Thursday, March 26, 2009

Third time's a charm: why this birth will be my best yet!

I had my first prenatal appointment in Utah today, and can I just tell you how EXCITED I am to give birth!? Seriously. No sarcasm whatsoever. No, I am not a masochist and if giving birth was painless and comfortable, I would not complain. However, it is what it is and actually, I believe it to be one of life's most profound, empowering, and rewarding experiences. Or at least that it has the potential to be such.

I know some of my associations will already be retracting emotionally from my post at this point. That's okay. I'm not trying to convert anyone to my hypno- and water-birthing ways, nor do I cast an unfavorable judgment at anyone who chooses other birthing methods. It's a highly sensitive subject for most, so I want to clarify that lest anyone feel affronted. I'm just sharing some great things I've learned and pondered in case anyone happens to be interested (the rest of you feel free to skip the next 17 or so paragraphs). That is my intent, so if you start to feel offended, please stop reading so we can still be friends. =)

(I threw in these pictures of strangers and their babies because this is the longest post I've ever written and even I have a hard time reading through it in one sitting without some cute visual distractions!)

The fact that I successfully birthed sans interventions (fetal monitoring, pitocin, epidural, forceps/tools, episiotomy, etc.) in a hospital notorious for being natural birth unfriendly, and with a doctor who completely disregarded several of the instructions I'd laid out for him on my birth plan is reeeeally going to make this birth a breeze. It was SO refreshing to sit down with my midwife today and have lengthy discussions about my birth questions, specific to me or spawning from general curiosity. I never felt like I was "just another patient" like I did with my obgyn who delivered three babies a day sometimes. Also, I know I don't need to justify any of my concerns or wishes with this midwife. She wants me to be in control of my own birth experience. Her philosophy is that a birth is about a family and the midwife should be involved as little as possible, according to the family's wishes.

How refreshing to view giving birth as something that I am doing, that I am fully capable of doing, without needing to be "delivered" (although I have no problem with the term colloquially, the connotation is a little disconcerting) by the oft-deemed-omniscient medical practitioner.

I haven't the slightest reservation about admitting myself into the hands of a stranger who has the credentials to treat me for pretty much any illness or injury. I am no hospital-hater. The reality is, though, that birth is NEITHER an illness NOR an injury. It just so happens to be a completely natural experience that has only become highly hospitalized in recent decades in the US. Americans choose hospital and obgyn births in greater proportions than people of nearly any other country. We also rank at the bottom of the list of developed countries when it comes to maternal and infant mortality rates (as in, why the heck are so many of our babies dying?!), and we also happen to use midwives much less often than our European counterparts.

Doctors can save certain lives than midwives cannot (who can do everything a doctor does --and a whole lot more!-- except for c-sections). This is why the 9-10% of pregnant women who have conditions categorizing them as "high risk" should birth in a setting equipped to handle immediate emergencies. For the remaining 90% of us, though, hospitals and obgyns are no safer than the alternative I'm choosing-- hospital birth supporters have never been able to produce a single valid stat showing that hospital birth is safest. In fact, oodles of studies present evidence that birthing outside of a hospital is even safer.

(Here's some good basic measures of birth safety and normalcy: WHO birth recommendations: /

The Lewis Mehl Study took 1046 births in two different groups, hospital births and home births. The couples were matched for age, parity, education, race and risk. What he found was that the fetal death rate was the same in both groups and there were no maternal deaths in either group. But what he did find was that the hospital group had:
• 9x’s more episiotomies, with more tearing
• 3x’s more c-sections
• 2x’s more oxytocin used
• 20x’s more forceps delivery
• 9x’s more analgesia and anesthesia used
• 6x’s more fetal distress
• 5x’s more maternal high blood pressure
• 3x’s more maternal hemorrhage
• 4x’s more infections
• 3x’s more aid for infant breathing
• 30x’s more birth injuries, including skull fracture and
nerve damage


After suffering through post-partum depression for much longer than was necessary, this study was of particular interest to me: "Aidan McFarlane, a British physician, notes that while 68% of hospital mothers experience postpartum depression , only 16% of home birth mothers do." ( This has to do with actual biochemical processes occurring in mom's body, "bonding" chemicals that are inhibited by the routine separation of mother and baby in hospitals.

