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Monday, November 10, 2014

A Healing VBAC Birth

My first birth experience was pretty traumatic. I had gone into the experience with some knowledge and a lot of trust in my doctor. I ended up with a failed induction, an epidural, a c-section in which my uterine artery was severed, a life-threatening blood loss, the loss of an ovary, and a long, rough recovery full of pain and breastfeeding trouble.
My sadness, guilt, anger, and sheer, bone-deep disappointment about my first birth proved to be something positive for me. I realized that any woman who is not trained in natural birth could wind up having the experience that I had. It angered and motivated me. I became a doula. I was determined to help other families avoid the same feelings about their birth.
So, when I was fortunate enough to become pregnant again, I was a little defensive about how I was going to birth. I was going to go into labor on my own. I was going to avoid pain medication. I was going to push this baby out, dammit.
I switched providers, going from OB to midwife care. I hired a fantastic doula. I read everything about VBACs. I wanted that VBAC more than I think I've ever wanted anything, other than a healthy baby.
During a consult with an OB at 36 weeks, he informed me that I needed to have a c-section on the books, and he wouldn't want me to wait longer than 41 weeks. My heart hurt. But I squared my shoulders and said that I wasn't comfortable with that, and that it would be discouraging to have something on the books. He said that it was likely that I'd go into labor on my own, and that I didn't have to do anything.
I didn't go into labor by 41 weeks. I tried everything. EVERYTHING. Nothing worked. I got more pressure to schedule my c-section. My midwives hugged me, checked me, reassured me. But they didn't feel like waiting past 42 weeks was in my baby's best interest. Finally, 9 days past my due date, exhausted, anxious, and feeling discouraged I sat down and told my baby, "No one is going to decide when your birthday will be except you. I'm your mom and it's my job to let you do this."
On my tenth day past my due date, I woke up at 3 AM with different contractions. I had regular, strong contractions every 10 minutes all that day, then went to bed at 10PM. I woke up at 1 AM with very strong contractions. I labored in bed without waking my husband until 4:30AM, then called my parents, who were coming to watch my toddler, and my midwife to tell her I would be coming in that morning.
We arrived at the hospital at 7:30AM at 4 cm. The nurse and midwife were both a little skittish around me and informed me that they had seen some problems with VBACs lately, and that they'd probably be "a little jumpy." Neither of them were warm or supportive.
When they left the room, I began to cry and told my husband, "I'm having another c-section. I can just feel it." But then, minutes later, my amazing doula arrived. She was like a breath of fresh air. When the nurse began to tether me to the monitor and the IV, Emily spoke up with me to say we needed to get me walking. Her cool hands and cool head helped me through the contractions in the beginning, and her support never let up, even when I labored intensely for 14 hours and got stuck at 8 cm. The pain was bearable, but I had the overwhelming urge to push and couldn't stop bearing down. I was having contractions that lasted well over 2 minutes and were less than a minute apart. The midwife suggested I have an epidural to help me relax. I did, but the level was left low so I could still feel a lot of pressure.
Eventually, I learned my baby was OP, and that his heart rate wasn't picking up as well as they'd like after contractions. The doctors and midwife were concerned that I wouldn't be able to push him out quickly enough. A very gentle doctor discussed using a vacuum or foreceps because he was worried about my baby's heart rate. He said that he was concerned enough about the baby to suggest another c-section but thought we could try to avoid it.
In the end, it was determined that my pushing was strong enough to try the vacuum. He said I might still push for up to 20 minutes, but I only needed one contraction and one push. He was born, safe and healthy, all 9 lbs 4 oz, and put right on my chest. He nursed immediately and has pretty much never stopped!
I was so glad that I was assertive about my birth, and so fortunate to have a lot of support during my birth. I hope to be that for many women in the future!

Monday, November 3, 2014

A VBAC Birth

The day I was 39 weeks pregnant, I was home with our 2 year old son Cameron and around 11am I lost my mucus plug. I called my husband at work and let him know, but figured it could still be a few more days or so (although with our son I went into labor hours after losing my plug). After I put Cam down for nap I tried to nap myself but was having “cramps.” They definitely didn’t feel like contractions, just crampy. This went on for 2 or 3 hours and then I called and told Dan he better bring his work stuff home for the weekend just in case this was real labor. We went out dinner around 5pm and by then I was tensing up with these “cramps” and we were starting to think they were contractions, but they were very irregular and not getting stronger. We went home and put Cam to bed and then I proceeded to go on my nightly hour long walk with my neighbor. During the walk the “cramps” completely stopped, so I figured it must have been just false labor. When I got home around 8pm they picked up again and I started timing them. They were all over the board, 5 minutes apart, 13 minutes apart, and then 3 minutes apart. Finally they spaced out to over 10 minutes apart and I decided to try to go to sleep around10:30pm. I was feeling a bit discouraged that it was just false labor. I no sooner got in bed and pulled the covers up, and they started coming fast and hard. I started timing them again and they were 2 minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds. I timed them for 10 minutes and then went downstairs and told Dan they were fast and furious now. He was in the middle of a fantasy football draft at the time and I think wasn’t really convinced this was happening. I called the hospital and the maternity nurse said I should get to the hospital within an hour since I was a VBAC patient and they were so close together. I called my parents and they got out of bed and began the 40 minute drive down. During this time, I was lying over an exercise ball and had to breathe through every contraction. I was starting to panic a little because my OB told me that since I was a VBAC patient I needed to be properly monitored during labor for signs of uterine rupture. We also weren’t fully packed, so Dan was running around throwing stuff into bags and drafting fantasy players in between (who says men can’t multitask?J)!  About 30 minutes went by and we both started to feel like things were progressing too quickly and we could not wait for my parents to arrive. We called my neighbor to come over and we hit the road.

