Phoenix’s Birth Story- part two

So last I left you Kris and I had just found out we were pregnant (me more so than him) and I was trying to pick my jaw up off of the floor…and remain somewhat composed.  The next few months went by in a blur- we began telling our family and of course everyone was so excited for us (I think my mom was a little alarmed and counting the days from our wedding to our due date…but she came around and got excited too). I however, decided to take the healthiest approach and went into complete denial. That’s right…I just pretended I wasn’t. I Didn’t tell anyone at my job, didn’t announce it on facebook. I still went on my monthly doctor appointments, but that was about it. It was relatively easy since I wasn’t showing. At all. Seriously, if anyone noticed anything they might have just thought I ate a large lunch. After living in our hole one month too long we decided to move out at the end of December, we knew we were moving out ASAP anyway, but the baby gave us even more of an incentive to get the H out of there. Being two minutes away from my job just didn’t make up for the fact that we hated it. We originally started looking at rental houses, but good sense took over and we decided to get an apartment instead…this time we did a bit more research, decided to get one we both loved (we didn’t rush into it this time), and moved a little further outside of town closer to my parents. I knew we would be grateful for them being 15 minutes away once the baby got here. It was a longer commute, but would ultimately be worth it.

So I stayed in denial until mid-February, I was about four months (still not showing) and I finally decided to slowly come out of my denial and thought it might help if Kris and I took a birthing class. My mom had been suggesting The Bradley Method since that is what she used to have me completely naturally and drug-free… I had spent the better part of December and January ignoring her helpful advice, but I knew my fifth month was approaching and I would surely start showing then right? I figured it was probably time…and the little hippie Jenn that sits on my shoulder really liked the sound of a natural birth. ooo maybe even a water birth would be cool. I didn’t know much at this point, but I was finally to a point where I was ready to pull my head out of the sand and start coming up with a game plan. To be clear- I never planned to become a hard-core natural and home birth advocate… but that’s exactly what was about to happen.

Once we started our Bradley class the reading began…the more I read the more educated about birth I became and the less scary the whole thing sounded. I started getting really passionate about natural birth and I realized that finding a health care practitioner who was just as passionate about natural birth as I am was crucial. I didn’t want to have to fight off unsupportive doctors and nurses. My mom’s experience of giving birth to me in the hospital was a shining example of what I didn’t want. My dad had to fight off nurses the entire time, her doctor wasn’t there and the on call doctor was so rude- very skeptical that she would be able to pull off a natural birth and even made several snide remarks. She pulled it off, but it was a battle of epic proportions (think Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader). Isn’t labor hard enough without having to fight the people who are supposed to be helping you? I did not want to have to deal with that.

I had also heard stories of women going to the hospital with requests of a natural childbirth, even found a doctor who had seemed supportive of the idea at their appointments, but when their body didn’t meet the standards of dilating 1cm per hour (which I honestly believe is an unrealistic standard, especially for a first time mom) the doctor who had once been in support of a natural childbirth would rush things along with Pitocin or demand an emergency c-section. I found out that if I were to go to a hospital there was 1 in 3 chance I would have a c-section…some hospitals in Houston upped this to a 50% chance. The World Health Organization says that the best outcomes for women and babies occur with c-section rates of 5% to 10%. Rates above 15% seem to do more harm than good. 30-50%… yeesh!

Now I understand that there are some legitimate reasons to get c-sections and I’m very thankful that the procedure exists for those that need it, but unfortunately I think the procedure is being over-used for doctor’s convenience. I was also extremely concerned with the induction rates out there…a lot of doctors have now made it their routine to induce women on their due date or shortly after…well what does a due date even mean really? It’s only a guess…it’s like saying that all children will weigh 40 pounds exactly on their fifth birthday. Some will. Some won’t. All children are different and babies are no exception. 40 weeks of gestation time is an average- some babies will come earlier and some will come later…and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, there are a few risks associated with going overdue, but with careful daily observation after going overdue a doctor would easily be able to detect if something was wrong. I think induction is kind of like throwing your kid in the deep end of the pool before they are ready…wouldn’t you rather wait until they are ready and willing to jump in on their own? I understand it’s hard to wait…even harder when your doctor is recommending it. I get it. But for me, the thought of being cohersed into an early induction was something I didn’t want. There were a lot of things I didn’t want. There were a lot of things I did want and figuring out exactly what I wanted in my birth was extremely important to me.