Anyone else shocked after reading those stats? This is only the tip of the iceberg, believe me. I was surprised when I first encountered this information because I think most Americans (myself included) have always assumed that we birth in hospitals because it's safer. This information has given me much pause... the more I study this stuff, though, the more it makes perfect sense. One intervention begets another until the birth process has been so tampered with that an optimally safe and normal delivery is no longer possible.

Here's an example of the snowballing effect of interventions:

Consider epidurals... "Because epidurals frequently inhibit labor, it is likely that Pitocin, a drug used to induce contractions, will be needed. Contractions caused by Pitocin are typically stronger and more painful than natural contractions, so the epidural might be increased.

In addition to an increased risk of the mother’s blood pressure dropping, there is increased risk of fetal distress, thus increasing the likelihood of a Caesarian section." (

A c-section birth is not the end of the world, but it is a serious surgery bearing with it a dramatically increased risk of infection and blood loss, not to mention the pain of that incision, which I have heard is no cake walk.

Also from the above site, "According to the CDC report, thirty percent of babies in America are delivered by Cesarean section. In some hospitals, the rate approaches 50 percent. (--note that the WHO recommendation states there is no justification for having a c-section rate above 10-15%--)

While some doctors blame the high cost of malpractice suits for this figure, the documentary offers other explanations: excessive intervention, a new trend in elective C-sections, convenience to the doctor, and the desire for hospitals to move maternity patients quickly out of labor and delivery."

The above is just one illustration of how hospital births can end up being much riskier than home or center births. Exiting the surgery room, the doctor may be thinking, "Gee, it's good thing she birthed in a hospital because look at all the things that went wrong!" How many of those complications would have even arisen without the routine interventions of a hospital/ob setting? An individual may never know, but I think most people would be amazed to learn how many mothers are considered "high risk" by their doctors because of their birthing history (hemorrhage, multiples, c-section, pre-term labor, etc.) that are actually very much "low risk." There's no way to know for certain how your labor and delivery would have transpired without that first intervention and its chain reaction, but the studies do suggest that it had a good fighting chance of being a.o.k.

If you get a beautiful baby out of your birth experience, well, of course that is what matters most. Still, that doesn't mean that your experience didn't matter at all, or that it couldn't and therefore shouldn't have been better (physically AND emotionally) for you and your baby.

I can't completely fault doctors and nurses for diagnosing and intervening the way they do-- they do what they have been trained to do and understand it to be best for you. That's best-case scenario. They are also a business, and doctors have things to do, so don't be at all surprised if what is "best" for you just happens to also be best for the doctor's evening plans. "The Business of Being Born" by Ricki Lake (I know, I know, but it's much more credible than you'd expect her to be) is, I've heard, well worth viewing. View a preview here:

American culture has taught women to fear childbirth. Giving birth is depicted the exact same way in every movie and tv show, and that's the same way we hear it recounted by mothers throughout their lives. I, too, expected that it was going to be terrible, I'd be screaming obscenities at my husband, and that eventually the doctor would rescue me, bringing my pain and humiliation to an end and at least I'd get a baby out of the scene of horror.

I propose that this is only one birthing scenario. Yes, a medically-oriented hospital birth is the most popular option, but in the majority of cases, it is not the safest option, nor the most peaceful, normal, or rewarding option. You'd be surprised how much your own woman's body understands about how to best birth a baby-- things not even a doctor on his 1,000,000th delivery can understand. One of the reasons I'm bothering ranting about all of this is because I feel the vast majority of American women simply aren't aware of what their full range of birthing options are, meaning a true understanding of the risks and benefits of each birthing choice. I must play my part in dispelling some of the many myths about midwives and out-of-hospital births!

