Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Digital Birth Story

When I was pregnant and preparing for birth, I found that on days I was overwhelmed with worry the only thing to make me almost crave the experience was viewing photos/videos of other natural home birth experiences.  It showed me how positive and safe these deliveries could be and that I could do it.

Matt and I always wanted to document our birth experience, but financially were not able to go with a professional photog.  However, two days before (yes TWO) our babe was born, a photographer contacted us asking if she could shoot for us as she needed a home birth/water birth for her portfolio.  

Jennifer was amazing!  She did such a fantastic job, and I never knew she was there.  Her thank you to us for allowing her to shoot were the photos.  I shared some of them in the previous post, but this video really documents our experience the best one possibly could in five minutes.  

While there is a tiny bit of nudity in the video, it is not graphic.  There is beauty in all forms of the human body, after all.  It is important that I post this to share with others that a safe, enjoyable, and natural birth experience is possible.  This is coming from a girl that cries every time (yes, EVERY time) she gets a paper cut.  I feel it is important to open the dialogue on this issue and present the beauty of nature.

And with that, click HERE to view the birth of Jude Barrett in film...


Friday, September 27, 2013

He's here!

Our baby boy finally arrived!

Jude Barrett Cole was born on 2 September (Labor Day!) at 7:35 am.  The big guy weighed in at 4.36 kg and 55 cm long.  WOAH.  Don't even get me started on that fat head!  The boy is precious, and we are so in love.

The last few weeks have been very "sink or swim", with us mostly treading water.  Shout out to Matthew, the most amazing husband/father/friend in the entire world for keeping our ship afloat.  I had a bit of a rough recovery, so Matt was Mr. Mom for the first two weeks.  Not only was he my rock during labor, but I don't know how we would have gotten on without him in the first weeks.  He continues to amaze me with his dedication to our little family even as he's gone back to work.  He truly loves his son.

Many people have asked me for our birth story.  Please forgive any grammatical errors as we are working on very little sleep around here :)

