Forgiveness and Babies

It’s not Friday, but thanks to a very busy week I’m celebrating Forgiveness Friday anyway. If my explorations in forgiveness mean anything at all, I can cut myself some slack when I slip a little in my schedule, right? While it may be Sunday, once again I’m thinking about forgiveness. You can find my other posts on forgiveness by checking out the Forgiveness Friday tag.

This past Wednesday my husband had a vasectomy. The week before the big event, I found myself crying about his upcoming snip in my therapist’s office. (I love therapy, by the way. I go because of the insights it provides me, rather than because I’m experiencing a personal crisis.) While I freely concede that having another baby at this point wouldn’t be the best idea on a number of levels, I was having a difficult time letting go of that part of my life. I loved my babies a whole lot. I loved being a mother of babies and toddlers. While I’ve mostly moved on from that phase of parenting, my husband’s appointment represented the final nail in the coffin of my babylust.

One of the things that came out of the discussion with my therapist for me was the psychic wound I still carry over my daughter Hannah’s premature birth. I like to think I’ve made my peace, and in some ways I have. I no longer sob on each of Hannah’s birthdays, thinking she shouldn’t have been born on that day. I no longer worry that my daughter’s earlier-than-anticipated arrival has left lasting scars. I can see that she’s a normal, healthy, happy almost-nine-year-old. But. But. But. Sometimes I still find myself running over the events surrounding Hannah’s birth in my mind. Sometimes I still feel a strong need to grab hold of my daughter and never ever ever let her go again. And, truthfully, I’m still pretty angry about some of the decisions that my daughter’s doctors and nurses made surrounding her care.

forgiveness friday premature baby NICU isolette

I’m still angry that, in spite of her high Apgar scores, relatively large size and total lack of any signs of distress she was taken away from me within a couple of minutes of her birth.

I’m still angry that a nurse fed her that first bottle of formula without consulting me, and less than 30 minutes before I tried breastfeeding her for the first time.

I’m still angry that my labour nurse told me that it was my fault I hemorrhaged, because my daughter was born so quickly.

I’m still angry at the NICU staff who kept warning me about all of the dire things that could happen to my daughter (none of which did), increasing my anxiety at an already anxious time.

I’m still angry about a whole lot of other things, too. I’m holding on to a lot of pain. I can mostly ignore it, but occasionally it rears its head and I’m overwhelmed by all of it, even still.

Three and a half years after Hannah was born, my son Jacob’s birth went pretty much exactly to plan. I had wanted to give birth while my daughter was at daycare, and that happened. I had said that I wanted my son to be born about 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital, and that happened. I had said that I wanted to go home within a few hours of my baby’s birth, and that happened. I didn’t hemorrhage, he was born within a few days of his due date, and he was the picture of health. Really, it was textbook perfect in pretty much every respect.

I had thought that having a better birth experience the second time around would be healing for me. The truth is that it was exactly the opposite. As I experienced those first minutes, hours and days with my newborn son, I realized exactly what I had missed with my daughter. Rather than healing my wounds, my positive second experience actually rubbed salt in them.

Sitting in my therapist’s office a week and a half ago, I realized that one of the reasons I want another baby is because of these wounds I still carry around. I’m hoping that maybe the next birth would be the magic bullet. Or maybe if I have another daughter and it goes well, somehow that will make everything okay. I will get a chance to do things right. I will make better choices, my body will work the way it’s supposed to, and I’ll be able to forgive both myself, and the healthcare providers who were actually just trying to help.

That is not to be for me. Truthfully, I know that it wouldn’t make a difference. My anger over what happened to Hannah wouldn’t magically disappear with a third (or fourth, or tenth) child. All that I can do now is make the choice to forgive, and make the most of the time I have with my two amazing children.

I still feel a little bit at a loss as to how to forgive. I’m working on creating a forgiveness practice, and it seems to help a little, but it’s not a magic bullet. Maybe that’s why it’s called a forgiveness practice – because I need to constantly practice, each and every day. Forgiveness doesn’t happen instantaneously, especially when the wounds run deep. It takes time to let go of the baggage we carry around with us.

Right now, having more insight into why I feel the way I do is helpful. It’s helping me to chart a path forward. The way isn’t always smooth and clear, but it feels good to know that I’m making progress, even if it’s painstakingly slow. I’m keeping at it, and I’m trusting that slowly I’ll get better, and forgiving will become easier. Step by step by step.

