Thursday, December 22, 2011

Don't cry over spilled milk.

Whoever said don’t cry over spilled milk apparently never breastfed. Or used a breast pump. 

This was supposed to be a blog post providing clever advice on troubleshooting your breastfeeding woes, but tonight, I’m not feeling like I have all the answers (just tonight; I usually do have all the answers, of course).

I’d really like to know the name and address of the person who painted this picture of a Gisele look-a-like—her hair perfectly coiffed and makeup flawless, no bags under her eyes and all her baby weight vanished, no pooch in her tummy—caressing a perfectly calm newborn in a cradle hold, nursing contentedly, both smiling as a cool breeze gently floats through the open window in the spotless nursery that’s frosted in lace and pastels and stuffed zoo animals.

Pffffff. On what planet does that actually happen? Here’s the real picture: I’m completely topless (and not in a good way) because I’m too tired to figure out this contraption of a nursing bra, spraying milk in every direction, soaking not only the brand new off-white glider we’re sitting in but my baby boy‘s face as well. Of course, he doesn’t notice because he’s out cold, even though we’ve tried everything (except those things that would earn us a visit from Child Services), from patting his back with a cold washcloth to tickling his toes to my husband slamming a book shut and ringing our MSU cowbell several feet away, to try to keep him awake so he’ll take in a full feeding. He sleeps through it all. My hair’s a mess, I have no idea where my makeup bag even is, my suitcase from the hospital still isn’t unpacked. I have a bath towel in my lap, and a burp cloth covering each breast, all three getting soaked as I plead with my son to wake up and nurse. And when he actually latches on, he does so with such force that I’m afraid I’m going to lose a nipple.

That was just the newborn phase.

To be fair, we had a couple of pretty easy months. I figured out the nursing bra and my milk supply stabilized. My son learned how to latch on after a couple of days and grew alert enough to be an efficient eater, taking in a full feeding each time.

Now he’s almost four months old, and he’s obsessed with his curtains. Seriously. They are right behind the glider, and he will, in mid-suck, pull away to stare at his curtains. I will shift him around so his back is to the window, but then he throws his head back to stare at them upside down. So I wait. On his way back to the breast, he’ll stop to stare at his ceiling fan. Then back at the curtains. Then back to the ceiling fan.

Two sucks and he’ll look up at me and grin, mllk dribbling down his neck, past his bib, and onto his brand new Baby Gap onesie. Or, he’ll take in too much at once and break away, panicking, until I burp him. Sometimes he’ll smile and talk baby gibberish to me with his mouth full, which will spray milk all over my nursing bra.

To top it off, he’s starting to need more than I have been able to provide by exclusively nursing. So I’ve had to supplement with stored, bottled breast milk until I can increase my milk supply. Only, he won’t take a bottle after he’s nursed, so I have to give it to him first. Then he doesn’t nurse as long, which perpetuates the problem of keeping my supply up.

So I pump. Which let me tell you is SEXY. There is nothing more attractive to a man than to witness his wife getting milked like a heifer (this is, of course, after he’s witnessed her pushing out a human being through her lady parts). And then there’s the washing all the attachments and bottles. And doing it all over again in two to three hours.

No wonder so many women give it up! It’s exhausting. And frustrating. And it hardly seems worth it when I’m constantly worrying if my baby’s getting enough to eat. Breast milk is arguably the most ideal food for our babies, but they don’t tell us how close to the edge of our sanity we’ll tiptoe should we choose to breastfeed.

My goal that I set while I was pregnant was to breastfeed for a year. Then that goal became nine months. I shortly revised it to six months. Now I’m almost to four months, and my goal is to make it to New Year’s. Which is in a week and a half.

Ok, so I’m being a little dramatic. I don’t know how long I’ll breastfeed, and a friend wisely warned me not to quit on a bad day. But that’s not really the point.

The point is, you’re not alone if you’re torturing yourself with mind games and guilt trips over whether you do or don’t breastfeed. We all have that one friend that exclusively nursed all of her five children until their second birthdays with no hiccups or bumps along the way, never pumped, ate only the freshest organic foods and took extra vitamins, drank gallons of water a day and proudly wears a World’s Best Mom tattoo on her forehead. And that is the standard to which we constantly compare ourselves. And at least for me personally, I don’t quite measure up.

I’m not saying we should give up because it’s hard. That’s not my style anyway. Parenthood is hard, period. Having it easy is not in the forecast. If it’s not breastfeeding, it’s sleep training. If it’s not sleep training, it will be potty training. Solid-food training. Discipline. Math homework. First dates with upperclassmen. We shouldn’t quit just because it’s challenging.

But we can develop the right perspective. This won’t last forever. Our babies will soon, right before our eyes, start eating solid foods and eventually have no need for breast milk. Breastfeeding is a fleeting opportunity to provide our babies a great start to a healthy life. And it will get easier.

Or, it won’t, and you’ll have to stop breastfeeding. That’s okay, too. Formula is not the devil’s spit, and feeding your baby formula is certainly not the unpardonable sin. However long you are able to breastfeed is time well spent, even if it’s a few short weeks.

If breastfeeding is a priority for you, then stick to your beliefs and make it work to the extent you’re willing to sacrifice for it. But let’s give ourselves a break and keep it in context. Breastfeeding is not the only way to produce a healthy child. It’s not the only way to bond with our babies or prove our love for them. There will be countless other opportunities for that. And we won’t screw them up for life with this one decision.

There will be countless opportunities for that, too. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HypnoBirthing: My birthing preferences

Several of you have asked me to post a copy of my birthing preferences that I gave to our nursing staff, so I've included them at the bottom of this blog post.

A few thoughts about birthing preferences: You need to discuss these with your doctor, nurse practitioner, midwife, doula—whoever is going to be involved in your labor and delivery—well ahead of your due date. DO NOT walk into the hospital when your contractions are two minutes apart and bark your orders to the nursing staff between breaths and expect them to happily comply. In fact, the earlier you disclose them the better, because if you and your physician heavily disagree, you may need to find someone else to deliver your baby. I was very blessed to work with my doctor, Dr. Chris Radpour, and the nursing staff at Erlanger East in Chattanooga, who were super supportive of our decision to have a HypnoBirthing birth. 

