Sexy, Savvy, Natural Mama

a blog space for pregnant ladies, new moms, feminists, and interested souls

See me at the new site! July 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — hokoonchi @ 9:43 am

Check me out at asavvymom.com! No longer am I just a blog, I’m a whole URL …

I won’t be posting here anymore … but don’t worry, all the old posts are up at the new site.

Cheers! And thanks for reading! You guys rock.

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The Essential Pregnancy Library July 18, 2010

As a pregnant lady, you may be interested in getting some good books. I mean, the internet just doesn’t cut it. And as I said, a lot of those sites end up with a bunch of scary comments about miscarriages and illness. I have known of pregnant ladies who stay away from reading any books or sites, but as you might have guessed, I’m not really that type of person. In fact, I highly recommend reading a good selection of books — but you don’t need to go overboard.

You’ll need …

A great reference book. I totally do NOT recommend What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It’s not written by doctors, and it just kinda tells moms to avoid every little thing possible. It’s information light, and condescension heavy. Instead, I highly recommend the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. This book is a true treasure — if you only buy ONE book for your pregnancy, this is really the one you need. It is divided into three sections — pregnancy, childbirth, and your newborn. It’s written by health care professionals, and has a non-conversational this-is-what-you-need-to-know kind of tone. It provides information on every option for pregnancy and labor, has charts for when you should call the doctor according to the week of pregnancy, and it tells you what to do with your newborn once you get it home. It’s well organized, well laid out, has lots of great information, and it will help you chill out when you perceive a potential problem.

For natural birth planners, you’ll need: Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. Ricki Lake — she’s at her least ridiculous in this book — and Abby Epstein are the minds behind the eye-opening documentary, The Business of Being Born (available on Netflix instant). (I recommend this for natural birthers as well.) This is the companion book, which details why pregnancy and childbirth are treated differently in the U.S. than in other countries, and it tells American mothers about all of their options when it comes to their own births. Ricki and Abby both tell their own birth stories in Your Best Birth, all of which are vastly different experiences (hospital birth with an epidural, home birth with no medication, and an emergency c-section). The best part about this book to me was the lists of questions to ask your doctor, midwife, hospital, and doula. They also go over how to write a birth plan and the things you may want to include. A quick, easy, fun and thoroughly informative read!

For the natural birth planner, you’ll also want to read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I’ve already written a full review of this fabulous classic, and yeah, I still think it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Ina May Gaskin is a total badass — a rogue, self-trained midwife who started her own birthing center at a commune in Tennessee. This book is her guide, her philosophy, and her experience. The best thing? The first third of the book is written by her patients, giving glimpses of their positive, natural birth experiences. Then, Ina May details all of the different ways and methods to cope with labor — particularly the more difficult labors. She is unflappably calm and amazingly creative, and gives you a lot of ideas to hold in your personal labor arsenal. For example, if you open your mouth during pushing, you’re less likely to tear. If you’re muscles are tight, and someone rocks you back and forth, you’re more likely to relax and have it easier. And you get to read Ina May’s amazing statistics for her commune birthing center at the end. Also, it’s well written and has a good sense of humor!

For coping with labor pain in a natural way, check out: Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. Both of these books are designed around a “method” to deal with labor, so you may want to choose one ore the other. However, I think checking out a little of both is important because it gives you a chance to gather more tools for your labor arsenal. Birthing from Within does have some wacky stuff about creating birth art to express your fear, which I’m not really into, but some people might find cool. What I really liked about Birthing from Within is the varied methods of coping with pain and the suggestions for how to cope with post-partum stress. Hypnobirthing has a lot about the history of childbirth, and it explains the self-hypnosis methods for dealing with labor. It has a great deal of wonderful information about pregnancy, and it explains meditation you can practice and use during childbirth. Also very well written and engaging. Highly recommended!

Breastfeeders will need … A good breastfeeding book. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding By La Leche League International comes highly recommended. It’s the one I have, and there’s a ton of great information in it … but … it gets a bit preachy. If you are someone who knows you’ll get cranky at super preachy breastfeeding dogma (i.e. “There’s no such thing as not producing enough milk. If you’re not producing enough milk, there’s something wrong with you.”), then don’t get this one. I haven’t checked any other ones, but The Nursing Mother’s Companion comes highly recommended as well, and I would definitely give Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding a good try since Ina May pretty much rules.

