Getting Ready For Baby And How We “Do It All” (Lucky’s Birth Live Feed Test)

We’re often asked how we prepare our family for a new baby, how we set up our birth space, and how we “do it all” with kids, managing our business, homeschooling some of our children (3), household responsibilities, our marriage, etc.

Sometimes we write about it but we decided that since we need to test out the tech set up for the birth, maybe we should just show you. Unpolished, unrehearsed, this video is us sharing our real life.

Check out our chat feature too, say hi and help us test it. This feature will be utilized during the birth live feed for interaction and to answer questions. We’d appreciate your help in testing this feature, thanks!

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Why I shared the journey through Sugarbaby’s birth

 

I could tell you women are strong, powerful, brave, self-aware, supported, loved, connected, and more.

Or I could show you.  With that, maybe you can show yourself.

On Thursday, April 19th, 2012, The Piano Man and I live streamed Sugarbaby’s birth (see videos of the birth here).  On that day there were over 105,000 page views on the live stream birth page and we know there were at least just over 18,000 participants on the live chat stream.  I never imagined our birth experience would reach so many.

When we found out we were expecting last fall we began to ask ourselves how we could use this pregnancy and the birth for good for not only our family but others.  The Piano Man and I tossed around ideas and talked about options.  Then we quickly fell deep into managing HG mode and the conversation ground to a halt.

But the desire was still there.  The idea of live streaming the birth tickled at the back of my mind and I found myself reflecting on the labor and birth videos I had watched over the years either preparing for my own births or as a student midwife.  Those women that allowed camera crews into their births inspired me for both myself and eventually for the women I supported in labor and birth.  A couple of years ago I saw a live birth streamed from a birth center and was drawn into the camaraderie of those chatting and watching the birth online.  It was a virtual experience of the sisterhood of the red tent.  Here was my opportunity to extend that experience to others and help educate others on not only home birth but birth in general.

Why do this?  It wasn’t to convince anyone to have a home birth or even an unmedicated natural birth if possible.  I have read criticism of others that have chosen to share their births with the world.  These women were called horrible names, exhibitionists, narcissists, careless, vain, and much, much more.  I knew that should I share my birth it was possibly opening myself and my family to harsh attacks from those that wouldn’t understand.  And I had to ask myself what if something DID go wrong?  Still, there was one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Back when I was 20 years old and pregnant with Earth Baby, I never dreamed I could handle anyone in the room when I birthed, let alone a camera.  In fact, I thought I was crazy brave to look in the mirror while pushing to see what was happening on the other side of the blue drape that cut me in half and removed me from my own body. Yet I had some idea of what to expect in the birth of my first daughter less because of the childbirth education class we attended at the hospital and more because of the videos we viewed in preparation.  Videos of other women who had permitted a camera to capture their moment. Progressively over time though I began to see birth a bit differently and when I became a student midwife I experienced something that taught me even more.

My eldest cutting the cord for my youngest.

Birth is beautiful, mysterious, and intensely intimate.  Yet it is also ordinary, normal, and common place.  Birth has a way of unveiling a woman’s true inner strength where she can more fully embrace her own power.  Every day women give birth not only to their child but to themselves as mothers.  Birth doesn’t complete her, it just reveals another layer of who she is by daring to expose her without filters, without pretense, with raw power to herself. Even with the ordinary nature of this profound event, most women have never really seen a real birth and at worst their expectations and education have been limited to that of entertainment media and the often one-upping horror stories of friends.  For many at best they go through a class talking about birth but with only limited exposure to an actual birth.  So women often experience this life changing journey with no idea of the path so many, many have trod before them.

This isn’t how it used to be or even how it is in some parts of the world today.  Women supported each other, birth being more than an event that happened to an individual woman but rather an experience that united all the women of a community.  It wasn’t all rosy and perfect, but it was real and that authenticity allowed the power of birth to impact more than just the family embracing the new person.  Power, particularly power that is difficult to control, scares us sometimes though, and in an effort to make birth safer we lost that community aspect of birth as women began to birth in isolation with only those considered trained professionals present.  In that absence of community in birth, fear could grow unchecked.

