5 ways my C-section was like your natural birth

5 ways my c-section was like your natural birthMany mamas-to-be have a birth plan in hand and a distinct vision for how her labor and delivery should look. As well-intentioned as our plans, philosophies and approaches to motherhood may be, they often divide us, as mothers and women.

When it comes to birth, epidural mamas think the natural ones are crazy for muscling through. Homebirthers can’t imagine why a scheduled C-section lady would choose medical intervention. All of them have a sweet baby ready to burst forth, and their control over how it grew in them and how it will leave is minimal, at best.

I can feel the shudder of our invested spectators – husbands, grandmas, infertile mamas-in-waiting – exclaiming, “It’s not about you! There’s a child coming.”

It’s true, of course. But that doesn’t take away from the absolutely life-changing experience that ushers a baby earthside. Childbirth is hard and miraculous and beautiful and bloody, and the way we go through it doesn’t change any of that.

I can say that, because I’ve had a water birth without drugs and a highly drugged C-Section. Allow me to share. Heads up: this could get graphic, and not just because it’s about a breach birth! You can read about my first birth, the au natural one, here.

5 Ways my C-section was like your natural birth

  1. My journey was mine. After a difficult third trimester, I finally went into labor one night! And the night after that, and the night after that. Three nights of regular contractions, punctuated by days of a calm, bored uterus. That third and last night, my husband and I finally made it to the birthing center at 2 a.m., where I labored inconsistently and just generally felt like things were off. Six hours later, we got an ultrasound and realized baby was breach. We transferred to the hospital and went from pre- to post-op in an hour. But every step of the way – no matter how unexpected – was ours. I had the choice to embrace the process or fear it, to trust God or delve into doubts and anxiety. I had the choice to celebrate her birth story, with all of its twists and turns.
  2. I was surrounded by caring professionals. My midwife from the birthing center rode in the back of our car for the two-minute drive to the hospital, and she stayed with me through those pesky contractions that weren’t getting my baby any closer to my arms. (The doctor strongly advised that I get a C-section instead of aim for a vaginal birth, because I had labored for so long and only progressed to 3 cm). Then the midwife kissed my belly and said, “You get to meet your parents soon, sweet girl,” as I was rolled into the operating room. The nurses and the anesthesiologist were so caring and gentle that I kind of want to buy them a car or a vacation or a steak or something, every time I think of them. I actually think back on my few days at the hospital with the same warm and fuzzies as I do our honeymoon. Must be the oxytocin.
  3. I had instant bonding with the babe. I will admit that the euphoria of pushing a baby out and bringing her to my chest in a birthing tub is quite different from feeling the yanks and tugs of some masked medical professionals, who pull my baby out and hold her above the curtain for me to see briefly. But the few seconds from when the baby was inside me to outside me where traumatic either way. I felt like a victim in the C-section – unable to move, drugged, sterile, vulnerable – and a victor in the natural birth – drained and veiny like a deflated Hulk who can finally rest. But when my baby was finally on my chest, she was home. And at that point, it didn’t matter how she got there, just that she was there!
  4. My body felt like an art project. Yes, pregnancy is beautiful, I’m a work of art and our baby is fearfully knit together and whatnot. But seriously? I got stapled. Tiny little staples kept my stitches shut. And with the natural birth? I got sewn up with what might as well have been yarn and a knitting needle, because that hurt like nobody’s business. The professionals who kept my insides from coming outside were skilled, and I’m so grateful that I’ve healed nicely on all accounts. But, like I said before, birthing of any sort is a bloody business.
  5. I was humbled. My first birth looked exactly like I had hoped. My second, the C-section, was nothing like what I wanted. They were both in God’s hands, and he is sovereign over all. What makes me strong enough to push out a baby unmedicated? To face the unknown with hope? To wake up as a mama at all hours of the night, for weeks/months/years? Nothing that I’ve done on my own.  I am no more blessed with two sweet girls than the mama whose baby couldn’t make it past 12 weeks or the parents who sprinkled kisses on their stillborn child. For all the joy in the world, there is sure a lot of sorrow. Maybe being a mom has made me more aware of both sides to that coin; maybe that’s just a lesson life teaches, without discrimination. But God’s goodness is true and real and reaches a lonely woman’s tears as well as a gleeful baby’s giggles.

I so wish that we mamas could look past our differences to see our similarities: the miraculous little poop-machines sucking us dry and giving us life, simultaneously. And I wish that as women, we could learn to sit in the hard times together: the unexpected surgeries, miscarriages, unfulfilled desires and unmet expectations. I really hate pain, physical or emotional, my own or someone else’s. My first instinct is always to hide, isolate and wish the pain away. But my births have shown me a glimpse at the rewards of hunkering down, steadfast and out of love, and facing the ups and downs that time brings, together. We gain life.

