Archive for Pregnancy, Birth, Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Foe’s: Mastitis and Plugged Ducts, My Experience

PART 2:  The Second Time Around – New Challenges

Ok, so I will warn you, this is REALLY long!  I tried real hard to condense it but I wasn’t very successful.  So read on if you like!  It is very interesting in the end though!

When I found out we were expecting our second, I didn’t think twice about the decision to breastfeed, it was a given.  I also thought it would be much easier this time.  I thought I could prevent any mastitis/plugged duct issues by using the hand pump if I had some engorgement in the first weeks.  I felt confidant that I knew what I was doing the second time around.  I had both a hand and electric pump, plenty of breast cold packs if needed, and Greg made sure to check Walt after birth for any vertebral fixations/subluxations and soft tissue inflammation to ensure he would be comfortable nursing on both sides and to avoid the problem Jack had.

However, it wasn’t that simple.  Nursing was going pretty well the first few days, then, when my milk came in, just like with Jack, I had quite a bit of engorgement.  At least I knew what it was this time and some methods to try to control it.  Although, I wasn’t expecting the engorgement to be so bad the second time around.  I thought my body would know what to do by now.  I think some women, me included, just produce A LOT of milk!  However, I did find out later there was another variable this time causing the problem (keep reading to find out what).


During these early days of milk and engorgement I tried to nurse as often as I could but Walt was very sleepy all the time.  It was hard to keep him alert as often as I needed him to nurse.  I  also tried not allowing Walt to sleep long periods without nursing.  Well, I did allow him to go 4 hours at night (this kid wanted to sleep and after 2 yrs of sleep deprivation with Jack I really didn’t want to interrupt that) yet I didn’t want mastitis either but I thought 4 hours would be ok at night.   I tried to nurse on both sides at each feeding.   I mistakenly cut him off  early on the first side and switched sides for fear he would fall asleep and not nurse on the 2nd side.  I was using the hand pump a little to relieve some pressure but I didn’t use it to empty my breasts completely (mistake again).  I also tried hand expressing in the shower and using cold pack’s to decrease inflammation and prevent inflamed ducts.  However, I was a milk producing machine and my efforts could not keep the engorgement under control.  I felt like Walt was latching on alright and to me, appeared to be sucking the same as Jack did (although that was 3 yrs ago).  I didn’t think the problem was Walt.  Also, he didn’t have trouble being uncomfortable while nursing thanks to Daddy’s adjustments.

I was getting desperate though.  The engorgement was getting out of control very quickly despite my efforts and experience. I talked to my midwives and told them I was struggling with the engorgement.  Abby gave me several articles on different nursing techniques and info on mastitis and plugged ducts all from La Leche League.  It was great to have so much info but it was a little overwhelming because I didn’t know which of the many tips to try first, but it was all great info to have! (I will share some more of that in a future post).  It reaffirmed I was doing some things right, a few things I needed to change and it gave me new techniques to try for relief of the engorgement.  I did try some of the suggestions in the articles but continued to be engorged.  I was really worried I would end up with a fever and the whole cascade of symptoms that followed with Jack.  I had already started to get a small headache, the first sign I had with mastitis with Jack. Midwife Kelley then suggested calling Jessica Buell, a lactation consultant-in-training (and apprentice midwife, and doula – lady of many talents).  I was feeling VERY desperate by the time I called her, and probably hormonal and emotional from just having given birth less than a week prior.  She was fabulous on the phone.  She listened, asked me questions, then gave me a regimen to follow for 24 hours then I was to check back in with her.   I felt so much better after talking to Jessica.  I think the 24 hr. regimen gave me a focus and she seemed very confidant in it on the phone which made me feel confidant and a little more in control of things.  I followed her  instructions exactly and started to feel some relief.  I checked in with Jessica the next day and she modified my regimen slightly for the next 24 hours (I was better but still over-producing milk).  By the third day I felt back in control, engorgement was nearly gone and Jessica gave me some tip’s to continue doing and said to call if I had a future problem.  I was SOOOOO thankful to have avoided mastitis, fever, aches, ect.


A week or 2 passed and then it started again, UGH!!!  I know many moms out there would love to be overproducing so I shouldn’t complain so much.  I woke up in the middle of the night with mild engorgement (yep, Walt was sleeping through the night woo hoo!). I immediately got up and pumped, emptied my breasts and felt much better and went back to bed.  I thought it wouldn’t be a problem since I pumped as soon as I noticed the mild engorgement.  Well, I have a really sensitive system apparently!  The next evening, even thought the engorgement was gone, I started to get a headache and slight fever this time, Whaaat?!  One little mild engorgement and I was proud of myself for pumping right away…I did not expect this at all!  I wasn’t even engorged anymore after pumping but I still was having the familiar unpleasant symptoms.  I immediately went back to Jessica’s 24 hr regimen she gave me a few weeks prior (I should have called her).  I continued this for several days but continued to feel worse.  I thought there was no use calling her since I already had what I thought was mastitis and couldn’t prevent it anymore, it was here.  Well, that was a bad idea, should have called her.  Should have looked up natural remedies, should have asked friends.  I wasn’t thinking and gave up too soon.  I figured it would just go away after a week like the episodes I had with Jack.  I started taking ibuprofen to reduce the fever which was going on 7 days now.  I REALLY did not want to take any medication while nursing.  I felt defeated and desperate.  But I wanted to avoid an antibiotic even more so I tried the ibuprofen.  It did control the fever but any time I tried to get off of it the fever was right back there.  Man, this thing was stubborn.  And all along I should have called Jessica, don’t know what I was thinking.  By day 11, still with a fever and been on ibuprofen for way too long in my opinion, I did finally contact Jessica.  I didn’t give her a fair chance at helping me by calling her so late in in the game.  But she tried and gave me a regime to follow.  I did but I think it was just too late. I also gathered some tips from friends at this point too and tried lecithin supplements (supposed to possibly thin out the milk) and Poke Root Salve, but neither helped me (you will learn why if you continue reading).  By 14 days straight with a fever and completely worn out, Jessica and I  decided I had to go to the doc for an antibiotic.  I was extremely disappointed that I had to do this but it was necessary.  I actually hadn’t taken an antibiotic in 8 years, which I was very proud of!  It killed me to make that appointment and drive to the doctor’s office.  I was so mad at myself and I felt HORRIBLE that Walt would be exposed to an antibiotic at such a young age but I also had no choice at this point.  I did not expect to be in this position being what I thought, a breastfeeding veteran.  I took the antibiotic and the fever and symptoms improved in a day or 2.  I did wonder if they would have improved anyway without the antibiotic but I was just torturing myself by thinking that way.  I did need it after 14 days of a fever, maybe should have gone in a little sooner.


I was so confused as to why I was having so many problems.  I felt like I was doing everything right by now and didn’t understand how one mild engorgement could lead to 14 straight days with a fever and mastitis/plugged duct.   About 1-2 weeks after taking the antibiotic it was deja vu!  How on Earth could this be possible, I was incredibly annoyed!  Again, I woke one night with very mild engorgement and a day later the dreaded headache followed by fever a few hours later.  I went back to the frequent nursing and Icing, pumping when needed and gave it a day or 2 before I called in the troops.  I emailed Jessica to tell her it was starting again.  I told her exactly what was going on and shared my frustration, wondering why I continue to have problems despite following all the recommendations.  I also mentioned to her that at Walt’s postpartum midwife visit, we were told he may be borderline Tongue Tied.