I’m grateful for the advancements made in keeping birth safe and for those trained professionals that can help us get our babies when safety is in jeopardy.  I’m also grateful for the women that allowed cameras into their intimate moments of birth so I could receive the message that the sensationalized media versions of birth that would have me believe that my own body was frightening, that women aren’t strong enough, and that surrendering the control over my body to strangers was the only way to navigate the passage of birth safely are simply not true.  Because those women were brave enough to share I discovered my own inner strength to have the audacity to pursue a different kind of birth experience for myself and my baby.  With fear removed I could explore and inform myself as to what kind of birth my baby and I would be able to have.  Thanks to those women I went on to have an unmedicated hospital birth followed by 5 safe, low risk home births.  Thirteen years later I am now audacious enough to pay it forward and to share those truths with others.

The birth of Sugarbaby wasn’t quite as I expected but that’s kind of the beauty of birth, there’s only so much that you can expect.  By now I’ve learned not to have strong expectations about my birth but rather to be flexible and prepared for just about anything.  Still, never establishing a regular contraction pattern frustrated me and made it more difficult for me to relax through the contractions.  A stubborn baby with not-so-great positioning led to hip pain that wore me down after a while.  I had no intentions of artificially breaking my bag of waters but when I had been in labor with an irregular contraction pattern for over 12 hours and hip pain that wouldn’t let up, I felt my energy and endurance giving way.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d give birth on hands and knees, it has been my least favorite position every time before but this time, with a difficult position for baby, it was where I found myself.  My ideal surrendered to my flexible strength for what I needed not only physically but emotionally and Sugarbaby and I had the right birth for us as a pair.

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

Some people don’t understand why we shared our birth and I admit it’s a little strange when someone at church tells me they just watched my birth video last week.  I know what I sounded like on that video, I know what they saw.  But that’s kind of just it, now we all know and maybe someone is less afraid, less detached, less unsure about her own journey through birth.  Which is exactly why I shared my birth experience.

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Ordinary Miracle- the labor and home birth of Sugarbaby, April 19, 2012

Jessica and Arden Credence (Sugarbaby) 1 week after birth. Photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two months since the birth of our little Sugarbaby!  (Read her introduction here.)  As promised, here are the videos that we shot during labor.  Finding the time to format the videos for YouTube and uploading them took a bit longer than we had anticipated.  We apologize for the long wait, especially for those who had a sneaky ad pop up just when our Sugarbaby was being born, but as you will see, her arrival was a surprise for everyone in the room!  Except maybe Jessica.  I’ll give a brief synopsis of each video, but otherwise let them speak for themselves.  I left them raw and virtually unedited (except to find a logical beginning and end for each).  Enjoy!

In this first video, it’s morning and still in the early stages of labor.  Jessica had checked herself and was about 4cm with a bulging bag of waters.  This is pre-live-stream, so if you tuned in to watch the birth, this is previously unseen footage even for you!  Dancing and singing in our living room, and the participation of our eldest, Earth Baby, contributed to make this a sweet start to a very long day.

 

In this second video, also, pre-live-stream, we moved to the bedroom, spent time on an exercise ball, and we try something we’ve never done before to get Sugarbaby to change her positioning: the rebozo technique.

 

This third video shows footage that was near the start of the live-feed.  It’s a great example of the lighter side of labor, with lots of conversations and bantering going on between more serious contractions.  Of utmost importance is the conversation near the end where the birth team discusses their favorite pizza.

 

The more serious side of labor is demonstrated in this fourth video, along with Jessica’s favorite laboring technique, sleep imitation, which was rendered extremely difficult thanks to the unusually intense hip pain Jessica experienced.

 

For the final installment of this five-part video experience memorializing the birth of Sugarbaby, you will see just a couple of very long contractions followed by her sudden arrival.  Don’t blink, or you just might miss it.  At least in this format, no one can blame it on a Captain Morgan’s or a Formula ad popping up at just the wrong moment!  And you can replay it.  This fifth video also includes some very ordinary footage of what it’s like in the first few minutes after a home birth, full of sweet, tired and, excited family interactions.

 

Our deepest gratitude to our midwife Cathy Rude, LM, CPM from Katy Birth Center in Katy, TX.; to Anna from Momma on a Mission for live blogging the labor and birth as our media rep; to Deborah Parker, our birth photographer; to Sue Potts our friend and the RN birth assistant; and to all our daughters for giving us the greatest reason to share this joy with others.

It is our hope that these videos demonstrate the natural, simple and beautiful alternative to the accepted hospital experience.  It isn’t the right choice for everyone or for all births, but our home births certainly have been for us, and we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.  We chose to share this birth journey and TLB with many as a way of paying it forward for all those that have shared their birth and parenting journeys with us and have inspired us along the way.  If you would like to help us continue to be able to do so and to offset the expense of running TLB, you can give a donation via the donate button on the right hand side of the page but please know there is no obligation.  Thank you for sharing this journey with us, it was an honor.

