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Home Birth

Well, food has not been on my mind lately because I am pregnant! My first trimester has involved a lot of appointments and a lot of decisions. You can read about my first home birth appointment with Maria Iorillo on SFGate.com/moms.

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Home Birth Appt. #1

At first it was intense. Maria handed me a lot of forms. I have to sign a home birth consent form, a VBAC at home consent form and a lot of other paper work to look through and sign. I know that there is an increased risk of maternal or neonatal risk at home because there is not an operating room down the hall. But I have also read the Johnson and Daviss study, a summary on the home birth collective web site, which says that the rate of intrapartum and neonatal mortality was 1.7 deaths per 1000 births, similar to risks in other studies of low-risk home and hospital births in North America. I also know from experience that hospitals come with there own set of risks.

Maria didn't quote any study. She only said that she wouldn't be doing midwifery if she thought it was unsafe. "I really don't sugar coat any of it, because in reality, we could be dealing with some very hard scenarios at home that require guts and grit and trust in one another." I got the feeling that Maria expects her clients to be well informed when they walk in her door. In her office, she was not promoting the home birth cause or trying to convince me of a home birth. However, I do know from reading her blog that outside her office, she does do an enormous amount to help get the word out that home birth is a safe option for childbirth. Nonetheless, if I hadn't spent the last two years of my life researching birth, I think that those forms might have scared me away.

When I took my husband, Zack, to the informational interview, I had done a ton of research but Zack hadn't done any. I was hoping that she would give him a crash course in all things home birth. Instead, she only went over the risks. I left feeling like I would certainly never have a home birth now, but Zack didn't feel the same way and so here we are.

For me, the turning point was Maria's non-cavalier approach. If my birth is continuing normal, normal, normal, I can stay at home. The minute the baby's heart rate changes or my labor stalls or the birth has moved out of the normal spectrum, she takes me to the hospital. This approach makes sense to me, take me to the hospital only if there is something that doesn't seem quite right.

Then she presents the money forms. All prenatal, birth, and postpartum care is $4,000. If an ultra sound at 20 weeks shows that I have placenta previa, then the safest thing to do is to have my baby at a hospital and she will just charge me for my appointments up to that point. So, my whole birth plan could change in a couple weeks when I do my 20-week ultrasound. My insurance will cover 70% of the $4,000. Our expenses will be less than my total co-payments from my last birth.

She also provides a model of care that would transfer a woman to the hospital at 8 centimeters. So, I could do all the luxuriousness, hour-long prenatal appointments, labor at home with her monitoring me, and then go to the hospital. Then receive the postpartum appointments after the birth. So, it's like home birth care but with a hospital transfer at 8 centimeters. I thought this could be a lovely option for some, but if I make it to 8 centimeters at home and everything is looking good, no way do I want to get in a car and go to the hospital.

Next came the fun stuff and Maria took off her game face and I had the most enjoyable prenatal appointment. We listened to the baby's heart beat and marveled at its strength. She didn't tell me that I was still in the first trimester and a miscarriage was still possible even with an active baby and strong heart beat, which my last visit with an obstetrician told me. Midwifery care allows me to enjoy being pregnant. Let me worry only when there is something to worry about. Then, I had my blood drawn; I peed in a cup. All the usual stuff. Every few minutes a two-year old from the adjoining chiropractic office would peep his head under the curtain. Beautiful works of art about birth and pregnancy filled the walls. In a corner of the room, there is a place set-up for children to play with wood toys.

Read some of my other posts about my first child's birth here and here.

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Opting out of preschool

[Previously published for sfgate.com/moms]

I am going through some sort of journey that I never thought that I'd take. I went from working when Mikey was only three months old to quitting completely when he was just over a year. I had him signed up for preschools when he was one month old and now I've decided preschool can wait.

Mikey is 2.5 years old and it seems that every child his age in San Francisco is in preschool some part of the week. I only know one other mom who doesn’t have her child in a school.

Our weeks are free from commitments. We have no plans and therefore the space to live life slower.

I am so happy that I don't have to rush out of the house every morning. I love playing at the house until Mikey is ready to do something else. I realize how lucky we are to be together all day. He says to me, "Mama, Mikey is happy."

I want to give him what I didn't have. Like most parents, my parents worked. I was shuffled from school to the babysitter. We spent two hours a day in the car commuting back and forth into town. I had to wait for happiness, which I found on the weekends and in the evenings while reading bedtime stories with my dad.