Everyone needs … Baby Bargains! As you know, I totally support Baby Bargains. The authors claim they’ll save you lots of dough when buying your baby gear, but I’m not sure if that’s the main benefit of this tome. The main benefit? I found out about everything available on the market, got familiar with brands, and got good ideas for what I needed and didn’t need. From this book, I got the crib recommendation that led me to choose Westwood, the idea to purchase the Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper, and the suggestions as to what brands to include on my registry. That said, the authors, Denise and Alan Fields, are parents and not consumer reports experts. It’s also good to get opinions from other sources — I choose friends and family, and Amazon reviews!

And if you’re interested in a book for your partner … Get The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. This is the to-go reference for the person in your life who will be supporting you through labor — significant other, friend, mom and dad … etc. This has all the information that that person can tell you throughout your pregnancy — exercises, health, nutrition, and all the stuff they can tell you about labor while you’re in it — medical interventions, options, and positions, and what you can expect after the birth — how to identify postpartum depression, how you can be supported in breastfeeding, and how to clean your baby. It’s good for that person in your life to have all the info. As much as you can cram in your brain, you won’t remember all of it, and it’s good to have someone there to remind you and make sure you’ve got what you need.

I’ll have another addition after Sam is born — the best books for having a baby!

 

Things You May Not Have Heard about Pregnancy and Childbirth July 16, 2010

Filed under: childbirth,pregnancy — hokoonchi @ 11:55 pm

The media portrays pregnancy (and childbirth, for that matter) in a very particular way. My advice is to trust none, or quite little, of what you see on television or in the movies. There are a lot of things that are partially accurate (you may puke in your first trimester, you may swell in your third), but there’s a lot you don’t see.

There’s a lot about pregnancy that you will not expect. I can by no means cover all of it here, but these are just a few of my experiences …

1. Nausea, food aversions, and strong reactions to smells may bug you throughout your entire pregnancy. Though I am not as ill at the thought of food as I was during the first thirteen weeks of my pregnancy, I often catch myself getting nauseous at the thought of certain foods, and I find myself very particular about what I eat. Don’t get me started on smells … that has stuck with me throughout the entire pregnancy. I can’t handle the smell of someone chewing minty gum, and I almost upchucked at the waft of a banana a couple of weeks ago. Of course, it’s not nearly as bad as it once was, but my system is still very different than it was before I got pregnant. As you may have expected, heartburn runs rampant any time it wants to.

2. You may not have a natural “glow” during pregnancy. At least I haven’t noticed any. In fact, my skin has gone oily and sticky, and my high school acne has returned. I definitely have to wash my face twice a day. Oh, and my hair looks exactly the same as it ever did.

3. Not all ladies vomit during the first trimester. According to Women’s Healthcare Topics, 75% of women experience nausea or vomiting. See the “or” in there? Not everyone hurls. I never did until I got a stomach virus in my second trimester. I got quite nauseous and even lost weight because of it in my first trimester, but the content of my stomach never expelled itself. So please, don’t worry if you don’t have vomiting. Don’t even worry if you don’t have nausea — you may be in the lucky 25% (hey, that’s like a lot of people) that never experiences it to begin with.

4. You might grow OUT of some of your maternity clothes. Now this one … this really gets to me. I haven’t gained all that much weight, but I swear to you I can’t fit a couple of the things I bought at the end of my first trimester. Remedy? Think about HOW you gain weight. If you gain it through your hips and legs as I am wont to do, you might want to purchase a size up from what the size charts say you should buy. Be wise about what you buy, and don’t buy too much when you’re not all that big.

5. Your “water” most likely won’t “break” in one big rush. Your bag of waters, or amniotic sac, is the thing that holds your baby during pregnancy. It provides a safe, warm place for him or her to swish around. It’s like a saline solution in there, and when the sac breaks, it can drip out slowly, or come in several larger gushes. As in, it probably won’t all gush out on your shoes in the middle of the street.

6. Your water can break at any time during your labor — even during the stage when you’re actually pushing. Your water can break right as you start having a few contractions here and there — when the hospital is a long, long way off. It can break a good couple of days before you really go into labor. Or, it can break when the baby is on its way out. In the TV and in the movies, we see the water break just as the woman heads off to the hospital to start her labor in earnest. Which is really just not the way things work.

