Sunday, November 24, 2013

Smash Cake

Joshua's Smash Cake Session!! 

Totally overdue, I know. Like 2 months late!

Of course, this stunning masterpiece was not the cake he smashed!
For his birthday party, Maia Rose made his splashy cake! 

Check out our group board as we chose the theme on Pinterest!

We had a super cute, Finding Nemo themed party!

All of her cake's were custom made for us with natural colors!

This super cute cupcake got smashed!

And now....
the smashing you've been waiting for!

 Talent by Crystal Billington

Can't forget the clean-up!

That was just a glimpse into our smash cake session. For more great photos, check out Aniron Photography.
Crystal Billington captures memories in the beautiful Verde Valley. She specializes in maternity, newborn  and family on location photography but her talent does not stop there!  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Birth Story {The Freebirth of True}

This November, we are sharing birth stories at the YC Birth Circle meet ups! I just couldn't wait to share this beautiful story with you, so here it is. And be sure to check out the birth video of 

The Freebirth of True.

He was “due” only the day before, but since all the others were a bit early, it was the longest I have waited! Typical 6th baby; nights of contractions leading up, but they’d quit by morning and I’d wake up pregnant. I got the feeling time and time again that it would be a slow build up to labor, and even though I “wanted” a super, quick and easy birth, I wasn’t so sure I would get it.
Went to bed on May 18th with the typical run of contractions, although more pressure than normal. Stopped somewhere through the night, and started up again at 5:30 am on May 19th. Somewhere in me I knew this was the beginning of “it”-but I had no idea how long it would last and if this babe would come today or even tomorrow. It just had that “different” feeling, even though the contractions were totally irregular and would even stop for 15-20 minutes at a time. Kind of how my fifth labor started out, but even less predictable. Still no mucous or blood or anything to reassure me, so I just went about my day as best as I could.
At about 2 pm, I laid down in bed with Belgium to see if I could rest. It was difficult to remain still during contractions, and I thought, “Really? Already?” True always liked to hang out on my right side but at this precise moment I felt him move forcefully to my left side. Literally minutes later the contractions got more regular.
By 4 pm, I knew this was “it” but still not predictable. However, the pressure was increasing. I knew I didn’t want a midwife there, but I did want my friends in addition to my husband. I called my friend Margo to come and also my friend Jenni who is a pro photographer. I hadn’t totally decided if I was comfortable with pictures but I thought she could come for now at least…with both of them I hated having to make the “phone calls” (even though I love them both!) just from that element of feeling like people would be here “waiting” for me. (And not that they felt that way at all, that’s my own baggage!)
They arrived shortly and left me to my business of laboring. I labored outside on at least 3 of our decks, downstairs, upstairs and was very pace-y. I used the large tub in our bathroom, listened to music, listened to hypnosis. A lot like how I live, actually. Always busy, never resting, always on the move.
I wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, several times, I thought it really wasn’t painful or awful or unbearable at all. I just kept needing to change my coping tactics, and even so, that was working fine. My midwife brain would look down on myself, as much as I was trying to stay out of that analytical brain-I couldn’t help it! The paranoid side of me felt like WHY was this taking so long (even though it really wasn’t) even though I knew deep down everything was normal and fine. There was nothing wrong at all, my baby and I both were doing perfectly. The only problem was my expectation or hope that the labor would be shorter, or needed to be for a 6th baby. My midwife brain assessed the situation as normal too; I watched myself deal with longer and stronger contractions, I never listened to baby but I felt him move and knew he was doing fine.
By 6 pm, I knew there was no going back. I labored in the bathroom (my sanctuary) quite a bit. Even brought my computer in so that I could put on music. Lit a candle and filled up the jacuzzi tub to see if that would help. It was getting a lot harder, but I remember thinking I wasn’t as physically close as I would like; mostly because I wasn’t minding hearing the music and I was still able to text on my phone! However it was getting rough and I was still wrestling with this idea that things should be moving so much more quickly than they were. My expectations were causing me undue fear. At one point, I even asked my friend Jenni (the photographer, although she has birthed 2 babes) if this would be over soon. All I wanted to do was get this baby out and hold him. It just felt like the longest time to wait and it wasn’t getting anymore comfortable.
I was starting to feel a little grunty around 7 pm…but definitely not full on pushy, in fact it came and went. My midwife brain just told me it wasn’t time yet, no worries. I got this feeling of surrender and just told the baby I was giving up all control; he could do what he needed to do with no fight from me. I was laboring in my room alone, when at 7:30pm I gave a tiny push and my water BROKE all over the wood floor. In all the births I’ve attended, I have never seen that much water. It was clear, and it gave me the courage to go on, knowing that it couldn’t be too long now. (I’ve never had a labor where my waters opened this early. With all the others it has been as I was pushing, and so this was new. I realized later that it definitely added to the physical intensity that was to come. When it happened, all I could think was, “Good! It shouldn’t be too long now!”) I was also able to see outside myself a bit and recognize what’s “normal” for me at this point- I was feeling shaky, and looking for reassurance that I could indeed do this. I’ve done this with every baby I’ve had, and I saw the humor in it this time.
