Almost a Lotus Birth!

Yesterday’s birth story post was the short version. For those who know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have a lot more to say about it!! I’ll probably add more in installments because it is cold out here where the computer is – and I am supposed to be in bed!

First of all – I very nearly got my Lotus Birth. I asked for that when I agreed to the cesarean, and to my surprise the obstetrician said ‘yes we can do that.’ I was so surprised I thought I didn’t hear her answer me, so I asked again in a different way and she said ‘yes’ again. Well there was a little glimmer of hope that I salvage something of my birthing dreams. It seems times have changed – when I had my first born by cesarean and we asked to keep the placenta, the nurses wrinkled their noses and said “We don’t do usually do that, it is a bio-hazard. It is dead meat. We throw it out.” But my husband insisted and it was handed to him like it was a bucket of poo. I have no idea how they would manage a lotus birth in hospital – I’ll bet there would be lots of protocol involved – and I wasn’t about to ask, just happy to accept the gift.

As it happened though, it wasn’t to be – the head surgeon thought that Linden had shown too many signs of distress and wasn’t prepared to risk anything that might lead to infection. That was disappointing, but a very sensible reason not to go ahead with it, so that was that. In the end I am glad that we didn’t lotus birth. It wouldn’t have been the same as lotus-birthing in the dreamy space created at home … and I just couldn’t imagine how I would have managed baby and placenta and my wound from the surgery all at once. I was also in a pretty foggy place with all the pain killers, so it really was nice just to be able to lie there in bed with nothing to focus on except getting some good breastfeeding going.

Breastfeeding has been a journey over the years- with each of my babies breastfeeding hasn’t been easy for me at first, and to be honest, in the last months of pregancy the thought of breastfeeding would be the only thing that I would feel tension or anxiety about. Labour? Bring it on! Breastfeeding? Proceed with caution …

Kaelan shredded my nipples through poor attachment and Rosella did the same – to the point where I would start crying half an hour BEFORE the feed, just from anticipating the pain. I was begging my midwife to let me express and bottle feed her. We discovered soon after (fortunately not much later!) that she had a tongue-tie, which is a little flap of skin that anchors the tongue to the bottom of the mouth, stopping babies from latching on and feeding correctly, and all the pain vanished as soon as that was snipped. Well, not overnight – but after my nipples recovered all was good. I breastfed both of them for 2 years no problems.

So this time I wanted to get it right – and it hasn’t been too bad. Apparently tongue-ties are a family thing, and it was not a surprise to discover that Linden had one too. That has been promptly snipped and we are feeding well, although I am still coping with my other problem: milk.

I make lots of it! Lavendilly House is the place to come if you want some raw milk! Two days ago my boobs were each as big as my own head! Um, yes, it WAS very funny … but not very comfortable. They are now at a more manageable size and Linden, needless to say, is well hydrated! Rosella is gulping down the overflow that I have to express, just so I don’t explode (or get mastitis) to the point where she is now asking me to express for her when she is thirsty! I forgot that it was only 6 months ago that she was still breastfeeding. Kaelan, not surprsingly is not interested, but is fascinated about my ‘wound’.

For him, the whole process is very curious. Baby was supposed to come from my yoni, but she came from my tummy instead. I’ve made sure they’ve both seen everything, and I’ve answered all their questions as appropriately as I can.

For now, I am enjoying my time in bed: Mornings are time to have great talks with Kaelan about this and that, and once he’s at school Rosella pops in for cuddles and a play with Linden. I love this time to sit and just be available for them. Rosella is having a few transitional/2-year-old challenges, so the more cuddles the better.

Next post is going to be about ‘bedside manners’ by medical staff. I have more than a few words to say about that!!!

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Frequently Asked Questions …about being brave

When are you due?

Mid-July, sometime.

Is this your first child?

No. This will be our third child. We have an almost-six year old, and two-year old.

Ooh, three children! You are brave! Do you know what you are having?

No, we haven’t found out. I am looking forward to having three children. My two are lovely children, and I’m looking forward to having a newborn to cuddle again!

So, it is going to be a surprise then? That’s brave!

I don’t want to do any scans if I can help it, so … Yes! It will be a beautiful surprise!

No scans? That’s brave of you! Why not?

It isn’t important to us whether our baby is a boy or a girl and I don’t think we are meant to know about who is in there until the baby is born. To me, birth is about learning how to accept the unknown element. We don’t need to ‘control’ everything in our lives! I think we need to trust our bodies, our health and our intuition. I think we need to encourage professionals such as independent midwives who know women’s bodies inside and out. Midwives know their craft and they are trained to care for women and babies before, during and after birth.

