Thursday, October 20, 2011

Child Bearing and Rearing

Our baby is not due until December 6th, so this post may be a little preemptive. However, once the baby comes I may not have much time to blog. So I want to go ahead and discuss some choices we have made regarding pregnancy, birth, and early parenting and why we have made them.

Pregnancy - Right now, I am 34/40 weeks along and today I will go to only my 4th prenatal visit. This is largely due to my having a very easy pregnancy and personal inclinations toward more "natural" ways in regards to health care. We have heard the heartbeat once via Doppler, and we have decided to have one ultrasound in a couple of weeks to be certain there are no life threatening conditions to be dealt with (i.e. placenta previa). We are keeping the gender a surprise. I have allowed the doctor to do blood work, measure and weigh me, do a blood sugar tolerance test, and take urine samples. Essentially, we are not allowing any invasive type procedures or testing. I am taking all natural, food based prenatal vitamins from the health food store and continuing to eat healthy. I partially attribute my very easy pregnancy to my lifestyle. A lot of women start watching what they eat once they learn that they are pregnant, but I have been eating well for years, and it's my opinion that, combined with having an active and generally healthy lifestyle, this has helped me have a great pregnancy. Some pregnancy symptoms I've been fortunate enough not to have include morning sickness, swelling, back pain, hemorrhoids, extreme mood swings (though I've admittedly been a bit more touchy than usual), and even stretch marks. Of course, this is only as of now, but I'm very confident that I probably won't experience any of those.
I don't know if it's even related (though I think it is!), but I'd like to quickly outline the way I've handled pregnancy and I hope that similar decisions can help other women have easier pregnancies, too.
First off, I kept eating well. For years now I've been eating only real, natural, whole foods, nothing artificial. I do not eat meat except for fish, and since I've been pregnant I've pretty much given that up as well because of mercury content. I've gotten plenty of protein though. Most everyone thinks you can't get enough protein without meat but it's just not true. The body produces some protein with help from Vitamin D, which you get from the sun as well as other sources (such as Vitamin D fortified milk). A lot of my protein comes from legumes, beans, peas, nuts, etc. I also eat animal by-products, which includes all dairy and also eggs. Most nutritionists agree that eggs contain the best type of protein for your body. I never count calories or monitor my intake of certain vitamins or proteins, etc. I just eat a big variety of good food. It's just eating you guys, not that complicated! A note: adequate protein intake has been shown to reduce swelling (no matter how much you're on your feet) and nausea related to morning sickness. Keeping a little food on your stomach at all times also helps with nausea, as well as avoiding spicy foods, veggies in the broccoli family, and hi carb fatty junk foods like donuts and pastries (basically the "comfort foods," ironic huh?). The foods you eat can also effect constipation, hemorrhoids, and other digestive issues associated with pregnancy as well as energy levels and irritability.
Second, when I learned we were expecting I immediately looked into things that you should and shouldn't do while pregnant, such as inhaling paint fumes, heavy lifting, etc. It turns out that, contrary to popular belief, heavy lifting does not cause miscarriages. The risk with heavy lifting while pregnant is that you may pull an abdominal muscle or hurt your back. Using good body mechanics is always a great idea and especially if you do any lifting while pregnant. I'll go ahead and add that there are certain postures and positions you should avoid once the fetus gets a bit bigger because these postures/positions encourage a breech position, which is not only more difficult during the birth but can increase back pain. You can pretty much keep living as normal while pregnant, just be cautious. But don't feel sorry for yourself or think you have to sit on your butt the whole time. Activity does wonders for easing pregnancy, labor and birth.
Last, I decided that I would maintain a positive and happy attitude about the pregnancy the entire time. I try to think as positively as possible, not get stressed, and look forward to the birth. It isn't that hard either! I'm making a little person in there, what isn't there to be thrilled about? Also keep in mind that all of the hormones you're "feeling"go to the baby as well and can be harmful in certain circumstances.

Birth - We have a birth plan for a hospital birth in the event that it comes to that, but are planning a home birth. In brief, this is because of a lot of reading we've done that's led us to believe that home is a much better, more comfortable environment for having the baby. Having a hospital birth increases the likelihood of having medical intervention, which we would like to avoid. It would take a lot of writing to go into detail on this, but if you are interested I recommend reading about the Bradley Method of birthing and other methods that promote a natural birth, the risks of routine hospital procedures used during births (i.e. epidurals and spinals, episiotomies, forceps/vacuum extractors, continuous fetal heart monitoring, etc.) as well as the freedom a woman does or does not have in the hospital environment (things such as privacy, permission to eat and drink during labor, ability to shower or bathe, the choice to birth in a position other than supine, etc.). Our preferences, beliefs and confidence in the way that a woman's body is designed for labor and birth lead us to seek a birth outside the hospital. Unfortunately, in the state of Alabama medical professionals are not permitted to attend home births and can loose their license for doing so. This leaves us with no choice for a home birth but to birth unassisted. This is not something I would recommend to every woman, and would even be skeptical to recommend to anyone. But it is a personal choice and one that I feel comfortable with. My pregnancy has gone very smoothly and I am in excellent health. We are also about a 5 minute drive from the hospital and are aware of the signs of  problems that require professional attention. In addition to birthing at home, I have chosen to have a water birth. This decision is based on water being soothing, a natural pain reliever when immersed in it, and helping to reduce tearing.

