Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Late Pregnancy Workout

When should you stop working out if you are pregnant?  Since labor and delivery is a very intense physical event, I would say it is smart to continue working out up until the end if possible, to keep your stamina up (one exception being if you are told by your practitioner to rest, of course :) ). Even a couple weeks of skipping workouts can have a big effect on your stamina.  However, I do think that workouts can and should look a bit different towards the end of pregnancy than at other times.

About midway through my pregnancy, I decided to plan to start tapering my work outs starting around 36 weeks.  Even a couple weeks before that mark, I pretty much had to make them easier because I simply did not have the energy I previously did.  Around that time, I also came across a number of stretches that I started to incorporate in my workout (normally I spend little to no time during a workout stretching).  It worked out well because the stretches provided for more downtime during the workout, but were also productive towards my goal of getting my body ready for birth.

My last workout (which was actually just about 6 hours before I went into labor) I remember thinking to myself, "How long can I keep up exercising?! I just wanna quit!".  I was battling so much fatigue that workouts were feeling like a huge chore (normally I enjoy them).  I decided that night that I would keep up my 3 day a week workout schedule, knowing that I would be happy in the end that I was consistent with getting my body ready for delivery.  Little did I know that would be my very last workout before little man came!

I wanted to share with you a sample of the type of workout I was doing towards the end of my pregnancy.  As I have mentioned before, I am not a medical professional, and this might not be the right workout for you, so talk to your medical professional.  Certainly, I would not advocate starting this kind of workout if you haven't worked out your whole pregnancy and are now at the 8th or 9th month.  However, this could be a jumping off point for you if you need some inspiration and have already done similar workouts in your pregnancy so far.  If you are looking to learn more, these are some resources that helped my refine my workouts towards the end of pregnancy: here are 3 exercises recommended for a strong birth and here are recommended daily stretches to help the body prepare for birth.  Overall, this is similar to what I normally do for a workout, but it has more stretches, focuses more on core and cardio (almost no strength component) and avoids core exercises that put too much strain on the rectus abdominus, which can encourage the formation of diastasis recti (a split in the ab muscles that is common in pregnant women which can lead to a host of other health issues).

'Stretching for pregnant women' photo (c) 2012, A Healthier Michigan - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Pelvic rocking feels amazing on an achy back!
My Sample Late-Pregnancy Workout (I started this around 34 or 35 weeks)
This workout involved some equipment you might not have at home (I was working out at a gym), but can be modified for a home-based workout.  This workout took me almost an hour to do, with more rest times between sets than I normally take

10 fast walk on the treadmill

Wall sits (60 sec), side planks (45 sec each side), bridge (60 sec), pelvic rocking [aka pelvic tilts] (60 sec) - repeat 3 times

Lunges with weights (20 reps), squats with weights (15 reps),  transverse tightening (20 reps) - repeat 3 times

Leg adductor machine (10 reps with a heavy weight), air squats (20 reps) - repeat 3 times

Jump rope (90 jumps), side planks (30 sec ea side), psoas release (60-90 seconds) - repeat 4 times

8 minutes on the Stairmaster, moderately fast pace (According to my personal trainer certified hubby, the stairmaster is one of the best workouts for your body.  I can attest its also easily one of the hardest!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thoughts on a Hospital Birth, Revisited

After Esther was born, I wrote out some of the positives and negatives that I took away from having from a hospital birth.  Now that we've experienced a second birth at a second hospital, I want to revisit the subject.

Once again, because of insurance purposes, we went with a hospital birth because it was significantly less expensive than a home birth.  A birthing center wasn't an option this time, as there are no birthing centers in our town.  In the past few months, I have been told by many people that our local hospital is very natural birth friendly, and that it is even a certified Baby-Friendly hospital, a distinguished designation that stems from a UNICEF/WHO initiative to encourage/support breastfeeding from the moment a baby is born.  This certification requires a lot of training for hospital staff and often involves big changes in standard hospital procedures, so very few maternity wards in America are certified Baby-Friendly.

Even hearing these good things about the hospital, and having a midwife that I really like, I figured my experience would be pretty similar to our last one.  Boy, was I wrong.  In a good way.

I can easily say that I loved the hospital birth experience this time around.  I actually can't even think of a single negative thing to say about it.

As soon as we walked into the hospital, it felt very different.  I couldn't believe how nice my labor and delivery room was: a huge window looking out over the town, homey feeling wooden cabinets and very well kept.  It barely felt like the sterile hospital environment our previous hospital, it felt like a place I wanted to be. It helps that the birth was relatively easy and that I had better support this time, not only from doulas, but also from the nurses.  At the other hospital I delivered at, I didn't feel like the nurses were 100% supportive of my choice to give birth naturally, but this time I felt completely comfortable with my choice.  While I was in labor they only did electronic fetal monitoring for some of the contractions, and didn't require that I be hooked up the whole time.

