Friday, July 29, 2011

Birth Story - Out of Hospital Birth

After 2 c-sections and a disturbing vaginal birth with many interventions, I resorted to what my heart had been telling me to do from the beginning.

With the pregnancy of my 4th child, I researched my birth options. Within that 9 months I saw 2 CNMs and their overseeing physicians, 2 OB-GYNs, a perinatologist, and a CPM. None of them - except one - could I trust with the birth of this child.

I was not willing to give up my freedom to birth naturally, nor did I want a fight on my hands during labor - which I was all to familiar with - so I chose an out-of-hospital birth with the CPM.

When we arrived at the birth house it was 11pm. We rested some before I had to move around. I labored in the tub until I was checked at 7am and dilated to 8cm. I was in awe, for I had never gotten this far on my own.

However, I did have a nasty cervical lip. After 4 hours of my midwife holding up that lip and pushing, I delivered a 10lb baby boy.

I had no tears, no episiotomy, no epidural, no suction extraction. This is all an amazing feat given that this baby was one and half pounds bigger than my biggest.

It was an amazing oppourtunity that my midwife gave me. It was an oppourtunity that I had not been given in the past. I was given the support, the care, and the time to birth my child. What a lovely gift my midwife has given me and my precious baby boy.

by Shannon Zeeb

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birth Story: Natural Hospital Birth of Lucy Anderson

When I was about halfway through my pregnancy, I stumbled upon a movie on Netflix called, “The Business of Being Born.” Before seeing that film, I really didn’t have any ideas about what I wanted while I was in labor and frankly, I didn’t really care. I was terrified of the whole process and was really not looking forward to going through it. After watching “The Business of Being Born”, I started to read everything I could about natural childbirth. I read about childbirth classes and decided that the Bradley Method was the best option for me. Shortly after completing our Bradley classes, my husband and I decided we needed to hire a doula. We found Niki Johnson and also asked my mother-in-law to be at our birth. With a supportive birth team, including my OB, a good birth plan, and plenty of knowledge, we went into our hospital birth feeling confident that we could achieve a natural birth experience.

At around 7:30am on Thursday, September 4th 2008, I woke up just in time to grab a towel and run to the bathroom as my water broke. I immediately called my husband, William, who was living in Aberdeen for work at the time. He had been sleeping, but I woke him with a jolt when I said, "My water broke." He responded, "Okay, I'm on my way" and promptly hung up on me. I then called my doula, Niki, to let her know, and she instructed me to shower and eat something and call her back in an hour. I walked down the hall and woke up my father, who I was living with while William was away. I had to poke him to wake him up and when I said "My water broke," he tore off his CPAP mask and sat up in his bed – I think he nearly had a heart attack. I told him it was okay and that we didn't have to go anywhere just yet. Then I called my mom who was on her way into work. She was very excited and told me to keep her posted. I then took my doula's advice and got into the shower and tried to have some breakfast.

My contractions started almost immediately after my water broke, but they were manageable and I was able to walk around and talk through them. However, it did take me awhile to finish breakfast as it was difficult to eat through the contractions. After breakfast, I called Niki back, and she suggested swaying back and forth during contractions while using a counter as support. I went straight into the bathroom and started swaying. By this time, it was close to nine o'clock. We were expecting carpet cleaners at the house that morning – most of the furniture was moved into the kitchen and our three cats were locked in the basement. The cleaners ended up being late, and I’m thankful they were. The sounds of my dad’s pet cockatiel and the cats trying to escape from the basement were already driving me crazy. I was worried about what I would do when the cleaners got there. I started to feel nauseous. I put my hair up and got down on my knees over the toilet. Nothing. I went back to swaying. When Niki arrived, my contractions were three minutes apart and lasted 45 seconds to one minute. She immediately suggested that we head to the hospital. I hadn't finished packing my hospital bag and hadn't put much thought into what I put into it. She helped me ready the last few things and we were on our way.

I rode with Niki to the hospital in her van while my dad followed in his car. I ended up sitting on my knees with my head and arms hanging over the backseat. We were sent straight to triage where I was hooked up to monitors and a doctor checked my cervix. I was 90% effaced and 2 cm dilated. William and his mother walked into the room just as I finally threw up. Afterward, I felt better and the contractions were easier to manage. Around this time, I realized that I did not want to be touched or spoken to during a contraction. At the same time, I didn’t want William to go very far. All he could do was stand there and hold my hands as I swayed through the contractions. Shortly, we were moved into a labor and delivery room. I really wanted to get into the bathtub. I went to the bathroom when we got to the delivery room, but I had to wait on the tub as they strapped some monitors to my belly to check the baby's heart rate and my contractions. After that, I was able to get into the tub and it felt absolutely amazing!

I labored in the tub as long as I could, but I was starting to get really hot. William stayed with me the whole time, pouring hot water over my belly and encouraging me between contractions. Niki came into the bathroom to let us know that she had another client in labor and that she was starting to push. Niki left and her backup, Carrie, came to take her place. At one point, I felt a few contractions that seemed to be pushing for me. I told Carrie and she let the nurse know. I got out of the tub and had to lay flat on my back on the bed so the nurse could check my cervix. She said I was 3 to 4 cm dilated, which everyone else said was good. This was not what I wanted to hear – I wanted to push. I was in and out of the tub throughout labor and spent time sitting upright on the bed and on my knees with my arms hanging over the back of the bed. Occasionally, I would have to lie down so the nurses could check my cervix or put my monitors back on to check on the baby. I had to go through a few contractions lying flat on my back, which was absolutely miserable. Carrie suggested that I make sounds during contractions because the low vibrations could help open up my cervix. I moaned through most of my contractions after that.

The contractions were growing very strong and my body was pushing more and more each time. I kept asking if I could start pushing, but I was never dilated enough. At 4:06, I was 5cm dilated. Not long after, I was told that I was at 9 cm. My doctor came in at that point. She told me I needed to get through a few more contractions to open my cervix up before I could push. Everyone kept telling me to breathe through the contractions and not to push, but it was almost impossible. My doctor checked my cervix again and then told me to push against her fingers. She managed to move the last little lip of cervix over the baby's head and then I was actually ready to start pushing. Only 40 minutes had passed since I measured 5cm.