I am a bit disturbed by the idea of being scanned – and I also don’t feel the need to disturb my baby with tests and needles. Bombarding baby with intense sound waves in the crucial stages of the development (when some of their organs and body systems such as hearing are still just beginning to form). It doesn’t make sense to me. Doctors used to X-Ray pregnant mothers, thinking THAT was safe! I am healthy, our midwife is monitoring the baby’s growth, I can feel for myself that our baby is growing well and is active, and I like the thought of my mystery bundle all snuggled up in there. A little present to unwrap in a few months!

I had one scan in the very latter stages of each of my previous pregnancies – both my babies did all they could to get away from it. They kicked and punched and tried to roll away. On the screen I could see them cover their eyes, and try to protect their body with their hands. I found it very distressing. I know that this is not everyone’s experience, but it was mine and I don’t wish to repeat it if I can help it.

So, no. No scans if I can help it.

Where will you have your baby?

We are planning to have another home birth.

A home birth? Is that allowed? That’s brave of you!! What if something goes wrong?

It is allowed. To be honest, for me, I think it would take more bravery for me to birth in hospital where I feel that I would have less choice about my birth, and would have to birth in an unfamiliar environment, with unfamiliar staff ‘monitoring’ me, unfamiliar noises, smells, subject to staff shift changes … I feel safe and comfortable at home. I have a midwife I trust, and she will be with me when I need her. This is what she is trained to do! She knows how to help a woman birth babies, she has emergency equipment, and she knows when further help will be needed. We have discussed risks, addressed fears and she has taught my partner and I how to effectively prepare ourselves for birth. I feel safe with her and to me that matters more than anything else.

If something ‘goes wrong’ then we will transfer to hospital. I have transferred before (for my first birth) and I was grateful for the immediate assistance I received at the hospital. My second birth was at home with nothing to worry about. A beautiful, exciting home lotus birth.

What is a lotus birth?

A lotus birth is a peaceful entry into the world. It is a ceremony that honours the ‘space’ a baby is born in, and allows the baby to come to terms with its new environment in its own time. In a lotus birth the umbilical cord is not cut at all, which means the baby remains connected to the placenta until the cord dries and falls off of its own accord. It can take up to (approximately) a week to complete this process and in this time baby is allowed a peaceful and restful state of adjustment.

Yuck! You are brave to do that! Doesn’t it smell? Doesn’t the placenta go off?

I would never risk the health of my baby. The placenta is cared for as the baby is cared for. It is washed and drained and allowed to dry, preserved with salt and herbs. A placenta is nothing to be afraid of! My baby and I made it together and it nourished my baby the whole time it was in my womb. It has to be birthed too, and should not just be discarded without any regard. With careful loving attention it does not smell, turn septic or develop infections. Our last birth was a home lotus birth, and it was the highlight of my life. It wasn’t a hassle, our baby lay peacefully undisturbed with us in our bed. The cord dried within 24 hours and came off by itself on the morning of the fourth day. Again, our midwife was there to monitor the health of the baby, and the condition of the cord and placenta. My husband took over the care of the placenta while I concerned myself with recovery from birth, and nursing our baby. Our son was fascinated with the whole process of his sister’s lotus birth, and asked lots of questions. It is our hope that they  both can experience this again so that they may approach the birth of their own children with an open mind and heart, knowing what a special time of life this is.

You keep saying that I am being brave. Why are we afraid of birthing? Of course I have worries. Even a third time, the thought of birth can be overwhelming, and it would not be normal for me to approach a massive event like this without some trepidation. Fear means I have something to learn, it means my body is working the way it should. I think we are taught to fear the act of birth, but what are we actually afraid of? Birth? Pain? … or the unknown? Birth HAS to happen if we are to meet this baby! But I just can’t let those thoughts consume me in such a way that I end up losing faith in my ability to birth! I have support: medical, family, friends. I have knowledge about what my body can do, and I know I can give birth.

Birth is something I can prepare for – the unknown is something I cannot prepare for. But if I can prepare my body, feel comfortable in my environment, feel confident in my birthing support, then I feel I have significantly reduced my fear of the unknown. I don’t know how this birth will unfold … and in that way, yes I guess I am brave.

