Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Report

Jayce has been really into a graphic novel series from the library and wanted to share about it on our blog.  So here's his mini-book report:

 I just finished a book series called Bone by Jeff Smith, and it took me a year! It's a 9 book series. It's about a small creature named Fone Bone. He meets a Princess by the name of Thorn. Bone and Thorn get in a war with things called Rat creatures. The Rat creatures leader is the Hooded one A.K.A. Briara. Thorn and Fone Bone had found some info on something called THE CROWN OF HORNS. And found the crown of horns in the dragon's burial place. After Bone and Thorn touched it Briara disappeared! After that Thorn became Queen of the valley and Fone Bone went back to boneville.     THE END!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Been There, Done That!

I've been asked many times about comparing all the birth experiences I've had.  And since I've had everything from tranquilizers during one labor to a water birth in another and a Cesarean section for another, I've pretty much run the gamut. Here's a rundown of my experiences and the comparisons:

My first labor was almost 20 years ago with my oldest daughter.  Because I was so young and there was no internet back then, I didn't know much and didn't have the chance to do much research to even know what my options were.  My mother chose my OB, and my OB chose the rest of my course of action throughout my pregnancy.  Thankfully, most of the decisions were made wisely and stayed fairly true to as natural a pregnancy and delivery as possible back in 1992.  Not having even a faint clue as to what labor and delivery was like, all the choices were made for me by the nurses and doctors.  Labor from start to finish lasted 18 hours.  I had severe back labor as the baby was "sunny side up" and only with my mother's constant back massage and with time did the baby turn and descend.  Because of the pain, I was offered Demerol which I took gladly.  It may have taken a bit of the edge off the pain, but it made me feel groggy which I did not like.  I was automatically given an episiotomy (completely unnecessary especially given the size of Lauryn's tiny head) which was traditionally performed back then without question.  After only a couple of pushes, Lauryn slipped out. Being young was definitely an advantage, but it would have also been nice to have been informed of different choices and been a little more educated.  However I was back up on my feet and recovering nicely 24 hours later.

Not Jayce...
Ten years later, armed with much more information and a bit more chutzpah, I knew going into it that Jayce's labor was going to be very different and controlled by me as much as possible.  The memory of my first experience with labor had lessened the perception of pain, but not enough to take away the anxiety of it.  Essentially, I knew better now just how hard labor really is.  This time, labor lasted half the time of the first one (pretty typical) and 8 hours later, Jayce was born. The pain was the same (with the exception of the back labor), but I moved around more and used the water as a calming agent to relax more.  I do think the water was a Godsend and even though Jayce was 10 pounds with a huge head and mild shoulder dystocia (shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal making it harder to push them out), he came out with a couple of good pushes and barely a tear afterward (w/o an episiotomy!).  A great birth experience!

Almost exactly two years later, I found myself back in the same exact delivery room expecting Reagan's arrival.  I had the kiddy pool all ready to get in and was expecting the same type of birth experience as I had with Jayce.  However after laboring in the water for a good couple hours, when I got out to take a break from it, I just didn't want to get back in.  So I ended up delivering Reagan in bed in your typical fashion.  I clearly remember the pain being more intense than in the water and when Reagan came out after a couple of pushes (I'm a good pusher and have never had to push for more than 10-15 minutes.), I did tear more with him.  Indeed, the water has some clear benefits for the art of laboring and birthing.

Three years later*, I was enjoying what I thought was a perfect pregnancy until I got hit with the diagnosis of HELLP syndrome at 38 weeks along.  My liver enzymes were so dangerously high, I was told to come into the hospital immediately to deliver the baby which was the only solution to HELLP.  The diagnosis came as such a shock as I felt perfectly healthy and in good spirits.  Typically HELLP makes one feel much pain and like one is on death's door (because one is).  It has a fairly high rate of death for both mother and baby - not something to mess around with.  Rattled and nervous, I got to the hospital and suited up for the emergency Cesarean.  The needle for the epidural was a bit painful, and the feeling of the liquid going into my spine was a strange, cold sensation.  Not long after, I was completely numb from the chest down.  They cautioned me that the sensation can make one think one can't breathe because of the numbness, but not to worry as one's body will continue to breathe whether it feels like it or not.  The idea of not feeling my breathing was more anxious to me than the rest of the procedure as it was not one with which I was familiar.  However I did continue to feel my breathing which in turn let me breathe a sigh of relief.  They opened me up and were surprised by the ocean of amniotic fluid that splashed out of me (thanks to my other diagnosis of mild polyhydramnios).  They immediately pulled Landon out of me and proclaimed him healthy.  He was also the smallest of my children (7 lbs. at 2 weeks early).  I have to admit when I found out I was having a C-section that along with the anxiety over having major surgery, I was a bit elated to think I was going to miss the worst parts of labor.  I rethought this after waking up from the drugs (I was put on some muscle relaxants due to risk of seizure and didn't wake up for @24 hours) and felt the pain of the incision though.  It was the only time I was on a regular dosage of narcotics to handle the pain.  I could barely get up and walk and made sure I had my drugs before I tried such a thing.  Even a week after surgery, getting up independently was impossible and moving from one room to another required shuffling along with my husband in front holding me up and guiding me.  I finally weaned myself off my regular dosing of narcotics one week later but still had to take them occasionally due to pain for up to 2-3 weeks post-surgery.  Not a fun way to start the postpartum stage!