Your turn. Input, please?

Well, I’ve been writing my second girl’s birth story for a few weeks. I get a few sentences in and then the emotion and memories sweep me away, and I can’t write any more. I’m not sure if my musings are more suited for my personal journal, scribbles and tear drops and cuss words and all. I’m stuck.

So, in the spirit of my last post, I’m just going to be vulnerable. I feel like blogs have shifted a lot since Google Reader went kaput. And the noise I mentioned before leaves me clicking between my social media sites because I only care about people I know, or I read headlines and little more, or I search for very specific recipes.

If you’re reading this blog, can you let me know what you’d like to read about? What would encourage, challenge, benefit or entertain you? What doesn’t add to the noise, but cuts through it to bring something of value?

I’ve gone from an awkward DTR to a full-out existential crisis. At least we’re progressing.

But I really value every person who reads the words I post, comments or asks questions, or shares something I’ve written. I don’t want to take that lightly. So please, share. Seriously, please. I’m going to have another crisis if my mom is the only one who comments.

I’m back for a DTR

Oops, looks like it’s been more than a year since I blogged. In my defense, I had morning sickness, then pregnancy exhaustion, then a newborn and C-section recovery, and then I had too much fun cooing at my baby and dancing around with my toddler. And I’m just tired.

Also, I got tired of all the noise on the Internet: Self-promotion by writers, tweets carefully constructed to increase views, headlines that I hate but I have to click. I don’t want to add to that.

But I miss writing, and I miss blogging. The conundrum. I despise the triviality and self-indulgence of social media and blogs, but rising above it is too much pressure, and frankly, it’s just not going to happen. I mean, I have to Instagram my toddler’s quotes and a few selfies here and there.

So what to do? Maybe I should harken back to ye days of olde and xanga. You know, basically journal online, for the world to see and for me to deeply regret years later. Or just shut this blog down and creep around other blogs, commenting “anonymous” like a guy in a black hoodie and unmarked van.

Or I could just write whatever I feel, whenever I feel like it. Ah, this is so meta; I should just go put another glass of Tempranillo on my tab, close this tab and forget it ever happened.

But whatever. This is me. The naturally confused mom. Drinking wine in a quaint coffee shop, on a rare afternoon of “alone time,” wearing crunchy past-their-prime nursing pads, trying to figure out what to do with her life. Or at least her blog.

Fabulous. I’m making a DTR with myself so awkward, publicly.

Glad to be back.

CrossFit: a Secular Church?

The first Christmas after my daughter was born, I got a two-year membership to 24 Hour Fitness as a gift. Included in the membership was one personal training session.

My trainer bristled with annoyance at my “fad diet” when I told him we were going Paleo for three months. Then he showed me to the elliptical machine and told me that he lost weight by drinking sugar-free Kool-Aid all day and ordering off of the light menu at Taco Bell.

Obviously, our philosophies weren’t in line. But I was still able to get some cardio, weights and an occasional spin class in at the gym. No hard feelings. But staying motivated and committed to working out while staying home with a toddler has been hard.

That might be because I haven’t tried CrossFit.

I think CrossFit is like secular church. It offers more than weight loss or fitness. It speaks to our innate desires for community, purpose and transformation.

Community:  When you workout regularly with the same group of people, you form a bond. It’s like how adrenaline helps you connect with people, so misguided young suitors take their first dates skydiving. Sweating, groaning and rolling on lacrosse balls multiple times a week offers plenty of opportunity for vulnerability and sharing life beyond the workout. When people notice that you weren’t at the 5 a.m. WOD*, you feel known, missed and loved. Then people start hanging out together, outside of the gym and without their crazy colored socks and workout clothes. And real relationships, complete with vulnerability, accountability and acceptance come into play.

*When my husband told me they pronounce “WOD” like “wad,” I cringed. A highly unfavorable word, right up there with “panties.”

Purpose:  Beyond the after-workout NorCal Margaritas or themed parties catered by Paleo food trucks, there’s a more personal reason CrossFit is like church. It provides discipline that meets tangible goals, something to be passionate about and to tell others about. Regular classes, white boards recording personal bests and very specific warm-ups and workouts provide CrossFit-ers with a way to measure their progress and work toward gains. If I could go from lifting my puny 10-pound hand weights to hang cleaning a bar with a bunch of weights piled on, I would totally feel successful and purposeful. And if you really buy into the CrossFit philosophy, you’re getting back to Grok, the best version of you. (Maybe Grok is this subculture’s savior. Hmmm … something for another post.)