Tongue tie can be defined as a structural abnormality of the lingual frenum.   When the frenum is normal, it is elastic and does not interfere with the movements of the tongue in sucking, eating, clearing food off the teeth in preparation for swallowing and, of course, in speech. When it is short, thick, tight or broad it has an adverse effect on oromuscular function, feeding and speech. It can also cause problems when it extends from the margin of the tongue and across the floor of the mouth to finish at the base of the teeth.” –

Our midwives weren’t too concerned because Walt appeared to be nursing fine and was WAY ahead of the game in the weight gaining department.  Most babies with tongue tie have A LOT of trouble nursing and gaining weight.  They did suggest we talk to Dr. Hazelbaker (more about her below) or our pediatrician about it.  We planned to ask our pediatrician to look at his tongue at his appointment in a few weeks.  In the mean time we also Asked 2 dentists and both took a look and said it looked mild at worst and probably wouldn’t need treated.  Jessica responded and recommended the same regimen that helped before but also suggested I schedule an appointment with Dr. Alison Hazelbaker, PhD, a lactation consultant who does lymphatic drainage, and happens to be an expert on the condition of Tongue Tie.  She also is a CranioSacral Therapist.  I promptly contacted Dr. Hazelbaker and scheduled an appointment for Monday.  It was friday and Dr. Hazelbaker was kind enough to give me her cell phone number in case I ran into problems over the weekend before my appointment (which I did).  Despite the icing and frequent nursing my fever was climbing Saturday evening.  I took a hot shower to calm the body chills I was getting and that hot shower really spiked the fever, 104.2!  I typically like to let fever’s run their course.  The body is smart and creates a fever for a purpose – to kill an infection.  But this was a bit high for my liking (damage can start to occur above 105 deg).  I took 2 Ibuprofen but the fever was still holding strong.  I wanted to take a cold bath (well didn’t really want to but needed to) but just my luck, a thunderstorm was in our area so that was out.  I could have called my doctor but it was Saturday evening and I figured they would just have a recording saying something to the effect of “In case of emergency call 911, otherwise call back during business hours”, neither of which I thought sounded good.  I decided to take a 3rd Ibuprofen and started icing my neck and groin areas where a lot of superficial blood vessels exist.  It appeared to be working because I was starting to sweat!  Within 20 minutes the fever was down below 102 and dropping, wheeew!  I was so glad when Monday finally arrived and I could get to my appointment.  Dr. Hazelbaker was great!  Right away she noticed a very deep plugged duct.  She did a lymphatic drainage technique and I could feel immediate relief!  She also observed me nursing Walt and gave me some tips on how to hold him so he stays latched on (I didn’t even realize he wasn’t staying on appropriately).  She then checked Walt with her own Tongue Tie Assessment method (Assessment Tool for Lingual Frenulum Function (ATLFF)) and determined he was Tongue Tied.

Tongue Tied

Photo from

There was a definitive deficit in the function and range of motion of his tongue, despite his tongue appearance not scoring too bad.  This is why we weren’t in a hurry to get his tongue looked at initially.  2 dentists and 2 midwives, 4 practitioners had looked at his tongue already and it appeared to be mild tongue tie if that.  They all had seen much worse cases with many more obvious symptoms so Walt’s was tricky and not that obvious even to a trained eye.  Dr. Hazelbaker has done extensive studies on this condition including writing a book.  She concluded the Tongue Tie was not allowing Walt to suck appropriately and he was unable to empty those deeper ducts causing the frequent plugged ducts and all of my symptoms.  She mentioned it could also cause him to have large belches and increased drooling, both of which I had noticed – some monster burps and drooling at 10 weeks like a teething baby!  It all made sense and I was relieved to finally know what was causing all the engorgement.  If left untreated it could cause speech problems in the future. The solution was simple, to have his tongue clipped.  It was a vary simple procedure and was quick and painless (for Walt, but harder for me watching).  He is now 4 months and we haven’t had a problem sense!  I hope to write more about tongue tie and the clipping procedure in the future.  I am so grateful to have figured out the cause of my nursing challenges and to have it all taken care of now.  Thanks to Jessica for all of her help and Dr. Hazelbaker for her expertise and care, and of course to our wonderful midwives who gave me info and directed me Jessica and Dr. H.

Lessons Learned – Quick tips if you are getting engorged

  1. Before giving birth, find a lactation consultant to have incase you need help.  Ask them questions before birth and don’t be afraid to call them if you have a question. 
  2. Nurse often if – every 2 hours – 24 hours/day when engorgement is bad
  3. Completely empty one side before switching to the second
  4. If needed, pump to get both sides emptied
  5. Ice your breasts if you have signs of inflammation/plugged ducts/mastitis i.e. redness, heat, hard nodules, pain, swelling.  Intense icing 15 minutes EVERY hour may be needed for 24-48 hours or longer
  6. Anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may be needed.
  7. Monitor your temperature
  8. Lymphatic drainage works!  Find a practitioner in your area if you get plugged ducts
  9. If your baby might be Tongue Tied have it checked out sooner rather than later.  (some cases can look mild but still be problematic!)



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Breastfeeding Foe’s: Mastitis and Plugged Ducts

PART 1 – Be More Prepared than I was!

First of all, I have so many experiences to share with you on this topic that it was getting WAY too long for one post so I had to split it up (and probably will have many more to come)!  And, before I start, you should know I am a huge fan of breastfeeding!  I think it’s sad that so many moms out there either don’t do it or stop after a short time.  This post is not intended to scare anyone away from breastfeeding but to help you be better prepared for challenges than I was.  I hope this post will help prepare moms-to-be and help those who have had similar troubles to get through them successfully.  I nursed Jack about 26 months (my initial goal was 12 months).  I am now nursing my 2nd baby, Walt, who is 3 months old.

After Jack, my first born, I had 3 uncomfortable and frustrating bouts of what I thought was mastitis.  Breastfeeding was something I knew I wanted to do and would do but I just thought you put baby to breast and voila, thats it.  I didn’t read up on the topic, techniques, didn’t ask anyone for tips or advice on breastfeeding while I was pregnant.   I didn’t know anything about how to hold baby, what engorgement was, mastitis, that it could be challenging.  I think I just thought breastfeeding, you just do it and thats that.  I didn’t expect it to be hard or to run into any problems.

So when Jack was born, I tried to let him nurse right away, which he wasn’t interested in at first but an hour after birth he figured it out.  The first few days were a piece of cake.   It might sound weird but I was excited for my milk to come in.  It was all very intriguing to me, everything that was happening with my body related to pregnancy, birth and now breastfeeding.  It was empowering and amazing to me how my body would produce nourishing food, milk, that my baby would thrive on exclusively for some time and I was eager for it to come in and to nurse my baby boy!  However, when my milk did come in it was chaos!  Jack started becoming partial to the left side and avoided the right like the plague!  We later discovered it was due to his C1 vertebrae being fixed and tissue around it inflamed and it was easily corrected by chiropractic adjustments (by mom and dad).  This lead to engorgement.  All of the sudden my right breast just got huge.  I thought I was going to explode!  It became very painful.  I did have an electric pump and figured, that must be what those things are for!  Pumping gave me some temporary relief.  However I didn’t know anything about pumping either.  I don’t think I completely emptied the breast.  I just continued to pump when I started to get huge and painful again and did that repeatedly (it took a day or 2 to figure out why Jack wouldn’t nurse on my right side and to get it corrected).  The frequent pumping with my electric pump seemed to cause me to just produce more (supply and demand) and I was really getting fed up and could not get things under control for the life of me!  At our postpartum visit with our CHOICE midwives they suggested a hand pump (which they had several available in their awesome resource room) and to have Jack nurse on both sides each feeding and to nurse often.  I WAS only feeding Jack on one side per feeding (don’t know why, I guess I just thought that was how it was done and don’t know where that thought came from) and if he fell asleep for long periods (he only did that the first few days, then I don’t think he slept a full night until 2 yrs old!) I didn’t wake him to nurse.  So I would go sometimes 6+hours before nursing on one side, ya, no wonder I had problems!  Like I said, I knew nothing about techniques or protocol for breastfeeding.  Hint, hint, if you’r pregnant get advice, read, go to La Leche League website to get info BEFORE your baby is born.