 

Sincerely,

The Piano Man and Jessica

 

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Up close and personal: Leakies Q & A on Sugarbaby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Shortly after I announced this pregnancy I offered to answer questions of Leakies of what they’d like to know about me.  I thought I’d get maybe 10 questions.  More than 100 came in and I got completely overwhelmed.  It’s taken me a while but here, finally, are some of my answers to some of your questions.  I couldn’t answer them all but here’s a sampling related to pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.  You can find more related to family, children, and work; and TLB, personal, and other.

Photoagraphy by Kelli Elizabeth Photography in Houston, TX

New baby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Q: Do you plan on tandem nursing Smunchie and new baby?

 If she’s still breastfeeding at that point, yes.  We’re taking it one day at a time.  Smunchie asks to nurse once in a while but she has essentially weaned and hasn’t actually latched in about a month now.  If she’s still interested when Sugarbaby arrives I will let her try.  We’re taking a wait and see approach.

Q: Can you share your experiences with nursing while pregnant and the early stages if tandem nursing?  How are you breastfeeding while being so sick?

I’ve never been able to tandem as I’ve always had health care providers that insist I wean due to the severity of my Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  This time I refused to wean as I believe the hormones from breastfeeding help a bit with the nausea and vomiting.  It’s not easy for me to breastfeed while pregnant though.  Between the exhaustion, constant burn out feeling, and nipple sensitivity I find breastfeeding to be a challenge.  However, I got so much worse with my HG when I weaned Squiggle Bug during my 7th month with Smunchie.  My midwife insisted I wean because I was still 24 pounds under my prepregnant weight and hadn’t gained more than 2 pounds back in the month before.  Weaning was physically hard on me and emotionally hard on both of us.  This time I’ve decided it’s not worth it and that I wouldn’t be leading Smunchie to wean.  She pretty much did anyway.  It’s different for every woman and for every pregnancy and breastfeeding relationship, this is just where we are this time. 

You can see a video of me breastfeeding Smunchie during this pregnancy in this post where I go a little more in-depth about breastfeeding in pregnancy for me personally.

Q: Would like to hear about tandem nursing and nursing through pregnancy. I am 16 weeks and nursing my 10 month old. We are doing great, but I have never heard anybody say their milk hasn’t dried up at some point.

My milk didn’t dry up during Smunchie’s pregnancy even after Squiggle Bug weaned (around 7 months) but it helped that I was on Reglan to help with the HG.  To be honest, I can’t stand breastfeeding while pregnant.  Between being sick and then the nipple sensitivity I struggle with anxiety while breastfeeding.  It’s hard and I don’t enjoy it.  However, that’s not the case for many women I interact with on a regular basis.  Some women have no problem continuing through pregnancy either emotionally or physically and have plenty of milk.  I can’t speak to tandem nursing personally as I’ve never successfully done so.

Q: Do you get cravings? If so, what?

Not often.  It’s more like I get ideas for food that sound less repulsive than other options.  I try to eat those foods if possible because it’s less likely I’ll throw them up though that happens anyway.  If I’m lucky I’ll stumble upon a “safe food” that I can eat for a few days that I manage to keep down.  But actual cravings?  Not so much.  Unfortunately a lot of what I do eat is not the healthiest options, I try but my midwives, doctors, nurse, husband and I all agree that some food, even junk food, is better than nothing.  This pregnancy I have found the Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops in strawberry to be something that helps and I seem to have a thing for frozen yogurt (even though I threw it up in the mall parking lot today).

Q: Will you find out the sex or wait?

We have found out the sex and I made a video to announce it but lost the entire thing in a massive computer fail.  I haven’t been able to finish redoing it so may just announce at the birth.

Q: Also how do you prep your young children for the coming baby?

