New Resources to Help You Achieve a Healthy Pregnancy, Lovely Birth & Successful Postpartum Recovery!

New Resources to Help You Achieve a Healthy Pregnancy, Lovely Birth & Successful Postpartum Recovery!

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Some of the resources featured in this post

Hoping for a Healthy Pregnancy, Lovely Birth & Successful Postpartum Recovery? Here’s some resources to get started!

**Note, I am NOT affiliated with ANY of these resources, and I do not receive any financial gain or otherwise for promoting these products!**

As you might know, I love trying to stay up-to-date on current research and information about having a healthy pregnancy and postpartum recovery. I really want to be able to give clients good, solid information, and help them to achieve their desires for a low-risk pregnancy, beautiful birth, and end up with a supported, successful period of postpartum recovery. None of these things just happen, though. It takes concerted effort on the part of mom and her support team, and having some quality resources available to you can make all the difference in the world to achieving these goals!

These days, there are so many resources available, that it’s often hard to know where to start. And so many places have conflicting information, which only adds to the confusion about who to believe, and what is actual fact. Between blogs, articles, mommy boards, books and free advice, you might be wondering just where to concentrate your efforts in getting some basic information.

I have been so delighted to be made aware of some great resources that are available, and the purpose of this post is to introduce you to a few of these. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have more resources to suggest, please add them in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Nutrition:

This is a MUST READ for all pregnant women, and anyone even thinking about having a baby. Optimal nutrition starts now, and builds a foundation for a healthy mom and healthy baby. Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science & Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition by Lily Nichols is the BEST book on nutrition that I’ve read in a long time. She will help you to understand how lacking our standard American diet is in real nutrients, and why so many moms end up with gestational diabetes, high blood pressure & pre-ecclampsia. For all the incredible information, it’s written in a very easy-to-understand style. She will help you understand why you need quality vitamins that utilize activated forms of B vitamins and folate, how much protein and good fats you need, what type of salt your body actually needs, how to reduce your carbohydrate intake, what type of exercise you need, and so much more. There is seriously so much more in this book than JUST nutrition, and your body will reap benefits from applying the information it contains! There is another book by the same author entitled Real Food for Gestational Diabetes that is especially geared towards helping moms to balance their blood sugars and manage gestational diabetes through quality diet changes.

Pregnancy Guide:

Have you seen the old “What to Expect” series for expectant moms? Well, you can think of The MamaNatural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland as a new, up-to-date version from a natural, holistic perspective. It’s great, and I think it should be a standard baby shower gift for every expectant mom (though they should probably have it well before the baby shower, honestly!). With input from a CNM and a doula, this guide goes through all the typical questions you face week-by-week, and gives advice on nutrition, tests to consider (and why you’d do them or why you might opt out), what you should be thinking about and preparing for, and how to go about choosing the right caregiver, birth location and options that are right for you. I love the fact that the book gives great info on home, birth center and hospital options, helping moms to achieve a great birth no matter where their location, but helping them to do so as healthily and naturally as possible.

Exercise:

So, while the other two books I mention touch on exercise, there are also some resources available that FOCUS on exercise. As I’m sure you know, exercise is important during pregnancy especially as you prepare for birth (you wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without training for it, right? We should think the same way about training for birth…), but did you also know that exercise is important for your body AFTER pregnancy? Our bodies go through some pretty amazing transitions as they grow a tiny human from smaller than a speck to 7-9lbs, which pushes our stomach up, our bladder down, and challenges our circulation. And then the baby has to come out…and our internal organs all must shift and readjust, and the muscles are stretched and then must get smaller…which means that there is A LOT of changes and stress for the body to recover from!

You’ve probably read or seen articles that talk about healing from diastasis after pregnancy, and/or about incontinence issues, pelvic pain, etc. that can occur postpartum, which can increase in possibility as you have more children, or have babies fairly close together without a lot of time for needed healing. But did you know there are actually things you can do about these issues? And that there are answers out there which can help you recover from pregnancy, and help you go into and through another pregnancy in even better physical condition than before?