7. You don’t have to give birth lying down. Actually, you can push in a whole lotta different positions — hands and knees, lying on your side, or squatting. You can even do these things when you’ve got an epidural going on — you just have to be careful and get some support. If you’re interested in an epidural, but don’t want to push lying down, you can request a “walking epidural” from the doctor. This may not let you fully walk, but you can get some more mobility in order to move around some. What’s the advantage of trying different positions to push? Well, think about it. A baby can be lodged or stuck in lots of ways, and the natural way to get him to move around and get on out of there is to move around yourself. The lying down position can actually be counterproductive since you’re not using gravity to your advantage. Take note and take charge!

There are a ton of other stuff as well, I’m quite and very sure! Anything you didn’t hear about pregnancy or childbirth that you’d like to share?

 

Best Paint for Pregnant Ladies

Hey everyone! I was just looking at my blog stats and saw that one of the more common searches that led people to my page was “best paint for pregnant ladies,” so hey, I give the people what they want.

The best paint for pregnant ladies is, of course, the lowest of the low-VOC, the paints that are qualified as no-VOC.

The paints that I have used are:

1. Benjamin Moore Natura — I got this guy mixed to match Glidden’s Fresh Guacamole for the nursery. The big advantage here is that you can get Natura mixed to match just about ANYTHING. Another advantage is that it has very little smell at all. Any paint sample you find anywhere? You can get it in Natura. The disadvantages are that you have to go to a Benjamin Moore store to get it, and it’s hella expensive at about 60 bucks a gallon.

2. C2 Lovo (available at Benjamin Moore Stores) — I used this for the master bedroom (in Potato Leek) and the nursery closet (in Chelsea). The advantages are that it comes in lovely colors and that it has very little smell. Again, you have to get it at Benjamin Moore stores, and it runs 55 bucks a gallon. And it’s low-VOC, not no-VOC. But it’s worked well for us in a couple of places.

3. Freshaire — Now, this is the best paint of the lot, I do believe. Major advantages include: you can get it at your local Home Depot, it has a small but very nice selection of colors, and it’s way cheaper at 30 bucks a gallon. It’s not going to be your cheapest option (you have to buy higher VOC paint options for that), but it’s probably down there with the cheapest of the cheap no-VOC options. Oh yeah, and for a cheaper paint, it’s super high quality, thick, and goes on smooth. And with absolutely no odor that we can detect! The only disadvantage I can see is that the color options are limited and somewhat muted. As in, you probably won’t be able to find a bright, charming nursery color — but if your tendency is toward the more subdued, you may be in luck.

A paint I’ve heard about a lot but have not used is Mythic Paint, found at Lowe’s. Check it out! I think it may have more color options than Freshaire, so it’s worth a look.

Of course, many of you pregnant ladies won’t have occasion to paint, or may be totally freaked out by the idea altogether. I will say that the no-VOC is just that. It has no volatile organic compounds, which is the nasty stuff that can give you headaches (and if you drink it, it probably won’t be good for your baby). But there’s no reason to shy away from using the no-VOC paint. It’s an excuse to exercise your nesting instinct in your baby’s room, and perhaps in other areas of your home. It’s water based, green, and non-toxic. As for painting, go for it! Get someone else to get up on the step stool, and take care of your back since you’re up and down a lot during the painting process. And enjoy!

 

Fear of Labor July 13, 2010

For those of you who knew me before Eric and I started planning to get pregnant, you may have at least guessed that I wasn’t exactly a natural birth advocate. I thought the idea of a scheduled c-section sounded like a great idea, and the thought of breastfeeding totally creeped me out. I had a colleague who had had an all natural birth that lasted thirty-six hours, and that was enough to convince me that ALL THAT was something I did not want. After all, as Americans in the twenty-first century, we’ve been given the opportunity to do away with pain during labor. Why wouldn’t you want to do away with pain? Why wouldn’t you want to do away with the strangeness and ickiness of breastfeeding? Knock me out, and give me the drugs. That was quite and very much the way of my reasoning.