After looking into doctors that were pro-natural I was still worried about the rituals and routines at hospitals that I didn’t agree with…as well as there being a “time-clock” set on my birth. Most hospitals have taken it upon themselves to deem childbirth a twelve-hour affair…any longer and they are ready to slice and dice…yikes! It only seemed fitting to start looking for a midwife who had the potential of taking us out of the hospital scene all together. Now I feel like midwives have gotten a bad rap and I’m not sure why. When I started telling my mom I was looking at interviewing some midwives I’m pretty sure she was picturing some earth momma from bible times who watched women give birth while singing kumbaya and shaking a rain stick…it took awhile to convince her (and other people) that this wasn’t the case.

The first midwife we went to go visit was at Bay Area birthing center. I originally thought the idea of a birthing center sounded safer than a home birth, I (wrongly) assumed that they had additional equipment and could deal with more emergency situations. And while we really liked this birthing center as well as the head midwife we felt that their hospital transfer rate was a little too high. My thinking was that if we were going to do this we wanted to get exactly what we wanted, a peaceful water birth in a home-like atmosphere. It wasn’t until we met with Pat Jones that we realized home birth was the right decision for us. Pat was extremely qualified- having years of nursing and midwifery experience and attending over 1,700 births…I knew I would be in good hands. She also had extremely low c-section, induction, and hospital transfer rates. We also found out that she actually brings all of the equipment that a birthing center housed right to our apartment, so it was really no different than a birthing center other than the fact that we wouldn’t have to go anywhere- she not only would come to us for the birth, but also for all of our pre-natal appointments. No waiting ridiculously long hours in a doctor’s office (which I had already done for the first half of my pregnancy), score!

We loved Pat, our pre-natal appointments usually lasted well over an hour and truly gave us a chance to get to know each other. I feel that hiring Pat was like gaining a family member. She truly cared about us and concentrated on things in our appointments that none of the OB/GYNs I visited ever cared about. She wanted me to have the best possible nutrition which can prevent a lot of pregnancy health problems (preeclampsia and toxemia to name a few) and made me start really watching my weight gain (I gained 48 pounds too so who knows where I would have been without her!). She provided me with book after book to read and I soaked them up like a sponge…I wanted to learn everything I could…and reading positive birth stories helped too. I steered clear of those dramatic and scary birth stories, because after reading all of my childbirth books I knew what could really go wrong and how rare those situations actually were.

Choosing Pat as our healthcare provider did however come with strings. Unfortunately, most people believe that home birth is unsafe and we were constantly bombarded with questions like “why wouldn’t you want to be in a hospital?” and “what if something goes wrong?” These were valid questions and I had already answered them for myself, but I was now in a position to defend our decision to anybody and everybody. There were two main statistics that helped build my case 1) home birth has lower infant and maternal mortality rates than hospitals  and 2) the US has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate of all the industrialized countries…you know who has the lowest? Countries that use midwives as their primary birth care and only utilize OB/GYNs in high-risk pregnancies and emergency situations. Several people told me that I needed to find the best possible OB/GYN out there…well the truth is that OB/GYNs are trained surgeons. For a natural, normal birth, it’s kind of like hiring a brain surgeon to take care of your mild headache. It hurts yes, but if you wait long enough it will go away. OB/GYNs are trained and experienced in handling emergency situations…so while they have the best intentions they just might turn your normal childbirth into an emergency medical situation because that is what they are most comfortable dealing with.

