Video: Giving Birth & The Human Birth Process

The most obvious of miracles are the ones right in front of us. Having a baby -- producing a person--  is a mind-blowing process. Just think of how many things in the delicate, microscopic machinery of the human body must go RIGHT for a baby to be born. But it's easy get lost in the daily drudgery of life. We fail to appreciate the beauty of what our bodies have done. So check this out: a 9 minute Ted Weekends video post that shows -- in incredible detail -- the journey our baby goes through to become a person.  The next time fussy toddlers, crabby bosses, or terrible traffic get me down, I try to remember this video. From a single cell to trillions in just 9 months, it's a miracle that dwarfs life's little annoyances.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: Being A Good Mom And NOT Breastfeeding

So I'm still huge, and not yet in labor. Luckily the doctor has caved and agreed to schedule an induction for 10/19, if I haven't delivered by then. But in the meantime I'm looking for anything to take my mind off the discomforts and anxieties of imminent labor. Reader Lisa made my day with this email: Dear Dr. Heather,

I was googling the meaning of the term "mainstream parenting" and ran across your site. I read a lot of articles on BabyShrink, including one by the name of:

The “Good-Enough Mother”: Are Breasts Required?

This particular article made me feel choked up and teary-eyed as the mother of three boys. I experienced so close to the original poster's experience, that it was emotional for me to read about. My second son ended up in the hospital with failure to thrive because I did not know I had under-developed breasts, and the pressure to breastfeed was tremendous. It was as though if I didn't breastfeed I was not a good mother -- end of story.

Now don't get me wrong - I think breastfeeding is the most natural and wonderful way to care for a child that there could possibly be, but I have struggled against huge odds to get people to understand that there are those of us out here who simply CANNOT breastfeed... it's not that we chose this option.

I have since had my third son two months ago and planned right off not to fully breastfeed and just give him whatever little bit I could make, and the rest of his meals would be formula. This was the best choice I could have made. Taking the pressure off myself allowed me to make a little bit more milk, and I have totally enjoyed the breastfeeding this time around without feeling like it was forced upon me. (When I say a little.. I mean that I made about 1/3-1/2 oz of milk between both breasts, which increased to 1/2-1 full oz now.)

My close friends and I have always felt that there is no completely right way to do this job of mothering. It's very dependent on the individual child and his or her needs as a person. Reading your site only backed us up on what we believe and I shared it with my closest friend tonight. I have nothing against the AP crowd except that there are those extremists that ruin it's reputation. The ridicule and nastiness they can dish out is in a whole category by itself. I'm just grateful that there are those out there with credentials like you who see that there is good in several parenting approaches, and your philosophies closely resemble my own.

So this is basically a kudos to you, Dr. Heather.

---- Lisa Utah Mother of 3

Here's my response to Lisa:

Hi Lisa,

There are so many moms like you out there who feel this way.

I keep reminding myself that the WHOLE process of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and indeed parenting itself is an ongoing process. Trying to decide what is best for you, your child, and your family, from day to day, is what it's all about -- not following some kind of idealistic dogma about what is "best". In that way, we model to our children that we create solutions that are best for all of us -- not just based on something that someone else said was supposedly correct for everyone. We can (and should be) flexible, for the good of the kids and our families.

I am so glad you are having a nice experience this time around and trusting yourself. Enjoy and thanks again!!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Pregnancy Help: Dealing With The Anxiety of An Impending Birth

Somehow, this pregnancy has settled into a nice routine. At 38 weeks and counting, my body seems to have adjusted to the aches, pains, and lack of sleep I've been griping about for months. Somehow, it seems like the "new normal". Even my ankles would agree; instead of 2 pork chops protruding from the bottom of my capris, I've somehow got magically slimmed-down ankles. I'm scheduling work for the next 2 weeks (despite my co-workers' comebacks of "Yeah, right, you're coming to the next meeting!") and enjoying the comments (and even the stares) of strangers about my obvious state of pregnancy. My wonderful husband has fallen into the routine of giving the kids dinner and putting them to bed, and then doing the dishes, while I put my feet up and "talk story" with him. Hey, I could get used to this! Um, except that...Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, is it? As much as I'm wanting to avoid this thing called "labor and delivery", what actually FEELS like "jumping (or getting pushed) off a cliff" -- deep down, I know I can't pretend it's not about to happen. Deep down, this control freak is really scared about the unpredictable nature of labor, and the fact that an unknown doctor in the group is likely to deliver my baby, not to mention the fact that I'm about to meet a little stranger. An interloper into what has become the lovely rhythm of our family.

I've spent this pregnancy in deep gratitude for the upcoming birth of this baby; grateful for the simple fact of my pregnancy at age 41, grateful that the pregnancy has progressed so well so far, and grateful for the support I have to go through this again.