About 15 later, I started to push involuntarily, but again not with every contraction. It would either feel really good or really not good. I had “planned” (along with my hope for a quiet, fast and peaceful birth!) that I would not push this time, but rather hope and pray for the fetal ejection reflex. I had experienced that with my 4th and 5th births, and although it was a scary sensation, it was so much less effort and trauma than my previous births where I really, athletically pushed. But this baby was asking me to push. I listened to this voice, and followed it. Lesson learned (again); being stuck on a vision of exactly how you think your birth should go generally isn’t helpful.
At first it felt really good to push-but after 20 minutes or so I began to feel frustrated, like nothing was happening. My brain went into fear mode again, and I panicked. I feared this baby wouldn’t come out-that everything I believed about birth maybe WASN’T true and that I would need help I couldn’t get. I was pushing and pushing, attempting to focus but feeling utterly defeated. I had never, ever, in 5 births felt this way before. Sure, pushing hadn’t always been pleasant (my second came out with his hand next to his face-that makes for some painful pushing!) but this was downright frustrating. My brain kept saying maybe this is not normal for a 6th baby- and I was caught in the crux of my own issue. Because if I HAD had a midwife there, it’s likely I would have felt from her that maybe this WASN’T normal. Then where would I be? Instead, I cried and asked my husband to encourage me. I knew at that moment that it was up to me. I wanted this baby out. But the only way was for me to get him out. I felt my fear, very real. I am sure I looked it, too, for at least a second. I took some deep breaths, some Rescue Remedy and knew I must move on. This baby was coming out hell or high water.
After pushing in the tub, I hopped out quickly and I grabbed my bed and went into a deep squat, pushing sort of wildly. Jason supported me so wonderfully, just quietly whispering that I could do it, that I was almost there. But still, no head. Not even a sliver.
The deep squat was killing my legs. I am not a squatter and so I laughed later ay my choice of position. However, I made it into the squat quite well at the moment and remembered instinctively that I must have needed whatever extra space that afforded me. It was both terrifying and relieving-my body felt out of control with these pushes, yet I was SO determined to hold him. I don’t remember in previous births caring that much about the baby at this point in labor, but in this one, it was what kept me going. With every push I visualized his head moving down and I kept seeing and feeling what it was going to feel like when he was out. It was either that intense visualization or giving into my fear that I was not going to be able to do this.
Still not feeling like I was making progress, the baby passed my rectum (we all know what THAT means!) and I took it to be a good sign. Then the slight burning up inside, good. With the next push I felt that inexplicable feeling as the head starts to fill up that space, and then grows. I felt the wrinkled part of his scalp as it rolled forward and was amazed. It was happening. I pushed with the next push for a lot more of his head, and then used all the patience I had left to just leave the rest to my body, all the while standing and supporting my body and his head with my hands. I was almost there, deep breath, I could taste it.
With the next contraction the rest of his head slipped out. I asked for a mirror to check his color but mostly I wanted to see his precious little face!! I leaned forward onto the bed, his head out, just waiting. I remember Jason telling me something-I realized later he was just encouraging me but at the time I thought he was wondering where the rest of the baby was. I muttered something about needing to rest, and I felt the baby rest too as he shifted and negotiated his next and final move out.
home birth, unassisted birth, birth circle
As I felt the next and last contraction surge, he rotated, some fluid spurted out and I reached down to catch him even though I couldn’t actually see what I was doing! As soon as he was out I bent with him to the floor; placed him down for just a second before I picked him back up again and smothered him with kisses. THE moment I live for and the reason I’ve birthed 5 times and love to watch other women experience the same! The smell and taste and goo of vernix and fluid were everywhere-on my lips and nose and I kissed him and talked to him. He had pooped on the way out, so I was covered with that too, but he was alert and coming around really fast. It’s amazing how the instinctual things a mother will do with her baby at birth are also exactly what the baby needs!
I was so relieved.  And so proud and happy. And now so sure that following my heart was what I needed to do-even though it was a challenge. I delivered my placenta within 5 minutes or so, hardly bled at all, and was just generally in shock with the enormity of the whole experience.
I see True’s birth as perfect-not because I didn’t have anything to deal with, but because I did. Conquering my fears, my demons from the whole entire last year was the theme of my life-of this birth. There was no was of escaping it, or knowing how it would play out, exactly. But it was there, and I am that much braver and more confident and trusting on the other side. That I am truly powerful; that I can do anything. That I know what I believe about birth.
True’s birth has given me a whole new confidence; after 5 kids I didn’t think myself unconfident, but I’ve been shown how much farther there is to go. I am complete trust, in complete trust of this tiny person that has shown me. Experiencing True’s labor and birth has been a profound teaching gift for me. We needed to do it the way we did; and not a smidge different or a moment sooner or later. It was the most PERFECT birth; in so many ways, much more sophisticated with it’s teachings than anything else I have experienced. With it came peace about the rest of my life right now; that I know who I am, what I want and where I am going. I know what I believe and birth and the women I serve. I know where I belong and where I do not belong. And for this, I thank this babe.