Exciting, isn’t it?

lotus birth – in response

I was just checking out my blog stats for the last few months to see which posts have been read the most, and to my surprise it is the post I wrote just after Rosella’s second birthday, The Business of Being Rosella.

The most common search term people have used when arriving at my blog is ‘lotus birth’ so I am gathering there is a lot of interest in this subject! I made mention of it briefly in my post about Rosella, and again a bit later on in some other posts (which are listed in my Articles page).

Rosella was a lotus birth – this means that after she was born we made the decision not to cut her umbilical cord, but to let it and the placenta dry out and detach in its own time. Sounds gross doesn’t it? Why would anyone do it? Well I have no idea why it was first done … but we did it and it was one of the most peaceful and connected experiences I have ever had, especially in comparison to the clinical birth of her brother.

If you have any questions about lotus birth I’d be happy to answer them. Just leave a comment here.

If you can wait until July we are aiming for another one 🙂

Stay tuned … if it works out we’ll try to remember to take pictures this time.

Support Home Birth in Australia – please!!!

There were 13 simultaneous home birth rallies across Australia today! I was not able to attend the one held in Brisbane, but I was there in spirit, for what that is worth. Last year I flew to Canberra to show my support at a National Rally. I blogged about it here.

I choose a privately practising midwife, but under new proposed legislation her ability to practise will be extremely limited. This is unnecessary and unfair. Why train midwives if they are unable to practice without supervision? 

I choose a private midwife because I prefer the level of care and attention I receive. I prefer the encouragement and trust from one who knows and understands my body. I prefer to grow together through my pregnancy with my baby and my family and my midwife because we are a team and we are of one mind. I trust her knowledge and experience. I trust the connection she has with our local health services. I trust her to tell me when I need more help.

I will not take risks. I will not compromise my own or my baby’s safety. I am not stupid. If I need medical attention I will take it! That is why it is there! But as I am not sick and I am not at risk I do not see why my pregnancy should be monitored by a doctor – or why my midwife should be monitored by a doctor.

Please support home birthing in Australia by keeping up to date.

Here is a link to home birthing in SE Queensland: 

http://www.homebirth.org.au/

Here is an article about today’s rallies:

http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/hundreds-protest-homebirth-restrictions-20100218-ogkp.html

Here is the Maternity Coalition’s website:

http://www.maternitycoalition.org.au/home/modules/content/?id=1

And here are some wonderful girls who were born at home!

To clamp now or later?

I just wanted to share with you this blog post that I found today, which discusses the issue of immediate cord clamping vs delayed cord clamping.

As you know I am a big fan of not ‘clamping’ at all, and when I think of this question, I am reminded of all that rich beautiful blood my son missed out on due to his cesarean birth.

This post suggests that just because it is the way we have been taught, it doesn’t mean it is the right way to do things, or even the best option.

I like that kind of thinking

http://womantowomancbe.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/delayed-cord-clamping-an-obs-take/

Lotus Birth Blessing

I wrote this for my friend to use during her daughter’s Naming Ceremony. I am happy to share it with you, but please always quote me as the author if you use it in your ceremonies, or pass it on to others. It is important to acknowledge authorship.

 

Little Tree of Life 

written by Jennifer McCormack

 

Little tree of life
Child playing in your branches
Cosmic nourishment surging between roots and the fruits
You grew from the body of this babe as the stars sung their song of creation

Little pillow of protection
This child’s first comfort to hold and snuggle,
wrapped up together in a warm blanket of mother love.

Little flat cake
To you we now pay homage for the life you once gave us
Let us light a candle in joy to remember our beginnings
and celebrate our birth

Little placenta
You are this child’s first gift to the world
Lay now in the earth and nourish again
Give of yourself to the earth
That we may once more
feed from the fruits of your branches.

 

Did you know that the word ‘placenta’ means ‘little flat cake’ in latin? This is the origin of our tradition for baking cakes for birthdays: honouring the first nourishment that our bodies received. Ironic that most birthday cakes we make now are far from nourishing for our bodies!!

“Little Tree of Life” refers to the pattern of the veins on the underside of the placenta. If you have the opportunity to observe it carefully you will see the trunk and branches, the plant-like formations stretching out, transferring nourishing blood between mother and child.

“Little Pillow” was the name we affectionately called our daughter’s placenta when our son asked what it was. We said it was like her companion, her soft pillow when she was in mamma’s womb. He was quite attached to his own little soft ‘cuddy’ blanket at the time, and easily accepted this notion.

