October 30, 2013

Week 36 and Preparations for Birth

Week 36
October 21 - 27

Sleep is still rough.
Hips and joints still hurt. 
Walking is hard.
The final days are tough! I had no idea.
But goodness the joy I have thinking about our daughter outshines all of that. 
Not to mention the amazing support I have from my husband, family and coworkers. 
Although I am really uncomfortable, I have the best people surrounding me and caring for me.
I am very blessed. One day at a time. 
So I posted a blog about why Michael and I are choosing a home birth for our family. This week I thought I would share some of the ways we are preparing for that type of birth. A home birth, and really a natural birth, comes with a lot of preparation. You don't just go into labor 'winging it' if you desire to have a natural birth. It is like training for a marathon. I have taken many steps to prepare. Is it a little overkill? ;) Maybe so. But as someone that wants to go into childbirth education, I have really enjoyed soaking in so much knowledge. 

How we are preparing for a home birth:
1. Our Midwife
Having a midwife that you trust is essential. She is my go-to with all my questions so I don't have to weed through the range of opinions on Google. You can't have a home birth if you don't feel comfortable with your care provider. I think that is the most important part of preparing for childbirth!

2. Diet
I can't say I have been perfect with healthy eating while pregnant but overall I am happy with most of the choices I have made. Between my protein intake and calorie count, I feel like I have gained the appropriate weight. I will say I am so grateful that my husband lets me splurge on cravings here and there - I mean cupcakes and donuts are just essential ;) But getting a weekly CSA box chalk full of veggies has helped me stay on track!

Here is our first CSA share back in April. I was 7 weeks pregnant, absolutely exhausted, and not thrilled with greens but I pushed through.
 And then a box from July which had the most tasty blackberries! We loved getting a weekly share and plan on signing up again next year.

3. Prenatal Yoga
I took classes with Bethany Hard, but there are quite a few options in Nashville for prenatal yoga. I talked about my views on yoga in a previous post, but I have to share again - this was so helpful for me! I am not an internal person. I am not very in-tuned with myself. And I rarely take time to be alone with just me and my baby. That doesn't come naturally for me. Taking this class was not only great exercise, but it allowed me the time to process the life growing inside of me. It taught me how to breath through pain and how to trust my body to get to the other side. We did a lot of 'keep up exercises' where we had to push ourselves for 3 minutes doing an exercise that killed! But through breathing, encouragement from the instructor and visualizing our baby, we made it through. This really helped me learn how my body will cope with the pain of contractions. All of the exercises we used helps with my posture, breathing and aligning my body as it makes room for my growing baby. It has also helped open my hips and relieve some back pain. My favorite positions have been cat/cow, child's pose and various squats. So many of the positions we learned are ones that I will use during labor. I am so grateful that I took 12 weeks of yoga.

4. Child Birthing Class
We love our child birthing class. Michael and I decided to go with the Bradley Method. Check out Jeannie Casey at Nashville Childbirth! This class is really for those who want to take ownership of their birth experience.
We have only been to 4 of 8 classes but they have been so helpful! They are 3 hours each and really intensive. Some childbirth classes are only a few hours, an anatomy lesson, instructions on when to get an epidural and a hospital tour. This one is geared for people who want a natural, partner-coached childbirth. We discuss everything from nutrition, all the stages of labor, breathing techniques, birth plan and early infant care. We meet with 7 other couples and discuss all things pregnancy and birth. We watch birthing films and even end each session with a massage and visualization. Weekly homework assignments help us stay active in our childbirth preparations as well.
This class normalizes every aspect of labor that people don't talk about. Nothing is left untouched. Jeannie's openness on all things vagina, human waste, tearing and sex might make some blush but we have found it to be so helpful in setting our expectations and not being surprised by things we may not have anticipated encountering during labor. I have read so many articles about 'The Things No One Ever Told Me' and we have covered it all!
I think I love this class so much because Michael is being empowered to be my birth partner. He is given so many tips, tools and a bag of tricks for walking me through labor. And we spend so much time actually practicing different positions, breathing techniques, massage, counter pressure and visualization. It is a very 'hands on' class.
All the topics we have discussed have helped initiate many conversations between Michael and me about our labor experience and our journey into parenthood. It is amazing that not everyone has this information. It has really ignited my passion to educate people about birth (something I hope to pursue once I adjust to being a new mom).

