Archive for April, 2010

Life After Miscarriage: Statistics Aren’t Much Comfort Anymore

Eighty-four percent of people love statistics.

OK. I made that one up; it’s just that this whole pregnancy and miscarriage thing has a lot of statistics associated with it. For example, Pea in the Podcast recently posted “The latest stats show over 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriages in the first trimester.”

If this is true then as a newly pregnant woman you quickly do the math and figure, “Whew. That means that more than 75% of pregnancies go beyond the first trimester.”

Or you might think, as I did, “OK – 100 women in a room and only 25, if not fewer, of them will have a miscarriage. Chances are, it’s not going to be me.” And then it is.

It happened to me and I can’t get past that. It happened to me. I am one of those 25 unfortunate women. How can that be? That’s what I spend my free time thinking about and ironically enough, it leads me to wonder what my odds are of this happening again.

My doctor tried to reassure me that a very large percent of women who miscarry with their first pregnancy go on to have a normal pregnancy and healthy baby in their next pregnancy. “Odds are…” she said. Yes. And the odds that I would miscarry were so low.

But it happened. And it happened to me.

So what’s a girl to believe? I can’t answer that question but I do know, as author Elizabeth McCracken writes in her book An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, “Once you’re on the losing side of great odds, you’ll never feel comforted by statistics again.” That’s something I believe.

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Bottle-feeding vs. Breastfeeding: Pros and Cons

Among the many decisions every expecting mother must make, how we choose to feed our new little bundles is one of the most important. It probably seems everyone in your life has an opinion on this: your mother, your neighbor, your grandmother, your co-worker, your friend, your friend’s co-workers’ grandmother… and the list goes on. While advice and opinions on this matter may be well-intentioned, they can also tend to be overwhelming for a mother-to-be. Each mother must carefully consider both options and make an informed decision on what is best for her and her baby.

We have all heard the motto “Breast is Best”. It is plastered on our ob/gyn’s wall, in our pregnancy books and we even hear it on television. However, there are pros and cons for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding alike.

Breastfeeding

Pros:

  • Can create a unique closeness between you and your baby.
  • May help you lose weight faster – Breastfeeding burns up to 600 calories a day. Of course, a mother who is breastfeeding needs to consume more calories a day. Talk to your nutrition specialist about your diet so that you may optimize your weight loss while breastfeeding.
  • Helps the uterus to shrink faster and reduces bleeding
  • Decreases your risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and strengthens bone density
  • Enhances your baby’s immune system – There is nothing on the market that will match the natural antibodies found in your breast milk.
  • Reduces your baby’s risk of upper respiratory problems (asthma, allergies, etc.), chronic diseases (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc.), and SIDS
  • Babies who are breastfed are more likely to excel in school
  • Breast milk may be easier for your child to digest – Some breastfed babies spit up less often than their formula-fed peers. This, however, is not a hard and fast rule.
  • Content in breast milk changes to suit your baby’s changing needs – The colostrum milk (a thick, sticky substance usually yellow to orange in color) produced during pregnancy and in the early days of breastfeeding works as a laxative to help your baby pass his early stools. It also works as a “vaccine” to protect your baby from environmental viruses in his early stages of life. After about two or three days, your milk supply will change to mature breast milk (thinner, opaque to white substance).
  • Less expensive than buying formula – Breastfeeding is not necessarily “free”. Breastfeeding mothers must invest in nursing bras and breast pads to prevent leaking. However, on a long term basis, this is still less expensive than buying formula.
  • Available anytime, anywhere

Cons:

  • Increases your risk for breast infection or mastitis
  • Higher levels of jaundice are found in babies who are breastfed
  • Baby may get dehydrated easier
  • Risk of cavities in infants who are breastfed for over a year – Please note, however, that the risk of cavities is still higher for formula-fed babies.
  • Risk of rickets (vitamin-D deficiency) – especially in darker skinned babies
  • Not necessarily convenient – Although promotion for breastfeeding has made leaps and bounds over the years, there are few places in public that cater to the breastfeeding mother. Many mothers can end up feeling very frustrated over this severe oversight.
  • Must always be available for feeding or provide pumped breast milk if absent – After a long pregnancy and grueling delivery, a new mother needs her rest to recover. Newborns must eat every two to three hours for the first weeks of life. The constant caring for her newborn can leave an already tired mother feeling even more fatigued.
  • First weeks of breastfeeding may be very painful
  • Certain medications can interrupt breastfeeding
  • Your diet can have an effect on the baby

