Crazy Pregnancy Dreams

One thing many pregnant moms are surprised to find is that they often have vivid and sometimes very strange dreams.  During my third pregnancy, I had a lot of dreams about labor in odd situations.

Once I dreamed that I sat in my midwife’s home waiting my turn to give birth, as she called her clients in one by one, had them squat and then caught their babies.  Just before it was my turn, a mom came in in advanced labor, and I let her cut in front of me while I hung out, waiting on my yoga mat.  I was totally cool with this arrangement.  My husband got there and I told him he was just in time, as I was next.  Another dream involved me just hanging out with my midwives, going to book stores and coffee shops… while I was in labor.  When I shared these dreams at prenatal appointments I felt a bit like Dorothy waking up from Oz – “and you and you and you were there.”

But not all pregnancy dreams are so low key, pleasant, or easy to share.  During my first pregnancy I had a downright disturbing dream that my baby was born looking like a pig and that the hospital staff took her away and feed her whole peas and chopped carrots.

Worries over being a good parent and lack of sleep can cause crazy dreams of your newborn baby talking or otherwise doing things they could not developmentally do yet, or worse.  It is not uncommon for these kinds of dreams to carry over into the postpartum period as well.

Some pregnancy dreams are surprisingly sexual.  There’s a saying in the natural birth community that “what gets baby in, gets baby out.”  Apparently my subconscious took this literally and I once dreamed that my husband and I had to conceive on a hospital table with doctors, nurses and interns all observing, taking notes, charting, and doing cervical checks.  Finally, they rushed in at the last minute to drop the bottom of the bed and make sure conception happened in a position easy for the doctor observe.  Um… yeah.  No.

All of these represent themes that are common for pregnant women to dream about.  But what causes such weird and vivid dreams?  A study was done in 2007 that linked a pregnant woman’s increased hormone levels, increased anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns (have to go to the bathroom yet again?) to the dreams.  Many pregnant women experience a heightened level of stress or excitement during pregnancy, contributing to the list of things our subconscious that to work through during our dreams.

Bizarre dreams during this time in your life may be a window into your feelings about birth and parenthood.  Perhaps you are excited about giving birth.  These vivid dreams may provide you an opportunity to explore those feelings further, enjoy it.  The increased hormones often lead to sexual dreams for the first time during pregnancy, sometimes with partners other than your own, or even movie stars.  Or, at times a mother’s negative feelings or fears may not otherwise arise until her birth and these dreams may be providing an opportunity to get these fears or anxieties out in the open ahead of time so they can be dealt with and resolved.

In any case, if you are having strange dreams during your pregnancy, be comforted in knowing you are not alone.  It’s very common for women to have these dreams.  it may be helpful (or at the very least, entertaining) to keep a dream journal.  If you find recurring themes, talk about them with your partner and care-providers.  You may be happy to find the more disturbing dreams go away after they are discussed out loud and your feelings acknowledged.

Keeping Your Body in Balance: Squats and Pelvic Floor Strength

A few weeks ago, I read an article on the Mama Sweat blog about pelvic floor strength and not doing Kegels.  Mama Sweat interviewed Katy Bowman, who is the director of the Restorative Exercise Institute.  The article was fascinating, discussing why traditional Kegels can actually do more harm than good.

A lot of people were shocked by her revelation that our bodies are designed to work as a system, that “YOU REQUIRE YOUR BUTT MUSCLES!”  One of the best quotes from the article is this:

“There aren’t any extraneous parts on the body! Every muscle is really a pulley that is holding your skeleton just so. When you let your glutes go, you allow the bones of the pelvis to collpase into themselves. The squat is the most effective and natural glute strengthener–using the full range of motion and your body weight. It is entirely more effective than any gym machine or contrived exercise. The hunter-gathering folks squat multiple times a day (or at least once in the morning), so they had a nice routine down over a lifetime. Doing this four to five times a day, every day of your pregnancy will improve the delivery as well!”

So what’s a girl to do?  It can be confusing when you hear “do Kegels” and then the next day (bear with me, I know what I posted yesterday), you’re hearing “don’t do Kegels.”

Well, folks, there’s a reason that I posted Kegel exercises yesterday.  Because you still need to do them.  But you should not do them alone.  Not as in Kegels-are-fun-to-do-with-a-partner, though I suppose that could be true.  But as in, you should not be only doing Kegels and neglect to do other pre- and postnatal exercises. And not just 2 billion flex and release exercises per day either.