We got to the hospital shortly after midnight and were admitted right away. I figured I would be dilated to 7-8 cm with my contractions as close together as they were, but unfortunately, I got checked and I was only 3-4cm! I was so disappointed! However, I was in so much pain and knew it could be a long haul (27 hours with our son), I called for the epidural right away. Which, I am very glad I did, because 2 hours later I was still waiting for it. I stood at the side of my bed and breathed through every contraction, while getting more and more upset that anesthesia was still not there to give me some relief. Our amazing doula Alison arrived during this time and was such a welcome sight! She proceeded to apply counter pressure on my back and talk me through the contractions.  I also threw up three times, during the wait, which only added to the fun. Finally around2am, I got my epidural. Sweet relief! The unfortunate part was that it only lasted a couple hours. During those hours, Dan was able to catch a short cat nap and I was supposed to nap, but my blood pressure cuff was going off every 5 minutes, so that wasn’t happening. Around 3am, I was checked and was 6cm dilated and the baby’s head was ENGAGED! I was elated! This never happened with our son, who was a CS due to “failure to descend.” I was finally starting to feel like, maybe, just maybe, this would actually happen for me!

 During this time, the nurses thought that putting one of my legs up on a peanut ball (a huge peanut-shaped exercise ball) might help baby to descend further. So I laid like that for several hours. A couple hours later, I started feeling the contractions again, not just pressure, but actual pain. I had to breathe through them again. Anesthesia was called and gave me a bolus in my epidural line, but it just numbed it for a bit longer, didn’t ever take the pain away again. At that point, my only choice was to remove the epidural and put in a new one, which has the possibility of nerve damage. I opted out of that and was on my own to get through the pain. It was now about 5:30am and I was 8cm dilated. The decision was made to break my water the next time I was checked in order to get things moving.  I hung out until 6:30am and they broke my water. Shortly after that I started feeling like I had to have a bowel movement and they said that was good news. I was checked around 7am and they said I was “almost” a 10 and that I could push if I wanted. I decided to wait until I was a complete 10 and that lip of cervix was gone. At 7:45am I started pushing. After 10 minutes or so, I started feeling very discouraged. I felt like nothing was happening and kept asking the nurses “where is the doctor?” They said they wouldn’t call the doctor until I was only a few pushes away, so then I began to obsess over that. After every contraction I would say (or yellJ) “The doctor isn’t here, I am not even close!!!!” Thank goodness for our doula, she kept telling me “one contraction at a time, stop worrying about the doctor.” My husband, bless his heart, just stood next to me, and held my sweaty hand. As it got on after 8am, I started to freak out a bit that I was going to have to push for 3 hours like I did with my son and started to really have a panic attack of sorts. I was so exhausted, hungry and dehydrated after not having any water or even ice chips.  My blood pressure went up and the nurses and my doula had to really talk me through each contraction. They were coming so close together and I was doing 4 pushes each, so I was exhausted.  Finally, the sweetest thing happened, the DOCTOR WALKED IN! I could have kissed him! I was close! I was going to actually push this baby out! He watched me push through a few contractions and I said “put your hands up there and GET IT OUT!” He calmly asked the nurse to set up the vacuum. Thank GOODNESS, I couldn’t have been happier, even though I know there are risks with the vacuum, I needed that baby out in a bad way.

After several contractions with the vacuum, at 8:21am on August 30th, 2014, our sweet baby was born. The doctor told Dan to “call the gender” and he was crying and there was so much blood/fluid he exclaimed “IT’S A BOY!” and the nurses quickly said “no no, look again” and he said “Oh, it’s a GIRL!”  He said all he say was two of something and though it must have been testicles! We laugh about it still! We were very surprised, as we had a “feeling” it was another boy, but chose not to have the gender revealed during the pregnancy. Dan got to cut the cord and they put Lauren Rae up on my chest and she immediately fell asleep! She laid content and sleeping on my chest for 25 minutes before I reluctantly gave her up so my husband could hold her. Even though my doctor did a slight episiotomy, I still tore from front to back and was in stirrups for 45 minutes getting stitched up. A very unpleasant experience if I do say so myself. However, I got to hold my sweet baby girl for most of it, which was like nothing I could have ever imagined. After not getting to see our son until hours after the delivery, this was such an amazing blessing.  We delayed weighing and bathing, but later on found out she was 7lbs 15oz and 20 inches long. Ten fingers, ten toes, a complete miracle. Our doula, Alison, stayed and helped me get breastfeeding going and took lots and lots of pictures for us. I truly do not think I could have done it with her. She was a constant encouragement to me and to my husband. She never let us think about a C-section and she was able to help me contain me fear when it was creeping in. When Lauren was born, we were all crying, even Alison. She was so invested in the birth of our child, even after only knowing us for 8 hours. I still have to pinch myself when I think how I worked so long and hard toward a VBAC and it actually happened! I was able to do it! I think I always thought I would try, but would probably have another C-section.  I never thought it could go as quickly as smoothly as it did. We are truly blessed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Porter's Birth Story