One of the resources that can help is to take a prenatal or postpartum class through BirthFit. I love their motto: Giving birth might be the most athletic event of your life. Train for it. Isn’t that true?? In our area, classes are taught by Julie Kulig, a local chiropractor who uses her extensive knowledge to help moms develop a program that works for them. Her prenatal classes focus more on exercise, diet and birth options, and her postpartum classes focus specifically on helping the body to heal and recover from birth. She helps moms to strengthen their core in the correct way to heal any disastasis recti,  guides you in exercises to tone and strengthen the pelvic floor, and teaches you how to move (picking up fat, chunky babies off the floor, anyone??) correctly so as to prevent injury. I personally took her BirthFit Postpartum class, and have been very excited with the benefits I received…and it was really good for me to realize I was capable of doing more than what I realized I could do when it came to good workouts. You can check online to see if there is an instructor near you, and you can also access a lot of the BirthFit information on their website-they offer online classes, as well.

Now, maybe you don’t have access to a BirthFit class, or have lots of little people around, and wonder how you could ever fit something like this into your life. I get it! I’ve been on the lookout for years for a good, tailored-for-moms exercise program that could be done in 20 min. or less each day. Honestly, there are times in my life where I just don’t have more time than that, and if an exercise program is going to take longer, it just won’t get done. So I was really excited to get ahold of the Trim Healthy Mama “Workins” DVD series. What has been fun is to see so much of what I learned at BirthFit being re-affirmed by Serene & Pearl, only this program is one that I can do at home, and working along with the DVD helps to provide me with more motivation than going at it alone.  Each exercise routine can be completed in 19-20 min, using mostly items you have at home, and they are geared specifically towards moms in the childbearing stage. This means they are specifically targeting pelvic floor strength & core stability, and they include modifications to use during pregnancy, or if you’re just getting started postpartum or in exercising regularly in general. I love their down-to-earth style-it makes you feel like you’re working out with your girlfriends. You can find out more and watch an intro video about the program here.

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I hope you can find some of these resources helpful in your own journey to better health, especially in relation to pregnancy & postpartum! I’d love to hear what you would recommend, so please feel free to share!

Breastfeeding: My Personal Challenges and Tips from this Past Year

Breastfeeding: My Personal Challenges and Tips from this Past Year

View More: http://chariselisabethphotography.pass.us/joelnkelsey

With this being  “World Breastfeeding Week”, I thought it was a good time to share a bit more of my own breastfeeding journey that took place last summer. There are so many directions I could go with this story, but for this post, I’ll focus on the breastfeeding aspect, and then hopefully add another installment in the future. If you follow my blog and Facebook posts, you may know that baby #4 (born last May) took me on a completely unexpected loop in the feeding realm, and I am hoping that some of the things I learned through this experience can benefit others!

When it comes to breastfeeding, I’ll admit that I expected it to be an easy, natural process. I mean, I’m all in to natural birth, and believe strongly that a women’s body was designed to carry and bring forth life. So breastfeeding should easily be part of that, right?!? Besides, my own mother had no issues nursing seven babies, and my grandmother nursed all of her babies (back when it wasn’t the popular thing to do), so I took it for granted that it would be a piece of cake. My oldest daughter nursed fine-it wasn’t the wonderful experience I was expecting (my milk supply would drop when I did any extra activity, and she nursed frequently and gained slowly, but overall it went well). Then my son was born, and we struggled and struggled. One of his big issues was a tongue tie (and a lip tie, but I didn’t figure that out until later!) and poor latch, then the resulting milk supply issues. That is another story for another time (some of it is detailed here), but after his experience I decided that most nursing issues could be remedied if only ties would be taken care of. Not true, but it’s what I thought. And my third-born “proved it”, as I took care of her tongue and lip ties around 24 hours old, and she nursed like a champ…she was pudgy, and I had no issues with supply. So in my mind, I found the answer, and figured I was prepared for baby #4.

Baby Darius was 8# 10oz at birth, and latched on right away, so I figured this would be no problem. However, he was extremely sleepy and uninterested in eating, which meant I had to wake him and work with him to get him to eat. By day 4, I was in extreme pain from his latch, so back we went to reducing ties. This helped somewhat, but he still seemed to get worse and worse at latching. By two weeks, he was still well under birth weight, even with my nursing him frequently.  At this point I was getting desperate, and started pumping and giving him milk via dropper after he nursed (which, by the way, takes forever!). We received some amazing help from a local lactation consultant, who came to my house and stayed over 2 hours, giving great advice and support. Around 3 weeks, we ended up making the almost 3 hour one-way trip to a pediatric dentist to get baby’s ties evaluated and reduced via laser (which doesn’t leave as much scar tissue). With the help from the lactation consultant, I was able to start bringing my milk supply back up (it had really tanked at this point, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make enough milk again), and I began pumping regularly to stimulate my supply while working with baby to help him latch. With the help of a nipple shield, he was able to continue nursing for awhile, but I’ll admit it was quite a struggle. There were many times last summer where I felt like I did nothing but work on feeding a baby, which honestly was fairly accurate!