5. Workshops
Nashville has a wealth of resources and many of the workshops are free! Here are a few that I attended during pregnancy:
-Baby Wearing - through 9 Months and Beyond. This was a free workshop that allowed Michael and me to try on every type of ring sling, wrap, and carrier out there so we knew which ones to register for. It also gave us helpful tips for the proper way of wearing your baby.
-Cloth Diapering - this class was almost too much information. We learned about all the different types of cloth diapers, how to clean them, etc. I was really overwhelmed leaving this workshop but it helped give me a starting point so I could do my own research. I feel like talking to all the mommas in my life who cloth diaper was more helpful!
-Breast Feeding - NOVA Birth Services hosted this workshop at Baby's R US. It was free and really informational. Baby's R Us hosts many workshops throughout the year with topics like - breastfeeding, early infant care, and infant CPR.
-Essential oils in pregnancy, labor and newborn - I have dappled in essential oils for a while now but it was great to learn a little more about different oils and their use in terms of labor and babies. I am excited to use some of the information I learned in my own labor.

6. Chiropractor, massage and acupuncture 
-Going to the chiropractor has been a godsend. Between my car accident last year and all the shifting of joints and ligaments, getting adjusted has really helped me through this pregnancy. I have heard that chiropractors can also help turn a breech baby and minimize back pain during labor.
-My prenatal massage was incredible at loosening tight muscles and giving myself time to relax during this long pregnancy journey. Pregnancy does A LOT to ones body. I only wish I had more money to go all the time ;)
-I haven't been to the acupuncturist yet but I plan to go once I hit full-term. I have been having so much nerve pain that I really believe a little bit of acupuncture could help. All three of these 'alternative methods' should be done by professionals who know how to work with pregnant mamas. So it's important to always go somewhere that specializes in prenatal care and for your care provider to approve any alternative methods before going!

7. Birthing videos 
I love reading birth stories and watching birth videos. They have become my bedtime story. Michael will humor me and watch or read a few. I just like reading how unique and unpredictable each experience really is. I think it helps me let go of expectations of my own birth. I have definitely come up with my 'ideals' but that is balanced with recognizing that I have to surrender control to my labor. And of course I cry my whole way through each person's journey.

Home birth (and hospital birth) videographers:
Ceci Jane
Perfect Pair Wedding (she has 2 births on here)

8. Resources
Books to read:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin
The Birth Partner - Penny Simkins
The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth - Henci Goer
Gentle Birth Choices - Barbara Harper

Documentaries to watch:
The most popular documentary out right now is "The Business of Being Born". This is a great starting point. They have also come out with a second documentary as a follow up to the first one which goes in more depth on topics like VBAC, The Farm, and Celebrity home birth stories.
Michael and I spent a day at a coffee shop writing our birth plan. We have already talked through a lot of our expectations with our midwife but it was important for us to put it all in writing to make sure we are on the same page. It was also helpful to think through our contingency plan in case a hospital transfer becomes necessary. This is when it starts to feel real!
Last Sunday we went to Delvin Farms. They were hosting a picnic for all the CSA members. It was cool to see the farm where our weekly share comes from. 
We didn't get enough fall farm festivities so we went a few days later to Honeysuckle Hill Farms. 
 We explored the 'Crazy House'.
And of course, we couldn't miss the pig race. 
Our reaction to that strange event. 
 Topped off with a corn maze and caramel apples. 
Sweet Genevieve,
Holidays and seasons are the best. I am so excited for pumpkin patches, dress-up, s'mores, and hayrides. Your dad and I cannot wait to start new traditions with you as a family. This time next year we will be celebrating fall with an almost-one year old and life through those eyes will be so fun! Now that full-term is a day away, you are welcome to join us soon so we can snuggle through this season. Thanksgiving and Christmas will never be the same. We can't wait to celebrate with you!

October 24, 2013

Week 35 and Nursery Tour!

