The birth story of Stella as told to me by her mama, Kristin

To see the birth story book, watch the slideshow. Read the full story below.

I was due on October 5th. That day, I had asked Hazel what she wanted to do. I wanted to have a day of mommy-daughter time, and just let her pick. So we spent the day at the park, and we went to Tim Hortons and got some Timbits and had lunch together.

“We just enjoyed each other because I knew that time was short at that point, and soon it wouldn’t be just me and her.”

I came home, and I was very tired and uncomfortable. We had supper, and I just rested. All night long I had to pee: I kept getting up to pee, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. I was in pain, not with contractions, but just with a full bladder. I’d pee and the pain and discomfort would go away. I was getting up probably every hour and a half to go to the bathroom.

Chris was normally off on Fridays, but that day he had been asked to work overtime. He was getting up to go to work at about quarter to five. I was up at 4:30 to go pee. He asked if he should go, and I said yes, I figured I just had to pee lots, and that if something changed, I’d get someone to drive me to the hospital. I was saying this going into the bathroom. I went pee and came out and suddenly had a bad back pain and bent over the bed. He looked at me quite sceptically, like ‘Should I be going?’ I thought I was fine.

We were trying to talk quietly so we wouldn’t wake up Hazel, who had joined us for snuggles at around 4 a.m.

“Are you sure that wasn’t a contraction?”

“No, it didn’t feel like a contraction.”

A little time went by and another hit, and I admitted to myself, ‘Okay, maybe this is a contraction.’

Then another one came. I was much louder getting through that one.
Hazel woke up. At that point, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this might be labour pain’, and I was trying to get dressed, trying to get my pants on but having a lot of trouble doing it because I was nine months pregnant and in pain!

I remember thinking to myself, “Well, fuck…I thought I had more time!” For whatever reason, I had been certain I was going to be way over due.

Chris tried to put my pants on, and I got mad at him: “Don’t touch me, I can do it myself!”

He said, “I don’t think we have a lot of time.” He called his mom, and by then Hazel was quite concerned as mommy was making some odd sounds. I think I was quite snarky with Chris multiple times. He was trying to rush me into the kitchen and somewhere around there (around 5 a.m.), his mom showed up.

By then I had made it out to the living room, but it was still 5:30 or 5:45 by the time we got out of there. Chris was so panicked. For whatever reason, he knew it was happening faster than I did.

Unbeknownst to me, every time I had to pee may have been labour pains, but I slept between each time, so this didn’t occur to me until later.

I had to have two more strong contractions before I made it to the car.

If he could have picked me up and put me in the car, he would have.

“We need to go!”

“I cannot stand up right now, therefore I cannot walk to the car. If that means I’m going to have a baby in the porch, then I’m going to have a baby in the porch.”

We made a very mad dash to the city and had a couple really good contractions in the car. Then we got to the maternity ward and didn’t realize ahead of time that no one would be in the old building on the main floor, so we went to Emergency. They got me in right away and wheeled me along.

I remember getting into the wheelchair and thinking, ‘Oh, thank God.’ They wheeled me all over the place, and I didn’t have to walk. They wheeled me up to Labour & Delivery and did my assessment. They wanted to check how far dilated I was, and I didn’t want them to touch me. It must have been about 6:15 at that point.

I was 9 cm dilated, but they were having trouble getting the heart rate from the baby, and they wanted to do an internal fetal heart check with the electrode through the uterus to the baby’s scalp. I said, “Nope, you’re not doing that to me, she is fine, I know she is in there.” I just wanted to sit on the birth ball and labour there because that’s where it felt good.

I remember being both simultaneously terrified but also knowing that I could do this, that I knew what I was doing this time, and I was prepared. I was going to have a better birth than the first time, and I was ready to fight for the things I wanted this time. Which is why there was only a nurse and a doctor in the room when I delivered: I didn’t want ANYONE there. No extra fluff or distraction. Though I didn’t realize I was gonna be done in 45 minutes. But having soooo many people in my room with Hazel when I was labouring was so distracting and annoying and frustrating and unnecessary. So I was ready to fight anyone who didn’t listen to me.

I remember telling the nurse and doctor,“Fuck off, there’s no way you’re making me labour on that bed,” when they asked me to get up there so they could check me.