In my birth plan, I had asked for a mirror so I could see the baby's head crown. When I was told I could push, a large mirror was pushed to the end of the bed and I was able to watch myself push the baby out. At this point, the room was completely full of people. The nurse who had been there through my labor, more nurses, my doctor, William, both doulas, my dad and William's mom were all crowded around my bed and everyone was encouraging me and telling me what a great job I was doing. I ended up on my side with Carrie holding up my right leg and Niki bracing my left leg against her thigh. William's mom was behind me wiping my forehead with a wet washcloth and reminding me to put my chin down when I pushed (I kept looking up at the mirror). William was getting washed up and putting gloves on so he could catch the baby and my dad was sitting next to me with a cup of water for me to drink from between pushes.

I pushed for about 20 minutes and once the baby's head was out, it only took one more push to for the rest of her to come. At 5:03pm, Lucy Josephine Anderson was born. She was bright red and literally kicking and screaming the second she came into the world. Thanks to our wonderful OB, William caught her and was immediately surrounded by nurses trying to clean her, clamp her cord and show him how to cut it. He told them all that we wanted to wait until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing before we clamped and cut it. William gave Lucy to me and I was able to hold her to my chest right away, skin-to-skin. A nurse asked if I wanted some Pitocin to help me deliver the placenta, but I said that I wanted to try breastfeeding instead. Right away, I had a nurse on either side of me pushing on my belly to help me deliver the placenta. Everyone was telling me to concentrate on my baby, but it was so painful that I really couldn't concentrate on her, let alone breastfeeding, until the placenta was out. Once I had delivered the placenta, a nurse immediately stuck me with a syringe and gave me a shot of Pitocin to help my uterus contract. Every few minutes after that, someone would come and push on my stomach to make sure my uterus was contracting and that I wasn't losing too much blood. I had a small, two-degree tear and my doctor gave me a couple of stitches. We declined all newborn procedures, including eye ointment and the Vitamin K shot. Lucy had absolutely zero health issues after she was born and never had to be treated for any complications, including jaundice.

I was alert and able to eat and breastfeed within the first hour after the birth. Breastfeeding was a challenge the first night, but I had a wonderful nurse who helped me get Lucy latched on right and it's been a breeze since then. My father, who had been extremely skeptical of my natural birth plan, still tells me almost 3 years later how proud he is that I did it and cannot say enough good things about doulas. One of his first comments after Lucy was born was, “The doula was definitely worth the money.”

By Caitlin Anderson

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Featured Product: Belly Bandit Mother Tucker Nursing Tank

Today's Featured Product is from Belly Bandit®. You can learn more about their company and other products here at their website. Also, don't miss out on entering to win their amazing giveaway for our readers! Enter here before 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Here is their guest post about their new Mother Tucker™ Nursing Tank:

The Do’s and Don'ts of Nursing Etiquette

One would think that in today’s desensitized society, baring a breast to nourish and comfort
a child would wouldn't raise an eye.Yet, public nursing is sometimes viewed as taboo. However, breast feeding in public is legal in forty-five states and those laws specifically allow women to breast feed in any public or private location. In order to help guide new moms on what is most common practice we put together a list of Do's and Don'ts when nursing in public.


Don’t expose the nipple. This can tricky sometimes, but try to avoid it as best as you can.

Don’t be surprised or offended if people stare. It happens. Especially when you are in
public where people like to people watch.

Don’t overreact to negative feedback. Respond to people in a respectful manner and let them know that it is legal to breast feed in public. Think of this as an opportunity to educate the public.


Do it confidently. If you are self-conscious about what you might be revealing, practice
at home in front of a mirror until you feel like you have the hang of it.

Do look for mother-friendly options available in public such as nursing
rooms and nursing lounges.

Do find the right clothing. This will make nursing simple and inconspicuous.

Belly Bandit’s® Mother Tucker™ Nursing Tank has slenderizing compression with stylish design to make it the most fashionably functional nursing tank on the market. Nursing moms no longer have to sacrifice style for function. This nursing tank has been engineered with slide-over cups for easy nursing access, which makes breast feeding in public more comfortable and discreet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Giveaway: Belly Bandit

Tomorrow, Wednesday 7/27/11 will be the second of our "Featured Product" days, where we will be featuring Belly Bandit.

We will be posting a guest blog from them, and in addition, they are sponsoring a giveaway of their new Mother Tucker Nursing Tank! What a great giveaway, huh?!

Ok, so how do you enter? It's pretty easy (note that it's a little different than our last giveaway):

~ Simply enter a comment on this post with your full name.
~ If you "follow" our blog, make a note of it in the comment for an extra chance to win!

That's it!

Please only enter one time, and we will randomly draw the winner tomorrow afternoon around 4:00 p.m., on Belly Bandit's Feature Product day. The winner will be announced tomorrow afternoon both here and on our Facebook page.

Good luck!!

Our winner is **Melissa Olivier**! Congratulations Melissa!

The Empowering C-Section Birth of Ian Gray: A Homebirth Transfer

I had been planning a homebirth that wouldn't be at my home in Sioux Falls, but just across the state line where my certified professional midwife can practice legally. My water first broke on a Wednesday morning, but contractions didn't start right away. We had a prenatal visit scheduled that evening, so we called the CPM and said if nothing much happened, we'd see her then.

I had some contractions, but nothing strong or regular. After our appointment, we stayed overnight at the birth house, returning home Thursday afternoon once contractions had died down. Late Thursday evening a stronger more consistent labor pattern sent us back. I labored through the night, but everything petered out again in the morning.

Friday afternoon it appeared as though I'd gone through transition. Looking back, I didn't really feel like it, but after the horrible Pitocin-augmented labor I’d experienced with my daughter, Rosi, I wasn't sure what to expect from natural second-stage contractions.

After several hours, I wasn't feeling an urge to push, so the midwife asked to do a cervical check. I was only dilated about 4 cm and the baby was up at -5 station. I didn't even know the scale went so high!