Repost: Podcast with Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress

Today I’m re-sharing my interview with the fabulous Katherine Stone, talking about postpartum depression and reproductive mental illness. This is an important one, and it’s definitely worth a listen – or, for that matter, a re-listen.

Seven years ago right now I had a two-and-a-half week old baby, and I was depressed. I cried for long periods of time, often for no specific reason. I was convinced that I was a terrible mother, and that I had made a terrible mistake. I did all of the things that I was supposed to do for my baby, but I really wasn’t myself, and I didn’t feel the way that I had expected to feel. To complicate matters, I didn’t really see my own depression for what it was. The people around me did – and I thank my lucky stars for that – but I wasn’t really able to acknowledge what was going on.

It’s taking all of my personal strength to not delete that paragraph, by the way. The shame surrounding depression is strong, and I think that when we’re talking about postpartum depression it only ups the ante. When you have a new baby, life is supposed to be blissful. You’re supposed to be overwhelmed with love, and just spend your days gazing at your new little bundle of joy in wonder. Only, it’s not like that for everyone. And it doesn’t make us bad mothers, it makes us human beings who are suffering from a disease that is categorically not our fault.

Strocel.com Podcast Katherine Stone Postpartum Progress Postpartum DepressionIn my case, my depression was reasonably short-lived. By the time my baby was a couple of months old – and sleeping longer stretches at night – I was through the worst of it. I didn’t suffer in isolation for months, as some women do. My healthcare providers didn’t dismiss me, and no one suggested to me that I was in any way to blame, even if I sometimes felt that way myself. In many ways, I got off easy. All the same, I carry the weight of that time with me every day, and it colours my memory of my first child’s arrival in a profound way. I know that I am hardly alone, and I strongly believe that we need to fight the stigma of mental illness related to pregnancy and childbirth. So I decided to speak with Katherine Stone, Founder and Editor of Postpartum Progress, the most-widely read blog on postpartum depression and reproductive mental illness.

I heard Katherine speak at BlogHer, and I knew that she was passionate and committed to creating positive change. That passion came through during our conversation. She’s working hard to help mothers find the help they need, and to break down societal and cultural barriers to accessing that help. I find her inspiring, and I’m so glad that she’s created the resource that she has for mothers. I wish I had known about it myself as a new mom. Listen to what Katherine had to say about postpartum depression and other reproductive mental illnesses:

I’m still deciding what I’ll be sharing next week on the podcast, but I can promise you that you’ll want to tune in. Subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute! Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Podcast: Melissa Vose on Canadian Maternity Care

When I first came across the Mothers of Change website, I felt as if I had found my people. Mothers of Change is a grassroots advocacy group, advocating for quality maternity care for Canadian mothers. It recently occurred to me that I had never interviewed them for my podcast, and I decided to remedy that immediately. Luckily, founding board member Melissa Vose agreed to chat with me, and I’m excited to share our conversation in today’s podcast.

strocel.com podcast mothers of change melissa voseWe hear a lot about the state of birth in the US. Even here in Canada, most of us are far more conversant with what childbirth looks like in American hospitals, thanks to shows like TLC’s A Baby Story. There are far more books, movies, and TV shows portraying, documenting and exploring birth from the American perspective. While birth is birth regardless of the country in which it happens, different medical systems and standards of care definitely impact the experience and course of labour. This is why I was especially pleased to come across Mothers of Change in the first place. It’s also why I was eager to discuss childbirth in Canada on today’s podcast.

During the podcast, Melissa and I talked about how the American and Canadian approaches to birth differ. We discussed some of the pressing issues facing birthing women in Canada today. And we talked about what expecting mothers can do to stack the odds in their favour when it comes to having the birth they want.

strocel.com podcast mothers of change melissa vose

Whether you’re pregnant, you’re a birth junkie like me, or you’re interested in how a grassroots group is working to birth better maternity care, you’ll want to listen to today’s podcast:

Next week on the Strocel.com podcast I’ll be sharing an interview with Teresa Pitman. She’s the former chair of La Leche League Canada, and a co-author of the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. She’s also been widely published in other books, magazines and so on. I consider her something of a role model, and I interviewed her for the Crafting my Life Online Course. Whether you’re interested in breastfeeding, or you’d just like a little bit of inspiration as we talk about role models, you’ll want to tune in. Subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute! Also, if you have a podcast idea, please share it with me. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Shanti Uganda’s Birth Partners Push

Shanti Uganda Birth Partners PushIn September I shared a post about Shanti Uganda’s Birth Partners Push. The concept was simple – moms with blogs would use their platforms to help create positive change for women in Uganda, through Shanti Uganda.

