Preparing for a VBAC with Hypnobirthing

Although down from a high of 32.9% in 2009, cesarean births in the United States have risen from 5% in 1970 to 31.9% in 2016, which was the last year of national statistics posted by the CDC.

With this rise has also come the increase in mothers with previous cesareans educating themselves about TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean) and VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean delivery). While every trial of labor after cesarean won’t end in a vaginal delivery, the success rates for VBAC, according to the ACOG Practice Bulletin published in November 2017, are 60-80%.

Renee Bradfield, HPCE, of The Birth Space, is a certified hypnobirthing teacher and postnatal doula in Australia. She is the mother of two, the second of which was delivered during a TOLOC that resulted in a successful VBAC. Renee and I connected via Instagram where I stumbled upon a link to her moving VBAC birth story.

Preparing for VBAC | Renee Bradfield, Certified Hypnobirthing Practitioner

Here, she shares some tips for preparing for a successful VBAC, as well as how she utilized Hynpobirthing during her own pregnancy and delivery.

Choosing a VBAC

I’ve known many moms who would like to try for a VBAC and get overwhelmed with all of the planning, especially conflicting information. Once you made the decision to have a VBAC, what did you do next?

Once I had read all the current evidence and decided a VBAC was the safest option, I joined support groups online and read every birth story, I read books (Juju Sundin, Ina May, Grantly Dick-Read) and started to prepare my mind with self-hypnosis tracks.

Read More

Breastfeeding Twins: Advice from Lactation Consultant and Twin Mom Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC

Kathryn Stagg, IBCLC, is a UK-based Lactation Consultant certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Her philosophy, as she puts it, “empowers and enables mums to fulfill and surpass their breastfeeding goals with factual, evidence based information and emotional support. With these tools, women are amazing and can overcome unimaginable difficulties.”Breastfeeding Twins

Thirteen years ago, Kathryn received such great breastfeeding support after welcoming her twins, she decided to become an IBCLC. She now runs a website and Facebook page dedicated to helping nursing mothers of multiples.

In my own work as a postpartum doula, I’ve seen many well-prepared mothers of twins struggle with breastfeeding for various reasons. Many of the available breastfeeding books are written from the perspective of nursing a singleton, and it can take more effort to find resources focused on breastfeeding multiples.

It’s rare to encounter a Lactation Consultant who also successfully breastfed her own twins. I interviewed Kathryn so she can share her first hand knowledge and advice about breastfeeding twins.

Breastfeeding Twins

Q: I have worked with moms of twins who compare their breastfeeding experience to what they’ve read in general breastfeeding books or what they’ve witnessed with friends who have one baby. How is breastfeeding twins different from breastfeeding a singleton?

A: The actual act of breastfeeding is the same, no matter how many babies you have. The latch still has to be the same, and in order to make enough milk it is important for the babies to remove the milk frequently and effectively, just as it is with one baby. The main difference is that there are two babies! But also twin babies tend to be smaller and are often born early, not normally born after 38 weeks and often before. This impacts how easily they will be able to breastfeed, and can make the early days quite challenging, as they can be sleepy and difficult to wake for feeds.

Q: What are the time demands to exclusively breastfeed twins?

A: Basically expect to spend the first 6 to 8 weeks breastfeeding a lot. If mom prefers to breastfeed separately, breastfeeding can be pretty time consuming until the babies become more efficient later. If moms can manage to get tandem feeding going this helps massively as it can halve the time it takes! Once the babies become more efficient when they’re a few months old, breastfeeding can be really quick.

Read More

Navigating the NICU: A Glossary

Whether you’ve just had your first child, or your fifth, every birth and every baby is different. Even under ideal circumstances, labor and delivery can have its challenges. When your infant arrives very early, or has health complications, this experience can intensify.Navigating the NICU: A Glossary

If your newborn needs acute medical assistance or observation, they are admitted to the hospital’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) where they will be carefully monitored 24 hours a day by a specialized team of nurses and life-saving machines. Parents are released for home, and quickly learn to juggle hospital visiting hours, regular life, work and the many unknowns involved when your baby is in the hospital.

Read More

Overcoming Infant Loss and the NICU with Priscilla

Priscilla is a survivor of infant loss and the mother of a NICU graduate. Her wish is for all women to experience complication free births. We met via social media where we’ve been following each other for years. She posted something for NICU Awareness Month and I asked her if she would share her family’s story and she agreed.

Overcoming Infant Loss and the NICU

Her first baby, her daughter, only lived a few hours after being born unexpectedly preterm at 22-weeks gestation. William, her second baby, was born full term at 40-weeks gestation and experienced meconium aspiration during his birth. He went on to spend 2-months in the NICU recovering from this and persistent pulmonary hypertension. Today he’s a healthy, happy and thriving 4-year-old.