In the time since my water initially broke, particularly during the cervical check, I hadn't been leaking any fluid. Our CPM indicated that she suspected just the chorion (outer bag) had ruptured, not the amnion (inner bag). When my contractions died down again Friday evening, we went home to rest in our own bed—and let our midwife do the same.

On Saturday, about dinnertime, I started leaking quite a bit of fluid tinged with blood. We called the CPM and headed back over to the birth house. She checked the color of the fluid and said it looked okay, but if the blood got darker or more abundant, it could indicate a problem. Shortly thereafter, I had a big gush of dark red blood. We made arrangements to transfer to the local hospital.

Our back-up doctor came on her night off to check me. My BP was registering 170/95, so they started an IV of magnesium sulfate to help bring it down. Mag sulfate is commonly used to stall preterm labor and it completely stopped my contractions.

They did a quick ultrasound to check for previa or an abruption, but the tech said the placenta looked fine and it wasn’t near the cervix. The doctor recommended transferring to a nearby hospital with a better NICU and more specialists, should we need them.

Back in Sioux Falls, the on-call OB recommended starting a Pitocin drip to counteract the effects of the mag. I agreed it was probably the best choice at that point. They started the drip very slowly and, following a newly adopted low-dose protocol, only increased it 1-2 mu/min every half hour. Contractions picked back up, but unfortunately, they weren't moving the baby down or dilating my cervix further. The OB asked for a second ultrasound to estimate baby's weight and do an anatomy scan. They estimated the weight at 9 lbs and found no anatomical problems.

After about 14 hours on Pit, I had reached the recommended maximum 20 mu/min, but there was still no change in dilation or station. The OB suggested it was time to start thinking about a surgical birth. I’d been having similar thoughts. The pain wasn't terrible—maybe an 8 out of 10 compared with my level 12 Pitocin-enhanced contractions during Rosi's birth—but I was getting really tired. I hadn't eaten in about 24 hours or slept, beyond drowsing between contractions, in more than 30.

I asked for an epidural as a last-ditch effort to preserve a vaginal birth, just in case the pain was actually interfering with my labor’s progressing. I didn't think that was the problem, but I needed to try everything before I could consent to a c-section. Ironically, although it was nice to have the a break from the pain, I hated the epidural. I disliked feeling out of control and the sense of being stuck in bed.

Two hours and another 4 mu/min of Pitocin later, there was still no change to my cervix or baby's descent. I told the OB to get the surgical consent.

The c-section itself wasn't as scary as I'd imagined. My arms were unrestrained and I watched his birth on a monitor mounted above me. Adam was there until they took our son to the nursery for monitoring. Babies born by c-section are at higher risk for breathing problems and one of the side effects of mag sulfate is depressed respiration, so they were very cautious.

The OB mentioned afterwards that my uterus had been filled with blood clots. There had been a partial abruption, despite no evidence on either ultrasound. Weeks later I realized if we'd kept trying to up the Pit and force a vaginal birth, we very well could have lost him. Thankfully, my son was born at a healthy 8 lbs 5 oz and 19¾ inches long.

Though not at all the experience I was looking to have, it still felt like an empowering birth. I have no questions that mine was a necessary c-section. I wasn’t pressured into anything. The health care professionals offered advice and answered questions, but I always understood decisions were up to Adam and me.

I had been praying that I’d have the homebirth I so desired. I craved a respectful labor and birth. In the end, I didn't get what I prayed for, but I got what I really wanted.

By Amy James Gray

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Where to give Birth

Where should I have my baby?

To some there might be an obvious answer to this: “Women give birth in the hospital, duh.”

To others, there is a different obvious answer to this: “Women have been having babies at home for thousands of years…why should I have to go anyplace else?”

And yet to even others, they just aren’t sure. This post is for those folks…those that need a little help deciding what is best for them and their family.

First of all, giving birth in the hospital in the United States is definitely the cultural norm. Most women (as in some 98%) give birth here. This is fine, as long as women know a couple things about giving birth in the hospital. First of all, there are often many hospital policies that could affect their labor and birth and should be known ahead of time. Secondly, there are statistics that might make a difference and should also be known ahead of time. Unfortunately, many women just don’t know they should be concerned about it…after all, hospitals are there to do what’s best for their patients, right? Well, that’s one of the first things I’m going to comment on…pregnant women are not “patients”. They are “clients” that are in charge of their own birth experience – after all they are not sick (the majority aren’t, anyway). The hospital works for them. Not the other way around. So, even though the hospital is supposed to do what’s best for their “patients”, they sometimes have policies that may be more detrimental than not to a laboring woman and her progress.

For instance, it may be the hospital’s policy to give a laboring woman an IV Saline Lock “just in case”. It may also be a policy to have continuous Fetal Heart Monitoring. If a woman isn’t progressing quickly enough according to the hospital policy timeline, it makes it extremely easy to augment her labor with Pitocin…after all, she’s already got an IV so she’s all hooked up and ready to go. When a woman has continuous Fetal Heart Monitoring, it can limit her ability to move into different positions which helps labor progression, and based on the data gained by monitoring, can increase the likelihood of a provider recommending an unnecessary surgical delivery. Continuous Fetal Heart Monitoring is not a part of evidence –based care.

As far as statistics, the main one to be concerned with and to take close note of is the hospital’s cesarean section delivery rate. If a hospital has one that is as high as or higher than the national average (now at 34%), you might consider looking into the reason why and determine if it’s a reason you can be comfortable with. Also, you might ask your provider his or her rate and what in his or her mind would constitute the need for a surgical birth.

If you feel more comfortable with giving birth in a hospital, by all means, that’s where you should go. Just make sure you are aware of hospital policies before you go into labor and speak with your provider about how you would like to deal with them.