May 20th, I was 10 days “overdue” according to Porter’s guess date. This was the day of our biophysical profile. Within 10 seconds the ultrasound technician had 90% of the information she needed. Porter was a rockstar. When the measurements came through and the ultrasound machine measured him to be around 12 and a half pounds, we all laughed. I had a nice belly, but not one holding a 12 and a half pound baby. She also measured a lot of fluid. Porter continued to be positioned head down. I had been experiencing strong “contractions” for a few days now, but none that were productive or uncomfortable.
We went to our non-stress test next. As we sat in there, our midwife came in and had to go over things with us. She was concerned we were going to have a “big baby”.  Again, we laughed this off. We denied the cesarean option simply because he was “big”. She gave us the news we very much dreaded – we had to be induced before the weekend.
We were very resistant to being induced. VERY. Technically, I was to be 42 weeks pregnant on Saturday, May 24th. However, due to the hospital’s schedule, we were supposed to go in for our induction on Thursday, May 22nd. We fought long and hard to try and push the induction process back as far as we could. I went to acupuncture every day during the week. We looked at our ultrasound dating from his 8 week appointment. We called around to home birth midwives to see if there was someone who would take us on last minute. We debated not showing up and losing our midwife privileges and risking it to see whomever was on call when I would go in to labor. Ultimately, we went in on Thursday to begin the induction.
Nate was very protective and asked a lot of questions, which was a relief. I was terrified. Nate was terrified too. Every labor that I had been a part of with Pitocin made a lot of intense contractions for the mother. We learned so much in our birthing classes about the different interventions and how to be advocates for ourselves that that was exactly what we did. We asked them why each step was necessary and if it could be avoided or if there was an alternative. We weren’t trying to be rude, but protective over our birth.
Thursday night, Cervidil was inserted and I was to sleep with this in all night. First, I didn’t know that they do make a contraption to insert this with. However, my midwife used her fingers. How uncomfortable! I was to be continually monitored throughout the night and the day tomorrow. At some point in the night, Porter’s heart rate dropped and a few nurses came rushing in. I didn’t know this for a few minutes after they came in and I asked them what was going on numerous times. These monitors were horrible. Every little movement and Porter wouldn’t be on the monitor. I believe he moved and it picked up my heart beat. There were no other dips or accelerations in his heart beat since that one time throughout the time I had been monitored.
Friday morning comes, no change from the Cervidil. I was allowed to shower and eat breakfast before they got me started on “high dose Pitocin”. The nurses would increase the amount every hour. My contractions became very strong and very regular throughout the day, but these contractions weren’t becoming uncomfortable or productive. During the day, Nate worked from the hospital room. We watched movies, took a nap and ate as usual.
By Friday evening, I had reached the maximum dose of Pitocin I could. The midwife came in to give us two options: stay and continue this routine through the weekend or go home for the weekend and come back on Monday to start the process over. We got to go home! We did just that. My parents were in town. They went over to Nate’s parents and we had a lovely dinner outside on the deck. Over the weekend, I planted flowers. We even went on a few scooter rides around town. It was a gorgeous Memorial weekend. We tried everything to try and go in to labor – herbs, walking, yoga, you name it, we tried it. No such luck.
Monday evening, we went back to St John’s Hospital to start our second induction. We ended up in the same room even! We learned we became known around the hospital as the “very overdue, very big baby” couple. We weren’t thrilled to be there, but were much less resistant as the first time.
Monday night, May 26th, Cervidil inserted again – again, very uncomfortable! Tuesday morning, no change again. Tuesday, high dose Pitocin started. Again, I had very strong and regular contractions, but they were not productive or uncomfortable. The monitors around my baby belly were more uncomfortable than the contractions. By Tuesday evening, we discussed with our midwife about trying a different drug called Cytotec. I’ve heard SO many negative things regarding this drug, that I was very hesitant and declined it immediately. However, my midwife seemed so comfortable and confident with it that we ultimately decided to give it a try since Cervidil didn’t work the last two nights we tried it. This is when I found out about the contraption that they can use to insert it and it was MUCH more comfortable! This had to be inserted in 3 doses throughout the night. So future insertions, we would request this contraption. Wednesday morning, hoping for change this time, we had no such luck. No change. Lots of tears and conversing later, Nate and I decided that things were not going to happen on their own for whatever reason. Pregnant women very early along go in to labor from these procedures. Not us. Why? No one knows. We consented to a cesarean section for Wednesday night.
Throughout the day on Wednesday, I was able to get off of the monitor! We were able to go for a walk outside, but I had to be wheel chaired around. The bad – I couldn’t eat or drink (not even water!) for the whole day. I was able to speak with one of our educators from our childbirth classes, Nicole. She was so reassuring that the surgeon performing my surgery was a phenomenal doctor. Nicole also gave us things to remember to advocate for and we did – lowering drape during surgery, heart monitoring feed lines being placed on my back for better skin to skin contact, and having Nate advocate to get Porter on my chest as soon as possible following birth. We did ask for those things and we were even able to get a clear sheet for our surgery. It is in trial. We were the second surgery to use the clear sheet!
Our original doula was out of town. We had asked Robin to be our doula and she came about an hour before surgery. It was SO relieving to know that someone we knew was going to be in there with us. Our midwife was able to be in there with us as well. She was with me as they prepped me before Nate and Robin were able to come in.
The anesthesiologist gave me a spinal which numbed me from the rib cage and down. It was an injection rather than an epidural. I remember the room being very cold and shivering. I cried throughout most of the prepping and procedure. This was not how I saw my labor and birth going at all.
Robin took pictures for us. We didn’t know what our baby’s gender was before birth so I asked Nate a few times “What is it?” He says “It’s a boy!” At first, I didn’t know if I believed him, but I did. Nate kept asking if they were done to get him on my chest as fast as possible. Then they tell me he was 11 pounds 1 ounce. OK – Big baby! However, I'm still skeptical he wouldn't have been so big had I had been on fluids for days. I, myself, was swollen from the fluids, surely he was as well.
I went in for surgery at 5:30pmPorter was born at 6pm. I was back in my room about 6:30pm. What a quick process!
We were thrilled for our little boy! We had no idea what to name him though! We had a list of 30 names to choose from. We would talk about it on Thursday after things had settled down. Eventually, Porter David was chosen as his name.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Post-Expo Recap
 
The Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo for 2014 is over, and it was such a great day. We got to chat with some lovely mamas and presented our "5 Ways to Prevent a Cesarean" class. I promised to upload our power point slideshow for attendees and they are below.

Remember that ICAN of the Twin Cities meets every second Monday of each month from 6:30pm - 8:30pm at:
Holy Cross Lutheran Church,
1720 E Minnehaha Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Celebrate Cesarean Awareness Month with ICAN of the Twin Cities!

We have a really exciting next couple of months planned, and hope to see a bunch of new faces, members, and friends.  April is Cesarean Awareness Month and we want to celebrate with everyone!  

