The Birth of Olive June

birth story

Birth has the tendency to unveil your greatest fears and expose areas of strength that you never knew existed. For me, this third baby has freed my soul and changed me in ways I’m not quite able to put into words. But before the days of toddler messes and newborn cuddles cloud my memory, I must put my best foot forward in jotting down the details of this triumphant day. The day our Olive June arrived.

Our home birth story came at the start of a new decade. Quite literally, too, as Olive made her grand entrance earth side twelve days after the new year. A due date babe. A baby born after 29 hours of physical, emotional and spiritual turmoil. 29 hours of facing my physical fears and pleading with God to remove the pain and to offer supernatural strength. Strength I knew I could not muster up in my own doing. 29 hours of trusting the process. Trusting my body to do what it was born to do. After 29 hours, light transcended the darkness and my daughter was in my arms.

This was my third pregnancy in four years. The first two were beautiful, unmedicated hospital births that I was fortunate enough to have no complications pre or postnatally. Both of which I felt supported, heard and validated in all my birthing requests. However, with the switch from healthcare insurance companies, doors opened for our family to pursue my desire for a home birth. To us, our home is sacred. A space we moved into as newlyweds. Our first big purchase together as a married couple. A space that allowed us to begin our family of three and then soon after our party of four. With the plan to move within the year, we could think of no better way but to celebrate the birth of our third child within the walls that already held so much love and memories and togetherness.

While the name we chose for her was a nod to the peaceful olive branch, the labor she and I wrestled through couldn’t be further from this. Right away, contractions were close together and filled with intensity. The birth team gathered shortly after I contacted them and the house soon filled with feelings of anticipation and excitement. A baby was soon being born into the world! Who could think of a better way to spend the weekend?!? The clock ticked and labor progressed, slowly but surely. The birth team patient, kind and plenty encouraging. My husband, my dear husband, working tirelessly to get the hose attached so I could labor in the tub.

The tub was filled and located in the center of our bedroom. A symbol of tranquility. During intense contractions, I wanted to be nowhere else except in the water. Unfortunately, though, the water slowed my labor down drastically and even stopped contractions all together. This prompted my team to encourage me to get moving. Lunges, squats, stairs. Dilation was slow, tumultuous and incredibly painful. My midwife, Deanna Kopf, and her attendant Tina Overton thought the unpredictable labor pattern I was experiencing was due to Olive’s positioning in the womb. Katie Kirkpatrick, my doula and best friend, educated in Spinning Babies and other positioning exercises, thought it best to use asymmetrical movements which would help Olive descend into the pelvis. After laboring for close to 20 hours, the team needed a little rest. The labor gods were kind to both Olive and I as the intensity paused for a few hours and Tyler and I were able to get some rest. Deanna and Tina found a bed in the basement and Katie snoozed on the floor of my daughters’ room.

Around 5:15 am the next day, I texted Deanna for my (and Olive’s) vitals to be checked. Both of which came back normal. While my family and friends were wondering where this baby was and what was the hold up, my team remained calm and assured both Tyler and I that time was the only thing this babe needed to emerge. And more movement and exercise. I pleaded desperately with them to let me just get back into the tub. They heard my request but explained that draining and refilling (since the water was cold and at risk of containing bacteria at this point) would take an hour or more. Katie gave me a peanut ball and I laid on the bed to labor there while the tub refilled. My contractions became incredibly intense and my laboring sounds changed. Both Tyler and Tina were downstairs heating up pots of water on the stove to hurry the tub filling process along. I felt the urge to push powerfully and deeply and Olive’s head appeared! Katie yelled that the head was born and Tyler and Tina hurried upstairs. Three strong pushes later and a midwife’s hand assisting Olive’s shoulders in sliding out, she plopped on my bed. Stunned, I stared at my crying baby. Tyler announced the gender and I slowly repositioned so I could hold her on my chest. All the pain was gone. Never to be felt again. The contractions vanished. The vomiting subsided. The uncontrollable shaking disappeared. Never did I think this moment would emerge but as with all suffering and pain, dawn eventually emerges. A beautiful birth story etched in my memory and never to be physically, emotionally and spiritually felt again.

While, in the moment, I wanted nothing more than relief and for it all to be over, I do not regret a single decision I

made leading up to her entrance into the world. I had to experience the pain of January 11th to gain the joy of January 12th.

Welcome to the world, sweet girl.