Fast forward to July 3, 2009. That’s right — almost exactly a year ago. Eric and I formally decided to go off of birth control that day. I only remember it because it was the one week in the summer that Eric was home from a business trip to San Diego (one that he thought I’d be able to go on, but that’s another story), and it was the night that we saw Away We Go, the day before the fourth of July. Yes, a baby. We decided we were going to have a baby in 2010. Exciting. As you might have guessed, I hadn’t given labor too much of a thought, except that I still thought it was a yucky, painful process. One that I clearly wanted to avoid.

And then I read this post on one of my favorite blogs. (And this one and this incredible, beautiful conclusion to follow up. If you read one of those posts, read the last one, please. Yes. So amazing.) And with those words, and her experience, I began to question what I once knew. When I went to stay with my husband his last week in San Diego, I told him that I thought I wanted a natural birth. Of course, he’s always been a big supporter of this, pretty much calling me crazy for wanting a c-section — I mean, that’s major surgery, and why would you want to schedule that when you don’t have to?

Fast forward again to January 2010. I find out I’m pregnant on the day that we go to visit Eric’s family. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting that weekend, and it only makes me nervous. After that, I start to do my research in earnest. I read everything I can get my hands on about healthy pregnancy, natural birth, and labor: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, Pushed by Jennifer Block, Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan, and The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin for my husband and coach. (And I just got The Birth Book by William Sears.)

I began to realize that I was seriously under-educated about pregnancy and childbirth. I began to realize that most of us — women and men — are seriously under-educated about childbirth. As Americans, we’ve also been seriously mis-educated, misled, and misguided about PAIN. We hear a lot of cliches about labor in particular, and we see them on our television and movie screens. We hear this: “You wouldn’t undergo a root canal without anesthesia, right?” or “It would be like trying to push a watermelon out of your nostril.” We hear about how painful it is, how it’s unlike any other pain you’ve experienced, how it’s pure insanity to go it without pain relief. We see women in terrible pain on A Baby Story, lying back as the doctors swoop in to save the day. We see Ellen Page in Juno and Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up begging for epidurals when they go into labor (and Amy Poehler in Baby Mama celebrating her choice to have one in a rather public way). Think about it: do you see any positive portrayals of natural birth in the media? Do you see any portrayals of women being empowered as they choose the way their child comes into the world?

Let me know if you think of some. I can’t.

In fact, I would posit that we’ve been taught to fear labor, fear the natural signals of our bodies, and fear the pain that is associated with those natural signals. We’ve put our trust instead in doctors, who are incidentally, mostly dudes. (Side note: there are lots of great doctors, and natural-friendly ones to boot. But there are plenty who keep on pushing the fear.) By putting trust in someone other than ourselves, and by passively absorbing the fearful images we see in the media, we give up a valuable part of our birth experiences. We get swept away in the wave of fearing pain, and we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to become educated, take control, and guide our birth experience as captain, rather than passenger.

When you fear something, it gets a lot worse, right? It hurts worse, it feels more painful, it is more intimidating, more frightening … so it is with labor. If you fear it, you will automatically tighten up, which works against the natural contractions your body is producing to guide your baby forward. When you work against your own body, and cannot relax, it can hurt a lot worse. Common sense, right? But still, over nine months (and indeed, the many years before we get pregnant), we are developing an image of an intensely painful experience that we cannot cope with, that will control us, that is compared to an illness in the medical world. How can one be expected to work against that fear when it comes to the day of labor?

Adrenaline plays a role here too. If you see a bunch of people you don’t know in your labor room, you get scared at the onset of a painful contraction, or your doctor gives you a rough exam while you are laboring, it can trigger an adrenaline rush. According to Birthing Naturally, “Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that humans produce to help ensure survival. Women who feel threatened during labor (for example by fear or severe pain) may produce high levels of adrenaline. Adrenaline can slow labor or stop it altogether.” And if your labor stops, you need the drugs, right? So say the doctors.