Week 35
October 14 - 20
We took a picture at the grocery store because I do not like honeydew melon and I was not about to buy it just for this picture!
This week the exhaustion continues but I have a little more motivation to get things done. I am actually sleeping better than I was last week - which is such a blessing! (Do you see the sleepy trend?) 3rd trimester has taken more out of me than I expected but Michael and I are now in a routine and it is starting to feel manageable. I am praying that my stamina keeps up in the final weeks so I am not too uncomfortable or anxious. Currently, the plan is to work until she arrives - with some working at home in the mix. But at least through October I will be going into work everyday which helps me stay busy. It is crazy to think that full term is in 2 weeks. In 2 weeks we will be clear for a home birth and she is not showing signs of showing up before then. Just taking it one day at a time. 
I am excited to finally have our nursery complete.
It's amazing how much has come together in the last 9 months!
The weekend I found out I was pregnant I decided to paint the nursery. I've been itching to get it completely finished since then. 
Overall, I kept it neutral with no real theme. I just added things I liked. I love that this room gets so much light and has an airy feel to it. Between Ikea, DIY projects, and international finds - I am so happy with how it all turned out. 
 I like simple so we stuck with Ikea for our crib.
I bought this fabric 3 years ago knowing I would use it in a future nursery. It reminds me of Richard Scarry, whom I love! I mean giraffes riding strawberries?!? Yes please :)
I just love this quilt that my dear friend and doula made for me. Thank you, Karlie!
And a nursery would not be complete without a beautiful crocheted blanket from my mother-in-law. Thank you, Omi!
We have an Ikea trend. The chair, curtains and lamp all come from "Sweden". We made the footstool out of an old crate and I upholstered the top with some fabric I got in India. It opens up and holds all of our baby quilts and blankets. I loved this tree purse from India but it was falling apart, so I re-purposed it as a pillow!
For the end table I wanted something small, just enough room for a cup and a few books. Michael came up with the idea of using a milk jug. He found one on craigslist, cleaned it up and added a wooden top. I love it!
Another re-purposed piece of furniture filling up with all my favorite children's books. 
And what's a nursery without Sophie the Giraffe.
I love my new diaper bag from Skip Hop! I can't wait to use it.
And our Sakura Bloom Ring Sling and handmade wrap ready for Genevieve. 
I liked the idea of using a dresser with a changing pad on top. Changing tables seem like extra furniture to me. My mother-in-law gave us this dresser that we painted and added new knobs to.
All my adorable cloth diapers are in a galvanized tub next to the dresser. 
With little space in our house, I had to keep one corner as my 'craft corner'. I downsized all my supplies and put them in white shoe boxes (from Ikea, of course). We then painted an old file cabinet for all my fabric. This will work until Genevieve starts to crawl, then we will have to readjust! At lease we have some time before then.
Michael wanted a place to sit in the nursery as well. So we kept this director's chair from World Market so he would have a place to join me. 
I know, I know, birds are a little over done these days. But I can't help it. I love birds and my daughter's middle name is Lark!
I bought these adorable wooden birds in India. 
Bird banner that the Fischer family got me when they found out I was pregnant. 
I love these prints.
All the pen and ink pieces are mine.
The colorful prints are made by Leah Duncan.
Lauren is making a beautiful Alphabet animal book. 
The pictures are still in the process of being edited but once she is done with the images I will put a poster of my favorite animals in here. Until then, I have the "G" from the book to fill the frame. 
'Tree of Life' painting I bought in India. 
Wooden mobile I bought in Uganda.
And this is what week 36 looks like! 

Sweet Genevieve,
Your room is all ready for you. 
You are welcome to join us in 2 weeks ;)
We love you.  

October 17, 2013

Why we are choosing a home birth.

Week 34
October 7 - 13

Genevieve is almost 5 pounds and about 17.5 inches long. 

Only 3 weeks until we are full-term. And 6 weeks until her 'due date'!
This post has been bubbling up inside of me for over a year. It is a small piece of my heart. Many have asked me, “Why are you choosing a natural home birth?” So I decided to do my best to explain the reasons why our family is choosing this method for our daughter’s birth. It has taken me a long time to actually put it all into words because it is such a sensitive topic. I know this post is long, but I hope it is helpful in explaining our take on home births.

Important Disclaimer: 

I have strong convictions regarding birth. However, I recognize that many may have differing opinions and birth does not always go as planned. Although the birth of a child is an extremely intimate and important moment in one’s life, it does not dictate the value or worth of the mother. When sharing birth stories and birthing experiences, I believe that all women should be validated and encouraged. Ultimately a healthy mom and healthy baby is the end goal and I don't want to diminish one mom's experience just because they may not have had a 'natural' birth. I want to honor every birth experience because I know that most women make decisions based on the information they have in hopes that it is the best for their baby. I have no interest in engaging in combative dialogue. My heart is simply to share my thoughts on a topic that many people may not know much about. 

