Monday, February 20, 2012

Our Fourth Birth Story!!!!

It's that most wonderful time of the year - birth story time!!! Oh, boy!

And boy did I get a bit lengthy with this one.... the births keep getting shorter, but the telling gets longer. Pretty soon I'll be writing short novels for each birth.

Just a note on our first week - we are doing well! Our little guy is sweet, gentle, and absolutely adorable. He is letting me sleep almost perfectly through the night (just eats about three times while we sleep), and he's a darling. My recovery is going swimmingly as well! Right now DH is at home - such a blessing! - and we're having a good time, despite the fact that the other two kids are sick (praying that we and the baby don't get it).

Here it is!!


First, housekeeping notes:

(1) When it comes to birth stories.... I'm very longwinded. My apologies in advance. This is my own record as well as a public one, so I want to remember every detail.

(2) As this is a birth story, it will contain plenty of TMI. Be prepared. If you don't like TMI, definitely dive for the little "X" at the top of the screen.

(3) I tend to be rather plain-spoken about birth terms - again, apologies in advance.

(4) Longterm readers may notice a slight change in personnel in our birth team. I want to state clearly and publicly that the changes were in no way occasioned by any dissatisfaction with past birth teams - all changes were situational in nature only. We love each member of past and present birth teams and would gladly and enthusiastically recommend each one.

(5) I'm afraid I am NOT birth-photogenic, unlike some women I could name but won't. My look tends more toward the "blotchy and bedraggled" look. So don't expect birth-goddess type photos!

(6) Birth team:

Stephanie - midwife
Krystel - apprentice midwife
Rose - doula (also an apprentice midwife, though at this birth she acted as doula)
The family - DH, our 5yo, and our 2yo

(7) If anyone's counting, yes, this is our fourth birth story but only our third living child - our first child was lost in a first-trimester miscarriage.


Let's get started!

This Pregnancy

These past nine months have been a very challenging experience. Though this has not - thanks to medication and God's mercy - been an HG pregnancy, it has been physically challenging and even more so spiritually and emotionally challenging. It started out with the most frightening night of my life, followed by the most confusing two weeks of my life, and went from there. Though NVP-wise it has been my easiest pregnancy, it has been an extremely challenging time. It's been a valuable experience, but I can't say I'd care to repeat the first part of it again.

Preparing for This Birth

I have always had a hard time preparing for childbirth. Most women seem to eagerly await the first signs of labor, but I've always been reluctant. Why? Firstly because I love pregnancy - I'm always sorry to see it end. Secondly, though I absolutely adore newborns, I don't particularly adore the newborn stage in our household. It has a way of messing with one's mind and one's sanity. Secondly, birth hurts - a lot. 'Nough said.

This time was no different. However, a couple of things happened. Firstly, for the first time ever I experienced false labor. Not seriously, but repeatedly. It's emotionally and physically exhausting (especially as it always seemed to start as soon as I went to bed!), and it got me to the "Okay, enough already!" stage.

Secondly, we went far longer into this pregnancy than we'd ever gone before - both of our other babes had arrived at about 39+3, and this baby did not choose to make an appearance until 40+5. The anxiety of constantly wondering "Is today the day? Is tonight the night?" and trying to keep the house perfectly in order all the time finally got me to the place where I was feeling more along the lines of "Alright, let's get things going! Enough is enough!!" Frankly, that was a very positive thing to have happen in my mind. Good stuff.

Our first and only belly pic, taken the week before our birth:

Operation Afterpain Take-Down

With each of my two first pregnancies, I had problems with overwhelming and excruciating afterpains that have prevented both breastfeeding and holding the baby during the first hour post-birth. This time, I worked with my birth team to develop a protocol to fight back against the onslaught. Here it is: (1) calcium-magnesium liquid supplement, taken during the last trimester and kicked into high gear in the postpartum, (2) homeopathic arnica, (3) Advil - lots of it, (4) "Ease" afterpains tincture from Worts & Cunning Apothecary, and (5) placenta medicine in the form of raw smoothies.

If anyone is interested (or curious, or absolutely repulsed) about the thought of placenta medicine, do check it out - seriously! Placenta medicine is specific to helping with postpartum recovery, specifically with milk supply, afterpain relief, bleeding minimization, prevention of baby blues and postpartum depression, and emotional stabilization. I am a huge fan!