You and your partner (or whoever is going to be in the room with you) really need to talk about what's important to you and what you can be flexible about, and know how to pick your battles. DO NOT be a momzilla. Birth is not the time to tap into your inner diva. While you should make decisions based on what you're comfortable with, you may also be paired with your nursing staff for a while, and it serves your best interest not to make enemies with the nursing staff. (I actually baked cookies and delivered them, along with thank-you notes, to my doctor's office and the nursing staff at the hospital afterwards. Those nurses stay up on their feet all night long and tend to your every need for hours on end; it certainly wouldn't hurt to show a little appreciation.)

Remember, you are paying A LOT of money to have this baby; as long as you're not putting your health or the health of your baby in jeopardy, it's your call how you deliver your child. Within reason (please use common sense, ladies), you cannot be forced into anything you don't want to do. Fight for what's important to you, and (again, barring emergencies) don't take no for an answer. The nursing staff and doctor work for you, not the other way around.

Speaking of special circumstances, know that these are not the Ten Commandments. If a special circumstance arises, please be flexible. At least listen to what the doctor has to say and make an informed decision. Do not be so married to these preferences that you panic if something doesn't go your way. The point is to be confident and in control.

Birth preferences for natural labor 
Courtney and Kelley Thompson, baby Liam 

People

  • I would like my husband to stay with me at all times
  • Please, no students or hospital staff other than doctor/practitioner/nurse in the room
  • Visitors will only be allowed in room after birth 
 
Monitoring

    • Self-hydrate with clear fluids, no IV or IV port if not medically necessary 
    • Intermittent rather than continual blood pressure and heart/fetal monitoring

     Anesthesia/Pain Relief/Intervention
      • Avoid artificial induction 
      • Allow membranes to release naturally  
      • Please do not offer pain medication or ask about pain level  
      • Avoid episiotomy; I have been doing Kegels and perineal massage to minimize tearing 
       

      Labor

        • Quiet, calm, dimly lit labor and delivery room 
        • Use of labor ball if needed 
        • Freedom to move around or try different positions if needed  
        • Mother-directed birth breathing, rather than forceful pushing   
        • I would like to wear contact lenses or glasses 
         

        After Birth
          • Immediate skin-to-skin contact with mom
          • Wait reasonable amount of time for cord to stop pulsing before cutting
          • Dad to assist with cord-cutting
          • Allow for natural placenta delivery
          • Mom or dad to hold baby during routine vital check/eye drops, etc.
          • Mom or dad to be present for circumcision
          • Breastfeeding exclusively soon after birth, then every 2 ½-3 hours—no bottles/pacifiers


          We have chosen Dr. Chris Radpour and the staff at Women’s East because we feel confident in their abilities and trust their experience and professionalism. In the event that a deviation from these preferences is medically necessary for the health of the mom and/or baby, we are open to your advice and recommendations and will be happy to cooperate.


          We would like to create as serene a birthing environment as possible, with only the most necessary assistance. We feel that if this birthing process does not exactly follow the charting system, it is not necessarily cause for medical intervention. We would appreciate the opportunity to try natural methods to maintain labor progress.


          Please feel free to message me or comment below if you have any questions!

          Monday, December 12, 2011

          Spice things up: hot and healthy jambalaya recipe


          Being that I'm originally from Texas, I can't get enough of spicy foods. I like my food like I like bubble baths and men (or man, since I'm married): the hotter the better.

          This jambalaya recipe that I got from my aunt is both delicious and pretty healthy, and since the temperature is dropping outside it's time to warm things up in the kitchen. This is super easy to make, and it can easily be toned down to your own tolerance level.

          Ingredients:

          White meat from a whole rotisserie chicken (I use traditional flavored), torn into chunks
          1 package smoked turkey sausage (I use Oscar Mayer or Butterball)
          1/2 stick butter, divided
          1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
          1 can French onion soup (I use Campbell's Select; it's 18 ounces)
          about 12 ounces of beef broth (I use 1/2 a container of Swanson's all natural)
          Tabasco sauce
          3 cups Uncle Ben's converted parboiled rice

          In a large skillet, brown turkey sausage in 1 Tbsp butter on medium heat. Add chicken and heat well. Add tomatoes and chilies, stir and heat one minute. Add French onion soup, beef broth, and as much Tabasco sauce as you'd like; bring to a boil. Mix in rice. Bring to a boil again. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

          Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish. Slice remaining butter and scatter slices over the top of jambalaya. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

          My husband and I can eat a pan of this over several days. It's one of our favorite recipes!

          Hypnobirthing: The main event



          Please forgive me: I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post. Call it a classic case of momnesia if you’d like, but truth is I haven’t really forgotten about it; I just haven’t had any idea how to talk about my birthing experience. Going through childbirth is one of the most beautifully bizarre experiences I think a human will ever go through, and it’s deeply personal for each individual. Not to mention, you’re always walking a fine line of getting charged with a TMI.

          But if my experience can help someone else feel better about giving birth, then I don’t mind dishing the deets. I’m giving you fair warning now: If you’re a dude (although I’m pretty sure the only man that reads my blog is my husband), then you might want to skip over this post.

          Women tend to go into labor when they are in a relaxed state, from what I hear. That’s why, for a lot of women, it happens in the middle of the night. For me, it was only fitting that I go into labor on a very relaxing Labor Day, in the evening immediately after taking a nap, about 6 p.m. I went to the restroom, and for whatever reason it occurred to me that my husband hadn’t packed for the hospital yet. I was packed, Liam was packed, but Kelley had been putting it off. So I walked into the living room and said, “You know, you really need to have your suitcase packed. Technically I could go into labor any time now.” He shrugged, said, “Ok, sure,” and went upstairs to pack. I’m not kidding you—less than a minute later, my water broke. (Or in Hypnobirthing terms, my ‘membranes released.’ I think that sounds kind of silly, to be honest, and water breaking doesn’t freak me out, so I’ll just say that.) I yelled up the stairs to Kelley that my water broke, and I was pretty sure I was in labor, and I heard Kelley’s footsteps get more hurried. “Are you sure???” He yelled back. Oh yeah, I was sure.