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone should have a homebirth. A good home birth candidate is having a normal and healthy pregnancy (which could easily account for the great home birth statistics that were mentioned above)- midwives aren’t seeing the high-risk patients. But I could also make the argument that because of their emphasis on nutrition they are able to prevent most of their patients from becoming high risk. A planned, home birth is in fact safe…and it’s definitely not for the lazy pregnant women. First of all, the research I did to come to the conclusion that I wanted a home birth was time consuming in itself, but once the decision was made we did additional research, attended classes with our midwife, make an emergency transport plan (which included choosing a hospital as well as a backup hospital, finding out where the closest ambulance came from, and making sure all of our options would take our insurance should we need to go there), and even had to prep our apartment for a birth (I’ll get into that later). If we were more than thirty minutes away from a hospital, we probably woulndn’t have opted for a home birth, but since we live in Houston and the closest hospital is about two minutes away I felt extremely comfortable knowing that in the case of an emergency situation (which is in itself is extremely rare) we could be at the hospital in about 5 minutes. Needless to say we did our homework.

For some reason birth has become a scary event in our country…whether it’s all of the unnecessary “emergency” c-sections doctors perform or the sensationalism of birth on TV… it’s not a good thing. Birth doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t have to be an emergency. I had never been admitted to a hospital in my entire life and being pregnant is not a sickness…so I didn’t see why I needed to change my track record. I was hell bent on staying out of the hospital.

In one of our childbirth classes with Pat, she went around the room and asked all of us what our biggest fear was- several people said that they were afraid that something would go wrong, I said I’m afraid of going to the hospital. I was serious. I did NOT want to go there. I think I was most scared of giving up control. Being at home with Pat and with Kris I would be in charge- getting into comfortable positions, not being tied to an EFM (only a few minutes each hour), and my dogs would be there (sounds silly, but they really are like my kids with fur). I had a birth vision in mind and I wanted everything to go a certain way…

once again to be continued…

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DIYing some not so “cliche” baby artwork

Having a baby around changes everything…instead of having my apartment clean and impeccable 95% of the time there is now a baby swing that lives in my kitchen, a vibrating baby chair in my bathroom, Ergo babies and Maya wraps strewn about, not to mention all of the burb cloths, baby wipes, and baby blankets  that seem to float around from room to room. I was so determined before having a baby that I didn’t want his “stuff” to take over our house…and while I really do try to keep it to a minimum there are just certain things that make life easier and end up being worth the eye sore. So when it came time to do the classic baby footprint artwork, I thought there had to be a way to make it cool and modern and not so…baby. No offense to all you babies.

So here is what I ended up with. An abstracted painting where you barely notice the baby footprint, but it’s still there to preserve the memory and be adorable. So a couple months back before Phoenix got here I bought two of these 16×20 canvases at the Hobs (Hobby Lobby) they were on sale $7  for both of them (um. score!). I wanted to get the artwork portion done before the little guy got here to simplify things. So to create my abstract artwork I just picked out some colors that I love (I originally thought these might go in our bedroom so I wanted something that was masculine enough for Kris to handle), I found a couple of inspiration pictures online and just went to town. I think the important part of creating abstract art is to layer, there have been several times when I have started a piece, worked on it for awhile and stopped…only to realize a few days later that the reason it didn’t look quite right was because it wasn’t “done” and just needed several more layers. More layers equals more texture which equals more interest. So after finishing my two canvases (that I wanted to go together, but not be identical), I had these guys to work with.

All done and ready for cute little baby footprints. I used Ceramcoat in Sea Foam for the footprint. I did a bit of research before using this, checking their website to make sure that it was non-toxic and water based. Most acrylic paints are but you can never be too careful when it comes to a baby.

We used a make-up sponge to apply the paint, Kris dabbed a light layer onto Phoenix’s foot- if it’s too globby you won’t get good definition. The make-up sponge worked really well to get just the right amount of paint on his foot. We made sure to get every last adorable little toe too!

Then we gently pressed his foot into the corner of my painting. Phoenix didn’t seem to mind the paint or the foot pressing action.

We were left with the cutest little footprint! We thought we would do his hand too and kind of overlap the two, but Phoenix wasn’t having it. He’s a fist clencher  and he was not interested in un-fisting his hands for us… he is quite strangely strong. I think that boy has some superhero in him or something. I like it better with just the footprint anyway, much simpler.

And there you have it…baby artwork that isn’t going to make your living room look like a nursery. I originally thought Kris and I would hang these in our bedroom one on each side, but the scale is all wrong and they are way too small.