Bottle-feeding

Pros:

  • Allows father and other family members to bond with baby – This also allows the mother to get some much needed rest or “alone” time.
  • Sometimes more convenient – Once the bottle is made you can feed your baby anytime anywhere.
  • You don’t have to worry so much about your diet as it won’t affect your baby
  • Easier to monitor the amount of food your baby is eating
  • Some formulas provide vitamins and nutrients that breastfed babies have to get through supplements
  • Since most formulas are richer than breast milk, frequency of feedings may be decreased

Cons:

  • Although nutritious on their own, formulas just don’t match the antibodies and nutrients of breast milk
  • You will have to strictly follow the preparation instructions – Unless you buy pre-made formula (which only lasts a few hours in the refrigerator once opened) you will have to go through the tedious process of boiling water for each bottle for at least the first six months.
  • According to your baby’s preference, you may have to warm up the bottle before each feeding – This is especially inconvenient while out and about.
  • Baby’s stomach may be more easily upset with formula as it is harder to digest
  • More expensive – Depending on the brand you choose, formula can cost between $50 and $200 per month.

There are so many decisions you have ahead of you with regards to yours and your baby’s well-being. You shouldn’t have to feel pressured to go one way or the other when it comes to whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby.  Every mother’s set of circumstances is different. Every baby is different. Choose which option is best for both of you and move on with this wonderful new phase of your life. Afterall, the most important thing you can give to your baby is your love and affection – and that isn’t hard at all!

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Choices After a Miscarriage: D&C or Misoprostol?

It’s amazing how time flies when you’re not pregnant. The nine weeks I was pregnant passed with painstaking slowness; life after a miscarriage during the past two weeks, on the other hand, went by in a blur. I’ve been so busy with trying to stay busy, trying not to think, trying to move on with my life. There’s been one thing holding me back: my inability to naturally miscarry.

I had an appointment with the doctor a few days ago. She confirmed the missed miscarriage and offered me the option to continue to wait, to take a dose of Misoprostol, a drug to induce contractions, or to schedule a dilation and curettage procedure, (or D&C). Because I’ve been waiting for two weeks, I opted for the Misoprostol.

Deciding to take this drug was not an easy thing to do and so I planned nearly every detail of how I was going to handle the experience.

My husband and I would take the dog to my parents’ house. On the way home, we would pick up the prescription for Misoprostal and the one for Vicodin. Then, we would go to one of our favorite restaurants, a wine and tapas bar. After dinner, we would go home and watch some TV and at bedtime, I would swallow the pills and wake up the next morning in the throws of a miscarriage.

Everything went according to plan…until morning…Dinner was wonderful. I ate a trifecta of foods that are off limits during pregnancy: soft imported cheese, fresh salami, and wine. We topped off the meal with some crème brule and then headed home to watch the latest episode of Lost.

By 11:30 I could hardly keep my eyes open so I went upstairs and opened the brown pharmacy bottle. Three pills. I held them in my hand and couldn’t believe how hard it was to put them in my mouth. After several minutes of hesitation, I tossed them back and crawled into bed.

At 2:30 a.m., I was still awake, my heart racing with nerves and my mind with thoughts about when it was going to start and how much it would hurt. I decided to head off the pain with some nighttime pain reliever.

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t feel anything. I went to the bathroom and noted some light spotting but nothing like what the doctor described. Throughout the day, I continued to lightly spot but had no cramps or heavy bleeding. At 2:30 p.m. I called the doctor and described what had happened so far. The doctor prescribed a second dose of the medication and told me to call in 48 hours if there is no change. If that’s the case, I will have to schedule a D&C.