The on-call doctor came in, and it wasn’t even a doctor from my clinic, because the doctor on-call from my clinic couldn’t make it in time. The nurses told her how far along I was and the doctor wanted to check me. I finally said yes, she could look, mostly because Chris was persistent and worried.

I got back up on the table, she said she wanted to break my water, and I said no, because with Hazel it made it hurt more and didn’t help. She said, “We need to put the electrode in (for fetal heart monitoring), and we can’t do that unless we break your water.” I said no again, and she replied, “I can almost 99% guarantee you that if we break your water, this baby will be here in 5 minutes.” Chris convinced me, so I let them do it.

She broke my water, and they put the probe in and found the heartbeat, and she was fine, just like I said she was. Three real good pushes, and she was out. She was born at 6:55 a.m. I think we got to the hospital at 6:15 a.m. They didn’t have enough time to admit me or put an IV in. She was in a hurry.

They put her on my chest right away and I got to cuddle her and hold her. That feeling. I don’t have words for that feeling. Does anyone? But I can say that I knew her. I knew my baby and I knew she was mine and that she belonged to me. (When I had Hazel, I felt like someone had placed a stranger on me. There was no instant bond or love at first sight. It took me a year to get that bond.)

That feeling, it never gets old. She was all squishy and covered in white and adorable. We asked for delayed cord clamping, so we probably sat there for a good five minutes.

They asked Chris if they wanted to cut the cord and he said no. I gave him hell.

“I shoved a baby out my vagina, you can cut the damn cord.” So he did.

They took her and weighed her. She was 7 lbs 8 oz and 21 ¼ inches long and healthy and happy. We were in there for probably half hour, maybe even longer, skin to skin. They were stitching me up. My legs wouldn’t stop shaking, coming down from the adrenaline, and they brought me toast.

They gave her back to me. We got the placenta packaged up and our gal came and picked that up for us.

I got to just lay there and hold her and cuddle her. She slept tucked in against me. I just got to sit there and get to know her a little bit and soak it all in. Chris got to stare at her and hold her and cry. After half hour or 45 minutes, they had a room ready, so I showered, and they wheeled me up to my room and just spent the day recovering and getting to know each other.

When Hazel was born, we had around 30 people in our private room, people coming and going all day. I remember being exhausted, so this time around, I wanted a lot less chaos. We had a lot of time to ourselves, getting to know the new baby who remained nameless until the next day. It took us 24 hours to name her.

We had a list of names and just kept going through until we had one that we felt was hers. I knew that I wanted Esther in there for my great grandma, but other than that we had lots of names that we liked but couldn’t agree on. Eventually we agreed on Stella Rose Esther. She felt like a Stella.
Stella is funny – like has a sense of humour already at one-year-old. She is goofy and fun and has no fear. She is fierce and adventuresome and smart and crafty and even a little bit manipulative. She knows how to get what she wants! She’s perfect. I love watching her and her sister together: no one can make Stella laugh like her big sister.

This time around my postpartum experience has been totally different than the first time around. I suffered postpartum depression with my first, who was also a hard baby with colic and reflux. We also had breastfeeding challenges. Wanting this experience to be different, I surrounded myself with support. It certainly helped that I had an easier baby this time, but it also helped knowing I had family to help me, friends, a nanny, and a postpartum doula.

I didn’t realize the first time around how isolating motherhood could be, and I wanted to make sure I was well prepared this time. One of the best baby gifts I gave myself was hiring my postpartum doula, Darla, from Postpartum Darla. Having her come once or twice a week was amazing. It gave me someone that I could leave Stella with while I took Hazel for some much needed Mom and daughter time, someone to ask questions about breastfeeding or baby carrying, make sure I got fed or got a shower or a nap if I needed it! She encouraged me and gave me confidence, supported me no matter what, and just held space for me when I needed it. I can’t say enough good things about her; best gift to myself ever!

Liberian trip highlights why breastfeeding education important

Liberian trip highlights why breastfeeding education important

A Warman mom and doula recently saw first-hand the contrast and importance of available birth education, especially around breastfeeding, when she supported new moms in another continent.

This past spring, Lindsay Bitner travelled to a town near Monrovia, Liberia for missionary work. She and five other members of the Awakening Church in Warman joined two others from Winnipeg, and formed a team with a medical doctor, three nurses, and two support people from British Columbia.