Pregnant mamas should be squatting like crazy (postpartum moms typically do this naturally chasing after babies).  This is why your childbirth educator talked about it during the first week of class.  Dr. Bradley wrote about it.  Hunter-gatherer societies did it as part of everyday life.  They squat.  Squatting prepares your muscles to give birth.  Not just your leg muscles.  Squatting balances the kegel exercise – pelvic floor strength involves the glutes too! Even Katy Bowman said,

“Add two to three squat sessions throughout the day (anywhere). The glutes strengthen and as a result,they pull the sacrum back, stretching the PF from a hammock to a trampoline. Viola!”

Katy did a follow up interview with Mama Sweat on the topic, and you can read that here.  I was very intrigued by what I read there.  So I poked around on Katy’s website, katysays.com.  It is filled with all kinds of wellness tips and exercises.  Recently she posted more about the pelvic floor.  Tips for women like not wearing high heels (it disrupts the allignment of the entire body) and, get this, not sitting on your sacrum!

That’s right, sit up straight.  Have good posture.  Your mother’s been right all these years.  To quote Katy’s website,

“In addition to your pelvic floor muscles, your organs are also held in place by ligaments.  One major ligament to the uterus is attached to the sacrum, so if the sacrum is pushed into your pelvic bowl, the uterus moves down.  Even a diligent exercise program can’t override the constant and displacing physical pressure.”

The easiest way to avoid sitting on your sacrum?  Get off the couch.  Tailor sit (a.k.a. indian style) on the floor.  Get an exercise ball for your desk.  Didn’t your childbirth educator mention this one too?  There’s a saying that the couch is the number one cause of c-sections today.  While no studies have yet to be done on it (and, although there’s a measure of jest here), I’m pretty sure bad posture and it’s tie to pelvic floor strength could be a real contributing factor.

So, yes, Kegel on, but balance yourself (preferably on a birth ball) with tailor sitting, and squatting.  Everyday.  Ditch the high heels and the comfy couch.  Your pelvic floor will thank you for it!

Advanced Kegel Exercises

Lots of doctors, midwives and birth professionals often recommend women do Kegel (a.k.a. the pelvic floor, the PF, the pubococcygeus muscle or the PC muscle) exercises during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Here are a few compelling reasons why they do so.

  • Kegels can help shorten labor
  • Kegels can prevent incontinence
  • Kegels can prevent or correct vaginal or uterine prolapse
  • Kegels can increase sexual pleasure

Sounds like a good deal right?  Flex that little PC muscle and get lots of great benefits!  What woman doesn’t want a shorter labor or better sex? And the exercise is easy to do. Continue reading

Motherhood and Redemption

We love our independence here in the United States.  Our single family dwellings have fences, our cars have tinted windows, our children each have their own rooms.  In our culture, we are often alone.  That means when women become mothers they don’t always have the resources or experiences to know what normal is.  It can feel very isolating, overwhelming and even frightening.  We are told about how when you give birth you will instantly love the baby.  And while that it true, it doesn’t mean that everything will be easy or that you won’t make mistakes. 

Because fears and thoughts are often not talked about, women believe they are alone in the dark and frightening thoughts that can occur at two in the morning.  When you are exhausted, even the baby who you love with all of your heart can push you to your limit. 

I want to give voice to some of those thoughts and fears, because it can help to know you are not alone.  I was comforted when in the middle of the night I was exhausted and frustrated, I remembered a friend telling me about the way it sometimes really feels to be a new mother. 

Special thanks goes to Sara Chapman, who wrote the essay below as part of the Mindful Mama Rites of Passage contest.  Thank you Sara, for letting me repost this here.

Tell people you have twins, and the reactions range from the joyous to the cautionary.  They  lean in close, and whisper conspiratorially, as if confiding a weighty secret. You know, its not twice the work, they would say, It’s four times the work!  I would nod, a stiff smile on my face, say “Oh I know.” What else could I say? I didn’t know.

 

Around 2 weeks after the birth of my twins, I read a story in the newspaper. It was just a tiny paragraph, buried in the B Section, about a woman who had dropped her baby girl into Lake Pontchartrain. She had felt the heart beating in the infant’s tiny chest just before the waters closed over her.  I wept bitterly about that story. I wept for the loss of life, for the terrible waste of her mother’s blood and sinew and essence. I wept for the baby because it is a terrible thing to be unwanted, and because she never got a chance to win her mother’s love. I wept, but I could not bring myself to judge that young mother.