Labor Begins

On Friday night, I had three hours of false-alarm labor, starting at 10 p.m., that nearly had me hopping in the tub and calling the birth team before everything quit abruptly at 1:00 a.m. After that, not only did the labor-type contractions stop, but so did most of the uncomfortable Braxton-Hicks - from then on through the entire day on Saturday. It was nice to have a break!

Saturday night, we went to bed tentatively planning to go to church in the morning, but we knew that our chances of making it there would be slim. Besides waiting for any-minute labor to start, we got to bed super-late, and DH ended up sleeping on the couch due to insomnia (which turned out to be a blessing for all of us).

At 2:48 a.m., I awoke to a strong early-labor type contraction. Was this it? I waited for a while in bed, and the contractions kept coming. I decided that this was probably it, and eventually got out of bed.

(Incidentally, DH had come through the room at 2:30, shortly before falling asleep himself, and he said later that I was curled up in an odd position with a grimace on my face. Kind of sounds like contractions were already happening, just not enough to wake me up yet!)

Before getting out of bed, I had a brief emotional tussle. Was I ready to deal with this? But the "let's get on with this thing!" spirit prevailed, and I felt ready to get this party started.

I should also note that I practiced Hypnobabies with this birth. I did not take the class (unfortunately) and have not read the Hypnobabies texts, but I did have a set of CDs given to me by a friend that I listened to every night (two tracks per night, mostly while asleep) from January 1st through the night of the birth, February 12th. I do not think I ever got real hypnosis to work, but when I went into labor various quotes from the "Easy First Stage" CD immediately started coming into my head, and they were very comforting to repeat during early labor. I also found the CD very comforting, even though I couldn't pay attention to it once active labor kicked in. I kept it on all the way through the first 15 minutes postpartum. I would definitely recommend Hypnobabies!

Once up, I started getting things ready. I got the birth ball and the CD player out, took out the trash, ate a snack (banana & cheese), got an empty trash can, made sure things were set out - though, as predicted, I did forget to get baby's birthday cake out of the freezer. (I have always wanted to make a "labor cake" for baby's birthday, but each time - including this time - labor has immediately claimed my attention. This time I stole a march on the whole bit by making the cake a month in advance! And then forgetting it, of course.)

At 4:30 a.m., I went to the computer to time my contractions using I felt like I was in labor, but I was worried because my contractions seemed too short - they felt to be 20-30 seconds each, rather than the gold-standard one minute, and I wanted to find out what was going on.

And as soon as I sat down to time my contractions, the contractions stopped. Completely. Not another one for almost a full half hour.

At this point, I started feeling pretty silly - I had spent two hours out of bed getting ready for a birth, when this was obviously false labor. Again. Time to go back to bed and forget the whole thing.

But as soon as I walked back in the bedroom door, BAM! Contractions started right back up again. So much for timing contractions the sophisticated way. Instead, I sat on the birth ball in the bedroom and started writing down start times on a piece of scrap paper. I never did get around to timing contraction length, but start-to-start time was every three to seven minutes.

I had two goals - to let DH sleep as long as possible, and to avoid waking my birth team up in the middle of the night. So I was determined to go as long as I could without notifying anyone.

Additionally, I should say that I have always had a passing fancy for unassisted birth. This always fades in the light of day, as (1) I would be an awful midwife to myself during birth, and (2) when the rubber meets the road and labor gets tough, I always have an overwhelming desire to be surrounded by other women. So it's not something I truly desire or would ever plan. But having three hours of "unassisted labor" was something really special, and I enjoyed it tremendously (in a nervous sort of way!). I had never had that privilege before.

Something that always cracks me up is how one's body turns into an absolute dictator during labor and/or birth. The body really lets one know what it likes and doesn't like!! During this labor, I tried a position I'd always thought about trying - kneeling while leaning over a birth ball. It sounded like fun.... but when I tried it - yeeouch!!! Nope, not happening! That didn't even last for half of a contraction.

At some point, I realized that I should get dressed for the occasion, so I went and dug out the (ugly) bikini top that I had bought from Goodwill for our last birth. And... it was a wee bit too small. (You know, of course, how these things tend to shrink over time in storage! Ahem.) Thankfully I remembered that I had bought an oversize swim top for earlier in the pregnancy, and that thankfully worked just fine.