The team set up a clinic that was based out of an orphanage, using the school on the compound. There were separate rooms for registration, nurses, treatment, the doctor to see patients, prayer, and then one set aside for long-term care. Many people who needed IVs stayed in that room, but it was also where Lindsay did breastfeeding education.

“Once they (the team) found out I was a doula, they were like, ‘OK, all the pregnant moms, all the newborns, are coming to you.’”

Lindsay, who is a mom herself with three young children, saw any new mom that came through, offering her breastfeeding tips and education, including checking their latch. A big part of education was talking about mom’s nutrition. She says many moms were only eating once a day and often only drinking two cups of water a day, so we had to see if they could eat or drink more.

The struggle there, says Lindsay, is that the country has 80 per cent unemployment, so sometimes eating more food just isn’t an option.

Many moms asked for formula or hinted about it (at least 80 per cent, but she says it could have been almost 100), noting the baby would cry after a feed and worrying they weren’t getting enough, and if a baby was malnourished, they were given a bottle of formula.

“There were maybe 2 or 3 moms who were confident they were feeding their baby well. I did see ads for formula, which really broke my heart, because there’s no advertising for breastfeeding.”

Lindsay says the work was

As a mom and doula, Lindsay ended up providing a great deal of breastfeeding training to moms on a recent mission to Liberia.

Given the unemployment situation and concerns around safe drinking water, the big concern is formula isn’t a sustainable option for many.

“I did make sure to tell every one of them that what they were eating was really important to make the best milk for their baby. I made sure to emphasize that if you keep nursing and if you’re eating and drinking enough, your body is gong to make exactly what your baby needs, and formula can’t do it. And also making sure they understood that as soon as you stop nursing, it’s really hard to get it going again.

I explained it as a vitamin for them versus a dependency on it for all of their meals in hopes that it would last.”

“Trying to educate them that if you only do this, then you won’t have milk left, and you won’t be able to afford formula,” explains Lindsay.

“I taught a lot of moms that: if a baby looked malnourished, we would give formula, but encouraged them to keep breastfeeding and more often, because it is clean and affordable. The hygiene of it and affordability of it are the important factors, whereas here it’s not as big of a deal.”

A couple stories really stood out for Lindsay. The first woman she saw had her seventh baby with her, who looked undernourished.

“The mom said, ‘I can’t feed her because it’s so painful.’ Her nipples still looked really raw and awful even though the baby was four weeks old. I showed her how to get a wider latch.”

And even though many patients spoke English, the team often had a translator – a 22-year-old guy.

“By the end, he had a breastfeeding education and could tell the moms what to do without me explaining first for him to translate,” laughs Lindsay.

“Once this particular baby got a good latch, the mom exclaimed, ‘Wow, that doesn’t hurt as much,’ and that felt really good because I was helping one mom.”

Anyone I taught, I said, ‘Make sure you tell everyone you know that you need to have the areola in the mouth!”

A heartbreaking story that stood out was an auntie who brought in her three-month-old niece, whose mother had passed away two weeks ago. The baby was being fed water and glucose.

“We made up formula for baby, who took the bottle well. In the hour that she was there, she brightened up a lot. We sent that auntie home with four cans of formula in hopes that that would tide them over until they could get some money to get some formula.”

One of the interesting parts of her experience was hearing the moms talk about their birth experiences. She noted many aren’t afraid to have a home birth, and was fascinated because their rates of epidurals versus not were the exact opposite as here.

“I talked to a midwife and we were talking about the differences, and she said they have a 15% epidural rate (only for emergencies), whereas I heard a nurse say with a client of mine that there is an 85% epidural rate here.”

Lindsay says some of the teen moms who came through the clinic were afraid of birth and labour, so she did a mini prenatal prep class for them, but she says any mom who had had a baby wasn’t as worried.

Lindsay admits that while the experience was enriching and rewarding, it was also heartbreaking.

“We had seen the community Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and it got pretty overwhelming because by Wednesday, it was the people who were pretty desperate. I had to take a longer lunch, I just wanted to do more. ‘Can I not eat today so they can eat?’ I asked.  Our team leader said, we are doing the best we can, we have to help the one person in front of us, we have to love the one person in front of us, and hope that it goes beyond that.’

“I clinged to that because what else can you do? There is nothing else you can do.”