But now I'm getting worried about the incredible changes we're about to face. Yes, I know. I'll fall in love with her the moment I meet her (or perhaps soon thereafter). My motherly instincts will kick in -- they always have before -- and the baby will be a wonderful addition to the family. Yadda yadda. But at this point she's still such a mystery; such an enigma. So close, and yet so unknown. And she's about to change everything. It's a little scary for a control freak like me to anticipate!

I feel protective of the three kids we have, and our routine that this new baby is about to smash. As excited as the kids are about their new sister, I feel anticipatory guilt that they surely cannot know the degree to which my attention will be taken away by the baby (and the killer sleep deprivation I will endure). And I groan when I think of the messy recovery from childbirth, the weight I'll have to lose, and the strategic clothing that needs to be worn by a lactating mother who also attends Board meetings and clinical consults.

So I think I'll just pretend that this is "the new normal" for a little while longer.

Baby? Who's having a baby?

Pregnancy Help: The "Birth Plan" -- A Lesson In Futility

A first-time expectant mom asks: "Do you recommend any techniques for my upcoming labor and delivery? Does anything, in your experience, make things easier or more manageable in the delivery process? I'm trying to develop my Birth Plan. Thanks for your help!"

Seeing as though we're expecting my FOURTH labor and delivery in a few weeks, you'd think I'd have loads to suggest to this first-time mom. But you know what? I GOT NOTHIN'. Nothing! Each time I go through it, I'm reminded at how utterly out of control we are...in life in general, but in the birthing process in particular. Now yes, I know there are all sorts of techniques and approaches out there. And I know many of you have fruitfully used Bradley, Lamaze, hypno-birthing....yadda yadda. Whatever. The truth is: NONE OF IT REALLY HELPS. It's all an illusion to help us feel like we're more in control.

Well, let me backtrack a little here. See, I'm up at midnight right now with a terrible case of heartburn, an aching back, some weird pregnancy-related skin condition and no way to sleep comfortably. There's a wriggling, basketball-sized being in my belly, and I'm sick of my maternity clothes, many of which are starting to get tight. So I admit it: I'm a little cranky. But when I get on the topic of labor and the infamous "Birth Plan", I get a little MORE cranky.

Let me break it down for you: Labor is unpredictable. Labor can be dangerous. Not so long ago, women used to die all the time in labor. The point is this: We shouldn't get too picky about the labor process. Thankfully, the vast majority of women (in developed countries), today, survive the process just fine. But the notion that we can control for all the possible complications that can happen is just plain wrong. And it's human nature to react to an out-of-control situation with the fantasy that we really CAN control it. But it's harmful to mothers out there who buy into the notion that they CAN and SHOULD control their delivery process...because many of us CAN'T, and then feel inadequate as a result.

I've heard heartbreaking stories from moms who felt guilty and disappointed because they couldn't live up to their "Birth Plans". Moms who felt scolded by their doctors, nurses, or midwives for going against the particular birthing approaches of the practice...mothers who changed their minds about pain control, or what kind of labor support to use, or even whether to scream and yell during labor. Mothers who had to have emergency C-Sections, who delivered prematurely, or who had bleeding problems. A close relative of mine recently delivered and had a really unusual -- and completely unpredictable -- complication that left her bedridden for more than a week, and on a walker for another two weeks. These things happen, and Birth Planning can't prevent them. And many moms feel inadequate if they can't live up to this supposed "ideal".

There is a mistaken notion that labor and delivery are somehow the culmination -- the end point -- of a process. After all, we go through a 9-month process to grow and deliver this child, which is truly a miraculous experience. But the truth is, LABOR AND DELIVERY ARE ONLY THE BEGINNING. Choices we make during pregnancy and delivery are actually the first parenting decisions we make. And that's the beginning of a life-long process; how to best parent this child we deliver, in whatever manner we choose to, on that miraculous day of delivery. And how best to roll with the punches of life, and still feel confident and satisfied with ourselves. After all, that's an important life lesson to impart to our children -- the ability to be flexible and adaptable to life's curve balls. The attitude that we can and will be "light on our feet" in the face of the unpredictable changes of life.

When seen that way, I think it's easier to see the process in perspective: The ultimate outcome is what's most important about labor and delivery. Forget techniques: You want a healthy baby and a healthy mom at the end of it all.

So, if a rigid Birth Plan isn't helpful, what IS? Here's what I recommend:

Thorough education about the process of labor and delivery. It really helps to understand what the "transition" phase is, in particular, and how you're likely to feel during that challenging time. I always vote for more knowledge and education to help get through a novel situation.

First-time parents really benefit from Infant Care classes, at least as much as from Labor and Delivery-type classes. Infant Care class helps answer lots of the questions you'll have about your new baby, and will take some of the overwhelming mystery out of caring for this new creature. It also helps to keep your focus in perspective; this is all about becoming a parent and taking care of your child, after all. Labor and delivery are just a momentary blip at the beginning of that process. The REAL hard work is the parenting!