          I didn’t start having contractions (Hypnobirthing: surges) right away, and actually, my amniotic fluid was still running down my legs, so I just soaked in a warm bath for a little while and called my nurse. She said to go ahead and head to the hospital. “For an exam or something? Are you just wanting to check me? I’d rather wait here and come in later when I know I’m going to stay. And I’m taking a bath right now.” “Um, no,” my nurse replied. “To have a baby. You’re in labor. If you’re water broke, the baby’s coming, so don’t wait too long.”

          I stayed in the tub a little while longer, and then Kelley and I learned that the roads en route to our hospital had flooded. We decided it’d be best to make our way to the hospital before my contractions started 1) so I could stay relaxed, and 2) because we didn’t know what we were getting into with traffic. By the time we had everything packed and loaded, the contractions started. They were barely anything; occasional mild PMS-like cramps. We headed to the hospital. On the way, I listened to the birthing affirmations that were included with my Hypnobirthing book, and we prayed for a healthy labor and delivery. And please, God, make it quick!

          At 9 p.m., I got checked in to my room. The nurse performed an internal exam; I was 2 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced. My birthing preferences were distributed to and read over by the nursing staff, all of whom were very supportive and understanding. We dimmed the lights, I climbed in bed, and turned on  some relaxing music, laying there with my eyes closed. My goal was to be as relaxed as possible.

          Each time I had a contraction, I practiced my long, slow, drawn out deep breath (as opposed to the shorter, forceful breaths) that lasted for the duration of the contraction. I closed my eyes. I blocked out everything around me. And to my surprise, the relaxation techniques worked. My entire body was working together. I switched from laying in the bed to rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, leaning backward on my husband, who was sitting behind me in a chair, for support. Each time a contraction started, I just leaned back with my eyes closed and breathed. Occasionally, I went and sat on the toilet (yes, I just said toilet…sorry for the mental picture), which eased the pressure I felt. The nurse came in every hour to monitor my contractions and Liam’s heartbeat for about 15 minutes, but other than that we were left by ourselves. I did not get hooked up to an IV, which tends to overhydrate and can lead to swelling, so I sipped water frequently and even ate a pack of snack crackers for energy. This lasted from 9 p.m. until about 2 a.m.

          That may sound like a long time, but in reality it flew by. I remained relaxed and focused, the light stayed dim and the contractions were really not painful. I would only describe them as medium pressure.

          At about 2:30, I asked the nurse to check me again. At this point the contractions were about a minute apart, and they were getting a little more intense. I wanted to know if I needed to brace myself for them to last like this for a while, or if we were getting close. She said I wasn’t even in active labor yet; 4 cm dilated and 90 percent effaced. She suggested I take a walk, or I could rock back and forth on the exercise ball. My husband and I attempted a walk, but I only got a few feet down the hall before another contraction started. I could not walk during the contractions, and they were too close together, so we headed back to the room to try the exercise ball.

          The next two hours felt like 30 minutes. Sitting on the ball really moved things along. The contractions were on top of each other; I felt some intense pressure and continued to breathe long, slow, deep breaths. One primary theme of Hypnobirthing is the power of controlled thoughts. I taught myself to interpret the sensation I felt not as pain, but recognize it as pressure; not allowing it to cause me to tense up, but to welcome the pressure as my baby getting closer to emerging. I get it; it sounds a little cheesy. That’s okay; I can definitely say it made labor easier.

          I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push. Now, I know this may be a crude comparison, but it was not some foreign, scary event. I honestly felt like you do when you need to have a bowel movement. You know that urge to push? That’s what it’s like. I started pushing (while still on the birthing ball). The nurse came in to hook me up to the monitor again, but I told her I couldn’t do that anymore; no distractions—it was time to push.

          She, of course, didn’t believe me. I kept insisting, and kept pushing. She said that she and Kelley needed to help me up to the bed, that I couldn’t have the baby if I was sitting on the birthing ball. I got on the bed, but on all fours, and kept pushing, roaring a deep roar through my breaths. That continued for what seemed like five minutes. The nurses still didn’t believe I was quite there, but then they saw Liam’s head crowning. The next events that took place happened very fast. The nurses (with Kelley’s help) turned me over onto my back (my legs had sort of locked up and I couldn’t move myself), in a semi-upright position. With just a few more pushes, Liam came right on out. The doctor didn’t even make it in time; he got to my room just as the nurses were cutting the umbilical cord (we waited until the cord stopped pulsing to have it clamped). They laid Liam on my chest, all 5 pounds, 9 ounces, 19 ¼ inches of him, and he looked at my face with the biggest blue eyes I’d ever seen. It was magical; at that moment the commotion in the room blurred. Our son was born!

          Our son, Liam, at one week old. Photography by Sarah Holland.

          Hypnobirthing encourages “breathing the baby down,” rather than forceful pushing. If I hadn’t abandoned that technique when the urge to push took over, I probably wouldn’t have even needed the two small stitches I had. There are times where I regret being impulsive, only because of the annoyance that tearing evokes. But I can’t complain; my experience was amazing. I can’t describe what that took place as my husband and I worked together to bring our son into this world. Our last few moments just the two of us, and the first few moments as a new family, were ones that created an unshakeable bond between us.

          We’re still living the benefits of a gentler birth. I had an easy recovery, not feeling exhausted or sleep deprived but somehow energized.

          I know that every woman is different, and every birthing experience is different. However, I feel confident that my future births will be positive experiences because I will make the preparations necessary to have a gentle birth. Even if special circumstances arise, and they don’t go exactly like I planned, Hypnobirthing instilled in me the confidence I’ll need to make informed decisions and to stay calm.

          Let me reiterate that birth does not have to be the dramatic, scary, dreadful experience that the media and other women make it out to be. It doesn’t. Period. We women tend to flock to the dramatic, and we love a good story; the juicier, the better. But childbirth is a natural process that our bodies were created for, and letting nature do its thing can make for an easier birth. I’m living proof.