Jude Barrett Cole
Birth Story

            It all started in the early morning of September 1st.  Matt was watching the first Auburn game of the season in the living room where I had been camping out for a couple of weeks due to sleep issues in our bed.  A little after the third quarter had started, around 3 am our time, I woke up with what felt like menstrual cramps.  Not really knowing their significance, but also not able to fall back asleep, I woke up and finished the game with him.  Tigers won J
After the game, around 4:35 am, we decided to call our amazing doula, Tara.  She said it sounded like I was going into labor and to try to get as much rest as I could.  Matt decided to go ahead and pick up some ice while I rested, and when he got back, as I was unable to really sleep, we both started getting things ready.  He set up the birthing pool, cleaned the house, and rearranged our furniture while I got snacks ready for the birthing crew.  It was around 9 am by the time we were done, and we checked in with Tara, and called our midwife, Alexa, who had planned to stop by for a checkup.  We decided to call Tara later as things progressed as we were laboring together quite well, but we honestly didn’t know what to expect. 
Around noon, Alexa showed up.  We hadn’t called her to come, but she had a “feeling” and decided to stop by.  We are so glad she did, because things were picking up and we didn’t realize I was able to get in the pool already - a very welcome discovery.  Matt started filling up the pool, and Alexa got busy adding boiling water from the stove.  We called Tara and told her to head our way around 2:00 pm, and asked our birth photographer, Jennifer, to come a half hour later.
By two, the pool was warm enough, and I hobbled in around the time Tara and Jennifer showed up.  I cannot express how amazing it felt!  Weight was lifted and surges were so much easier to handle.  I would camp out in the pool for the next five or so hours, breaking in between for trips to the restroom.  As I was in the pool I talked with Jennifer and Matt about what was going on around the world, to know what the headlines would be when Jude was born (I still thought he was going to be born this day!).  I remember us talking about Diana Nyad attempting to swim from Havana to Key West for the fifth time.  I mentioned something about jellyfish stopping her before, and muttered more than once “damn jellies.”  She would later make it to Florida, the very day Jude was born, and exclaim, “Never give up!”  What a perfect headline for my baby boy’s birthday.
On one trip back to the pool from the restroom a gorgeous photo was taken of Matt applying pressure to my lower back as I leaned over the tub; one of my favorite photos of the labor.  I don’t know what I would have done without my love…
I believe it was around 7:00 pm or so that Alexa and Tara suggested I get out of the pool and rest on the couch for a few hours.  Reluctant, though exhausted, Matt helped me to the couch to catch some shuteye in between surges.  With every waking surge, Matt held my hand, never leaving my side.
It was midnight or so that I moved to the restroom, unable to catch any more rest.  Matt came with me, of course, and I labored there for two or three hours straight by candlelight.  By three I felt pressure and told Matt I needed to get in the pool ASAP.  Alexa, Tara, and even Jennifer got on it right away, and within the half hour I was back in the tub.  This is where things became intense.
I began to feel extreme pressure in my lower back and bottom, and it felt like the baby was going to exit the wrong way, if you know what I mean.  I tried different positions in the pool, most of the time holding onto the side while kneeling.  Very shortly I felt the urge to push, still not feeling pressure up front.  I always thought I would be silent during this process, but nature took over and I complimented every push with a primal scream, which got louder with time.  It wasn’t so much I was pushing at this point, but more like surrendering to my body.  My water bag hadn’t broken yet, and Alexa came to me and asked me to visualize it popping.  She asked Matt and I to speak to my body and say, “Water bag break”, which is something we said with every “push” for an hour and a half or so.  Matt said this was very difficult for him because he saw me in such a process for so long, and wanted to see obvious progress. 
And so, for what seemed forever, we prayed to my water bag to break.  The surges became more and more intense, with three back-to-back and short breaks between.  I began to feel pressure in the front, and with one large surge, I felt a pop between my legs.  My bag broke!  Matt said he cried with relief, and I knew the time was growing closer.  I saw the sun begin to rise again and thought, “Damn.  It’s been more than a day!”  But I didn’t lose my focus, and grew more and more focused on the task at hand.
Tara reminded me about our birthing playlist, composed of songs we wanted the baby to hear first, including a song for a boy or a girl.  This playlist would go on for the next two hours or so, but I thought we were minutes away.  I kept looking at Tara, exhausted, asking, “This is progress?”  She would smile, sometimes tear up, and remind me “yes!” and that we were almost there. 
And then the pressure in the front came.  This was one of the most challenging parts for me, and I remember coming back to the pool from a restroom break, feeling as if a brick were about to drop out of me.  I’ve never felt so heavy!  I pushed and pushed, and then pushed some more.  Jude’s heart rate was stellar the entire time, never dropping below 120.  I’m certain this is why were able to stay at home and not transfer, along with the bag breaking late. 
Finally, the head.  Alexa said, “go to your baby”, and I thought, "There is no way I can feel his head."  But I could!  That beautiful squishy little noggin (who am I kidding, it was LARGE) was just about to make its way out.  This gave me solace that we surely were almost there.  I took Matt’s hand to feel and he couldn’t believe it!  A series of pushes later, he was closer!  His head would go out, then come back in.  This was necessary to prevent tearing, but I felt it went on longer than I would have liked.  So frustrating!  Alexa kept whispering, “Brittany, go to your baby.  Show it the way.”  So of course I did.  I prayed to the baby to come into the world; we were ready!  I was in a near sitting position grabbing Matt’s hands and pulling to provide resistance with each push when I felt the head finally leave my body.  This was exhilarating and painful at the same time – my baby was almost out! 
His head was out for some time, and Alexa asked me to stand up.  The gravity was excruciating yet necessary, and finally Jude was minutes from our world.  I had one series of pushes in which I used every muscle in my body to push, and he was one shoulder in, one out.  Alexa likes babies to be born without her assistance, but she helped him out and all of the sudden I felt him slide away, into the water and her hands.  It was 7:35 am on September 2nd, 2013, and I was finally a mother!  I instinctively reached behind to grab my baby and move him to my chest.  The cord was too short, so I lifted up my leg and we passed him through.  No one even thought to check if he was a boy or a girl – we were just elated to have a baby!  I sat in the water and brought him to my chest, as warm towels appeared to cover his precious body. 
He was perfect.
Matt and I stared in disbelief.  I cried, then laughed, and looked at Matt to find him in tears.  This was the first time I had noticed him crying, and I couldn’t stop smiling!  We finally looked and saw a penis.  A BOY!  We were thrilled!  I kissed him and kissed him and welcome him the world exclaiming, “Happy birthday, Jude!”  And then we heard his song in the background some minutes later – “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. 
Within a couple of minutes I wanted to transfer to the sofa to deliver the placenta and go ahead and nurse as Jude was trying to crawl to my breast, but the cord kept him short.  I laid down, my baby on my breast, as Alexa asked Matt to stimulate so I could deliver the placenta.  This is something I would have never thought my husband would do, but he didn’t skip a beat.  Within minutes, the placenta was born and Jude latched.  I was too busy staring at Jude to notice how busy Alexa, Tara, and Matt were.  I was bleeding, apparently 1.5 liters escaped, and they were trying to stop it.  Alexa quickly cut a couple of pieces of my placenta and put them in my mouth as Matt grabbed the frozen condoms from the freezer made just for this purpose.  He then ran to make me a smoothie as voices told me to swallow the placenta, something that was difficult for me to do.  Hands appeared with lifesavers that were shoved into my mouth, followed by Gatorade, and finally a delicious smoothie.  All the while Alexa had prepared the Pitocin while I was trying to figure out what was going on.  I just stared at Jude, then at Matt who looked more shocked than anything.  I asked Tara, “Is everything OK?”  She kept her resolve, and promised me “yes”, though I think she, too, was a bit nervous.
But it worked, just as promised, before Pitocin had to be administered.  The bleeding stopped, and though I was weak, I was fine.  Alexa asked if I wanted to transfer to the hospital.  I asked what they would do and if she thought it was necessary.  She said they would give me an IV and monitor me for a few days, but she could do the same.  I didn’t want to transfer, and I trusted her judgment.  I truly felt I would be taken better care of at home, not having to deal with the trauma of a transfer.  I just kept thinking, “They’ll take my baby away” and I didn’t want anyone touching my son. 
I was stable, but weak, and Alexa suggested I hand over Jude to Matt and get some rest while she monitored me.  I handed my son to his father, who instinctively grabbed his sweatshirt and swaddled his baby tight.  I was out, exhausted from a nearly 30-hour labor and blood loss.  But I was never afraid – I received better care at home than I ever would have at a hospital.
Alexa stayed with us until nearly dinnertime, and checked on us again around 9:00 pm.  Matt and I were so high on life, and lost in our son’s eyes, that we stayed up and talked, calling family and friends, when we should have been asleep.  Nothing could bring us down from the most amazing day of our lives. 

 Our big boy.  While Alexa was working on me, he was handed to Matt.  Instinctively, Matt grabbed his Auburn sweatshirt and swaddled our naked babe.  The beauty of a home birth...
 It's a boy!  First - and only - time I've ever seen my love cry.
 Freshly swaddled Jude in Papa's arms.
 Working through a surge in the final moments.
Stopped in my tracks by a surge.  Matt was always there to help.

That's it for now!  I'll continue to update as we progress in this beautiful (mad/crazy!) journey.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

39 weeks

Welp, here we are.  Nearing the end, and a big ass belly to show for it.  And a big ass, for that matter.  I laugh thinking about the days even just a couple of months ago where I thought I was "fat". Oh girl, you had no idea.

The last month I have swollen up real nice and become ripe for the picking.  At least it means baby bug is on its way, right?  I literally yearn for the day I can get back in the gym, and work outs don't consist of walking up and down the stairs with the laundry basket along with a walk around the neighborhood.  

It's funny how your body completely changes in pregnancy.  Sometimes you are in completely awe at what it can do, sometimes you feel betrayed and confused.  Yes, it's a magical time.  I've never felt so feminine and strong in my entire life.  There is nothing like knowing you are all a little human needs to thrive.  But I've also never felt so helpless (cue Matt having to help me up from squats, the production it takes to get out of bed, the sickness if you don't eat every few hours).  And it's all for a wrinkly little being, whom I've yet to formally meet.