Working knowledge of some type of breathing exercises. I've tried them all, and for me, the breathing techniques I learned in my regular yoga classes helped the most. Experiment with several. During labor, see what works. Often, breathing techniques are only useful UNTIL you get into "transition". At that point, do what comes naturally. I recently read a study that says swearing and cussing actually help us decrease our experience of pain. I plan to try that this time!!!

Accept the fact that you're jumping off a cliff here. Things will feel out of control at some point in your labor and delivery; maybe more so than you'd like. Keep focused on the outcome and don't worry about the process. It's temporary!

If you want to read more of my Birth Plan rantings, check out this post here. And I'd love for experienced parents to please post about your birth experiences, and whether your Birth Plan proved useful to you. Also, let us know your suggestions to first-time expectant moms!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Pregnancy Help: Tips & Resources For Coping With Postpartum Depression

I'm not prone to depression; I'm more of an anxious type, with a tendency to overreact and sweat the small stuff. So when our (4th) baby is born (I'm 30 weeks along now, folks!), I'm anticipating some hormonal upheavals (as well as the excruciating sleep deprivation that comes along with a new baby), but not depression per-se. But as a clinician, I'm very concerned about the high rate of postpartum mood disorders, as well as the tendency of new mothers to ignore or deny their symptoms. Many of you have written to me, with stories of untreated PPD in your pasts, begging me to help get the word out to moms who might be experiencing the condition now. POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION IS ONE OF THE MOST TREATABLE DISORDERS WE KNOW. If you, or someone you know, might have PPD, PLEASE help her to get help...immediately. You can show her this article, which is a nice, straightforward review of the condition, and you can also listen to my 16-minute, free podcast on PPD.

And I know you don't read BabyShrink for a dose of politics, but the situation regarding health care in America is at a point of critical mass. Insufficient numbers of primary care services in this country result in our missing PPD far more than we diagnose it. This is especially true in rural and semi-rural areas -- where many of us live. We MUST reform our health care system to ensure that ALL women are screened for PPD -- and given the treatment that we know works -- for the benefit of their babies, their families, and themselves. And that will only happen if we reform health care to emphasize the prevention and wellness approaches that we know WORK. Treating PPD isn't the hard part. Reforming health care IS. But it must be done. Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

My Most Popular Post

There's no way I could do a one-year retrospective without starting with DadGoneMad's Danny Evans. Danny and his Hot Wife have been there for me from the beginning stages of BabyShrink, and have been endlessly supportive, inspirational and encouraging. When I was freaking out about my lack of technical abilities, Danny calmed me down. "You're doing just fine, Heh. This stuff isn't as difficult as you think it is. It's going to be awesome!" When I had no confidence in my writing, he was my editor extraordinaire. When I lost my way and wondered if anyone would find my blogging helpful, Hot Wife reassured me, gave me suggestions, and never fed me platitudes. I can always count on Sharon to tell it to me straight.

Danny inspired me to go online with BabyShrink as I saw him struggle with depression, and reveal his inner workings to the world in hopes that he could help others in the process. The note he hits with millions of readers worldwide convinced me that blogging can be a powerful way to help others -- and help ourselves in the process.

So if you missed my interview with Danny, here it is. Because of the power of the DadGoneMad readership, and the tsunami of traffic Danny sent me, this is my most-read post ever. Enjoy!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Pregnancy Help: More Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety Support

Julie Malone of CoolMomGuide launched a support forum for moms with postpartum depression and anxiety. She's also hooked it up to play my podcast on PPD/PPA. If you haven't listened to it yet, hit my podcast button to the right, or listen to it over at Julie's place! A new mom has about a 10% chance of having postpartum depression or anxiety. This is the most common complication of childbirth. Postpartum illness impacts the entire family. Not only does it affect mom's mood, it impacts the development of the baby -- and the functioning of the entire family. Most of us are too ashamed to ask for help -- yet it is very treatable! If you or someone you care about might have PPD or PPA, please listen to the podcast and take the steps to get help.

Parenting Tips: Do We Overprotect Our Kids?

Dear Dr. Heather, I have a daycare question about my 7-year-old twins; they go there on school breaks. My question is whether we are overprotecting them. How do you balance between teaching kids to stand up for themselves -- and protecting them?

Their provider's eight-year-old son is very big and plays rough. Without tormenting or actually bullying them, he sometimes holds them longer than they would like, or accidentally hits them. They say it's not on purpose, and trust me, my son is a tattle-tale, so I'd know. They don't seem at all afraid of him, but they get angry (understandably). His mother's response is to spank the boy after the fact. I would rather have it prevented than punished. On the other hand, I want them to learn to say no if they don't want to play with him, or if he gets rough. We could take them out of this daycare, role- play standing up for themselves and talk with the provider, or leave things as they are if we are over reacting. Both my husband and I were teased and I was bullied as a child, so I can't tell if I'm over or under-reacting to this situation.