*

I had come late to marriage, late to motherhood. In the latter days of my pregnancy, I would lie awake at night and think about our future. I worried about all the things every first time mother worries about; will they be healthy, will I know how to care for them, comfort them. Can we afford two sets of clothes, toys, lessons, educations. My husband wasn’t the least bit afraid. He assumed we would get through parenthood as well as everything else we had done. He had courage enough for both of us, so I borrowed some from him and stifled my fears. It comes to me now that all the nights I lay awake, I never tried to picture their faces.  As much as I worried about the mundane details of raising children, they remained an abstract to me until the day they were born.

 

My babies were born in  mid-winter, close to the solstice; the darkest time of the year.  I had wanted a natural birth; instead my daughter remained stubbornly breech and at the 38th week of gestation, I had a c-section. I was terrified of the idea; of the spinal block needle, and of being cut open.   But I felt nothing except an odd tugging, as if someone were rolling my lower half back and forth. I waited anxiously for my babies to appear, and when they did, I got only a brief glimpse before they were whisked away to be weighed and measured. I lay on the table, craning my neck as far to the side as I could, trying to see my daughter. When my husband finally brought her to me, swaddled tightly, I studied her face through tears of relief, trying to recognize her. She looked so odd to me, not at all what I expected.  

 

The first few weeks after the birth of my twins is a blur of fatigue and intense loneliness, despite the devotions of my beloved husband and my endlessly patient and kind mother. I have never experienced exhaustion like that in my life. I craved sleep the way heroin addicts crave the next fix.  Breastfeeding didn’t make me feel natural and powerful; it made me feel resentful.  Every time that thin cry woke me from a stupor at 3am, I fantasized about having a nursemaid take over.

My husband and I spent endless hours trying to get the babies to sleep; and when they finally did, we would do anything to avoid waking them. We kept the house tomb-like quiet: cuffed the dog when she barked, shushed company if they spoke too loudly, glared at each other with each clank of a plate and accidental door slam. I felt intensely guilty about how badly I wanted them to just sleep and wondered if something was wrong with me. I spent hours rocking them in my arms, sitting on a huge exercise ball and bouncing, pacing up and down, up and down gently jostling them into submission. One night, I had spent 45 minutes bouncing on the ball holding my son. My arms ached, my shoulder screamed in protest. I was hungry and tired and I didn’t want to be there anymore. I was certain he was finally asleep, but as soon as I tried to place him in the crib next to his sister, he awoke and bellowed. I suddenly had the most intense desire to shake him, which scared the wits out of me.

 

I called my sister for help. She is a devoted mother herself, and I felt ashamed and awkward confessing my thoughts to her. I told her how scared I felt, how frustrated. I told her that I wasn’t sure I was cracked up to be a mother. She surprised me by the strength of her affirmation; she too had felt frustrated and angry. She said something which buoyed me for weeks: You give so much more than you get, at first. You are putting so much in, and you get so little back. Be patient, give them time to win your heart. 

 

As the days and weeks wore on, I gradually came to know my children better. The way my daughter smiles; slowly and looking sideways at me through her impossible lashes. How my son will patiently wait for my full attention, and when I finally give it, will crack his face almost in half with a grin so giant it could threaten to outshine the sun.  I know now that my son likes music and swings and my daughter likes to bounce and have her head gently stroked.  I know who is ticklish and which one likes to be pleasantly scared when we play “peek-a-boo.”  I now know the intense delight of a new skill suddenly mastered, the joy of watching a tiny lightbulb go off over each silken head.  I know the honeyed sweetness of a quiet moment spent cuddling a just-nursed baby, milk-drunk and pliant in my arms.

 

I think about that young mother in Louisiana a lot these days. I am lucky, I have had so much support: a mother, a sister, even strangers on an internet forum who have shared my moments of joy and desperation.  I imagine that maybe she didn’t have any help, that she had to spend those first dark weeks feeling burdened and alone.

 

I wish I could have put my arms around that young woman, held her close and whispered in her ear, You are not alone. Be patient. Give her time to wake up and reveal herself to you.  Give her time to win your heart.

 

Sara is a Los Angeles mother and keeps a blog of her babes’ monthly achievements, The SkatKitten Diaries.

CBAC and The NBP

Earlier this week I read an incredible post by San Diego midwife, Barbara Herrera, LM, CPM – aka the Navelgazing Midwife.  She wrote about a mother that had hired her as a montrice (a private nurse), to help her have a VBAC.  But, due to circumstances out of the mother’s control (i.e. her body’s cooperation) she ended up with a second cesarean birth (CBAC). 

The mother was disappointed, but working through it quite well until she encountered the “NBP” (Natural Birth Prosthelytizer).  The NBP had been watching birth shows on television and felt herself an expert.  She asked questions of the mother, shaking her head in pity at  what had happened.  Suddenly the mother’s confidence was rattled.  Did they try everything?  What if this?  What if that?  She had to start the processing of her second birth over. 