Nothing tops the kinship you feel when you connect with someone who’s had the same or similar childbirth experience. Reading her story brought back so many of my own memories of progesterone shots and nights in the NICU. I can relate to the triumph of achieving a full-term pregnancy, after a preterm birth, only to have it end in a second complicated delivery.

We share this story in solidarity to highlight the experiences of families that have also coped with infant loss, preterm birth and having a baby in the NICU.

How did you handle being pregnant after the loss of your first baby, a preemie? 

Honestly, not that well. I knew from the moment I lost my first baby that I needed some serious mental health care. Though I went untreated since I didn’t have stable insurance or general access to any practitioners. So when I got pregnant again, I was extremely nervous and anxious all the time. I had flashbacks to my loss, especially whenever I had to go to the doctor and do ultrasounds. And I allowed my PTSD to kind of consume me at times. I became hell-bent on being able to control every single aspect of the birth.

I had a great OB/GYN but I disliked the hospital she delivered at, they had a higher c-section rate and were not very flexible on allowing mothers freedom and choice during childbirth. So I found a Doula thinking she might be able to help, but she was part of a group of doulas and midwives who were very pushy about natural birth and home birth. They swore that I could do this birth at home with a new midwife and I was coerced into leaving my OB/GYN and it did not turn out well. During labor, my son got stuck and we had to have an emergency transfer. Thank goodness, because he aspirated meconium and had persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), which the midwife would not have been prepared to manage during a homebirth.

Read More

How I Survived Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I recently read the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting baby number three. It’s her third pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). Reading about it has me thinking about my experience with HG.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

A wise mother of three once told me every pregnancy has at least one discomfort. During my son’s pregnancy I had sciatica pain in my lower back. With my daughter’s pregnancy my morning sickness continued the entire pregnancy. I recall even wondering, “maybe its twins this time.” As a childbirth educator I knew HG was more common in twin pregnancies. I had no idea then I was predicting the future. My doctor diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. He also assured me I was not pregnant with twins. I laugh now even thinking about it.

Read More

Having a Preemie: Continuity of Care in the NICU

Care and Continuity for Premature Babies in the NICU

I strongly believe continuity of care is one of the most important things we can do for the happiness of our babies. The proverb, “it takes a village,” is the belief that emotional and physical support, from extended family and caregivers, ensures a calm and welcoming environment for children to grow into healthy adults.

As a first time mom, having nurturing people around me meant more sleep and less stress. It also meant having more time to focus on bonding with my son. He thrived having “a village” to meet his needs with sensitivity and familiarity.

Reminiscing

There are many memories from my time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit I can recall with clarity. I remember the first nurse I met in the NICU, Lisa, she was working beside my son’s bedside when I saw him for the first time. I can call to mind the view out the window from my chair next to the incubator and even the parking attendant in the garage. The moment I can’t recall is meeting the nurse who became the source of our greatest encouragement in the NICU, Lora. I know it was the first week, because she was with me on day five. The first day I was able to hold Bastian.

Although I was a mother with a newborn, until that day, I hadn’t been able to hold or care for my baby. His micro prematurity required a level of care which could only be provided by medically trained professionals. In our first foray into Kangaroo care, often called skin-to-skin contact, I finally felt like a normal new mom.

Read More

Raising a family in Sweden with Emma Olevik

I think of Sweden in the same way as Narnia. A far off place with foresty islands, magical light, mythical history, and renowned novelists with strong female protagonists such as Lisbeth and Annika. They also have generous paid family leave. I try not to think about the dark cold winters, and focus on a country that is creating policies to offer families the healthiest work life balance.

Raising a family in Sweden with Emma Olevik

Today, we present Emma Olevik, a horticulture journalist based in Sweden with her husband and three daughters. I had the fortune to “meet” her in an online photography class several years ago. At the time she was a mother of two and I was a mother of one. We bonded over ‘Wabi-sabi’ and have kept in touch since.

Here we talk about having and raising a family in Sweden while being a working mom.

As told to me March 2016. Emma welcomed her 3rd child, a beautiful baby girl, in October 2016. 

Raising a family in Sweden with Emma Olevik

Are there birth doulas and postpartum doulas in Sweden?

Yes, it exists, but it is unusual. But getting more and more common I think. None of my friends had a doula, or anyone I’ve heard of, but you can easily find one online.

During your pregnancies did you receive care from a midwife or an obstetrician?