I also wonder about playing alone outside. They need to be able to play outside sometimes without close supervision at this age, I feel. Is this wrong, and I'm expecting too much for their maturity level? It seems like in the 70s I was riding my bike around the neighborhood and playing unsupervised at their age.

I would love your advice! Mary H, Grand Rapids MI

Hi Mary,

It's a very complex question you ask: How much do we push our children to stand up for themselves -- and when is the right moment to jump in and protect them?

And you're right -- it is a different time we're in now. Most of us (of a certain age...ahem) remember riding bikes until dark (without helmets, of course), exploring uncharted neighborhood territories with only our pals along with us, and riding without seat belts, in the front seat of the car (in my case, I remember riding in the front-seat FOOTWELL of our VW Bug!)

Our parents think we're nuts about all this safety stuff. We all somehow lived...isn't it good enough for OUR kids? And to a certain degree, they're right. Our society does place an inordinate amount of scrutiny on the moment-to-moment activities of our children. They're not able to run free and just PLAY, and have unstructured "down-time". Free play, just for the sake of PLAY, is really important to the development of children. We schedule them like mad, and then wonder why they have ever-increasing rates of emotional and academic problems. There's just too much pressure to perform, every minute of the day. So you're right to wonder about letting them tackle their own problems, and having some room to grow.

But it is a different time -- we're more sophisticated today about safety issues, and we also understand that bullying can be really damaging to kids. So there is more than a kernel of truth in the approach that says we'd better watch our kids carefully, and intervene when necessary.

So how do you strike that balance?

That depends on your unique kids. Each one will have different needs for supervision, at different ages. Some may need a lot of coaching for how to negotiate complex social situations, like the one you describe. Other kids will have more of a knack for handling themselves. Similarly, their need for constant supervision will vary from kid to kid.

So this means you need to KNOW YOUR KID. What are their strengths and weaknesses, in social situations? What is their judgment like? Are they likely to cave in to peer pressure, or can they hold their ground? Are they leaders, or followers? Impulsive, or analytic? Constantly evaluating your kids in this way will help you know what they CAN handle, and what they still need your help in tackling. And don't worry if they DO still need your oversight; social situations are one of the most complicated things our brains process, and they are mostly handled in the outer cortex of the brain; the last to develop in humans. In fact, it looks like these brain areas are still a work-in-progress until the early 20's. So don't hesitate to step in and help your kids think through these things.

The other issue for you, Mary, is that your kids are in a daycare. Your daycare provider is being paid to keep your kids safe -- and so she'd better be watching them closely. Just for the sake of liability, she must provide them with an inordinate amount of structured, safe care. So SHE may be overreacting to her son's acting out. But I certainly think it would be fine to approach her with your observations about your kids, and let her know that you're fine with letting the kids hammer it out themselves in most cases.

And your idea about role-playing with your kids is terrific. I think that's something every parent should do, starting at about the age of 4 or 5; play-act tricky social situations with your kids. Take examples from scenes you have witnessed with them. Wait until everyone is feeling good and you all have some time. Then talk to them about how they might handle a tricky situation. "Let's play pretend. I want us all to practice what happens when a friend wants to play tag, but you'd rather go on the swings. What can you say to them?" I find kids really get into it, and even start suggesting wrinkles in the scenario. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to hear them echo the lessons they've learned with you -- when they're out on the playground.

As for so many of the issues we struggle with here at BabyShrink, this is not a "One Size Fits All" solution. But by following your own knowledge about your own kids, you'll find that balance over time.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

PS If you're interested in learning more about the importance of PLAY in childhood development, read this great article in the New York Times.

Pregnancy Help: Hope for Postpartum Depression: A Podcast

Tune in to Dr. Heather on Postpartum Depression. Here at BabyShrink, I get emailed questions from all over the world. Many of these make it onto the site; questions about potty training, TV-watching, and poop-smearing (which is my most-read post, if you can believe it!)

But there are other questions; questions too pained and personal to be published. Questions from mothers desperate about the difficulty of having a new baby. Questions from grandmothers, worried about the dark circles under their daughter's eyes. Questions from husbands, worried that their wives (and marriages) might never be the same after the birth of their baby.

In our Lamaze class, we met several couples. You know how it is; you can't help bonding with other couples going through the same trial-by-fire. You stay in touch with some of them. Others fade away, but you always recognize each other, say "hi" at the grocery store, and ask about their child, who is the same age as yours.

There was one couple we met and really liked. But they never seemed to follow through on suggestions of get-togethers. When we ran into them, they seemed fine. But they weren't.

