The Birth of Ella Eliza Faris - My Birth Experience

Alright folks, more than a year later I am just getting to this post. I hope you enjoy and please note that there are photos, nothing graphic but if you think you will be offended then stop reading now.



It was not the easiest year. My pregnancy was quite tough for nearly 6 months which was hard on everyone. The changes around here were immediate, sharp and stinging for the most part. I could no longer nurse Aida which was hard on both of us. At that point we were only nursing once or twice a day, but it was a huge source of comfort for Aida and took her a long while to adjust. I felt badly and that was only the beginning of the guilty feelings to come. Because I was so sick, I spent many days in bed and away from everyone else. It was tough on me, Aida and Curran. He had to absorb all the responsibilities and Aida basically lost her mom for an extended period. It sucked big time. BUT... I got better and things got easier. The rest of my pregnancy was wonderful and Aida was nothing but excited for the new family member (she named "Bean") to arrive.

All I really have to say about my birth experience was that it was amazing. Truly amazing. I am not a brilliant poet when it comes to writing or verbal expression so I will never be able to put into words how beautiful this experience was for me, but then again it doesn't really matter. I know, my baby knows and so does my husband (to some extent). Other than that, all I can say is trust me, it was perfect.

One extremely important and absolutely priceless decision I  made was to use hypnobirthing during this labour and birth. One of my doula partners taught the hypnobirthing series to us and I could not be more thankful for it. It truly made all the difference in my labour. I had the most calm, peaceful experience and I know it was because of the relaxation techniques I learned and practiced often.

I also had the ultimate support team with me through this experience and I am forever grateful for each of them. I was completely honoured to have BOTH of my doula partners present and their support was immeasurable. I could not have asked for a better team of midwives who supported me in all my hopes and wishes and enabled me to have the home water birth I was looking for.  

This whole pregnancy went by in a flash. Even with feeling like complete garbage for a large part of it, I was full term in what felt like no time. It is amazing how one toddler and a very busy doula schedule allow you time for little else - even time to wrap your brain around having another baby. SO we basically went through the whole pregnancy talking little of it. Aside from taking hypnobirthing and practicing those techniques, we did not prepare much of anything, did not choose names, didn't even talk about a name until a week or two before she was born (after all the baby's name was Bean), none of the basic stuff that parents usually start doing once they see that positive pregnancy test. I did have organized what was most important to me - I had my healthy baby, my supportive husband, a crack team of doulas and my wonderful midwifes. The rest was just details. All I knew was that I wanted to birth my baby at home in water and did not want anything unnecessary.



  
I really wanted to make sure everything was organized for the water birth so when I was a few weeks away from my due date we got the pool ready. Just as a side note to those wishing to have a water birth - make sure you have everything (mostly) set up by your 37th week. If you go into labour any sooner you will need to be at the hospital but come week 37 your home birth is a go as planned. It would be very disappointing to discover a leak (as we did) in the pool or that it takes WAY longer to inflate than you expect (also, as we did) all while in labour. A friend was kind enough to lend us a birthing pool. After a very frustrating evening of using a bicycle pump (do not use a bicycle pump) to inflate it and discovering a leak, another friend lent us a foot pump (DO use a foot pump). Once we patched and inflated the pool most of the way we were ready to go. Aida loved the empty pool and literally just wanted to sit and read her books inside it. No, we did not keep it in the middle of the living room for weeks. 

So here it is. 

I was 10 days away from my due date and not at all expecting to have a baby yet. I was 5 days post dates with Aida and was not thinking I would be at all 'early'. Even with all of my doula experience I had no idea I was in early labour. My doula brain was off and my oh-so-silly mom brain was in high gear. I had a wonderful sleep the night before (missed clue #1) - a rarity for any woman as pregnant as I was - and woke up feeling very energized. I gave my belly my standard good morning rub and smiled at the fact that baby had moved - their back was clearly laying right along the front of my stomach when it had always been along my right side (missed clue #2). I had so much energy (missed clue #3) that I cleaned my house top to bottom, including getting on my hands and knees and pulling the dog hair off the non-scratch pads on the feet of the dining room table and chairs (missed clue #4). While Curran was at work I enlisted Aida's help in rearranging all the living room furniture to prepare it for our home birth that would happen in the next couple weeks (missed clue #5). 

When Curran arrived home from work he simply smirked, shook his head and told me to go have a rest since I was "basically going to have a baby right away." I doubt it.

