Monday, December 20, 2004

Saralee with Joseph, 6, and Gabe, 1, in 1981 Posted by Hello

The Story of My First Home Birth By Saralee Sky

It’s time to get back to where it all started, for me at least. My first pregnancy – and my first home birth – is what started me on the path that led to the creation of Babynut. It’s a story about rediscovering the power within me – and all women – to create, sustain, and birth a new being in the world.

It was 1974 and I was 25 when I became pregnant for the first time. I was pretty much on my own, living in the coastal mountains of northern California. I was living alone – but near my friends – in a converted chicken shack! I was waiting for a road to be built to the 40-acre parcel of land I just purchased so I could build a house and live there. I was part of the “back to the land” movement that was happening in the early 70’s. I owned a treadle sewing machine, a sleeping bag and a VW van. Get the picture?

I met a woman who posed for the pictures in a book about prenatal yoga. She gave me the book to use and practice the poses. The book was Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth by Jeannine Parvati Baker. Doing the poses every day, I began to tune in to the being who was growing inside me. I felt so connected to this being and not just physically. I knew how dependent he was upon me for his very life, but I also knew that a central part of him was his and his alone. I was honored to carry his life inside me.

On my doctor’s advice, I toured the local hospital and was appalled at the ‘delivery room’ – which was an operating theatre, full of bright lights and a table with stirrups. The miracle of birth was discarded in favor of a medical procedure. Birth was something that was done to a woman and baby, not an event in which the mother and baby were the main participants. I knew I would only go there in the direst emergency, but I wasn’t sure how to go about giving birth outside a hospital. My doctor said home births were possible, but he would not be able to assist me unless I gave birth in the hospital.

Another back-to-the-lander was a nurse named Sherry, who was learning to be a midwife. She and another midwifery student, Susan, offered to support me through my pregnancy and assist with a home birth. They would be accompanied by their teacher when I went into labor, who was an experienced midwife. And I had friends and Richard who were there to help in any way they could. So it was settled. We’d do it at ‘home’, but home was now a tent on my friend’s land, adjacent to my 40-acre parcel. I still had no road. I had hoped to be on my own land by the time the baby was born, but time was growing shorter – and I was growing bigger - by the day.

A month before the baby was due, I decided to rent an apartment in a nearby town with running water and electricity. I’d move up to the land after the baby was born and I would have the time to build a little cabin. As the time for the birth grew near I was increasingly uncomfortable. I knew it was nature’s way of saying ‘this, too, must end’. On August 27th – right on my due date! – I went into labor.

When labor began I was blown away by how much the contractions hurt! I felt betrayed by Dr. Bradley who described contractions in his book about natural childbirth as waves of intensity. All my preparations went out of my head. I was scared and not at all sure I could do this!

The midwives kept in touch by phone, and – as the contractions increased from 25 minutes apart to 15 minutes apart - they decided to come on over to our little apartment in the redwoods.

The major lesson for me during my labor was all about learning to open up and let this being go, just like the Egyptian Pharaoh with Moses and the people of Israel. Since it was a home birth, friends drifted in and by the time the baby was born, about a dozen people were on hand.

The first stage of labor proceeded slowly, with contractions going from 25 minutes apart to 15 minutes to five minutes to three to two. The pain was intense and the rest in between contractions glorious. Eight hours into labor I entered into transition. Words of advice – don’t argue with a woman in transition! Contractions were doubling up – no more delightful rest periods. And the pain was worse, though how this could be possible I really don’t know!

This lasted a few hours. I write this now matter of factly, with the distance of 28+ years. This baby wanted out and I could either get in the way or open up and let this baby go! My dear friend Ira helped me through the toughest contractions by holding a picture of my guru in front of me to give me strength. I suffered through this situation mightily until I finally got it and let go and opened up. And then it was time to push.

Pushing is when all the power of being a woman is concentrated into gut wrenching growls and muscles bearing down and energy pouring into and out of the womb – the tiny womb now grown huge and swollen with the life it must release. I pushed and I grunted and I bore down for over an hour and then – glory of glories – the head began to crown!

This is the time when you’re supposed to stop pushing and let the midwives help stretch the vaginal opening so you don’t tear. Forget it! The midwives were rookies and I was on a huge birthing, pushing roll. I pushed that head out! And there he was, just his head was born and his eyes were open and he was looking around at everyone in the room, I swear! (After the birth and 20+ stitches later, I would honestly not recommend anyone pushing the baby out like I did!)

A few more contractions and there he was, all 8 pounds, 3 ounces of him, brand new baby and wise, ageless being. They put his wet, slithering body on my belly and I laughed and cried with every ounce of my spent, emotional self. This, indeed, was a peak experience. I was alive in every atom of my physical self. I was connected with every other atom in the universe. I did it! We did it! We were a great team: me and the baby, with a great supporting cast of the midwives and all our friends. If we could do this we could do anything!

I believe pregnancy and childbirth is a metaphor for what we will have to face, endure and learn during parenthood. The way the baby is carried in the womb and birthed will give you insights into how he/she will be as a child and how you will relate to each other. But that’s another article!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Catch Them Being Good By Saralee Sky

When your baby is new – really for the whole first year – nothing he can do is ‘wrong’. No behavior, no matter how nerve-wracking, is in need of discipline. When your baby cries, he is telling you that something is wrong. He is trying to tell you that he’s hungry or wet or tired, – something! It is up to you to learn to read his cues, and understand his different cries. Sound impossible? Don’t worry. It’s really not as hard as you think. Just relax, take a deep breath, and have faith that your baby knows what he needs and will tell you if you listen and trust your connection to him to help you out.

As your baby grows and becomes a toddler, she will begin to test out her new-found freedom by getting into everything she can reach, things she’s been watching for a long time, but was unable to get to. Your baby is not being naughty, just exploring her world. Put safe things on the shelf she can reach or in a cupboard she can open and move unsafe things out of her reach. Then her explorations will be like a treasure hunt.

When you need to discipline your child, please remember, her behavior may be ‘bad’, but her motives are pure and so is she. She is only looking for attention or love or understanding – the same things we adults need from those we love. Ignore the bad behavior as much as possible. This is where the title of the piece comes in: try as much as possible to catch her being good.

In other words, ignore him when he is being bad and pay attention to him and lavish him with praise when he is being good. This sounds simple, but it is actually harder than it sounds. We are programmed to fix what is wrong, and a whiny, fretful kid can definitely disturb your peace. When he’s playing quietly you can go about your own business – read a book, do the laundry, go to the bathroom, whatever. When he’s being bad you stop what you were doing and attend to him. Turning this process around will take a lot of practice.

First determine whether the ‘bad’ behavior is unsafe to your baby or anyone else. If not, ignore it. Don’t even make eye contact. As soon as she stops whining or crying or pushing her food on to the floor, look right at her, smile and say something like, ‘Oh what a good girl you are! I like it so much better when you are a happy, smiling girl.” Or – “Thank you very much for asking me in a nice voice. You have such a sweet voice when you are not whining.” See the difference? In time your baby will learn that he gets much more attention for being good than for being ‘bad’ and the not so nice behaviors will disappear.

You can read more articles on parenting in my online newsletter, Nutsense! You can also find natural, organic and alternative products for mother and baby on Babynut.