So I put this little vignette together for photos, but we will find a permanent place eventually. Don’t you love my little owl? He makes me smile.

Has anyone else been cooking up any baby artwork? How do you keep your house looking like it hasn’t been overrun by a baby? Any ideas for those monstrous swings?

Phoenix’s Photos: Newborn

Jenn and I were on the fence when it came to the decision of wether or not to get newborn pictures of Phoenix taken.  If you’ve read Phoenix’s birth story part one then you already know where Jenn stood on the froo froo baby stuff.  But after Phoenix got here and we realized that he was going to be the next Derek Zoolander, we thought that we would be doing the world an injustice by not getting super cute baby pictures taken (blue steel anyone??).  So with a recommendation from a friend we found Kristin Ratterree of K-Rae Images and when we contacted her we found that she was just out of college starting her own business in Katy (fyi she is now located in Dallas).  If you don’t know your Houston metroplex map well, Clear Lake (where we live) is about an hour from Katy, not the easiest drive with a baby boy who hates his car seat (seriously you would think we strapped him in with tarantulas). We were a little hesitant to say  the least to load Phoenix up in the car to make the drive.  Jenn fed him really well to get him to go to sleep before we left so needless to say we were late…par for the course for Jenn, but at least now she has an excuse.We did however manage to get there with minimal crying *sighs of relief*.

During the photo shoot Jenn and I weren’t really needed because Kristin was so good with the little guy. She did have a heck of a time getting Phoenix to go to sleep (oh that’s right we have one of those babies that doesn’t sleep. ever.). But once she did we couldn’t get over how cute he looked just lying there. She had all kinds of props from animal crocheted hats (who told her Jenn loves animals?) to a football for him to hold. In the end we are so happy we got these photos of him and we hope you enjoy them.

Phoenix’s Birth Story- part one.

On our honeymoon…blissfully unaware.

It was in November of 2011 that I found out I was pregnant. Topher and I had been married all of 5 minutes (real time= 4 weeks). I was working at an interior design firm at the time in River Oaks and Kris and I had hastily decided that we wanted to live in that area, a mere 2 minutes away from my work. We found the apartment the week before our wedding…seriously we went to go look at the place on Thursday afternoon and sent the deposit Thursday evening. I will forever blame this hasty decision on wedding brain. Wedding brain= crazy/stupid decisions made while your brain is clearly only able to focus on planning your dream wedding. Word to the wise…don’t make big life altering decisions the week before your wedding. Maybe not even the month before. Just don’t.

Kris had just moved to Houston a few weeks before and had just secured a job that he would be starting the Monday we returned from our honeymoon. What can I say… we were eager to get our lives/loose ends tied up and the thought of coming back to my parent’s house after our honeymoon was less than appealing. All this to say that when we found out we were pregnant we were living in a hole. It was a good deal in a nice area…but a hole nevertheless.

I don’t know what happened on that day we went to go look at this apartment…maybe the sun was shining just right to make everything look sparkly, maybe aliens invaded our brains, or maybe we were so blinded by the wedding that was a mere three days away that we just dove in without a second thought.

We had been living there about two weeks when I awoke in the middle of the night with a sharp abdominal pain unlike anything I had ever felt. To this day I’m still not sure what that pain was but I remember the first thought I had when I experienced it “am I pregnant?” I told Kris immediately and he promised that we would go get a pregnancy test first thing in the morning…except that we didn’t. Like most things in life we put it off and we were left to wonder all day… That evening we got home and after a quick glance at our bank account realized we wouldn’t be getting a pregnancy test that evening either. Pregnancy tests are esspensive ya’ll and we knew all of our bills were about to hit so we told each other that this weekend we would definitely go get one…or two…or five.