Based here in the Vancouver area, the Shanti Uganda Society imagines a world where birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS are supported, empowered and able to develop to their full potential. They provide safe woman-centered care and support the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. In 2010 they opened their Birth House, which is a solar powered maternity center on one acre of land in the Luwero District of Uganda. The centre is staffed by a team of Ugandan Midwives, a traditional birth attendant and a lab technician. From the Birth House, Shanti Uganda also runs prenatal education classes, a Community Garden Program, a Teen Girls Program and a Women’s Income Generating Group. The latter is a collective of HIV positive women who produce bags and jewellery, which are sold throughout North America.

According to Shanti Uganda, maternal health in Uganda is in need of critical support. 1 in 22 women in rural areas die giving birth, and 18% of new HIV infections occur from mother to child. In contrast, in Canada in 2010, approximately 1 in 13,000 women died in childbirth in 2010. Women in rural Uganda are 590 times more likely to die in childbirth than I was. According to one study, the most common causes of maternal mortality in Uganda were sepsis, hemorrhage and ruptured uterus, while the most common factors contributing to death were lack of blood for transfusion, lack of drugs and intravenous fluids and operating room problems.

Shanti Uganda Birth Partners Push

Those statistics hit home for me. With my daughter Hannah I went into labour at 34 weeks, and while the birth was mostly uneventful, after Hannah was born I hemorrhaged severely. I ultimately required a D&C to remove a piece of placenta, which hadn’t delivered properly. While I was being prepped for surgery, the anesthesiologist told me I’d lost about half of my blood volume. Keep in mind, I had access to excellent medical care and drugs to reduce my bleeding. Following my surgery, when my hemoglobin had dropped again, I was given a transfusion. Some weeks later we got the pathology results from the placenta that had been sent for testing, and we learned that I had been suffering from an acute amniotic infection. Fortunately, thanks to the antibiotics I received in labour and after, my daughter wasn’t infected, and I recovered well. I’m not so sure the outcome would have been so positive if I’d been giving birth in rural Uganda.

I’m grateful to the other mothers who joined with me to raise their voices on behalf of women in Uganda. Please take the time to read what they wrote:

If you care about maternal equality, and you’re able to help, I’d also like to encourage you to consider becoming a Shanti Uganda Birth Partner. Your regular donation helps ensure that they have stable funding to do their important work. I’m not being compensated for writing this, I’m doing it because it matters to me. I bet it matters to a lot of you, too.

Now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What does safe maternity care mean to you? Did you encounter any complications in birth that made you feel glad to have access to quality medical care? Please share!

Want to Help Moms? Shanti Uganda’s Birth Partners Push

Shanti Uganda Birth Partners PushWhen I found myself on the same email thread with Natalie Angell-Besseling, Founder and Executive Director of Shanti Uganda, I knew that I wanted to find out more about this local mama. She helped start a charity that provides safe women-centered care and supports the well-being of birthing mothers and women living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Their projects include a Women’s Income Generating Group and a Birth House, among others. Shanti Uganda’s Birth House offers educational workshops for midwives and traditional birth attendants, as well as preventative care, birth supplies and assistance for birthing women. They’re also working hard to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mothers to their babies.

I interviewed Natalie for a podcast, and I was even more inspired. I encourage you to take a listen for yourself. I decided that I wanted to do what I could to help Shanti Uganda achieve its vision. So when Natalie got in touch with me and told me about the Birth Partners project, the Birth Partners Push was born.

Uganda is a country where poverty has left its mark and millions of children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. With a tremendous shortage of health care workers, maternal health in Uganda is in need of critical support. 1 in 22 women in rural areas die giving birth and 18% of new HIV infections occur from mother to child. The Birth Partners program helps ensure that the Birth House receives stable funding, ensuring that women have access to a dedicated team of midwives. We’re asking mom bloggers to help us spread the word. Natalie says, “Not only is Shanti Uganda providing a safe, empowering environment for women to give birth, but we are defying the statistics. Of the over 100 women who have given birth at our centre in our almost two years of operation, 100% have left healthy, happy and supported by our dedicated team of midwives.”

