Forgiving Myself For My Failed Homebirth

I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl almost one year ago. She came into this world surrounded by earth angels. So much light and love was present that morning. I was overjoyed with her arrival and so in awe that after being in labor for almost 3 days, I did it. I really did it.

But I did not do it in the way I had expected. Let me back up a bit.

At the time of my pregnancy I was gratefully working as a holistic nutritionist and herbalist. Working mostly with women, and even more specifically during preconception to postpartum, in essence the birthing year. I was well trained and researched on matters of making pregnancy, birth and the postpartum time as easy as possible. I knew what was the most optimal diet and lifestyle to create a blissful pregnancy and birth and I was highly interested in midwifery (and for a time thought it was my calling) traveling to be trained by the best midwives in the world at The Farm in Summertown Tennessee. I knew exactly what to do to create the birth that all women dreamed of...or so I thought.

And for the most part it worked. I had a super easy time conceiving and being pregnant was a breeze outside of some swelling during the last trimester and putting on a lot of weight. ( I think the last time I counted it was 55 lbs) I was sure my home birth was going to be hard and painful but by the end of 8 hours I would welcome my baby girl into the world via water, still in the caul, and afterwards I would be in bed in an angelic nightgown, nursing my baby girl while sipping on herbal tea and eating snacks that I had premade for the occasion. Please don't laugh too hard but this is really what I intended my baby's birth to be. Idealist? Yes. Possible? Totally. Is this how it unfolded? Nope.

My water broke on the morning of March 21st right as I was heading to a prenatal massage. (I was getting regular massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care to ensure my baby's health and mine.) I knew it was my water straight away and I immediately got concerned. I knew enough about birth to know that your water breaking like this is not the best compliment to having a home birth. The clock began to tick that morning and it was a 24 hour countdown. I called my midwife and she said to go in for my massage as it might help bring on active labor. So I went into my massage but not before having to wear a kids diaper so I would not leak everywhere. ( It was all that was available in the office and well, ya know, I did what I had to do.)  After my massage I could feel my heart racing because in hindsight, I think I knew where this was going. I called an herbalist friend of mine who had already mixed some herbs to bring on labor for her birth and she kindly delivered them to me. And I started taking them, but to no avail it did not help progress my labor.

I labored at home until Saturday afternoon. My doula who really was my anchor in all of this was with me from Saturday morning until hours after I delivered. She was in essence my birthing partner. My husband was there every step of the way but there is something about women supporting women in birth that is primal, ancestral, cellular and Godly. She gave me so much strength during that time. I need to thank her again.  My midwife checked me at around 1 pm on Saturday and I was still at 5cm and my water had been broke past the time we had. So the only option was to head to the hospital. But before we did, I cried. I cried for my perceived failure. I cried because I knew having a natural birth was fading in the distance. I cried because I was embarrassed that this natural organic healthy mama could not birth her baby at home. I cried because I was scared to go to the hospital. I cried because part of me was a little relieved.

Our arrival at the hospital was met with lovely women who were smiling and kind. We were immediately taken to a room and I kept on laboring naturally with the advent of some monitors. I labored in water, I labored on a ball, walking around, squatting. Everything my birth team and I knew, we tried. But by 9pm with no change in dilation, it was time to intervene. Now my memory gets pretty foggy around this time so I will tell you what I remember. I know, they first checked me for an infection which I had so I had to have antibiotics administered and I got tylenol for a fever. They tried one round of pitocin (which did not change anything) so then later that night came the thing I did not want more than anything; an epidural. I read the stories, I knew what could happen. I was worried about drugging the baby. Having this epidural went against everything I stood for. Everything. I know some of you think an epidural is part of a healthy birth but to me it wasn't. It just wasn't. But time was still ticking and I knew soon the biggest intervention of all could come, a cesarean section. So I had the epidural.

The beautiful part of all of this was that the nurses and midwives really listened to me. I told them I had not taken synthetic medicine in almost a decade and that my body was highly sensitive to any medicine. And they listened. God is everywhere. They started me on the lowest dose of the epidural and turned it off once I was fully dilated. They were angels working to support me in having the best birth I could. I was lucky, really lucky. I had assisted in enough hospital births to know my experience was not normal. I was blessed. God is everywhere.