A mom’s story of depression and asking for help

A mom’s story of depression and asking for help

The possibility of postpartum depression lingered in the back of Krystal Selinger’s mind during her pregnancy with her son, but she says her doctors were more concerned than she was.

“I wasn’t worried about it as much…because my pregnancy was amazing for me. I felt good and happy. But my doctors knew my past and told me I should be prepared for PPD and to ask for help immediately if I felt overwhelmed or depressed.”

Krystal was diagnosed with depression when she was 17 years old and bipolar when she was 26.

“At that point, I finally went on meds to help, not only my depression, but my manic episodes as well.

“Bipolar takes over your whole life. It’s not something you get a break from. You swing from highs to lows, and you are constantly keeping track of your moods to find warning signs for if you are on a high or a low,” she explains. Once you determine if you’re on a high or a low, you have to change your behaviour or way of thinking, she adds.

When Krystal is on a high, she takes on too many tasks that she can’t possibly finish.

“I have to recognize I’m on a high so I don’t agree to too many projects or recognize when I’m low so I don’t end up spending my days on the couch doing nothing. It’s a delicate balance that is always being adjusted.”

Krystal says having bipolar and being constantly aware of her emotions helped her deal with PPD.

“Of course, there were hard days, days I wanted to give up, but I was constantly aware of my emotions and could do things to help the depression once it crept up. And asking for help was one of those things.”

Krystal was not afraid to ask for help from her husband, her own mother, and her in-laws.

“I think I may have suffered from PPD, but I feel I handled it well because I recognized the warning signs of my own depression and because I asked for what I needed,” she says. “I asked for time to take a bath, go out with friends, go to the gym or even just watch some TV without holding my little man for a while. I realized that asking for time away from my son wasn’t me being a bad mom, it was me doing what I needed to do to be a good mom.”

And that is the advice she would give new moms: make sure you take care of yourself and recognize it is a strength, not a weakness, to ask for help.

“Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. So many people, especially those who have never had depression or any other mental problem, feel like they need to hide the fact that they are depressed. They see it as a weakness, and it’s hard to admit that you are weak. Especially when you’re a new mom. But so many people go through what you are going through and it’s not something to be ashamed of. To be a good mom, you need to take care of yourself as much as you take care of your child.”

For Krystal, part of taking care of herself is helping others. A year ago, she started her business, The Errand Lady, where she literally runs people’s errands, such as buying their groceries, picking up prescriptions or dry cleaning – almost any errand you can think of. The job is a natural fit for her.

“I have spent my entire life volunteering my time at senior citizen homes, schools, after school programs and just simply helping those around me. I love to help, but I always find it hard to find the time. This way, I can make helping my job,” she explains. “I never feel like I’m ‘working’ when I’m running errands or helping people plan parties or organizing someone’s kitchen. I really pride myself on my customers feeling like they weren’t just paying for a service, but walking away feeling special and that their needs were listened to and taken care of in a caring way.”

If you think you are suffering from PPD, please contact the Saskatoon Health Region Postpartum Anxiety and Depression Support Group by phoning 3066557777.

What is family-centered maternity care & why it matters

What is family-centered maternity care & why it matters

While I didn’t know the exact definition of family-centered maternity care (FCMC) when I was pregnant and planning my birth, the birth I envisioned and hoped for fit that model without my knowing it.

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I came to be more interested in the concept when I joined a patient and family advisory council for maternal services for our local health region. I joined not because I want all moms to have my exact experience, but so they may each have the experience they desire and their choices respected.

There are various definitions of FCMC but the main gist is that it respects and takes into consideration the patients’ preferences and empowers patients to be responsible for their self-care. It also reduces the use of interventions that are unwanted, inappropriate, or not needed (more on this definition can be found here, though there are many others as well). Reducing the use of unnecessary interventions matters because interventions can directly affect breastfeeding.

It was fitting then when last fall I was contacted by a postpartum nurse/instructor who is also a PhD student focusing on obstetrical research. She wanted to speak to a woman about her birth experience to see how it fit into the FCMC model. I’m always happy to share my birth story, and I was even more excited because she wanted to make a video project. My only regret, if you can call it that, from our birth is I forgot to call our birth photographer we’d booked – baby just came too fast and it slipped our minds! My doula took some pictures, which were amazing, but of course not quite the same.