Our nursing relationship came to an end much earlier than I would have chosen, but it would have ended a lot sooner if I hadn’t received the help and support I was given. Baby’s weight gain was slow, but finally began to go up steadily, and I felt like we reached another milestone with every ounce he gained.  I never was able to completely wean him off the nipple shield (occasionally he would nurse without it, but you never knew when), and I had to keep pumping to keep my supply where it needed to be. This resulted in spending literally hours just feeding baby…nurse, pump, bottle feed, rest a bit, repeat. Maybe it could have been sustainable if he had been my first, but we eventually reached the point where the rest of the family needed mommy, too! By around 4 months, I began to exclusively pump, as this eliminated some of the time needed to feed baby. We continued this until around seven months, at which point we made the decision to discontinue pumping for the sake of mommy’s sanity. Just for the record-I now have an amazing respect for moms who exclusively pump. I honestly had NO IDEA of the dedication and time it takes. So if that is what you are finding yourself doing currently, I wish I could give you a big hug and encourage you today! If you’re interested in reading about what I did once we passed six months, you can find more on that story here.

One of the reasons I want to share my experiences is to help encourage other moms going through similar situations. In the middle of it all, I felt very alone and discouraged. It felt like something was “wrong” with my body-why else could I try so hard to feed and nurse my baby and have it not work? I researched until I felt like I couldn’t retain any more information. I tried this solution and that solution. It was really, really hard for me to be okay and at rest with the fact that this part of mothering wasn’t meeting my expectations. At the time, it felt like it was all-consuming (which it was!). But moms, from my perspective now (a full year later), in the scope of life and eternity whether you nurse your baby, pump for your baby or formula feed your baby (or all three!), it’s really okay. Your baby is not even going to remember what happened, as long as he is still getting time and a nourishing connection with his mama! I wish, in retrospect, that I could have realized that truth better in the midst of it all. I wanted so badly to find the answer (and “fix” the problem) that I significantly added to my stress level, which also influenced my little guy, and the rest of the family. Now I better realize that the important thing is how we nurture and care for our babies-they need mom, they need cuddles and physical touch (that nursing naturally provides), but you can give these to baby no matter which way the baby gets his food. So, hang in there-this time will be over eventually (though it feels like forever!), and find rest in being the mom God created you to be….which may mean that not everything “works” perfectly (this is a fallen world after all). But it doesn’t make you a failure or a bad mother if you or your baby can’t make breastfeeding work the way it was intended!

So, enough backstory! Here’s what I was getting at – some specific pointers for you moms that might be struggling with breastfeeding and milk supply:

  • At the first sign that nursing is not going well, take baby to bed, nurse frequently and keep baby skin-to-skin as much as possible. Eliminate extra stimulation, and let baby eat often, smell mama, and feel safe and secure.
  • Find a good lactation consultant, and REACH OUT and ASK FOR HELP! I know this seems obvious, but I wish I would have done it sooner. I thought I knew all the answers (hello, I’ve helped a lot of mom with breastfeeding issues…but there’s LOTS of info I don’t know like someone who exclusively focuses on breastfeeding!). For you local moms, I would highly recommend Nature to Nurture. Megan had so many tips to give me, and was very patient, comfortable, and encouraging to work with. She kept checking back in, too, and was available for questions. An invaluable resource!
  • Consider the possibility of tongue and lip ties. Here’s some good information to start with here. But also remember, that while this can be the answer for one baby (and I’ve seen it work amazingly well!), there are other babies where this is not the problem. If you live in central PA, I’d be happy to pass on pediatric dentist referrals. Otherwise, find a pediatric dentist that specializes in tongue ties-not every dentist is trained to recognize and take care of this.
  • Try a nipple shield if latch is an issue. Sometimes baby just needs some help learning to latch, and this can help. The downside is that it can be hard to wean baby off of one later, but if it allows the nursing relationship to continue, I think it’s worth it-though I personally have a love/hate relationship with these things!
  • Make sure your milk supply is being stimulated. It’s easy to assume that baby is getting enough because baby is nursing frequently. But sometimes baby is nursing more frequently because he’s not getting enough! Here are some things that I found helpful for increasing my supply:
    • Maxi-Milk Tincture from Mountain Meadow Herbs
    • Mother’s Milk Tea from Traditional Medicinals
    • Moringa (powder or capsules)
    • Eating-no joke! When I started pumping exclusively, I realized for the first time how my diet intimately affected my milk supply. If I tried to cut back, my supply dropped. Honestly, it was somewhat discouraging, as the baby fat would NOT disappear, I was hungry all the time, and if I didn’t eat enough, the baby wouldn’t have enough milk. We often hear the old wives’ tale that nursing makes the baby weight fall off…well, that sure doesn’t hold true for everyone! Eating high quality fats (coconut oil, nuts, avocado, etc.) really helped, along with lots of oatmeal, coconut & brewers’ yeast. Look for two of my favorite milk-increasing recipes in a future post!
    • Pumping. It took me awhile to realize that this was going to be the way to keep from losing my supply. And then, thanks to my lactation consultant Megan, I found out that there is a whole lot more to pumping than what I realized. Having a good, new pump is a MUST. I couldn’t hardly get anything by pumping, and it turns out my previously-used pump was worn out. The way God provided a new pump for me in the midst of this struggle is another story, but it made all the difference in the world. Making sure your shields fit is also very important (I never knew that they came in different sizes!). So, do your research, ask questions, and make sure you’re actually utilizing this resource correctly.
    • Finally, consider having your thyroid checked. This did not end up being part of my inability to nurse, but in all the research I was doing, this came up multiple times. I’m becoming more aware of how many moms are affected by thyroid disorders that can have a big influence on their pregnancy and ability to produce milk. It’s worth considering!