By 9 am on Sunday, March 23rd I was completely dilated and ready to push.  After 2 and a half hours and every ounce of strength in me, I birthed my beautiful baby girl into this world. And she was perfect. She came into this world surrounded by so much love, with at least 6 amazing women including my doula, home birth midwife and of course my rock, my grounding point, my everything, my husband. She was literally surrounded by love.  But that isn't the end of the story.

Two days after we got home, my blood pressure raised and my midwife (in not the most eloquent way possible) told me we had to go back to the hospital. What!?! I had a 4 day old baby, my milk had not come in, I was just at that place and did not want to go back. But she said it was a matter of life and possible death. What was happening is I developed postpartum preeclampsia which yes, can cause a stroke or a seizure, so back we went. At 10 pm on March 27th, we were back to the hospital. Admitted into the ER with my brand new baby and my husband. I was terrified. I thought I was going to have a stroke right there waiting for the doctor in front of my baby and husband. I was in shock which I think was a good thing because it kept me from falling apart. ( That came later.)

But like every experience we had so far, the people at the hospital were kind and nurturing. They explained everything and listened to my concerns. I again felt God's presence. And was so thankful. Several of the staff knowing it was my birthday ( oh yeah, it turned midnight and I turned 37) came in and sang happy birthday to me with a cupcake they bought from a vending machine. See, God is everywhere. I was touched, I cried, and my milk came in.

I ended up in the hospital for 3 days, making sure they could get my pressure under control before they released us. That 3 days was probably the hardest of my life. I was super scared, worried about myself, my baby, my poor husband who had been so stoic through this whole ordeal. It rocked my world. It cracked and broke apart every construct and belief system I had around health and wellness. I could not understand how this happened to me. And that is when I spiraled into victim consciousness. And it was super hard to get out of it. For the next 7 months I was barely hanging on by a thread. I was sleep deprived, I had this angel baby that I needed to be strong for, I was questioning everything I knew about anything, I felt sorry for myself and I wallowed. I wallowed and cried and thought I was going to die. Not necessarily from the preeclampsia but from something, anything. That is how scared I was. I was living in fear and had no idea how to get out of it.

But the time passed, I cried a lot, and called on the people in my life for support. My mom came and stayed with us for awhile, which was an immense help and relief. I would sometimes wake up it the mornings before the baby and just cry to her. And she would hold me and listen like mothers do. And like I know I will someday for my daughter. God is everywhere.

I returned to acupuncture and into a dear friend's talent and healing. She saved me in a way no one else could. Not only did I have the gift of the healing from the acupuncture, I had her. She listened to me when I was spinning out and faced me back towards the sun. She is kind and generous and I do not know what I would have done or do without her. God is everywhere.

I am rebuilding from a brand new foundation. The blessing that happens when your whole world is set on fire, is that if you walk out of it, you can create again. Everything is seen with a brand new set of eyes. The work may be slow but it is purposeful and done with a heightened level of gratitude that is beyond what I knew before. Everyday I let go and release my feelings of anger, shame, frustration and guilt a little more. Learning to let go is my biggest lesson in all this. This never has been my strong suit but that is beginning to change. God is everywhere.

And for the record, I do not believe that home birth is scary and dangerous and reckless. I know and believe that it can be the picture I had of it...because God is everywhere. But for me, God was waiting for me somewhere I didn't know I would be.

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Edema in Pregnancy

Edema (or swelling) in pregnancy is a common occurrence. Most women experience it to some degree usually during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Edema can be a isolated symptom or in some cases a  marker for something more serious like Preeclampsia. For this article, we are going to discuss edema as an isolated symptom of pregnancy and not part of a larger cause like preeclampsia.

Pregnancy hormones mainly estrogen can create water retention because it creates the connective tissue to swell which is a protection for mother and baby. But excessive edema, (like the photo below) is a major discomfort and a sign that there is a stress on the kidneys or a severe lack of dehydration both of which are not optimal for a healthy and easeful pregancy.