This year, we are kicking off a huge new member drive.  Please consider supporting us, so we can continue to serve you and our community in making birth better for all.



What to know about ICAN


We are mom-to-mom support, meaning we are not professionals.  We are just women who have been on a very similar journey, sharing our experiences.  We are here to hear you tell your story for the first time, to tell you "it is OK, here is the box of Kleenex, we cried too, it gets easier."  We are here to share what we did, what we didn't, what worked, what didn't, and to hear all of this from you.  We are not here to judge, or tell you what you did wrong, or that you will succeed or won't.  We are just women supporting women.  We all know how powerful that is.  

We are free-you do not need to be a member.  No matter what, we promise to have regular meetings and to keep our Facebook group safe for sharing and support.  We also will try to have informative speakers regularly, and some fun parties as well.  We also pledge to do our best to help you find whatever resources you are looking for, and promise to keep it all safe and confidential.  

What you get by becoming a Personal Subscriber:

ICAN’s quarterly newsletter, The Clarion (emailed)
•10% discount at ICAN Store
•Discount to ICAN’s Conference
•Free/discounted webinars


During the month of April, a supporting membership costs just $25. Please consider joining!


Considerations for the Professional Subscriber:

We are really looking forward to growing our professional subscribers.  We are so lucky in the Twin Cities to have so many amazing professionals who are supporters of VBAC and of ICAN families.  By joining us, you will be listed prominently on our local and national website, and will be featured in the newsletter at least once annually.  In addition, we welcome you leaving your literature at our meetings as a resource as well.  

You also get: 

ICAN’s quarterly newsletter, The Clarion
•10% discount at ICAN Store
•Discount to ICAN’s Conference
•Free/discounted webinars
•Special recognition in The Clarion



During the month of April, a professional membership costs just $50!  Please join us!


More info HERE

Or sign up directly if it is not the month of April:

Subscription Type

If it is the month of April, sign up directly here:

Cesarean Awareness Month Special



So to say thanks for celebrating April with us, we are having a party!  

Please, save the date--you do not need to be a member to come-we want everyone to come, really!  We are having raffles and giveaways for gift certificates and great items donated to us, and will have food and drinks, and fun activities for the kids.  

Plan on stopping by at the 
Enlightened Mama studio in St. Paul 
Sunday, April 27, 4-6pm.
RSVP and more info HERE




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

First Time Cesarean Rates Decline in 2012

According to this article from Drugs.com, c-section rates declined 2% for first-time mothers from 2009-2012.

"Cesarean delivery rates in 19 states reporting to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention averaged 21.9 percent in 2012, the CDC said in a report released Thursday. This represented a return to the rate last recorded for those states in 2006."

Prior to this, cesarean rates had continued to increase every year.

But the reality of this small decrease hits full force in a quote from CDC statistician Michelle Osterman. "Because primary cesareans are starting to decline, the overall cesarean rate will be impacted because there is only a 10 percent chance that a woman who has had a cesarean is going to have a vaginal birth afterward," she said.

Ten percent. That means a full 90% of women who have had a cesarean section go on to have a repeat cesarean for their second birth. What a number. While it is encouraging that first-time cesareans are either stabilizing or declining, we still have a long way to go before cesareans are not an inevitability for a large percentage of women in America.

What do you think of these statistics? Is a 2% decline something to celebrate? How do we decrease repeat cesareans (and convince hospitals that this is the profitable thing to do)? Let us know in the comments.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Taking off our rose-colored glasses

Our closed Facebook group continues to grow and to be an incredible resource and support for more and more women.  I can hardly keep up with it all and am grateful my fellow board members, especially Katie Champ, have been doing an exceptional job at keeping it safe and relevant. 

I have been thinking about fear tactics, and the effect they have on all of us.  Let me remind you that I am speaking as a mom.  I am not a professional.  It seems to me every time I hear a birth professional in the hospital setting talk about VBAC and homebirth, they all seem to have been part of some horror story that involves the loss of the baby.  As the years have gone by, I have become suspicious of how many actually witnessed this, or if it is just stories passed around.  And they never report any horror stories that occur in the hospital, as though everything is just perfect there.  So I built up resentment over it and distrust. 

(start here if coming in from the Newsletter)

But something happened just recently to remind me, to remind many of us, that there are real people out there who do experience loss, and I don’t ever want to be a part of minimizing this.  I wonder what those families would think if they knew they were being used as horror stories to shame other moms for their birth choices.  It doesn’t seem to honor or respect either family, certainly not the baby, and really just seems to use them to suit their own needs and/or fears. 

So I do not presume to speak for all other women preparing to VBAC, but when I did, I learned a lot about what could go wrong, including that I could lose my baby.  I learned statistics, I learned about drugs, methods, risks, and on and on.  I made educated decisions that were best for me at the time.  With my first VBAC, I needed to be in the hospital.  I felt more secure knowing there was a “safety net.”  I don’t know what that safety net was exactly, in my mind, but it was important for me based on where I was in my journey.  With my HBAC, it was the opposite-I was more afraid to be in the hospital and all the risks that are there. That is where I was then in my journey.  Both were OK choices, and both should be made available to all women because we need to birth where we feel safe and are fully supported. 

This is completely opposite from my first birth-I had never heard of placental abruption, cord prolapse, uterine rupture, placenta accreta, nor had I ever heard of side effects from epidural, risks of Cytotec (I was never even told about Cytotec, even though it was used on me), risks of induction, risks of cesarean, etc.  The only thing I was ever told by my OB was that after 42 weeks there is a higher chance of stillbirth.  So there, that was it.  I was led to believe that everything would be just fine as long as we got the baby out before 42 weeks, and I did everything they told me.  “Thank God for modern medicine that saved my baby’s life,” was something I said regularly until I started preparing for my VBAC and the bombshell was dropped on me.  I was completely unprepared for anything bad happening, and if my baby had died I would have been bewildered, as I really didn’t think things went wrong to the baby when you had good prenatal care and did everything your doctor told you to do.