After Jack was adjusted and willing to nurse on both sides and once I started nursing on both sides each feeding, nursing about every 2 hours, icing to reduce inflammation, and using the hand pump to relieve pressure if he didn’t empty both sides everything cleared up.  By everything I mean the flu-like symptoms I experienced including: fever, head ache, body ache, and extreme fatigue.  These symptoms came on shortly after the initial major engorgement I experienced.  I was never checked out by a doctor or lactation consultant to determine if it was a plugged duct or mastitis but whatever it was, it was resolved within a week thankfully (no meds required).  I had a similar experience 2 more times while breastfeeding Jack.  Both of which I believe followed weekend trips I made in which I had to bring my pump and not my baby.  I really felt that electric pump caused an increase in demand and therefore supply followed by engorgement and the rest of those “fun” symptoms.  While each episode I experienced was not fun at all, they all did manage to resolve themselves in about a week by nursing often, using the hand pump and icing when my breasts felt hot and sore.  I also did go to a few local La Leche League meetings.  It was nice to be around other nursing moms, many with years of experience.  I enjoyed talking with them and listening to their advice.  The rest of the 26 months of breastfeeding Jack went very smoothly!

Come back soon for Part 2:  The Second Time Around – New Challenges-  I thought it would be easier but new challenges presented themselves.  Come back to learn what they were!

I am also planing more posts on the benefits of breastfeeding, what exactly is mastitis and plugged ducts, natural remedies, and more!  So don’t forget to subscribe so don’t miss a post!

What challenges have you faced while breastfeeding and what did you do?

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Greg’s Version of Walt’s Birth

As promised, Daddy’s version of Walt’s Birth.  I am a little behind in posting it.  Life has been a bit crazy since Walt’s birth 3 months ago.  We have been looking to buy our first home, without much luck so far and have moved into a temporary renal home.  Our previous rental house and Walt’s birth place is being bulldozed down any day now for “green space”.  Hopefully we’ll find our new home soon!  Enjoy Daddy’s Story Below and some new born photos!

Jack wasn't thrilled to have his picture taken

“So, Heather asked me to write my perspective of Walt’s birth.  I’m honored she is allowing me to post on her blog.  So here is how things went from my side of things.

Jack woke up around his normal time of 6:30 yelling “Daaaaaaaddddddyyyyyy!” just like every other morning.  He went to the potty and I changed him.  Then just like always he ran around the house and watched TV while I made him oatmeal.  After breakfast he played downstairs with his trains.  At 7:45 Heather woke up and was having some fairly strong contractions (3 min. apart) so I went in and rubbed her back to help her relax.  I asked her if she thought I should fill the birthing tub.  She said she thought the contractions would stop so I should wait.  Jack and I hung out and played while Heather had a few more contractions in bed.  When she seemed really uncomfortable I ran to the bedroom to rub her back and then went back to Jack.  This would become a pattern throughout the birth.  At 8:27, Heather called our midwife, Abby, to get her opinion on what to do.  Abby told her to rest in the bath and time her contractions, so she went to the bathroom while Jack and I continued to hang out.  Of course as long as she was in the bath I couldn’t use the hot water to fill the birthing tub.  While in the tub, Heather’s contractions kept getting stronger.  Also, she continued to tell me that these contractions would probably stop, so wait on filling the tub.  At 8:44 I texted my sister, Allison, to see if she was around in case Heather’s parents, who were coming from Dayton to watch Jack during the birth were unable to get here in time.  I called Heather’s parents at 8:48 and said we didn’t think this was labor, but they should come just in case and if Heather’s contractions stopped we could all go to the zoo together because the weather was going to be nice that day.  Jack and I went back to playing downstairs like any other day.  Jack was looking all over for one of his train cars, the one that carries logs, so we searched all over the basement and found it behind one of the legs of his train table.  He was very happy to have it back, so I was able to get away to see how Heather was doing upstairs.  Allison texted back at 9:12 that she was working, but Colin, her husband was around.  Since I was with Jack I didn’t get that message until 9:30, so at 9:31 I texted back that I needed Colin’s number.  After Heather’s bath she went to bed and when I got upstairs she asked me to call her parents to tell them things were moving a little faster than we thought and this probably was labor.  So I called them at 9:27.  Heather had texted our office manager, Sara, at 9:20 to see if she was able to watch Jack at our office until Heather’s parents arrived.  At this point we still believed I would be able to leave the house to bring Jack to the office.  Allison called me from work at 9:44 to tell me Colin was not home after all and we quickly ended that conversation because Heather was having another strong contraction.  At 9:46 Sara texted back and Heather asked her to come to the office with another text at 9:48. I also called Abby at 9:46 to tell her the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and were getting stronger.  Heather said she didn’t think the midwives needed to come yet because she still thought this would take a long time.  We decided, with Heather’s input that the midwives should come in an hour to and hour and a half.  While all this was going on I was periodically going downstairs to check on Jack.   Shortly after Heather’s bath she informed me that I could fill the birthing tub, so I put as much hot water in the tub as I could, which wasn’t much since she had just taken a hot bath.  I also turned up the hot water heater in an attempt to speed up the birthing tub filling process.  After I had put 3 small “loads” the tub was about 1/3 full and Heather moved into the tub to continue labor.  At this point I called Sara to ask her to come to the house to pick up Jack because it was clear I could not leave the house at this point.  At around 10:00, just after Heather finished another contraction, immediately after which she said “I can’t do this” and I quickly told her she was amazing and she could do it.  I knew this was transition and a better “coach” would have reminded her that it was transition and it would be over soon, but I had other issues to deal with at the time, so I went downstairs to check on Jack and get him ready to leave with Sara and discovered that he had pooped his pants.  Exactly what I needed at that moment.  I brought Jack upstairs to change him and clean him up.  That was when the plan, which even though things were moving fast to this point was still somewhat intact, completely fell apart.  While I was taking Jack’s dirty pants off I heard an unmistakable noise coming from the bedroom.  Heather was obviously pushing.  This was a serious “holy crap” moment for me.  I told Jack to sit on the potty and “don’t move” and I ran down the hall to check on Heather, arriving just in time to see the end of the push.  I asked Heather if she was okay and listened to a very concerned Jack yell “Mommy are you okay?” from the bathroom.  Heather yelled back that she was okay and told me I could go take care of Jack.  So I ran back to the bathroom and finished cleaning Jack.  Thankfully, Jack did an amazing job of listening throughout this whole ordeal.  While I was dressing Jack I heard another push from the bedroom.  Also, while running from the bathroom to the bedroom I heard Sara knocking on the front door, this was sometime between 10:00 and 10:05.  I went into the bedroom to rub Heather’s back until the contraction was over, then ran back to finish dressing Jack and invite Sara in.  I left Jack with Sara in the living room while another contraction came and went with a very concerned Heather worried that Sara could hear her from the other room.  After that contraction I went outside to put the car seat in Sara’s car, which I did in record time and with a lot of swearing and sweating.  The little clips that hold the seat in the car were to short and got stuck while I was trying to lengthen them.  I did get it in her car, but it was a little more loose than I would normally tolerate.  Under the circumstances, and considering that they only had to drive 1 mile I let it slide.  Anyway, I ran back inside and said goodbye to Jack and he and Sara left.  I ran back to the bedroom and another contraction came and went.  This time (around 10:10) Heather said something that seriously freaked me out.  Her exact words were “I think my intestines are coming out of me!”  In a major panic I looked and saw what would turn out to be Walter’s head.  Thankfully he had a full head of hair, so I could not mistake his head for intestines.  I was in complete disbelief at this point, so I actually touched the top of his head for some  weird reason I guess to confirm that it was really there.  I told Heather I could see his head and she told me to call our midwife, Abby, again to tell her what was going on.  I did not have Abby’s number in my phone so I had to ask Heather where her phone was.  I knew at that moment how stupid it was for me to not have the number in my phone.  Heather told me where her phone was and was obviously annoyed with me for my lack of preparation and rightly so.  I found the phone clicked on “Abby” and kept hitting send until it started dialing.  I’m not very BlackBerry proficient, even though I have one exactly like Heather’s.  When I have multiple numbers for the same person I enter the numbers as different people, i.e. if I had Abby’s home number and cell number they would be entered as “Abby Home” and “Abby Cell”, so I select the one I want from the contacts list.  Heather uses her phone the way it’s intended to be used and enters the person’s full name and then selects the type of number she is entering from the pre-made list in her BlackBerry.  So, when I clicked on “Abby” I then should have selected “Mobile” rather than blindly hitting “send” until it started dialing.  So after all of that explanation you now know why I ended up calling Abby’s house number, which someone answered.  When I asked for Abby they said she wasn’t there at the exact same time as another contraction started.  I said “sorry, I have the wrong number” and rudely hung up on them.  The contraction came and went and Walter’s head came down to the point that I could see his squished up face, another “holy crap” moment and I’m embarrassed to admit that I took a while to realize it was his face.  I still had in my head that Heather’s intestines were coming out and I was initially sure what I was looking at was her intestines.  Heather asked if I could see anything and I hesitated, not wanting to tell her I saw the head (the hair was still visible) and her intestines.  She asked again and at that moment I figured out that it wasn’t intestines, it was Walter’s face, so I told her and she said I needed to call Abby and had to explain how to use her phone properly to call her cell, which I did.  I spoke to Abby and she told me she was 2 miles away and would be there soon.  Then another contraction started and I hung up on Abby to go back with Heather.  She pushed again and one of Walter’s shoulders came out along with his entire head.  I held his head out of the water because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  Then in the middle of the chaos our other midwife, Kelly, came running down the hall and took over.  I basically got out of the way and in 1 or two pushes Walter had arrived at 10:27AM on April 10, 2011.  His cord was a little short, but just long enough for us to get him to Heather, still in the 1/3 full tub and on all fours as she had been throughout the delivery.  During this handoff from Kelly to me to Heather I noticed that Walter was a boy and informed Heather who was surprised he was a boy and shaking as she held Walter, just as she had been 3 years before when she first held Jack.  Abby came in just as Heather took ahold of Walter and she and Kelly took over all of the important stuff and checked Heather to make sure she was okay.  They helped Heather transition out of the tub, which was no small task with a shorter than normal cord and the placenta still attached.  I went out of the room for a moment to get some sterile blankets and towels and came back to see Heather sitting in the rocking chair with our new baby.  Soon after she pushed out the placenta and I cut the cord.  Around 10:50 I called Steve and Patti to see if they had made it to the office to pick up Jack from Sara yet.  The informed me they were on Interstate 670 near downtown Columbus, about 20 minutes away and I gave them the good news and said I would call once everything calmed down a little more.  I called them back about 30 minutes later and we decided that they would take Jack to lunch and the playground while I cleaned up and then they would bring Jack over to meet his little brother around 2:00.  Abby and Kelly stayed for an hour or two to monitor Heather and Walter.  Heather took a shower as they did all the necessary tests on Walter.  Abby and Kelly cleaned up everything except the birthing tub and left the three of us to bond.  I cleaned up the birthing tub and am deliberately leaving out the details of that and finished cleaning everything around 1:30.  Steve and Patti arrived and thankfully brought me some lunch from The Rusty Bucket.  I got the video camera ready and Steve taped Jack meeting Walter for the first time a little after 2:00.”