I hope some of these suggestions can help someone out. And I’d love to hear yours…what has helped you in overcoming some of your own nursing issues? Or what kind of encouragement and support was especially helpful? Or what do you wish you would have had? I would love to give us space to learn from and encourage each other, so thanks for sharing some of your own journey!

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

The Birth Story of Baby Darius

It’s hard to know where to start with Darius’ birth story, as there were several starts-and-stops along the way during the last week or so of my pregnancy. Joel will shake his head and say something along the lines of “shouldn’t a midwife know when she is in labor?”, but once again I had trouble figuring it out.

To give some background (especially if you’ve read my previous birth stories), we had used our dear friend Rose as our midwife with our girls, and she ended up being the first one on the scene after Matthias was born (she was home on a school break THAT weekend, and our midwife was on her way from Lancaster, but Matthias came in a hurry-read his birth story here). We love her, but due to a variety of reasons (especially the fact that Joel has no desire to ever catch one of his own babies again) we decided that this time we needed to use a midwife who lives closer to us. In the past two years I have been blessed to meet and work with Rose Marie Spicher, a midwife who lives half an hour away, and who worked for years in TX (where I did my midwifery training). She provided the “mothering” care I needed throughout my pregnancy, and it gave Joel a sense of relief to know she wasn’t too far away. With me being on maternity leave the month of May, and the fact that everyone else was expecting in May as well (I have NEVER received so many inquiries for one particular month!), I was just hoping that she wouldn’t be tied up whenever our baby decided to come!

So fast-forward through all the months of sickness, fatigue, finding out that we were expecting a baby brother (the children are still certain this was a direct result of their prayers, as I was convinced it had to be a girl given how sick I was!), and everything else until the beginning of May. By early May I was reaching that totally-done-being-pregnant stage where I wasn’t sleeping at night, having lots of cramps  & contractions, felt extremely emotional all the time, and we were wondering just when this little fellow would decide to make his appearance. Between 34-36 weeks I was experiencing enough cramps and contractions to know I needed to take it easy, and once we hit 36 weeks I had a couple of times where I thought perhaps we were getting started-I distinctly remember one night when I couldn’t sleep because of contractions, so Joel & I slipped outside to take a walk in the moonlight. It would have been so romantic if I hadn’t been so uncomfortable! But everything always fizzled away, and left me feeling tired and discouraged.

At this point we were preparing for a visit from my parents, who live in Kansas. My sister had her first baby the month before, and my mom wanted to come out to help her over the time my brother-in-law was graduating and they were preparing to move. So she flew into northern PA, spent a few days with my sister, and was then joined by my dad. The plan was that they would drive down to see us before they headed back to Kansas, and of course we hoped that baby would arrive before they left, though we knew it was entirely possible that he would wait until they were home again. However, with all the early labor signs I had been experiencing, I’ll admit that I was getting my hopes up! Mom & Dad planned to arrive on Mother’s Day, and the night before I was trying to encourage things along, and ended up with a night of contractions with no baby to show for it. Everything was regular enough that I actually called my midwife to give her a heads up, but then it all petered out.