I definitely learned the pains of a normal, natural labor and delivery were far better and quicker than the pains of a C-section.  Going through natural labor before, I knew what to expect after having a baby and knew my body was not going through the same natural healing process I usually go through afterward.  I did not feel "normal" again until I took some aggressive steps one year later.  By going through a cleansing diet along with some major supplementation, I started to lose the weight (I had not lost one pound since walking out of the hospital!) and feel whole again.  I knew if I ever got pregnant again, I would do whatever was necessary to plan on having a natural labor and delivery again. 

Fast forward two years and I find myself pregnant with my fourth boy (!) and searching for a midwife who will give me the home birth I desire.  After many weeks of going back and forth in talks between a midwife and a doctor in a very popular practice local to me, the news comes in that leaves me without any local options.  Midwives won't touch me because of my previous HELLP diagnosis and doctors won't accept me without agreeing to an automatic repeat C-section.  In desperation, I call a doctor associated with Concord Hospital who agrees to take me and assures me they will try to the best of their ability to give me the kind of birth experience I desire. To learn more about my journey in finding my unbelievable OB, read my post here.  After many ups and downs during this pregnancy, it was found that my blood levels were showing the potential for HELLP again, and it was decided I would be induced.  After another 8 hour labor, I was able to deliver Damien naturally. To read more details about his labor and delivery, please go here.  The pain was there but manageable, and his labor and delivery was my best experience thus far.  It's been four months now and I've lost most of my baby weight (breastfeeding helps with this as well) and am back into my regular clothes (not my "skinny clothes" but not in my maternity clothes).  I already feel close to my normal self which helps enormously when taking care of a demanding infant. 

My conclusion?  A c-section results in much more pain of the long-lasting variety. It's a more defined "sharp" pain, being major surgery and getting cut into and all.  It also interrupts the natural biological process that takes place after delivering naturally.  Laboring naturally is certainly painful, but it's more of an extremely uncomfortable band of cramping pain around your entire middle.  Going through labor and delivery is painful, but it's temporary and can be made better by different techniques, lots of moving around and even drugs, if need be.  I would take hours of hard labor over an easy c-section any day!  To those of you looking into this, that's all I can offer is my own humble opinion from my own personal experiences.  Some advice: research your options!  Also do not go in for an induction unless absolutely medically necessary - a big percentage of medically-induced labors result in c-sections simply because the baby was not ready to be born and had to be forced out (this coming from someone who's pregnancies are typically 42 weeks long). Let mother nature do its work - nature tends to be very smart.  God bless and good luck!

* You can read the post Introducing Landon for more of his birth story...

Some resources I highly recommend:

The Business of Being Born documentary
Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth book
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding book by the La Leche League
The Baby Book by Dr. Sears
Mothering magazine - a bit "crunchy" but very good

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

God-given Godparents

I never grew up knowing much about godparents nor the concept behind assigning godparents to one's children.  As far as I knew, it was a Catholic thing so naturally, as a non-denominational fundamental Protestant (say that 5 times fast!), I didn't have a clue.  But once Michael and I started having children, I just knew that somehow in someway we had to publicly and symbolically include our best friends into our family tree.  Now I still may not know exactly the correct ritual or role of godparents in the church, however for us, it means that not only are Dave and Erin spiritual guardians of our children (beyond us, of course), but also legal guardians if something were to ever happen to us.  They are, in all accounts, God-parents of my children.  And I know it's something they take seriously.  We're very fortunate to have them in our lives and my boys will always have another set of parents looking out for them...physically and spiritually. 