Quite by accident, I found out that the Mom had suffered a terrible, crushing postpartum depression after the birth of their baby. They never came to us -- knowing we were both psychologists -- and suffered alone.

I was stunned to have been so clueless about the pain they went through. Luckily, they eventually got help, and all is well now. But I never forgot about the terrible shame and hopelessness that must have driven them into silence.

I know there are many more of you out there, similarly suffering in silence. I hope that this, my first BabyShrink podcast, can help.

There are many people to thank in the launching of this podcast. Ilima Loomis, who helped me see that a podcast was the perfect vehicle for communicating with new mothers, who are alone and up with the baby at night. Heather Sanders, for my tech-support and visual flair extraordinaire, Glenn Sakamoto, my most tireless and knowledgeable supporter and designer, Danny Evans, who made BabyShrink happen, and his lovely Hot Wife, my BFF and straight-shooting reviewer. I also want to thank the women and families who have opened up the most frightening and painful chapters of their lives to me, to help me understand how best to help others.

I'm also collecting stories of recovery. If you've suffered from PPD and come through to the other side, please post a comment here to encourage others to get help....and send the message that you CAN feel better.

Note: This is a 16-minute podcast. It downloads to your player OR your computer in less than one minute, with a broadband connection.

[Click to Download Podcast Here]

Pregnancy Help: How To Interpret Your Weird Pregnancy Dreams

I’ve always been fascinated by the interpretation of dreams, and I study the process in detail. I’ve also found it really interesting and helpful to understand my own dreams as I go through major life changes. Our dreams are our way of sorting through the events of the day and pulling out important issues we still need to understand. It’s our way of communicating with ourselves; it’s our unconscious, giving us hints about things that need further thought or action. It’s really common to have particularly memorable and intense dreams during pregnancy. There are several contributing factors to this:

Frequent night wakings. I remember waking easily 3 or 4 times a night when pregnant. When you awaken just after dreaming, you are more likely to remember the dream.

The stress of the impending change in your life with a baby on the way. The stress of a major life transition is bound to result in more active dreams.

Hormonal and other physical changes. Your upset tummy, sore back and soaring progesterone all throw your body’s chemistry into a new time zone. Your dreams are disturbed as a result.

So how do you interpret those wacky dreams? The interpretation of pregnancy dreams follows the same general rules as the interpretation of other dreams: First and foremost, write them down, immediately after waking. Keep a pen and paper at your bedside and scribble down whatever you can remember. Even if you’re sure you’ll remember the details in the morning, chances are…you won’t. (Dreams are funny that way. We have to “chase” them if we want to understand them.)

Don’t judge the dream, no matter how wacky (or twisted) it was. Keep an open mind, which will allow the process of understanding the dream happen more easily.

After reading the dream again, start a new section of notes, where you will jot down any random associations to the dream. Include any impressions, images that come to mind, and feelings and thoughts, even if they don’t seem related to the dream. Also list the events of the day (or days) previous to the dream.

Finally, re-read everything to see what connections you make. Sometimes, you need to put the whole thing away for awhile, to let some of your objectivity return. Later, you might see new meanings and interesting relationships between your outer life…and your inner mind.

There are some common themes in pregnancy dreams, many of which my readers mentioned in the comments section to my previous post.

Dream Worries Pregnant or not, we often dream about losing control in a situation. I think that’s what Dawn’s dream was about, at least partially; teeth falling out is a classic, frequent dream symbol for feeling powerless.

Worry About Not Being a Good Mother Sharon, MamaBigDog, and Alianora’s dreams all had this in common. Having a baby is such a huge responsibility, and we wonder if we’re up to it. There also could be an element of wish fulfillment there; what if I just left my baby alone, while I did my own thing? (I could do my nails, date a fabulous movie star, etc.) We certainly wouldn’t do it in real life, so we act it out in our dreams. Then we’re shocked when we wake up…Oh My God! I’ll be such a Bad Mother (there's a club for that)! When perhaps the reality is, there’s a part of us that resents the enormous responsibility and changes brought about by a baby, no matter how wanted the baby is. It’s a fundamental dilemma of motherhood: I want to give everything to my baby. But I also need some energy for myself. How can I get some of the focus back on ME?

Worry About Something Being Wrong With the Baby Kimi, Sharon and Hot Wife had dream themes along these lines. This theme is really a variation on the one above. “If I’m going to be a Good Mother, I’d better produce a Good Baby.” Then…what if my baby is somehow different than I expect her to be? What if I’m disappointed at how my baby turns out? Or worse: What if there’s something "really wrong" with her? What if I give birth to a “defective” baby, and am therefore a “defective” mother? I can't think of a pregnant woman who hasn't had a dream like this one.