At first we focus on getting through the pregnancy, particularly the worst of it (usually to about 7-8 months) but as the pregnancy progresses we talk more and more about the coming baby.  We watch birth videos together (all of my children, including Smunchie, have seen videos of babies being born) and work on setting things up for the new family member together.  My older girls start getting excited about making things for the baby and they’ve all voiced some ideas on names (Squiggle Bug wants Angelina no matter if Sugarbaby is a boy or a girl).  When movement can be felt on the outside I invite them to cuddle with me with their hands on the belly to feel the baby move and they are enjoying this very much this time around.  They hear the heart beat, I show them how to palpate my abdomen to feel the height of the funds and eventually the position of the baby, and they read stories to my belly.  With younger ones we do a lot of doll play with them, change diapers, feed our babies together, and encourage them to babywear their own babies.  We also involve them in the fun parts of getting ready for a baby: announcing the pregnancy, celebrating the coming baby, etc.

Q: Did you notice a temperament change in Smunchie as soon as you got pregnant? I am 16 weeks and I swear my 12 month old knew I was pregnant and started becoming clingy.

Not really but we did with Squiggle Bug.  Squiggle Bug started talking about a new baby when I just suspected I was pregnant but hadn’t confirmed it.  Smunchie seems oblivious.

Q: How do you manage keeping up with the kids all day when you’re extremely ill?  How do you keep doing it, mentally, especially with them so close together, knowing how violently ill you’ll get? Is there a point in your pregnancies where you no longer are ill?

We enlist the help of friends.  Though we haven’t always done this, in fact, in the past I’ve withdrawn from relationships while I’m pregnant because I’ve feared being a burdened and not being believed.  However, this time The Piano Man and I decided that our family deserved better than that.  So I humbled myself and asked for help.  We are incredibly blessed to have a number of people that love spending time with our children and would take turns coming over to help get dinner together, children in bed, pick-up/drop-off girls to dance class, etc.  In the past we coped by filling a cooler with snacks, having a pile of books, a stack of DVDs, a basket of toys, and a box of craft supplies parked by the couch or bed where I would stay.  The house would be trashed but everyone would be safe and entertained.  With homeschooling my big girls would bring their work to me and I’d help them from that spot as well.  It wasn’t ideal but it worked well enough.  As to how I keep doing it, one day at a time.  Sometimes one hour at a time.

There is not a point where I’m no longer ill, but there comes a point when I’m less sick and able to function better.  It’s kind of relative.  After being really bad, it’s not hard to manage being kind of bad.

I also fine a lot of support and information at helpher.org.

Q: How do you prepare your children for your pregnancy symptoms and make sure their needs (emotional as well) are met while dealing with HG? (I’ve had it with both pregnancies and my daughter was a MESS during my pregnancy with my son because I was literally in bed, in the bathroom, or in the hospital for 30 weeks. It’s the biggest reason we won’t have another:( )

When I only had small ones there wasn’t much we could do.  We watched too much TV, they cuddled with me in bed and we read together, friends would help tons, and… we prayed.  The short term affects were nothing compared to the long term payoffs of having siblings.  

With older ones in the picture now it’s a bit different.  We talk about it, we strategize together, we make plans, and we enlist help.  We strive to hold on to as much normalcy as possible but we acknowledge that there will be challenges to that.  We’ve also been demanding about getting adequate care and that has made the biggest difference.

Q: When did your HG kick in during this pregnancy. How does your HG with this pregnancy compare to your previous pregnancies? Did you do anything differently that has made it easier, or are their any circumstances that are making it harder? Have you done anything now or in the past to space your children, or do you just rely on natural child spacing and faith? Do you think the length of time between giving birth has an effect on your HG? Do you think age has an effect on HG? Do you vomit in front of your kids and if so how do you think it affects them? (not trying to be rude, just something I definitely thought about when vomiting in front of my toddler. Do you or have you ever had hyper-salivation with a pregnancy? I didn’t know about this one until this pregnancy, but it definitely upped the disgusting level of HG for us.

I’ve had pitalism in 2 of my pregnancies and it is ridiculously disgusting.  Yes, I’ve thrown up in front of my kids though I hate to and try not to as much as possible.  At first they seem to notice and then it’s like it’s no big deal.  Which is awkward and breaks my heart when they tell others “my mom throws up all the time but it’s ok, I’m used to it.”  Does it affect them?  Probably though when we’ve talked about it they just say that they get scared and want to help but that it’s worth it to get a new baby.  They have expressed concern that they will experience HG and honestly, I’m concerned about that as well.  If they do I will be their biggest advocate.  I felt “off” before I got a positive test, had my first IV at 5 weeks.  This has been my best pregnancy but I don’t know how much of that is because it was easier or because we followed an aggressive protocol that made it so different.  I only lost 16 pounds this time compared to the 26 pounds I lost in my next best pregnancy.