I had my first massage appointment during this pregnancy (I know, so dumb) at 7pm with one of my doula partners who also happens to be a RMT (lucky me). Half an hour into my massage my very tense hamstring and IT band released and literally seconds later I felt and faintly herd a little "pop." Yep. I realized what happened and let out an exasperated "are you freaking kidding me?!" I was so relieved that all this was happening with my doula partner and that I hadn't just destroyed a strangers sheets. 

I was not feeling any contractions, only the same old Braxton's Hicks that I had been having my entire pregnancy, but there was slightly more blood than either of us were comfortable with so we made a call to the my midwife and headed to the Birth Centre to be checked. In the car on the way I finally got a hold of Curran (yes, on speaker phone) who got himself into a characteristic panicked flap trying to prepare the house and get care for Aida organized. Our wonderful neighbours came to the rescue and watched Aida while he borrowed their car and met us at the birth centre. 

I was examined by my midwife just after 8pm and I was already 4cm dilated! No wonder there was more blood than expected. Things were changing fast and I was not yet feeling as though I was in labour. We headed home in the separate cars we arrived in. Once in the car I took a moment to collect myself and talk to my baby. I wrapped my head around the fact that I was in labour and told my baby that if they were ready then so was I. I drove home. When I turned onto my block I got my fist "real" contraction. "Oh boy." "Yep, I remember that now"


I was welcomed home by a VERY excited Aida who kept shouting "Baby Bean Is Coming!" My heart sank and I cried a little as I said good bye to my only child for the last time. Things were about to change forever.     

My very wise midwife, who was supposed to come to the house around 11pm, called Curran with a feeling that she should come right away to set up her things. I am so glad she did. She arrived shortly after 930 and things were beginning to kick off. Although the contractions were feeling intense things were great. I was in the zone.

The first of my doulas arrived somewhere around 10pm. I was listening to a hypnobirthing track on repeat while calmly working through my contractions with Curran. My doula, as all great doulas do, provided me with whatever else I needed in the moment. She helped kept my breath calm and steady and my body relaxed. My other doula arrived soon after and along with working her magic, captured some great pictures of my birth.






It was not long after my doulas arrived that I felt the need to get into the pool. What a magical sensation that was! I remember feeling how the warmth of the water on my legs was the most extraordinary sensation. As I lowered my body into the water I knew it would not be long before I was holding my new baby. The relief I felt as I entered the water is indescribable. I was somewhere truly amazing. I was not in pain. I was not scared. I was in a state of release. I felt every shift and change in my body and every move my baby made. I was in the deepest state of meditation that I will ever achieve, of this I am sure.

The next series of pictures were taken over approximately 15minutes  











The jolt from one moment to the next was extreme but SO wonderful. This moment. This moment is perfection.




These first minutes are simply gobsmacking. It's a girl! I did it! We did it! I cannot believe we MADE this beautiful creature and she is ours, we get to keep her.


Dad getting in some skin-to-skin time

Bonding

Baby Bean (as she was known until she was 4 or 5 days old) was born on September 30th at 11:24 pm, less than 2.5 hours after I felt my first 'real' contraction. She was 6 lbs 11oz.

Ella being examined by the Midwife


One of the best decisions we made for this birth was having our baby at home. For anyone with a healthy, low risk pregnancy I could not advocate more for home birth. I laboured and birthed this lovely little baby in the place I am most comfortable, then was able to crawl into MY cozy bed and snuggle with her all night long. My midwife stayed for quite some time after to ensure we were both safe and healthy and she even did my laundry and helped Curran and the doulas clean up, all while I snuggled with and got to know my new little treasure. The entire time I was happy and felt secure in our place, I ate my yummy food, we were kept warm with my soft bedding that doesn't smell of bleach and other harsh chemicals and we all slept the whole night through without nurses waking us every hour to perform their disrupting checks. Totally dreamy! I could not be happier with our experience.


Snuggles soon after welcoming our lady Earth side
Happy mama with a squishy baby
Aida meeting her baby sister for the first time
Aida really likes her
Curran and I are very lucky
Less than 24 hours old
Ella's 3rd day 

I have been tossing around the idea of sharing my birth story on the blog for a while now. I was reluctant to at first simply because of the work I do. I am often asked by my clients what my birth was like, what choices I made, and often in the throws of the most difficult time in labour - "was it like this for you?" The only answer I ever really give is "what my labour was like doesn't really matter, this is about you and your labour." I always feel like there is never a good answer to these questions. The experience of labour is different for every woman. The point in me blabbing on here is to say please don't play the comparison game with your labour. Whether it is before, during or after you have a baby, comparing your experience with any one else's is pointless. Your labour is your own, so own it for what it is, was or will be.