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Mother’s Day 2017

I really had to work through the disappointment of knowing that perhaps my folks wouldn’t get to meet their grandson on this trip. We didn’t know when we would be seeing them next, and I hadn’t realized just how much I had my heart set on them getting to be here to see MY baby while he was new and tiny. It took some talking, praying, crying and processing with Joel to get to the point of being okay with the fact that perhaps this time with mom & dad was to be spent enjoying their company and not stressing over whether baby was here or not. So for the next few days, my parents helped to take my mind off of waiting for baby, and we enjoyed some lovely family time at the park, taking walks, picnics, a backyard barbeque, and some time for Joel & I to be together while our children were cared for.

The last night of their visit, they took our two oldest children back to stay the night with them in their cabin. In the interest of full disclosure, I had taken some castor oil in the afternoon, knowing full well that there was a good possibility nothing would come of it, and yet hoping that perhaps it would give my body the nudge it seemed to be waiting for. I was NOT going to get my hopes up, though, and I tried to just go to bed to get some sleep. I think it was around midnight or 1am when I woke up with a contraction, and yet I tried to sleep, as it sure wasn’t the first time that random contractions had woken me up at night! After an hour or so of not really sleeping, I figured I might as well get up to see if moving around made them go away or get stronger.

Joel sweetly got up with me, and fixed me sourdough toast with strawberry jam-his mom had given me jam and sourdough bread the week before, and it was becoming a regular midnight tradition to eat a piece when I couldn’t sleep! After another hour or so, Joel commented that these contractions seemed to be pretty regular and close together. I did NOT want to give another false alarm to anyone, and didn’t feel sure that this was anything more than what had happened on previous nights. Looking back, they were coming close together (every 2-4 minutes!), but they weren’t very intense, and they didn’t last long, so I wasn’t convinced they were doing anything. With my previous babies, my water had always broken either before labor began or at the start of active labor, so I kept waiting for that to be the clue that this was the “real thing”.

At 4:00am, Joel really felt like we should call Rose Marie, as he said he thought this seemed more serious, and he did NOT want to wait until it was too late! So I  called Rose Marie, and I told her I still wasn’t sure this was “it”, yet Joel would feel better if she came, but she didn’t need to rush. The contractions were starting to get a bit more of an “edge” to them that took my breath away, but I still felt like I could make myself talk through them, though I preferred not to. Another sign I should have paid attention to!

Within 15 min of calling Rose Marie, all of a sudden things kicked in with a vengeance. Up till now I had still been puttering around, but hadn’t gotten birth stuff out yet, as I had gotten it all out and then had to put it all away a few nights before. I wanted to make sure I was in REAL labor before getting everything set up again, and figured I could do it in between contractions as a distraction. Well, that’s not how things happened. Labor went from being “not sure this is it” to “we’re in seriously active labor” in a few minutes! Joel called Rose Marie back and told her to step on it, and then he promptly called Lynelle (my birth assistant who was planning to assist Rose Marie with our birth-she lives less than five minutes away) and told her to come. I think it was around 4:30am when Joel called Lynelle, and boy did she know how to get over to our place in a hurry! Joel said he has never in his life been so happy to see Lynelle walk into a room, and it was just in time.

By this point my contractions were one on top of another, and I felt like I didn’t have any time to collect myself, catch my breath or get a break in between. Joel kept encouraging me to breathe through them (he didn’t want me pushing!), and I was leaning over the birth ball squeezing his hands for all I was worth, just praying that God would make it stop so I could catch my breath. Lynelle quickly realized things were serious, and started pulling all the birth supplies together. All of a sudden I told them there was no way I could keep from pushing any longer. It had been taking everything I had to blow through contractions, and I was done. I distinctly remember saying “you all are just going to have to catch this baby ‘cause I can’t keep him in any longer!” Lynelle calmly replied that everything was okay, and with the next contraction my water broke. Now I can laugh about it-that was the clue I had been waiting for all along to tell me if I was actually in labor! With the next contraction Lynelle could see his head, and she did an awesome job of coaching me through as I tried to breathe him out. Right at the point his head was delivering, Rose Marie walked in the room! Lynelle started to move out of the way, but Rose Marie just smiled and said it looked like she was doing a great job, so she might as well continue. Rose Marie guided Lynelle through the rest of her “first catch”, and the official birth time was 4:56am.