So with my VBAC’s I knew very well  that sometimes things go wrong, that not everything can be controlled, not everything explained, not every baby saved  no matter what you do, no matter who is attending.  I learned about all the things that can go wrong.  But in learning about it all, I wasn’t any more fearful, just realistic.  I learned that birth is as safe as life gets.  I saw this on a bumper sticker of my midwife, and soon understood what it meant.  So with all that knowledge, I made what I believed were the best decisions for both my baby and me and our health and our lives.  Now had I lost a baby, maybe I would feel differently, and I am grateful to not be in that position, but it would be hard to believe I would feel any differently, since I knew all the risks.  I was prepared and empowered, and it was important to my midwives that I knew all these things, as opposed to my OB who never mentioned one statistic, one negative, one drawback to being induced.


But one thing I never, ever want to do is try to guess what other families may be going through after a loss, other than supporting them and honoring their baby.  Because when we talk about loss, there really is a baby, and a mom, and a family, and the story is theirs to tell.  I think a hospital worker spewing out a horror story at a pregnant woman dishonors both families .  Women have the right to make their own decisions, no matter what others think.  And I believe they have a right to not have people spew horror at them.  I do encourage all women to learn about all the risks, and advantages, so they can make their own best decisions, and then please, let them gestate in peace!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Here's to eyes wide open!

Happy New Year!  I sincerely hope everyone has had a happy holiday.  I am having a little trouble snapping back into old routines, but I imagine that is pretty common. 

Tomorrow is my baby’s third birthday!  Gregory is my third and last child, and has been done breastfeeding for a year and can speak fairly well now, but I can see why the last child stays the baby.  As happy as I am to say goodbye forever to those troublesome two’s, I know that he will be a big kid soon, in the blink of an eye. 

I gave birth to him at home, in my dining room, with two midwives, my doula, my husband, my mother and my two older children (who were not impressed with the time or my vocals).  It was absolutely perfect and amazing and everything birth should be-intense, safe, supported, loving, almost intervention free.  I know how lucky I am.  But it was a pretty crazy road to get to this point, and the irony was not lost on me.

Before I became pregnant with my first son Earl, I was a self-described liberal feminist radical (though not as radical as I fancied myself). I remember having thoughts about c-sections as being undesirable, epidurals questionable in their usefulness and birth centers as a wonderful place to have a baby.  When I did become pregnant, I found myself seduced my by fancy Edina obstetrician that I had never met before that day I had come in to be fitted for a diaphragm (happy oops).  It never occurred to me that he may have a different agenda than I, or a different view on birth than a midwife.  IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME. So when I decided to stay with him, I didn't realize I was walking right into a broken maternity system that would ultimately most likely be at fault for my cesarean section.  This is a hard pill to swallow, for sure. 



While pumping breast milk at my job for my VBAC baby, I read a book called Pushed by Jennifer Block.  It was eye opening and shocking to me, the supposed “radical feminist.”  Good heavens, what had I been thinking?  I was duped, blinded, seduced.  But then it all started to make sense.  Homebirth, OB’s, breastfeeding, working, staying home, cosleeping, vaccinations, and on and on and on. Things that seemed so crazy to me once now seemed understandable and respectable, and at the very least a choice any parent should be able to make.  There is nothing like having your own choices taken away to help you see how you may have done that yourself to others. 

The irony in my homebirth was that when I started preparing for my VBAC, our Bradley instructor was a homebirth midwife, and I will never forget how intensely crazy I thought that was.  My mind was so set in the belief that birth-is-a-medical-disaster-waiting-to-happen-that-must-be-attended-by-someone-who-went-to-medical-school-to-be-safe that I really had this air of intellectual superiority that these “crunchy “people were totally nuts.  I am so thankful I had my eyes opened.  What a gift. It is an incredible experience when your whole set of beliefs get shaken up and you find out you are wrong, and that you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do.  I am truly humbled by this.  Of course, this is something that informs me in everything I do.  If I could be trapped in a misguided belief about one thing, I surely can be about another, or all others, so I try to listen more, read more, understand more, and have faith that all things will become clear when my heart is sufficiently open to receive it. 

So it is in this light that this birth journey has made my life better.  I now see that I am a truth seeker, and a justice seeker, and more importantly I know what that really means and how it feels. And what is right for me is not necessarily right for the next person, nor should it be.  But they should be our informed choices to make. 


Happy Birthday to my baby, Gregory Patrick
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Don't forget tomorrow's (January 13th) special meeting focusing on birth trauma with Maureen Campion!  Partners are encouraged to attend and childcare will be available.  More details on our website.
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Sunday, December 8, 2013


Taking off our rose-colored glasses
Our closed Facebook group continues to grow and to be an incredible resource and support for more and more women.  I can hardly keep up with it all and am grateful my fellow board members, especially Katie Champ, have been doing an exceptional job at keeping it safe and relevant. 

I have been thinking about fear tactics, and the effect they have on all of us.  Let me remind you that I am speaking as a mom.  I am not a professional.  It seems to me every time I hear a birth professional in the hospital setting talk about VBAC and homebirth, they all seem to have been part of some horror story that involves the loss of the baby.  As the years have gone by, I have become suspicious of how many actually witnessed this, or if it is just stories passed around.  And they never report any horror stories that occur in the hospital, as though everything is just perfect there.  So I built up resentment over it and distrust. 


(start here if coming in from the Newsletter)

But something happened just recently to remind me, to remind many of us, that there are real people out there who do experience loss, and I don’t ever want to be a part of minimizing this.  I wonder what those families would think if they knew they were being used as horror stories to shame other moms for their birth choices.  It doesn’t seem to honor or respect either family, certainly not the baby, and really just seems to use them to suit their own needs and/or fears. 