Damien getting to know Erin & Vivi

Though Dave & Erin and kids have up and moved to France for the next year, we're missing them and staying in touch via Skype (video conference calling). It was very important to Erin that Landon not forget them and that Damien start to learn who they are over the course of this coming year.  Though they've just recently left, we're already looking forward to their return!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Landon's Newest Hobby

Landon, being 3 1/2 years old, is stuck between being too young to for his older brothers to want to play with him and not being the baby of the family anymore.  So his interests have led him to more independent activities such as playing on the computer and on the Wii.  Since electronics are on a very limited schedule in our house, he ends up being bored a lot.  He doesn't like playing with play dough like his big brother Jayce and isn't old enough to read like Reagan.  He doesn't even really like to color.  So what's a boy to do?  Well, he just discovered painting!  Which he asks to do now every day.  Here's a look at him busy at his masterpieces...


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Baby Update

Well, things are starting to get a bit calmer and happier around here.  I said, "starting".  Damien still won't let us put him down for long periods of time, but Michael was so excited when he was able to make breakfast without interruption because baby was content being in the exersaucer for 25 whole minutes!  And two days ago, he rolled over for the first time.  I only know this because he took a nap on his belly (the only way he'll sleep probably due to colic) then woke up screaming.  When I went to go check on him, he was on his back.  I think the rolling over scared him hence the piercing screams. We're finally getting more smiles now as well.  Check out the dimples:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Hell of Colic

Never before have I had a baby with colic.  After birthing and rearing four children, this one was my first experience dealing with colic. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  Ok, maybe on my worst enemy.  If I had one.  But colic breeds a different kind of baby, and after four days of it, I started checking the return policy on this new baby.  It wasn't that he was inconsolable (though at times he was).  It was simply that he never, let me state that again, NEVER let me put him down.  Not for one minute.  Not even for a second.  And watching him writhe in pain as he tried to digest his food (yes, I'm nursing) and scream while he was trying to do it was agony.

After going online to do my typical research, I discovered that colic wasn't just tied to those gassy foods a mom can eat that can pass onto her baby like broccoli, cabbage and onions.  It can also be attributed to gluten and dairy foods.  Well, I was desperate enough to try anything so as soon as I was done reading that sentence, I put myself on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. And this after looking so forward to some sugary treats after being on my diabetic diet for three months!  Yes, this is how desperate I was. My craving for peace, quiet and the American dream (no, literally in sleep) overshadowed my craving for chocolate croissants, double chocolate mousse cake and fresh baked baguette.  I kid you not when I say that Damien was a different baby within 24 hours.  He still wasn't exactly a happy baby - heck, he's still not a happy baby - but it was tolerable and he wasn't writhing around in pain anymore.  It took a few days of experimenting, and I still stumble across foods he can't tolerate very well (like spaghetti sauce), and we'll have a bad day.  But overall he has no problems with digestion anymore.  He still won't let anyone put him down for more than a few minutes.  We're not sure if this behavior is tied to the colic and he'll grow out of it, or if this will continue until he becomes more independent. Essentially, this baby has rendered me useless as a homeschool mom and housewife. I actually have a dear woman from my church come once a week simply to hold him so I can get some things done around here.  I'm kind of thinking my mother jinxed me when she presented us with a baby gift in the hospital that consisted of a t-shirt that reads cranky but cute - just ask mommy!  So thanks, Mom!

Proof he lets me put him down...but only when he's sleeping

P.S.  The other thing that helped us survive colic was Colic Calm - the most magical all-natural remedy on the planet!  A little bit of this, and baby was so much better within 15-20 minutes. We tried a few different remedies, but this was, hands down, the winner.  I would buy stock in it...if the stock market wasn't so bad right now...and we could afford to buy stocks in the first place.

Damien's Arrival

Damien Berube was born on February 2, 1647 in Normandy, France.  In June of 1671, he sailed to North America and arrived in Quebec as the first Berube to settle on this continent.  Twelve generations later, his great-grandson Damien made his own arrival to this world.  This is baby Damien's birth story:

With my previous history of HELLP syndrome, the doctors were keeping a watchful eye on me and ordering occasional blood tests.  The glucose intolerance was well under control by diet and because of this, I was able to escape more extensive tests such as repetitive non-stress tests and ultrasounds.  The baby seemed big and healthy, and at 38 weeks there was no sign of HELLP.  However because of low platelets, my doctor wanted to test me again a week later.  At 39 weeks, my tests came back showing that my platelets had dropped even more and my liver enzymes had started to rise.  Because of this, the call was made to induce me.