          If you have any questions about Hypnobirthing, or about my personal birthing experience, feel free to contact me or leave comments below!






          Sunday, October 16, 2011

          HypnoBirthing: Preparation makes perfect.



          A few years ago, my husband and I ran a half marathon together to celebrate our anniversary. For months, we trained tirelessly (and sometimes tiredly!). We were on a strict regime that included eating the right balance of foods to fuel our runs and incorporating cross training with our running schedule. Were there some days that I wanted to trade my running tights for fat pants? Sure. Burn my running shoes? Yep. Curse the sidewalk I ran on? Ok, I'll admit to that. But we knew skipping workouts would be the difference between a successful race and a major fail. So we stuck with it, and it paid off when the day came for the race.

          I think a lot of us would be quicker to whip our bodies in shape for our 10-year high school reunion to make our high school boyfriend eat his heart out than we would for childbirth, but with any physical event that our bodies go through, it’s crucial to prepare.

          I approached childbirth the way that I would have any race I’ve run in the past. I knew success depended on how in shape I was, both mentally and physically. The steps I took to prepare physically for labor were pretty simple: eating right (as right as I could when the only food that would stay down was doughnuts); staying as active as possible by walking (even when I walked like I'd been riding a horse for hours), doing prenatal workouts, and utilizing an exercise ball; and getting plenty of rest.

          But just as important as the physical preparation were the ways in which I prepared my mind for what was ahead.

          Hear no evil…

          I learned very quickly that, for some reason, a woman’s method of childbirth is a point of interest for friends, family…even the checkout girl at the grocery store. But when I’d answer honestly and say I was planning a natural childbirth, it was usually countered by something like, “Well, you know, my cousin’s brother-in-law’s old roommate’s new wife had her baby natural, and she had back labor for 43 hours before birthing a 13-pound baby…and you can’t come back from that.” 

          Why do women soak up the drama of childbirth? I hate drama, and I realized quickly that in order to stay calm about my impending labor and delivery, I had to avoid drama and horror stories at all costs. And I knew that no two women are the same, so no two birthing stories are the same; I had the opportunity to create my own experience.

          So I decided to come up with a story of my own. When someone asked me if I was having the baby naturally, I’d say something like, “I’ve signed up for the stork option,” or “They say my delivery date is September 20, so I guess FedEx will drop him off sometime that morning,” or “I’m planning to have the baby in a field of goats, where we wear ceremonial headdresses and beat on drums and eat the placenta.” Horror stories averted. I did get some weird looks, though.

          I also got to the point where I’d cut them off mid-story and cover my ears and start humming (for humorous effect). I’d sometimes go to drastic measures to avoid negative speech about birth because I couldn’t afford the distraction.


          See no evil…

          For us Type As, relaxation is something that has to be practiced in order to get good at it. Sometime in my second trimester, I started practicing relaxation with the HypnoBirthing music and breathing techniques. I would practice the slow breathing that I was going to utilize during labor while I was driving down the road, in my office at work, or drifting off to sleep at night.

          A large portion of HypnoBirthing is visualization. There are several visualization techniques that trained me to focus on a picture in my mind. It took me through a lengthy description of that picture, whether it was imagining that I was cutting a lemon in the kitchen or floating on a cloud. It may sound silly, but I couldn’t be focused on two contrasting thoughts at once; these scenarios required my complete concentration, so I wouldn’t be focusing on the sensations I was experiencing during a contraction. And the more I practiced them, the more easily I could distract myself. So I practiced A LOT during my third trimester.


          Speak no evil…

          It’s undeniable the power of positive speech. If you declare something often enough, your mind starts to accept it as fact, and your body will eventually respond.

          We all use this principle, even if we don’t realize it. How many times do we build ourselves up before a workout, a job interview, et cetera? Why should childbirth be any different?

          The words we speak are so important! A friend of mine once challenged me to go through the entire day adding the phrase “and I want that” to the end of every statement I made. For example: “Oh my gosh, I feel like death warmed over today…and I want that.” “I just think I’m too short to deliver a baby naturally…and I want that.” I learned very quickly to keep a tighter reign on my tongue and drop the negative speech!

          Pregnant women learn a different language when they participate in HypnoBirthing, which replaces a lot of the common labor and delivery terms with ones that have more pleasant connotations. For example, instead of saying my water broke, I would say my membranes released. Instead of saying “contractions,” I would say “surges.” These are subtle replacements, but they make a big impact in the way I viewed childbirth.

          HypnoBirthing also outlines some positive affirmations regarding childbirth in the book, and the book includes a recording of these affirmations on a CD. I listened to them and stated them out loud almost every day in my last several months of pregnancy, and I even listened to them on the way to the hospital after my “membranes released.” (It takes some getting used to, I know.)

          Here are a few of them:

          I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby.
          I am relaxed and happy that my baby is finally coming to me.
          I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.
          I trust my body to know what to do.
          My muscles work in complete harmony to make birthing easier.
          I breathe correctly and eliminate tension.
          My baby’s birth will be easy because I am so relaxed.
          My baby is the perfect size for my body to birth easily.

          I even made sure I spoke positive things about my care providers. When others would say how controlling and rude L&D nurses could be, I'd respond with, "The nursing staff at Erlanger are phenomenal; they really know how to treat a pregnant woman." I purposefully built up everyone who'd be involved in my birthing experience so I didn't go into it with a skeptical, untrusting attitude.
           


          I realize that picking out baby bedding is more fun than practicing breathing techniques, but did all of this work pay off? You betcha. I cringe a little when other women ask me about my birthing story, and then respond by saying I just got lucky. I’m not the exception to the rule. I had a pleasant childbirth experience because I learned how to create the experience I wanted. This kind of experience is not out of reach for any woman. You can read some other HypnoBirthing stories here.

          In my next post, I’ll share my birthing story with you.

          Thursday, September 29, 2011

          HypnoBirthing: An easier way to give birth?




          The pain of childbirth is all in our head.

          Ok, now that I have your attention, and before you reach through the computer and slap my face, let me back up a sec. This blog post is not coming from a place of arrogance or judgment. I promise I’m not getting too big for my britches (well, not since my pregnancy anyways!). I know better than to judge or criticize another woman for the way in which she chooses to birth her child.

