

Again, the idea always surfaces that somehow we have to manage it all or we’re failing in some way. Admit you’re not Wonder Woman. No one is, and we all need each other. Be ok with that, and make a list of where you can use help so it’s easy for someone to step in when they are available. 

4. Some things simply don’t need doing.

Having a new baby is such a special and monumental occasion! Don’t waste the fleeting moments of those first precious days on things you will never remember. Do only what’s absolutely necessary and take the time to cherish the delightfulness of your newborn. It’s not wasted time and you can’t get it back. The vacuuming can wait.

Take all the time you need to rest well and fully recover. I’m giving you permission. Now give it to yourself. <3