In Sweden once you find out you are pregnant you call your local ”mother care central” where you register and get a personal midwife whom you meet regularly during the pregnancy. Once or maybe twice you visit the hospital for a scanning/ultrasound (more often if there are special needs). You don’t meet an obstetrician as long as everything is “normal.” Even during the actual birth it is most common to be assisted by a midwife and a nurse. They call on an obstetrician if there is a need for it.

Read More

Motherhood: Fantasy vs. Reality.

Our hopes and dreams create the passion we need to strive in life. However, the vagaries of reality can be disillusioning. Childbirth, and the transition into motherhood, is one of those times where our fantasies often do not match reality.

​The singer Freddie Mercury summed it up in his epic ballad, Bohemian Rhapsody:

“Is this the real life?

Is this just fantasy?

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.

Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see.”

Motherhood: Fantasy vs. Reality.

During times when it feels like there’s no escape from the landslide of reality, it’s only natural to seek external inspiration. It’s tempting to jump online and read what others have done to make it work, and copy them. There are plenty of rosy stories with women who seem to have it all. There are also endless tips, tricks and advice articles. While none of this is necessarily bad, it can end up spinning you in circles with no clear direction. Keep in mind that inspiration is not mimicry, it should be a catalyst for finding your own way and methods.

During pregnancy, many of us have expectations for birth and the kind of mother we will be when our baby is here. These expectations can quickly become misaligned with reality depending on how labor goes, what your baby is like and how much support you have during the early days of motherhood.

It’s also important to listen to yourself and find birth professionals who are a good fit. There’s nothing like hiring an obstetrician who doesn’t remember delivering your first child or a lactation consultant who grabs your breast without asking.

A popular book that many women read during pregnancy is “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.” It’s filled with encouraging birth stories and advice to trust your body and instincts. Ina May’s books are relevant and important, however it’s important to remember they are also “inspirational.” Striving for an ideal birth can be empowering… but the flip side is that sometimes you just can’t attain it. Being able to accept a not-so-dreamy birth, after fantasizing about a perfect one can be difficult.

Read More

Motherhood vs. Oneself

Motherhood vs. Oneself

I’m sure you had a life before the conception and birth of your child, I know I did. Who you are doesn’t magically change because you’re a mother. Yes, you have a new baby who needs your attention to thrive, but you’re still you with desires, goals and idiosyncrasies.

We’re living in what appears to be a collective renaissance of self-enhancement, especially where I live in Los Angeles. Everyone is trying to be the best version of themselves by keeping a healthy lifestyle and chasing their dreams. As with anything, you shouldn’t stop trying to be the best version of yourself when you become a parent.

If you’re a stay at home mother the household and lifestyle requirements still need to be maintained. A home doesn’t run itself, and even with a regular housekeeper, someone has to make sure that everything is being done to the desired specifications and that scheduled events like doctor’s appointments are met. Making a stable home life for your family is an important component of being a high functioning mother.

If you have a job outside of the home it can be daunting to stay connected to it while welcoming your new baby into your family. There are many thoughts and things to consider when you’re a working mother. Is your baby going to forget who you are when you’re gone? Are you going to miss out on opportunities to grow in your career if you take too much time out? Are you a horrible mother if you have to do daycare, because hiring an in-home nanny is too expensive? Can you even breastfeed if you go back to work? Is it acceptable to do formula?

Read More

Creating Simplicity & Joy with Christine O’Brien

The beginning of the year brings reflection and resolutions for many. As a mother in Southern California, where it’s technically “winter” but often warm enough to go without a jacket and let the children play outside everyday, the new year still brings an urge to nest and create a cozy home.

Christine lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter. She is a Parenting Coach, recently trained as a KonMari Consultant, who helps other mothers create joyful homes for their families.

KonMari is the organizing method created by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo. A method she shared in her bestselling book, “The Life Changing Method of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”

Creating Simplicity with Christine O'Brien

Christine is also a Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach. She teaches techniques based on Kim Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting” which is full of helpful tools for creating daily rhythms that allow children to feel secure and supported.

Several years ago I read the book that started the KonMari craze: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” There are many aspects of the book that I find informative, however I don’t apply it strictly to my own home. I found that the book “Simplicity Parenting” was more applicable to my family’s personal lifestyle and I implemented several of the techniques it outlines.

The KonMari method was the catalyst for a complete lifestyle change for Christine. A few months ago I sent her an email to hear more about her personal philosophy and how it made her life more joyful.

Since then I’ve been following her wonderful Facebook Group, “From Chaos to Calm,” where she offers guidance to parents who are looking for peace in their day-to-day family routines. It is inspiring to read testimonials on this page from people who are making positive changes in their lives.

I can understand why the KonMari method has such a passionate following. Many people are also applying the KonMari practice to areas outside of the home and making more mindful choices throughout their lives.

Read More