          It hurt when other women scoffed at me or tried to talk me out of having a natural childbirth; I didn’t appreciate being reprimanded for my decision. I didn’t agree with and didn’t like being told that the natural process of childbirth was risky and dangerous and something that I was too weak to go through without medical intervention. So I wouldn’t scold anyone else for the choices they make during childbirth. Labor is such a personal experience for a woman, and we all do what we have to in order to get through the experience with our dignity, if not our lady parts, intact.

          But what if I told you it could possibly be made easier than what we think?

          This is the premise behind the book HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan. Buy the book here.

          Though I’ve known for years that I wanted to have a natural childbirth, it certainly wasn’t because I was trying to be a hero. I wasn’t out to prove a point (until so many people started telling me I couldn’t do it; then I resolved to prove them wrong!). I really am just that much of a chicken when it comes to needles. And I can’t think of anything worse than losing control over any part of my body. I figured that I’ve run races with terrible injuries and endured broken bones; I could endure the imminent pain of childbirth better than I could tolerate a needle piercing my spine. I would rather do ANYTHING than have an epidural.

          I realize a lot of women are completely comfortable with medical procedures and dream of epidurals, but I hate medical rigmarole, and my track record hasn’t been too favorable when dealing with the medical environment: I blacked out after my first gyno appointment and the first time I used contacts. I had panic attacks when I got an MRI and a HIDA scan. I get clammy even having an IV or blood drawn. So I knew the conventional way of having a baby wasn’t for me. I would have just as soon had my baby in the bathtub at home alone, sans any monitors or IVs (in fact, this was secretly my backup plan in lieu of rushing off to the hospital). I wanted to keep things simple and free of any cold, sterile instruments and loud, bulky monitors. A no-frills, no-fuss, no-drama birthing experience.

          Enter HypnoBirthing. Ok, it’s a lousy title. Honestly, when I was first introduced to the idea, it evoked images of Birkenstock-wearing stringy-haired women chanting ceremoniously while giving birth in a kiddie pool in their living room because they didn’t have good enough health insurance to deliver their babies in a hospital. Not for me. I’ll admit, my husband and I march to the beat of our own drummer, but I’m no hippie.

          What a misguided perception I had! I may not be a hippie, but I am an athlete and a woman of faith, and the principles of HypnoBirthing resonated with me to my core. Rest assured, this isn’t some eerie hypnosis thing. HypnoBirthing is simply a method of childbirth that focuses on relaxation, visualization, intentional decisions, and the power of positive thinking. The HypnoBirthing philosophy simply advocates that:

          ·       Birth is a natural, normal and healthy human experience and not something to be feared or dreaded. Women’s bodies are not flawed but are intricately designed to conceive, nurture the development of, and birth healthy babies.

          ·       Normal, uncomplicated birth should be able to progress naturally, without undue medical intervention.

          ·       The mind is a powerful tool in creating your reality. Intention creates experience. The power of positive thinking is essential for creating a positive birthing experience.

          ·       When a woman is afraid or nervous, her body goes into flight-or-fright mode; the oxygen in her body goes to the muscles in the extremities that would be used to run away or fight instead of going to the uterine muscles that need it most. This causes the uterine muscles to tense up and leads to more painful contractions. Steady breathing instead of forceful panting allows the uterus to get the oxygen it needs to stay relaxed and allow the baby to move down the way it needs to with less (though not necessarily none at all) discomfort.

          This has proven so true in my experience as a runner. The way a runner breathes is critical to ensuring a successful run. Breathing heavily leads to muscle cramps. Breathing slowly and steadily allows the muscles to get the oxygen they need to do their job more efficiently and keeps the runner’s energy level stable.

          The power of positive thoughts and speech is also a principle that has proven true in my life. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. If I don’t want a negative birthing experience, I shouldn’t speak negatively about birth. Conversely, I should verbally and mentally affirm the type of positive birthing experience I want to have.

          There’s a lot more to it, actually, but I’m attempting to be brief. HypnoBirthing doesn’t promise a pain-free birth, and it’s not a formula for a one-size-fits-all experience, but it did guide me through the process of preparing my mind and body for a gentler, more comfortable birthing experience.

          These few blog posts are dedicated to outlining my birthing experience and how the HypnoBirthing method really worked for me. But I don’t think I’m something special. I truly believe that, free of special circumstances or high-risk situations, any woman can apply these principles to take the fear and dread out of labor and create a more positive, comfortable labor and delivery.

          Stay tuned to see how it all panned out!


          Wednesday, September 28, 2011

          Revived.

          Wow. It's been months since my last post, and I apologize profusely for the neglect. So much has happened in the past few months, and I promise now that I'm on maternity leave (yes, I had my baby!), I will be reviving this blog. I will be sharing with you tales from the duration of my pregnancy, as well as taking you through my labor and delivery experience and how recovery has been so far. I'll also be bringing you along for my journey as I work to get my pre-baby body back through my own homemade boot camp. Maybe you will find some helpful tips from my stories, so stay tuned!

          Sunday, March 27, 2011

          Sunday edition: Copy and Paste

          Happy Sunday!

          As a graphic designer/writer, I absolutely love these little tongue-in-cheek onesies, which are perfect for twins!


          Found on Etsy here.

          Saturday, March 19, 2011

          Happy feet = happy pregnancy

          Ok, so it's safe to say it's been a while since my last post. These past few weeks, I feel like I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death that was my first trimester...and finally resurfaced on the other side. Second trimester, it's so nice to meet you!

          Just like clockwork, the sickness is starting to wane, as are some of the other rather unpleasant early symptoms of pregnancy. I have even caught a (fleeting) glimpse of my energy level starting to return. It's a little comforting to know that so far, I'm having a textbook pregnancy.