Where my little girl will sleep the day she is born. This Moses basket was the one that Michael and his brothers used as babies. Since then my nephew and niece have used it. Now it is Genevieve's turn. It is important to me that she is close to me and we are excited to share in the family tradition.
Pregnancy is universally recognized as one of the most spiritual experiences, with birth as the sacred culmination. Growing a child and bringing life into this world should be celebrated surrounded by family in a safe, comfortable environment. Therefore, for educated, low-risk, healthy mothers, under the care of an experienced midwife, their home is the best context for allowing this to happen. Michael and I believe that birthing at home is the right decision for our family.

So for me, it all started on October 6th, 2010. 
I was invited to my first birth, a home birth. That day will forever be one of the most impacting days of my life. Seriously, it is up there with my wedding vows. I never knew anything about birth, especially a natural home birth. But standing in the Cooper's master bathroom watching Sarah give birth to Henri changed my life forever. I saw what birth was like when left uninterrupted. It was holy and absolutely awe-inspiring.

It's been 3 years since that experience. Since then I have been part of 2 home births and 2 hospital births. That’s not many, but enough to get me fired up and passionate about this field. I have read countless books, watched every documentary I could find, I've sat with any mom willing to share their birth story, and I started my doula certification. I've soaked in so much knowledge. And 8 months ago we found out we were pregnant and it is now time for me to experience firsthand everything I have learned.

We did not come to our decision to have a home birth haphazardly. My husband and I have done years of research on the type of birth experience we hope to have. I find it fascinating that people put so much time and energy researching a new car or computer and yet don't consider their options with the birth of their child. Surely our children’s arrival on earth deserves as much attention as researching the pros and cons of iOS7.

And how blessed are we that we even have options?! It is amazing that in our country we can choose to have an obstetrician at our birth in case we need major surgery, we can have medication in case we aren't prepared for the pain involved in labor, and we can choose to have midwives in the hospital or at home if we prefer that model of care.

Not only do we have choices in our medical provider, but there are countless options to consider when planning your birth.
-Do you want to wear a hospital gown or bring your own clothes?
-Do you want intermittent monitoring of the baby or constant monitoring?
-Do you want an epidural or would you prefer to labor in the shower/tub? (Becoming more popular in hospitals)
-Would you like the baby to room-in with you or go to the nursery?
-If a C-section is necessary, would you like immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth? I was beyond encouraged that Vanderbilt is starting something called "Family-Based Cesarean". Here is the article.

These are just a few options out of hundreds that you, as the parent, can make on behalf of your child and your birthing experience. I think that is wonderful! But these decisions should not be made out of fear or to please family and friends. It is the lack of education that perpetuates the fear that many women have in regard to labor. And I believe no one should come to their decision from a place of ignorance. Birth is a big deal and it belongs to the woman and her partner to decide what is best for their family.

Since this is a blog, not a book, here are the top 5 reasons why we are choosing a home birth:

1. We love the Midwifery model of care.
I love midwives. I love my midwife. I love that in the last 8 months we have developed a relationship beyond just blood pressure and the fetal heartbeat. We talk about our chickens, living in East Nashville, and all the emotions I am experiencing in pregnancy. The midwife model focuses on holistic care, so not just the physical changes the mother is experiencing but also the emotional changes. Our visits are an hour long and often go later. Sometimes I am at her office, other times the appointment is in my living room. It feels comfortable and normal. No receptionist, doctor's office or waiting room.

In general, the midwifery model of care is ideal for healthy moms and babies. But for some women, I wouldn't necessarily suggest a home birth. The decision to give birth at home must come from a place of conviction and education, not out of hype. My midwife and I talked about home births at my 34-week appointment. She was saying that since the documentary The Business of Being Born came out, there has been an increase in interest for home births but not necessarily an increase in good candidates. Even if the mom is young, healthy, and low-risk, she would not make a good candidate if she still views birth as something that is done to her, or something that a medical provider has to tell them how to do. Home-birthers are women who take responsibility for their birth and believe in their bodies to go through labor naturally. The role of the midwife, then, is to observe the birthing process and make changes or intervene when it shifts from normal to abnormal.

Midwifery focuses on the normalcy of pregnancy, and its potential for health. Birth is viewed as a natural process that has profound meaning to many people and should be treated as normal until there is evidence of a problem. The possibility of complications is not allowed to preempt all other values associated with the woman’s experience of bearing and giving birth to a child. Midwives are experts in protecting, supporting, and enhancing the normal physiology of labor, delivery, and breast-feeding (Our Bodies, Ourselves).