The concept of choosing not to send Mikey to school doesn't seem that earth shattering, but for me it is. I am choosing a path based on my intuition as a mother. I am trusting my feelings and making big decisions based on them. I am not doing what everyone else is doing but doing what I want to do for my child. I can identify with how homeschooling moms and dads must feel. It takes a lot of courage to defend my decision. Although from reading this article, it seems all too clear that our boys are feeling school burn out early.

In this culture of working parents and scheduled activities, I am taking a different approach. Like the slow food movement, I am starting the slow kids movement!

(Mikey is now 3.5 years old and he started at a preschool this Fall (2009). It felt totally right, but it didn't work out for him. Among other major behavior changes, he went on a hunger strike. I spoke with him about it and we decided that he still liked preschool, but he wanted something less noisy, fewer toys, fewer teachers, fewer kids etc.)

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Women Can Stop Their Labor. What?

I was "complete." The nurse said, "the baby is coming." And then something spooked me and my cervix closed up to 6 centimeters. I think that it might have been the gear that they rolled in at that moment. There was so much stuff for a little baby not in distress that it could have filled the back of a pick-up truck. In Ina May's, Guide to Childbirth book she talks a lot about how women are so sensitive during childbirth that something as small as an unhappy thought can stop her labor.

When I heard six centimeters after being told that the baby was coming, I thought that I'd have to redo the hours of labor that it took me to get from 6 to 10 centimeters. In fact, according to Ina May, a woman can quickly dialated back to 10 centimeters in very little time if the cause of her distress is eliminated. I confirmed this with Hokhmah K. Gandley, a San Francisco family nurse practitioner and nurse midwife.

If I had known that I could quickly dialate back to 10 centimeters, I think that I would have had the courage to continue without an epidural. Instead, I got the epidural and the whole domino affect of interventions that follows. I ended up with a non-emergency Cesarean section at around midnight. In a postpartum appointment, I asked if there was anything else that could have been done to avoid the surgery. My health care professional said that I could have pushed longer but it was midnight and everyone wanted to go home.

Read my other post about birth here.

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What? The doctor doesn't know everything?

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Way back when I was breastfeeding, I called my pediatrician with a breastfeeding question, the nurse told me to call Day One (a retail store for new parents). I thought that was bit strange but figured that pediatricians don't handle breastfeeding questions. Recently I called Mikey's doctor because it looks like he has athletes foot, the nurse said to wait until it's cracked and bleeding and then to call her back. What I really wanted to hear was ways that I could help Mikey's feet before they reached the cracked and bleeding stage.

Luckily, I have an amazing Aunt who I call when I get these types of responses from my doctor. She has recommend most of the homeopathic products listed below:

From Left to Right on the picture:

Enfamil Poly-Vi-Sol Multivitamin

: Studies are coming out that show that vitamins taken outside their natural food don't do us any good. They are placebos. Nonetheless, I still have vitamins in the mix during flu season. I buy these at the grocery store and give them to Mikey when he seems a little slower than usual or has a slight runny nose. He likes it straight in his mouth. No mixing required.

Cold & Flu Immune Defense with Elderberry, Echinacia, and Goldenseal

: Herbs are different from vitamins, so as far as I know taking these herbs can help boost Mikey's immune system. When needed, I give myself and Mikey a dropper full mixed into our afternoon smoothie.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

: This is also an immune system booster. It may seem like overkill to have all this immune system stuff but the immune system does more than just protect us from the common cold. It protects us from cancer and other serious conditions. If we are feeling a little sluggish, a few drops of this will help keep whatever is knocking at bay.

Probiotics by Natren Life Start

: If Mikey's poop is a little runny, I sprinkle probiotics in his smoothie and it hardens his poop right up. The California Pacific Medical Center's newsletter published an article about the benefits to probiotics. It's great to take while on antibiotics or for children with chronic ear infections. Yogurt has natural probiotics in it. Natren is probiotic supplement. Mikey hasn't had an ear infection since I started putting a dash of probiotic powder in his smoothie two or three times a week.

3 Flowers Healing's Miracle Healing Oil

: Being two years old, Mikey has a lot of cuts and bruises. This oil is great for healing these little or sometimes big bumps and scratches. This healing oil helps heal wounds or sunburns or pretty much any skin issue. I sometimes use it for myself on the occasional pimple.

Arnicare Gel

: This is similar to the healing oil but its specifically for bruising and burns. I see the best results when applied right after the bonk! It's great for making bruises disappear. Sometimes I use it on my stiff neck. Mikey is now 32 lbs. and loves his rides with mommy. Mommy is trying to get him to walk.

Bach Rescue Remedy

: A stress reliever. I take this before leaving for the airport or Best Buy. My face get tingly when I feel stressed so as soon as I get that sensation, I drop four drops of this on my tongue, the tingling goes away, and I feel centered again. I hear that some moms use it for colicky babies or hysterical toddlers.