A bit later, I decided to try laboring on the toilet, another popular position. It took some definite cramming to fit myself, a birth ball, a pillow, and a huge blanket (it was cold!) into our tiny toilet room, and it wasn't that comfortable. That, however, is where DH found me shortly after 6:00 a.m., when he came into the bedroom to find all of the lights on, the CD player playing Hypnobabies, and me laboring in the bathroom, covered by a huge blanket. "Er, is something going on here?"

I should also say that some of my nighttime essays from the bedroom had awakened our 5yo, who asked what was going on. I sent him back to bed as quickly as possible, but unfortunately he never went back to sleep, so he was up with DH from 6:00 a.m. onwards as well.

I told DH that I was pretty sure that I was in labor, but I wasn't sure if we should call the birth team yet (I was still wary due to those short contractions). I told him, though, that I was definitely ready to jump in the tub, so I abandoned the birth ball and headed for the bath tub.

While in the tub, I tried another laboring position - leaning back while pouring water over my tummy. It was okay, but I found that the sensation of water pouring on a contracting tummy was painful - so I returned to my usual (sitting up while leaning over on my hands). Looks like that's just the way I labor!

At 6:30 a.m., we went ahead and called our midwife and our doula. We didn't feel the true need for anyone yet, so DH just asked our doula if she could come over perhaps by 8:00 a.m., and told our midwife that we'd check in in a couple of hours to let her know when we needed her.

By doing so, of course, I joined (or re-joined, as I did it last time too) the club of women who vastly underestimate the speed at which their labors are going to progress. (This should have been a no-brainer.) By the time that DH had gotten off the phone, I was starting to vocalize through contractions and realize that we needed people much sooner than "in a couple of hours," so DH ended up calling our doula right back and asking her if she could come as soon as she was ready. She came at 7:30 a.m. or so, and I was so glad to have her there. She immediately suggested calling our midwife and asking her to come sooner, so we did that as well.

Our eldest (5yo) surprised me by sticking around for nearly the entire birth. He had spent this pregnancy telling me that I was entirely too loud last time (true!) and that he didn't want to be around this time, but he really changed his tune as soon as labor started, and stayed close the whole time. I also had no idea how much he remembered from his brother's birth, or everything that he has apparently picked up from living in the house of an avid birth junkie!

Lecturing me on pushing technique, sometime around 6:30 a.m.:

Dealing with contractions, sometime around the same time or a bit later:

With our doula, Rose:

Time passed, and contractions got meaner. Our lovely midwife Stephanie and her apprentice Krystel arrived sometime around 8:30 a.m., which was when things were getting really tough. They immediately moved into high gear, getting their gear inside (oxygen, supply packs, etc.) and setting up the room (double making the bed, etc.).

Something I love about non-first-births for myself is how much consciousness I retain compared to the first birth. With our first birth, I was so completely out of it that I was not even able to communicate verbally, let alone have conversations or notice what on earth was going on around me. This time and last, I was able to hold mini conversations in between contractions, notice everything that was going on, etc. - and this time was even better than last time. Much preferred!

Here's an interesting tidbit I learned from our doula, Rose, during one of our mini conversations: Contractions after longer breaks tend to be the super-big ones (hormone build-up), while those following close on other contractions tend to be minor "after-shock" types. Interesting, no?

The bed, ready for birth or post-birth (the bed is made, covered with plastic, and remade again with new sheets that can be easily removed and washed). Notice the brilliance of brown sheets for a birth (thank you, Freecycle!):

Supplies for the birth at the ready (bowls, chux pads, supplies, etc.):

Stephanie checking our supplies that we had gathered (sheets, towels, olive oil, bowls, trash bags & cans, baby clothes, etc.):

Apprentice midwife Krystel sitting on the bed, while Stephanie knits our baby's newborn hat:

Then, of course, things got truly nasty (about 9:00 or so a.m.). I call these "wall-climbing contractions" - the nasty kind that are extremely difficult to deal with, and which come so fast that there is just not enough recovery time in between them. In a word, transition (also known in the literature as the "why did I choose unmedicated childbirth??" moment). Drumroll, please!

Me: "How are we doing?"
Rose: "You're doing really well!"
Me: "Not that! How are we really doing?"

However, I didn't recognize this as transition, because I had checked my dilation recently and my cervix was still unreachable - not a sign of advanced labor. (Which further confirms my personal policy on cervical checks: Just say no.) However, my advanced vocalization (i.e. hollering) caused my midwife to hurry in from the bedroom, as she knew things were happening quickly.