Now my doctor knew I was all kinds against induction, however since I'm all kinds *more* against HELLP and an emergency C-section, I decided to go ahead with the induction.  Since I had been contracting almost every day for a couple weeks and even started contracting on the way to the hospital that day, my hope was that my body was ready for labor and my prayer was that God would make this induction quick and easy.  It took a couple hours to start the Pitocin after arriving, and by the time it was 8pm, I was mentally preparing myself (i.e. freaking out) for the hard work ahead.  

Labor started easily enough and from the very beginning, contractions were steady and increasing.  Since my naturopath's last words to me were, "Stay on your feet as much as possible," I stood up most of the time especially in the beginning.  For some reason, I did not want to lie down and did so only when I hit my wall of fatigue because it was so late at night and way past my bedtime.  Most of the time I was standing, kneeling, sitting, rocking back and forth, just about every position in the book.  I did take advantage of the bathroom jacuzzi for a bit but knowing I wasn't able to give birth in the water (against hospital's regulations), I was only in there for some of my transition period.  All this time they were steadily increasing the Pitocin to bring on stronger contractions, and by the time I got out of the water, the Pitocin drip was at 10cc's (max is 30 cc's).  After rocking in the rocking chair for a little bit, I finally started to feel that blessed pressure of baby's head and wanted my doctor to check me and see if I was fully dilated yet. 
They suggested sitting on a birthing stool (an interesting contraption I've never used before), and things went very quickly after that.  In fact, as I hear it, the baby's head descended so quickly the doctor had to catch him one-handed (she didn't have a glove on her other hand yet), flipped him over in mid-air and sat him down on the pillow underneath me.  They then handed him to me immediately, and holding one's baby while it is still attached to one's body is a strange but exhilarating feeling.  His APGAR scores were 9 and 10 - great scores that I attribute to our waiting to cut the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing.  He was pink and beautiful!  And he was big - 9 lbs (and he was early)!

Overall, I have to say this labor was my favorite labor.  I felt more aware of everything going on.  I had Erin reading Bible verses to me and Michael playing relaxing music throughout labor.  I had the prayers of every one of my lovely friends and family members, and the support of some great doctors.  Even though I was not able to give birth at home (which would have been my ideal plan), the hospital allowed us freedoms we have never taken advantage of before in previous labors.  The Lord provided us with a wonderful birth experience and most precious of all, a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Everything We Learned, We Learned from Cartoons

So our best friends took their family to France and swapped houses with a French family...for a whole year!  Anyway, Michael and I started talking about the differences in nature between France and New England.  It all started when he offered the French family produce from his garden and handed them a veggie they had never seen before.  It was summer squash.  So it brought up the question, "I wonder what other things they'll experience here that they've never seen before in nature?"  It got me to thinking about raccoons.  And possums.  I mentioned to Mike that I thought raccoons were a distinctly American creature.  Because in the Disney movie, Pocahontas, John Smith didn't recognize the raccoon as a familiar animal.  Then I asked Mike about skunks - do they live worldwide or just here?  That's when he pointed out that they must live in Europe as well.  After all, Pepe Le Pew was French.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Baby Shower

Baby showers have been an elusive or tough event in my life.  I've been pregnant 5 times now, and I've had your traditional big baby shower twice - once for my daughter 20 years ago and another for my firstborn son 9 years ago.  And hey, I completely understand that's typically one more than most people!  However since my firstborn son arrived in 2002, each pregnancy has presented its own challenges in allowing my best friend to throw her own unique celebrations for each new baby. Mind you, I have no need for new baby products for each new pregnancy and instead appreciate the thought that goes into trying to simply celebrate this new life as well as new stage in my own life. My previous two pregnancies seemed determine to end with nary a nod to my burgeoning belly, esp. thanks to an early emergency cesarean with Landon.  Which is why I was so pleased and grateful that my friend was able to finally celebrate (and in style!) this latest pregnancy with all of our girlfriends.

The party was held at my friend Erin's house.
 There was wonderful food...

Peg's daughter, Emma, worked her magic as a henna artist...

Beautiful, isn't it?  All the names of my family are included in the Tree of Life except the baby's which we were keeping somewhat of a secret at the time...

 Fun and laughter abounded...

And everybody had a chance to get "inked"...

 Thank you, dear friends.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

38 Weeks & Counting

Now that I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy, I have to say I'm fairly surprised at how well I'm doing.  This is, after all, my fifth child and I'm no spring chick anymore!  With the exception of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there have been absolutely no problems with this pregnancy as of yet (I say "yet" because I know HELLP doesn't typically show up until around now so we are keeping a close eye on that - so far so good).