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Those first moments after birth…

I can still remember the absolute relief that comes from being finished, and laying down with my baby on my chest. He cried just enough for us to know he was great, and then he snuggled on my chest, and we all exclaimed over his head full of strawberry blonde hair-that was a surprise! We had a really special next hour or so as we reflected over the crazy labor, the special-ness of the unplanned “first catch” for Lynelle, Rose Marie’s perfect timing, and Joel’s relief that he didn’t have to do this birth alone. We had invited another family friend to be present at the birth, and sadly she didn’t make it time, but her sweet & joyous spirit added to the atmosphere in the room as Joel fixed breakfast and baby Darius had his first meal. Thanks for coming, Mary!

And then it was SO amazing to call my parents and tell them that their grandson had arrived! Having them able to bring our oldest two over first thing that morning was so special. They were able to watch the newborn exam, meet our midwives, and see the children as they delighted in meeting their new sibling. It was the “icing on the cake” to have them around, and able to snuggle their newest grandbaby that morning, before they had to leave that afternoon to catch their flight home.

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Yoanna & Matthias and Grandma & Grandpa meeting baby Darius. Yoanna was delighted to help Lynelle give him his first bath!

We had struggled with finding the right name for our little guy, and settled on Darius Rafael just a few weeks before his birth. Darius means “Upholder of Good” and Rafael means “God is Healer”.  It is our prayer that our little son will grow into a man who does good, and is used to provide God’s healing to others. He checked out at 8# 10 oz, and measured 20 in long. Matthias was absolutely delighted to have a baby brother, and they continue to have a special relationship as brothers.

Here’s a few more snapshots of Darius’ “birth” day…enjoy this glimpse into our little family’s life, and feel free to check out the birth stories of our girls, Talitha & Yoanna.

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Big sister Talitha was pretty excited to wake up and find that baby brother had “come out!”

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Rose Marie checking baby out

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Our amazing birth team-thanks so much for everything!!

Birth Photographers: Local Options!

Birth Photographers: Local Options!

If you’ve been following the Gentle Delivery Facebook page (go like and follow here), you’ll remember seeing some photos this month of adorable newborns. April has brought some really cute babies! And there is something so precious and amazing about how these babies look in the first minutes and hours that can’t be captured at any other time. I am personally SO grateful for the dear ladies who took photos during those initial moments with my babies (one of my highlights of my baby born last year!), and it’s been something that I wish more women could have access to.

However, when I moved to State College, I was quite surprised to find out that birth photography itself isn’t a “thing” in this area. There are some great photographers willing to do newborn and “Fresh 48” sessions, but there’s not options for the mom who wants professional photos taken immediately before, during and after delivery. Now, to be fair, birth photography is a challenge-you’re asking someone to be on call, drop what they’re doing whenever you call, and to commit without knowing when, how long, and all of those details that make planning challenging.

But today I’m delighted to introduce you to some local options for birth photography that have very recently surfaced in this area! So, if you’re interested in hiring a photographer for your birth (one that can take lovely photos instead of the inexperienced shots that your midwife and her assistant get!), hopefully this list can help you by giving you some leads. If you’re wondering what all is possibly entailed in having a birth photographer at your birth, or what types of photos, etc., I would highly recommend you check out the sites of a few birth photographers that work in other areas of the country. A few of my favorites are T. Marie Photography , Monet Nicole, and Lyndsey Stone.

Catherine Malizia: Catherine recently contacted me, telling me of her interest in the area of birth photography. She stopped in my office for a visit, and I had a delightful time chatting with her and hearing about her vision to capture the amazing and special moments of birth for families. She is acquainted with birth in various settings, especially after spending some time serving with Midwives for Haiti. I think Catherine would do a beautiful job of respecting a family’s space and wishes in a birth setting-she definitely had the type of rapport that I think many moms would connect with. If you’re interested in hiring her, I’d recommend getting in touch and asking questions…she may be running some specials as she gets her “birth side” of her photography business off the ground! Besides her website (linked in her name), you can also contact via email: catherine@CatherineMaliziaPhotography.com

Denae VigilanteDenae also works as a doula with the Doulas of Central PA agency. I had the privilege of attending a birth with Denae, and was impressed by her kind, gentle mannerisms. Birth photography is something Denae is doing more of these days, and you can check out some of her albums on her website!

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Photo Credit: Denae @ Vilgilante Photography

Sara BloseSara has recently joined the State College community, and is exited to offer the option of birth photography to her photography options beginning with due dates in November. I’m looking forward to meeting Sara in person, but am glad that there is yet another option for families in this area.