Stephanie: "You're going to meet your baby very soon!"
Me: "Do you mean that, or are you just saying that to be nice?"
Stephanie: "It's true. I'm not that nice."

However, neither of us knew how close this baby was! Stephanie told me later that she was thinking 30 minutes or so, and I was convinced we were going to be there for a few more hours (Heaven forbid!). But baby was born within 3-5 minutes of that point.

The midwife team, transferred from bedroom to bathroom in anticipation of the birth:

And then....

I noticed that I was starting to feel "pushy" - not seriously pushy, but a wee bit. I didn't say anything, being a bit preoccupied, but I noticed that I felt slightly pushy for about two contractions.

Brief Aside: An Ode to the Power of Spontaneous Pushing

I have to pause briefly to pay homage to the utter amazingness of the spontaneous pushing urge in the female body. When Hypnobabies says "I am safe, and my baby is safe, no matter how much power flows through me," they ain't kidding 'bout that 'power' thing. Pushing is truly the power of the universe flowing through the human body.

There are, of course, two types of pushing contractions. The first are of the "Gosh, I feel like I could push!" ilk - obeying the urge is entirely optional. Personally, I always opt out.

The second kind of pushing is the type where, in a typical birth story, a woman yells "I have to push! NOW!" The nurses then say, "Not yet, sweetie! Your doctor's not here yet!" to which the woman responds, "Are you stinking kidding me?" (usually with a lot more colorful language added in) and proceeds to push anyway because compliance is no longer optional.

(Though I should note that this urge is (I believe) usually absent with an epidural. A friend of mine was told "You can't push yet, because your doctor won't be here for another two hours," and with an epidural she was able to sit there and wait. I don't know if that's always the case or not.)

But the sheer power of spontaneous pushing contractions (the second type) just blows me away. I cannot believe that my body has that much power - it is awe-inspiring. It reminds me of standing right next to a the tracks when a freight train is thundering by - that sort of earth-shaking power. Though the metaphor is flawed, because (1) a woman is not standing next to a freight train; the woman is the freight train, and (2) frankly, a freight train is pathetic and wimpy next to the power of a woman's body during pushing.

Continuing on:

Just as I hadn't recognized transition, though, I didn't realize pushing either. Firstly, I always throw up during transition - so I thought that pushing couldn't arrive until that had happened. Secondly, there is usually a "rest and be thankful" pause between transition and pushing - and that hadn't happened either. So what happened next took me by surprise. One wall-climbing contraction started...

And grew.... and grew...

And BAM! It turned into a pushing contraction, type 2, at full speed ahead, and from then straight to crowning. It was the contraction of a lifetime - and that's putting it mildly.

This led to a rather funny situation.

DH was actually out of the room at the time, getting something for our eldest. From the kitchen, he heard my vocalizations turn from "I'm having a really hard time" vocalizations to full out screaming - something I only vaguely recognized at the time - and immediately he heard the midwives calling out, "Hey! Come in here RIGHT NOW! Hurry!"

What they meant, of course, was "If you want to catch your baby, you need to get in here right now!" But what he thought they meant was, "We're having a medical emergency and we need you to help get her to the hospital!"

So DH rushed into the bathroom in a panic, sure that something terrible was going on, only to find the midwives saying "Your baby's almost here! Get ready to catch!"

In either that same contraction or the next, baby's head was out. "Reach down and touch your baby's head!" As usual, I had little to no interest in this, but did it anyway - always amazing. Though I can't be sure, I believe that the membranes were intact over baby's head at the time - so we almost had our caul baby! Sometime seconds later (though no one noticed it happening, including me) the membranes must have burst, because it immediately became clear that we had old meconium staining in the water, which was immediately fish-netted out.

At that point, I was ready to be DONE, so I continued to push hard, contraction or no. Stephanie suggested pushing with short pushes, so I push-push-pushed and baby was almost out. At that point, I was desperate to be done, so I said "Can someone please just pull him out?" Stephanie replied, "One more push and you're done!" - no more said than done. OUT!

Baby was scooped out and immediately put on my chest, and I was again the first to find out the gender - a boy!

DH had been really hoping for our first girl, but as always, when it came down to it nothing of that sort mattered. We were so happy to see our baby!

And, I must mention with modest pride, DH tells me that I entirely surpassed my past record in terms of birth vocalization volume (*blush*). I believe my midwife will agree with him, as soon as she recovers from temporary deafness.