After the birth, I didn't have any bleeding-out-over-the-whole-floor-while-attempting-to-go-to-the-bathroom-issues, not only because I learned my lesson but because the nurse actually (nicely) told me this time to call her for help the first two times I needed to go.  They didn't tell me this last time, which makes me realize that they were really neglecting some of their duties in caring for me.

I also appreciated that they did immediate skin to skin contact and waited a long time to do his weight and such (probably an hour or so after he was born, though I don't remember exactly).  At our last hospital they did encourage skin to skin right after birth, but it was probably only for 10 minutes or so before they want to weigh and measure her. 

Once again, I enjoyed the up/down bed and meals being provided and care from the nurses. The food wasn't much better this time around, but I can't imagine that any hospital has great food.  All of my post-partum nurses were incredibly nice, always asking if I needed anything more, but not being overbearing in any way.  I got the sense from each one of them that they really loved their job and were eager to do whatever needed to be done.  Another positive that I mentioned last time that proved true again was the immediate medical care for the baby.  With Esther, we benefited from a quick diagnosis of her congenital hypothyroidism.  This time it was the fact that they detected a dangerously low temp in Hudson a few hours after birth and were able to treat it immediately.  We ended up staying an extra day in the hospital to keep an eye on him, but everything was fine after they treated it.

This hospital had a rooming-in policy (our previous hospital had a nursery), so we were only separated from Hudson for a few hours in the whole 2 1/2 days we spent there.  Almost all of his vital signs check ups and medical procedures were done in the room where we stayed.  When his ped came to check up on him, he also came to the room, so I was able to ask him questions and feel involved with Hudson's care.  I loved the rooming in, and didn't find it overwhelming for him to be with us the whole time like I thought I might feel.

Looking over what I wrote about my last birth, every single thing from the "con" list was better this time around: I wasn't forced to get an IV and we didn't feel pressure to get eye goop (we did refuse Vit K at first time around, but after speaking with our ped and doing more research we changed our minds and decided to get it).  Driving to the hospital and knowing when to leave wasn't really an issue since it is 1 mile away on the same street we live.  Though all hospitals are quite germy, this one at least felt more clean and homey, so I didn't think about MRSA and the other megabugs that hospitals tend to harbor.  In fact, on our second morning there, when our ped asked us to stay another 24 hours for monitoring little man's temp, I was actually happy that he talked me into another day of up/down bed luxury, hot moderately warm meals and a bathroom 3 feet from my bedside.

So will we do a hospital birth again next time?  I don't know.  It depends on a number of factors, part of which is what kind of insurance we have next time around (we are looking into getting Samaritan's Purse, which covers home births at 100%).  But I do know that I really enjoyed our hospital birth experience this time and would definitely be open to it again, especially as long as we are still living here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Our Cloth Napkins: Before and After

One thing I did manage to accomplish before Hudson's slightly-earlier-than-expected birth: making a new set of cloth napkins!

For months now, we have been wiping our mouths with these rags well-used napkins:

Believe it or not these are just a few years old!  But between kiddos and a few kitchen mishaps, they have seen better days.

I did some research and decided on a double-sided napkin: one side made of quilter's flannel (soft and absorbent for wiping your mouth, dark to hide stains) and the other side regular cotton print (for the aesthetic appeal of the napkin).  I just have to point out that I am very utilitatian, so the fact that these napkins (literally) have an aesthetic side and functional side is quite a bit of progress in my homemaking. :)

I was originally going to make two sets of napkins: 10"x10" kid's napkins and 16"x16" adult napkins.  After I made the kids napkins, I felt that 10"x10" was plenty big enough for adults, so I made all the napkins that size.  Which also meant that we ended up with 36 napkins because I had bought enough material for bigger napkins.  Oh well, hopefully they will last us for years!

The green napkins with multi-colored polka dots were originally meant to be the kids napkins but now they just seem out of place amidst the other prints since they are the same size as the other napkins.  I might use these for a different purpose, like burp cloths or something.

This project took way longer than I expected (probably about 2 weeks worth of sewing for most afternoons) but I am happy with the result!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hudson's Birth Story

I awoke to a gush.

It wasn't a huge gush, but enough to wake me up.  And I knew as soon as it happened: my water had broken.  I looked at my phone: it was 2:44am.