I don’t know how long this is going to drag on and what I want more than anything in the whole wide world is closure to this chapter so we can start a new one. My husband says every now and then he slips into this space where he wonders how our life would be different this very moment if none of this happened. I can’t help but wonder the same thing. What would the pregnant us be doing? Would we be looking at nursery furniture? Counting down the days until we spilled the beans? Going out to eat and sighing because the wine list looks so good, but beaming because I’d rather be pregnant than drink wine?

Realistically, the pregnant me wouldn’t be doing anything drastically different than the not-pregnant me but that doesn’t stop us from wondering and wishing things were different.

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Life After a Miscarriage: Finding Clarity On A Leather Couch

My favorite time of day is the five seconds between when I wake up and when my brain becomes aware of reality. If I’m lucky, I’ll make it to ten seconds before the haze of what the day will hold lifts and I’m wide awake with the choice to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling, or get up, pull myself together and get on with the day.

It’s been just a few days since we found out that the baby had no heartbeat; three days to be exact. When I asked my husband how long he thought it would take for us to start to feel better he said, “Well, I use the rule of 1 day for every month you were involved.” According to his theory, we’d feel better today.

I guess I feel better than I have for the past two days. Using tears as a marker, I cried only once today and it wasn’t a heaving, sobbing, snot running out of my nose cry. It was a much more subtle misty-eyed cry, a cry of acceptance that life goes on and so we must as well.

I decided to take advantage of my employer’s participation in a program that provides psychological counseling free of charge up to six times a year. I called to make the appointment and it was the first time I used the word ‘miscarriage’ in reference to myself. It was painful to say and even more painful to try to explain that I hadn’t yet had a miscarriage but was going to in the near future. “No, I’m not worried it’s going to happen. It IS going to happen.” Sigh.

Sitting on the psychologist’s couch I had two realizations: One–I am in the wrong profession. This woman sat with me for an hour as I iterated my innermost feelings, frustrations, and fears. She asked about four questions in the course of an hour and I talked. Two–Going to a psychologist is highly underrated. I said things to her that I had been thinking but unable to articulate to anyone because I thought they would sound ridiculous. She never commented or judged. She simply asked questions that led me down a path where I was finally able to admit to myself that my feelings are mostly ones of frustration.

When I commit to something, I’m in 100 percent. And so it was with this pregnancy. From the moment we made the decision to start a family to the weeks and days I waited to take a pregnancy test, to the first, and second, and third positive, I was fully committed and invested in the idea of being pregnant and having a baby. And then from the first appointment with the OB coordinator to the moment I started spotting, to the first time we saw the baby on ultrasound, I was obsessed with sustaining the pregnancy and convinced that statistically-speaking, IT wouldn’t happen to me.

In my head, I had already made the transition from yuppie to mommy and was committed to what that future held. I had already started divesting myself from work and being more committed to my home life – a real change from being an over-achieving work-a-holic. Most importantly, I had made peace with those two things and was excited about starting a new chapter of my life.

Now that there is no pregnancy, what I can’t get my mind around is that I have nothing I am 100 percent committed to and invested in. I had all my eggs in one basket and the basket is gone, at least that’s the way I feel.

I have a follow-up appointment with psychologist on April 16. That would have been the end of my first trimester. I know that sometime between now and then I will naturally, or with the help of medication, miscarry. What I’m hoping is that by the time these two things happen, I can find something else to be committed to, even if it’s committing to simply relaxing and being kind to myself.

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Top 6 Tips For Creating a Birth Plan That Works

As you draw closer to your due date, your caregivers might have asked if you have written or created a birth plan.  A birth plan is a communication tool that is used by everyone involved with your labor and the birth of your baby.  Your birth plan effectively puts everyone on the “same page” when it comes to you and your partner’s preferences regarding the different options available to you during the course of your labor, birth and even after-care of your baby.