You could also choose a home birth. More and more women and families are choosing this option, for many reasons. First and foremost, home is where you are most comfortable. Many hospitals are now trying to create “homelike” atmospheres to help laboring women relax. They have figured out that homelike surroundings make things more comfortable, therefore help women relax. Even so, with all the beeping, buzzing, and constant monitoring in the hospital, it’s easy to see how some women are just more comfortable in their very own surroundings. Second, home has a mom’s own germs – ones that she and her baby’s immune systems are used to. This can be important - germs that are new to mom and baby can be more of a threat to both. Third, when a mom is laboring at home, she is in charge. There are no policies to worry about, no threat of impending interventions if things don’t go exactly according to “schedule”, and there is complete freedom to move around and let her body do what it was made to do in whatever way she needs to do it.

There is also an “in between” option of birthing in a Birth Center. This is kind of like a “home away from home” specifically designed for laboring and birthing moms. There is lower risk of intervention, but there are some medical things that can be done if needed. In South Dakota, a bill passed just this year allowing the licensing of Birth Centers in the state. Lawmakers are working on putting together the rules around this new law, so hopefully there will be up-and-running Birth Centers available to our birthing moms and families soon!

Above all, make sure that you feel comfortable with your choice of where to birth. Don’t let outside pressures take over, and make sure to listen to your own inner peace. Pray about your decision and go with it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Books for Pregnancy

So, you’re newly pregnant and want to read as many books as possible to learn all you can about the ins and outs of pregnancy and childbirth, and really want to make the best decisions for you and your little butter bean growing inside you. You are in the Pregnancy and Childbirth section at your local bookstore or looking on Amazon and are literally overwhelmed to the point of just giving up and turning around. Where in the world should you begin? How do you know that the book you are about to invest $12 - $30 in will even help you? How do you know what book is going to teach you about childbirth in a way that agrees with your philosophy? Yes, you could spend the next week or more of your life in the book store reading every single book’s back cover…or… you could just read this list of reader’s favorites and why they were a favorite, and invest in one of these.

1. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin “Ina May is so incredibly down to earth, and does a great job dispelling the medical ‘myths’ of what laboring women can do. The book is also full of positive birthing stories from lots of different kinds of moms, a good counter to cable tv shows and film depictions of screaming horror.”
“I loved reading all the positive birthing stories and other great info it provided”
2. The New Mom’s Guide to Your Body After Baby, by Susan Wallace & Monica Reed “It really prepared me for what to expect AFTER delivery, which seems to often be an overlooked or taboo subject. I read it before my first birth and was sooooo thankful I was ready for what happened after the actual birth.”
3. Great Expectations: Your All-in-One Resource for Pregnancy & Childbirth, by Sandy Jones “I loved the week by week guide to my baby’s growth and the labor section.”
4. Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method: A Natural Approach to a Safe, Easier, More Comfortable Birthing (with CD), by Marie F Mongan “Mainly it comes down to being informed on different methods…with baby #1 and #2 I went in with NOTHING…and had no control because I didn’t know I could have control – I thought the dr’s were in charge, etc…but that was what to expect when expecting…this time I researched different methods. I also have restless leg syndrome and the hypnobirthing book just really opened my mind and helped me see I can have choices and control over my body and my labor – and not lose that control because of the “pain”. It made me look at birth from a whole new way – not to fear it but to welcome it! I am actually excited this time around – I don’t think this is the one and only book moms should read…it should be included so they can decide which method would be best for them! Just be informed!"
5. Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation, by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, by Henci Goer and Rhonda Wheeler “I liked these for their evidence based research and supportive of natural birth and trusting our bodies.”
6. Count it All Joy, by Judy Kay Jones, CPM – “It’s such a great collection of natural birth stories. Some with bad outcomes, some with good. It really shows all faces of natural birth.”
7. Silent Knife: Cesarean Prevention and Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC), by Nancy Wainer Cohen and Lois J Estner “I really liked reading this book. It’s really old, but full of great information”
8. Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth about Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Jenny McCarthy “If you want to get a good laugh read this book!”
9. Daddy’s Pregnant, Too!, by Sam Young “I never bought books for myself but my mother in law sent this book for my husband. I see it in book stores all the time but it is SO cute and so right on. The information isn’t given in big terms and it gives you a super realistic idea of what will actually happen and I probably learned more as far as what would really happen than what you read on the internet.”
10. Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience, by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro
11. Our Bodies Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth, by Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and Judy Norsigian “It’s very pro-homebirth and pro-midwife. It was where I first read about the Bradley Method and led me to find Jessica Dixon, our awesome Bradley instructor!”
12. Supernatural Childbirth, by Jackie Mize “This book changed my life. By believing and following the principles laid out in the book, I had a completely pain free childbirth. I felt my muscles working and definitely knew my body was doing what it was supposed to be doing, but there was literally no pain.”
13. Natural Childbirth and the Christian Family, by Helen Wessel “This book, though ‘old’, is a great book that describes why childbirth doesn’t have to be painful and also goes into depth talking about relaxation. In addition, it describes what has led to the cultural belief that childbirth is the most horrible pain that a woman will ever endure, and talks about why that isn’t the way God intended birth to be.”
14. “I love Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but after this last baby, I have to go with Hypnobabies Homestudy course as my absolute favorite – it was so great to have an almost painless birth!”
15. Your Pregnancy Week by Week, by Glade B Curtis and Judith Schuler “I followed it religiously through all three pregnancies”
16. What to Expect when You’re Expecting, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel – “I loved that it tracked what your baby was working on growing that week. It really helped me pictured the growth and changing that was going on inside my belly”

So, there you have it. Our Facebook followers have spoken, and they have provided some great ideas for your book reading choices. No matter what, just make sure that whatever you’re reading matches with your birthing philosophy and that you are able to weed out the “junk”.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time for Gratitude - Family and Nature

We had the opportunity to go on a big family vacation at the end of June. When I say big, I mean it was big because my entire family was able to be there – my folks, my sister, her husband and their almost two-year-old daughter, my brother and his three-year-old daughter, and my “baby” brother who just graduated from high school…not to mention my husband and I, and our two kiddos (3 ½ and 18 months).

My folks’ had bid on and won a cabin stay in central Montana at a recent Ducks Unlimited banquet. The cabin slept 15 people, so there was plenty of room, it was up in the mountains away from everything…the closest town was 24 miles away and there wasn’t any cell phone service *or* internet. We were quite literally “away from it all”.