The worry about being a Good Enough Mother starts before the baby is even born, dear readers! The whole notion of the baby being an extension of ourselves starts when the baby really IS a part of us, physically. It’s normal to have mixed, ambivalent feelings about the baby, and your new role as mother. And if this isn’t your first baby, it’s normal to worry about the impact the new baby can have on your nice stable family situation at home. A new baby IS an intruder, no matter how wanted. Having ambivalent feelings about that fact is normal. More importantly, recognizing and accepting the mixed feelings we have about our babies…and our children…makes it possible for us to consciously own those feelings, so that we’re not blindsided by them, brewing in our unconscious. Understanding our dreams helps us to do just that...ultimately, be better mothers...and happier women!

Pregnancy Help: What NOT to Expect From "The Birth Plan"

There is a strain of pregnancy propaganda out there that sets new moms up for failure. It says that unless you “achieve” some particular kind of delivery perfection, well, then…you haven’t quite made the cut, as a Mom. And that makes me angry. It’s in all the standard pregnancy books. Something along the lines of, “Create your own birth plan. Be in charge of your delivery. Don’t let that mean, nasty doctor force you to deliver in some way that’s NOT in your plan. Decide in advance if you want to use pain medications for the delivery….or not.”

What they don’t say is that the birth process is usually so unpredictable that your carefully crafted “Birth Plan” gets left at the bottom of your carefully packed “Going To The Hospital Bag”…that got left at home, in a panic, as you rushed to the hospital.

Now, I’m a recovering control freak, so don’t get me wrong. Anything that’s called “a plan” looks fabulous to me. I did it myself, with our first baby. Here were my rules, when I was cluelessly buying into the notion that I could actually control the birth process by planning for it in advance: No induction. Lovely, inspirational music playing in the background. No pain meds. No pitocin. No c-section. (Oh yeah: no binkies or bottles for the baby either, but that was a different lesson for me to learn, for a different post!)

What happened, you ask? Oh, surely you must have guessed by now. I had it coming to me, big time. The control freak gets hammered. The doctor wanted to induce labor, since the baby was getting big, and she was overdue. But oh no, that was not in my Birth Plan. So we waited. And waited. When labor finally did begin, the early stages went well. But when it came time to push…not so well. I pushed and pushed and pushed…and nothing happened. I stood up to push. I squatted to push. I pushed and pushed for hours. The doctor wanted to add pitocin in order to add strength to the contractions, to help me along. No way. Not in the Birth Plan. She wanted to add an epidural, to relax me. No dice, doc. Finally the doctor had to go and do an emergency c-section on another lady. I had some time. The nurse convinced me to have the epidural and the pitocin, and then our baby was finally born. After four solid hours of pushing.

I was so sore after the delivery I had to sit on two huge pillows for weeks, and I still was miserable. Here are some other examples of “Birth Plans” that didn’t “pan” out:

The alternative-medicine-practitioner who swore she’d never use pain meds, who begged for (and got, with huge relief) an epidural after 12 hours of excruciating labor

The Maui-Hippie-type who arranged to have a birthing bath (with doula) brought to her home, only to need an emergency c-section at 34 weeks

My pain-fearing friend who hoped for every drug in the hospital, but delivered in the hallway of the ER while her husband was parking the car

Now, I’m all for planning, to the extent that planning is possible. But I’m really against the notion of feeding new mothers the idea that there is somehow an ideal birthing situation that they should be aiming for…other than the delivery of a healthy baby, with a healthy mother. Because that sets us up for comparisons, judging, and disappointment. The labor and delivery process is so unpredictable, and so individual and varied, that you really cannot plan for every possibility.

Many of you have expressed sadness, even a sense of failure, because you had to have a c-section. Or if you “caved”, and got an epidural. Unrealistic expectations can lead to big problems. For some, this disappointment can even lead to postpartum depression.

Lamaze Shlamaze; use whatever works.

The breathing techniques I learned in yoga and exercise classes helped me way more than anything I learned in the actual preparation to have a baby. That said, I still pushed for four hours! The only thing that is important in delivering your baby is that both you and baby are healthy. I don’t care if a Martian comes down and performs some kind of weird alien delivery for you, as long as you and your baby are healthy at the end of it.

Did you have any surprises in your delivery? Do tell!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor: The BabyShrink Interview

At BabyShrink, we are inclined to believe Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is the long, lost lovechild of Erma Bombeck and Carol Burnett. How else to explain Stefanie’s sharp wit, stunning honesty and widespread public appeal? She is the author of two hilarious books: Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I Had to Learn as a New Mom, and her second salvo, Naptime is the New Happy Hour: And Other Ways Toddlers Turn Your Life Upside Down, which will be released this Tuesday, March 25. Stefanie will be on the Today Show that day promoting it. It will be her fifth appearance on the show as a parent/humorist/author.