Why write a birth plan?  First, it allows you and your partner to get in sync with one another before your baby’s birth.  Creating a plan will give you a chance to bring up any fears, strong desires, etc. that you may have not talked about up to this point.  It also allows you to create a “team approach” with your caregivers.  More than likely, different people involved with your labor, delivery and aftercare.  As new caregivers join in to assist you, they will be able to know your preferences no matter what stage you are in.

Of course, a birth plan is not a set of orders to be followed, but it does give you reminders as to what is important in an ideal birth situation.  To get started, make sure you and your partner have some time to talk about your ideal birth story.  Read up on the subject and/or take a childbirth class with your partner so that you are aware of all options available to you.  Once you have a rough-draft, schedule time to review your birth plan with your care provider.  They can suggest any changes based on hospital guidelines, etc.  When your final birth plan is complete, make sure that you have copies for yourself, additional support persons/doula and your caregiver.  It is also helpful to pack an additional one in your hospital bag for the caregivers that will be attending to you.

A birth plan should include the following:

  • You and your partner’s names and baby’s name if already selected
  • A brief list of your strongest preferences during the labor process, including lighting, music, visitors, conversation with caregivers, etc.
  • Your preferences for managing the pain of labor.  Notify the care staff if you intend to labor without medication and what kinds of other tools you would prefer to use to deal with the discomfort.  If you remain open to using pain medication, specify at what point you would like to be offered pain-relief options.
  • Your preferences during the birth/arrival of your baby.
  • Indication of whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding the baby
  • Any newborn care preferences. You should also include the baby’s pediatrician name and number here so they can be contacted to arrange for a baby check up.

Your birth plan will be best received when it is kept short and sweet.  Too much wording is hard for caregivers to read and discern what is truly important to you.   Short and direct sentences or “bullet points” allow all of those involved to quickly reference your preferences at each step.  Keep in mind that a birth plan are your wishes under normal birthing circumstances.  Labor is unpredictable and the birth plan should not be a list of orders that restrict the caregiver’s ability to keep you and baby healthy.

Not sure where to get started?  There are some great birth plan templates available on the web to choose from.  Because they can get lengthy covering so much material, it is a good idea to print one out, make the selections you desire and then type those preferences to create your own birth plan.

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What No One Told You About Pregnancy: Part 1 The Other Varicose Vein

Just when you were getting used to wearing compression stockings for varicose veins on your legs, the pregnancy police blindsides you with yet another secret;  hemorrhoids. Yes ladies, the hemorrhoid is actually a varicose vein that makes its lovely appearance on your rectum. And, you thought your belly would be the only place to grow a bump. You may be asking what causes these painful little guys to appear and why are they so darn itchy?

  • Your Getting Bigger: Sorry to state the obvious, but itʼs true. Your growing uterus is putting pressure on your lower body, including your rectum.
  • Your Hormonal: Your pregnant hormones are causing the walls of your veins to to take a vacation and relax, thus allowing them to swell more easily.
  • Prenatal Horse Pills: The extra iron you are getting from these gigantic, yet very important pills, is hardening your bowels which can lead to constipation.
  • Burn Baby, Burn: Hemorrhoids can be painful, especially when irritated by the daily use of toilet paper. The possibility of the area not being able to kept as clean as usual, plus this irritation, can cause an uncomfortable itch.

By now you are wondering how you can treat and prevent these horrible buggers from ever occurring again. Below is a list of ways to comfort your symptoms as well as tips for changing your lifestyle so that they never come back.