I remember leaving my first appointment so concerned because I expected to be probed more, given more tests, shots, x-rays, everything! But it was just a urine sample and my blood pressure. That was it. Michael had to remind me that there was nothing wrong with me, that I am healthy and that the role of our midwife is to monitor this natural process. I had to be really intentional about making that switch in my head. My body was made for this. I am low-risk, very healthy, and I have no family health problems in regard to pregnancy. There was no reason to be concerned. My body knows what to do. I just need to continue to honor the process and my healthy lifestyle.

2. Hospital births could lead to interventions.
We, personally, do not want to intervene in the natural birth process unless medically deemed necessary. I don't want decisions about my labor to be determined by convenience, money, or fear of a lawsuit. I want to be able to relax and let my baby and my body work together in the timing that is natural.

The unfortunate reality is that long labors (especially with first time moms) rarely go uninterrupted. Interventions like Pitocin (synthetic Oxytocin), Cervidil (a prostaglandin to help ripen the cervix), epidurals, constant monitoring, rupturing the membrane, etc. are given to mothers in order to help them progress in a timely manner. The problem with one intervention is that it will likely lead to another intervention, this is called the 'snowball effect' or ‘cascade of interventions’. 

Here is a scenario of this progression:
1. It can start with putting on a hospital gown. Now the mother feels like a patient who must abide by every suggestion given by the doctor or nurses.  
2. Then it may lead to continuous fetal monitoring. This restricts the mother's ability to move around in labor to cope with the contractions. The monitoring is really more for the sake of the hospital to have records than for the benefit of the actual mother in labor. Using a Doppler intermediately would suffice (this would exclude high-risk mothers).
3. Now stuck on the bed, the mother is not progressing because she is not using gravity and movement to her benefit, so she is given Pitocin. Because Pitocin is synthetic, it doesn’t carry all the benefits of Oxytocin. This natural hormone is incredible! It is the same hormone released when we you have a good conversation with friends, give someone a hug or even orgasm - it is called the love hormone. And it is the hormone that stimulates the contractions during childbirth. However, Pitocin does not have the benefit of the love hormone. It creates intense, artificial contractions that do not mirror the natural progression of contractions. They are way more painful because Pitocin does not trigger the brain to release endorphins like Oxytocin. Because of the pain increase, mothers often opt for an epidural. 
4. Although an epidural can really aid a woman who is struggling during birth, it also comes with its downfalls. Epidurals numb the mother from the waist down. This inhibits the stretch receptors from being stimulated, which could lead to tearing. Epidurals can also slow down contractions, which could lead to an increase in Pitocin. 
5. As Pitocin increases, so does the baby's heart rate. Pitocin-induced contractions are way more intense than natural contractions and this increase in intensity could cause the baby to receive less oxygen leading to distress. Once the baby is in distress, a C-section may be necessary to get the baby out quickly. 

This is an extreme situation and not all interventions will end in a C-section. But each intervention does come with its own set of risks and likely leads to more interventions. It is important as the mother to understand the purpose of the interventions and to feel confident to turn them down if it is not necessary. Whether it is a hospital birth or home birth, be informed about all these procedures. You may be totally fine with some of them but not comfortable with others. Make sure your birth partner is on the same page as you so that you can stand united if you feel it is best to turn down an intervention. Trust your instincts! 

3. Midwives are trained in natural birth.
I recognize that for some women these interventions are necessary and I truly am grateful that we have obstetricians to offer medical assistance or perform emergency C-sections for those who need that procedure. However, midwives are experts in natural, normal births and doctors are experts in high-risk, medical births. And quite frankly, if you are someone that is high-risk, a midwife would not take you as a patient and a hospital would be the best place for you. But in a low-risk, normal pregnancy, a hospital is overkill. You aren't sick. Birth, an inherently natural experience, becomes a medical condition the second you walk into the hospital. And with 94% of births in the US considered low-risk, it is likely that additional interventions will not be necessary. 

The biggest misconception about home birth is that it is not safe. What if something happened during birth and you didn't have time to go to the hospital? This is what I hear the most. However, midwives are trained to see when something shifts away from normal. They are trained to recognize a potential issue before it becomes a problem. Midwives know what normal, natural labor looks like. So anything that looks different is a red flag. Quite honestly, many nurses and doctors have never seen a natural childbirth, especially not a home birth. The epidural rate in Nashville is over 90% and the C-section rate is 33% (with some hospitals pushing more like 50%). So unless a machine tells them something is wrong they might not notice the nuanced warnings as they arise. By the way, the World Health Organization recommends that no country exceed 15% for C-section rates. Here is a fascinating article explaining some reasons why Caesarians are on the rise.