These past couple of weeks Matt and I have focused on each other.  I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life!  He's always saying something to make me feel better, when he's not pressuring me to move this process along.  Right, babe, because I'm in control.

We've eaten Indian food a total of six times in the last fourteen or so days, though I wish the number were much higher.  We joked last night that this child may come out answering to Sanjay and culturally confused.  

I've consumed two boxes of raspberry tea, and Matt asks me every day if I've had a cup.  Yes, dear, I've had three.  Do you seriously think you're the only one that wants to free this active little bug of its amniotic hell?

And then there are the walks.  I've enjoyed them the most.  In the mornings we take Patton and Pace on every expanding walks, something we all weren't able to do between 30 and 37 weeks, as I had quite a few Braxton Hicks' and decided to take it easy.  They love this time together more than we do!  It brings us such joy to watch them run through the freshly cut wheat fields, slobbering and occasionally finding just enough sheep shit in which to roll around.  Fantastic mutts.

Last night we decided to go on a walk under cloudy skies.  In Germany, it's almost always a little bit cloudy, and not exclusively accompanied by rain.  And if it does rain, it's typically a sprinkle.  Oh no, not last night.  We misjudged the weather (I always blame Matt by default) and ended up in a pretty significant rainstorm.  These were big, fat, COLD drops followed by cutting wind.  And here we are, speed walking trying to out "run" the rain.  We found shelter beneath a bus stop for fifteen minutes, only to be whipped enough by the wind to give up and walk home in the pouring rain.  I would have given anything to have seen us.  Here Matt is, able to run home if he'd like, leisurely walking the speed of his VERY pregnant wife, grunting and giving it all she could to make it up a very modest incline.  At one point he had to stop and tie his shoe, remarking, "Shit!  Don't stop!  Save yourself!"  I nearly peed my pants.  

On our rain-free walks, we spend time talking about what we think the baby will look like, what characteristics, physical and otherwise, it will gain from each of us.  I'm convinced this babe is Matt's twin.  We went to an ultrasound for funsies a couple of weeks ago and got a great shot of the face.  I'm pretty sure it has Matt's nose and my lips, though ultrasounds aren't particularly known for their precision.  We do know, however, that this boo has some pretty long (and STRONG!) legs.  S/he also weighs in at over seven pounds, something that just astounds me.  I thought we'd have a six pound baby, at most.  

The ultrasound was just spectacular and the doctor was amazed by how big (because we're hobbits?) and active the baby was.  And did I say strong?  She suggested we may have a future footballer on our hands; we smiled and agreed.  I think s/he'll be a dancer, too ;)

The regimen has continued as far as weekly visits with Alexa, and I've increased my chiropractor visits to once a week.  Yesterday, Dr. White (chiropractor) suggested my body is up to something (labor?!) because there were very little adjustments.  She also gave me her cell phone number (I'M A CELEBRITY!!!) with instructions to call while if I needed anything while in labor.  Seriously?!  I would have cried if I weren't grinning from ear to ear like a moron.  My exact words: "So, you'd come to my house?  In the middle of the night?"  Oh yes, she said.  And bring a few little tools and do whatever she could to help ease discomfort.  Is this normal???!

I absolutely LOVE the standard of care that we've been provided with here.  I truly don't think we could have it just anywhere.  Matt and I always remark about how lucky we are to have such fantastic providers.  A chiropractor, midwife, and doula that answer our every call.  It's too good to be true!  So let me brag on Alexa and Tara for a minute...

Tara, our midwife, has been a soul sister to me during this time.  She's like a sister figure who answers all my calls and texts, regardless of the time.  Oh yes, she texted me back at four in the morning once.  Granted, she was up nursing, but still.  She is always someone to talk to when I'm nervous or feeling less than enthusiastic, the greatest cheerleader I could ask for (I shall elaborate on this post-birth), a teacher, a mentor, and a nonjudgemental friend.  She has given us so many nappies and taught us all about cloth diapering.  She's even made us a few nappie covers and is giving us pre-folds!!!  An angel, indeed.

Then there is Alexa.  I've called her with the most ridiculous questions of all time.  Never judging or laughing, she has eased any anxiety I've had.  And I love that she's a homeopath.  I've never felt so "clean" in my life!  Not only has she prescribed the most delicious herbal teas and helpful oils, but her commitment to natural living has only accelerated my ever-growing interest.  Though we switched to completely homemade/nontoxic cleaners and detergents over a year ago, Matt and I have spent the last two weeks completely ridding our home of toxins.  All that remain are a tube of toothpaste, Matthew's repulsive cologne, and his special face wash that was much too expensive to throw out.  We're replacing it with our own concoction, as we have everything else :)

But back to Alexa.  The most amazing thing, albeit surprising to one accustomed to the practice of  standard Western medicine, is the communication.  Even with the language barrier, this woman is completely accessible.  Not only that, she calls ME!  That's right, my provider calls in to check on me every few days.  She'll call if she's going to be more than thirty minutes away and ask if it's OK that she go rock climbing with her sister, for example.  Um, HELL YES that's OK!  My midwife's a badass.  Climbing rocks one minute, checking your cervix the next (though she ask for a little extra time for a shower).  I've never known of such access to one's provider, and though my parents were a little reluctant of our care decisions at first, I'm pretty sure this is what won them over.

And last, Alexa has cared for our entire family.  When Pace was spayed, we wanted to ease her pain.  Of course the vet prescribed medication, but Alexa took a look at her and suggested we try a few homeopathic remedies.  When Matt thought he had a kidney infection/UTI, Alexa whipped out one of the sticks I always pee on and checked his results.  She has also suggested a menu herbs to ease every day discomforts.  She also always asks me, "How is your soul?"  I adore this question, and the very fact that she asks it.  How many times have you been asked the state of your soul?  It's such an important part of your wellbeing but no one, especially not a physician, is going to ask about it.   But she can tell before I even answer.  A month ago as I began having anxieties about the birth, she called it before I said anything.  Yes, it is pretty common, but she really cared and talked me through the process.  And it makes me feel like a rockstar when she tells me she trusts me.  It's a two way street, ya know?