This nurse and I discussed how my birth fit into the principles of FCMC. Here they are in more detail:

  • Childbirth is seen as a wellness, not illness, and a normal life event.
  • Care is personalized to the individual needs of the family.
  • The hospital team assists the family in making informed choices for their care during pregnancy, labour, birth, postpartum, and newborn care, and strives to provide them with the experience they desire.
  • The father and/or other supportive persons of the mother’s choice are actively involved in the care.
  • Whenever the mother wishes, family and friends are encouraged to be present during the entire hospital stay including labour and birth.
  • A woman’s labour and birth care are provided in the same location unless a cesarean birth is necessary. Whenever possible, postpartum and newborn care are also given in the same location and by the same caregivers.
  • Mothers are encouraged to keep their babies in their rooms at all times, and nursing care focuses on teaching and role modelling while providing safe, quality care for the mom and baby together.
  • Parents have access to their high-risk newborns at all times and are included in the care of their infants to the extent possible given the newborn’s condition.

These don’t sound like outrageous expectations, but they are not the norm for every family when they go to give birth in a hospital, and that’s a shame.

Why does this matter? Because a mother’s birth experience has a direct effect on her postpartum experience. We already know we need to do more to improve postpartum care for moms. A good first step would be improving her birth experience as much as possible so she gets off to a good start and doesn’t have to add dealing with a traumatic birth on top of healing her body and taking care of a newborn.

Watch the video below to see the beautiful representation Darcie did of our birth and how it fits into family-centered maternity care. I’d love to hear how your experience fits into this model of care or how it could have been improved to better reflect it.

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A healthy pelvic floor isn’t just about strength

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Haylie Lashta is a physical therapist and pelvic floor therapist who works extensively with pregnant and postpartum women at Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. 

When we think about pelvic floor, we often think of doing kegels as a way to strengthen it to avoid incontinence.

However, strength is only part of the equation, says Haylie Lashta, owner and operator of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. She is a Physical Therapist and Certified Pelvic Floor Therapist who works extensively in women’s health, prenatal and postpartum care, and infant development.

When she sees women with symptoms, she often asks, ‘Who told you to ‘strengthen’ your pelvic floor?’

“Often we hear this from friends, family members and other healthcare providers after discussing for a few minutes some symptoms you’re having,” she says. “But does anyone check to make sure you are doing the exercise correctly? I find often no, this is not the case.”

She says part of the problem is women are expected to know what to do for kegels because of what we read in magazines like Cosmo, where kegels are described as squeezing the pelvic floor.

The problem with that?

When we compare this ‘squeeze’ of the pelvic floor to another area of the body, says Lashta, it’s like squeezing the muscles of the arm without actually moving the elbow.

“Does that impart strength? Sort of, but not really. A functional pelvic floor and the proper contraction is thinking of drawing the pelvic floor muscles up and into the abdomen, which will lift the muscles that are essentially like a sling between your pubic bone and tail bone,” she explains. “But we can’t just contract – no other muscle groups do we go to the gym and just hold for as long as we can, pause then repeat, so why do we do this in the pelvic floor?”

For the pelvic floor to be functional, it must be able to lift up and in, as well as relax down and out. An active relaxation is like taking that sling of muscles and letting them fall down and away and it often feels like work, notes Lashta.

She says a good analogy for comparison is to imagine your elbow is stuck in a bent position. You describe that you are having difficulty reaching and grasping things, particularly as they are falling off a table, and someone tells you to strengthen that muscle by contracting as hard as you can for 10 seconds, pause and then repeat 10 times in a row.

“Over time, the elbow will begin to bend farther as the muscle tightens and doesn’t lengthen, and your ability to catch falling objects will often get worse,” says Lashta. “So what does this muscle actually need? It needs first to lengthen to achieve full range of motion. Then it will need functional strengthening and coordination with the rest of the surrounding muscles to ensure that it can do it’s job all the time.”

If you experience any pelvic floor pain in pregnancy or postpartum, seek help: Lashta says it’s not normal.

“There is no reason for pain during pregnancy or postpartum – that’s like saying a runner ‘signed up for’ knee pain.”

And remember that it’s not just about strength: it’s about the ability to relax your muscles as well.

Haylie Lashta graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelors of Science Kinesiology with Great Distinction (2009), and Master of Physical Therapy (2011). She has been practicing in Warman since 2012, and opened Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness in the fall of 2014.

 

 

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