I hope you enjoyed this beautiful birth story just as much as I did. Read the intro to the story and watch the video on the birth stories page of Indie Birth.

childbirth education, podcasts
Click here for more information!
Maryn Leister is the founder of Indie Birth Association, dedicated to serving mothers and babies and supporting empowering birth experiences.  She is a Pastoral Medical Provider and author of Taking Back Birth, podcasts. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Birth In Crisis

Why is this statement so profound, so true? 

Does birth really matter? 

Does it have a lasting effect on a mother? 

Even on their relationship? 

Yes, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes.

PTSD is a relatively new diagnosis; criteria for diagnosis include death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, actually or threatened sexual assault. Birth trauma occurs when the event can be defined as sudden, dangerous, or overwhelming; frequently birth can become all of these things. This trauma affects her day to day life, including but not limited to how she feels about herself, bonding with her baby, arousal and reactive behavior and her interactions with others, including baby. One mother has said,
The first 5 months of my baby’s life (before I got help) are virtually blank. I dutifully nursed him every 2-3 hours on demand, but I rarely made eye contact with him and dumped him in his crib as soon as I was done. I thought that if it were not for breastfeeding, I could go the whole day without interacting with him at all.
 Some offsetting factors for birth trauma include but are not limited to, perceived level of care and the amount of power and control one feels.  In our culture it is not uncommon extensive amounts of intervention to be pressed upon women while they labor. One earlier criterion of PTSD is that the event in question must be outside of the normal realm of life events; the routine care implemented and interventions in place to supersede the natural birth process, it may not be an excessive reach to deem birth outside the normal realm of life events.  With all of this in mind, today’s birth looks far more at risk than empowering.  Care providers are the ones too often taking  control of the birth process, opening up the possibility for traumatic experiences where women report feeling “dehumanized” and “disrespected” as well as sexually assaulted in some cases.

Sexual trauma in birth is usually perceived as rape. There are cases reported in which women have declined a vaginal exam, or internal fetal monitor and were not respected; an exam was forced leaving a woman feeling not only sexually violated but powerless over her situation. Another form of birth rape happens when health care providers perform rough and painful vaginal exams, often for the purpose of stripping a woman’s membranes, stretching her cervix or even breaking her waters, most all without consent.  Women who felt sexually traumatized during birth often elicit hypervigilance and report difficulty in arousal within their relationships.  At a time when women are most vulnerable, they are being taken advantage of and the effects are lasting.

Doulas provide continuous, compassionate care for women and can aid in giving a woman her voice in the birthing room, empowering her in her birth resulting in a safer and more satisfying birth experience. A midwifery model of care is usually less medically oriented with a health care provider “walking beside” a woman rather than in front of her. With both of these birth options, families have a better understanding birth and are included in the choices being made. Currently, in the United States, midwives are attending a mere 8% of births and doulas only 3% of births, 45.5% of women are reporting a traumatic birth. 9% of those mothers in the United States meet the diagnosis for PTSD and 18% score above the cutoff for PTS according to Listening to Mothers II.  

Why such a high rate in trauma? It is interesting to note that the United States has the highest maternal health care costs in the world and ranks 40th in maternal mortality. When compared to the United Kingdom, where a midwife model of care is practiced and birth is more commonly happing in the home, PTSD is cited in 1.2% of births and 9% of mothers consider their birth traumatic. Is birth itself traumatic? It can be; things happen that are outside of our control, sometimes disastrous things. In these circumstances a mother’s perceived level of care and amount of power or control she has will play into her perception of the experience. Doula support of the midwifery model of care, implying a woman being cared for by someone she trusts, whom she has built a relationship with, being nurtured and treated with dignity and respect can lesson her risk for a traumatic birth. A doula brings an exceptional role of balance to help prevent birth trauma by helping a woman to understand what choices she has, find information to make decisions and be empowered in her birth experience no matter what arises. A doula provides a safety net of sorts to soften the medical model of care we have grown accustomed to in the United States. Currently, women are saying
I had little control over the course of my labor since my water broke before it began. The worse thing is that I feel that the induction and subsequent drugs and cesarean were a greater risk to the health of my baby than the risk of infection from a broken amniotic sac.  I think they use Pitocin to hurry up your labor so the doctor/staff can get done.
Both of these statements reflect of lack of perceived care and control over one’s situation.

By allowing a woman power over a situation and continuous, more compassionate care, preferably with less unnecessary medical interventions, we could lessen birth trauma. Would crises still arise on occasion? Yes. But they could be handled while maintaining a woman’s autonomy.

Contact info

Jennifer Valencia | Labor & Postpartum Doula | 928.300.1337


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