Which brings us to the real clincher.

Transformation:  Who hasn’t seen those bathroom selfies of CrossFit masters who have crazy muscles and perfect Instagram-filter-induced tans? We have a deep desire for our bodies to be new. We want to go from decay to life. Strength and vitality helps us forget that we all die anyway. And who doesn’t want to look good in some spandex shorts or a form fitting T?

I have no doubt that CrossFit provides a version of community, purpose and transformation. And I’m sure that people feel alive, healthy and better than ever when they’re regularly doing CrossFit. Which means the other side of life-giving fun and health is there too.

Legalism: I imagine there’s guilt for the CrossFit-er who hasn’t made it to a workout in a few weeks. Or shame for the poor sap who can’t do a chin-up to save his life. Or superficial hope for everyone, that if they just show up, just do it, do it, do it, they’ll get better, be fitter, look hotter, be stronger. Add to that the temptation to cut out all grains and dairy, to become a Paleo warrior, and suddenly a Friday-night beer threatens your identity and security in who you are.

I should include my disclaimers at this point:

  • I haven’t gone to a CrossFit gym or done a workout, although my husband regularly does. I’ve just read about it a lot.
  • I believe our only true hope and salvation can’t be found in anything we do (including CrossFit); that comes only from Jesus.
  • That being said, don’t get your panties in a wad. I would totally try CrossFit. Maybe when my gym membership expires.

I think this CrossFit thing is going to be around a lot longer than Jazzercise from the ’80s, big-box gym memberships from the ’90s or boot camps from five years ago. Now I’d love to hear from people who are actually part of the culture. Do you agree that CrossFit can be like a secular church?

A review: The Mother’hood in Denver

I wanted to review The Mother’hood nearly 9 months ago. I sat down with the co-owners, who were generous enough to share their time and buy me a cup of tea, and I talked to them about their vision for the business. But I haven’t shared it. Yet.

Now, it’s the right time to write this blog.

With a baby — well, toddler now — who regularly falls asleep and stays asleep for the night, I’ve rounded a corner and recognize the landmarks of Normal Land. Until now, the hours were marked by diapers and feedings, or naps and nap failures, or benchmarks and babbles. But if hindsight is measured in moments shared with a baby who once didn’t exist and now breathes and moves and resembles me, I see more clearly. I see that precious first year with my baby as an almost magical time. Something that The Mother’hood nurtures.

Amanda Ogden, The Mother’hood Co-founder and Director of Lactation Services, was one of few people who gave me hope and, even more importantly, made me feel like I was doing something right during the first few weeks of my daughter’s life.

She says things like, “Look at your beautiful milk supply!” and, “This gorgeous baby is so juicy, it’s no wonder, with all this beautiful milk!”

For a new mama who sees leaky nipples and stretch marks when she looks in the mirror and a fussy baby who could be riddled with unknown deprivation or some other seriously scary issue, this is like a breath of fresh air. And to a new mama who also suffers from postpartum depression, this is a breath of air that will get her through the next day.

I used to go to Amanda’s breastfeeding support groups, even if I didn’t have any breastfeeding problems. Did you know that breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is also released during orgasms? That’s why babies fall asleep after they nurse and a group of nursing mamas leaves relaxed and satisifed!

Amanda regularly dispenses knowledge that not only encouraged me to enjoy and protect the nursing phase of my baby, it also equipped me to feel like a capable mama who could make good decisions for the health of my daughter. For example:

  • Newborns use their arms like a gas gauge. When they’re hungry, their fists are tight and their arms are up by their ears. As they fill up on breast milk, their arms relax and float back down to their sides.
  • Babies who go to daycare pick up new germs that are foreign to their bodies. So, when mamas pick them up from daycare, they should kiss their face and especially their hands — absorbing all of the germs they can — so their body can produce the antibodies that will fight off the baby’s germs through breast milk.
  • Spitup isn’t bad. The same rich nutrients and antibodies that coat the babies throat with breast milk going in, can also coat it going out. As long as baby isn’t in pain, spitup isn’t something to stress about.

I’ve also attended the sleeping class at The Mother’Hood. Aside from the new ideas to help my baby nap and sleep better at night, I connected with other moms, whose woes included restless babies who didn’t find sleeping as important as we did. One mom of twins fed one baby with a bottle while nursing the other, while telling the group that she slept only a few hours every day, and smiling all the while. I wanted to give her a medal and a bottle of wine. Instead, I considered myself lucky to share this stage of life with these strong, loving women.