The next day we went to the hospital…and no we aren’t hasty we were actually visiting my cousin Matt and his wife Jenn (I know right, how dare she?) and their new baby Nolan. Trust me, the irony was not lost on us. Here we are on the edge of our seat wondering if we’re pregnant and we’re visiting this adorable little baby, not to mention all the other adorable babies we spied at in the nursery…except that most of those random babies weren’t so cute. Let’s be honest most newborns look like alien spawn. Except for Matt and Jenn’s…and ours…and yours (of course your baby is adorable). So here we were at the hospital and about 50% of our family are making comments like “you guys are next” and “Nolan needs a playmate!” Oh if they had only known. Kris and I were shaking in our boots. So that weekend Kris and I went to Randall’s and got a pregnancy test. We picked up a two-pack and in case you didn’t know pregnancy tests are only sold in two packs. You have to make super sure right? So we get home and I pee on the stick (TMI- my apologies) and I didn’t know there was more than one way to pee on a stick but somehow the first go round I manage to do it wrong and the lines are too faint to really make much of them. So now we’re down to one test and I immediately send Kris out to get another two-pack. I mean they must sell two-packs for a reason right? It’s not just some consumer ploy to sell more pregnancy tests…um….

So 15 minutes and 40 buckeroos later (can’t exactly buy the great value brand of pregnancy test, this is not the place to scrimp people!) Kris gets back with another two-pack. Let’s keep in mind that this is my pre-prego bladder…and it’s pretty fantastic, it’s been keeping me out of public restrooms (90% of the time) for 24 years. So of course I don’t have to pee…the suspense was definitely building.

We decide to take our pups for a walk and I down two water bottles in the process. We get back and and I’m good to go. First pregnancy test down. We wait the excruciatingly long two minutes until the results show. I don’t think two minutes have ever lasted so long. Time seriously stretched into eternity…

We finally managed to flip over the test and stare. There it was. Now I don’t really recall and I haven’t taken enough pregnancy tests to be an expert so I don’t remember if it was two lines…or a smiley face…or a stork playing a trumpet…but whatever symbol means “pregnancy” was showing up crystal clear.

This was it. My plans were suddenly out the window and life was setting in. and hard. BUT this was only the first test…we still had another box to get through.

More water bottles.

More dog walking.

More stork trumpeteers.

We were convinced. Kris was so excited. He was grinning from ear to ear and asking who we wanted to call first. Now here’s a little background. Kris loves babies. And children. Way back when we first started dating he told me that one of his big hesitations about me was that I never wanted to have children…something I used to say in college. I mean let’s be honest- I’m a selfish gal. I grew up as the only girl in a family with two children. My brother and I were pretty spoiled and had wonderfully amazing parents who worked their tooshies off to get us everything we wanted and they thought we deserved…spoiler alert- I probably most definitely didn’t deserve it. So somewhere in high school I decided that I never wanted children so I could be a high powered career woman (truth is I actually still picture that for myself…the only difference now is that instead of heading off to work everyday I have made it possible for me to work at home). In college I had visions of being the next Kelly Wearstler… and while she is pretty much perfection in everything that she does and managed to have two children while designing the most mouth-watering spaces I have ever seen I just omitted that piece of the equation when envisioning my future.

So here I was in college spouting off these grandiose statements about never wanting children and probably sounding like the witch from Hansel and Gretel. Little did I know I was telling this all to the man I would one day marry. After Kris and I had been dating for about a month he told me about a dream he had where him and I were both in bed on a Saturday morning and all of a sudden this little boy ran in who had dark brown hair and startling green eyes and jumped on top of us. I stared at Kris and acted like I was totally freaked out that he told me this…secretly my heart was soaring because this was the first time I wasn’t completely disgusted at the thought of having children…maybe I had just needed to find the right person to have them with. I tucked this day away in my brain as one of my favorites. It was just one of the sweetest things a boy had ever said to me. So slowly but surely I was warming up to the idea of having kids (as long as they were Kris’ of course) and I started telling myself that by the time I’m 30 I’ll totally be ready.

Well. Here we were in our little hole of an apartment…in an even more holier (we’re not talking Jesus folks) of a bathroom. We’ve got three count ‘em three affirmative pregnancy tests and I’m nowhere near 30. I’m just barely almost halfway there. Did that make sense? No? ok. I was twenty-four. Twenty-four a half really (that’s right I just kindergardened my age for you). Terrified can only begin to really describe how I felt in that moment…

…to be continued.