 

** A huge heart of gratitude and overwhelming love goes out to my extraordinary team. Katie, Deanna, Tina and Tyler, Olive and I were so blessed to have you by our side every step of the journey.

birth story

 

 

Building Your Birth Team: Part 2

building your birth team baltimore

Today, on the blog, we will continue the discussion about building your optimal birth team for support both before and after birth. Being fully informed and having the necessary resources during pregnancy (and beyond) could make all the difference in the beginning stages of parenthood. The previous Building your Birth Team post highlighted the importance of choosing your care provider, childbirth educator, doula and placenta encapsulation specialist. Below you will find several other supports that optimize your overall journey.

Chiropractic Care: There are many hormonal and physical changes you’ll experience during your pregnancy. Some of these will have an impact on your posture and comfort. As your baby becomes heavier, your center of gravity shifts, and your posture will adjust (sometimes for the worse). Also, this may create added pressure and misalignment in the pelvis. A misaligned pelvis may pose complications during delivery. When the pelvis is out of alignment, it can make it hard for your baby to move into the best position to be born, which is rear-facing and head down. In some cases, this could affect a person’s ability to have a natural , low intervention birth. A balanced pelvis also means your baby has a lower chance of moving into a breech or posterior position. When your baby is not in an optimal birthing position, it can lead to a longer, more complicated delivery. Evidence points to improved outcomes in labor and delivery for people who’ve received chiropractic care from a Webster Certified Chiropractor during their pregnancy. Chiropractic care can help balance the pelvis, allowing baby the room need to get in the most optimal position possible, while also allowing for a comfortable pregnancy. In fact, chiropractic care may even help reduce the length of time you’re in labor. Locate a Webster Certified Chiropractor, one who specializes in pregnancy and pediatric care, today!

Acupuncture: Many people sing the praises of acupuncture during pregnancy to ease some common discomforts such as back and pelvic pain, nausea, heartburn, swelling, and constipation. So how does it work exactly? Researchers have found that acupuncture points correspond to deep-seated nerves, so that when the needles are placed, the nerves are activated and the energy flow will regain balance. This, in turn, triggers the release of several brain chemicals, including endorphins, which block pain signals and help to relieve a number of pregnancy symptoms.

Clinical Psychologist: This support person cannot be encouraged enough. This particular birth team member will allow you to prepare for the birth as well as process and heal post birth as you enter into parenthood. Benefits of a mental health therapist encompass well being, which ultimately affect baby and partner’s well being. Becoming a new parent has the possibility of bringing in unexpected stress and anxiety. Having a safe space to process this can make all the difference.

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist: This particular support involves biofeedback and exercises to encourage relaxation and strengthening of the muscles of the lower pelvis which have the tendency to weaken in pregnancy and through postpartum. A physical therapist measures muscle tone and the strength of muscle contractions, which give you the information you need to proceed with tailored exercises. After practicing at home, you can see the improvement at your next visit. When necessary, the therapist may use a massage-like technique called myofascial release to help stretch and release the connective tissue between the skin and the muscles and bones in your pelvic region.

Pelvic floor PT postpartum may: strengthen your pelvic floor, re-training your abdominal function, help libido levels or painful intercourse, and treat incontinence.

Adding these members to your birth team care for the entire person. Physical, mental, and emotional supports are vital in attaining the wellness you deserve.

Building Your Birth Team

building your birth team

When you’re pregnant for the first time, people dart questions at you every step of the way. I had no idea what some of the words meant, let alone how to even begin to answer.

“Who is your care provider? Will you have a doula? Do you have a birth plan? Where will you give birth? What position will you give birth in? What’s your EDD? Have you been doing your spinning babies exercises? Do you use a rebozo? Who will be in your birth team?”

Basically, Mr. Google was my continual resource in a time of need. Today on the blog, we are chatting about birth teams and why these people can make the transition to motherhood a little bit easier.

Care Provider: This is who you choose to do all your prenatal care. This person/ group focuses primarily on maternal and fetal health. Different models of care are the Midwifery Model of Care and the Medical Model of Care (defined below). This is the most important choice you will make your entire pregnancy as it will affect your desired outcome (with no guarantees, of course!). Fully trusting your care provider brings peace and confidence as you prepare to meet your baby. It is also never too late in pregnancy to change care providers if you are unhappy with decisions and/or approaches.

  • Midwifery Model of Care- Monitoring the physical, psychological, and social well-being of the mother throughout the childbearing cycle. Providing the mother with individualized education, counseling, and prenatal care, continuous hands-on assistance during labor and delivery, and postpartum support.
  • Medical Model of Care- This model of care focuses on preventing, diagnosing, and treating the complications that can occur during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Prevention strategies tend to emphasize the use of testing, coupled with the use of medical or surgical interventions to avert a poor outcome.