  • Hot & Cold Treatments: Alternate with a cold compress to reduce swelling and a warm bath to soothe and comfort.
  • Witch Hazel: Your grandmother most likely used this method. Saturate a cotton ball with witch hazel and apply to the affected area to cool, clean and soothe all at the same time.
  • Pre-moistened Wipes: You will prefer these to rough, dry toilet paper any day. If you do use toilet paper, make sure it is does not contain color or fragrance to lessen the chance of irritation.
  • OTC Ointment: Ask your healthcare practitioner to recommend a safe topical cream (such as Preparation-H or Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm) to help shrink the hemorrhoid. Most of these products should be used for a week or less as to prevent even more inflammation or thinning of the skin tissue.
  • Eat Your Fruits & Vegetables: A diet high in fiber will help keep your bowels regular thus preventing constipation and strain. If you canʼt stomach the raw stuff, try a fiber supplement that you can mix with water or juice. Be sure to talk to your healthcare practitioner beforehand to get his/her approval.
  • Drink, Drink, Drink: Fluids will help wash that fiber down and will keep your system hydrated.
  • Exercise: It keeps your blood flowing so that it doesnʼt pool to the lower half of your body causing varicose veins in your legs, rectum and vulva. Yes; they can appear there, too.

Hemorrhoids usually get better with the methods above, but if not you may need to seek out a specialist for treatment. Although rare, minor surgery may be required to correct the problem.

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Trendy and Functional Breastfeeding Tops from MilkStars.com + Free Shipping Code

“A brand new clothing line designed from the ground up to strike the perfect balance between fashion and function.”

Milkstars is a line of functional, yet trendy, breastfeeding tops created by a brand new mom.  Featuring a functional structure that allows nursing mothers easy access when it’s time to feed the baby. These tops come in a variety of colors and styles and are made from soft rayon/spandex blend. This material not only gives these shirts a more comfortable fit, but also conceal the leaks and sweat stains common for new nursing moms. Visit MilkStars.com for more information.

During the month of April, get free shipping on any order at Milkstars.com.  Enter coupon code at checkout: PEAPOD

Focusing on Baby’s Financial Future: 3 Easy Ways to Start Saving for Your Baby

College is expensive. Though in-state schools can run as “little” as $9,000 a year according to the College Board, the average tuition at a private college or university easily tops $35,000. And while scholarships and financial aid can offset the cost of a college degree, the average debt load carried by recent college grads exceeds $20,000. Being so deep in debt is hardly a good position to start off one’s career. Many new parents are often daunted by the expenses related to raising their child; saving for college may become a secondary priority.

Here are three easy ways to start saving for your baby now—even before he or she is born—that will be easy on your wallet while still producing a nice chunk of change over time.

  1. Upromise is a free service that makes earning money for your child easy.

    Upromise has partnered with hundreds of retailers and product manufacturers in its percentage-back program. For your purchase of products enrolled as Upromise partners, 1-25% of the purchase price is set aside in an education account for your child.Every time you shop online—for books, music, movies, car rentals and other travel-related services, clothing, and dozens of other items—you earn money if you make sure you have Upromise’s Turbo Saver tool bar installed. Upromise also has restaurant and retail partners—Exxon, Publix, and many more, who particpate in the program and offer percent-back options, too.You can set your account up before your baby is even born. But perhaps the very best feature of Upromise is the fact that you can have friends and family help earn, too. If they enroll in Upromise, their purchases divert percentage points into your child’s account.

  2. 529 Savings Plan: A 529 is a savings plan designated specifically for educational purposes.

    They are overseen by states, and each of the 50 states has at least one 529 option available to its residents. Though the terms of the plan (and their associated tax benefits) vary from state to state, a 529 is an ideal and easy way to start saving money for your child’s education even before he or she is born. Setting up a 529 plan is typically fast and hassle-free, and you can let family and friends know that the account is available for gift-giving. A contribution to the 529 may be tax-deductible (again, depending on your state’s regulations), so family and friends may be more inclined to give a gift to your child’s 529 than a collection of baby bibs or the like. Generally speaking, the minimum deposit for establishing an account is very low. Also, if you’ve also set up a Upromise account—and since it’s free, why not?– your Upromise account can be linked directly to your 529, with Upromise earnings sent directly to your 529.

  3. ING Direct Savings Plan and Children’s Investment Plans: ING Direct is an online bank that offers two choices for generating educational savings for children.