          This whole process has been filled with one challenge right after the other. There is nothing quite like pregnancy to completely shatter one's need for control. I feel like that faithful caveat of mine to control my life is being ripped from the core of my being. Not to mention all of the physiological changes my body is going through that I have no control over, some changes too dramatic to mention here. It's easy to feel like a science experiment, especially when everyone around me is constantly examining my growing tummy. My body is being put through the ringer, and as I'm finding my shopping list growing along with my body with new bras, maternity clothes, a portable makeup mirror because I can't any longer lean over the counter like I used to, etc., there's another caveat that's crept up: guilt.

          What is it about us women who think that everyone around us deserves our attention except ourselves? It's tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that silly indulgences are unnecessary and put everyone else first all the time, only to be left exhausted. But I'm realizing that in order to be a better wife and mom, and to leave this pregnancy experience with positive memories, I have to take care of myself more than I'm used to.

          I can't comfortably tie my shoes anymore, a dilemma that comes just in time for sandal season. Of course, not reaching my feet means my toenails have been neglected as well. So this morning, I broke down and went to get a spa pedicure. And let me just say, it was pure bliss! Not only are my toenails debuting a fresh new shade of bubble gum pink, but I feel rejuvenated and a new sense of calm. I feel more like a human again. Such a treat!

          Motherhood is all about giving and sacrifice. If I can be just half the mom that my own mom was, I will be self-sacrificing and completely focused on investing in this new life. But pregnancy—well ladies, I think that really needs to be our turn for some TLC. So when your complexion is less than sunny, think about investing in a facial. When aches and pains are keeping you up at night, book yourself a prenatal massage. When you can't reach your toes, enjoy a pedicure. And what about the unpleasant water retention and decreased skin tone? How about a prenatal body wrap? Even if your budget is tight (and let's face it, with a new baby on the way, we're all on a budget!), find ways to pamper yourself. Even if it's something as simple as a nice long bubble bath or homespun spa treatment with your girlfriends.

          Do what you can to make this time enjoyable for you, because you may want to do it again (I've still got possibly two more rounds of this down the road!). Because pretty soon it won't be just about you anymore. And because in order to have the energy to invest in others, you must first take care of yourself.

          And now it's your turn: Ladies, what is your favorite way to pamper yourself?

          Sunday, March 6, 2011

          What's in my emergency beauty kit?

          I think by now we've all been asked the age-old question: if you were on a deserted island, what three things would you want to have with you? Well, my answer's pretty easy: my husband, my iPhone (as long as it worked), and my absolute must-have beauty kit.

          I'm cheating a little with this answer, of course; my beauty kit has a lot in it. But if I were stranded on a desert island, I've narrowed my kit down to 10 beauty products that I absolutely could not enjoy a tropical island without:



          Not one product is more important than the other, but we'll start from the head down.

          To tame my tresses:
          1. Yes to Carrots nourishing shampoo and conditioner. No, this isn't where my orange hair comes from, although it does make it healthier and more vibrant; and with a variety of ingredients from the produce aisle, it smells amazing!
          2. Pravana curl enhancing gel. Lightweight holding gel that obliterates frizz and keeps curls soft. Hands down, the best hair product for naturally curly hair that I've found in 27 years. Seriously.

          To add some color to my white-blond eyelashes and eyebrows:
          3. Loreal DoubleExtend mascara in blackest black. The layer of conditioner keeps my lashes healthy.
          4. M.A.C. brow gel in Girl Boy. Matches my hair color perfectly. This product is a nonnegotiable.
          5. Bare Escentuals bareMinerals Big & Bright eyeliner. The most amazing eyeliner ever! Glides on easily, the eyeliner tip doesn't break off, and the sponge on the other end smudges eyeliner to create a softer look. If I had to pick one, I'd go with Charcoal; it's universally flattering.

          To keep my Irish complexion radiant:
          6. Cetaphil gentle face cleanser. Cleanses and removes makeup while keeping my face soft and hydrated.
          7. Petroleum jelly. I think we can all agree this is a must-have. It multi-tasks as a great eye makeup remover, an intense lip moisturizer, and hand/foot treatment.
          8. Bliss high intensity hand cream with macadamia oil and grapeseed extract. I love everything about this, from the light fragrance to its effectiveness.
          9. Burt's Bees pomegranate lip balm. Ok, so the pregnancy nausea has made me substitute this one for its non-flavored, beeswax cousin, but otherwise, it's my favorite lip balm. It also has a subtle rosy tint.
          10. St. Ives smoothing oatmeal and shea butter body moisturizer. At roughly $3 for a giant bottle, it can't be beat as an all-over body lotion. It smells incredible, and even with my ultra-sensitive pregnancy skin, it nourishes better than anything else.

          Ok, there you have it. It was excruciating rummaging through my beauty products (I have a bit of an addiction) to narrow down the list to 10, but I feel great about these choices. Try them and let me know what you think!

          What are your absolutely beauty must-haves?

          Saturday, February 19, 2011

          The only eye shadow you'll ever need.

          It's one of those actions I will forever wish I could take back.

          This past week while still sleepily getting ready for work, I dropped my Benefit Get Figgy creaseless cream eye shadow on my bathroom floor, and the tiny glass pod shattered, ruining the eye shadow. I was devastated, not only because it still had tons of life left in it, or because it was $20 down the drain, but because that little figgy pod has revolutionized my countenance. (I'm being dramatic of course, but you should see my eyelids in this pale plum shade!)

          Actually, it was my mom's $20 (even more bothersome), since she treated me to the eye shadow (we are always trading beauty products), and thankfully, I was able to replace it last night. But the experience of course has led me to a blog post about my beloved beauty find.


          This is my growing collection from top left: Get Figgy is exactly what it says, a nice fig-colored shade. Strut, a sulty gray, is my go-to for a smoky eye. R.S.V.P is a champagne tint that goes smashing with some charcoal eyeliner. Skinny Jeans is a glassy pewter which is also nice for a more subtle smoky eye. I not only use Busy Signal, a coppery-brown, as a nice neutral shade to cover the lid, but I also apply it in the crease of my eyelid using a contour brush to complement a neutral shade like Birthday Suit (exactly what it sounds like).