We happen to love Stefanie. We read her blog, Baby On Bored, where she writes about her three daughters (including four-month-old twins!), her experience with postpartum depression, and about life in general, with the superior brand of humor that has also served well in her stand-up comedy pursuits.

We are naturally thrilled that Stefanie agreed to be the subject of the second BabyShrink Interview.

BabyShrink: Why did you start Baby On Bored?

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor: About three years ago, a few months after the birth of my daughter, Elby, I decided to start a blog since I was a writer who was unemployed due to HAVING A BABY. I'd been told how absolutely wonderful it was going to be to become a mother and had been looking forward to "the blessed event" for nine months. But I was in for a rude awakening. Not only did I have horrendous postpartum depression and not know what it was, but I felt unbonded to my baby, overwhelmed, full of regret and ripped off that I'd been sold a bill of goods that didn't live up to the

{Photo courtesy of Alex Asher Sears Photo, Los Angeles}

expectation.

BS:  You don’t sugarcoat what it’s like to be a mom, and you’ve been very successful in being honest and funny about that.

SWT:  My first book deal came from my blog being seen by an agent and sold pretty straight away. I couldn't believe that anyone would be interested in my decidedly unromantic take on the early days of my parenting experience but they were. Since the book received such a great response, I've found it's my calling to be honest about everything. I'm feeling safe in the knowledge that others out there feel the same way.

BS: Tell me about your parenting approach.

SWT: Of course, the bonding did take place with my daughter and I love her in an obsessive, crazy, stalker, "mommyish" way. But I refuse to believe that there is one specific way to parent. I do believe that one should treat each child as an individual and parent that individual to the best of our abilities. Yes, you are a parent and you have to suck it up and make sacrifices. But I don't think you have to live your entire existence thinking of ways to enrich their little minds and ensure they will get into an Ivy League school. Hey, I didn't even go to college and things worked out okay.

I also believe that all parents lie, so you can't compare your parenting to what others say. They all let their kids watch TV (otherwise how would you take a shower?). They all let their kids eat cookies (unless they're completely crazy and controlling), and they all lose their temper once in awhile. It's reassuring to say the least.

I must also say, I'm in praise of praise! The more the better as far as I'm concerned -- this is in response to some articles saying parents overpraise their kids these days.

BS:  You had twin girls four months ago. Knowing you were prone to postpartum depression (PPD), how did you approach this pregnancy differently?

SWT: I did plan to go back on Zoloft the second I gave birth. When I found out my babies were coming early, I wasn't so sure I would take the meds so fast because I knew I would be trying to pump as much as possible. But, my doctor was fairly insistent that the Zoloft wouldn't affect my milk enough to warrant possible PPD, so I went ahead and started it. I still pumped for a month while the babies were in the NICU and even the nurses there told me the Zoloft wasn't a problem.

BS: Has it been different this time?

SWT: It's been different, yes. My PPD didn't get nearly as bad in part from the anti-depressant and in part because I knew what I was in for as far as sleep deprivation. The first time around I was paranoid that my horrible attitude would chase my poor husband screaming into the arms of another woman or even another house. But this time, we knew it was just divide and conquer -- make it through the first few months and things will get better.  This pregnancy I didn't mess around and I'm so glad I went back on the medication immediately. With twins, I seriously wouldn't have had time to be moping around the house all day.

BS:  Did your preparations and advance knowledge help?

SWT: Yes and no. Of course it helps to know that you've had another baby and survived it. But, part of PPD is chemical and that can't be solved by knowing about it in advance. For me, that required meds -- pure and simple, and I refuse to feel weak because I need a little something to get me through. Hell, I need meds with or without a baby or three.

BS: Did the twins being preemies and in the NICU make things more complicated, in terms of how you were feeling and recovering?

SWT: On one hand, I think having the babies be in the NICU made it easier. I knew they were okay and I had a chance to recover from my C-section and fix up the house before they came home. On the other hand, the fact that I went on hospital bedrest and had these babies much sooner than I thought I would, combined with hearing there was a major growth problem with one of the babies, caused an enormous amount of stress. Even though it's all over, the babies are safe and home and we have help, I realize I’m still recovering from that stress. And it will probably be awhile until things are back to normal.

BS: What can you say to the other moms out there who might also be prone to PPD but are afraid of reaching out to ask for help?

SWT: When I had my first baby, Elby, I thought I was crazy because I was crying inconsolably all day everyday. I felt ashamed that I didn't feel connected to my child and that instead of feeling blissful I just felt sad and, to be honest, angry. But when, due to my inability to censor myself, I told my doctor exactly what I was feeling, he blew me off and said that "having a baby is a big responsibility" and to basically suck it up. So, not knowing better, I did. It took me 14 months to get the help I needed. It wasn't until after my daughter was hospitalized for dehydration that I realized I'd felt stressed for months and needed help. I went to a shrink and was put on Zoloft and I suddenly realized that I hadn't felt normal since my daughter was born. It was like a window opened. Hey, if you're against pills and think maybe yoga or aromatherapy is going to make a difference for you than by all means do Downward Facing Dog or get a Glade Plug-In. But if you really want to fight fire with fire, I say GET HELP.