    First is a direct savings plan, which you can open as soon as your child is born and has a Social Security number. You can set up automatic withdrawals from your own checking or savings account on a weekly or monthly basis in any amount: even just $20.00. ING Direct also offers two investment plan for children, one called a Custodial Plan and the other an Educational Savings account. Regardless of the plan you choose, there’s no start-up minimum, no account balance minimum that has to be maintained, and no account inactivity fees. According to the bank’s own data, if you were to invest $100 a month at the rate of 8% return on investment, the account would be worth $33,441 in just 15 years and $56,923 in 20 years. At about $25 a week, that’s not too shabby. Takes care of at least a year of college!

What form of labor pain management will you use?

Is Labor REALLY as Painful As Everyone Says?: A Single Effective Strategy for Coping With Pain

American pop culture– sitcoms, TV talk shows, and Hollywood movies, in particular—all tend to portray labor as the single most painful experience a woman can ever have. The pain is depicted as both inevitable and total, best dealt with by taking a generous dose of a drug that will dull the pain and make it bearable.

It’s all rather anxiety-producing, especially for a woman who will be giving birth for the first time.

In the months leading up to the birth of our daughter, Mariel, my husband and I watched one documentary after another about labor and delivery. I wanted to try to understand exactly what I was in for, and whether any alternative experiences of the birthing process were available. The goal wasn’t to deny that giving birth was painful; rather, it was to learn how the pain could be managed in a way that wouldn’t overshadow the singular moment of being present to bringing our child into the world.

It was helpful to watch “The Business of Being Born,” “Orgasmic Birth,” “Gentle Birth Choices,” and “Birth Without Violence,” all of which portrayed women responding to pain without drugs– and seemingly enjoying the process. I spent an hour thinking about how one particular woman in “Orgasmic Birth” could have seemed so…well, orgasmic. Her ecstasy in labor was utterly contrary to everything I’d ever seen about the pain of giving birth.

And yet, I was under no illusions that the head of a child squeezing out of a comparably small birth canal would not be painful. “It’s called the ring of fire for a reason,” said the woman who taught the birthing classes we attended a few months before Mariel was born. “But,” she continued, “there are natural ways to decrease the pain, and they’re really effective—maybe even more so for some women than an epidural.”

You could almost hear the “sure they are” retorts echoing in the room where women in various stages of pregnancy sat on pillows and leaned back on their partners’ legs. But all of us were in the class because we intended to give birth in a birthing center rather than a traditional labor and delivery ward, and this meant that we were voluntarily foregoing any interventions like an epidural. In other words, we had to give these natural pain management techniques a try.
The teacher walked around the room with a cup of ice, and placed a cool square cube in each woman’s hand. She asked us to be present to the feeling of the ice cube in our hand, and over the course of a minute, I experienced a searing pain that seemed to dig deeper into my palm with every passing second.

“Stop,” the teacher called after a minute. The collective clatter of cubes hitting the wood floor could be heard, followed by sighs of relief and several of us wondering aloud how an ice cube in our palm could be so painful.

The teacher smiled, didn’t say anything, and circled the room with another round of ice cubes. “This time,” she said, directing her instructions to our partners, “I want you to be present to this pain with her. Rub her shoulders, run your fingers through her hair, talk with her, encourage her.” She looked at her watch again. Each couple retreated into itself, the intimacy of encouragement between couples making a low buzz. “Time,” the teacher called. “That wasn’t even 10 seconds!” I said, almost protesting. She laughed. “It was a full minute, just like the first time.”

Again, the cubes dropped, but the remarks this time reflected a similar perception shared by all the women– the full minute had seemed like only a few seconds, and those seconds were totally bearable.

“Labor,” the teacher explained, can be just like the ice cube in the hand. If you’re totally focused on the pain the ice cube is causing, then you’re going to be attuned to the pain. But if you have someone with you to provide active support, then the pain becomes manageable and the entire experience is usually more pleasant.”

As I labored and pushed our daughter into the world, my husband on one side of the bed and my mother on the other, I thought about the ice cube melting in my hand. Yes, I went through the ring of fire. Yes, the birth was painful. But this single coping strategy for managing that pain was extraordinarily effective. It just doesn’t make for nearly as dramatic a story as a Hollywood movie.

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