Pelvic Floor Muscles - A topic for EVERYONE!

As a doula I like to attend as many secessions and classes possible so I have the most up-to-date information for my clients. A while ago the Women's Health Clinic (WHC), which operates out of Winnipeg's new birthing centre, offered a class on pelvic floor muscle (PFM) health. PMF is a huge topic in the birthing world so I was most definitely there. A large part of the class was a refresher for me but there were also many new things I learnt. Most moms and moms-to-be have lots of questions on this topic so I thought I would share some information with those who care to learn.  Although, as it turns out, it is not only mams and preggos that should be learning about PMF, this is a topic that affects EVERYONE. Yes, that means you too gentlemen.

All the information that follows comes from my doula training and the information presented at the PFM health class provided by the Women's Health Clinic (WHC) and their informational brochures and handouts. Much of this information can be found on their site www.womenshealthclinic.org. More great information can also be found here www.pelvichealthsolutions.ca 
This information should not be used to replace a visit with your health care provider.

What are the PFM? The PFM are muscles that originate from the tailbone and insert onto the pubic bone forming a sling that fills the bowl of the pelvis. These muscles not only create a muscular hammock but they also form an intricate network that weaves around and throughout the pelvic organs. The PFM serve five major functions which include supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, vagina, rectum), they also act as the sphincters to control the passage of urine, stool and gas. The PFM assists in respiration through interactions with the diaphragm while also working with the abdominal and core muscles to help stabilize the trunk and spine to improve posture. As if that wasn't enough, the PFM play a significant roll in sexual function and enhanced pleasure. How does that grab ya?!


There are two types of PFM dysfunction: Hypotonicity (Weak pelvic floor muscles) which can contribute to stress incontinence (aka: peeing yourself when you cough, sneeze, run or jump ect.), urge incontinence (feeling like you need to go all the time) both of which are NOT a normal part of aging, pelvic organ prolapse (yes, this can happen), uncontrollable passing of gas or stool (you know who you are), and a feeling of pelvis/sacroiliac instability. Conversely, Hypertonicity (Tight pelvic floor muscles) contributes to urinary and fecal urgency, urge Incontinence, chronic pelvic pain, constipation, dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, pudendal neuralgia, interstitial cystitis and chronic prostatits. Both weak or overly tight PF muscles can also cause hip, pelvic or low back pain and stiffness or fatigue. 

One of the most shocking things I learnt in this class was the population percentage of those with some form of PFM dysfunction. 96% of the population is affected by at least one aspect of PFM dysfunction and 87% show 2 or more symptoms! That is nearly every one! 

Causes of unhealthy PF muscles are plenty. Many things can lead to either weak or tight PF muscles like pregnancy and childbirth, hormonal changes (as in menopause), chronic constipation and straining, chronic coughing (like smokers cough), surgery, recurring UTIs, poor posture, excess weight and lack of exercise are but a few. Some PFM dysfunction symptoms like urge incontinence are made worse by consuming food/drinks that cause irritation to the bladder. For example, the following list worsen symptoms in most people: Coffee, caffeinated tea and sodas (some medications also contain caffeine), alcohol, chocolate and smoking. Some people's symptoms also worsen with the consumption of the following: acidic foods (including tomato and tomato products), citrus fruits and juices, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, milk and milk products, sugar and honey for some, corn syrup and cranberry juice. I know this last one seems weird considering that cranberry is used to cleanse the kidneys and is good for bladder infections, but it is best to consume cranberry extract. Also, concentrated urine (which happens when we don't drink enough fluids - which most people don't) can irritate the bladder and result in greater symptoms of urgency and frequency. Further, I personally know many of you out there who refuse to use the bathroom anywhere but in the comfort of your own home or, when forced to use a public washroom, hover over the toilet seat in order to avoid any contact with said toilet. Both of these actions (or lack of action I should say) can also wreak havoc on those oh so important PF muscles. Holding in your pee or bowel movement regularly can cause PFM issues while hovering counteracts what you are trying to do by tightening everything up instead of releasing. Also, terrifyingly, propylene glycol and other chemicals found in many soaps, shampoos, perfumes ect, can weaken the muscles which absorb these chemical through your skin. Gross!!     