Are you planning to hire a birth photographer for your birth? Or are you local to the Central PA area, and you used a birth photographer? I’d love to hear about your experiences, how you chose your photographer, and what you’re looking forward to the most, or what you appreciated the most about utilizing a photographer. I’m sure other families would love to hear of your experiences, too, so thanks for sharing!!

Postpartum Home Visit in Pictures

Postpartum Home Visit in Pictures

In January, I received a request from a photo-journalism student at Penn State, who wondered if she could photograph me and some “cute babies” for a project. The day after she emailed, little Brielle made her appearance, and Brielle’s family graciously gave permission for Baidi to join us at their home for the second half of their home postpartum visit. Baidi was absolutely tickled to get to see a brand new baby, and gave us all the gift of numerous photos of our time together. For those of you who have wondered what a typical postpartum visit looks like, here’s your peek!

Generally, this visit takes place sometime between 24-48 hours after delivery, as the required tests need to be performed during this window. First mom gets attention, and we talk about how things are going, any issues/concerns, and make sure her physical condition is within normal limits. Then mom or dad checks over the birth certificate info I bring (double checking spelling and any details) while baby gets checked over.

If baby is happy, we start with the pulse oximeter screening for congenital heart defects, a newer requirement in PA for all babies.

Then comes an exam, where baby’s heart rate & respirations are listened to, skin/cord/eye condition are noted, and overall condition is assessed.

Next, baby is weighed in preparation for the newborn metabolic screening (current weight must be listed along with birth weight). Here you can see daddy holding the baby while the blood samples are collected-our hope is to keep the baby feeling safe & secure throughout the experience!

Lastly, baby is snuggled and we go over any other questions or concerns. All the necessary paperwork is gone over and a copy of the newborn exam and newborn screen info is given to the parents for their pediatrician. And all of this without the family needing to leave their own home!

A big thank you to Kelly, Daniel & Brielle for their willingness to share this experience with  you!

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And thank you to Baidi for your great photos!

Looking Back & Looking Forward!

Looking Back & Looking Forward!

As we head into 2018, I want to say thanks to each of the families we served last year. It is always an honor to be asked to care for each mom & baby, and it’s a special privilege to be present when the miracle of birth occurs. It was definitely a year full of variety, with many random & unusual situations and circumstances. Babies ranged from 6 lbs to over 10 lbs, arrived anywhere from over two weeks early to just past two weeks late (!), most came during the night (yay for cooperating with my own sleeping baby!), many were fast labors, and all the moms were amazing! Being a midwife you end up walking with families experiencing great joy as well as heartache when families have to say goodbye before they meet their little ones. There are also the situations that tax your skill and abilities, and the challenges that leave you researching and looking for answers. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my experience an education, but I’ll also be honest and admit that I’m hoping for less of these experiences in 2018!

Midwifery Photos and downloads

Some of our sweet babies in their “born at home” onesies!

I continue to be grateful for the help of my backup midwife, Rose Marie (who took such good care of clients when I was out of town, and then later on maternity leave), and that of my assistant, Lynelle. Besides being a great assistant, Lynelle also expanded her experience when she ended up catching her first baby (my son!) just as Rose Marie arrived. That was a special surprise for her! Having a team of ladies to depend on, call when needed, and work with definitely helps to make the work of midwifery much more sustainable long-term.

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Fun birth memories with Rose Marie and Lynelle!

As we head into a new year, and anticipate the first babies of 2018 due soon, here’s a few updates:

  • We have some new resources in the library! Two NEW books were published in 2017 that are excellent reads for pregnant moms. The Positive Birth Book by Milli Hall is just what the title describes. And my new favorite pregnancy book is Mama Natural’s Complete Guide to Pregnancy & Birth. It’s a week-by-week guide that covers all the details from growth & development of baby to what you should be eating, thinking about and considering-all from a natural perspective! So far my clients have enjoyed it so much that I now own 3 copies so moms can keep it longer! We also have a copy of the “Why Not Home?” Documentary, which is available for those of you who may want that perspective as you contemplate home birth.
  • A *NEW* birth kit item: upgraded camera! While we can’t promise you professional photos (we are midwives, not photographers!), we have been delighted to add better photos for families who find that aspect important to them. A number of our families are delighted to have some better-quality photos before, during and after birth, especially if hiring a birth photographer is desired but out of reach financially. We occasionally add a third member to our team if photos are something you really want, and a number of our clients have been delighted with the result. Be sure to ask about this at your next visit.
  • New Playdates! We hosted our first mommy meet-up/playdate in the fall of 2017, and it was SUCH fun to see the families and clients that have become friends-we miss you! It was popular enough that we plan to do it again, so if you want to be alerted specifically about the next date, be sure to let me know!