My parents hauled their four wheelers out there because there are many, many ATV trails in the area where we were. We also took several games (indoor and outdoor), fishing equipment, and my dad’s new “movie theater” style popcorn maker. We had a campfire every night, and the kids picked “flowers” from the abundance of very large and full dandelions in the yard…in fact, it was one of their favorite activities. We all got several beautiful dandelion bouquets from their precious “flower picking” sessions.

This was the first time we had all been on a vacation together since well before any of us were married. Of course we get together on holidays and as often as possible at other times throughout the year, but it’s just not the same as all going somewhere together and spending a week in the same cabin. Since I have been a little girl we have taken trips together as a family, but with each of us having our own families now, it adds a completely new dynamic, and definitely could have gone either way – tense and irritating, or comfortable and easy. It was fabulous!

The kids had a fantastic time, my folks had a great time with the grandkids and their “babies” (i.e. us), and of course we, the “babies” and our spouses all had fun too. My husband got to enjoy some fishing with two of his brother-in-laws, I went four-wheeling on different trails every day with my brother, sister, mom, and dad (all at different times) – we even made it to the top of a mountain where there was too much snow to get through the trail…somewhere around 10,000 feet…talk about a beautiful view! My husband and I went on a long walk by a nearby creek, and the kids got to do what they do best – play their little hearts out. They love spending time together and especially with their grandma and grandpa and auntie and uncles.

All in all it was a fantastic trip and SO nice to “unplug” for a little while and just get close to the people who are most important in my life surrounded by the majesty and beauty of God’s creation. On the way back home, we took an extra day and drove through Yellowstone National Park. If you have never done that and if you appreciate wildlife, beautiful waterfalls, and nature in general, I would highly recommend it. Our daughter can’t stop talking about the waterfalls we got to see and different fun things we got to do and see when we were “at the vacation”. Aren’t kids wonderful?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Childbirth Professional Day - Meet Niki Johnson

1. What is your Childbirth Profession?

I am a Doula and Childbirth Educator.

2. Describe your profession and why someone would want to choose your profession for support in pregnancy and/or childbirth.

A doula is a professional support person. A doula does many things for the birthing couple. A doula offers physical and emotional support to the birthing couple and educates and informs parents of their options in Childbirth. A doula is an advocate for the couple and can help them maintain their birth plan or explain options when there needs to be a deviation from that plan. Having a doula can help to alleviate fear of the birth process, and a doula can offer suggestions on positioning and comfort measures to help facilitate a smoother birth. A doula is also an independent person working for the couple who can offer continuity of care from the home to the hospital and between the changing shifts at the hospital.

A childbirth educator is a person who teaches about pregnancy, labor, and birth. As an independent educator, I am not steeped in one method, or one hospitals standard operating procedure. I teach the anatomy of pregnancy, the physiology of labor and birth, exercise and nutrition as the base of a healthy pregnancy, relaxation and other pain management techniques, and complimentary therapies for the childbearing year. The most important thing you as a parent can take away from childbirth classes is the ability to become a consumer of your health care and your own responsibility in keeping your pregnancy healthy.

3. Why did you get started in your profession?

I had a really 'normal' birth experience with my oldest. An induced birth at 37 weeks after an inversion from breech, an epidural, flat on my back pushing, an episiotomy, etc. My son was premature, apparently my due date was off, and was in the NICU for 10 days with a collapsed lung and feeding issues. I then went on to have nursing problems due to his having a bottle in the hospital. It left me feeling inept to care for my son when I took him home. Those experts who told me to trust them didn't come home and parent for me. I had to regain my confidence as a mother. When I had my second, I educated myself and decided against all the interventions in hopes of having a healthier baby, an easier labor, and an easier recovery. I found out that in order to have the kind of birth I envisioned I would need support. In our society birth is seen as scary, dangerous, and a job for the professionals. In reality a couple must do it, just like they must change the diapers, feed, and care for their children. I decided after my second was born that the most integral things to my journey were taking independent childbirth classes, not hospital protocol readiness, and hiring a doula to help me during labor to stay on track with my plans. After doing it for 6 years, I have realized that women who are empowered during their births have an easier time making decisions for their children all around. She becomes an advocate for her family!

4. In detail, what is your personal childbirth philosophy?

That birth is a normal physiological event, albeit an intense transition into parenting, it prepares us for the amazing gift of being parents. I believe that God has made our bodies and our babies to working synergistically. Keeping birth normal means not intervening into it unless truly medically necessary. Our society sees birth as a disease needing to be cured, not a family event that needs to be supported and celebrated!

5. If you could tell all pregnant women in the world something, what would it be?

Trust your inner instinct. It is still there, it may be hidden or pushed down way inside, but it is there. No one knows your body or your baby better than you do!

6. How long have you been in your profession? Are you certified? If yes, by which entity?

I have been a doula for 6 years, I originally certified through DONA international. I am working on certifying through ICEA as a childbirth educator

7. Do you have a business name? How can people contact you for pregnancy and childbirth support?

BirthingWISE is Women Inspired Support & Education. I can be contacted at 605-351-4207, or

8. Where do you practice?

As a doula I work anywhere, if you are having a hospital birth I can labor with you at home and in the hospital, if you are having a home birth, I labor with you at home! I take clients in Sioux Falls, and am willing to travel. As a childbirth educator, I teach out of local chiropractors office.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Featured Product Day: Motherlove Herbal Company

Today, companies that specialize in products for all the stages of a woman's life are common, but in 1990, when Motherlove Herbal Company was born, it was the first herbal personal care and supplement company for pregnant and breastfeeding women. For the past 21 years, Motherlove has continued to pioneer this industry with their dedication to safe products that nurture life.

The founder of Motherlove, Kathryn Higgins, has over 35 years of experience as a nationally recognized herbalist, author and teacher. It's her mission to provide safe and effective herbal products to women, a vision that is now shared by her daughter, Silencia Cox, who works with Kathryn at Motherlove.