To wrap it all up, we're lucky.  We're grateful that we both put in the time to research our options and find the best providers we feel we could.  We're grateful these providers are as spectacular as they are, and we've developed meaningful relationships with all of them.  They trust us just as much as we trust them.  And we're SO grateful that our baby is kicking some serious ass.  Dear haters: vegans grow big, healthy babies, too!  Maybe this will be the last post until the one on our birth story?  Let's hope so!  Until then, here some ditties:

How far along? 39 weeks
Maternity clothes?  Ya
Stretch marks?  Oh yes.  They have made themselves known in the last week.  And yes, I've been doing everything right.  I oil up three times a day after dry brushing, drink plenty of water, and have a pretty good diet considering some of my recent cravings which I eat in moderation.  Stretch marks happen, and I'm beginning to accept that.  There is really no alternative to my body holding a seven pound + baby...
Sleeping?  Eh.  I wake up every half hour to pee, and then I'm usually up by five.  I use that time to snack (usually a banana and glass of soy milk) and peruse the Washington Post, NY Times, and a couple of favorite blogs.  I'll usually fall back asleep around 6:30 for a couple of hours.
Cravings?  BBQ kettle chips, Indian food, and sweet tea.  It is what it is. 
Aversions?  Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Eric Cantor, Rand Paul.  But that's not new...
Other symptoms?  Nesting.  Matt and I have been detoxifying the home (he's been quite the trooper in this endeavor), cleaning, purging, and getting ready for baby.  I've also had dreams about going into labor, along with strange dreams, in general.  A couple of weeks ago my dreams were dominated by tsunamis and tidal waves, something completely normal if you know the meaning.  These dreams mean that you feel overwhelmed or are dealing with a very new experience.  Completely normal, in my book.  Also, there was a dream that the baby was pushing its face and feet up against my belly and I could see every toe and facial feature.  Not as freaky as you'd think, and I'm pretty sure it was about preparing for this baby to make its grand entrance.  And then there was the dream that Harrison Ford was my professor (Indiana Jones??) and gave me two thousand dollars for handing out papers.  I don't even think Carl Jung could sort that one out.  Oddly enough, the next night Raiders of the Lost Ark was on.  That was quite the pleasant surprise :)
Best moment of the week?  Getting stuck in the rain with the love of my life.  It's one of those memories we'll never forget.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

37 weeks

Well, here we are.  The first tiny step of our incredible journey to parenthood is nearly complete.  FULL TERM!

There are many perks to reaching this point: Not worrying about a preterm baby, knowing the time really is almost here, and cherishing every little moment, knowing the baby you feel within will soon be in your arms.  Also fantastic?  Being able to say "Any day now!" when people ask how long, and not being offended when they offer it up first.  

This is such an exciting time, knowing our lives are about to change forever.  I find myself loving on the pups more than usual, wishing they could climb in bed with me and never leave my side.  They will be great fur siblings, I just hope they know we're not trying to replace them, just add to the love train that is the Cole Family.  

And with that, let us take a look at what else is going on these days...

How far along?  37 weeks
Maternity clothes?  Is that a joke?
Stretch marks?  A couple more.  We've been growing like weeds!
Sleeping?  Yes, but not the kind of sleep I'm used to getting, ha!  I typically fall asleep around eleven and wake up every hour, sometimes every thirty minutes.  Getting comfortable is difficult, but I'm used to it.
Cravings?  Speculoos!  We had to pick some up over the weekend.  It's definitely the most unhealthy craving I've had during pregnancy.  I also crave watermelon, pickles, a dish we make called creamy kale pasta, coconut anything, Indian food, chocolate milk and mango varieties of Snapple.  Yeah, I could eat aloo gobi for every meal...
Aversions?  Most foods.  I'm feeling more like I did in the first trimester where most everything seems unappealing.  It is incredibly frustrating because I want to eat healthy for my bug, but the thought of nearly anything besides my cravings sounds revolting.  
Other symptoms?  Since the baby dropped, there has been more pressure on my pelvis, which is not too comfortable.  I also pee every half hour - not exaggerating.  I've also been having CRAZY dreams!!!  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and all I want in the entire world is  Big Mac or hot fudge sundae.  Or both!  I dream about fast food and things I would never normally want to eat, and then wake up with a voracious appetite.  This is usually when I turn to Matt and kindly ask if he could bring me a glass of chocolate milk, and all is well with the world. 
Best moment of the week?  Hitting full term!  I now know if I went into labor, we could get down to business at home.  We also met with Alexa yesterday and she said Nugget looks great and seems to be seven pounds - WOAH!  The size of this child is insane to me.  S/he isn't even born yet and is already three pounds bigger than I was at birth!  Looks like Nug is going to take after Papa :)

That's it for now.  I may update every week from here on out, but then again, I may not.  Or baby may come tomorrow, who knows?  Until then, here's a photo of us taken yesterday :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Why we're doing what we're doing...

Matt and I are like any expectant parents.  We have spent the last few months planning and anticipating our child's arrival, making sure everything is in place, discussing names, and making decisions on how we plan to go about this whole parenting thing.  There are the obvious decisions like breastfeeding versus formula, which car seat is best, and how to prepare our fur babies for their new brother or sister.

But for Matt and me, there were other decisions that had to be made.  For example, we decided to forgo  a nursery and instead co-sleep.  Co-sleeping is when your child(ren) sleep in the family bed instead of away in a crib or separate room.  In most countries around the world, co-sleeping is the norm, as families don't understand abandoning a baby after months of being a literal part of its mother.  It also significantly reduces the risk of SIDS when practiced properly (in Japan, a co-sleeping country, SIDS isn't even known of by the majority of people).  

We also decided to include baby wearing, or the attachment of the baby to a parent or caregiver at all possible times, as part of our early parenting.  Again, practiced in much of the world, baby wearing allows for parents to bring their baby along to slowly acclimate to the world in which it is born.  After being inside its mother for months, many believe it is in the child's (and mother's/father's) best interest to  create that bond that is so easily thrown aside in the Western world.  I must say, I am beyond excited to put this into practice, as Matt and I feel we have mastered the Moby; at least, the kangaroo hold :)

Matt recently brought up the issue of vaccines, so we have spent time debating/researching that, as well.  There is an excellent book that is completely free of bias and extremely informative called The Vaccine Book by one of the pediatricians of the Sears family (LOVE them!).  