Well what’s wrong with the drugs? Pitocin and pain relief medications of all varieties help a tremendous amount of women through labor, but they can also mess with your body a bit in ways you might not expect. I’ll comment here about pitocin — it’s a synthetic version of the natural hormone that makes your uterus contract. But it doesn’t work in the same way that your natural hormone, oxytocin, does. It makes your whole uterus contract rapidly and all at once. You might guess that causes pain — not so great pain that might cause you to start seriously needing the pain meds. Pitocin also doesn’t trigger the natural pain relief mechanism your body has to offer — endorphins. So when you get the pitocin, you start needing the epidural, and the epidural, while innocuous to the body in many ways, can slow labor as much as 25%. And when labor slows? That’s right … “emergency c-section.” Sounds nuts right? It certainly happens.

Understandably, many remain frightened of the pain. But many remain unaware of the benefits of laboring sans drugs. You heal faster, you can walk around and try out different positions, you don’t have to have a catheter to pee, you can get in and out of the shower or tub, and you can sneak in a snack or a drink of water every once in a while. Too, you can listen to the signals of pain that your body gives you as positive markers of where you are in your labor. Finally, you are connected to the millions of women who have come before you — your ancestors — who labored naturally. But how do you cope with the pain in a society that tells you pain is unnecessary? Well, that’s the question. How can you?

In all the books I listed above, there are tons of relaxation techniques, exercises, and guided meditation that many women say can help. The Bradley Method encourages slow, abdominal breathing, while Hypnobirthing touts self-hypnosis. Birthing from Within tells about non-focused awareness. There are a lot of options out there. Hypnobirthing even claims that labor was never meant to be painful, and Mongan’s book all but promises a pain-free labor. (We’ll see about that … ha.) Whatever the technique is, the important thing to me is that I get to choose it. I manage the pain, and it doesn’t manage me.

I can’t tell you where I got so confident about this decision, but it happened early on in my pregnancy. I didn’t want this to be something that happened TO me, but rather a whole event that I guided in the best ways I knew how. I’ll state here that I’m not belittling anyone who chooses a different path — we’re all trying to be mothers in the ways that we think will benefit our children the most. I’m also not going to say that I won’t consider pain relief if I’ve been laboring for 36 hours. And I’ll certainly go with a c-section if my baby’s life is in danger. But the important thing to me is that I have chosen to become educated about my options, and not close my eyes in order to let someone else manage the process for me.

That’s all for now.

 

Slow FE July 10, 2010

Filed under: pregnancy,Product Reviews,Products,Reviews — hokoonchi @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

A plug for this amazing iron supplement …

Over fifty percent of pregnant ladies have anemia at some point in their pregnancy. I am one of those ladies. For weeks, and weeks, I have been feeling like total crap. Worn down, drug out, and totally fatigued. I found out I had low hemoglobin on Monday and started taking the iron pills my doctor recommended last night. Today, I’ve felt better than I have in a long time. (Just like my doc said I would.) Anyway, of course ask your doc what to do when you’re preggers and anemic, but I’m loving this supplement. It’s supposed to be a little less harsh on the stomach than most iron supplements, and it releases slowly throughout the day.

Of course, it’s cheaper on Amazon. Find it here.

 

Baby Bags July 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — hokoonchi @ 11:10 pm

I’m definitely making my own baby bag with my massive sewing skillz, but I just couldn’t resist this guy right here:

Purple Punch Bag

Vera Bradley Purple Punch Baby Bag

Delicious huh? As you can see, Ms. Bradley charges around $100 for this lovely bag, but this savvy mom got it on Ebay for $59. That’s right! New with tags …

My cousin has the same bag in a different print, and I got to check it out last weekend. Since a lady’s got to have at least two bags to choose from, I figured I’d go with it if I could find it for a few bucks less on Ebay. And I did. So I got it. Pretty fabulous, right?

I so highly recommend Ebay to those who are in a childbearing way. So far I’ve gotten: my Baby Bjorn carrier ($16 — $60-$80 in stores), my Maya Wrap ($32 — $60 in stores), my favorite Joe’s Jeans maternity jeans ($70 — $220 in stores), my Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper Bassinet ($89 — $159 in stores), the organic mattress for the co-sleeper ($100 — $200+ in stores), my Earth Shoes ($50 — $100+ in stores), and some Barely There breathable undies for the summer — don’t worry — they were new with tags and individually wrapped in plastic — for half their in store price. Alright, that’s like my fiftieth pitch for buying from Ebay.

Sorry about the delay in posting … I’ve been writing thank you notes and nesting mightily over the past week and have neglected my writing duties!