I very far from understood the advantages of natural birth when I was pregnant with Ellie. I did a lot more research with Erik, but not until this pregnancy has all the information started to gel. Here's a good place to start reversing that terrifying, excruciating image of birth we have fostered in the US-- a Lamaze teacher addressing the simple question, "Why natural childbirth?", since only 10% of Americans today attempt it:

My reason for birthing Ellie naturally actually had nothing to do with safety, comfort, and avoiding the disadvantages of lithotomy/stirrups, epidural and c-section. The core of my decision had a much different base, one that would require a different discussion on a different day, and probably on a much more personal basis. I don't tell most people why I choose to birth naturally because it wouldn't make any sense to someone who understands birth only in the American hospital context.

Whatever the reasons may be, though, I am confident that giving birth is something my body was designed to do, and do it well. I've thought a lot over recent years about why childbirth was created in a way that leaves it vulnerable to stigmatizing, exploiting, humiliating, life-endangering, etc. for so very many mothers. I do believe it was created this way on purpose, and for good reason (not because Eve ate the fruit first so all women must be punished-- cuz that's pure crazy talk). I don't understand all of that good reason, but there is a part of it that I do get, and it has a lot to do with the environment and philosophy of a birth center and midwife.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(Laptop) crash survivors

Waaah. I finally resolved to put aside crafting aspirations for a night and document that magical trip to Disneyland last October. And after that I was even thinking of blogging Halloween and Christmas. Folks, I was actually going to do this. So, imagine my distress in discovering that not only is my electronic photo folder void of a single Disneyland picture, but pictures I do recall taking from Halloween, etc. are also MIA... I am hoping desperately that I actually documented all of last fall with Ma's camera and the photographic proof is all safe and sound on her computer, and not that these were all pictures only saved onto our deceased laptop and therefore lost forever. I hate to entertain the latter scenario, so instead I will post various tid bits from last fall that managed to survive lappy's sudden passing.

This was taken while we celebrated the miracle that Kyle and I had somehow hoisted a 13-foot tall Christmas tree up in the living room with nothing but minor injuries to all involved.

See now, I only take one picture every other month, but I choose wisely. I don't believe anyone else has ever bothered to document the true meaning of "bone soup," and yet it's such an integral part of Ma and her philosophies.

Does the fact that a non-canine not on the brink of starvation chooses to ingest such a meal make anyone else giggle? Bless that dear mom (especially so since she just underwent knee replacement surgery today!).

I know, it's not fair. Ellie's the one who's getting the adorable apron made, but Erik is my real assistant in the kitchen. Cooking with him isn't "fun" yet, since he hinders much more than he helps, and also gets very near injuring himself in the process, not to mention that if you don't let him participate in the way he sees fit, there will be a fit, and it will not be pretty. But then he flashes this cheddary cheesy grin and all is forgiven.

One brisk December morning Ma and I discovered that not only did she have two fruit-bearing trees on the side of her house, but also that they were both laden with tangerines ripe for the pickin.' Or so we thought.

They were more decorative than tasty. Even Bob didn't come back for seconds, and y'all know what that means.

This was how Ma and Pa's dining room looked until last week, I believe. Kyle painted the top 2/3 of the walls, leaving the bottom open for wayne-scotting (sp?) that never happened, and I think Mom ended up just painting over the whole thing last week anyway, but hey! How did Erik end up sporting Scott's Guarana hat from his mission? Nothing gets past that garage door, I tell ya.

Ellie didn't care much for Santa or Mrs. Claus, but woo hoo! Free candy cane! (Oh yeah, the reason she told us she was disappointed in Santa was because he had to actually ask for her name. She refused to disclose such information.)

We keep these pictures around to convince ourselves that our kids really are best friends, no matter what the current evidence may suggest.