I believe I’ve come across more than one NBP.  My first birth was not perfect (it ended with an emergent transfer and vacuum extraction due to placental abruption), and shortly after I ran into a NBP who had not yet given birth, but was planning to have her baby at the same birth center I had gone to. When I told her my birth story she immediately gave me the brush off – like I was an amateur.  She looked at me like I was less of a woman for “attempting” a natural birth, but “not succeeding.”   It may have just been inferred, but I feel like I remember her saying, “Oh.  Well.  If they gave you an episiotomy, then if wasn’t a natural birth.”  Nevermind the hours of drug-free labor before hand, or the fact the my son was crowning before the transfer to the hospital.  I think I told her good luck with her birth and found someone else to talk to. 

As I read this woman’s story, I suddenly wondered if I had unwittingly been a NBP myself?  I am very passionate about natural birth, and I am sure that before I gave birth, I easily could have asked questions or been dismissive or even judgemental  towards a new mother.  Then, I flashed to the recent months, where my close friend had a CBAC after attempting to VBAC her second baby.  Did I do this to her?  Quickly I sent her an email with the Navelgazing Midwife post, asking if I had done this, and apologizing profusely if I had. 

Thankfully, she assured me that I did not, though she had met such people in her birth class with her first cesarean birth, including the instructor, who had been hired as her doula.  Ouch. 

I think we have to be so mindful of the questions we ask postpartum. Whether were asking as a friend or a professional, we need to remember that every birth is unique and that sometimes, even the mama that was giving birth doesn’t always know all the circumstances (especially immediately postpartum, when she hasn’t yet asked all her questions).  Mammas need love and support, no matter their birth outcomes and especially when things did not go according to plan.  And we all (mammas included) need to remember that a cesarean birth is still a birth. 

No matter if you have or want a natural birth, if you’ve had a cesarean or VBAC or CBAC or want to VBAC, please read the post written at the Navelgazing Midwife blog.  I can not replicate Barbara’s beautiful words!

Are Cloth Diapers Really A Savings?

Early in my first pregnancy, I never really considered cloth diapers seriously.  I pictured the lumpy, dumpy prefolds with pins and plastic pants.  They seemed messy and a lot of work, and well, frankly, I didn’t know sh… er, um, BEANS, about cloth diapers.

Thankfully, my friend, who had moved to Texas with her military husband (and was thus meeting new people with new ideas) sent me a list she had one of her new friends make for me of baby essentials.  On the list was Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers.  Cloth diapers?  On the ‘essentials’ list?  I had to check them out.

Today’s cloth diapers are really cool.  Like no cloth diapers I had ever seen before.

I stared doing research and found there are tons of alternatives to the traditional pin ’em on, plastic pants cloth diapers out there: Rump-A-Roos, Bumkins, Fuzzi Bunz, Bummis… there’s a long list actually.  Some are called All In Ones (AIO), some are pocket diapers like the Fuzzi Bunz, and there are still some traditional pre-folds and plastic (or wool in some circles) covers.  There really aren’t pins any more though.

Fuzzi Bunz are pocket diapers.  Like all the pocket diapers today, they have a soft, waterproof cloth exterior with snaps or velcro, a fleece lining to wick moisture away from baby’s bum, and a pocket in between where you stuff an absorbent micro-terry (or hemp or whatever else you choose) insert to absorb the pee.  The idea of cloth diapering with these appealed to me.  I mean it is greener and they say kids potty train earlier.  You put them on like a disposable, except with snaps instead of tape, and you just wash both the diaper and the insert in the washer.  Seemed easy. And, they come in fun colors (I’m a sucker for colorful things).

Cloth diapers are an investment.  The cost is upfront, but the saving over the lifetime is HUGE.  When we bought our first set of Fuzzi Bunz, they were about $14 per diaper.  We did a lot of research to figure out what kind of cloth diaper we wanted to use, and where we could get them for the least amount of money.  The cheapest we’ve found them new was online.

So we registered for a package called the “Everything You Need to Cloth Diaper Special” for about $385.  This included cloth wipes, detergent, two diaper pail liners, a wet bag (travel tote for dirty cloth diapers), and 18 Fuzzi Bunz with inserts.  There were a few other accessories in there too.

We got a couple gift certificates at baby showers towards this, and Rick and I ponied up the rest.  We ordered 15 of our 18 diapers in size small, and three in size medium.  Then, when our bouncing baby boy moved up to mediums at 5 months old, we bought 18 more, used, on ebay for $10 each.  When he needed the larges at his first birthday, my mom bought half for us, and we bought the other half, all new.