In addition to breast feeding and sleeping classes, The Mother’hood offers yoga, homeopathic classes, birthing classes, baby-wearing class, and much more. The Mother’hood normalizes pregnancy, birth and parenting by providing support and encouragement each step of the way. God bless ‘em.

I highly recommend this business to any mama or daddy of a baby. I definitely plan to go back, with baby #2. … Just not yet. While I’m still enjoying Normal Land, I plan to soak up all of the hindsight and extra Zzzzzs I can.

Baby Birthday: Coconut Flour Carrot Cake

One-year-old birthdays can be tricky. Besides the emotions of our babies growing up or the unspoken deadline of when our baby weight should be shed, we have the real spotlight of the occasion to worry about:  the cake.

I mean, the baby is cute and all, but people really come to watch her stuff food in her mouth and then get a piece for themselves. AND if you’re natural or naturally confused, like me, that presents a problem. Here are the things babies shouldn’t eat:

So, I found the perfect recipe here and modified it. No granulated sugar, no flour, yes extra vegetables and yes deliciousness. If you’re Paleo, just find a coconut cream frosting and this gem will meet the no grains/no dairy requirements.

Makes 24 cupcakes plus a small cake (corningware cup, diameter 5 inches)

Ingredients

  • 5 whole raw carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cup maple syrup, Grade A
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted

Frosting

  • 1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, Grade A
  • 24 oz full-fat cream cheese

Process

  1. In a food processor, shred carrots, and put them in a large ziplock bag.
  2. Pour maple syrup over carrots and let marinate in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, add sifted coconut flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.
  5. In a food processor, blend raisins and 1 tablespoon maple syrup.
  6. In a large mixing bowl or kitchen mixer, blend eggs, vanilla, melted coconut oil and raisin mixture.
  7. Add dry ingredients to wet and blend.
  8. Stir carrot mixture into cake batter.
  9. Fill up cupcake tins 3/4 of the way with the batter.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes.
  11. Test center with a tooth pick—if the tooth pick comes out clean, then the cakes are done.
  12. Remove from oven and cool.
  13. Combine frosting ingredients (works best if cream cheese is room temperature).
  14. Frost cake with cream cheese frosting and serve.

 

Parenthood is hard

growing upI’m having a real problem with parenthood.

Not the show; that thing is the perfect combination of witty banter, human depravity, graceful aging and stumbling love. I seriously love it.

No, I have a problem with real-life parenthood. I just weaned (from the boob) my 14-month-old baby. I spent the previous year+ trying to adjust to a tiny person needing me exclusively; because we demand fed, she nursed whenever either of us thought it was a good idea. As demanding as that was, I’m a little nipstalgic.

Now, my baby doesn’t need me for sustenance. She doesn’t need my lady lumps for comfort. She can sleep without a midnight snack of warm milk. (I don’t know anyone besides nursing babes and old people on TV who drink warm milk. Old people, that’s gross.)

We’ve entered a new phase in our relationship. I see interactive play; extended periods apart and counting to 1,2,3 before timeout in our future. I just want to go back to the days when she only slept, cried, pooped and nursed.

Is this parenthood? Releasing control, slowly letting go of being needed and looking at the big picture in exchange for the momentary easy fix? That’s so freakin’ hard.

That’s what she said. And by she, I mean me. Because as we say goodbye to breastfeeding and all it entails, I suddenly feel very vulnerable as a mama.

My baby will someday feel stupid about an unacknowledged valentine or an unrequited crush. She’ll feel ugly or fat because no matter how many times her daddy says she’s beautiful, she’ll need approval from her friends to feel worthy. Cancer will hit: me, her, someone we love. Sickness, suffering, death are realities. And I can’t protect her from any of it.

This sucks. So hard.

That’s what … Jesus promised. (Ha! Caught you off-guard with Jesus, didn’t I? Boom.)

He said the world is fallen, broken, hurting. We can’t escape the pain. But God is good and in control, in the midst.

That means He loves my baby even more than I do. He can comfort her better, provide for her and teach her His ways. He might allow some jack-ass into her life, wearing a muscle shirt and CK1 to swoop her off her feet and then drop her like she’s hot (she will be hot; it runs in the family), but only to pick her up Himself and show her that His love is the all-consuming and ever-lasting type.

That reminds me. I had a crush in Kindergarten — KIND-ER-FREAKING-GARDEN — who wore a muscle shirt and thought he was hot stuff. And my first kiss was in preschool by an over-zealous boy in corduroys. God loved me through that drama and will love my baby as well when her own version happens.

Because God is more good than we are careful.

But we still need to teach her to be wary of these kinds of jokers and to save kissing for marriage. JK. Or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figuring out motherhood (it’s cool, baby)

it's cool babyMy baby is 13 months old. I have a great first birthday cake recipe for those of us weirdos who avoid gluten and artificial colors. But that will come soon.