Q:  Birth plans? Births of the other kids, what were they like?

Earth Baby (13) was born in a hospital with The Piano Man as my support person.  In spite of some serious complications (high blood pressure, hemorrhage, and a few other issues) we were able to have a successful vaginal birth without pain medications (I was on bp meds and fluids for dehydration) at 41 weeks and 4 days.

The Storyteller (11) was born at home with a midwife at 37 weeks, an unusually fast labor for a baby sunny side up.  Born in our bed with The Piano Man as my support person.  We had a doula that I ended up asking to leave as she distracted me, a midwife, and a midwife assistant.  It was a very hard but beautiful labor and birth.

Lolie (9) was also born at home at 36 weeks exactly, a new midwife and new city.  She was born after a 36 hour labor into her daddy’s hands, our 3rd baby at on 03.03.03 at 3am.  It was mostly pain-free for me except when I started fighting my body and when the anterior cervical lip that had persisted for 10 hours had to be moved manually.  Ouch.  We had an amazing doula that primarily supported The Piano Man supporting me.

Squiggle Bug (4) was with another midwife at home, 41 weeks and 4 days.  I caught her myself when The Piano Man was supporting me and I had put my hands down instinctively and he couldn’t get out from behind me to help catch and instead just wrapped his arms around me and said “you’ve got this.”  It was a beautiful labor, peaceful.

Smunchie (2) gave me some trouble with positioning at 38 weeks.  Poor thing was asenclitic with a partial facial presentation.  She came out so banged up.  I planned to catch myself this time, I loved the experience with Squiggle Bug and that’s exactly what we did.  I was more experienced and knowledgable with birth having been trained as a midwife myself at this point so I did my own cervical checks (pointless but I had to know) and had incredible support to just do things how I wanted.  That’s exactly what I did.  Born into my hands after a challenging labor due to positioning, it was an exhilarating birth.

Sugarbaby, if all goes well, will be born at home as well.

Q: I have a question that I absolutely don’t want you to take the wrong way. How did you make the decision to keep having children despite having HG? I only had horrible regular morning sickness (had to be controlled by medication, but it was controlled) as well as a set of twins my second time and gestational diabetes. That was enough excitement and we called it quits at the three, lol. I’m not judging your decision at all. Just curious as to how you made it. You’re so much braver than I!

Not braver.  More crazy, possibly.  Every one of us has a different path in life, the choices may appear the same but the reality is with our various circumstances and priorities we can’t imagine making the choices someone else does and we have to just figure out what works for us in our situation.

Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for HG I may not have had 5 kids, largely because I was always hoping “maybe this time it will be different.”  Being a bit of a rebel I got angry at HG and declared I wouldn’t let it determine my family planning.  I just didn’t want it to have that kind of say in our lives.

Most importantly I did a lot of research and found care providers that would be aggressive in early treatment. With a full protocol in place HG tends to be more manageable. Before trying to conceive some women have experienced improvements with cleanses, particularly liver cleanses. Being prepared can help tremendously.

It is hard to parent the child you have while growing a new one with HG. Very hard. Getting a support team around you can make a huge difference in that as well. While it is hard I can tell you with some confidence that when you get through it toddler will forget those rough HG days and enjoy having a younger sibling. In the moment it’s incredibly difficult and I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief about not being the kind of mom I want to be to my children when I’m pregnant but my children having each other has made it so worth it.

Q: Did you and your hubby “Try” for a boy this time? Did you try to time your cycles to get a boy or did you just let nature take it’s course? Thanks! TLB is Awesome – it has helped me in my most crucial hour of need. Mom’s have got to stick together and help each other out and TLB does that wonderfully:) ♥ Thank you!

So glad you’ve found support through TLB!

No, we’ve never tried for a boy.  You can read more about that here.

Q: What is the best thing about all girls? The worst? How will your family handle whatever gender Sugarbaby is? Will having a boy be welcome or turn things upside down?

I’m not sure.  Having 5 girls I’m not entirely sure that I buy into there being major differences between boys and girls, at least not before puberty.  My girls are each so incredibly different from each other.  We are very intentional to not bring cultural expectations into our parenting regarding gender.  As such, if Sugarbaby is a boy we’ll welcome him just as we have our other children and he will be brought up as his sisters have been as our parenting style and choices aren’t based on the sex of our children.

Q: Curious if the new baby played a part in the nightweaning journey?

No but the nighweaning journey likely played a part in the new baby!


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