Posts tagged ‘birth’

May 14, 2013

The Birth of The Twins

I was barely 18 when I discovered I was expecting. Living in motels and a car my boyfriend and I had bought together so we’d have somewhere to stay when we had no money, to say I was unable to handle much more is an incredible understatement. I bounced from job to job, not able or willing to hold down a steady job because I was an immature kid. My boyfriend had been at the same job for 4 years and took an additional one to help, but it was still not nearly enough to help us afford a place and the car payment.

Upon discovery of our impending arrival, I was scheduled to have an u/s since we had no idea how far along I was. A friend drove me to the hospital and we arrived a few minutes late and my boyfriend met us there. My friend left and my boyfriend and I entered the room and I was told to lie down on the table and lift my shirt. I remember the u/s screen, what looked like a weird computer, was up behind my head so that I had to angle my head and neck just right to see but not turn so much that the technician couldn’t see the baby.

The next exchange changed my life more than I ever could have imagined.

“Oh look at that! There’s two,” said the ultrasound technician in a monotone voice that was not worthy of what she’d just said.

I flipped around so I could see better, “You’re joking right?!”

“No, no. See..” she said as she pointed out two beating hearts. “One, two.”

My heart sank. Two. Not one. The technician looked at me quizzically and I tried to feign happiness. I shot a glance at my boyfriend who nervously eyed the ground. “Oh God,” I thought, “He’s going to leave me for sure now.”

Somehow I made it through those first few months of pregnancy. I held on the best I could to my sanity and managed to alienate my boyfriend at the same time. I look back now and think I was doing it on purpose. I was protecting myself and giving him the pass to go if he wanted. I am nobody’s obligation.

During my 4th month of pregnancy, my boyfriend finally worked up the courage to tell me he’d joined the military. And he was leaving for boot camp the following day. He was not leaving ME, he insisted. After finding out I was pregnant, I finagled us both into my dad’s house. It was temporary. Very temporary. But S, my boyfriend, felt he wouldn’t kick me out if he left. He felt sure of it. And he felt positive he could not raise two babies on his meager income.

I was angry and felt betrayed. Feeling broken and full of rage, I spit venom filled words at him and then begged him with my whole heart to stay. I willed him to stay with everything in me, but the next morning he kissed me goodbye and drove away. He said it was for the best.

A few weeks later, at my appointment with my perinatologist (specialized doctor in high risk pregnancies), I discovered that my cervix was not doing it’s job. It’s was very short and ready to begin dilation. I was approaching 5 months pregnant and it was way too early to deliver the babies safely. I was placed on strict bedrest, had to quit my job, and was only allowed to sit up to eat or go to the bathroom. I was also told baby B had short limbs and may be a little person. The terror I felt upon realization that I was pregnant with twins could never compare to how devastated I felt about the possibility of losing my babies or one having some sort of developmental problem.

So I laid around watching television and reading books for the next 4 months. I watched a lot of A Baby Story and Birth Day from TLC and Discovery. My view of what a “normal” birth was was terribly skewed. At the time I was also living with my step-mom. She is a NICU charge nurse and has been for many years. I remember bringing up home birth once because a water birth (something I’d seen in a rare, HAPPY home birth show on Discovery) made me interested and she replied with something like, “People that have babies at home are stupid. They are risking their babies lives!” I never asked about it again. And I began to believe the same.

Throughout my pregnancy, I was prepared for the possibility of a cesarean. I was scared of one, but not because I was concerned about risks to the babies or myself. I had no idea. I blindly believed it was just as safe, if not safer than a vaginal delivery. I just didn’t like the idea of being cut open.

At my last doctor’s appointment, I was told my blood pressure was high (how high? I can’t answer that. I never asked.) and that there was protein in my urine. I was so swollen there was a stretch mark on one of my ankles and I had developed this weird, hanging belly underneath my pregnant belly. I remember being totally grossed out by it. My doctor offered to induce the same day, but I remember thinking I needed to prepare myself (like, shave) and asked to wait a day. She agreed and told me to arrive at 7am the following morning.