I knew that we would be having a lotus birth and in preparation I made myself a meditation mat to honour this. One side was the lotus flower, with the phases of the moon on each petal, and the other side of the mat was the raw energy of the placenta, represented as the ‘tree of life’:

 

Lotus Flower Meditation Mat, 2007

Placenta Meditation Mat, 2007

Lotus Birth

lotus birth

This is our lotus birth baby. We had considered the idea with our first child, and I had even prepared a beautiful silk bag, with a lotus painted on it, to keep his placenta in (pictured). We had bought the salt and had everything ready … but still we had reservations about it. I was still having issues getting over the ‘ick’ factor. As it happened, he was born by emergency cesarean and so the decision about whether to lotus birth or not was made for us. There was no way our hospital would consider such an option, and the nurses were baffled by our request to take his placenta home with us for burial. It was referred to as ‘dead meat’ and handed to us in a white bucket with the instructions: Get rid of it today. I appreciate the fact that they didn’t want an organ sitting in a bucket of blood in the maternity ward. Neither did we and so my husband took it home and froze it as soon as he could. Later (almost 2 years later in fact!) it was planted under an avocado tree that had been gifted to our son.

What is a Lotus Birth?

Lotus Birth is the name given to a process of placenta-care after the completion of a baby’s birth. The umbilical cord is not cut, and the placenta is allowed to remain attached to the baby until it detaches of its own accord.

Why do it?

This is a good question – there are benefits to leaving the cord attached to the baby for longer, as it allows the baby to receive the full compliment of blood and nutrients that are stored within the placenta. This can be achieved without a lotus birth, just by letting enough time for this process to be competed before cutting the cord. It isn’t necessary to leave the cord attached after these nutrients have journeyed across to the infant.

So the whole affair of having to drain and clean the placenta, then dry it and salt it and care for it, as well as the baby, until it detaches seems like a messy business, and one that most people wouldn’t want to be bothered with after the messy business of birth.

To be honest, I can’t tell you exactly WHY we did it. There was nothing scientific involved. It just felt right, and in the end, after our daughter’s birth it wasn’t even a conscious decision at all. The placenta felt like a part of her … and it wasn’t gross at all. It was beautiful. The opportunity to examine a placenta doesn’t arise very often, so if you do get the chance then take it! Our midwife talked us through how it was made up. She took off the sack that our baby girl had been tucked inside for so long…and it was the softest thing I have ever felt in my life. I wouldn’t mind being wrapped up in that!

Our midwife showed us the veins on the placenta, the ‘Tree of Life‘ pattern was clearly visible. We looked at where it had been attached to my womb. Our son was three and a half years of age and was very fascinated by this organ. We told him it had been her little pillow when she was inside me, and from then on, it that was what it was known as.

How do you care for the placenta?

Our daughter’s placenta was drained through a colander into a bowl. When this process was finished it was patted dry and rubbed with coarse sea salt and powdered rosemary. Then it was allowed to dry naturally in the air, only lightly covered with a muslin cloth. At night time we wrapped it up in a few towels, and a plastic bag, tucked it into the placenta bag and put it next to her.

The cord dries stiff, and it is interesting how quickly it really dries out! So this means you need to be careful about how you position the cord when it is drying so that you can easily move the placenta about when you are changing or dressing baby. I believe you can soak the cord in water for a while to soften and re-position it when it is drying, but we didn’t need to do this for her. It was as if she had a little swivel attached to her belly button and we managed ok.

Only at one point, around about day 3, did we begin smelling something unpleasant. We had been changing the salt and rosemary on the placenta each day so it wasn’t coming from there at all, but instead from her belly button. An infection in the belly button could lead to a fever, but our midwife checked it and treated it with pure lavender oil before it reached that point, and by the end of the day the odour was gone and there was no infection at all.

Life with Baby and Placenta

It wasn’t so bad for us. No trouble at all really. We had already told family and friends about our plans to do this, and I had a few friends who already had successful lotus births so I was confident we would manage. Not everyone understood why we would consider such a decision, and that is fair enough, sometimes things are just difficult to explain. Matters of spirit. But those who were skeptical of the idea remained quiet and just observed, and we were grateful for the space we were given to explore the peaceful potentials of our daughter’s birth.