Fortunately, most PFM disorders can be corrected although it may take time and work. Whenever the topic of PFM comes out the first thought is usually 'kegels' or PF exercises (I'll let you look up how to do kegels). Although these are extremely important and crucial in strengthening PF muscles they may not be the answer to all forms of PFM dysfunctions or symptoms. For those with symptoms caused by tight PFM, Kegels would be the last thing you would want to do. It is important to maintain a balance of taught and firm pelvic floor muscles without being overly tight or too weak. Thankfully there is PF physiotherapy available for those who need it. The Incontinence & Pelvic Pain Clinic (IPPC), a division of the Nova Physiotherapy & Sports Fitness Clinic, is run out of the medical arts building and specializes in PFM therapy. Another local physiotherapist that specializes in PFM is Donna Sarna. Also, the WHC has a pelvic pain nurse, Lynn Crocker-Loat who helps women with pelvic issues.

So please be kind to these muscles that serve so many purposes. Keep healthy, drink lots of water, eat well, exercise, do go to the bathroom once when you feel the need and don't hold it forever. Just sit on that dang toilet seat (you can clean it first if you so desire) instead of hovering and try not to strain so much. Do exercise your PFM if they are not overly tight and do see a physiotherapist if you are experiencing unwanted symptoms (you don't have to live with them!). 

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read! Please leave comments and tips for other readers if you so feel the urge.   

Happy Summer Guys!!
  

Detoxifying My Mind and Body into Spring

Like most everyone else right now I am feeling pretty done with this winter. I keep hoping for spring to show it's messy, wet, mucky self but it seems to be rather shy this year. Try as I might, I cannot coax it from winter's grasp. I begin to feel this way every year, but lately my desire for warmer weather seems particularly huge. This winter has been a tough one by bringing a never ending onslaught of frustration for us. Seemingly non-stop colds and flus piled on top of a teething, non-sleeping toddler mixed in with breaking appliances, cars, roofs, ceilings, phones, and wallets all rolled into a cluster cuss of bad luck. I was also handed my first ever traffic ticket, which I will say on record was complete BS and I did not actually violate any road rules. Non-the-less I still got the ticket. Having a toddler that needs to run and play outside and who easily becomes stir crazy doesn't help much either. We just want to be able to go outside without the mitts, the jacket, the tuque, the boots, the icy sidewalks and piles of snow that have taken up all the space everywhere. Its time for grass and sun and picnics and parks and evening drinks outside with friends and family.

The snow is making us all crazy!

But we are doing our best to make the most of it!

The past months have been weighing heavily on both my mind and body. I have fallen into the terrible circular habits of poor eating and little exercise that cause me to feel sluggish and put my mind into an unhealthy state. I decided that I needed a change. I needed to jump-start my body and my spirit out of this slump and ready myself for the spring. I need to un-fog my mind and re-discover the beauty in the calm, the simplicity, the humor, the frustrations, the happiness, the crazy that is everyday life.

One week ago today I challenged myself to do a minimum of 30 yoga classes in 30 days. I have practiced yoga on and off for about 8 years and through that time I have found that my yoga passion lies in Moksha. For those who don't know, Moksha yoga is practiced in a room kept at about 40 degrees Celsius and fairly high humidity. It is definitely not everyone's cup of tea but I love it. I love the heat and I love the sweat! When I leave each class I can literally wring the sweat from my clothes, and as grossed out as you probably are right now, it makes me smile every time. Sweating allows your body to rid itself of toxins that build up and are stored in your tissues. When I am sweating to the point of a steady stream flowing off the end of my nose I can't help but think of all the nasty stuff leaving my body and it makes me feel great. I find the heat makes the practice much more challenging and because of this my mind has no option but to focus on the task at hand. For the hour or hour and a half of each practice my mind is shut off from the outside world. I don't think about my day or what I am going to make for dinner or when I am going to have time to finish this project or that, or anything else. I just am. I am able to be solely in the moment and this is so rejuvenating. All my thoughts melt away and the constant background chatter of my mind dissolves into nothing.