Then there other bits.  Should we raise the child vegan like Mama or pescetarian/pescatarian like Papa?  Pacifier or thumb?  Parent or child-led weaning?  To circumcise or not? How do we explain the differences in Mommy and Daddy's spirituality, or lack there of?  These are decisions I feel many parents must discuss in preparing for baby.

But there was one decision that Matt and I actually decided upon before we were even married that has received the most criticism.  Years ago Matt and I watched an incredible documentary called The Business of Being Born.  It sparked our interest in natural and home birth versus conventional hospital deliveries, and we, as we are known to do, began research.  Between the two of us we've read ten books on the subject matter, many of which were completed before conception.  It became clear to us after reading these books, along with separate data searches, that we would be interested in a natural delivery.  No, not just a vaginal delivery.  The event must be free of medical interventions, so long as Mom and baby were healthy, to include no epidural, pitocin, forceps, the like.  The only way we could ensure we'd have a provider on the same page as us would be to deliver at home.  

Again, before even conceiving, we interviewed doulas (birth assistants) and midwives (professionals who offer care to women during pregnancy, during delivery, as well as after birth).  We found the most amazing women to assist in this journey, and have learned so much from them in the last seven or so months.

But sadly, though we've put in the hard work and dedicated ourselves to providing the best care for our child, there has been criticism.  We typically don't discuss our birth plan unless asked, but upon questions of whether we are delivering at the American or German hospital, it eventually comes out.  Matt and I are then met with looks of disbelief, many of which are coupled with a sense of irresponsibility on our part when the people before us, judging, have not done as much as read an article on home births.  And so, we are often backed into a corner, feeling compelled to spout off statistics and time after time end with "Everyone has a different journey" or "What's best for us may not be best for you".  

The hardest part is when those who are supposed to support you the most call your well thought out and years-in-the-making plan "ridiculous" and "irresponsible".  As if on a whim we decided to be "different as always".  

So Matt and I shut down.  I went through a period where I was not so much confused by our decision, which I knew was best, but confused by the lack of understanding and doubt in our competence.  

Matt, as always, reassured me we are doing what's best.  As I get nervous about the big day, a completely normal reaction to ANY birth experience, he tells me how proud he is that I am willing to bypass the drugs which bring welcome relief for a birth that is safest for our child - his child.  Sometimes I can just swear the man is an angel.  

And so I grew up.  Just like that.  My attitude turned from one of a crushed damsel to a strong ass woman with resolve.  Matt is right - we am doing what's best for our child.  I would never put our child in danger, and I, we, trust our providers.  We have armed ourselves with knowledge, knowing also that sometimes medical interventions are necessary, and we are completely open to that.  But that's not likely to be the case.  

Overnight I became a Mama Bear even more connected with my body and soul and disconnected with anyone/thing associated with negativity.  I decided to no longer feel ashamed of the incredibly responsible and  thoughtful decision I, along with my partner, the father of my child, have made.  

After all, in our experience, those who have passed judgement don't even know what a midwife is/does.  So if you don't know, don't judge.  Simple.

But don't go getting the impression we're angry.  Yes, that emotion surfaced, but it also got it's ass kicked during our journey to enlightenment.  We are so blessed to have had such a healthy pregnancy.  I know we've tried to do everything we possibly can to ensure our baby remain healthy.  More than ever, I eat to fuel my body and my baby.  I've seen a chiropractor since 14 weeks who has significantly reduced the impact pregnancy can have on one's body.  She has even assisted in preparing my hips/pelvis/sacrum, something I have definitely noticed (as Matt says, "your hips don't lie").  And what she has done to reduce round ligament pain - the woman is a miracle worker!  I have also been blessed enough to schedule the occasional massage to help with tight muscles, as well as a reiki session to balance mine and the baby's energy.  Yoga has also been a godsend, along with swimming.  In my opinion, one should do everything they possibly can to prepare for this time.

 Now we have passed into a phase of elation for the event that is to come.  Not only are Matt and I stoked out of our MINDS to welcome our little girl or boy into the world in the next few weeks, but we are looking forward to the birthing experience.  Yes, I know it is no day at the spa.  However, the bond that Matt and I have will grow only stronger through this experience.  I am so lucky to have a partner not only willing, but wanting to be a part of the entire event.  Without him, I don't know how I'd get through it!  I mean this quite literally as his role is irreplaceable; from working with me through positions to helping catch the baby.  

I see I have wandered off topic in my manifestation of woman/motherhood.  The point of this post is to give a little insight into our experience.  And while I look forward to updating this after the birth of Nugget, I thought I'd start by sharing a little bit of the prenatal bit provided our midwife.

Alexa started coming once a month and typically just spoke with us about our experience/concerns, what to plan for, what not to eat, symptoms to expect, and so on.  Though we initially saw an OB as well, and our visits lasted 10 minutes or so, just to do an ultrasound and maybe some blood work.  Our visits with Alexa last around two hours and always include a urine check ( PH, protein, glucose, etc), blood pressure, doppler (observing baby's heartbeat), and a physical check of the baby, as well as myself.  She measures the baby after feeling around for the head and sweet little booty, and then does the math to estimate the weight.  As of yesterday (34/35 weeks) she thinks the baby is 6 lbs!!  WOAH.

There was also a time where I was having frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, so she recommended I take a magnesium at bedtime (or when they flared up) and gave me a homeopathic oil to treat it immediately.  She also took blood yesterday to check for Hep B and performed a Strep B test.  Alexa always inquires about my symptoms, and wants to know it all.  If I ever have questions or concerns (and I have definitely had questions!) she asks that I call her.  There has never been more than a few hours time pass that she hasn't called me back.  

Yesterday we went over about twenty different positions for labor and delivery, and she asked me to start drinking an herbal tea to prepare my cervix, uterus, and other necessary organs for delivery.  On game day, she'll observe and take copious notes about my activity, performing a doppler every half hour or so.  When delivery comes, she'll observe and tell me when it's time to "reach down and pick up" my baby, as if I'll make it through crowning without knowing.  