          I still have my eye on a few of the remaining available shades. It is expensive, considering you get one shade for $19 plus tax, but seriously, this is the only eye shadow you will ever need. It totally lives up to its name and absolutely refuses to crease, even if you leave it on all day. It's not heavy or thick, and since it's a cream you don't risk having powder shadow all over your eyelashes or, heaven forbid, make its way into your contacts. (That's a nightmare, trust me.)

          The colors are so vibrant that it only takes a smidgen of shadow to cover your entire eyelid, so (providing you don't drop the pod like I did, and you keep the lid closed tightly so it doesn't dry out) the shadow lasts for a really long time. You definitely get your money's worth out of these.

          I haven't tried any of Benefit's other products except for the High Beam highlighter, which is also amazing for the cheekbones and browbones. But these shadows are exclusively the apple of my eye.

          So head to BenefitCosmetics.com or the Benefit Cosmetics counter at Belk, Sephora or Ulta, and test these out. Then tell me what you think!

          Monday, February 14, 2011

          Happy Valentine's Day!


          Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

          I learned a very valuable lesson about love today. Stay with me; it's a little random.

          Anyone who knows me know that I don't often have an easy time just letting life happen to me. I like to be in control, and I love to conquer whatever challenge is in front of me. I've been a little down on myself these past couple of days because I feel so out of control: I haven't been able to control my diet or push past my waning energy level, and more often than not I've found myself laying on the couch in my comfy pants just trying not to toss my cookies (if you know what I mean). Not exactly how I pictured "conquering pregnancy." I thought I would always look put together, that I would still keep up my intense workout routine and would only be eating organic fruits, vegetables and meats. And loving every minute of it. I thought this would be a piece of cake.

          This process is so precious to me, especially because my husband and I have been trying for a year and a half to have a baby. It's been a long, grueling process, made even more difficult by a 6-month period where he was training on-the-job two states away. Talk about stressful. And I've been consumed with my perceived overwhelming responsibility to keep this baby thriving as it develops inside me. What a task!

          My mom said something the week before I found out I was pregnant that changed things for me. (I had just gotten a false negative on a pregnancy test and was a basket case.) She said, "Courtney, do you believe that God gives life? That He's the Creator of life, and everything comes from Him?" I weakly replied through my sobs, "I guess so." And she kindly said, "Then you have to trust Him and His timing, and let this go."

          So I did. And five days later, I got confirmation that we were having a baby.

          I was ultimately able to let go of my desire to control the timing and circumstances under which we got pregnant. However, letting go of the need to control how healthy this baby is has been a little harder. But God is not only the Giver of life; He also sustains it. That's not my responsibility, either.

          The thing I learned about love today is that it really does give grace when needed. It's not about rules regarding unpasteurized dairy and listeria-laden cold cuts. It's not about making sure I eat all the 12 necessary foods/day from the pregnancy diet list. It's about grace and trust. Giving myself the grace to let go and trusting God enough to sustain the life that's within me.

          I say all this to say that I broke down today and got a prescription for the persistent sickness. I've been putting it off because I didn't want to admit that I was a wuss, and I was afraid to put anything that wasn't natural inside my body for fear of the side effects. But I decided that love for our baby means that I take care of myself first, so that I am capable to care for those I love in return.

          And five minutes after I took the first dose, I felt 100% better. I was able to eat a full meal and keep it down with no problem. Amazing. I don't know why I waited this long! 

          On another note, my prince of a husband surprised me with the most beautiful hot pink tulips today! It was a very happy ending to a relief of a day.

          Sunday, February 13, 2011

          rope 'em and ride 'em, cowboy

          What is it about pregnancy that invites bizarre dreams? Friday night I dreamed that the doctor told me I was ready to deliver now. "How could that be? The baby doesn't even have legs yet?!" I asked incredulously. But the doctor insisted, so at nine weeks I gave birth to a 4-month-old baby boy. He even looked up and thanked me after I nursed him. Creepy!

          Regardless of how frightening that dream was, it was the first time I've dreamed of having a boy (I've had three dreams that it's a girl), so I started thinking about a nursery for a boy. I was born in Texas, and my husband and I have both lived there (it's where we met when I was three and he was seven, but that's another story), and you know what they say: you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the girl. So, naturally, I'm hooked on a rustic cowboy theme if we have a boy.

          My problem is that I don't really like any baby bedding that's out there. And the more I read about babies, the more I realize that they don't particularly care for pastels, either. Babies first start focusing on high-contrast patterns and bright colors. They also love differing textures. And I would love the nursery we pick for our child to be something they can grow into. So needless to say, the typical baby bedding won't do for me (and thankfully, my husband agrees). This graphic designer will have to design from scratch (oh, darn!).

          Nope, no cartoon horses, gingham and denim for this baby. This nursery (should it be a boy) will be cool and manly. Cowhide, suede, leather and rope accents provide different textures for the baby to enjoy. He'll be able to focus on the vibrant rust color and cowskin pattern. Burlap curtains with rope tiebacks make it a little rugged, as does a wrought iron chandelier. A western saddle and cowboy boots on display would complete the look.

          If I had an unlimited budget, here are a few finds that I would include in this rustic nursery:


          From top left:
          Custom horseshoe and cowpoke bedding from babybedding.com

          Wooden star bookshelf on Etsy

          Burlap drapes from Pottery Barn

          Metal stars from Rusty Accents

          Wooden picture frame from Etsy

          Wrought iron chandelier from hubpages.com

          Leather chair found at Restoration Hardware

          Friday, February 11, 2011

          Pure Barre=pure bliss

          In the battle against morning (read: 24/7) sickness, I thought today was going to go to my opponent. I actually took a half day after my nice boss bought every one lunch: barbecue, baked beans, and cole slaw. I made it home just in time (I'll just leave it at that). I fell asleep for a couple of hours this afternoon, and when I woke up, guess what was at my front door:


          Yes, that's right. My Pure Barre deluxe edition set finally came!

          So, here's the deal. I quit my gym membership and have opted to start working out at home. This was tough for me, since I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise. I don't like to stop my workout until I can barely move or breathe. But with the constant battle against nausea and the waning energy level, I wasn't making much of an appearance at the gym. And I decided my focus right now should be to stay toned and strong without burning a truckload of calories.