Motherlove was founded because of Kathryn's own journey with pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. Every product the company manufactures, every package and the attention to nurturing life begins with The 3 R's: Respect, Responsibility and Reconnect. Not only for our own bodies and families, but for Mother Earth.

The products manufactured by Motherlove encompass the time honored journey through pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and baby care. Each product has been formulated to be effective, preservative free and ranks a zero on the Skin Deep database of toxicity.

The packaging for each product is chosen to be as sustainable as possible, manufacturing is done using wind credits and production is certified cruelty-free, kosher and follows the Good Manufacturing Practices set forth by the American Herbal Products Association and the FDA.

One of the secrets to the legacy being left by Motherlove is special relationship of the two driving forces behind the company. Founder, Kathryn Higgins, and her daughter, Silencia Cox, work as a two-generation team to keep the original mission and company ideals as crisp today as they were 20 years ago.

The Nurturing Life Foundation was formed in 2005, as part of the company's 15 year celebration. Honoring the goals of both promoting breastfeeding and supporting mothers in need, the foundation sponsors organizations like the Mountain Park Environmental Center in Beulah, Colorado, Keeping Dreams Alive and Realities for Children.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Giveaway: Motherlove Herbal Company

Tomorrow, Friday, July 15 will be the first of our "Featured Product" days, where we will be featuring Motherlove Herbal Company.

We will be posting a guest blog from them, and in addition, they are sponsoring a "Winner's Choice" giveaway! You read that right - the winner will get their choice of a Motherlove Herbal Company product. How fantastic is that?!

Ok, so how do you enter? It's pretty easy:

~First of all, you must be a resident of the US
~Then, simply "follow" our blog and enter a comment on this post with your full name.

That's it!

Please only enter one time, and we will randomly draw the winner tomorrow afternoon, on Motherlove's Feature Product day. The winner will be announced tomorrow afternoon both here and on our Facebook page.

Good luck!!

*****Congratulations to Toni Hill, winner of our Motherlove Herbal giveaway!*****

Nutrition in Pregnancy

Pools, Picnics …… and Puffy Feet

Yes, summer is finally here; bringing with it 90 degree temps and humidity. And for us pregnant folks, also swollen feet, ankles, hands, face, earlobes …. ok maybe not earlobes, but you get the point. Every mother will experience some swelling during pregnancy due to a healthy increase in blood volume, but the summer heat seems to exaggerate the issue. And after spending most of my summer days at the park, the pool and the zoo, my little piggies began to puff up by the end of the day.

So I was proactive and made a few tweaks to my diet. I added more salt. Yep, you read that right …. MORE salt. It’s a common misconception that when you experience edema (swelling) during pregnancy that you should reduce your salt intake, when in fact the opposite is true. During the summer, especially, your body loses a lot of salt (at least 20 grams) through sweating and it needs to be replenished to maintain proper body function. Reducing your sodium consumption can cause essential body fluids to flow out of your circulation and into the tissues, thereby causing swelling. And according to Dr. Brewer, the creator of the Brewer Pregnancy Diet:

“If the situation continues, her [the mother’s] other critical body organs, like the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and brain, become adversely affected by the dwindling blood supply (the kidneys respond, for example, by raising the blood pressure), and her baby begins to suffer intrauterine malnutrition.”

Not only does having an adequate supply of salt help reduce unhealthy swelling, but it also can help lower high blood pressure, maintain proper organ function, ensure proper nutrition reaches baby, treat pre-eclamptic symptoms and even curb those pesky pregnancy leg cramps (because who doesn’t hate those??).

So in response to my puffy toes, I started snacking on cheese & crackers, popcorn, pickles and adding salt to my eggs, potatoes, meat and vegetables. And sure enough, within a few days I noticed a dramatic decrease in swelling!! Bye bye puffy piggies!

Now keep in mind that salt is not the only element needed for a healthy pregnancy. Salting to taste should be a part of a balanced pregnancy diet, which helps ensure the health of both mother and baby. So what does a pregnancy diet look like? Well I’m glad you asked. Along with salting food to taste, a pregnant woman should consume:

  • 80-100 grams of Protein per day - This provides amino acids which are the building blocks of the body. It’s important for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, etc. Lack of protein can also cause swelling, fatigue and lack of appetite.

  • 2 eggs per day - Provides protein and loads of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, the anti-infection protein.

  • 4 servings of milk/dairy products per day - Provides protein, calcium and other essential vitamins & minerals. It’s important for bones, muscle growth, muscle contractions and nerve transmission.

  • 2 servings of green vegetables - Provides Vitamins A and B complex which help your body use the proteins in other food. It’s also a great source of folic acid which is essential for good growth for baby, and prevents neural tube defects.

  • 4+ servings of whole grains per day - Great source of carbohydrates needed to fuel your body. Without carbs, your body will burn the proteins you eat for energy, robbing you and your baby of the building blocks needed for tissue growth & repair.

  • 1-2 servings of Vitamin C foods per day - Crucial in the body’s defense system again infection, keeps your uterus strong and improves iron absorption.

  • 3 servings of fats & oils per day - Needed to help your body absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. Also contributes to healthy, stretchable skin.

  • 5 servings of yellow and orange fruits & vegetables per week - Provides high amounts of Vitamin A which helps prevent infection and maintains healthy skin.

  • Water - Essential during hot, summer months!! Lack of water can lead to dehydration which reduces energy output by 20% or more. Water accounts for75% of your baby’s total body weight at birth and it acts a solvent and catalyst for biological reactions.

Proper nutrition is one of the biggest “little” things you can do to help stay low risk during pregnancy and ensure the best possible outcomes for you and your baby. So happy summer and happy eating!!

For more information on nutrition during pregnancy, please visit

By Ashley Anderson, Bradley Instructor

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping

When an umbilical cord is clamped and cut, that is the separation of a mother and baby unit. They have been vitally connected for nearly (or over) nine months. The physical connection between them has then been severed.