Now, it’s time to reminisce. When she was born, I had a mountaintop experience. I became a mother, but I had (have) a whole journey to become a mama. This beautiful vernix-coated baby would wreck me, in all the good ways.

I found my identity in attachment parenting. And then I dabbled in crying it out, when I was at the end of my rope. I made only homemade baby food, and disgusted my Instagram followers with tales of sardines for lunch, while secretly dreaming of stuffing her with rice cereal to see if she would sleep through the night.

Shocking, I know.

Someone forgot to tell me (or I opted not to listen) that motherhood is a glorious shit-show. Especially if you’re cloth diapering, but that too is another post. I have followed the temptation to find my worth in doing all of the right things:  if baby girl falls asleep happily, I’m an awesome mom. If she fights nap time, my afternoon is put on hold while I wallow in doubt and self-pity. When did my self-confidence and purpose in life hinge on a squirmy, albeit adorable, tot? When did figuring out parenthood become so hard?

When I missed the bigger picture, that’s when.

The diapers, the solid foods flung every which way, the ever-present sweet potato-infused hairdo — they make the day-to-day tasks seem more important (or urgent) than what is really happening. A little girl is learning who she is, who her parents are, why she is here and who can be trusted. She’s learning that there’s an ever-loving, all-powerful God who cares about a minor fever, or she’s learning that a fever is an indicator of impending doom, and the world is a scary place that needs to be navigated by equal parts control and cowering.

I can’t get too far into my mama control zone before my baby knocks me back into reality. We have this game, where she lifts off my shirt and sticks her finger into my belly button. Then we find her belly button. It’s great fun. Note:  waitresses don’t usually know the game, and they don’t enjoy a baby searching for the button. Not recommended in public.

When she finds my belly button, I exclaim, “Pupusa!” That’s the term I lovingly coined for the baby belly surrounding the belly button. It’s technically a Salvadoran dish like a Latino hot pocket, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself. But when she finds my pudgy little tummy, a reminder of where she came from, I can’t keep my grasp on control and a task-minded approach to mommydom. I’m knocked back down to knowing nothing but my inadequacy and my love for this little nugget.

The pudge isn’t a call to sit-ups. It isn’t a prescription for watching my carbs and doing crunches. My pupusa is a reminder of where my baby came from. If I think back fondly to my apartment during my single season of life, how much more fondly will I think of the little cocoon that grew this wobbly baby in front of me?  It’s a miracle and so are the stinky-diaper, sleepless days.

I’m figuring this out one step at a time. Her daddy and I are ever changed from her entrance into our family. But it doesn’t stop there. We learn daily how to love and care for her with the big picture in mind. Sometimes that means crying in the corner of a coffee shop, pinot noir in one hand while the other cradles my pupusa, thinking of how it got there and what it means.

That’s also not recommended in public, just for the record.

Real Food: Five Tips to Not Be Tricked

tomatoesBuying real food is tricky. It’s like there’s a conspiracy against consumers to make them think they’re eating something they’re not.

Take these tomatoes, for example. I bought them at Sunflower Market before tomatoes were in season. It says on the label that they are “all natural” with “no preservatives.” But right under that, you find out they’re coated in petroleum-based wax to maintain freshness. Not cool.

Sure, it might be “food grade” but it’s hardly natural. Don’t be swindled; your health is not a game.

Consider these five tips to not be tricked when grocery shopping:

1.  Read the labels. Duh. But it’s not so easy when you have a fussy baby and a growling stomach and suddenly Rice-a-Roni sounds like the perfect dinner option. I wouldn’t have bought those tomatoes if I had taken a second to see what the label said.

2.  Remember the agenda. Food conglomerates want to make money. They pour resources into finding what consumers want and then marketing to it, not actually providing it. Or else they tell consumers they want low-fat and sugar-free and then claim to have it — when that isn’t what our bodies really want in the first place.

3.  Buy local. Especially during summer months, local farms and farmer’s markets have so many nutrient-rich foods. Support food that hasn’t been coated in wax so it can survive a trip from Mexico.

4.  Be suspicious of uniformity.  If all apples look perfectly red with no bruises or worm holes, that’s not natural. If all orange juice tastes the exact same, regardless of the season, something is fishy. If the samples lady is trying to hand you a chicken nugget shaped into like a dinosaur, that’s just unappetizing.

5.  Don’t eat it if your grandma didn’t.  If there’s a food product that’s a new invention, it’s not real food. When the food industry finds a way to make something cheaper or more convenient, that’s a bad thing for your health.