          Enter Pure Barre, which is an intense combination of ballet-barre work, pilates and yoga. The concept guarantees results within 10 workouts. I tried a Pure Barre class in Chattanooga about a month ago and loved it. I was sore all over the same day I attended the class. But the classes are $100/month (unlimited visits), and I'm just not going to pay that. Not for a class that's 30 minutes away, and not for a workout that doesn't replace cardio, too. But I still felt I could benefit greatly from Pure Barre, and for little more than one month's membership, I bought the kit, which came with six DVDs, an exercise ball, double rings, and an exercise band. Totally worth the price! I received free shipping, personalized service, and it arrived within four days (would've been three if it hadn't snowed). I popped in my first DVD (Pershing Square 1), grabbed the ball, and settled in for a tough but relaxing workout.

          Three minutes in, I had to take a break to go hug the toilet. Not promising. But thankfully, that was my only setback. This was a 45-minute workout, and after just a short while, my muscles were shaking violently, and my triceps, seat, hips, and thighs were engulfed in flames (so I felt). I also really like that this workout focuses on very small, controlled movements, so I truly had to concentrate. Not only was my body fully engaged, but my mind was also. It was so relaxing!

          Another thing I noticed was that the ladies on the video actually looked normal. The claim of Pure Barre is that it'll help you develop a dancer's body, and the instructor in the class I attended was TINY, so I expected to see rail-thin women on the DVD. But these women had healthy and attainable physiques, so any intimidation I felt previously was gone.

          In a nutshell: I love this workout already. I believe that coupled with some light cardio several days a week, I will get the results I'm looking for, and it was totally worth the investment. I know I will be able to use it up until I go into labor, and even after the baby is born. And I think it even helped a little with the nausea!

          Bottom line: Pure Barre is the new black. You should definitely try it.

          Cheers!

          Thursday, February 10, 2011

          Dinner in the tropics

          It's a battle these days to figure out what to eat for dinner. Tonight, though, I gave my chompers a break and made a smoothie straight out of the tropics. You should definitely try this:








          This is the recipe I used tonight to make a blender-full. All measurements are to taste, so play with the ingredients to find your favorite flavor:

          1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
          1 cup frozen peach slices
          1 banana
          1/2 cup orange juice
          1/2 cup all natural vanilla yogurt

          Blend, and enjoy! It's like sunshine in a glass.

          more hats...

          I obviously cannot get enough! Please forgive me. I'm only eight weeks (and two days!) pregnant, so this is all very new to me.

          Baby giraffe handmade by Melissa Wenn on Etsy.


          Baby owl hat handmade by Amy K, also on Etsy.

          Some of these are actually just sold as patterns, so if you don't knit (or crochet, whatever it is they're doing), then you're out of luck. But who knows? You might get the seller to make and sell you one.

          Just a few more pics to warm you up on this very cold winter day.

          Cheers!

          Wednesday, February 9, 2011

          hats off to baby!

          Admittedly, one of the things I'm most looking forward to about mommyhood is getting to dress our baby up in really cool outfits. These hats I found on Etsy make me absolutely giddy! Now, if I just knew what we were having...





          Dinosaur, teddy bear, and bumblebee, all from the shop Huggabeans.


          Striped hat from polkadotposh.

          Aren't these adorable?

          a new set of wheels.

          When my husband and I were in Denver this past summer, we noticed so many people riding red bikes around the city. Eventually, while walking around downtown, we noticed a row of bikes, each for rent using a nearby bright red kiosk. I thought it was a novel idea, but that was before I even knew the whole story.

          These bikes are part of a wellness effort started by Humana insurance company, Trek Bicycle Corporation and Crispin Porter + Bogusky as a healthy, cleaner way to travel. The campaign was started in an effort to combat the inevitable $27 billion that would be spent by insurance companies due to obesity in 2010. Instead of running a typical advertising campaign encouraging people to make healthy decisions, Humana came up with a possible (and creative) solution.

          An individual can register online and purchase a rental package, and then rent a bike by swiping a personal ID card at the bike rack in their city. Or, registration is available at the kiosk that accompanies the bike racks. The first 30 minutes of riding is always free, and the bikes can be returned at any B Cycle station around town. 

          Immediately my wheels started spinning. This is a great idea for those of us in townhomes who do not have the storage for two bikes but would still love the exercise that a bike offers. Not only is it a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but it's healthy and contributes to a greener community.

          Chattanooga needs these bikes! If you are from the Chattanooga area (and even if you aren't), check out bcycle.com and click on the Who Wants It More? tab at the top of the page. Enter your zip code to vote for your city to have the next installment of B Cycle bikes. Let's see if we can bring this new way to be healthy to our city!

          Tuesday, February 8, 2011

          The pressure's on.

          Gosh, writing the first post of a new blog really piles on a lot of pressure. I have so much to say that it's hard to pick one topic to begin with. But, since I recently found out that I'm pregnant, food has become a recent obsession of mine, and I'm more preoccupied with cuisine than ever before. So I'll start with that.

          Silly me. I used to think that the majority of pregnant women exaggerated when they mentioned cravings and aversion, or at best used it as an excuse to either gain attention or eat whatever they wanted for nine months. I smugly thought that when I got pregnant, I could just not give in to my temperamental tummy; that I could just WILL myself to eat the foods I needed to, when I needed to eat them. Silly, uneducated me.

          This nausea bit is 24/7 with me, and has been going on three weeks now. I'd give anything to have Week 5 back, where I was hungry enough to eat every 2-3 hours, and anything and everything healthy sounded great. I thought to myself, if I'm going to eat like this, I need to get some healthy food options. So what did I do? I made a trip to EarthFare and bought a colorful array of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish. Week 6 rolled around, and I could barely look at it. I tossed the fish in the freezer and watched my brother enjoy the super-healthy trail mix I had made.

          Speaking of, I make a mean trail mix, and it's super heart-healthy: pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts, raw almonds, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate M&Ms. You should definitely try it.

          Anyway, I've been humbled. And I'm curious: ladies (and men who paid attention to their wives), what foods did you crave (or hide from) during your pregnancy?