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The Home Birth of Walter James Prenger: Mom’s Story


Greg and I had a lot of plans going into this labor.  After having a few challenges with Jack’s labor (3 stages totaled 39 hrs) we tried to prepare more for those challenges incase they came up again this time.  I read a wider variety of books on labor relaxation techniques and birth stories.  Greg focused on the Bradley, Husband-Coached child birth book.  We even highlighted some of our favorite relaxation techniques and reminders to flip to during labor.  I dug up 2 books where I wrote down my favorite inspirational quotes to have handy for labor.  I planned to drink more water early in labor and throughout.  We bought some healthy birth snacks and juices in advance and planned that once labor started Greg would run to the store to add to our stash a fresh fruit plate for me and a cheese and meat plate for him (you will see how funny this idea was as you read on).  When labor started we also planed Greg and I would finish up any last min. dishes, straighten the house and vacuum – I figured some gravity in early labor would help things move along faster this time (again, you will find these plans comical by the end of our story).

We decided it would be best to have Jack out of the house for the labor.  We didn’t want the distraction of a 3 year old wanting our attention for playing, potential potty accidents,   etc.  Also I didn’t want him to see or hear me in discomfort.  So the plan was to have my parents drive 1.5 hours from Dayton to pick him up and let him spend a day or 2 with grandma and grandpa.  In a pinch, we arranged for our Office Manager, Sara to come to the office to watch Jack or Greg’s sister, Allison to pick him up if my parents couldn’t leave right away.  We figured Jack’s labor was 39 hours, this one hopefully would be less but should still have plenty of time for all our our plans.  We later learned you have to be prepared for anything, ready for the unexpected and possibility of throwing your plans out the window too!

Labor and Birth

Jack’s was a marathon which I wasn’t really ready for, but made it through… this time I expected at least a half marathon but ended up with a sprint!

This pregnancy I had more nausea, felt like my belly was growing much more quickly, more trouble sleeping and more discomfort and fatigue and due to that I was sure this baby would come early.  I was really hoping anyway.  When our due date (April 2) came and went I was really getting antsy, and frustrated.  I had many days with an hour or 2 of contractions and they just got my hopes up.  Each morning I woke up I couldn’t believe I was still pregnant!  I had been having braxton hicks contractions in increasing frequency since week 36.  On April 8th, friday evening, I had contractions for 11 hours, averaging 7-8min. apart.  I was really hoping to see some sign that it was the start of labor but they stopped by morning.    Saturday, April 9th I had random contractions on and off throughout the day, nothing consistent and that evening I had 2 hours of contractions 5 min. apart.  I had another uncomfortable restless night Saturday night and early Sunday morning, around 5am had a mini emotional breakdown.  I was crying and frustrated, and told Greg I just couldn’t go another day pregnant, uncomfortable and unable to sleep (I thought this every day in the last month but I finally just broke down).  I prayed that this pregnancy would be over and we’d meet our baby asap then tried to fall back asleep.

Two hours and 45 min. later, Sunday April 10th at 7:45 I woke up with contractions 3 min. apart.  Again, I was hoping this would be the real thing but was doubtful because every previous time the contractions just went away after a few hours.  Plus I had not had the bloody show/mucus plug yet which I had with Jack’s labor about 18 hours before his birth.  I really thought I’d have this sign again at the beginning of this labor.  However after 30 min. of this I felt they were somewhat strong and I decided to call our midwife Abby.  She suggested getting in the bath and see if they get any stronger or closer.  She said she expected real labor for us might start with contractions about 8-10 min. apart and get closer and stronger from there.

So I drank some water and got in the bath (used most of our hot water) and the contractions continued.  I thought they were getting a little stronger and a few were closer but I just wasn’t sure and still had no mucus plug or bloody show.  I figured I should have time to feel it out and decide if this was real labor or not.  In the mean time, just in case it was true labor, Greg first contacted his sister, Allison who lives in Worthington to see if she was off work.  We didn’t want to have my parents drive all the way if it wasn’t labor.  She was working so Greg went ahead and called my parents and told them labor might be starting, we weren’t sure and asked if they would come just in case this was real labor.  If it wasn’t they could enjoy a Sunday afternoon with Jack anyway.  We were really thrown for a loop because these contractions started at 3 min. apart so we didn’t know if we should wait and see or prepare for a fast moving labor.   There isn’t far to go from 3 minutes but also, it seemed unlikely after Jack’s very gradual and slow moving labor that it would really start this fast.

I got out of the bath and contractions were getting stronger.  Greg asked if he should start the dishwasher and I said you better start filling the birthing tub instead (we have a really small hot water heater).  I told Greg he better call my parents and make sure they left and I text Sara (9:20am) to come to the office.  Things were picking up quickly and now I wasn’t sure if my parents would make it in time and I could really use Greg’s support through the contractions.  Greg followed up with Sara, as I was starting to need to focus on getting through each contraction and he also took care of Jack, all while filling the tub too.  So much was happening all at once and by now we knew it was real labor.