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    Fun with moms and babies at our first playdate!

  • New, upgraded phone for the midwife. 🙂 I know, it’s about time! But if you don’t have my new number and are a former client (current clients all have the new # by this time!) be sure to drop me an email and ask for it!
  • And finally…a new student! Charity is just beginning to “test the waters” to see if unnamed (1) midwifery is her calling, so she’s hoping to attend births in January (as long as babies give her enough time to get here!). We’ll see where things go, but we’re excited to have Charity join our team this month!

And as always, please let me know if you have any topics or suggestions of things you’d like to see covered in future blog posts. I hope to make the website more educational for clients, and would love to have it become a helpful resource for all expectant families! Be sure to follow Gentle Delivery on facebook and instagram, as well, as you never know what news or info may pop up over there!

Blessings in 2018…until next time!

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Is Homebirth the Right Option for Me?

Is Homebirth the Right Option for Me?

As a midwife providing home birth services, I hear this question frequently. It is my goal to provide families with the information they need in order to make the right decision for them-home birth is not for everyone, just like hospital birth is not for everyone! Ultimately, the choice of where to give birth and which care provider to use is the responsibility of the parents seeking such services, and it’s my desire to assist you by providing accurate information that can assist you in making this decision.

Since this question is one of the foundations of whether or not to pursue working with a midwife and planning towards a home birth, I thought it might be helpful to provide links and resources that may help you in determining the answer to this question. As always, I am happy to sit down and talk with anyone who wants to ask specific questions and discuss their options in person, but I know that many of you would like to gather some more detailed information before a formal meeting. Thanks to the availability of information via the internet, great books, educational videos and more, there are many resources that you can access to learn about the potential risks and potential benefits of midwifery care, and specifically the home birth option.

FILMS & DOCUMENTARIES:

  • Why Not Home? The Surprising Birth Choices of Doctors and Nurses: This is THE current film on home birth and why some families make this choice…and this film in now available to watch online and/or be purchased for home viewing! From the description on the website: Why would doctors who attend birth in hospitals choose to have their own babies at home? What do they know about birth that others don’t? Join Jessicca Moore, filmmaker and nurse practitioner, on a compelling journey through maternity care in the United States. Told through the lens of doctors, nurses, and midwives, Why Not Home? examines the latest evidence on risks and rewards of different birth settings. The film presents a balanced and accessible view on the latest research, along with moving personal stories of medical practitioners faced with big decisions for their own growing families. Viewers are challenged to move beyond preconceived ideas, and to envision a fresh future for maternity care in America. Watch it here.
  • The Business of Being Born: This film has been out for a number of years now, but it still contains some great information on birth choices, interventions, birth locations and more. You can watch it free on youtube here.
  • Natural Born Babies: short video of several moms and dads describing what influenced them to make the choice to deliver at home. Watch here

ARTICLES:

BOOKS:

  • Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience by Rikki Lake & Abby Epstien.  An easy-to-read overview of options available to moms, this book covers all the possibilities (hospital, home, OB/GYN, midwifery care, etc.) and why different options may work best for different situations and individuals.
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. Ina May began her career as a midwife back in the hippie movement of the 1970’s. Since then she has delivered thousands of babies, and has done extensive research in the field of natural birth, and she shares her wisdom in this book. She highlights the need to make a choice of birth location in which the mom feels totally comfortable, be that home, birth center or hospital. Great information about routine procedures, tests, and how to have a healthy pregnancy and wonderful birth experience.
  • Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. While not a very positive or light-reading style book, this one can really help you understand how medicalized maternity care has become in our country, and enables you to think through some of the routine policies and procedures that are in place in our countries hospitals. Very eye-opening and thought-provoking.

WHAT MIGHT IT LOOK LIKE?

And finally, some couples wonder about what a home birth might look like. What about “the mess”? How can it work at home, if we’ve only experienced the hospital setting? How do midwives adapt to different settings, positions and environments? How does the medical side of midwifery care happen in a home setting? These videos, pictures and personal stories can give you a glimpse of what home birth with a midwife looks like for some families:

I’d love to hear from you-what helped you to determine whether home, birth center or hospital was the right location for your birth? What resources would you recommend to help other families make their decisions? Feel free to comment below, or send me an email with your suggestions. I love hearing from my readers!