This was also the first birth in which I was able to see the birth. For our first birth I was laying down and for our second I was side-lying. This time was reclined seated in the tub, so I actually saw the birth. Not that I noticed much at the time or remember much now, but definitely interesting!

Baby was just fine - awake and alert immediately, and wanting to nurse within 5-10 minutes. We moved onto the bed and spent a happy time postpartum with our birth team while clean-up was done and I rested.

Now for pictures! Note: Though my blood loss was entirely within safe parameters, for some reason I still managed to get blood everywhere this time - as you will see. And no, water births aren't usually this messy. This was a combination of blood and meconium-stained water that makes it so murky. Our last water birth was much neater.

Right after baby was born:

New baby! Notice the green/yellow tinge to the skin, the result of old meconium staining:

Shortly afterwards:

DS comes in to inspect baby - he had run out of the room when I was pushing:

Birth team inspecting baby!

Dealing with an after pain:

DH with baby! Cord was clamped about ten minutes after the birth, when it had basically finished up pulsing:

* Note on the metal clamp: We clamped the cord when it was basically done pulsing, but you could still feel it just a bit up near the baby. Thus, we cut down where it was completely done pulsing first, and then shortened later with the plastic clamp.

Getting a start to breastfeeding. This was the FIRST TIME EVER that I have been able to hold and breastfeed baby immediately without killer afterpains preventing. Operation Afterpain Take-Down - a success!

Nursing, with our 2yo nearby:

After a few minutes, Stephanie suggested biting the bullet and birthing the placenta - always intimidating in thought but easy in fact. And, may I say, one of the loveliest placentas I've ever seen! Third stage (birth to placenta) was 24 minutes.

Birth weight - 9 lbs. 9 ounces! Wow! (First two babes were 7#12 and 7#15)

Newborn exam!

Here's an interesting note: A month or so ago, I had an interesting conversation with my midwife about postpartum transports. She told me that when, after a birth, the mother starts doing badly (bleeding, shock, etc.), the baby can continue to do just fine because - let's face it! - he doesn't know anything about what's going on. But when a baby starts doing badly (breathing problems, etc.), the mother will often start doing badly as well because her anxiety over the baby will disturb the physical and hormonal changes going on with her body and can cause problems. Interesting, no?

But I got to see it for myself, in a very minor way! When I was ready for a break, I handed baby over to the midwife team for weighing and etc., and immediately (within 5 seconds) I began one of those full-body post-birth shaking episodes. I didn't even notice the correlation, but my doula told me that she most often sees reactions like that happen when the baby is taken away from the mother. There you have it! Amazing! I had no idea how much the mother's stability is founded on the ability to have undisturbed time with her baby. Amazing stuff.

Taking baby's temperature:

More various pictures:

And the birthday cake at last! (Which we didn't remember until long after the birth.)

Welcome, Baby Giles! And thank you to our wonderful birth team!

Baby Giles
Born 2/12/12 (our third palindrome birthdate!)
Labor time: 6:45 (2:48 a.m. to 9:33 a.m.)
Apgars: 9 and 10
Third home birth, second water birth 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another False.... Oh Wait, This Was For Real!

Howdy, everyone! We are thrilled to announce that after WEEKS of false alarms, our baby did indeed arrive this morning. And it's a....


The name is Giles Edward, and he is an adorable little chublet with lots of dark hair. Pictures to come soon!

Here are the birth stats:

Labor start time: 2:48 a.m. on Sunday, February 12, 2012 (2/12/12 - notice the awesome date!)
Labor end time: 9:33 a.m.
Labor time: 6:45 (as opposed to 18:07 and 7:11 for previous births)

Apgars: 9 and 10
Weight: 9 lbs. 9 oz. (Yes, you read that right! It's the year for HG mums to have big babies!)

Birth was a home waterbirth, and baby was caught by his daddy. 

Stay tuned this week for a painfully long and overly detailed birth story that will be filled with lots and lots of TMI and other fun stuff!

In the meantime.... have a great week, everyone!

Oh, and an extremely amazing postscript! Wait till you hear this one....

The woman who correctly guessed what the gender and birthdate of our last baby would be..... is the very same woman who guessed what the gender and birthdate of this baby would be. Is that amazing, or what? Fran, you are amazing! (And a congratulations to our runner-up Kristina!!)