After I got up and changed into dry clothes, I laid back down in bed for a bit.  I immediately reflected on my last thought the previous night before I went to sleep: "I really hope Hudson isn't born this week.  I have way too much stuff to do, and the house is a mess!"

You see, I had felt like for a while that baby Hudson would come before his "due" date (which was April 10th).  Call it mama intuition or whatever you want, but I knew that boy wasn't staying inside of me for much longer.  His back was rammed up against my ribs and my ribs were digging into his back, and I knew that neither of us could wait much longer.  This was in complete contrast to Esther, with whom, even a week past her "due" date, my mama intuition was telling me she was not ready to come (and indeed she didn't come until close to 42 weeks, and even then only with some prompting).

But Hudson was ready.  Contractions didn't start right away, and I started to think through my day, wondering when I would go into labor.  Would I have time to run errands and stop by a friend's house like I planned to?  What if labor never started on its own and I had to be induced?  But after about 15 minutes, I had to wonder no longer: I had a contraction, and then another and then another.  At some point I noticed that Alex was awake and mentioned to him that my water had broken and I was in labor.

Knowing that I would just be thinking about everything and not actually sleeping, I decided to get out of bed and do a couple things around the house that were most urgent on my mind if this baby was coming today: I did a load of laundry because it had some of the clothes I planned to take to the hospital.  I baked a double batch of sourdough crackers (the dough of which I had started soaking the previous day), followed by a batch of granola (which I had also started soaking the previous day).  I swept the kitchen floor (because dirty floors really bug me and I knew it would be impossible to ignore after we came home from the hospital).  I like doing a few mindless things like these around the house during the first part of labor, as it fulfills my nesting instinct, and gives me something to focus on besides how intense labor is about to become.

After a couple hours, I went upstairs to pack a hospital bag.  I hadn't packed it yet, and ironically it was even on my to do list for that day (written before I went into labor).  I found out when I got up there that Alex had never gone back to sleep (I guess I had given him some major news or something).  About that time, the contractions were becoming harder and I felt the need to lie down for a bit.

After a while, I decided to take a shower to help with the pain, and stayed in for a good half hour or so. When I got out, it became clear that we needed to start moving towards getting to the hospital.  We contacted two of my friends who were to serve as doulas as well as my midwife to let her know that we would be heading to the hospital soon.  I laid down for a bit longer, partially because I didn't have the energy to get up and leave, and partially because I wanted to be as far along as possible before getting there.

By that point, contractions were very strong, lasting about 50 seconds and coming every 4 minutes or so.  With Esther, at that point in labor I only ended up being 3 cm dilated when we got to the hospital, which is part of the reason I was delaying.  But then I felt a contraction that felt like I had hit transition and was almost ready to push.  That motivated me to get up and get out to the car!  I remembered having to fight against all of the pushing contractions with Esther, waiting for my midwife to get to the hospital, which was easily the hardest part of labor with her.  I didn't want to repeat that experience.

Once again, we left for the hospital at the peak of traffic hour, 8am (with Esther we left at 5pm on a weekday to drive 30 miles in Southern California traffic to the hospital).  However, Bloomington is not Southern California (traffic-wise), and we live only a mile from the hospital, so we got there in no time. The lady at the front desk must have seen how serious I looked because she offered to wheel me up to labor and delivery, which I was thankful for.  As soon as we got to my room I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and homey feeling the atmosphere was.

The nurse came in and began to do intake.  Within a couple minutes, one of my friends had arrived.  The nurse was being super casual and slow with all of her seemingly (to me) non-important questions, so I told her that it was starting to feel like I needed to push, so that she would hopefully check my dilation.  She wanted to start fetal monitoring first, but I must have convinced her because she finally checked and announced that I was 9 cm dilated.  In the next few minutes contractions were getting more intense and my other friend serving as doula arrived.  I asked the nurse if she knew how long until my midwife would be there, and she told me most likely within 20 minutes.  I looked at the clock: it was 8:30.  By that time it was pretty clear that I could've started pushing if she was there, but I told myself I could wait 20 minutes.

The wait ended up being 30 minutes (I tried not to look at the clock too often!).  As with my previous labor, this was the hardest part: with each contraction, everything in my body was pushing the baby down, but I had to do my best to resist the urge to push and relax with every fiber of my being.  Relaxing is actually really hard work when you are having a pushing contraction!