So I do not presume to speak for all other women preparing to VBAC, but when I did, I learned a lot about what could go wrong, including that I could lose my baby.  I learned statistics, I learned about drugs, methods, risks, and on and on.  I made educated decisions that were best for me at the time.  With my first VBAC, I needed to be in the hospital.  I felt more secure knowing there was a “safety net.”  I don’t know what that safety net was exactly, in my mind, but it was important for me based on where I was in my journey.  With my HBAC, it was the opposite-I was more afraid to be in the hospital and all the risks that are there. That is where I was then in my journey.  Both were OK choices, and both should be made available to all women because we need to birth where we feel safe and are fully supported. 

This is completely opposite from my first birth-I had never heard of placental abruption, cord prolapse, uterine rupture, placenta accreta, nor had I ever heard of side effects from epidural, risks of Cytotec (I was never even told about Cytotec, even though it was used on me), risks of induction, risks of cesarean, etc.  The only thing I was ever told by my OB was that after 42 weeks there is a higher chance of stillbirth.  So there, that was it.  I was led to believe that everything would be just fine as long as we got the baby out before 42 weeks, and I did everything they told me.  “Thank God for modern medicine that saved my baby’s life,” was something I said regularly until I started preparing for my VBAC and the bombshell was dropped on me.  I was completely unprepared for anything bad happening, and if my baby had died I would have been bewildered, as I really didn’t think things went wrong to the baby when you had good prenatal care and did everything your doctor told you to do.

So with my VBAC’s I knew very well  that sometimes things go wrong, that not everything can be controlled, not everything explained, not every baby saved  no matter what you do, no matter who is attending.  I learned about all the things that can go wrong.  But in learning about it all, I wasn’t any more fearful, just realistic.  I learned that birth is as safe as life gets.  I saw this on a bumper sticker of my midwife, and soon understood what it meant.  So with all that knowledge, I made what I believed were the best decisions for both my baby and me and our health and our lives.  Now had I lost a baby, maybe I would feel differently, and I am grateful to not be in that position, but it would be hard to believe I would feel any differently, since I knew all the risks.  I was prepared and empowered, and it was important to my midwives that I knew all these things, as opposed to my OB who never mentioned one statistic, one negative, one drawback to being induced.


But one thing I never, ever want to do is try to guess what other families may be going through after a loss, other than supporting them and honoring their baby.  Because when we talk about loss, there really is a baby, and a mom, and a family, and the story is theirs to tell.  I think a hospital worker spewing out a horror story at a pregnant woman dishonors both families .  Women have the right to make their own decisions, no matter what others think.  And I believe they have a right to not have people spew horror at them.  I do encourage all women to learn about all the risks, and advantages, so they can make their own best decisions, and then please, let them gestate in peace!






















****************************************************8


Several years ago Sarah Shannon, former ICAN board member and fellow VBAC mom wrote a blog post about EBAC-Empowered Birth AfterCesarean.  It struck me like a lightning bolt.  I have always used the term since and feel it is vital in how we speak about TOLAC, or Trial of Labor After Cesarean.  VBAC doesn’t always happen, no matter how “right” we do everything.  And that should be OK. No, not because it is only important that baby is OK, and us too; that goes without saying.  But, because just like in life, it is the all about the journey. 

Nearing the end of a 36 hour labor,
many hours in this position, rocking.
  I did not exactly believe my TOLAC would end in VBAC.  I did not actually believe my body could birth a baby vaginally.  I did not actually believe my pelvis was big enough, my birth canal accommodating, my baby willing to make those turns.  But I DID believe in my ability to try to get through labor giving it all I could.  Doesn't mean I did it perfect.  I did make several concessions with interventions and I also ended up with an episiotomy.  But I didn't get an epidural, which I believed in my particular case would probably have guaranteed a trip to the OR.  I was still truly amazed when it happened vaginally-that my body actually “worked”. 


  
My life had changed in many more
ways than I knew.
  While that VBAC was incredible, I know now it was the icing on the cake.  My life had already seriously changed, even if it had ended in cesarean.  I was a different person, the difference being how much I prepared, how hard I worked, how much I turned over my fears, let it all go, and just “labored.”  How much thought I gave in to who I let catch my baby, who helped me labor.  And yes, I was amazed I really did it without an epidural!  I didn't know it would work.  I hoped.  And it did.  And it was hard.  But what I learned was that there were a lot of factors that made it work, and much of it is still a mystery.  I did the best I could and was prepared to be OK with the outcome.  It was all me making evidence-based decisions.



  If it had ended in cesarean I am sure I would still be at ICAN today, proud of my births, proud of my work, supporting other women and helping to get the word out about EBAC.  After all, a cesarean can be, and should be, an empowered birth too.  Birth should be about us making decisions, and trusting the providers to properly and honestly support us in this journey, so that baby is good, mama is good, and we get back to when cesareans are rare and safe and the maternal mortality rate is back to going down again, not up. 


  I was inspired to write this post after reading Grief AndGuilt {The Birth Trauma Experience}.  Also, please read the original post from Sarah, Empowered Birth After Cesarean(EBAC)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Midwife Giveaway!

ICAN of the Twin Cities is hosting a giveaway for tickets to see Midwife: The Documentary! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 9, 2013

Midwife The Documentary

Join us September 24th for the premier screening of Midwife: The Documentary!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet Our Board: Jill VanderZiel

Second up in our ICAN Board bios is Jill VanderZiel. Here is her story in her own words.