My midwife is offering me one-on-one, 24/7 care during labor. I am not part of a rotation, there is not a shift change with the nurses, and there are no other patients to check on. Just me and my body and my baby. Their focus is 100% on me. They come prepared with a midwife assistant, oxygen if needed, a Doppler to listen to the heart rate during labor, Pitocin to help with bleeding if necessary, they are trained in neonatal resuscitation, suturing if tearing happens, they can handle hemorrhaging, and they aren't afraid to transfer to the hospital if further care is needed. I know with my midwife, her transfer rate is 8%. And this is primarily with moms that have labored for so long that they just need a little assistance to get the baby out. I live 8 minutes from Vanderbilt Medical Center if we need that option.

4. I feel comfortable, safe and at peace in my own home.
In my childbirth class we have spent time talking about how to work 'the system' for those planning a natural hospital birth. Our instructor was giving tips for dealing with non-supportive nurses, how to sneak food in, how to say no to certain procedures they routinely perform, how to stay in the shower when nurses prefer for you to be hooked up to the monitor instead, etc. It sounds absolutely daunting! I will be in my most vulnerable state bringing my daughter into this world. The last thing I want to deal with is unnecessary interruptions. I've heard it said that the same environment in which you made the baby is the same in which you should birth the baby. I believe that. It is a very vulnerable, intimate experience. It should occur in a place where you feel safe, where you can let go of your inhibitions, and you can fully relax. I know many moms who have had beautiful hospital experiences with supportive medical providers. So I truly believe it can be done, but for me it would be difficult to do this when doctors, nurses, med students, etc. are coming in and out of the room. Not to mention, you and your partner potentially face 'fighting the system' in order to have the birth you desire. 

When I was 8 I had my appendix taken out. It was absolutely traumatic for me. I was taken to the operating room crying because I had to leave my mom behind. I remember looking around as they moved me from the gurney to the operating table and seeing all the machines and people in the room. When they put the mask on my face with the anesthesia I immediately grabbed it off. I hated it. So they had to hold me down and force the mask on me. I remember screaming and crying into the mask as I went under. I deeply dislike hospitals. Once again, I am grateful that they exist for when I am sick - but I am currently pregnant, there is nothing wrong with me. I do not feel safe in a hospital. I do not feel in control. I feel like all my rights are in the hands of doctors and nurses that don't know me. So for me, my home, surrounded by my family, with a trained midwife that knows me and who believes in my body's ability to birth, that is where I feel safe. 

I am so excited to have the freedom to labor any way I want. I can be in the bath tub, the shower, go for a walk in the park, weed the garden, watch my chickens, bake a birthday cake, sleep, watch TV, eat what sounds good, wear whatever I want... I can do that. I've always envisioned candles at the birth but I guess that is assuming it will be at night…we will see. I like my home. I feel safe in my home and I don't want to have to leave the house. Because my midwife is only 5 minutes away, when I go into early labor I don't have to wonder, "When is the right timing to leave?" I don't want to look at the clock at all. I just want to be. There will be no rushing around, no panic, we will just shift from our daily life into labor and we will take it one moment at a time. When left unaltered, it is pretty incredible what the body will do.

For Nashville mamas - I would also like to add that giving birth with the Vanderbilt Midwives is one alternative for those who don't feel comfortable at home. You get the benefit of the midwifery model of care and the accessibility to medical interventions if that is necessary. I was told that 70% of births with the Vanderbilt Midwives are natural, drug-free births. This would be a great stepping-stone to having your next baby at home.

5. It lines up with our values in life.
When asked recently why we are choosing a natural birth, the answer came quickly for us: we believe that childbirth is a sacred experience that should not be altered or numbed. I mentioned earlier that we view birth as a spiritual moment. Bringing life into this world should not be taken lightly and the way you do it is just as important.

Michael told me shortly after I became pregnant, "How incredible is it that you get to usher Heaven to Earth?" I will be bringing life into this world and I could not feel more honored to be given that task.