After a birth the cord does not immediately stop pulsing. The pulsing (movement of blood) continues until the placenta has released from the uterine wall and most times even after that for a short period of time. As long as the placenta is still attached in the uterus, nutrients and oxygen continue to be pumped to the baby with the pulse of the mother's heart. Those nutrients, especially the oxygen, are vital to the baby's survival until the baby begins breathing and obtaining its own oxygen supply. If the cord is cut immediately after birth, that vital supply is removed and you must be sure that the baby immediately begins breathing on its own. If the baby has a problem establishing its own life sustaining breathing pattern, that supply through the cord becomes even more vital.

Most of the time a cord will continue to pulse for five to eight minutes. But if the baby is having trouble, it seems the mother's body senses it and the pulsing will continue for an extended time. I have seen a cord continue to pulse for 45 mintues when the baby was struggling. That extra time gives you more time to work on resusitation and assisting the baby to establish its own oxygen supply.

Even after a placenta detaches, the pulsing will continue for a short time (a few minutes). This give the baby more of its own blood supply including plasma, red and white cells and platelets. That puts the baby in a better position to have a good start in life.

Immediate cord clamping loses all these advantages. The only thing that is gained is that it allows the baby to be moved to a separate place, away from the mother, so that doctors and nurses can work on the baby. On a very rare occasion that may be of more value that the advantages gained by delayed cord clamping. Most of the immediate clamping and cutting of the cord is only done for the convenience of the medical staff.

by Judy Kay Jones, CPM

Monday, July 11, 2011

'Knowledge is Power' - Choosing the Right Prenatal Education for You

Being pregnant for the first time can be the most exciting and nerve racking time in your life. The learning curve is tremendous and the transition is huge! While there is no lack of information out there about pregnancy, birth, and parenting, the multitude of web cites, diverse methods, and opposing attitudes can be confusing to say the least. One of the easiest ways to gain straight forward information while also meeting other expectant couples is taking a childbirth education class. Easy, right? But which one is for you? Just like everything else in the baby bump world, there are many different choices. The first step is deciding what you want.

• What do you want to learn, are you interested in learning about natural unmedicated birth, or are you looking for a class that focuses on a range of options?
• Are you interested in learning about nutrition and exercise for a healthy pregnancy?
• Do you learn best through research or small group discussion?
• Do you have any personal beliefs or values that need to be addressed?

Once you know where you are coming from, you can figure out where you are headed! There are many types of classes- Lamaze, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, Prepared Childbirth, etc. So how do you decide which is best for you?

First look at the philosophy of the method you choose. Does it fit with your philosophy of birth? What are the beliefs about women, labor, birth and the coach’s role?

Next, look at the qualifications experience and training of the instructor. Are they certified through their organization? What is their experience and background? Are they open to answering questions?

Lastly decide if the schedule and monetary investment are realistic for your situation. Some classes require a 12 week time commitment while others offer a ‘crash course’. Would you rather learn over a longer time period or have all the information in one sitting? Independent childbirth classes are usually more expensive than hospital classes. The cost of classes can vary widely and cost should be the last thing on your list of criteria. A more expensive class that helps you feel empowered to become a consumer of your healthcare will be priceless in the grand scheme of things. Many independent teachers offer phone and email support also.

Not every class will be a perfect fit for every couple, but a good class will teach parents to become informed consumers and help them to become advocates for themselves and their babies. This will help couples to make informed decisions that are right for their situations. The main goal of taking childbirth classes is to ease anxiety about birth, gain confidence in yourself and the birth process, learn what resources are available, and help facilitate bonding with your baby! School house rock had it right, ‘Knowledge is Power!’

By Niki Johnson, Childbirth Educator and Doula

Friday, July 8, 2011

Doulas - Should We Hire One?

The short answer to this question is: Yes!

But why? Well, doulas are there to support you and your partner through labor and delivery; in addition, they give you support throughout your pregnancy, help with education, can help formulate birth plans, can help initiate breastfeeding, and many can even help with any questions you may have after you give birth. Doulas specialize in non-medical pain relief and relaxation throughout your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. They are not there to tell you how you need to do things…they are there to help you get the information you need to make an informed decision regarding your care. Whether you plan to have a completely natural birth, you plan to have an epidural or other medical pain relief, or you deliver via surgical birth, a doula can be the “calming force” in your labor and delivery.

I have often heard the question “so what will my husband do if I have a doula?” or from the husband "I'm there to help my wife, so why would we need a doula?". Well, your husband or birth partner will also be supported by the doula. A doula will be able to relieve your husband if it is a long labor and he needs a break to get something to eat, catch a brief nap, or just needs to use the restroom. Though he will remain an integral part of your birth team, the pressure will be relieved and the doula will help him help you throughout your labor and delivery.

"Doulas provide support by enhancing the degree of peace and security and improving communication with the women in childbirth. Doulas also provide increased opportunities for transcultural care. They may increase childbearing women's confidence and satisfaction, help meet the diverse needs of childbearing women and improve care quality."
(Midwifery Jan 12, 2011)

So, what are some of the benefits of having a doula at your labor? Well, according to Klaus and Kennell’s Mothering the Mother, research confirms that having a doula present at birth may:

~ Decrease cesareans by 50%
~ Decrease length of labor by 25%
~ Decrease oxytocin (Pitocin) use by 40%
~ Decrease request for pain meds by 30%
~ Decrease forceps deliveries by 40%
~ Decrease epidural requests by 60%
~ Increase overall birthing satisfaction
~ Promote longer breastfeeding
~ Encourage parent/baby bonding
~ Help partners participate with confidence

In addition to the measurable benefits of having a doula, there are many non-measurable benefits as well.* These benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • Someone who really knows birth and remembers what is taught in childbirth education classes – this can relieve a lot of stress for mom and dad

  • Can help if you are or your partner is scared

  • Can help you let your body guide you through the childbirth

  • Can be the only person who can keep everyone’s nerves calm and cool during childbirth

  • Can help facilitate communication between you, your support team, and providers

  • Can provide massage, teach relaxation techniques, ideas for different labor positions, breathing help, etc prior to and during labor and delivery, and can also teach massage and helping techniques to your partner prior to and during labor

  • Can help provide any emotional or physical support you need if you’re dealing with a difficult pregnancy or situation

  • She may attend your home labor (though in South Dakota it is not legal for doulas to attend your home birth, unless a Certified Nurse Midwife with the appropriate waiver is attending the actual birth**)

  • If you are at home, a doula can get in contact with the hospital if needed, and can also drive you there

  • Can answer your questions about newborn baby care

  • Can answer your questions about your post-pregnancy body and emotions

  • Can answer questions about breastfeeding and latching on

  • Can also give support when it comes to rest, exercise, and post-partum life

  • “If doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” ~Dr John Kennell

    So, the answer is yes, hire a doula today!!