Basically Greg was running around like a crazy person trying to take care of EVERYTHING and in the mean time I was trying to relax through these quickly increasingly uncomfortable contractions.  I felt the most relief to sit on the toilet or lean on the bed during the contractions, while waiting for the birthing tub to fill.  It was maybe 9:30 or 9:45 at this time.  I soon went to the bathroom and lost the mucus plug.  Greg called Abby to tell her and to let her know things appeared to be moving very fast.  She called Kelley and both were on their way.  He also called Sara to let her know to come straight to our house, he wouldn’t be able to leave to take Jack to the office.  Contractions were fast and really uncomfortable so I got in the birth tub even though it was only about 1/4 full, but I really needed some relief.  I was thinking, what did I get myself into again!  I forgot how intensely uncomfortable this was.  I was thinking I really hope I can get through this but wow this is hard!  I wasn’t really timing the contractions at this time but they were close and very strong.  I was very surprised that I could already feel the head maybe only an inch or 2 high and told Greg that too.  Greg could hear I was having some trouble.  After one contraction he saw me go through he said to me “Are you pushing already?”.  I then realized my body was already pushing without me consciously trying or wanting to (since the midwives weren’t there yet).  At this point with Jack still here, Greg  did his best running in to scratch my back then running out to take care of Jack who had an accident in his pants.  It really did help me though.  That back and forth continued for a little while until Sara arrived just after 10am and left around 10:15.  A million thanks to Sara!  I had no idea how soon our baby would be born!  I was so glad she made it and I could get Greg’s undivided attention.  I really needed it at that time.  I was questioning if I could do it and was struggling a bit with the contractions.  I was getting through them but just barely.  I was trying hard to relax during my breaks and also dreading the next contraction to come.

I was struggling and thinking I can not take this much longer at all, I don’t know if I can make it. Then I realized, is this transition already, labor just started 2:30 hours ago!  Greg said that I told him that I couldn’t do it out loud but I don’t remember verbalizing my thought, thought it was just in my head!  I thought well if this is transition then it can’t last more than 30 min. or so (This is around 10:15/10:20).  Maybe 5 min or less later I felt my water break and the intensity immediately increased further.  I didn’t think it could get any more intense at that point!  I thought I could feel the hair and that the head was coming down quickly.  I asked Greg to look and got on my knees in the tub so he could see.  He confirmed it was the head and called Abby again and updated her and she said she was 5 min. away and for me to try not to push too hard.  Well the head was coming and my body was pushing without me trying at all.  Maybe 2-3 contractions after my water broke the head was half way out and I felt like I needed to push it all the way out.  Then, we heard Kelley walk in the door and Greg was so relieved!  She was very surprised the head was out and helped deliver the rest of his body (10:27am).  Yep, it was a boy!  I was just in disbelief (and relief) at the whole thing.  Abby arrived just after Walter and her and Kelley took over checking Walt and I.  He came out quiet but healthy and eventually tested out his vocals.  He was calm and cuddly for our first hour of bonding after the birth.  We left the cord/placenta attached for the first hour this time.  I then enjoyed a warm shower and spent the rest of the day resting with baby Walt!

I had a small 1st degree tear but wouldn’t have know if they didn’t tell me.  I also never would have guessed his size at 10lb 8 oz.  Fortunately there were no problems getting him out and the size didn’t seem to make a difference for me.    I think we were all shocked at the drastic difference my 2 labors.  We are happy everything turned out well.  Recovery so far has been easier and faster this time around.

After a fast, chaotic, but successful 3hr 18 min (3 stages) labor, with just 29 min. of pushing and maybe just 3-4 conscious, intentional pushes, Walter (Walt) James Prenger was born April 10, 2011 at 10:27am, 10lb, 8oz and 21 inches.  


 After Thoughts

Well as you read, there wasn’t enough time during Walt’s labor for all of our “plans”.  Trip to the store, ha!  Time and need for all the ice chips we made, all the relaxation techniques we practiced, nope!  Despite the rushing and craziness, I felt more in control this time and more comfortable with everything happening with my body.  I had been there before and while it was very uncomfortable and painful at times, I knew what was coming, I knew it wouldn’t last forever and I knew our baby would come soon (well didn’t know that soon!).  While I did have thoughts of questioning if I could make it, I knew I could and I did truly believe that this time.  Even though Walt’s head was coming and the midwives weren’t there yet I didn’t feel panicked or frightened or worried, it all felt natural and my body was just doing it’s thing.  I also did say on top of drinking water even during the craziness.  For any future births the main thing I would do different would be fill the birthing tub in advance.  I would still probably make plans for the long haul, just in case but will be ready for a sprint.  Apparently I can have labors very different from one another so I will be ready to go with the flow and prepared for anything!

Stay tuned for “Daddy’s Story” of Walter’s Birth…

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Fun, Family News for Christmas

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone.  I just love the holiday season!  We have been listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas shows, cut down a Christmas Tree, put up Christmas lights, made a gingerbread house (cake house as Jack calls it), and of course Christmas cookies!  I hope you have been enjoying the season as much as our family!  Some of you may already know, as I am a little behind in posting our exciting news, but the Prenger Family is expecting our second baby in early April.  I’m about 6 months now.  We are anticipating with excitement our new arrival!  You also may have noticed I took a several month break from blogging.  The hiatus was in part due to me working extra hours for 8 weeks, filling in for a local chiropractor who had 2 surgeries this summer.  Also contributing was the fact that the early months of this pregnancy I was really sick and nauseous 24/7, much more so than my pregnancy with Jack.

A comparison of my pregnancy’s so far: I made a nifty chart on my mac and it would not transfer to wordpress without wacky format (frustration!) so here’s the info anyway.

Pregnancy 1: Strong smells were noticed, a little nauseous between meals, didn’t mind cooking, diaper/potty changing – N/A, no cravings, food aversion was garlic, no weird habits, fatigue for 1 week very early, nausea lasted week 7-20.

Pregnancy 2: Strong smells = sick, between meals = sick, changing diaper/potty = sick, cooking = sick, cravings are random, I see or hear something then have to have it.  Lately it has been cereal (which I never buy) and oranges.  Aversions were random and changing early, none as of lately, fatigue was extreme for first trimester, extreme sickness lasted week 5-14, mild for a few weeks after that and rare now.  Oh, and my weird habit, spitting (see below for details).

On the spitting topic, yes, so weird and annoying!  Early in the pregnancy I felt like I was making a ton of saliva and swallowing it made me sick (of course).  I did read that I’m not alone and it is something many pregnant women experience.  I had to carry around what Greg called my “spitter”, a bottle or cup.  I had one in my purse, car, every room in the house!  Yes it is comical (and a bit embarrassing when in public but I had to do it, HAD TO!) and Greg throughly enjoyed teasing about my new habit.  Well, not really a habit but a necessity.   Fortunately the spitting has passed.  I was not very good at managing the sickness.  I did try not to eat large meals, but didn’t do a good job of bringing snacks with me at work and when I was out.  Partly due to extreme fatigue and chaotic work schedule, needing to get Jack and the house ready for family members who watched him, taking him to relatives houses ect. while I was working extra shifts.  And partly because not many foods sounded appealing to me.  When I did bring a snack it seemed to help but I also felt like I was eating non-stop and I just couldn’t eat that often, comfortably, even if it was small snacks/meals.  I did make some pregnancy tea which seemed to help a bit.  I’m not crazy about the flavor but I forced it down to help muffle the sickness.

Pregnancy Tea from CHOICE

Red Raspberry Leaf

Nettle Leaf

Passion Flower



Add a handful to hot water in a mason jar.  Let sit (longer the stronger and more beneficial).  I usually let it sit overnight.  Then strain and either re-heat or chill (my choice) and enjoy (or force down).  It isn’t all that bad, I’m just not a big tea person unless it’s really fruity or mild,  I am trying to be though

What do you do for nausea during pregnancy?  Was it challenging for you as well?  Any tips?  Anything you swear by?  Please leave a comment!

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Should I Vaccinate My Child?