Pregnancy has taught me so much about myself. It has allowed me to slow down and take the time to feel all the emotions and changes occurring in my body. I have already bonded with my daughter as I spend time rubbing my belly, watching her wiggle and wondering all about her. I have released fear of all the 'what ifs' and I have kept my googling and “Web-MDing” to a minimum. I have resisted the urge to text my midwife after every strange twinge because I am learning to trust the process and the natural instincts I've been given. I believe that the months of pregnancy are crucial to the moments leading up to becoming a mother. If women will let it, pregnancy can be a beautiful time of refinement and reflection. This whole season leads up to the culmination of birth. It is the ultimate end and beginning.

My heart and passion is that every mom leaves a birthing experience feeling empowered and amazed by the wonders of her body and her ability to bring life into this world. I cited this quote in an early blog post, but I had to post it again:

"Birth is not only about making babies, birth is about making mothers -- strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength" - Barbara Katz Rothman

So I am not saying that every mom should rush for a home birth. I want every pregnant woman to take the time to research all the options out there. And beyond just head knowledge, to know deep down, like gut-level, that their decisions are best for their family. It only just begins with birth. Decisions will have to be made every day on behalf of your family - vaccines, schooling options, dietary options, sleep schedules... the list goes on. Being intentional about your birth is the first step in becoming confident as your new role as a parent. No one should question your convictions. This is between you, your partner and your baby to be.

Final thought:
Of course, I have to make the caveat that when planning a birth, things can change. We should go into it with a plan but remember to hold it loosely if situations change and circumstances require us to deviate from the plan. But isn't this just like everything in life? At least, that's what I am learning ;) Working for a ministry and leading numerous mission trips have taught me a thing or two about flexibility and I am grateful for that!

It is funny that I am writing this post without actually having gone through labor. I don't think my perspective will change on the way I view the process of birth but I know my experience will be part of the story I tell. If I end up in the hospital with a C-section, you better believe I will do all I can to still be part of the decisions, to be active in my labor, and to relish the moment my little girl is laid on my chest for the first time. There will be disappointment to work through if plans change, but the joy we will have from starting our family will outshine all of that.

I can't wait to become a mother.
And I can't wait to share Genevieve's arrival when the time comes.
Happy Birthing!

October 10, 2013

Week 33 and our Maternity Pictures!

Week 33
September 30th - October 6th

Genevieve is now about 4.5 pounds and measuring about 17 inches long.
She is still an active little one and loves to wiggle around.
I am at a point where I am used to the intense movement and now it just makes me smile. The last few weeks were tough when the kicks were getting aggressive but I am savoring them in these final weeks. 
I am still not sleeping well but like the kicks, it is the new normal and I have emotionally and physically adjusted to it. Michael has been so incredible - rubbing my back every night and helping me get my 5+ pillows just right. I am so grateful for all his support!
I meant to share a belly picture after I had my henna done. 
Here it is once the henna came off:
Part of my nesting came in the form of laundry. 
My goodness there was a lot of clothes, blankets, crib sheets, swaddles, etc to wash. But it feels great to have all of that put away and everything ready from birth to 3 months. I actually love folding laundry, I find it really relaxing but I am sure once baby comes it might change with all the loads I will be doing!
One highlight of this last week was me getting my DIY bug back!
I have done close to no crafts since I've been pregnant. I thought I would be a crafting machine making all sorts of goodies for baby, but I have had NO energy or desire at all. 
Lauren wanted to make stuffed animals so we went for it. 
Meet Marcy the fox. 
I think she is adorable! I will definitely be making more. 
Here are few pictures from our maternity shoot!
It was a wonderful end of September day. Fall was in the air and Shelby Bottoms was the perfect location to capture the two of us before Genevieve arrives. 
Thank you, Felicia for the amazing pictures!!
Sweet Genevieve,
We anticipate your arrival as the weather is getting cooler and the leaves are changing colors. 
I am only 4 weeks from being full-term. You could arrive in a month. Although, I am trying to keep the 40 - 42 week idea in my head so I don't get too anxious. The restless bug hasn't set in yet. Both your dad and I are content at this stage in pregnancy. It is a lot easier to care for you, feed you, and keep you warm right now!I know you will arrive before we know it but we are grateful for a few weeks to prepare and enjoy each other. Your nursery is done, the birth kit arrived, birthing classes have started and I am lining things up for maternity leave - we are getting everything set up! Now that you are a little more snug, your kicks and wiggles are so sweet. I am relishing them! Oh goodness, the love we have for you is indescribable. 
You stay put as long as you need - we will be ready for you when you are ready.