Jill (and husband Christian) have two children, both born by cesarean. For the birth of our oldest, our son, we took the more traditional path of having a large obgyn group, taking hospital birth classes, and as many others do, doing more research on what stroller we were going to buy than how we were going to bring our first baby into the world! My water broke at 38+6 and I went to the hospital, where I was administered Pitocin immediately. The Pitocin caused fetal distress, and we were scared into agreeing to a cesarean shortly thereafter. I never really labored at all. What had been a very healthy, easy pregnancy had ended in a dramatic, and scary birth. Our son was allowed to get too cold in the OR, which affected his blood sugar, so he was given sugar water, and sent to the special care nursery. 
After we were home, I struggled with what had happened. It never occurred to me that my birth experience would/should matter, and I was upset with myself for being upset, if that makes any sense! I found ICAN several months later when I just wasn’t “getting over it” – I was amazed to find a community of women who felt similarly and had similar experiences and struggles! 
Two years later, we had our second child, our daughter. I planned a hospital vbac with her, and had prepared by hiring a doula, taking HypnoBirthing classes, and in general doing a lot of reading and research. We ended up being induced at 41+1 due to a sudden spike in high blood pressure. This time around though, I fully understood my options, was cognizant of the pros and cons of the available interventions, and made educated decisions in regards to them. Ultimately, I had just about all the interventions you could ever want to avoid (foley bulb, AROM, Pitocin, pressure catheter, epidural, and finally a cesarean). But my husband, doula, and caring, supportive providers and hospital staff made our daughter’s birth a positive, healing, and healthy experience. Making the call to return to the OR after a long, 27 hour induced labor (only 3 hours of which I had pain relief for), was tough, and admittedly a little heartbreaking, but it was the right decision for us.  
The birth of a child is a monumental, life-altering event in a mother’s life, and too often women’s feelings in regards to their births are belittled and ignored. ICAN provides a valuable service to women in the Twin Cities community. In want ICAN to be a safe place for mothers and mothers-to-be to come and find support, healing, acceptance, encouragement, and education. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meet our Board: Heather Deatrick

As we usher in a new Board for the Twin Cities Chapter, we wanted to give you some insight into our backgrounds and experiences as ICAN mothers. First up is our leader, Heather Deatrick. Here is her short biography, in her own words.


My name is Heather Deatrick and I have 3 boys.  I found ICAN through my Bradley instructor when I was attempting a VBAC with my 2nd child.  I remember thinking at the time I didn’t feel “traumatized” by my c-section, and I was quite sure modern medicine had saved his life, so wasn’t sure why I needed to go.  But she kept urging me so I finally went to a meeting.  I had no idea how much my life was going to change!My first birth ended in a cesarean after a failed induction for being post-dates.  It never occurred to me to question the induction as I still had not entertained the thought that it would not be medically necessary.  Now I know that the only reason for the induction was for being 41w3d, not for any fetal distress or condition on my part.  I was given Cyctotec without my knowledge, necessitating an epidural, followed by Pitocen, then regular heart decels sending us off to the OR.  The Cytotec was given at 7PM, the c-section at noon the next day.  I was devastated but grateful he was OK and I lived through he surgery.  Thankfully, breastfeeding went OK and I had no complications.  I never thought I would have any more children, so when I found myself pregnant 3 years later, I was very excited to try for a VBAC.  While I didn’t know a lot about the politics of birth, I DID know I didn’t want another c-section.  I also knew my OB had a different agenda when he patted my knee at my 6 week checkup and told me that next time I can just schedule the birth, as though that were a plus.  So with this child, I went back to trusting my instincts, and found a midwife and took a comprehensive childbirth education class.  It was on my VBAC journey that I not only had to learn so much, but more importantly, I had to UN-learn so much.  The biggest thing I found I had to unlearn was that childbirth is a disaster waiting to happen and we need someone to save us.  That was a massive indoctrination to unlearn.  My VBAC was a success and after a long labor that involved a lot of movement and rocking and moaning and a little yelling, I was able to push my 2nd son out.  It was incredibly empowering to do what women have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.  I felt honored to be totally present at his birth. I felt strong, making my own decisions, rather than turning my body over to a doctor.  My midwife was there for me, and I felt that power.  My baby latched immediately and we went home from the hospital the next day.  Fast forward 4 more years and I was lucky enough to give birth one more time, in my dining room, into water, with my partner, my kids, my mother, my midwives and my doula.  Not everyone should give birth at home, but for me, it was truly the best experience.  Going from the tub to bed where I stayed for two weeks nursing my newest son, was perfect, for the whole family.  The care we received from our midwives was like none other too. They spent so much time with us, before, during and after the birth that I felt I was truly in the best hands possible.  (Both of my VBAC birth stories can be found on the ICAN Twin Cities website)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Message from the Chapter Leader

Hello Birth Warriors!

I think it is time to officially unveil the new face of ICAN of the Twin Cities, as we have had three major changes in our board this year.

The first is to say with a heavy heart goodbye to Sarah Shannon.  She has been part of ICAN of the Twin Cities for 6+ years and has really been the one who knew how to get all our ideas more than just talk.  She is extremely high energy and organized and excellent at setting goals and following up so we all stayed on track.  She just received her Ph.D in Sociology from the U of M, so how she put so much time into our chapter, while working on that, along with being mom to two boys and wife still amazes me.  She has inspired me to act on what I believe in, and she has given me the tools to know how to do it.  Besides all that, I consider her a true friend, so it shouldn't have surprised me when I burst into tears the day I said goodbye to her before they drove to Georgia.  I guess I should add that she and her husband (also a new doctor-congrats to you too, Jerry) have both accepted positions at the University of Georgia in Athens.  ICAN of the Twin Cities owes a debt of gratitude to the Shannon family and we have grown so much together-our boys, our bellies (pregnant ones, I mean), our VBAC journeys.  It is hard to say goodbye to such a momentous part of my life, but Sarah was definitely that and I say Thank you and Onward!  I know they will bring many great things to Athens.

The second big change is that Kara stepped back from her Chapter Leader duties to focus on her career and her family a little more.  She is still on the board, thank goodness, so it isn't sad, but a little scary as I have assumed her position.  Kara has fearlessly led our chapter for 6 years and these are big shoes to fill.  Under her direction, we attended ICAN conferences, held several huge fundraising events, and yes, started the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo, not to mention keeping the monthly meetings running and growing.  She has always been the brains of our group-knowing when to put the brakes on something too big, and when to say "go for it."  She is an accountant in her regular life and very organized and good with details, and I have tried to learn as much as I can from her.  I am nervous about running our chapter, but as long as she is still with us, I will always have her knowledge base.  She was also an officer for ICAN International, so is a wealth of insider information.  Not to mention, she is a great person and her family too has grown right along with us.