I don’t think I slept at all that night. The next morning we were on the road at 6am. The hospital was 45 minutes away. I was so nervous and yet so excited to just get them OUT! I was miserable and angry that I’d had to lay in bed for all that time. I was so selfish. I remember starving, but not eating anything. I assumed I could eat at the hospital.

We arrived right on time and they got me changed into one of those awful gowns and with no back. I climbed into the bed and they inserted an IV right away. The nurse who inserted it apparently did not know what she was doing and when she tried to place the needle, blood shot out of my wrist and onto her and me. She flipped out, dropped my hand and nearly ran away, but my step-mom was there and she stepped forward and the nurse regained composure and corrected her mistake. Cold fluids went into my arm and all I couild think was how badly it burned. I hated that stupid IV. More than a few times I thought about trying to take it out, but I knew I couldn’t accomplish it without someone noticing. Just as I got used to the fluids they were pushing, they added pitocin to the mix. Magnesium sulfate, pitocin, and saline.

Aside from the coldness flowing into my arm, I felt fine. They said I was having regular contractions, but I don’t recall really feeling them. I remember feeling like I needed to poop, but that was it. No pain.

When I was 4 centimeters, the nurse mentioned whenever I wanted the epidural I could have it. I hadn’t given much thought to this. What kind of brave soul has a baby without an epidural!?? I wasn’t feeling any pain and I thought I really didn’t want to so I opted for the epidural immediately. About 45 minutes later, still feeling no pain, the anesthesiologist arrived to place the epidural. They had me sit up, turn to the side of the bed with my feet hanging down and put my head down. I remember him telling me to be very still. He said it like 8 times. Then he said if I wasn’t, he could really injure me. I began to rethink my decision, but it felt too late to say anything. As he placed the catheter, I burst into tears. Sobbing uncontrollably into my step-mom’s shoulder, I remember thinking how sad it was that my boyfriend was not there for the birth of his children. I also remember saying aloud, “I don’t even know why I’m crying,” and feeling so embarrassed.

The epidural did it’s job mostly, but I remember feeling some in my bottom. I could feel the contractions down there, but no where else. I remember feeling a lot of pressure. It was so boring, laying there with nothing to do and waiting to be dilated enough to push the babies out. It was not at all like you see in the movies or on TV. It was not chaos and screaming, but nor was it calm and peaceful. I felt so anxious. I hated the whole experience and I wanted it to end.

Finally I was complete. My doctor and a team of nurses and technicians wheeled me into the OR, just in case. I remembered seeing a birth on TV where the mother pushed one baby out vaginally, but then had a cesarean for the other baby. I was so scared of the same happening to me.

Once in the OR, they placed another IV in my hand, just in case. Everyone got into scrubs and face masks, just in case. They got out all the equipment and the scalpel tray, just in case. The placed an oxygen mask, just in case. My doctor began instructing me to push and I did just as I was asked. She sounded so proud of me, “Great job! You can do it! Keep going!” and so I did. I could sort of feel things, but not completely so I only had her count and timing to guide me.

My first baby slid out, a baby boy, C. He was shown to me for a millisecond and then whisked away to be cleaned up and wrapped like a burrito. My doctor instructed me not to push in what sounded like a worried tone and then said quietly to someone else,”She’s bleeding way too much.” She explained that I’d torn “a little bit” and that I needed to stop pushing and wait for her to stich me up. Baby B up until this point had been breech, but quickly flipped around once her brother was safely out.

With stiching over for now, I was told to begin pushing again. I did and just a few pushes later D was born, a little girl. Once again they showed her to me and then whisked her off for the same treatment her brother had received. My doctor exclaimed, “Well that was the perfect twin birth,” looking very pleased with herself.