To read more of Stefanie's thoughts, buy her books (linked above) and visit her blog at babyonbored.blogspot.com

Pregnancy Help: Are You Parenting After Infertility? So Is Your Babyshrink!

Listen, gang. I know there are lots of us out there parenting after infertility.  It’s a life-changing experience; going through the fear, uncertainty and crushing disappointment of diagnosis and failed treatments, and then the thrill, excitement, and relief of finally parenting that little one.  I still get a cold shudder of PTSD when I think back to those days of praying for a baby, and being disappointed again and again. 

Does it impact our experience as parents?  Are we too lenient, because we were so desperate to have that baby?  Are we too overprotective, because we know in a very real way what can happen to those hopes and dreams?  Are we traumatized by what we have been through?  If we could go through it all again, would we have done anything differently?

These are the questions that I have for all you lurkers out there who are parenting after infertility, and I hope you'll comment here, or email me with your thoughts.

BabyShrink's Story

(I know, I know, you want to know OUR story.  OK.  The short version:  We waited until we were a bit older -- and a lot less in debt -- to start trying for a baby.  It didn’t happen.  The doctors didn’t know why.  We had several “procedures”, disappointments, and ultimately success with our daughter in 2001.  We were thrilled to get two surprise “freebies”; our sons, in 2003 and 2006. )

Let’s tawk.  Give me some feedback, and I’ll write more about it!

~~Heather, The BabyShrink

Pregnancy Help: Do I Have Postpartum Depression? Me?

Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond are celebrities who are helping the sufferers of postpartum depression by reminding us that it can happen to anybody. Like all new Moms, they were told that they are supposed to “fall in love” with their newborns the moment they are placed in their arms. But for up to 15% of new mothers, a combination of biochemical changes and other stresses can result in real problems. Women with previous histories of depression, poor social support, or other life stresses have an even higher rate of difficulties. Feeling unloving about the baby, feeling sad, overwhelmed, and irritable; having trouble with sleep and appetite, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt, can occur in up to 80% of new Moms and are commonly referred to as the “Baby Blues”, but when the symptoms last for more than two weeks, it could be Postpartum Depression (PPD), and it’s time to get help. But new Moms are ashamed of these feelings, and often don’t ask for help. They are told to “get a grip”, to “appreciate your beautiful family”, or that “in my day, we didn’t have time to be depressed”. All these reactions make the PPD sufferer feel worse, and less likely to seek help. We now know that babies of untreated PPD sufferers have a much higher risk of developmental delays and other social, emotional and other health problems. Depressed Moms are not able to provide the strong attentive, responsive, emotional comfort and eye-to-eye contact that newborns need for their little brains to grow. Infants really only feel that they exist in the light of their mother’s eyes. If she is distracted by emotional pain, fatigue, and depression, the baby suffers. And as the saying goes, “If Mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy”. The whole family suffers from PPD. So, treating Mom for PPD helps Mom, the baby, and the whole family as well.

Living in Hawaii, as I do, or in other rural areas, can present unique challenges to new Moms. Many families are recent immigrants from far-away countries or the mainland, and are disconnected from extended family and friends who can help in difficult times. New Moms often feel stuck at home with a crying baby, and no energy to leave the house to get support and help. Other Moms are afraid of what people may think if they admit their feelings, based on highly publicized media reports of mothers hurting or killing their babies. A very rare but severe form of postpartum disorder, called Postpartum Psychosis, occurs in about 1-2 out of 1,000 Moms and can include feeling out of touch with reality, rapid mood swings, and obsessive thoughts of hurting the baby. This is a rare form of the disorder, and women with a history of Bipolar Disorder or other more serious psychiatric conditions are at higher risk of developing this disorder. Living on an island or other rural area also means that resources are limited, and it may be difficult to find treatment providers out there who are trained to recognize and address the problems faced by new Moms.

But help is out there, and it works!

For most women, a combination of counseling and short-term antidepressant medication makes all the difference. If you don’t want to try medications, ask your therapist about starting with counseling first, to see if that is enough – often, it is. Also make sure to ask about the importance of getting adequate sleep, exercise, and good nutrition….many studies show that these factors can help a lot! New Moms can ask their OB/GYN, Family physician, clergy, or friends for a referral to a psychotherapist who can help Moms suffering from PPD.

Let’s keep talking about PPD, so that we can have happier Moms, happier babies, and happier families!

Click this link for a great resource:  Postpartum Support International has regular, free, confidential chats, tons of information, and resources for moms, their families, and professionals.