Rub a dub dub, five little nude-ies in a tub. We rationed out the bubbles and I think they each got a few. By the time the younger four were soaped and scooped out, Sage (the oldest, and the last one out) was exclaiming in desperation, "Please get them out-- I am SO COLD SO COLD SO COLD!"

Where does that little whirlpool of water go anyway?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cute things

I think I'm beginning to figure out the cause of my crafting obsession. Like most deep and profound things, though, it will be long-winded so I'll save that explanation for a post composed at an earlier hour of the eve.

For now, please gawk at this beee-ootiful nursing cover I finished today. I made another one with the same fabrics but flower on top, dot on bottom for my sister, except I made hers first and it took about seven times longer because I was figuring out how to make it as I went and ended up un- and re-stitching approximately 100% of the project. I LOVE these two fabrics together but everyone I know (myself included, heh heh) is birthing boys these days, so I wasn't sure what baby gift I'd make with them. Then I figured a nursing cover is a fashionable extention of MY wardrobe, not the kid's, so pink ribbon totally works.

My other major sewing time-suck has been that set of sister aprons... (murmur, murmur)... They are not my best friends right now. It has taken probably three hours just to figure out which fabrics will make up which parts of the five aprons (I'm sure it doesn't look complicated at a glance of those four cute fabrics featured below, but actually it's so complex that if I tried to explain, none of you would "get it.") And then there was that teeeedious ironing, tracing, and cutting. So, I haven't completed a stitch yet on those but I'm choosing to shelf them for a while for my own sanity (as well as Kyle's) and maybe they'll resurface in time to make it as Mother's Day gifts.

I'm really excited about starting felt food tomorrow. I'd been waiting for felt to go on sale before I stocked up, but turns out all they've done is raise the price of felt so I used a whole sheet of 40% off coupons and bought 9" x 72" (1/4 yard) strips off the bolts. Ellie and I started a pb&j sandwich tonight and plan to make a meat & cheese one soon, and maybe some pancakes, fried eggs, and bacon, depending on how ambitious we feel in the coming days. Erik's favorite toy (besides anything with wheels) is a cheap, plastic toy food set we got him for Christmas, so I'm pretty sure he's gonna gobble all this up, too. If you're struggling to visualize the insane cuteness potential of felt food, check out for starters. Ridulously cute, I know. My favorite is probably the basket of potstickers or the fruit that you can cut into slices, but of course we're too cheap to purchase her patterns and instructions, so we'll just work our way up to the deluxe box of chocolates and ornate sushi set.

Speaking of sushi, I can't handle it in felt just yet, but the real thing turned out quite scrumptious at Kjerstin's a couple days ago. Feel free to note the contrast between Kjerst and Bob's creations.

But then she gave him some technique pointers and Bob admitted that when it looks like it's supposed to, it actually tastes better, too.

I don't make cute things ALL day long, though, people. My life still very much revolves around the care of this sweet little girl who calls the new baby Charlie and whose favorite time of the week is Sunbeam class at church...

And this funny boy who refuses to sleep in a crib (but he's doing great staying on his blanket on the floor all night/naptime!) and, thanks to Leapfrog's Letter Factory video, knows the sounds of almost all the letters in the alphabet. Not that it will be useful for a while, but it's actually peaked his interest and ability to sit through reading an entire book, so I am well pleased.

And then there's this one who, although according to Baby News (or whoever sends me those weekly updates on the size of my fetus, always relative to a vegetable) is only the size of a cauliflower, appears from the outside to be more like a watermelon. (But that's not a vegetable, I know.) I waddle like I'm ready to deliver any day now, and yet three months remain...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vagabonds no more!

Well, we finally have a semi-permanent place to call home! It feels oh-so-good to be settling somewhere with the intent to stay long enough to unpack our bags. This past week's projects have centered around furnishing the condo (eating on the floor was not nearly as cool as the Japanese make it look), but I've thankfully managed to squeeze in some creative time, too.