Love to all!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

False Alarm Number.... Whatever-It-Is At This Point (40w4d)

Sheesh! What a night!

Yesterday afternoon, I noticed my contractions ramping it up a bit - getting a bit nastier, more noticeable, etc. Since we are obviously well into labor-territory, I kept an eye on it and knew that baby's arrival might be in the night's forecast.

We had a super-busy night - dinner, family trip to Sprouts, then family movie night (plus all the usual chores), and the contractions kept right on going (they always do, as a matter of fact, but these just had more bite to them). I texted my birth team at about 9:30 p.m. just to give them a heads-up that something might be going on, and then headed to bed.

At that point, things got really uncomfortable, and stayed that way. I was absolutely sure that baby was on his/her way - I just wanted to hold out as long as I could to let the team get some sleep before having to head over.

And then... 1:00 a.m. hit. And the contractions stopped cold in their tracks, I went to sleep and just now got up (yawn!). Only 1-2 contractions total since then.

Another false alarm. 

First of all - why does all this painful false labor stuff get worse at night?

Secondly.... this baby apparently likes messing with my head!! Seriously, this child has been an independent and willful little chublet ever since he/she was conceived. Almost nothing about this pregnancy has mirrored my first two, and the nuances now being thrown into the mix have got me running about trying to catch up with what's going on. Crazy!!

Well, I'm guessing that the false alarms will sometime turn into the real thing, and fairly soon... though I also think there's a distinct possibility that I might just stay pregnant forever.

One thing that does have me nervous is the fact that I am still spending most late evenings with some really nice nausea. Laboring with that in tail is not something I'm hoping to do.

Ah, well. We'll see what happens! I'm guessing we will not exit this weekend without a babe-in-arms... but then again, I've been saying that for the past three weeks, LOL!! We'll see. 

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Still Here! (40w2d)

May I say.... Wow!! I cannot believe we are still "here," i.e. sans baby. And not only are we still here, but there are absolutely no signs that baby's advent is anywhere imminent! Can you believe it? We are now almost one full week past the furthest point we have ever before reached with either of our first two pregnancies.

Life is going well - keeping up with housework, playdates, cooking, childcare, homeschooling, etc. - nothing really new! We were rather expecting the baby to have arrived by last weekend, so a lot of this week has just been.... waiting - mentally, at least - which can be rather nerve-wracking!

I have currently updated my "So, when is this baby arriving?" answer to "A few days ago!" which has definitely caused widespread nervous looks! Oddly enough, the answers I get to that, though, vary between "Gosh, you hardly look pregnant!" to "Will you PLEASE hurry up and have that baby already?" - I think it depends on the shirt I'm wearing!

On Monday we had fun with our midwife working out how we wanted the birth to go. For the record, our plan was for it to start gradually tomorrow (Friday) at around noon, and finish up around 10 p.m. Let's see what happens!

I'm thrilled to have made it to the end of the week. There is a ton of training going on for DH at his work, as well as an event going on tomorrow, and I'm thankful he's made it to all or most of that. Additionally - and yes, I know that this is totally trivial - if this baby can wait till midnight tonight or later to be born, we will have spontaneous palindrome birthdays for ALL of our babies! Again, I know it's trivial, but that's pretty exciting for me. Our first two are 6/22/6 and 9/1/9, and the dates of Feb. 10 through Feb. 19 of this year are also palindromes (2/10/12 - 2/19/12). I'm counting the hours!

So that's about it over here, folks! Just nesting and putting in time while we wait for our little one to make an appearance. I'll post as soon as I can when he or she does!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homeschooling: The First Four Months

I've been meaning to post on this for ages, so here goes! Veggie Tales in the background, folks, so no guarantees on logical thought processes or even basic grammar. You have been warned.

Okay - two things to start off:

First thing - Homeschooling was not plan A for me. Though DH has always wanted to homeschool, I had decided very firmly against it and had even picked out a (really great!) school for our children. The only problem - despite firm personal resolution, I simply could not feel at peace about any decision other than homeschooling. I prayed about it for at least a year, and finally concluded that God's plan for us right now is homeschooling. Though I can't say I'm overly excited about it (I'm not someone who's been waiting and wanting to homeschool), I do believe that this is God's will for the present. Now I'm just praying for the enthusiasm to go with it!

(Note: I am seeing many reasons why homeschooling was a good decision for us - both having to do with me and with our son. So I'm in agreement with this decision, however reluctantly it came about!)