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There are several ways to insure you do not swell to excess during pregnancy. The first of which is circulation.

Move Your Body

Having an exercise routine at least 30 minutes a day of walking, yoga or pilates will keep your blood flooding easily to your extremities. Sometimes this is all that is missing from your routine to reduce swelling. Locally in our Denver community there are plenty of choices to take classes specifically for pregnancy. Places like Belly Bliss and The Mama'hood are two great businesses that are women centered. Also yoga studios like Breathe yoga  which offer a prenatal yoga class on Saturdays with Laura Wade Jaster, an incredible teacher, is another great option! If you cannot get to a class, a brisk walk of 30 minutes everyday is a perfect way to get your blood flowing.

Hydrate

Another area to explore if you are already doing some movement therapy is your level of hydration. Most people think drinking water is enough to keep you hydrated. But it is not. Minerals are what hydrate us not just the water. And because our soil is so mineral deficient and most of us are filtering our water (which is a very good thing!) we need to add minerals back into the water and our diet.

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The first and essential way to do this is to re-mineralize your filtered water. If you are drinking distilled or reverse osmosis water most every mineral is stripped out. So we have to put it back in. Adding a pinch of Celtic or pink Himalayan sea salt to your water is the foundation for that re-mineralization. If you local to Colorado, I get my salts from The Savory Spice shop but most health food stores carry both of these salts. Table salt and kosher salt are not good substitutes. Table salt is 97.5% sodium chloride, 2.5% chemicals and dried at over 1,200 ΒΊF. So as you can see, not much health benefit there. But Himalayan sea salt has over 500 minerals in it, contains all 84 elements that are found in the body and has a huge list of benefits to it outside of hydration.

For some women, especially if not pregnant, adding minerals to your water is all you need to feel hydrated. But for most pregnant women, especially in the dry climate of Colorado during winter, where the dry heat is on, we have to take this further. You need to super boost your water. One of the easiest ways to reduce swelling I have seen in my practice and in my own body being 6 months pregnant is adding a product called Vega Hydrator to your water once a day. This is a vegan, completely artificial free product. I love this and have seen it reduce edema within days. It is sweetened with stevia and does taste a bit sweet (to me) but it is worth the benefit. You can find it at most health stores and online.

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Sodium

If you are properly hydrated and moving your body on the regular, look into your diet. Are you ingesting too much sodium?

Now as I briefly stated above sodium and salt are two different things. If you are salting your food with a good Celtic or Himalayan salt this is perfect. And actually too little salt in a diet can cause water retention. But if your diet is consisting of canned soup, frozen dinners and packaged food as part of your daily plan, or you eat out regularly, I guarantee you are getting way to much sodium. 2,500 mg is about what you want to shoot for during pregnancy and beyond. But eating one can of  Annie's organic lentil soup is  around 1,200 mg of sodium. And most people are getting about 6 times this amount daily. So skip the canned soup and make it from scratch! There are some very simple recipes out there, and if you need inspiration, head over to my Pinterest page and check out my Super Clean Eats board. I love to cook and eat so you will find tons of healthy recipes.

Herbal Support

And if you are doing all of the above with no relief, then looking at a mild herbal diuretic to support the kidneys is essential. Diuretic herbs like nettles and dandelion, an infusion of 2 cups daily, will help support your kidneys to reduce the load. A herbal recipe to reduce swelling is below:

3 parts nettles leaf

2 parts dandelion leaf

1 part spearmint or peppermint

Use 1 tbs of the combined dried plants to 1 cup of pure water. Allow to steep for at least 20 minutes. Drink 2 cups daily.

If you are not yet a client of mine and do not have access to my herbal blends, contact me to order the above tea. Or you can source it from a local apothecary like Artemesia and Rue in Denver or Mountain Rose Herbs online.

I use the above as a holistic remedy to prevent edema. But if all of this fails, then it is time to speak with your midwife or health care provider to make sure it is not a condition like Preeclampsia. Some of the above steps can combat Preeclampsia if mild but for more severe cases especially in late pregnancy, you want the support of your birth team!

Have experience with Edema and success with something not mentioned above? Leave a comment below so we can learn from your wisdom.