But three things really made a difference this time over labor with Esther: the biggest was having my two doula-friends there.  Between the two of them and Alex, I was having my back massaged, a cool washcloth on my face, comforting/loving words spoken all around, pillows and sips of water being offered and so much more. With all of this loving comfort, it was much easier to relax while my body pushed.  A second thing that really helped was mental imagery: instead of being overcome by the intensity of the contractions, I put great effort into thinking about the contractions as a workout.  When I work out, the longest sets that I do are about 60 seconds long, and by the end my muscles are really burning.  I pictured the contractions as a really intense workout for my uterus (which is acutally a pretty accurate description) and it made everything much more manageable.  The third thing that helped this time was making sure to make low vocalizations through the contractions, a technique that I had been reminded of as I prepared for Hudson's arrival.  The vocalizations (pretty much groaning) allowed me to focus my energy somewhere and feel more in control.

It was a long 30 minutes, but it did end: at 9am my midwife walked into the door!  Sweet relief!  I immediately asked if I could start pushing and started to with my next contraction.  I had wanted to attempt pushing this time in a squat position, but I had literally no energy to do so, and I ended up in a sitting-squat position.  It turned out to be a suitable position, however, as Hudson started to emerge after about 3 contractions and was born at 9:09am.

Praise God for his sweet blessings!

Esther enjoying her new brother a
few hours after his birth.

Friday, March 28, 2014

On the Name James Hudson

We've gotten some questions and confusion on baby Hudson's name, so I thought I would write a bit to explain it.  In short, he is named after a British missionary from the 1800's to China.  James Hudson Taylor also went by his middle name, and is more commonly known as Hudson Taylor (or sometimes I see J. Hudson Taylor).

As aspiring missionaries ourselves, Hudson Taylor has always been inspiring and challenging to us.  Alex was the first to read his biography, and I read it myself about a year ago.  Hudson Taylor was unique and innovative among missionaries.  He felt it was more important for the Chinese to embrace Jesus, rather than English culture.  At the time, Christianity and Western culture were seen as being hand-in-hand.  Taylor chose to wear Chinese garb (see above picture) and eat Chinese food in order to fit in with the people he was reaching out to.  Taylor's influence in China was broad: it is estimated that his work resulted in about 18,000 Chinese people choosing to follow Jesus, which has expanded to 100 million Chinese Christians traceable to his ministry today.

It is not just the results of Taylor's work that we admire.  He was a man of God and it showed in many aspects of his life.  He never raised support for his missionary work, but trusted God and prayed for it to come in.  It always did.  (Side note: we are not against raising financial support, we have done it before and expect to do it again.  But his faith in not doing so is truly remarkable.)  He also had the faith to trust God and continue his ministry in China even as he lost his first wife and many children (I can't find the exact number, but I think it was at least 4 or 5).

Here are two (of many) great Hudson Taylor quotes:

"All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them"

"The Great Commission is not an option to be considered, it is a command to be obeyed"

James Hudson Taylor Costa, we pray that you would have such faith!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Postpartum Rest, Fearful Parenting, Peter Hitchens' Journey to Faith {Links I Like}

To round out this week of links, I have a few more that I came across this week that I want to share.  These don't fit nicely under one topic like the other two, but are a hodgepodge of interesting reads.

5 Reasons I Fear Standing Up to My Kids - This is a good (and convicting) check-up on your parenting.

Why are America's Postpartum Practices So Rough On New Mothers? - If I had seen this earlier, it might have been added to my postpartum care post. The gist of it is, American new moms don't rest enough.  Not surprising in our go-go-go society.

This was a helpful read for me and reminder to take it easy after our baby is born in a few weeks.  Most of our new babies have been foster, so its easy for me to forget that birthing a baby involves not only adding a new family member, but also immense wear and tear on the body.  With Esther I was shocked at how long recovery took, but I was able to take it pretty easy since it was just her at the time.  This time I will have to be much more intentional to purposefully rest, for the sake of recovery.

Peter Hitchens Talks About How He Came to Faith - I like hearing anyone's story of coming to faith in Jesus, but I have wondered about his story because of his famous late Atheist brother, Christopher.  The interesting part is, it involves a famous painting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Natural Postpartum Care Resources

In addition to mentally preparing for labor and delivery, I have also been thinking about the postpartum period and wanting to be prepared for that.  With Esther, I was totally unprepared for how much the birth process would take out of my body.  This time, I want to be sure to have everything on hand I will need to care for my body.

'eat drink woman child' photo (c) 2005, Nico - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Homemade Natural Postpartum care kit - I love making homemade health and beauty products!  I love the looks of these recipes; I need to get on it with making some of these before baby boy comes!

Binding your belly after birth - Belly binding is practiced in many cultures to help restore the abdominal muscles after the intense workout that is labor and delivery.  This article explains why and how to do it.

10 Things you need to do post pregnancy - A good list of things to keep in mind, mostly revolving around the topic of abdominal/pelvic floor muscle rehab after birth.