Alexa is also trained in crisis management, and has oxygen as well as other essentials on hand in the case that there is an emergency, though in her fifteen years of midwifery she has called an ambulance just a few times.  I love how intuitive she is for so many reasons, but it is even more important during these possible times, as she is well-known for transferring well before there is an emergency.  In fact, the only times there are have been emergencies are when women have defied her advice.  Suffice it to say, I trust this woman.  

After the birth, she stays for an hour to make sure all is well, and then checks up on us the next day along within the following days and weeks.

We also have a doula, Tara, who is trained in assisting mothers and their partners before, through, and after the birth experience.  She has also helped Matt and me with positions, tutored us on cloth diapering, addressed any questions I've had, and had given us so many goodies in preparation.  Tara is also a certified lactation consultant and will stay with us after the birth until the baby latches, also checking up with us within the days and weeks after.  Just like Alexa, anytime I need her, she's there.  It's quite an amazing concept in comparison to conventional medicine.

And that's pretty much that.  

Here are some photos from yesterday's visit with Alexa:

 Here, Alexa is feeling and measuring the baby.  Nugget's head is down, spine/back on my right side, and feet poking left, right above my belly button.  I knew there was some action happening there!
 Measuring the belly
Here, Matt and I are practicing a position whilst Pace photobombs.  And yes, he's always this excited during positioning practice!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

33 weeks

Nugget and I sure have been growing a lot, lately.  For a few weeks my Braxton Hicks were so intense that I didn't do much of anything.  Thankfully, my midwife, Alexa, gave me a homeopathic oil (Toko Oil, or contraction oil) that pretty much nips those little guys in the bud.  Braxton Hicks, or "practice contractions", are necessary in massaging baby and getting her/him ready, as well as the 'ole uterus, for the big day.  Some people don't even notice they are having them, but others, like myself, do.  It's nothing to be concerned about, but because the frequency of mine were brought on by activity, I decided to take it easy for a bit as I got used to other symptoms.

On Saturday was Baby Cole's shower, and we are so thankful to all the co-hosts - Sarah, Brett, Tressa, Lindsey, and Katie - as well as all of our friends and family for making it so special.  I had a ball, and Matt even joined in on the fun later (pics to come).

How far along?  33 weeks
Maternity clothes?  Yes!  Though I am actually wearing more pre-pregnancy clothes now because of the weather.  Thank goodness for maxi dresses and skirts!
Stretch marks?  A few
Sleeping?  I've been sleeping a lot better now that I'm able to be more active during the day.  I find I sleep better the days I swim or do yoga.  I also feel that getting used to the big belly and hourly restroom breaks are becoming more normal, thus not so irritating.
Cravings?  FRUIT!  Watermelon is my absolute favorite.  I've also been consuming my body weight in grapes, bananas, and strawberries.  Other cravings include strawberry cupcakes, Thai and Indian food, Speculoos, and Sno Biz (which they don't have over here!!).  And of course, chocolate soy milk is always a favorite :)
Aversions?  Nothing new or too crazy.  There are more things I can't eat due to discomfort than things I don't want to eat, ha!
Other symptoms?  Same as last time.  Braxton Hicks, backaches, headaches, fatigue.  It may sound miserable, but I don't feel too bad.  In fact, most days I feel just perfect (knock on wood!).  Though I think heartburn may be sneaking into the picture :/  I'm starting to notice a trend with tomatoes (NOOOOOOO!).
Best moment of the week?  Our shower :)  I know I have the best friends in the world, but it always surprises me just how many people care about us.  Because of these friends we are able to give our baby more than we could ever imagine - and spoil it!  We are forever blessed.  Another great moment was resuming my life!  After three weeks of lying around, I finally was able to attend yoga class and start swimming.  By the way, floating/swimming in a pool during pregnancy is nirvana.  Hands down, the most relaxing experience I've had in a while. 

 33 weeks - YAY!
 Brett and me
 Matt painting my belly :)
 Brett starting off the painting
 Love it!  
Matt is so excited to become a Papa, and loves the baby/belly so much.  He's the greatest!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

29 weeks

Hi there, folks!  We have made it to the third trimester - WOAH!  With every passing day and week, the excitement (yes, misspelled it in the photo to follow, oopsy!) builds.  Matt and I both are stoked beyond belief to meet our little one.  And though it often confuses people when I say this, I'm even looking forward to the birth.  What a life changing experience that we will remember forever.

How far along?  29 weeks :)
Maternity clothes?  Hells yes
Stretch marks?  Maybe a couple?
Sleeping?  Ha.  We are currently in the 29-31 week growth spurt (hopefully it doesn't last that long!), so the growing belly and aching body makes for quite an adjustment.  I've heard it only gets worse, but I'm sure once I get a little accustomed to the even bigger belly, it may get easier.  Turning every five minutes or so gets a wee bit annoying.  At least it's preparing me for being up with baby!
Cravings?  I don't have much of an appetite these days, and honestly find it quite difficult to eat.  I have to set reminders on my phone, even for the middle of the night!  I do enjoy fruit, mostly grapes and nectarines, and though I haven't had it yet, watermelon!  I also love, as always, chocolate soy milk; I'm just drinking copious amounts these days :/  Soy yogurt and granola is another thing I don't mind eating.  I've also enjoyed our special mac and "cheese" with ketchup, as well garlic toast with "cheese", kalamata olives, and marinara. And last night, I woke with a crazy craving for Sprite!  I NEVER drink soda, but the craving didn't leave me.  Matt brought me small bottle after his softball game this morning, and after a couple sips I was satisfied, yet left with an upset belly.  Oh, and I'm still drinking pickle juice :)
Aversions?  I can't think of anything specific.  Matt hasn't had tuna in a while, so that's fabulous!  I don't know if it's an aversion, but I haven't been craving cookies or cakes or anything like that lately, like I did in the second trimester.
Other symptoms?  Where to I begin?  With Braxton Hicks, I suppose.  I'm just getting used to my new body ( I feel there are two or three big turning points in pregnancy, body wise).  At first, I really enjoyed the occasional BHs.  However, after an extra long walk the other day made them more frequent, it lost a bit of its magic.  They are back to normal after rest and warm baths (and sunshine!), but they don't have the charm they once did, he he.  It is great practice to breathe through them, though.  I'm also becoming more and more uncomfortable.  When sleeping, I flip sides every few minutes, and when sitting I also have to move every few minutes.  It's not the worst thing in the world, but not entirely fun, either.  Then there is fatigue, headaches, and dizziness.  It's a bit like the first trimester with additions.  There is also the heartburn which is just beginning for me, so I guess I shouldn't complain about that.  Or anything, really.  Every time I feel uncomfortable I just remind myself how lucky I am to be a part of this experience.  
Best moment of the week?  A couple!  The first would be alien belly.  Baby's movements are finally able to be seen from the outside!  I think Matt got more excited about this than feeling the movements.  The next would be leaking boobs!  For those of you who might think this is too much information - chill.  It's completely natural!  Breasts are for feeding first and foremost, after all.  I first noticed this when I was seeing photos of Matt as a baby for the first, and wondering if the baby will look more like him or me.  That's when I felt a little wet, and saw I had leaked through my shirt.  I showed Matt, and he thought it was awesome!  I think he said something to the effect of, "Well, we know they're working!"  What an exciting moment :)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