The gestational diabetes has been an interesting journey for me this time around.  The last time I had any problems with sugar was being pregnant with Lauryn 19 years ago, and they called me "glucose intolerant" and I only had to cut out sugar from my diet.  Apparently, these days, they are much more conservative, not only with testing, but with the treatment of it.  I've had the pleasure of sticking my fingers 4-5 times a day to check my sugars with a glucometer, recording them and then reporting my numbers to the diabetic center every week.  It was a bit rough in the beginning as my fasting sugars (those taken first thing in the morning before eating) just refused to stay within limits.  Because of this, the doctors put me on insulin every night before bed and then kept upping the dosage. After two weeks of the insulin shots (ouch!) and seeing absolutely no improvement, I stopped the shots AMA and started experimenting with what worked to actually keep my sugars down.  Surprise, surprise - it was not insulin that kept my fasting sugars within limits; it was protein!  Yes, if I eat a piece of protein just before bed (typically a plain hamburger), my sugars look great in the morning.  I think the doctors think I'm cheating or something.

Anyway, with the awareness of once again being glucose intolerant, I've had to be very careful with my meals - what I eat, when I eat, how many times I eat, etc.  Because my body is a protein-type and it has always done very well with high protein, low-carb diets in the past, I feel better than ever at this stage in my pregnancy.  Now I'm not technically on an Atkins diet or anything like that as eating too low-carb could be dangerous for the baby.  I just need to be careful with how many carbs I have and what kind I'm eating.

The baby seems to be doing very well and is as active as ever.  I've had way more contractions in this pregnancy than any other - my hope is I'll be halfway through labor by the time I'm in it! lol  My commute to the hospital is just about an hour which is a little nerve-racking, but being one who typically has longer labors, I'm not too worried about it.  For peace of mind though, I did buy an emergency birth kit to keep at home and bring in the car on the way to the hospital....just in case. :)  It's hard to believe within 3-4 weeks, our little boy will be here!

And for those wanting to know what I look like at this point in the game, here's me with the baby belly!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baby #5

After months of searching for a midwife/doctor who would not only take me as a patient but also subscribe to my birth philosophy, I'm happy to say we've found one!  Because of my previous history with HELLP syndrome and then the resultant C-section, it was impossible to find a midwife willing to help me with a home birth which was my ideal preference.  The midwife I was in communication with paired me up with a local doctor (actually in the same practice as the doctor who delivered Landon by c-section) who suggested they co-manage my case.  This would mean I would receive midwifery care throughout the pregnancy and then when it was time to deliver the baby, I would enter the local hospital where I would try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).  The two obstacles I faced were the necessary permission from the doctor's partners (did they feel comfortable with her taking me on?) and the local hospitals typically not allowing for VBACs (so any VBAC would be AMA - against medical advice).  Unfortunately, the obstacles were enough to prevent this idea from working out.  I found myself at a dead end with no midwife, no doctor, no prenatal care and feeling the pressure of time working against me as I was already 23 weeks along. 

After speaking to a local midwife about my case and getting her valuable advice, she recommended a doctor associated with Concord Hospital.  At first, I wasn't so keen on traveling all the way to Concord (not when home seemed the best distance for me), but being desperate at this point, I called the office.  Getting in touch with someone at Concord Women's Care, I quickly made an appointment, if for nothing else than to get my initial prenatal blood test done and an ultrasound set up before this baby got too big!  Michael and I went to meet the doctor there and instantly knew we were in the right place.  The doctors there encourage VBACs as much as medically possible, and my previous diagnosis of HELLP didn't scare them off.  Because the VBAC was very important for me to try, I knew this was the place I would deliver.  Concord Hospital is a top-notch hospital and one of only a few hospitals in the United States given the certification of  being a "Baby Friendly" hospital (something to do with its great breastfeeding program).  I hear rave reviews about The Family Place (the name they've given their maternity ward), and I look forward to touring it soon.

After finally having my initial blood tests (which were great), an ultrasound was set up.  With bated breath we waited for the day we would find out whether this baby was a girl or boy.  Though we did not find out with the last two boys and each one was a wonderful surprise when they popped out, we figured this one might just be a girl and that just might be something worth knowing about ahead of time.  Yesterday was the big day, and we not only found out it was a seemingly healthy baby (and only one at that, thank goodness!) with ten fingers and toes, but...drum roll please....IT'S A BOY!  Again! LOL  We had to ask the technician if she was sure, and she showed us the proof-positive evidence - there was no mistaking the little appendage that proved beyond a doubt this was no girl.  As Michael apologized for not providing the necessary X chromosome yet again, I had to lay there and laugh.  So there may not be any pink in our near future, but you must agree once you get past the alien-like appearance of every sonogram photo, he's a beautiful boy, isn't he?