They placed both babies on my chest, but laying flat on my back, legs spread eagle getting stiched again, and beyond exhausted and numb from the waist down I barely mustered the strength to lift my head and stroke their heads. We were moved to Mother and Baby.

My step-mom wanted to be the first to bathe them and I honestly didn’t care. I kind of wanted them to take the babies and let me sleep. They tried to get me to breastfeed, but I and both babies were so out of it it wasn’t successful. They finally left and I was allowed to sleep.

C weighed 6lbs 10oz and was 20inches long. D weighed 5lbs 15oz and was 19 inches long. Both perfect.

I am sure there is much more I don’t recall. At the end of it all, the only thing I clearly remember was wanting sleep and a willingness to do anything to get it. I regret that induction so much. I regret not asking more questions, not spending those months on bedrest learning about pregnancy and childbirth with forms of information that weren’t medically slanted. Once I was fully alert and felt back to myself again, I knew with every part of my being that I NEVER wanted to do birth that way ever again.

Their father finally met them when they were 2.5 months old, after successfully completing boot camp. We married shortly after and have been together ever since.

May 9, 2012

Why I Chose To Encapsulate My Placenta.. And How I Did It!

My history during the postpartum period hasn’t been the best. After the twins I spiraled into a pretty severe depressive state due to many factors. It took a lot of work and a lot of time to move past it. With Monkey, having the time we needed to bond after birth and finding a way to make our breastfeeding relationship successful made a big difference. Anxiety and depression still came, but it was easier to work through and move past. Doodle’s almost perfect birth, bonding, and breastfeeding relationship really helped improve the postpartum period for me. The anxiety still came, but it was relatively mild and disappeared without much work on my end. This time, having had depression during the pregnancy and knowing that increased my chances of having PPD, I knew I wanted (and possibly needed) to consume my placenta.

I actually planned to encapsulate my placenta with Doodle baby in 2009. Unfortunately due to his surprise unassisted birth and my unplanned stay overnight in the hospital, it was left out on the counter top. When I returned home the following evening, I had to dump it. I was so sad!! I thought at the time we would never have another baby, but if we did I knew I would make sure that did not happen again.

When I discovered I was pregnant last July, I knew I would be encapsulating the placenta. If I knew nothing else in all the chaos and excitement of another baby, I knew that! I was so excited to get another shot! After reading all the information regarding what our placentas are capable of giving back to us, I had to try it.

A major consensus regarding any scientific evidence about the benefits of placenta consumption is still out, but some studies claim it can lessen the likelihood of PPD and the baby blues, offer an easier recovery from birth, increase milk supply, replenish iron, increase energy, lessen bleeding, and give you an overall happier postpartum period and recovery. And all the anecdotal evidence had me believing it may really work. I have read so many testimonials about women’s experiences and knew this was a good choice for me.

Immediately following the birth of Adda, my husband placed the placenta into an airtight container and placed it into the freezer. Originally I wanted to hire someone to encapsulate it for me, but I am a control freak and I really wanted to be involved in the process. I decided to wait and do it myself when I felt up to it.

With family visiting and a bit of readjusting to life with 5 kids, we were suddenly at 4 weeks postpartum when I realized I was losing my temper and feeling overly emotional for no real reason. My anxiety levels were starting to creep up, too. I found myself worrying needlessly over everyone in the family. I began imagining terrible events that were very unlikely to actually occur. I needed to do something.

Enter the placenta.

I remembered it and pulled it from the freezer to defrost over the course of two days in the fridge. When it was finally defrosted, I set out to encapsulate it. I bleached all areas I planned to use and thoroughly rewashed every dish, utensil, and pan that I needed for the process.

My supplies included

1 large knife

1 large pan and a steam plate

1 large strainer

1 large plastic bowl

Gallon size Ziploc bags

Lemon and lime, sliced

1 or 2 Large cookie sheets

Empty gelatin capsules (I used these)

1 fresh (or defrosted) placenta


And I set my oven to it’s lowest setting which was 170 degrees.