I plan on breastfeeding exclusively.  Science willing (as Matt would say), I plan on never even having to use a breast pump, as we are fortunate enough to have me stay at home during the most crucial years of our child's development.  I'm the kind of girl that is not only giddy excited about nursing, but I plan to do it as long as my baby chooses - or practice child led weaning.  This is a subject that I am incredibly passionate about, and I feel so grateful to have learned about the benefits of breastfeeding.

There are women I know that have chosen the breast, and have been able to provide milk for their child upon returning to work through pumping.  However, when I became pregnant, I looked at our environment (ARMY!) and wondered how women in the military continued breastfeeding in a male-dominated environment.  Aside from the recent issues plaguing the military (particularly its women), I wondered how women found not only time, but an environment in which to express.  What didn't even cross my mind, until I was speaking with a military mommy, is how one continues to provide milk for their child while in the field, during an exercise, or TDY.  Sadly, most well-intentioned military mommies are left with no other choice than to supplement with formula, even if they never had that intention.

In a country where breastfeeding is still often taboo, and though most American mothers breastfeed, moms don't do it for the suggested amount of time, we should find every way possible to support those who choose the breast.  

In my research I came across a group called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.  It is based on a book marketed for military moms seeking to breastfeed while serving, and has been enveloped into the ever-growing breastfeeding movement.  Based on demand and interest, a movement within the military itself has started, and mothers across the country have become involved in making breastfeeding not only accessible to military moms, but a priority.  

A lawmaker that I have looked up to for some time now, Kirsten Gillibrand, has decided to draft a military-wide breastfeeding policy.  Not only is this unprecedented but it is sorely needed, and Senator Gillibrand needs your support!  Please join me in writing an email of your support to kirsten_gnipp@gillibrand.senate.gov.  

Also, check out this article on why we need breastfeeding policy in the military.  Let's serve those who serve us!

Peace, love, breast,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

26 weeks

The next time I write a blog entry, I'll probably be in the third trimester!  NUTS!

Matt and I are getting SO excited for this baby!  We wish we could fast forward to August.  Though, I just realized these are the last few months it will just be the two of us.  WOAH.  That's crazy.  At our last appointment we weren't able to determine if Nugget is a girl or a boy, and I'm quite happy about that!  I just wish we would have never done ultrasounds if we weren't going to find out.  Oh well.  I feel this is the first of many efforts this child will have at keeping us on our toes.  At first Matt was pretty frustrated, but I think he's excited now.  

How far along?  26 weeks!
Maternity clothes?  Exclusively.  I have a feeling the jeans won't last until August, though I'll be living in dresses by then :)
Stretch marks?  A few
Sleeping?  It's becoming easier.  Whenever there is a growth spurt, I have trouble adjusting.  I currently sleep with a towel rolled up under the side of my belly.  If I don't do this, my back begins to ache.  
Cravings?  Eggs!  With ketchup, of course.  I used to add hot sauce to the mix, but that had to stop.  I've also been craving chocolate, which is often cured by drinking a glass of chocolate soy milk or Ovaltine with peanut butter.  On the weekends I usually get frisky and bake a batch of cookies.  Though I have my fair share, Matt typically finishes them off by Sunday evening, or they are sent to the office on Monday.  Fresh fruit juice is another thing I crave.  Every other morning I make a batch of apple/pear/blackberry/carrot juice good enough for two days.  And yesterday at the market, I began to salivate at the sight of nectarines.  I also wake up in the night craving grapes.  I'm still all about tomatoes, which has been the norm since I was about five years-old.  Because I switched to gluten-free bread, tomato sandwiches haven't been near as good, but I'm still drinking tomato juice like a crazy person.  Salsa and hummus are consumed every afternoon with olive chips, and typically followed by a pickle and perhaps even a glass of pickle juice.  YUM!  But the weirdest most surprising craving of all is garlic bread.  I ate it for dinner and lunch two days in a row last week!  I found that gfree bread is best toasted, and after experimenting one evening, I was hooked.  I've never been a bread person, and though I've always liked garlic bread to an extent, it has become an obsession.  I cut back because the act of consuming empty calories upsets me.  But sometimes, you just want them!  A food free craving - reading!  I can't stop.  I finished Catching Fire last week and immediately began Mockingjay.  The Hunger Games trilogy has consumed me...
Aversions?  Tuna.  All meat products.  Even watching someone eat a sausage makes me want to vom. And violence.  No, that's not food either, and though I've never liked violence in films/television, it's even more so now.  Which is strange, because the Hunger Games books are about as violent as you can get.  Something about watching people get injured, or even more so, animals in bad shape (thanks SKY campaigns to help animals), pushes me over the edge and I get angry and cry.  Another aversion, stupid people.  I can't deal right now and fear that before long I will snap on someone being ignorant.  You have been warned.
Other symptoms?  Crazy ass dreams!  I've always been a vivid dreamer, and often have journaled dreams as I believe they are the gateway into the subconscious.  However, hormones add a whole new dimension!  Sometimes I have dreams that I'm nursing the baby, and I can't believe it's already here!  That's probably because we are getting so excited and starting to realize it is almost time.  Other times I dream of food - often times Zaxby's chicken fingers with Zax sauce :/  Recently it has been all about The Hunger Games.  Last night I dreamt I was the Mockingjay (this only makes sense if you've read the books) in urban combat.  I woke up a little startled, to say the least.  There has also been a wee bit of heartburn, perhaps a precursor of what's to come, and upper abdominal discomfort which isn't so bad once I learned that it is just my muscles shifting.  And the feetsies get a bit swollen from time to time, but I'm keeping them propped up at every opportunity.  And excitement!  Before long it will be August and we'll have a baby on our hands!
Best moment of the week?  Pace has become so intuitive.  Though she is usually all about Papa, she now jumps in my lap and lays her head on my belly, or falls asleep in front of my belly when we're napping.  I really thought Patton would be the protective one, and he definitely is, but Pace even more so.  