In all, we spent $736.49 on diapering our son from birth until potty training at 22 months old.  But wait… we sold the size mediums.  I bought them for $10 each on ebay, and sold them for $10 each on Craigslist when our boy out grew them (I didn’t love the colors and decided if we had another baby, I’d get new mediums then). So I can deduct $180 from that.  So the total for diapering our first-born is $556.49.

Now, I know that doesn’t factor in water usage in washing them and flushing the toilet a few extra times for the poopiest of diapers.  Yes, I’m sure our water bill is slightly higher due to running the machine a few more times a week.  But I can’t give an exact picture of what that cost is, since the diaper washing started at the same time as all the newborn-spit-up-on-clothes-and-sheets-and-blankets washing did too.

But, for only $556.49 (which does include detergent, since I bought special detergent from the same online store for the diapers only) I diapered not only our first baby for nearly two years, but I saved the size smalls and the larges to carry over to the new baby.

How many disposable diapers could you get for $560?  How long would they last you?
On diapers.com (the site I understand to be the money saver in disposable diapers??) you can get a case of 4 Seventh Generation diapers for $43.99.  So if you bought them all at once, you’d get 12 cases.  Depending on the size of diaper, that’s 176 newborn diapers per case, or 104 size 5.  The price difference for Huggies and Pampers is within a dollar or two.  A newborn goes through about 8-12 diapers per day.  For easy math, I will say 10.  So one case will get you through 17.5 days. This does not include buying any wipes.

I’ll leave the exact math to you, but Mary McCarthy of NaturalFamilyOnline.com estimates that a child goes through 8,000 – 10,000 diaper changes before potty training. Based on an average cost of .35 per diaper (since no baby stays either a newborn or 20lbs forever), that comes to $2,800-$3,500 per child, not including wipes and trips to the store or sales tax if not bought online.  I’ve seen other averages as low as $1850 and as high as $4500 as well.  For one baby.

Don’t even get me started on the environmental impacts of all of this.

So what about the second baby?  Well, I needed new wipes and a new wet bag (the cloth wipes were so dead by the end of potty training, you don’t even want to know).  And we needed to buy the size mediums.  The price is a bit higher now than it was in 2006.  But I expect to sell all of my diapers for about $10/each after our second is potty trained.  I’ve already sold the size smalls, since our second baby is in the mediums already.  I should have around 45 or 50 total diapers by then.  That will bring a big chunk of the investment back.

All in all, cloth diapering is a very affordable choice.  And there are lots of options.  We chose Fuzzi Bunz because despite their higher initial investment cost , they had a high resale value as well.  I’ve seen Rump-a-Roos and Bummis (which adjust in size from small to large) reselling at good prices as well.  But if you are less worried about resale value, there are even more affordable cloth diapering options.  Even the old-fashioned prefolds use a cool system called Snappis and better covers than the old plastic pants now a days.  Check them out.  You might find a brand that is the perfect fit.

Here are a few more sites that talk about the differences between all the different diapers out there, as well as other tips and tricks with cloth diapering.

Be Fresh Be Simple (where I swiped the above picture from)

Green Mom Happy Mom

The Birth Quiche

I had to share this recipe for the best quiche ever!  My good friend made two for our family after the birth of our second kiddo, and she got the recipe from someone who made the quiche for her birth a few months before that.  Since then I’ve passed it on to several other mamas.

It’s the perfect postpartum quiche, either immediate postpartum after birth, or after getting settled in those first few weeks.  It’s even great during birth if you need a little extra energy.  It’s high in protein and easily made from frozen (just reheat in the oven)!

Green Chile & Zucchini Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen whole wheat pie crust, prepared according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 medium zucchini (about 6 ounces)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 pound freshly grated Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup whole-milk cottage cheese
  • 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained (I substituted chiles from our freezer)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Grate the zucchini (using the grating attachment of a food processor can make this quick). Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain in a colander for 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat until hot. Reduce the heat to medium; add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini well with your hands to remove excess moisture. Add the zucchini to the onion and cook over high heat for 3 minutes.

Stir together the flour, the baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until combined. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs until thick and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper jack and cottage cheeses, the flour mixture, and remaining melted butter to the eggs and beat well. Stir in the zucchini mixture and chiles and pour the mixture into the crust.

Bake the quiche in the center of the oven until the top is puffed and golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Set aside at room temperature 5 minutes, cut into wedges, and serve. 

Can be frozen.  To reheat, either bring to room temperature or put in the oven frozen and bake at 350 for about an hour.