Having the placenta attached to the baby meant, for us, that she was disturbed as little as possible. She lay with me, peacefully, on the bed and was only picked up or moved when she was being changed or dressed. Yes, it was a little bit awkward sometimes, especially when trying to find a comfortable position to breastfeed, but this was not an insurmountable problem. We generally kept the placenta only lightly covered, to speed the drying process, but we used the placenta bag when visitors came. They never even noticed, as often the placenta was wrapped up with her in a muslin cloth anyway, and we were not encouraging our visitors to pick her up and cuddle her in her first few days in any case. Plenty of time for cuddles.

The placenta detached of its own accord about 9am on the 4th morning. Our baby girl had been holding on to it in her little hands for about half an hour before hand. The whole time since her birth she had not cried. She had cooed and gurgled peacefully, but never uttered a cry until the day her cord came off, and even then it was a pathetic little cry!

Advantages of Lotus Birth

1) She was allowed to adjust to and absorb (literally) her new life outside of the womb in her own time and space.

2) The process of her birth was honoured and allowed to unfold in the way it needed to.

3) She was a very peaceful and calm baby throughout this process.

4) Caring for the placenta was like a ritual of honour. It involved my husband and my son in a loving and compassionate, but also very practical way. I concerned myself with the recovery from birth, bonding with my baby and the journey into breastfeeding, and they helped with the care of the placenta and our home.

5) Visitors are not inclined to cuddle a child AND a placenta, so she was not introduced to too many new people, (and their air-borne germs!) in the first few days of her life. Our guests were respectful and reverent and admired her from the edge of the bed. She was not carried out of the bedroom. She was not carried anywhere, but allowed to remain in her state of blissful peace.

6) And as previously mentioned Baby receives all possible nutrients from the placenta in the time before it begins to dry. Almost one-third of the baby’s blood is still contained in the placenta at birth. It is really important that the baby receives this!! When the cord is cut too early, or when cord blood is harvested, this means your own baby is missing out on vital nourishment, and then has to work hard to MAKE new blood to replace the blood contained within the cord and placenta.

I am aware that there are many people who have reason to be grateful for the amazing properties of cord blood. It is like no other blood and is only found in infants, whose bodies and internal organs are still undeveloped. It is a decision that has to be made – allow other people to benefit from this blood, and help them recover from a life-threatening illness, or allow my own baby to use this blood to become the healthy person they need to be.

Would I do it again?

Yes I would, and I plan to. Our next baby is due in July, a nice cool month to do lotus birth! Our experience with lotus birth was calming and peaceful for everyone. Sure, there is no real reason to do a lotus birth, but neither (if you or your baby is not in distress) is there a reason NOT to. If the placenta is properly attended to, and your midwife is observing the process attentively to guard against any possible forms of infection, there is no risk whatsoever. Absolutely I would do it again.

A project comes to full term!

This Mama Doll was made for my friend who is due to have her baby by home birth in about 10 weeks…but this doll was started about 9 months ago – before she was even pregnant! She has had a gestation period of her own 🙂

There were a few challenges along the way…but now I know how to crochet 🙂 At first I asked my Mother-in-Law to to help me. She made a large doll from the pattern that my friend purchased on Etsy, and I had planned to gently enter the world of crochet by making the clothes and adding the details, but I was stumped as I had only 1 crochet hook, which was clearly too small…and no crochet hooks to be found in Spotlight for weeks….so, aware that Rebecca’s pregnancy was progressing I took a crash course in crochet and gave the doll a go.

I am SO impressed with the person who designed this pattern. It is very intricate, but not as difficult, in the end, as I first thought.

I still have the orginal doll, and I will find out what size hook was used, then finish her and keep her for myself.

This doll is a Birthing Mama, and I couldn’t adequately display her without showing her full potential….the pictures speak for themselves.

Be warned that you may find them a bit disturbing if you have not watched a birth before. But this is a santised birth – no mess and a smile on her face the whole time!!

 

Birthing Mama Doll 2009 003

Mama at full term - happy in anticipation of her beautiful baby's birth

Birthing Mama Doll 2009 004

Beginning to feel contractions - judging by the smile on her face she is full of endorphins

Birthing Mama Doll 2009 005

The head!!

Birthing Mama Doll 2009 006

A safe and successful home birth!

Birthing Mama Doll 2009 008

With placenta still attached, this lotus birth baby begins to feed

 

Yes! The pattern for this Birthing Mama Doll includes a womb, placenta, umbilical cord….and every detail down to the pubic hair.

She was a lot of fun to make and makes everyone laugh when they see her…having said that I don’t think I will be in a hurry to make another one for a while!