I placed the placenta into the strainer in the sink and rinsed it thoroughly being sure to remove any blood clots.


I cut the cord at the base and removed the sac. I would have left the sac and wrapped it around the placenta, but mine was simply too thin and would tear any time I stretched it even a little. You can choose to keep it attached and simply ball the placenta into the sac and remove it after steaming. I  pierced the placenta a few times with a metal skewer and I bled the placenta as much as possible, continuing to rinse it. I added water under the steam plate and boiled it. Then I placed lemon and lime slices on top of the steam plate and the placenta on top of those. Once I added the placenta,  I covered it.


I steamed it for 15 minutes per side. This was by far the grossest part for me lol. It just looked so .. weird. And smelled a bit like liver.. eek!!


Once it had been flipped and steamed, I moved it to a cutting board and allowed it to cool. Then I sliced it as thin as I could and placed the slices flat on a large cookie sheet. The thinner the slices, the faster it dries out. I discovered this the hard way! Haha

 I placed the cookie sheet in the oven and let the strips dry for 30 minutes. Then I removed them, flipped every piece over, and returned it to the oven for 30 minutes. I repeated this process several times, until the strips were dry and almost brittle. I think I did it for 7 hours.


I then placed each piece in a ziploc bag and left in the refrigerator overnight so I could get some sleep.

Unfortunately, in my fog-filled mind the following day I forgot to take a picture of the dried strips  before turning them into dust. Whoops! I wish I had gotten a picture as I think it would have been one of the most useful ones for someone looking at placenta encapsulation for the first time. However, this guy has some great pictures of dried strips if you are interested.

So back to turning the strips to dust. I took the strips and broke them into smaller pieces to give my poor blender a break. I decided to use the blender first.. and break out the food processor only if necessary. It wasn’t!

Then I broke open the bag of size “3” gel caps (only size I could find locally, most prefer size “00”) and began filling them with placenta powder.

Placenta pills complete!

I ended up with roughly 300 capsules. My placenta was actually quite small compared to Doodle’s though. The very small size “3” gel caps that I used are about half the size of the capsules that most use for encapsulation of the placenta. I started taking 3 pills twice a day on April 30 and noticed a total difference in my mood and ability to handle life by May 2nd. Just 3 days. My rapid mood swings and my high levels of anxiety completely disappeared within 5 days. It is May 9 today and I feel normal and back to myself. I even feel confident enough now to drop down to just 2 pills, once a day.

I never would have really believed the benefits of placenta encapsulation if I hadn’t experienced them myself. I would recommend this to anyone worried about milk supply, PPD, mood swings, painful postpartum, heavy bleeding, fatigue and any other ailments mothers may experience in the postpartum period. If this is something you are considering, please don’t let the “ick” factor deter you. It is absolutely worth it. And if you can’t afford a placenta encapsulation specialist to do it for you, you can do it yourself!

November 1, 2011

I Needed to UC

This is the first guest post I’ve had on this blog. I am honored that Elizabeth McKeown agreed to write about her experiences with birth and how she ultimately figured out what she needed to do to have her perfect birth.

I gain so much insight from others experiences and that is why I wanted to share her story with you. I hope you can take something from it as I have.

As always, I need to clarify that I am not advocating unassisted childbirth. Part of this story is about unassisted childbirth, but that in no way means that is the point of Elizabeth’s story. What one woman chooses for herself should not dictate what you choose for yourself.

Thank you again, Elizabeth for writing for us.