Secondly, even though we did decide to homeschool, we had not planned on starting this year. We had wanted to wait until next year, when our son will be six, mainly because our son has absolutely no academic instincts, and also because every teacher I have ever talked to says that later starts are better for (most) boys. However, as I have mentioned, our son was not going to be allowed to move up with his AWANA class unless he was "in kindergarten," so we reluctantly decided to start a year early.

We started "school" in October - the plan was for September, but I was just too sick to start at that point. Normally, I think I'll either school year round (and take breaks whenever) or start the school year in June, as I absolutely loathe our Phoenix summers and would rather take time off during our livable cooler months.

With that being said, we've been homeschooling for four months! How's it going? Well.....

(1) For phonics (reading), we chose the classic "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". It has been great! No complaints. Does our son like it? No, but he doesn't like anything academic, so that's okay. We're doing half a lesson per day, and are almost halfway through the book. I've heard that some kids get lost in the latter parts of the book, so it that's the case then we'll switch to something else. For now, it's been good!

(2) Because I did not want to be starting kindergarten at all this year, we have skipped math and writing. For the rest of our curriculum, I used Sonlight Core A - their kindergarten program - which covers Bible, poetry, and history/culture/geography in a "real books" format - that is, one learns from read-aloud books (as opposed to textbooks).

From this, I have now officially joined the "spend a whole bunch of money on something you don't end up using" club. I was sure it wouldn't happen to me, considering the HOURS of research I put into this purchase, but the sad truth is there - we're going to have to switch to something else.

Before proceeding, I should say that I really do love Sonlight, and I'm willing to look at it again later - though this review is going to show why we're not using Sonlight right now, I think it's a great program and would whole-heartedly recommend it to others. Also, the book lists that they use are simply phenomenal - great literature, all of them.

We got through one third of the program - hurray! While we were doing the curriculum, I did my best to ignore that a huge percentage of the material was completely going over my 5yo's head. I just plowed ahead. But then I read this blog post in which the mother mentioned using Sonlight Core A for her eight year old daughter. And I'm trying to use this for a five-year-old boy! No wonder it was going over his head!

Our son is currently still into picture books (Clifford the Big Red Dog, etc.), and short chapter books that have lots and lots of pictures (Mr. Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, etc.). The books used in Sonlight's Core A are books that I remember reading in third and fourth grade - "The Boxcar Children," "The Family Under the Bridge," etc. They even included "The Hundred Dresses" - which is a long, action-free book that consists almost entirely of a girl describing her feelings. For a five-year-old boy? Are you kidding me?

Additionally, many of the readings were entirely too long. It was not uncommon to have daily reading assignments that were 20-30 pages long in the chapter books, which were exhausting for me and mind-numbingly boring for our son (especially considering that he wasn't getting the material). This also had the unexpected side-effect of killing my love of reading aloud. Our story times together pretty much ceased around the time we started using the Core, because I was so sick of reading aloud that I just wasn't up to doing regular book time.

One final complaint was that the Core A introduced themes and subjects that I felt were highly unnecessary and sometimes inappropriate for five-year-olds. Kids really don't need to know all of the evil of the world. Themes from the books sometimes involved: poverty, terminal illness, death, cruelty, racism, bullying, murder, religious persecution, etc. etc. etc. For such young children, I think I'd rather stick with "Hi, I'm Emily Elizabeth, and this is my dog Clifford."

After reading that rather illuminating blog post, I spent a couple of weeks in quandary and then decided to ditch Sonlight for now, leaving the possibilities for the future open. I'm guessing that we will either return to Sonlight in the future or use their book lists, which, as I mentioned, are excellent.

So for now, we're doing Bible as a family, phonics, crafts and coloring from AWANA lessons and from on-the-fly ideas, and waiting while I research writing and math curricula to put into place after our postpartum time off. If anyone has any ideas, PLEASE leave a comment to let me know what you like! I am especially looking for curricula that are good for wiggly-willie type of boys who just aren't into school for school's sake. 

One thing I loved about Sonlight was simply that the days are perfectly laid out for lessons. I do not enjoy creating my own lesson plans or putting together curricula off of the internet (I know a lot of mums really enjoy that). That was definitely a plus, and I will miss that.