Shanti Uganda Birth Partners Push

When I look at what Natalie is doing, I feel kind of sheepish about all the time I spend whining about how I don’t want to clean my kitchen.

Through the Birth Partners Push we’re inviting bloggers to stand in solidarity with birthing mothers in Uganda. Help us create awareness about the challenges facing pregnant women in Uganda and use your voice to inspire others to work with us to create better birthing conditions and in turn, save lives. If you could write a post between September 17-30, 2012, featuring your personal passion for maternal health and sharing information about the Birth Partners program we’d be very grateful. Contact me, and I’ll pass along the info.

Podcast: All About Placenta Encapsulation

Placenta encapsulation is one of the hot new trends in birth, although the idea of eating the placenta is hardly new. Nearly all other mammal species do it, including those that are otherwise complete herbivores. There are a number of theories as to why this is – the placenta contains hormones, which are said to ease post-birth complications. It’s also highly nutritious, which can be critical if you’ve just given birth. And some people postulate that by eating the placenta animals are hiding the evidence that there are new babies around, which may attract predators.

Placenta Encapsulation
Image credit – Herb Mother on Flickr

Whatever the reason for it, consuming your placenta is something that is catching on in crunchy birth circles. My friend Gina, a.k.a. The Feminist Breeder, makes her case for it in “What’s the Deal with Placenta Encapsulation?” Although most of the benefits are anecdotal at this point, as more moms talk about it, it’s only likely to become more common. By encapsulating the placenta you can take it like a vitamin, instead of actually cooking it up and eating it, which makes it much more palatable for most (if not all) moms.

Strocel.com Podcast Placenta Encapsulation Roxanna Farnsworth

Roxanna

I decided to look into placenta encapsulation a little bit further for this week’s podcast. While I personally have not consumed my placenta, I’ve watched more than one animal do it. I was wondering if they know something we don’t. I was also curious as to exactly what’s involved, and if there’s any reason that someone shouldn’t eat their placenta. And I wanted to hear what benefits people have actually found.

I interviewed Roxanna Farnsworth, a Certified Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and Dr. Monika Poxon, a psychologist and mom of two who had her placenta encapsulated and consumed the pills following the birth of her second child a little over six weeks ago. If you’re at all curious about what’s involved in placenta encapsulation, you’ll want to listen to this week’s podcast:

I’m planning a surprise for next week’s podcast – I hope it works out! No matter what, though, I promise you there will be a great conversation worth tuning in for. Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes and you won’t miss a minute!

Podcast: Talking Birth Photography with Jaydene Freund

If you’ve had a baby recently – or you know anyone who has – you probably know that birth photography is pretty hot. Looking at the gorgeous black-and-white images of angelic mothers and brand-spanking-new babies, I can understand why that is. I’m actually sad that I don’t have many photos of my own children’s births. While I was in labour photography was the last thing on my mind, but seven and four years out I know that there’s no way to re-capture those moments. At the same time, I wasn’t exactly at my most photogenic as I birthed, if you know what I mean. I decided to catch up with an expert – local birth photographer Jaydene Freund of Cradled Creations – to get the scoop on birth photography for this week’s podcast.

Strocel.com Podcast Birth Photography Jaydene Freund Cradled CreationsJaydene isn’t just a photographer, she’s also a doula. In fact, when she was working as a doula she agreed to take some photos at a birth for a doula client, and that’s how she fell in love with birth photography. That was several years ago, and she’s been working as a birth photographer ever since. I love talking to people who are energized by what they do, and Jaydene is very energized by what she does. It goes without saying that I loved talking to her.

At the same time, I’ll be honest, I had some questions. How does she take birth photos that you’d be comfortable sharing with your father-in-law? How do the hospital staff react to having a photographer in the delivery room? Is birth photography just a symptom of the way we overdocument every part of our lives? And how does Jaydene – a mom of a toddler herself – juggle parenthood and being on-call at all hours of the day and night?

Strocel.com Podcast Birth Photography Jaydene Freund Cradled Creations

If you’re curious to hear the answers to those questions, or you’d like to know more about birth photography, take a listen to the podcast:

I’m working on a podcast about placenta encapsulation for next week’s episode. Just like birth photography, it’s kind of hot right now in birth circles. What’s the scoop? I’ll talk to two moms and find out. If you’re intrigued – or you’re thinking of doing this yourself – you’ll want to tune in. Subscribe to my podcast in iTunes and you won’t miss a minute!

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