When I got pregnant with my first, I was so excited. I read everything I could find on pregnancy and birth. I knew I wanted a natural birth, but at the young and naive age of 20, to me that simply meant no drugs. I got an OB/GYN (I still didn’t really think any other options legitimately existed, and I *knew* that to be safe, one *must* give birth in the hospital, just in case) who was very nice, and ended up getting an induction, followed by an epidural (which I gave into), and felt like a failure. The baby and I also had health issues surrounding the birth, although we were alive and mostly healthy. This was not at all what I envisioned. I concluded that labor is just really hard for me for some reason, because I knew I had a high pain tolerance so it wasn’t just that I was a wuss. I figured that maybe the induction (even though I said NO to Pitocin) must have made labor harder to deal with.

When I got pregnant with my second child several years later, I wanted to take a very different approach. With renewed faith in myself, feeling as though I were older, wiser, and maybe stronger, I tried for something much more natural. I hired home birth midwives, and thought it was so cool and forward thinking of me to do so. I knew that hospitals were over-medicalized now, and I *knew* that home birth midwives would uphold only the most natural and woman-respecting beliefs for me and my birth. Prone to going past my due dates and bound by legal standards for care, I was pressured into either getting an induction or being completely without care. Luckily, my body beat their ultimatum and I went into labor myself. Unluckily, it led to the worst day of my life– a traumatic afternoon of excruciating labor with meconium tainted waters and a nice ambulance ride after which I swiftly delivered in an emergency room. The midwives had to transfer me because of the color of that fluid, but it turned out that the baby was fine, after all. The pain and torment of this labor was indescribable.

How could I have been such a fool? How could I really think that I could give birth naturally? Didn’t I learn anything from the first birth? Who were all these other smug bitches who were doing it, and making it look easy? Why am I not the earth mother goddesses that they were? I was the most maternal hippie I knew! Why did my midwives never post about my birth, but bragged on all the other moms? Why had I been so different, and what had I done that was so wrong? Surely they were all lying, these people, and their peaceful empowering birth stories. Birth was torture, birth was pain. How could I ever give birth again? No, no women should ever give birth again. Next time– if there is a next time– I need to get into the hospital ASAP and get that epidural and just ride it out and be thankful the drugs take effect on me.

Some time passed before I considered getting pregnant again. When I finally discovered I was expecting again, the overwhelming feeling was not joy as it should have been– it was worry over how I was going to do this labor. I bounced back and forth from extremes. I wanted midwives for care, and maybe a home attempt at delivery. But this time, they needed to leave me alone. Why, why was that urge so strong? Then of course I considered that I just needed to be in the hospital and get as doped up as possible. At prenatal visits I would ask my midwives about pre-registering at the hospital of my choice, which was further away from the much worse emergency hospital. They had puzzled looks on their faces and wondered why I was interested in this. I explained that maybe just for recovery, it would be nice. They seemed confused. Well, I was, too.

So instead of staying scared and confused and angry, I had to find out why. I dove into research. I wanted to know everything about honest to God, scientific, natural labor– how the body reacts, ways to avoid fear and pain, how to handle emergencies, you name it. Why were my urges to be alone so strong, why had my previous labors gone the way they had but other women had a great time, WHY? So out of this curiosity I learned more and more about UC (unassisted childbirth). The more I learned, the more everything clicked. I felt major epiphanies occur, and it was an eye opener for me to say the least. Almost everything I thought I knew about birth and pregnancy seemed to be false. From the science and data and anecdotes of Grantly Dick-Read and Michel Odent, to the empowering experiences, sources, and facts of Laura Shanley, Lynn Griesemer, and Laurie Annis Morgan… I finally understood. This was fascinating and liberating– and healing. I read Emergency Childbirth by Gregory J. White and was amazed that even with that simple text, I better understood the dynamics of what had occurred to me in previous labors. I knew all the “errors” that had been done to me in the past. I saw clearly where everyone went wrong. I finally knew what I needed with the intellect… what my instinct and body had known all along. I needed to UC.

I had my baby this past March, I published my book “In Search of the Perfect Birth” in April, and I’ve been running the Facebook page In Search of the Perfect Birth since.