 Pace, loving on Nugget and Mommy :)
Baby Cole's the size of an eggplant!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

23 Weeks

Nugget and I, as seems to be the theme, have been growing like mad!  This last week I realized just how big the bugaboo is during a movement session when I simultaneously felt a jab on one side of my belly and a kick on the other.  But I must say, my favorites are the big movements, the one where either a head or a booty rolls across my tummy!  I love to poke back and play :)

Also, our friends, the Bybees, had their beautiful baby girl Reese.  I went and saw them at the hospital, and then Matt and I visited them again at home.  Reese is an absolute doll, and I know she and Baby Cole will get along just fine.

How far along?  23 weeks
Maternity clothes?  Exclusively
Stretch marks?  A few tiny ones
Sleeping?  Not very well the last few nights.  I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable, and that, coupled with the growing pains, makes for very light sleep.  I do, however, take some righteous naps to make up for it.  
Cravings?  Anything with tomatoes.  I drink tomato juice for a midmorning snack, then eat a spinach and tomato salad and something like veggie soup with tomatoes or something else with, yes, tomatoes, chips and salsa for an afternoon snack, and then something with ketchup for dinner. I've always loved tomatoes, but it's getting out of control!  I've also been craving very healthy choices (YAY!) to include fresh juice that I make every couple of days and keep in the refrigerator.  I've also been eating eggs.  That's right, I'm not a pure vegan at this moment.  Because they have so much protein, I feel quite OK about it.  Plus, we buy free-range organic eggs, so the guilt factor isn't so bad.  I plan to go egg-free again after August, though I may consider continuing while breastfeeding.  And weeks 20-22 I consumed more chocolate than is healthy.  EEK!  I feel so guilty!
Aversions?  I can report that Matt hasn't had tuna in the house for a couple of weeks!  I don't know if he is doing it because he knows I was getting agitated, or because he's cut back on it (I honestly hope it's the latter!).  Matt's cologne and deodorant are also a little strong.  
Other symptoms?  The tiniest stomach/digestion system for the largest appetite!  I am hungry all the time, but if I eat too much I get ill.  I can't eat glutenous foods, and if I eat one heavy thing (say, gfree pasta), my meals for the rest of the day must be very easy to digest.  There has been a lot of miso soup and plum juice and fresh juices trying to keep things moving along so I can eat more.  Yesterday, though, I ate only soups and salads. I'm very good about getting protein and vitamins, but this week I've wondered if I'm getting enough calories because of my inability to eat for my appetite.  This was a big growing week for us, and I'm starting to learn how to eat for my ever-changing body.  I am also increasingly uncomfortable.  Sometimes I feel like there is nothing I can do to feel relaxed, and I often shift about on the couch every few minutes.  I guess I'm just starting to get a feel for what is to come!  I've been aching a lot and having round ligament pains, but the chiropractor is helping a lot with that.  Whenever I go see her, I leave on Cloud 9.  My ligament pains were getting pretty intense this week, and she rubbed them good until I felt relief.  She also adjusted my pelvis which was aching like crazy (I think Nugget likes to hang out on the left side) and massaged the ligaments in my hips.  I'm so grateful for the research I did on prenatal osteopathy, as I had never heard of it before pregnancy.  It has helped me in so many ways, especially considering I have been one achy lady since hitting 16 weeks or so.  I've started waddling slightly (already?!) and if I'm on my feet for too long, I know it.  My feet have also been swelling a bit, just what is to be expected.  I asked Matt if my feet looked swollen the other night and he said, "Yeah - I mean, you can't really see your ankles".  You always want to hear your husband tell you you have cankles.  Great stuff, hon.  I feel like that's a lot of complaining, and don't get me wrong, pregnancy has been relatively uncomfortable for me, but I'm still enjoying it.  I love my growing belly, feeling the baby, and the energy I've had.  And this is different, but I've never felt so empowered.  It resonated with me during a post-yoga meditation last week that though I feel like a granny in some of the positions, other times I feel stronger than I've ever felt.  It's quite an incredible feeling.  And another symptom that Matt (and my now sad, little bras) can't help but notice - larger breasts!  It's crazy.
Best moment of the week?  Whenever Matt gets to feel the baby :)  This has happened a couple of times, and he just loves it.  True, he only sticks around for a kick or two, but he gets excited, and that's rare (ha).  I still get giddy every time the baby moves, so that would also have to be a best moment of the week.  We also confirmed our maternity and newborn photographer this week!  And, I think we settled on a name :)

On Tuesday we are headed for our last ultrasound to see if we can get a better glimpse of Nugget's little parts.  Maybe we'll know if s/he's a boy or a girl, maybe we won't.  At this point, we're prepared to not know until her/his birthday (something I've wanted since the beginning).  Matt keeps mentioning how excited he is to see how much s/he's grown, and I must agree.  This is also the week of my glucose test, and I'm a little nervous because of my sugar binges.  The last seven or so days I've really cut back on refined sugar, something that I barely touched before pregnancy.  Before I give in to sugar now I think, "Is this best for the baby?" and the answer is clearly no.  Besides, it's binding and gives me headaches!  It's something I'm working on, and I pray my post-Easter sugary transgressions haven't been a problem.

I'm getting bigger all over!  So proud of my growing belly and baby Nug!