Aida's version of Downward Facing Dog


Yoga feeds both my mind and body. By allowing my thoughts to turn inward and focus only on my breath and the postures, I come away feeling rested, calm and in good spirits. The physical aspects of  yoga stretch and strengthen my muscles while detoxifying my body. Since having Aida I have discovered muscles I didn't know I had and discomforts I had never experienced before. The physical toll your body can take simply from nursing a child really blows my mind. I have neck and back issues I have never had to deal with before. And try as I might to carry my daughter evenly with my left and right side I still become unaligned and muscles on one side become tighter than the other. Yoga has REALLY helped me begin to correct these problems and I feel better and better with each class.

Also, for all those mamas-to-be out there, Yoga is a fantastic way to stay comfortable and healthy throughout your pregnancy. Many women begin to experience discomfort and pain at some point in their pregnancy. Often, this discomfort is caused by the much needed hormone called Relaxin that begins to course through your body almost immediately following conception. This hormone functions to soften the joints that will need to stretch and alter for delivery. Unfortunately, Relaxin doesn't specifically target the pelvic area and many women experience lose joints all over their body which, as you can imagine, can become quite uncomfortable and even painful. I personally began to feel the effects of this hormone almost immediately. My hips and pubic bone got more and more painful throughout each day. I started taking prenatal yoga when I was just 8 weeks pregnant and continued until just days before Aida was born. I also regularly visited a chiropractor who specialized in pregnancy. The combination of these two things kept me extremely comfortable and pain-free through my entire pregnancy. As soon as I began yoga and chiropractic care, I felt completely normal. No pain, no achy joints, no stiffness, nothing. I had the best pregnancy one could ask for and I attribute much of that to the yoga that kept me strong to balance my lose joints and opened my pelvis with ease and control.

So, the challenge. I will do my absolute best to attend at least 30 yoga classes in 30 days. It has been exactly one week that I began my challenge and so far (by the end of today) I will have done 10 classes in 7 days! Big thanks to my hubby for encouraging me to do this and taking on more so I can take this time to care for myself!   

I will let you know how things are going as I progress through this month. Wish me luck!



    



   

Who Doesn't Love Fresh Juice?

My daughter and I are both fighting colds at the moment so it has been juice mania around here. Juicing is a great way to pack your body full of the vitamins and nutrients it needs, especially when trying to overcome illness. Juicing separates the juice from the fiber of the fruits and veggies which allows your body to easily absorb their nutrients. Releasing the vitamin filled liquid from the fiber before ingesting it means that your body doesn't have to work as hard to digest it, allowing that energy be used for other things like fighting off colds.


Juicing has saved my sanity lately as my daughter has decided to go on a vegetable strike. I have been amazed at the lengths she will go to avoid consuming the vegetables I put in her food. She has mastered the art of separating the foods in her mouth and spitting the vegetables back onto her plate. She has not always been this way and I know it is just a stage, but it makes me feel better knowing she is getting most of the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables through their tasty juices. Making juice has become a daily event that my daughter gets excited about. She pulls a chair up to the counter and clambers up to help as soon as I mention juice time. She loves to help in the kitchen so once I get everything prepped I let her put it all into the feed tube of the juicer. We have definitely had some spills to clean up but letting her be a part of her own healthy food preparation is worth all the beet juice pooling on the counter top and running down our white cabinets.

I wish I had hopped on the juice train much earlier, especially when I was pregnant. One of the hardest things I encountered through my pregnancy was my inability to eat lots of fresh veggies. Just like most pregnant women, I experienced the most painful bloating and gas whenever I would eat uncooked vegetables. It was awful! I hear this complaint a lot from my clients too. Pregnancy can be such a catch-22; the very foods that contain so many vital nutrients for growing a baby can be so unforgiving to your digestive system while trying to do just that. Pregnancy changes everything in your body including hormones and the way your major systems function. One of these major changes is the speed at which your digestive system moves. Since your body is trying to capture every morsel of nutrient for that growing baby, your digestive system slows to a near halt. This is why so many pregnant women complain of bloating, gas and for some, the feeling of constantly being full. Although fiber in your diet is essential to avoiding constipation, a consumption of too much fiber can contribute to even slower digestion causing more gas and discomfort. So, the question is, if we are supposed to eat so many of these fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain a health pregnancy, but these foods put us in a state of constant discomfort, what is there to do? One solution would be to JUICE! Juicing would cut down on your intake of fiber without cutting out all those important nutrients that both you and your wee baby need. Remember though, fiber IS important to proper digestive functions so DON'T cut it out completely.

Have a happy healthy day!