Doula: A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience. Because the doula is not medically trained, she does not attend to fetal/maternal physical health but more so focuses on mother’s emotional well being before and during labor.
***Personal Side Note: My doula made a HUGE impact on my birth outcome, I believe. When I was in a state that I could no longer make decisions, she and my partner teamed together to advocate on my behalf. Having her there every step of the way made me feel peace and comfort both physically and emotionally.

Birth Educator: A birth educator is trained to teach childbirth education classes to expectant families. Childbirth educators are a resource for families providing information they may not have access to outside of a birth class. They help couples learn valuable coping skills and strategies to have an empowered birth experience. While your birth educator may not be present at your birth, she is considered part of the birthing team.

Placenta Encapsulation Specialist: Placenta encapsulation is the process of turning your baby’s placenta into capsules to aid in your postpartum recovery. The placenta encapsulation specialist (PES) adheres to all OSHA & EPA guidelines regarding blood-borne pathogen transmission, infection prevention, standards for sanitation, and safe food handling. The PES brings all of the necessary equipment and encapsulation materials to your home to complete the process. This process happens postpartum and is believed to help with increasing energy levels, lactation, postpartum anxiety/depression, increased levels of CRH (stress-reducing hormone), and restoration of iron levels in the blood.

There you have it. A well-rounded birth team ready to support the laboring mama every step of the way. Being uplifted and encouraged during labor, I believe, made all the difference prenatally and postnatally for me. Women deserve information and support while they embark on one of the greatest (yet challenging) adventures in their life!

Immune Boosting Tips for the Whole Family

immune boosting tips

It’s that time of year again. The sounds of coughing and sneezing can be heard in
every public place. Airplanes. Libraries. Malls. Grocery Stores. Work places. More and more
people start calling out sick and our children usually catch the brunt of it. Is there any possible
way to boost our immune systems and avoid some of this season’s sickies? Below are several
strategies to attain overall wellness for you and your family as the winter approaches.

  • Sleep. This is an area in which we can all probably improve. However, the
    benefits of ample rest are astronomical. While I realize my audience is
    mostly moms of youngish children, this could be a comical goal. Trying
    your best to attain 7-9 hours a night can reduce sickness and build your
    immune system.
  • Washing your hands. This task can also prove to be difficult when trying
    to get everyone in the household to become a committed washer-of-the-
    hands but this small trick goes a long way. When leaving public places
    especially, wash, wash, wash those hands (and even in between the
    fingers!)
  • A healthy diet containing foods with vitamins and antioxidants.
    Examples include: peppers and citrus (Vitamin A). Blueberries
    (antioxidants). Green tea (catechin). Mushrooms (vitamin D). Almonds
    (Vitamin C). Cruciferous veggies (Vitamin A, C & E).
  • Probiotic. Repairing your gut is your gateway to health, as nearly 80% of
    your immune system is located in your gut. Multi-strain probiotic
    containing at least 25 billion units is optimal. This will keep your levels of
    good gut bacteria up to help fight off infections.
  • Elderberry Syrup. The dried berries of the Sambucus Nigra plant are
    naturally high in immune boosting compounds that are specifically shown
    to help beat off winter sicknesses more quickly. Boiling down and making
    a simple syrup can aide in boosting your immune system. (See previous
    blog for recipe)
  • Garlic. Eating this has been used for hundreds of years as both a food
    ingredient and a medicine. Some benefits of garlic are reduced heart
    disease, improved mental health and enhanced immune function. Whole
    garlic contains a compound called alliin. This compound has been shown
    to boost the disease-fighting response of some type of white blood cells
    when they encounter viruses, such as the ones of the common cold and
    flu.
  • Vitamin D. Getting outside and soaking in the rays can be a bit of a challenge during those colder months. During the winter, the recommendation is to get 1,000 IUs per day. Some can come from food sources (think fish, cheese and fortified foods) but it would be very difficult to get all of it through food. Taking a supplement boosts immunity and wards off sickness.

When winter sickness strikes, it can truly take a toll on the entire family. Hopefully these simple tricks will aide in optimal wellness this season.

Fall in Baltimore (On the Cheap)

Fall in Baltimore

Fall in Baltimore is here! Summer has officially bid its farewell for the year. Around the Baltimore
area, Fall has wowed us with the events and festivities and outdoor activities it has to offer.
Below are several Baltimore-based events that will guarantee a good time for all ages!