This is an important decision that you and your family have to make.  I hope to provide you with the tools and resources to make the best decision for your baby.  The goal of this presentation is to present both sides of this issue.  I know the issue of vaccination brings out some very strong feelings on both sides, and we’re going to try to look at the whole issue objectively.

The Case For Vaccines

The Centers for Disease Control is the government entity that oversees vaccination policy.  This group exists to protect the PUBLIC health and we need to look at their recommendations as a PUBLIC issue.  CDC policy exists to prevent epidemics.  The CDC is not some government agency that is conspiring with the drug companies to make money, even though there are some connections between those making policy at the CDC and the drug companies that are, in my opinion, potentially inappropriate.  So, lets look at the public issue of vaccinations.

In years before vaccination programs diseases spread rapidly and severely injured or even killed large numbers of innocent children.  Diseases like polio were uncontrolled and did great harm to American children.  Since the introduction of vaccination there are rarely, if ever, widespread epidemics in the US.  It cannot be denied that vaccines have saved the lives of children.

Vaccinations create a “herd immunity” to diseases.  The best example of this is the case of rabies.  At one time over 50% of all rabies cases in the United States were caused by dog bites.  Today, because of a vaccine program that is mandated for dog’s rabies is NEVER spread through dog bites.  In fact there has not been a case of rabies spread by a dog bite in the US in over 20 years!  Countries that do not vaccinate their dogs for rabies continue to see similar rates of rabies infection by dog bites.  The vaccination program in the US has created a “herd immunity”, meaning that the dogs in this country are not susceptible to the disease anymore (so long as they are vaccinated).  This shows that a well designed vaccine program does work on a public health scale.

The CDC has large amounts of data that suggest the overall safety of vaccinations.  They contend that “vaccines offer protection without disease”.  Research shows that there are very few injuries caused directly by childhood vaccinations.  The program has worked so well in fact that in late 1980’s and early 1990’s it was significantly expanded.  In the early 1980’s children were vaccinated against 4 diseases, now by the age of 2 kids are vaccinated against  11 diseases with sometimes over 20 vaccinations.  These vaccinations have made diseases like chickenpox almost unheard of today.  In fact, I know a child who got chickenpox naturally and because of dehydration had to go to the hospital with it.  The parents said every intern was brought in to see this rare disease!

We have vaccination policies to thank today for the near elimination of polio, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rabies.  And there have been few injuries to children along the way.

The Case Against Vaccines.

Earlier we stated that CDC makes policy that is good for the PUBLIC as a whole and not necessarily the individual.  There are some alarming statistics that have come about since the expansion of the vaccine schedule.

“For the first time in history, U.S. [and Canadian] children are sicker than the generation before them. They’re not just a little worse off, they are precipitously worse off physically, emotionally, educationally and developmentally. The statistics have been repeated so often, they are almost boring.

Obesity affects nearly a fifth of children, triple the prevalence in 1980. Juvenile diabetes is up 104% since 1980. Autism, once regarded as having a purely genetic etiology, increased more than a thousandfold in less than a generation. The incidence of asthma is up nearly 75%. Life-threatening food allergies doubled in the past decade. The prevalence of allergies increased nearly sixfold. Almost one in 10 children—between four and five million kids—have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder. Nutrient deficiencies, not seen for decades in U.S. children, are prevalent again, or still persisting.” Source: Why Do Pediatricians Deny The Obvious? By Judy Converse, MPH, RD, LD)

There are 2 arguments against vaccines that need to be addressed.

First, the thimerosal/mercury debate.  Between 1988 and 1992 children were given large amounts not only of vaccine, but also of a preservative called thimerosal, which contains mercury.  These children received much larger dose of mercury from their vaccines than the FDA considers safe.  Today their parents believe this caused this generation of kids to have higher rates of autism.  While this is a very hotly debated issue, we have to note that the rate of autism is much higher in recent years.  The CDC states that studies have shown that there is probably no greater incidence of autism in children given vaccines with mercury compared with those who didn’t get the mercury.  But there is a MUCH higher incidence of autism today compared with before the additions of the new vaccinations to the schedule.  Additionally, the CDC has removed thimerosal from most vaccinations given to children (except the flu vaccine and DPaT, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, and Meningitis).  So, the real issue surrounding this is whether the parents of children who were vaccinated between 1988 and 1992 should be compensated for the damages their children may or may not have suffered.  Since there is so much money at stake this will continue to be a hot debate for years to come, but the lower levels of mercury in current vaccines mean that children today have a lesser risk of suffering from the problems of 1988 – 1992.  However, I still hate the idea of any level of mercury being intentionally put into a child and the vaccines that contain it should be used with caution.  A few additional ingredients found in current vaccinations, according to the CDC, that you may want to know about include   formaldehyde, MSG, Aluminum, chick skin, chick kidney cells, chicken embryo, mouse brain culture (yes you did read that correctly).

The second, and I think more important argument against vaccines is the way vaccines stimulate the immune system and the effect that has on allergy and auto immune conditions.  To explain this argument we need to first explain how your immune system works.  This is the most current information on immunity.   In fact basic medical texts still do not contain this explanation of the immune system.  Just 3 years ago the text we used in chiropractic school (a standard in health care texts) made NO mention of this.  So, the explanation you get for how vaccines work is usually over simplified, not because the nurses and pediatricians are trying to patronize you, but actually because they may not know this information.  What they know and have probably told you is this:  “A small amount of a dead, or weakened virus or toxin is injected into the body.  The body develops antibodies and remembers how to create those antibodies so when the real virus comes along you fight it off quickly and never show signs of the disease.”  The immune system is a lot more complex than this leads us to believe.  There are two sides to your immune system:  one side makes antibodies in the blood and kills germs while the other causes symptoms that help the body eliminate the germs on a larger scale.  The in the blood side is referred to as humoral immunity or Th2 immunity while the rest of the body’s immune response, specifically the lymphatics, thymus gland and spleen is called cell mediated or Th1 immunity.  For simplicity’s sake I’m only going to use the Th1 and Th2 names.  Th2 causes a large inflammatory reaction throughout your body while Th1 causes fever, vomiting, rashes, etc.  What vaccines do is exactly what the health department or pediatrician told you.  They stimulate the Th2 system to learn to make antibodies and cause a massive inflammatory reaction when the virus is encountered later.  The Th1 system is activated very little or not at all by vaccines.  We know this because you don’t have symptoms when you get a shot.  If you got a disease naturally both sides of the system would be used to kill the invader and a sort of balance would be maintained.  What is really interesting about this is that some people seem to be more Th1 dominant or Th2 dominant, meaning some people show very few symptoms of a disease, while others show all the symptoms when they get sick.  Since vaccines stimulate only a Th2 response, children who receive many vaccines, or many vaccines all at once tend to move to a more Th2 dominant state, making them more likely to experience large inflammatory reactions when exposed to outside stimuli like germs or even pollen and other allergens.  They are also more likely to suffer from auto-immune conditions.  Basically, Th2 dominant people have more problems with asthma and allergies and auto-immune diseases than Th1 dominant people and we are training our children’s immune systems with vaccines to be Th2 dominant.  Vaccines won’t cause problems in children who are more Th1 dominant, but if you start out Th2 dominant and then train your body to become more Th2 dominant you could be heading down an unhealthy road.  Since CDC policy is about PUBLIC health, these are not concerns for the CDC.

The last thing I want to close with on the anti-vaccine side is the role of CDC.  Remember the dog example and how wonderful it is to have no rabies?  And it is wonderful for us to not have rabies in our society, but that vaccine is not completely safe either.  Some dogs do have adverse side effects and even die from it.  There was actually a case of this here in Columbus not long ago when the humane society did a vaccine clinic.  It was all over the news because the humane society didn’t inform the owner of the risks before administering the vaccine and the dog died.  So, while rabies vaccine policy is good for the whole, it isn’t necessarily good for each individual part of the whole and it certainly wasn’t good for that dog or its owner.  The same is true for human vaccine policy.  There is some risk and the CDCs concern is not about how many kids today have allergies and auto-immune diseases, but rather how to control the PUBLIC spread of infectious disease.  So you need to make the right decision for your child and consider everything and not just follow the CDC guidelines blindly.