Homeschooling has been a challenge in many ways. It is difficult not to have any time by myself. It is difficult to enforce learning with a child who has absolutely no interest in it. It is also difficult to work across learning styles - my own style is nice, neat bookwork, with lots of checking boxes off of a to-do list and perfectly organized papers, while avoiding all hands-on activities (which I have always disliked). Our son, on the other hand, has no interest in worksheets or book work, and is entirely the hands-on mechanical type. Yikes!

I think I am about to prove another rule of homeschooling - that it takes a couple of years to get worked into feeling comfortable with it. Yup, I can see that one coming.

So that's how it's going, everyone! I'll check in later in the year to let you know what kind of progress we've made.

Oh yes, and today is..... 40w0d!!! Hurray!! This babe has now more than won the record for longest-uterine-residency in our family. Hoping s/he will keep it up at least a few more days!! And if I have time, I'll do another pregnancy/life update before s/he makes an appearance. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Operation Afterpain Take-Down - Current Plans (39w3d)

I've mentioned before on this blog that with both our previous births, I had problems with severe afterpains - even with our first birth, when afterpains are supposed to be either absent or almost unnoticeable (ha!!!). Both times the afterpains have prevented me from holding or breastfeeding the baby until the first window had passed, and both have made my postpartum extremely difficult.

Our second time through was actually better than our first - for one thing, I was expecting the afterpains (they're supposed to get worse with each baby), and for another, I utilized placenta medicine. I did not know at the time that placenta medicine would help with afterpains, but by golly it was amazing! Wow!

But they were still a problem.

This time around, my midwives and doula are fully on board with the need to work with this problem, and we have worked out the following plan:

* Warning: The following contains a discussion of placenta medicine, so be forewarned. :)

(1) Advil

As soon as baby and placenta are out - four Advil. This didn't help much last time, but we're going to do it anyway! But since we need to start attacking this beast before that point, we will be also doing....

(2) Afterpains Tincture

Purchased from a new and lovely herb shop in Mesa, AZ - Worts & Cunning Apothecary - it is an herbal tincture containing various herbs such as cramp bark, cohoshes, etc. It can be taken as soon as baby is born, and has a good report from other mothers who have used it.

(3) Homeopathic Arnica

Worth a shot!

(4) Placenta Medicine

As I mentioned, placenta medicine (that is, actually eating the placenta) does wonderful, astounding, amazing things! Not only does it help with postpartum moods, energy, and blood loss (for articles containing studies on these subjects, look here), but it did amazing things for my afterpains. Although the afterpains from a second birth are supposed to be worse than a first birth - and I can attest that this is true - I started feeling better immediately after my first placenta smoothie, and the afterpains cleared up much more quickly than with my first birth (within a week or two compared to six or more weeks). For my experience with that, read more here.

Last time, after the initial smoothie or two, I did the ever-popular placenta encapsulation, in which the placenta is dried, pulverized, and put into gel caps - which completely removes the "eww, yuck!" factor. Good stuff. But this time, I'm going to switch it up a bit. My plan is simply to cut the placenta into smoothie-sized pieces, and use all of them up making smoothies over the first couple of days postpartum (the pills usually last for a month or two of daily dosages).

The reason? Simply that, in looking at the animal kingdom, the rest of mammalian species eat their placentas immediately after birth, and eat them completely. They don't eat a little bit at a time for two months afterwards. They don't save any placenta for menopause (a common practice for leftover placenta pills). They certainly don't cook their placentas (which is why I have always embraced raw placenta medicine, rather than the cooked method used by Traditional Chinese Medicine). My guess is that the best results will come from sticking as close to nature as possible - though I will definitely use the smoothie method, as eating a raw placenta plain is a bit too much for me!

(For those interested in placenta medicine, though, I would still totally recommend the pills! They work wonders, and they are great for working with the squeamish nature of this practice. Completely on board with placenta encapsulation!!)

Thoughts, anyone?

I'll let you all know how it turns out!

No signs of labor yet - and this baby has now - or rather, as of tomorrow morning, will have - won the official "longest pregnancy" award - both of our previous births were on or around 39+3. Fun stuff! I'm hoping for another week, but I'm not counting on it.

I'm afraid that I am just not going to get in all the pre-baby blogging that I wanted to - for one thing, I'm still nesting like crazy, and for another, nights (my usual blogging time) are also the times when I am still the most nauseated and least likely to settle down to anything serious. I have several topics waiting for each blog, but I guess they'll just have to wait. C'est la vie!

Have a wonderful weekend, all!