  1.  Fells Point Fun Festival: Oct 3-5. Free Admission.
    Live music, local artistry and many vendors come to Fells Point to celebrate Fall. Four stages with live entertainment and there is even a Kid’s Zone. All events are centered around Thames Street. Fellspointfest.com
  2. Pigtown Festival. Oct. 11. Free Admission.
    Local Bands. Yummy Food. RACING PIGS. This year will even have aerial acts, strolling entertainment and even carnival games for the little ones.
    Pigtownmainstreet.org
  3. Baltimore Running Festival: Oct. 16-18. Price varies based on registration.
    Calling all runners and spectators of all ages and ability levels. This event is for you. Distances range from the full marathon for all the brave souls out there and also a kids fun run! If running isn’t your cup of tea, find a spot along the route and cheer on friends and neighbors! The marathon starts at 8 a.m. on Oct. 18. Thebaltimoremarathon.com
  4. Harbor Harvest Children’s Festival. Oct. 19. Free/ Inexpensive activities.
    The whole family will enjoy pumpkin patches, a petting zoo, hay maze, more live music and delicious treats. Join us for our 7 th annual festival in the city. Waterfrontpartnership.org
  5. ZooBOOOO at the Maryland Zoo. Oct. 24-26. General Zoo Admission.
    Kids are guaranteed a good scream at this Halloween celebration. Costumes are not required but encouraged for the daily contests. Trick-r-Treating.Crafts. Carnival Games. Food. Watch magic tricks or sing and dance along with many musical performers. Marylandzoo.org
  6. Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival. Oct. 25. Most activities free.
    Creative Alliance has once again wowed us with their annual event that showcases over 1000 colorful lanterns made by the neighbors and friends of East Baltimore. Festivities start at 3:30 at Patterson Park. Food trucks, lantern workshops, hayrides, crafts, vendors, live bands, and a costume contest for kid’s will all be present. But at 7 is when the real treat begins. Floats, stilt walkers, dancers, and neighbors walk the parade into the Annex Park on Eastern Avenue. Creativealliance.org
  7. Festival of Trees. Nov. 28-30. $13 for adults. $7 for kids/seniors.
    Kennedy Krieger’s annual fundraiser is the perfect place to get that holiday spirit brewing. Support a great organization as you walk around a “fairyland forest,” gingerbread towns and toy train gardens. festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.” –Chad Sugg

Virginia Apgar: An Advocate for Newborn Health

Virginia Apgar

The APGAR test, a standard newborn test developed in 1953 by Virginia Apgar, assesses an infant’s health immediately after birth. At 1 and 5 minutes post birth, the infant is examined and given a score based on the following criteria: heart rate, respiration, color, muscle tone, and reflex irritability. The term APGAR score is a mnemonic learning aid based on its inventor’s last name which stands for Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration. By the 1960’s, because of its readability and effectiveness, this score was used widely across the United States. Now, it is globally used and adopted by most doctors and midwives.

This pioneering anesthesiologist worked effortlessly throughout her career to save countless newborns. Born in New Jersey in 1909, she became passionate about medicine in High School. She completed an undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in zoology with minors in physiology and chemistry. She also played on multiple sports teams, reported for the college newspaper, acted in local plays, and played violin in the orchestra. Her teachers were astounded at her capacity to succeed.

She went on to attend Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (CUCPS) as one of nine women in a class of ninety. She received her medical degree in 1933 and began a surgical residency. The chairman of surgery at CUCPS highly encouraged Apgar to switch to anesthesiology. Anesthesiology, at the time, was given by nurses but surgeries became more and more complicated. This procedure then became a doctor’s specialty. Because the field was relatively new and unresearched, Apgar had the enthusiasm and grit to take it and run with it. And that is just what she did. In 1937, she received her anesthesiologist’s certificate and returned to CUCPS to become the director of the newly formed division of anesthesia and, in 1949, she became the first female full professor in CUCPS’ history.

This high position allowed her to research and study more in depth at Sloane Hospital for Women with laboring and new mothers. She soon realized that there was no developed way and standardized measure to asses the overall health of newborn babies. Mortality for children under a year old in the U.S. had been going down in this time, however, the rate of mortality for newborns remained the same. This was mostly due to the fact that doctors weren’t identifying the babies that were born at risk. Hence no necessary interventions could be put into play. This prompted the brilliant Virginia Apgar to develop the APGAR score in the 1950’s.

She went on, in 1959, to pursue a Masters of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University and soon after took a position at the March of Dimes Foundation directing its research into the prevention and treatment of birth defects. She was one of the first people to focus on the effects that premature birth has on an infant’s overall health. Today, the March of Dimes still works to prevent premature birth and is one of their top priorities because of the legacy Apgar left them with. Apgar published over 60 papers and continued to tirelessly work and research until her death in 1974.

David Rose wrote, on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 2009, “Virginia Apgar was an irrepressible and charismatic champion for babies whose wit and lively personality captivated everyone she encountered in her constant quest for improvements to maternal and infant health… it has been said that every baby is first seen through the eyes of Virginia Apgar.”

 

Source: www.amightygirl.com

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