Ear Drops by Gaia's Children

(not in picture): I'd say that using herbal ear drops is crucial to avoiding ear infections. When Mikey starts rubbing his ear, I use these ear drops and the next morning a huge glob of yellow ear wax comes out.

Oh, and for the athletes foot, I aired out his feet as much as possible (i.e. no socks in the house and dried between his toes after tub time). I also soaked his feet once a day for about four days in warm water and vinegar and it went away. I was worried about him sitting still for the foot soak but it isn't an issue. He loves it, he lifts his legs up high as I slip the warm water under him. Now, he plays imaginary foot soak with the little tub that I used.

Does anyone else have homeopathic remedies that they'd like to pass along?

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Should I have my second child in a hospital?

For the past year and a half since Mikey was born, I have pondered food. Today as I contemplate having a second child, I am seeing a similarity between the food industry and the birthing industry. Strange, I realized, but read on.

Mikey was born in a hospital by cesarean section. While in labor but before my surgery, I was given everything on the modern medicine's menu. I remember saying, "Look sweety, do you see that, the lights are rabbits."

Before I started taking food seriously, I thought it was normal to feed children Gold Fish and Cheerios, but now I don't think that these foods are really food at all.

Like food, I am starting to question how normal it really is to give birth in a hospital. Having a baby isn't an illness. I am starting to question the whole concept of going to the hospital just like I started to question what I was feeding my baby.

Our nation started having babies in the hospital around the same time we started eating processed food (early in the 20th century). How did my great grandmother give birth to my grandmother and all those women before her? And, are women better off in the hospitals today then they were before hospitals? Is there less infant mortality now or then? From what I've read, we are certainly not healthier eating chips, soda and other processed foods. Are we better off giving birth in a hospital or not?

Giving birth without a doctor or hospital wasn't even a consideration for me back when Mikey was born, but now that I have had the hospital experience, I am not sure that I want to repeat it. There are plenty of recent reputable studies out there saying we shouldn't be eating most of what is being sold to us in the grocery store, but it is still there ready to take our money. Are we just going to hospitals to give birth because that's just what we do or is it actually the right choice?

Although it seems like it's a far fetched comparison, could giving birth in the hospital be equally unhealthy as buying processed foods at the store? Are hospitals, like food companies, taking the control from the mother and putting it in the hands of the so-called experts?

When I didn't know better, I thought, "Why would all this food be sold if it were harmful to my health?" Well, from the books that I’ve read, it's quite clear that no one is looking out for me. We are sicker as a nation then ever before and it is in short because of these replacement foods.

Today, I think about hospitals the same way that I use to think about the aisles and aisles of industrialized food. Hospitals know best. They are first and foremost looking out for me and my interests. However, since the traumatizing birth of my son, I have started to doubt this unscrutinizing faith in hospitals. Why did the birth of my son take me five months to physically recover and two years to mentally recover?

Are hospitals becoming too big of a business to do what's in the best interest of us moms?

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Biking in San Francisco with Mikey

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As I locked my bike to a pole, a woman asked me, "You road here with him in that?" I smiled and said, "Yes." I take Mikey, my 23-month old son, on the bike to activities such as music class, the park, and play dates. He loves to chit chat as we cruise around, "that bike," that car." He plays a game where he taps my butt with his feet and giggles. He likes to cheer on my peddling efforts by singing, "around and around." He points out dogs, bikes, trees, and red trucks. The only downfall is the fear that someone might hit us with their car. I stay alert and on the sidewalks despite the rule that bikes should be on the road. But I still mumble a little prayer in my head as I go, "Oh please God, let us get home safely."

So, why do I bike if it's so dangerous? I do it because I enjoy bicycling. I do it because it's stressful to find parking. I do it because it's one of the benefits to living in San Francisco. I do it because it makes me happy. I do it because it makes Mikey happy. I do it to get exercise. I do it to save gas and not pollute. I do it because biking is one thing that I can do to help the planet. Are these reasons good enough to risk being hit with my baby on the back? No!

So then, why do I bike? I don't have a good answer. I guess it's like why we fly in airplanes or cross the street when the light is red. I depend on everyone to keep us safe. I hope people don't think, "Well, if she and her baby get hurt, it's their fault for biking." I rely on people to notice that we're biking and to use caution. I have hope that people are sensitive to the fact that I have a child with me. I trust people to feel concerned and to slow down. I can't bike safely without everyone's help. No amount of bike lanes or laws can do what compassion from others can do.

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