So, I hope this was somewhat balanced.  I know I can’t be completely objective, especially since the anti-vaccine side is always so poorly displayed as ignorant by the media and the medical community.  There are strong arguments both for and against vaccines and the best thing for us to do as parents is consider everything before vaccinating.  Your living environment is extremely important in your decision.  For the record, Jack has not been vaccinated at this point.  He may be vaccinated when his immune system has developed further, but probably not with all of the vaccines available.  We considered this.  We live in non-densely populated area where disease spread is slow, he was not taken out a lot when he was very little and he was and still is breastfed to maintain immunity through breast milk and eats a very healthy diet and has no nutritional deficiencies.  All of these factors contributed to our decision and I think we should all consider our individual situation before making this decision.


Great Article:  “How vaccinations work”  by Philip F. Inco, M.D.

National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC): where you can report a vaccine reaction, harassment.  Also look for the downloadable pdf flyer to help you determine the signs and symptoms of a vaccine reaction.

CDC’s Vaccination page:

CDC’s Vaccination ingredients:

CDC’s Immunization Schedule:

CDC’s school immunization requirements by state and school grade, also exemptions allowed (p.38)

CDC Vaccination info statements:

Dr. Joseph Mercola’s Vaccination Information:

Think Twice Global Vaccine Institute – note the section on immunization laws to help parents separate facts from fiction.

Canadian-based Vaccination Risk Awareness Network (VRAN) provides in-depth information on vaccine risk’s and side effects.

Great blog article by Dr. Dolly Garnecki, DC

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Jack’s Birth Story

Jack has now been in this world for 18 months and I would like to go back to the day he entered this world and document his birth story.  It is a bit lengthily, it was hard to cut out any detail.  I wanted to document the entire story, unrated, and not softening anything.  I just want to give all of you expecting moms a head’s up… My experience was not a walk in the park.  I definitely made some mistakes along the way and hope to learn from then next time.  However I do not regret for a second my choice for a home birth and I would recommend it to any healthy woman out there.

It was the 2nd weekend in February 2008.  My dad, who is a salesman for Riddell was staying at our home because he had a conference in Columbus that weekend.  He spent the night Thursday, Feb. 7th.  We joked that we might have to kick him out if I went into labor!  We had planned a home birth with the midwives, Greg, and I present.  We wanted it to be personal without spectators, even family.  I was now a week past my “due date” and very impatient.  I was walking the mall daily and adding cayenne pepper to every meal for the past 3 weeks, hoping the old wives tale of spicy food would trigger labor.  I don’t think it worked.  However, on Thursday evening, when my dad arrived, I started to notice what felt like Braxton hicks contractions again, a rhythmic wave of tightening around my belly, not painful or uncomfortable.  Occasionally I checked my watch.  They came and went very irregularly.  I figured after a few hours they would stop again like every other false alarm of Braxton hicks I’d experienced.  I watched some TV with Greg and my dad then we headed to bed.  Throughout the night I woke up multiple times as and the contractions had continued, not showing any signs of regularity or rising intensity.  I thought this might be different.  No other Braxton Hicks lasted this long but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  I think I did tell Greg at one point that this could be early labor – but then again, I often told him that, just to turn around a few hours later and say “just kidding”.

I woke at 7am and went to the bathroom and noticed a small amount of blood.  I was secretly excited, hopeful, and nervous, but didn’t want to get my hopes up quite yet.  I said bye to my dad as he left for his conference, not mentioning the likely pending labor.  I didn’t want to distract him from his conference if it was going to be a false alarm.  I went back up stairs and told Greg.  Fortunately he had that Friday off work.  He was very excited.  We waited another hour or two and when the contractions still hadn’t let up, we called Abby, one of our midwives.  She said it sounded like it was the real deal.  She said to note if the contractions became more consistent and stronger and to give her an update by 11am.  She also called our other midwife, Kelley, and apprentice midwife Jill to give them the heads up.  Abby said we should rest up and go about our morning without getting too excited or spending too much energy.  Well we couldn’t help but be a little excited, and nervous too.

Now recognizing I was in labor and we hadn’t taken 9 month pregnancy photos yet which was something I really wanted to do.  So I grabbed the camera and Greg took some shots.  We took some in our bedroom by the window and in the baby room.  I made Greg pose for a few, which was a bit comical, but he did it.  We took some together using the timer on our camera.  You can see in the photos when I’m in a contraction because my belly sticks out like a bicep on steroids.  (I posted some of these photos on the previous posting).  Contractions still were not painful, they were just there.  Greg and I then watched some TV and relaxed on the couch.  I called Abby back at 11am and told her the timing of the contractions, still not very consistent, and not really increasing in strength, but not letting up either.  Abby suggested we go for a walk and continue monitoring everything.  She instructed us to call when it began to feel uncomfortable and when I felt like just lying down or if my water broke.  We then called some of our family including my dad.  He later told me he told all the High School coaches he met that day that he was going to be a first time grandpa, including Guest speaker, Jim Tressel!  Dad never holds back!  So far labor was a piece of cake.  I could feel the tightening in my belly but it wasn’t painful.

We decided to take her up on the suggestion of going for a walk.  Being that it was February, we drove to Meijer and walked a few laps around the store.  I could feel the contractions strengthening a bit so we headed home to relax and get lunch/dinner.  It was around 3pm but we were hungry.  We had purchased several “labor” snacks such as grapes, other fruits, nuts, veggies, vitamin water, and of course ice chips.  But we didn’t have any meals ready so decided to have a celebratory “last super” and settled on California Pizza Kitchen take out.  This is where some of my bad choices began that evening.  I don’t know what I was thinking getting a pizza while in labor.  My favorite veggie pizza from CPK just sounded so good at the time and Greg will never turn down pizza.  As Greg came back with our meal my contractions were strengthening further and finally becoming more consistent but still 4-5 min. apart.

I called Abby again after finishing the pizza around 4pm because I was becoming uncomfortable, not painful though.  The cats were still out and about.  Maddie could definitely tell something was up.  She was lying on the couch behind me and followed me around if I got up.  I had been drinking a little water but not as much as I should.  I figured I could drink more as I needed it, as labor progressed.  Abby arrived around 5pm.  She asked several questions then check me and the baby.  She said I was about 4-5 centimeters.  I thought, well that’s good; I guess something is working, but still a way’s to go.  Abby called Kelly and Jill and they were now on their way over.  The discomfort was persisting so I decided to try out the birthing tub we rented.  Greg filled it up and when it was warm enough for the baby I stepped in.  I loved the tub!  It was so relaxing and the discomfort definitely decreased with the warm water around my belly.  I thought all women should have access to a warm birthing tub for their labor.  We also played some card games while waiting through the labor.  After a bit, the intensity was increasing further so cards were done and I was just trying to relax.  Greg suggested popping in the movie he picked out.  While making preparations for labor, Greg suggested buying a funny movie for during labor.  He said a funny movie always makes him feel better.  I wasn’t crazy about the idea but decided to go along with it.  So we poped in Greg’s movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”.  A little into the movie I asked to turn it off and put in relaxing music and focus on relaxation and some of the techniques we learned in our hypno birthing classes.  As the evening progressed I was beginning to feel some pain, but it was tolerable, and the tub helped tremendously.  I also began to feel a little nauseous so I did not drink much water or eat the snacks we prepared.  I did have a few ice chips.  It was now 10 pm.  Up until this point labor was a synch, the tub was great, relaxation techniques worked, the soft music was calming and the tub was wonderful.