    * Though I’ve modified this list, I unfortunately don’t have the citation of where I got it originally. Even so, I feel it is too good not to share!

    **Originally I said it is illegal for doulas to attend home births, which is not entirely true. It is illegal for anyone other than a family member to be at a home birth if a Certified Nurse Midwife with the approriate waiver isn't attending the actual birth, and in fact, they can be prosecuted for practicing as a CNM without a license if they were there. However, if a CNM who has the appropriate permissions to attend home births in South Dakota is attending the birth, it is extremely unlikely that a doula or any other support person would be prosecuted for practicing as a CNM without a license.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Time for Gratitude - Thank a veteran

    As a country we celebrated Independence Day on Monday. I would be completely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the gratitude I have for the country I live in and for the soldiers who have fought to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

    My husband is writing several books honoring WWII veterans, and I have had the pleasure to meet several of the vets he is writing about. He and I have also had the honor to attend a couple reunions of these great men and women who served our country so valiantly and honorably and thank them in person. It is because of their sacrifice and diligence that we are able to enjoy the freedoms that we have today.

    No matter what political party anyone belongs to, what views we all have, nor what we think about the state of our country and world today, veterans, either from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any conflict in between, deserve our reverence and respect. It is because of them – not any politician or other leader that we have what we have and are considered one of the richest countries in the world.

    I challenge all of you to thank a vet today. They are the backbone of our nation, and I feel blessed to be defended by each and every one of them.

    God bless America!

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Choosing a Provider in Pregnancy

    So, you’re pregnant….now what??

    Well, one of the first things you are going to need to do is choose a provider. In South Dakota there are limited options, especially with insurance concerns and current laws restricting certain providers, but even so, there definitely *are* options. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s most important to you and who will provide those things. So, following is a list of questions you should ask each provider you interview to ensure you are both on the same page.*

    1. Is there a limit to the number of people who can accompany me during my birth? How do you feel about a labor support professional such as a doula or massage therapist joining my birth team?

    2. Will I be able to eat and drink in labor?

    3. If I were interested in having a natural, unmedicated birth, how would you feel about it?

    4. What comfort measures do you recommend?
      a. Freely changing positions and walking around
      b. Water therapy (shower/tub)
      c. A doula
      d. Epidural
      e. Narcotics (Stadol/Demerol)

    5. What would you recommend I do if my water breaks before contractions have begun? How long after my water breaks would you recommend induction if my labor doesn’t start on its own?

    6. What are your protocols regarding my due date, i.e. inducing labor at 40 weeks? 41 weeks?

    7. Do you believe in active management of the first stage of labor? For example, would progress of less than one cm per hour call for artificial rupture of membranes (AROM) or Pitocin? If everything is fine with me and my baby, will I be able to labor at my own pace and for as long as I need?

    8. If you feel that labor has to be stimulated what methods to you recommend?
      a. Herbs
      b. Nipple stimulation
      c. Castor oil
      d. Intercourse before spontaneous rupture of membranes (SROM)
      e. Enema
      f. Acupuncture
      g. Stripping of membranes
      h. Artificial rupture of membranes (AROM)
      i. Pitocin

    9. What is your protocol regarding the following procedures and how often do you perform them?
      a. IVs
      b. Continuous versus intermittent fetal monitoring
      c. Internal fetal monitoring
      d. Artificial rupturing of the membranes (AROM)
      e. Epidural
      f. Assisted vaginal delivery (forceps/vacuum)
      g. Episiotomy

    10. What is your cesarean rate? What factors do you believe contribute to that rate? What is your VBAC rate? What are your standard protocols for VBAC mothers?

    11. Will I be able to choose the position in which I will push and give birth, such as side-lying, all fours, or squatting?

    12. What are your views on delayed cord clamping?

    13. Can my baby remain with me at all times from the moment of birth? Do you support skin-to-skin contact between me and my baby immediately after birth?

    Once you are in labor, it will be too late to convince your provider to do things the way you want them done. Make sure you have the same or at least similar birth philosophies before then!

    Remember…no matter what, it’s your choice. You don’t have to choose a particular provider just because your mom, sister, or friend had him or her. Also, if you feel like you need to change providers in the middle or even late in your pregnancy you have every right to!

    *Most questions taken from the National Guide to a Healthy Birth - #3 of a series 2011/2012 by Choices in Childbirth

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    New Series' and Features!

    Happy July!

    We are really excited to announce that we are beginning a three-month, three-part series of informative posts focusing on different topics each month. This month will be “Pregnancy and Birth Month”, August will be “Cloth Diaper 101”, and September will be “All about Breastfeeding”.

    We will also be introducing some new features, including (but not limited to) a Childbirth Professional Day each month where you will “meet” local doulas, childbirth educators, and other childbirth professionals, Featured Product days which will feature products that are carried in the store and online, and Guest Posts regarding breastfeeding from local La Leche League leaders. We are really excited about these new series’ and features and hope you will find them as interesting and informative as we do!

    Also be looking for questions on our Facebook page – we plan to post your input on some of our posts, and want as much information and variety as possible!

    All of us here at Elegant Mommy are passionate about not just giving you products that you need and use every day, but even more so about being a support and information system for you, our friends. If there is any particular subject you would like more information on, or would like to see us cover, make sure to let us know! You can contact us on our Facebook page, leave a comment here, or contact us directly at media at elegantmommy dot com.