The third is that we grew our board.  Our "old" board had been Sarah, Kara and me for a long time.  We then invited Jill a year ago, which gave us some much needed new energy and woman-power.  But with the loss of Sarah, we were facing a pretty big hole so we put out a call and received several impressive applications.  And now we are so excited to have Katie (congrats on your HBAC!), Alexis and Kelly as new ICAN of the Twin Cities board members.  We also had a wonderful lady named Ruth, but she suddenly moved back to Chicago so we had only a short time together.  I believe that Chicago has some VBAC challenges, so I have encouraged her to get involved there, as I am sure they need all the help they can get.  We will certainly miss her and appreciate her stepping up to the call.  So now, our "new" board has just the right mix of creativity and high energy and more woman-power we were looking for, as each woman brings fabulous and unique skills.  I know we are on track to grow our chapter in a way that will continue to be on track with the ICAN mission, by reaching more and more women.  Thank you, ladies, for joining!

So from here, we are working on adding to our chapter and getting more visible and organized and accessible.  The addition of the Facebook Group has already added a huge jump in online help-so thank you Katie for managing that.  We are looking to grow our library, our website, our presence in the hospitals and other communities we haven’t been very visible in yet.  Our top priority will always be our meetings and the mother-to –mother support that is critical to healing and learning, so look out for some really great meetings coming up.  And of course the Twin CitiesBirth and Baby Expo is coming Saturday, October 12.  Finally, Kelly will be managing the Blog, so look for upcoming interesting and helpful posts.

We are truly lucky to live in an area that has many options for first time and VBAC moms to have the birth they deserve and should have. We have choices here, and it isn’t like that everywhere.  Little by little, one VBAC at a time, one prevented cesarean at a time, birth gets safer and better.  I feel very rewarded being a part of this and look forward to doing more. 

Rock you birth and your life ladies-there is no one who knows your baby, your body and your needs better than you!

Heather


Monday, August 5, 2013

Farewell, Sarah!

Change is almost always bittersweet. While we've been thrilled to announce the arrival of our new board members, we've also had to say goodbye to one of our existing board members. Sarah Shannon has been around since the beginning, and it's hard to say goodbye! Sarah wanted to share this post with you.

Hello and Goodbye!

By Sarah Shannon

When my oldest son was just over two years old, I realized I wasn’t “getting over” his cesarean birth the way that I was “supposed to.” During my pregnancy, I largely ignored everything about c-sections, assuming that that kind of “rare,” “emergency” birth wouldn’t happen to me. But I did remember that someone at some point had given me a sheet with tips on how to avoid a cesarean from some group called ICAN. I decided to Google around and see if this ICAN had anything that could help me.

Lo and behold, a new ICAN chapter was just forming in the Twin Cities. I contacted the new leaders Chandra Fischer and Julie Maas. They invited me to their first meeting in the spring on 2005. At that time, I swore I would never have another child because who needed to go through all of that terrible business again?

Since then, I’ve not only had another child (a healthy, wonderful VBAC at home – read my story here), I also helped give birth to the Twin Cities Birth and Baby Expo. Aside from the personal transformation I experienced by becoming reeducated and empowered as a mother, I’m most proud of and grateful for the experience of helping start and run the Expo through its first four years. I believe that our ICAN chapter has given this great gift to the Twin Cities – that out of our grief and pain from our own difficult birth experiences we’ve brought into our community a new and beautiful way to show other moms and families that medicalized birth is not the only, or even always the best way to give birth. It started off as a far-fetched (ok, I called it crazy) idea, but somehow, we’ve pulled it off every year on a shoestring budget with all volunteers and more businesses and organizations jumping at the chance to participate.

This year will be the Expo’s 5
th anniversary. Amazing!
 
So, it’s with a full but heavy heart that I am saying goodbye. My husband and I recently finished our PhDs at the University of Minnesota and have moved our family all the way to Athens, Georgia to be professors at the University of Georgia. I will miss the sacred space of our monthly support meetings, the incredible partnership and camaraderie I’ve had as a member of the Board for the past five years, and the amazing adrenaline rush of planning and pulling off the Expo every year. Thanks to all of you for a great eight years of healing and giving back, but especially thanks to present and former board members Kara Wurden, Heather Deatrick, Jill Vanderziel, Chandra Fischer, and Julie Maas for being such supportive friends and unsurpassable co-conspirators in bringing better birth to Minnesota.

I look forward to seeing what ICAN Twin Cities does next through the new board members that have joined. I feel a little bit better leaving now knowing that fantastic new ideas and energy are already at work!
Farewell, Sarah! We will miss you!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Welcome back! Meet our new Board Members

It's been awhile since we posted here on the ICAN Twin Cities blog, but we are excited to be back in action! A lot has happened in the past few months. We continue to have our monthly support meetings, have opened a great Facebook group, and have made some appearances at local conventions. We also have added a few new Board Members to our Board! Here are the new members:

Katie Champ has been active in ICAN for awhile now, and brings great energy to the board with her new ideas! We are all anxiously awaiting her VBAC birth of her son any day now!

Alexis Scott is a mama of two, including a VBAC baby! She will be helping with social media, as well as connecting with the Latino community in the Twin Cities.

Kelly Lillibridge is a licensed therapist and active in the social service community. She will be heading up the blog and managing the lending library.

Katie, Alexis and Kelly are joining Heather Deatrick (president), Jill VanderZiel, and Kara Wurden on the Board. The Board is excited to have new members to bring fresh ideas to our organization!

Check back in the next few weeks for more detailed bios of each board member, including birth stories and how we all got involved with ICAN!