Kyle and I finally celebrated Valentine's Day last weekend by eating at Mimi's Cafe. It was awkward, refreshing, and delightful to sit at a restaurant table all by ourselves (which hadn't happened since maybe Valentine's Day 2008??? That's the last time I recall...) and talk about things completely unrelated to family finances, furnishings, and even the kids. Some red roses also unexpectedly arrived for me at home. I was feeling the love.

Here's another photo montage of recent doings.

A couple weeks ago Dude who does the photographs for the I Spy books was at the BYU Museum of Art introducing his new exhibit, and there were also free milk and cookies so Kallist, Na, and I were not about to miss it.

He also does a lot of photographs of mini-scenes like this one Elle and Kallist are enjoying of Cinderella. I'm actually more impressed with whoever crafted that diorama, but photography is cool, too.

Probably his most inspiring piece was this wall of unopened duck sauce packets. If we take Mom to a few more Chinese fast food joints, we'll probably be ready to make our own. Actually, I really was inspired by this work of art and determination. Do you think he cut a deal with the local Asian eatery or was this a task that required years of hoarding (and eating bad take-out)?

Na was really feeling the magic of the balloon wall.

I think Mish took this one while we were moving and she and her roomie had the kids at the park. Not sure how it made it into this post, but Didi can say "Aunt Mish" now. It's stinkin' cute.

Props to Mac for being a first rate friend, helping Kyle haul our stuff into and out of a rental truck for the 40-minute trek up north. The only furniture we had to our names was a bed, dresser and desk (How did Mom escape without supplying us any chairs?! We're still dumbfounded and disappointed), so I'm still wondering how we managed to fill that truck up to the brim. Also, Kyle drove the truck home while I, yes I, Tiffany Jan Larsen drove our van home all the way from American Fork ON THE FREEWAY! BY MYSELF! I had to giggle when Kyle (who'd left several minutes after me) whizzed by me in the left lane, but overall it was an exceedingly proud moment. And I've actually driven several times since, and haven't even died once. For better or worse, I am now officially a "van mom."

No, we are not too proud to dumpster dive. And yes, Kyle was actually IN the dumpster a few moments after this shot was taken, just to make sure there weren't any other cool, salvageable items hanging out with the neighborhood trash.
This looked a lot prettier in live, panoramic form. The street was lined on both sides with trees laden with freshly fallen snow. It was a very "White Way Delight" moment.

They are smiling now, but Kyle and Bob experienced quite a trial hoisting this beast of a tv from the van onto a rolling chair and up four stairs into the house. If you're thinking this tv weighs less than a sumo wrestler, you'd be wrong. It weighs in at 240 lbs, and I think it's getting bigger all the time. We had to call in reinforcements to get it down to the basement into Bob's quarters, and we're pretty sure we won't ever be taking it back up.

If you are having a baby any time in the next couple years, you can expect/request one of these from me. I always thought the ribbons were decorative but once I figured out they are functional and quite convenient for attaching to stroller, car seat, etc., tag blankies became my new rage. Okay, sort of. This was my first attempt, and my first experience working with "minky" (the thick, soft red and green materials) and, let's just say that the seams were forgiving but still I'm really glad Cathi's new baby doesn't know the difference between a square and a rhombus-shaped blanky yet. Oh yeah, I also made a couple rag-edged burp cloths in these fabrics for Cathi. I used to only craft for myself but I think crafting for friends and family is even more fun, and makes me feel a little less guilty about how much $ and time I spend on fabric. =)

Up next are a set of matching aprons for me, my sisters, and Ellie, still gotta finish Noe's quilt, Mary's bird mobile, and as soon as felt is on sale, I am going to go on a felt food-making rampage! In the meantime, I've enjoyed cooking dinner again (feels like ages since I've done that regularly) and exploring our new hometown. At the top of the list are still finding a midwife and finding a bosom friend for Ellie.