Early Parenting - We are doing Continuum Concept parenting which is similar to attachment parenting. This entails carrying baby most of the time until they start trying to crawl, co-sleeping until the child shows interest in having separate bed, breast feeding on demand and exclusively for as long as you can (usually until 6-8 months old for exclusive breast feeding, but continuing supplemental breast feeding until at least age 2), being pretty laid back and hands off once baby does start crawling around, and generally having a very positive attitude toward them (being accepting of them, letting them know that they are good despite imperfections, and taking them seriously and treating them with respect despite that they are young). We believe these practices allow babies to develop independence and confidence early on and give babies the best stimulation possible (person to person rather than person to device, i.e. sticking baby in a swing or bouncer or under a mobile for entertainment/companionship), and help baby to develop normal social skills and be relatively anxiety-free. If you want to read more about this type of parenting, you can simply look up "Continuum Concept" and you'll get tons of free information on it. This parenting model is based on observations of how tribal peoples parent their young and is at the very least very interesting.
We have also decided to cloth diaper. This choice is based on frugality, comfort for baby, and personal conviction to reduce waste and pollution. Plus cloth diapered babies are usually potty trained earlier than babies who are diapered with disposables. When it comes to cloth diapers there are tons of options. It was overwhelming at first for me. You can go the old fashioned way with pre-folds and waterproof covers, or use a hybrid diaper with a combination of reusable liners and biodegradable ones, there's also the all in one which works just like a disposable except that you reuse it, there are fitted diapers that are for specific sizes or one-size diapers that use a system of snaps to grow with your child, there are pocket diapers which consist of cover and soaker insert, some diapers are made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials and others are not, etc. If you are interested, you should research the pros and cons of each type and even each brand. I do recommend starting out with all in ones or pocket diapers since they are most user friendly. The same things won't work for everyone. The most economical and convenient option for us turned out to be one size pocket diapers from Yoyoo. You will need varying amounts of inserts/covers depending on the type of diaper you choose. One size diapers are designed to fit from newborn through potty training, though often times newborns need smaller disposables for just the first few weeks until they get a little bigger. Be aware that with cloth diapers, you will need to wash them every 2 to 3 days. Another important note is that even if you started out using disposables, most parents do not have a problem making the transition to cloth.
As far as introducing solid foods, I at first thought I would make my own baby food. It saves a ton of money, especially if you use the same equipment (such as a Baby Bullet or other baby food processor) for other babies later. The same applies with cloth diapering since often diapers can be used again for a second or even third child. However, baby food processors - quality ones at least - are expensive. And though they pay for themselves over time, there is also the work of making and storing all that baby food yourself. This may be the way to go for a lot of frugal parents, but I felt that there must be an even more economical, easy way. Then I discovered the most obvious way to introduce solids to a baby, called Baby Led Weaning. There's no mashing, blending or pureeing food, no storing it in special jars or need to freeze it, no spoon feeding, and no buying special separate foods for baby. Once your baby is 6-8 months old, shows interest in solid foods and has lost the tongue thrust reflex, you simply start offering solid food in manageable pieces. Fruit can be raw, you can offer oatmeal, and cooked (preferably steamed) vegetables. Of course, they should be cut into smaller pieces so baby can pick them up easily, but not so small that they present a choking hazard. You do not feed the baby yourself, you let them learn to feed themselves and watch carefully. You can eat while baby tries to, no spoon feeding! Baby learns to control food intake and does not overeat this way, as often accidentally happens when parents spoon feed. It's messy afterwards, that's for sure, but that's the only real inconvenience of it that I see. As a warning though, babies should not have salt, sugar or honey (and some say meat and eggs) under a certain age so be mindful of that. With this method of solids introduction, baby learns to chew first then swallow, versus spoon feeding purees, where they learn to swallow then to chew.

Much of what is expressed here are my personal opinions or observations. Our choices won't work well for everyone, especially our birthing choices. Home births are only safe if you are having a normal, healthy pregnancy and are best attended by licensed midwives. But if child bearing and rearing is in your near future, I hope that this has opened your eyes to some options you didn't know you had.
I would encourage every woman who may eventually have a child to research thoroughly about modern obstetrics and how much of it is geared toward ease for doctors and hospital staff, which puts mother and baby second and often at unnecessary risk. Remember also that in America you have the right to refuse any medical treatment or procedure. Pregnancy and birth are very empowering experiences that women were made for. But unfortunately, modern obstetrics has taken that empowerment and replaced it with undue worry, stress and even feelings of inadequacy. Know your rights, know how your body works, and know what options you have.

UPDATE (2/1/12)
I thought it would be nice to let everyone know how our Yoyoo pocket diapers are working out. We have 20 of the pocket covers with 30 inserts. (The reason we have extra inserts is because we line dry them and since the inserts are thick they are not dry by the time the covers are.) We wash every other day and this many diapers barely gets us by and for others it would probably not be enough. It is because we practice Elimination Communication that we use less diapers (currently using 4-6 per day). The manufacturer says they fit 5-35 lbs. but I seriously doubt these would fit a 5lb. baby. They did not fit Stone until he was about 8 lbs. and even then were a little loose about the thighs. He is now around 14 lbs. and is still on the smallest setting. They have worked well and the inserts are very absorbent. He is a heavy wetter and I have never needed to double up inserts.
If you would like some Yoyoo pocket diapers, Snaps & Snails is currently selling them for just 9.89 per diaper, which includes an insert and shipping.
When I first decided to cloth diaper, I read that you should try a few different kinds of diaper before buying a whole stash. And I thought, "Nah, that advise is for sissies." But man was I wrong! I would really encourage you to try different kinds and build your stash slowly while figuring out what you like best.

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