However I would say 10pm was definitely the turning point.  Funny that later my dad told me he drove by our place around 10pm after his conference to make sure he didn’t see an ambulance!  I think that was a little overkill but I was his little girl.  For me, things began to go downhill at this time and I primarily blame dehydration.  Pain levels were increasing; I thought I must be at 10cm by now!  At this point even the warm tub did not relive my discomfort.   I continued to rejected water and was becoming dehydrated.  I spent some time out of the tub which felt better for a little while but nothing was comfortable anymore.  I was ready for labor to be over and my baby to arrive.  I told the midwives I didn’t feel well and wanted to start pushing.  Earlier in the afternoon, Abby said I would know when I felt the urge to push and at this moment I think I decided this must be it because I was uncomfortable and wanted it to all be over so I convinced myself this was “the urge to push”.  Abby checked me and said I was nearly 10 cm but not quite.  I got back in and out of the tub for the next hour.  At that point I asked again to push.  The midwives said ok and I had a go at it.  It felt like nothing was happening.  I was exerting so much effort, I gave it everything I had and was disappointed.  I think I expected I’d push a few times and the baby would slip out and that would be it.  My mom said all three of her labors were short, pushing fast and it was all a pleasant experience. She also had a natural birth with no medications.  I guess I did not inherit the smooth labor.

It was definitely painful at this point and the dehydration was clouding my mind.  I continued pushing and pushing and after sometime we all decided I needed the help of gravity.  The tub was not making things more comfortable anymore so I decided to try pushing out of the water with the help of gravity.  I had always imagined having my baby birthed in the comfort of the warm bath but at this point I just wanted the baby out.  I tried on the bed and on the birthing stool.  Throughout this time I was checked regularly and it was decided that the baby was stuck, behind my pelvic bones.  I also continued to turn down water.  I was beginning to think there would never be an end to my pushing, it was all in vein.  An hour had gone by, then 2.  I thought it would be nice to have our baby on a nice even numbered day, Feb. 8 sounded good and the sooner the better, but midnight quickly passed and then 1am.  I continued pushing, spending all of my energy and feeling like no progress was being made.  Eventually Abby, Kelley, and Jill noted that the baby was moving through the birth canal and was no longer stuck.  I thought for sure now the baby would ease out in another push or two…. Not the case.  After pushing for over 2 hours, which I was told was long but not unususal for a first timer, I thought this baby would never come.  I seriously, truly, believed my baby would be stuck in me forever, never coming out.  Dehydration was definitely affecting my mind.  Greg was starting to freak out.  I kept asking him to help me, help this baby get out.  He hadn’t seen me in this state before, feeling compeltly helpless.  Thoughout this process Abby, Kelley, and Jill continued to encourage me and were supportive.  I asked to go to the hospital, I asked for drugs, I asked to have this baby cut out of me, I didn’t care what happened at this point, I wanted it all to be over.  Greg felt really helpless and scared because of the way I was acting.  I was pretty serious at one point about quitting and going to the hospital.  However in reality I DID care and Greg, Abby, Kelley, and Jill all knew this and encouraged me that I was progressing and it wouldn’t be too much longer.  I did think it out and couldn’t imagine at that point how I could possibly get myself into a car and to a hospital, that seemed utterly impossible.  Abby also said there was nothing the hospital would give me at that point, being as far as I was (although I didn’t believe I was that close to the end) and I truly did not want that, I wanted no regrets.  In reality, the baby and I were healthy outside of my dehydration.  Jill then received a phone call that another of her clients went into labor and she was the doula for that mom-to-be so she had to leave.  She didn’t want to go with me so close to the end but she had to.  I still had Abby and Kelly there.  One of them suggested Greg find a mirror so I could see the baby’s head, and they guided my hand to feel the head.  For a second I thought maybe I was progressing but then I went back to my dehydrated misconception state of mind and thought, no, this baby is in me permanently!  I pushed and pushed and my eyes didn’t see the head coming any closer, even though it was.  In that last hour I definitely realized what the urge to push meant!  I couldn’t even control it; my body was pushing without me even thinking.  As the head was coming closer Kelley monitored the baby’s heart rate every minuite.  Before that it was every 15 minutes.  Kelley said it was time, I needed to step it up further and get the baby out.  The head was deep in the birth canal for too long and it needed to be out.  I thought “are you crazy, I have stepped it up this entire 2 hour and 30 min. of pushing, how can I give any more!  I continued to push with all my might, still thinking this baby will seriously never show its face and then, all the sudden someone said the head is out.  I thought, “ya right, you’re lying to me, this baby is not ever coming!”.  I looked down and saw the head but still, I was sure they were lying, I was just imaging the head, it wasn’t real.  Then a second later I felt the whole body flop out and I could not believe it.  It was a miracle!  I seriously thought I would never meet this baby.  It was an ENORMOUS sigh of relief.  They handed me the baby with Greg my by side we just relished the moment.  I was beyond exhausted mentally and physically, and in disbelief that it was all over.

Kelley asked if it was a boy or girl?  We didn’t pay attention at first but then noticed we had a baby boy! Baby Jack Joseph Prenger.  He wasn’t crying when he was born so Kelley was tapping on his feet trying to get him to make a sound (he was obviously breathing fine) and he then let out a cry.  His skin was slightly purple when he first arrived but quickly pinkened up.  Kelley said the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, but loosely.  She cut the cord and was the one to catch Jack along with Abby as he was born.  We planned Greg to catch but he was unable because I was leaning against him as he held me up during the delivery.  Then Abby said I needed to push again to get the placenta out.  I thought “this is ridiculous; you can’t seriously ask me to do this again.”  But she was serious and business like so I listened, and luckily one easy push and that was done.  Abby and Kelley checked Jack and I to make sure everyone was healthy then they gave our new family some quiet bonding time.

Greg and I relaxed on the couch with our new baby just cuddling him and watching him.  We also decided we’d never have kids again after that ordeal.  (Obviously, I was still severely dehydrated and our minds clouded by our intense labor).  I let Jack explore if he was hungry but he didn’t see interested in latching on quite yet.  Abby said not to worry, that he will.  After about 45 min. they came back to check on us and helped me to the shower.  My body was shaking but Abby said that was normal, after birth and also the muscle contractions helped control the blood loss.  It was a little difficult walking up the stairs to the shower but I can’t tell you how good it felt to take a shower in our own home. It felt so surreal that it was all over and the shower felt amazing.   The midwives cleaned up the birthing area while I showered.  After showering I joined Jack and Greg in our bed.  Kelley weighted and measured Jack and did a few additional checks on him.  He was 9 lb 8 oz and 21.5 inches.  I couldn’t believe the weight.  I was only 6 lb 1oz so I was sure I’d have a small or even average baby.  I thought no wonder it was a challenge!  Jack then, relaxed and comforted, latched on easily for a recovery meal.  Abby and Kelley then left and our new family had a much needed and deserved sleep.


Now, 18 months later, reflecting back on the birth, I realize several things I would do differently.  The biggest is to stay hydrated, and especially load up on water the second I realize I’m in labor and throughout early labor and as much as possible during labor even if I feel nauseous.  I would also try more ice chips.  I think the dehydration definitely clouded my thinking and fatigued my muscles, putting me at a disadvantage.  Next time I would choose a lighter, healthier, and milder pre-labor meal.  I would utilize our birthing relaxation techniques much more.  I felt like we hardly used the tools we had and I would take that part more seriously.  Next time I will have known the feeling of “the urge to push”.  I feel like I may have tried to push too soon, before my body was ready and therefore tired myself out.  I might not watch a movie or play cards but just rest quietly.  Abby also suggested I walk around more in earlier labor to let gravity help bring the baby down.  Things I would do the same:  I will definitely use CHOICE midwives again!  I loved my experience with them and thought they were great and fit Greg and my philosophy and comfort and desires perfectly.  I would definitely do a home birth and utilize the birthing tub as much as possible.  I loved that I didn’t have to get in a car and drive to a bright, unfamiliar, noisy hospital with people telling me what to do.  I loved that I could shower in my shower and sleep in my bed.  I would again choose a small crowd of Greg, the midwives and maybe Jack, not sure on that one yet.  We will have more children in the future, despite our initial feelings after the labor, but not any time soon.  I hope you enjoyed my story, real, bare bones, and not sugar coated, and I hope I didn’t scare anyone.  I loved my homebirth experience, despite the challenges I faced.

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