The Lazy Mom's Guide to VBAC

As Parent Proof’s tens of loyal readers may recall from my riveting birth story, my first child was born via emergency C-section due to extreme decelerations of his heart rate during a slow-to-progress labor. After I was stitched up and stapled shut and drugged out and returned to my postpartum room to groggily process the both prolonged and sudden arrival of my son, I had two successive thoughts: 1) What the F just happened? And, 2) I’m pretty sure I never want to do that again.

So began my journey to the birth of my second child via VBAC, which stands for “vaginal birth after Cesarian.” VBAC is one of the many topics that has swung on the pendulum of pregnancy advice from one extreme to the other and back again over the past three decades, and thus the mere mention of a VBAC gives total strangers the right to maintain very strong opinions about your uterus.

The primary controversy surrounding a VBAC is that it carries a small risk (about 1% according to the NIH) (and here is the actual NIH publication in case you are super thorough like that) that the uterus will tear along the previous C-section scar during labor or delivery, putting the mother at risk for serious blood loss and the baby at risk for heading out the wrong exit and suffering from oxygen deprivation and even death (risk of death is <0.5%). It all sounds pretty cataclysmic, thus raising the question as to why any woman would bother just for the sake of a vaginal birth that will probably result in a lifetime of peeing herself a little bit every time she sneezes. It turns out that a pregnant woman has at least a 1% chance of encountering any serious complication associated with childbirth. Having a baby is a dangerous business, but a catastrophic uterine tear that results in harm to the baby is one of the least likely selections in the grab-bag of scary shit that can go wrong. Major complications during a planned repeat C-section are also rare, and in my opinion, a woman should have a VBAC if she wants one, and she should have a repeat C-section if she wants one, and the Shrill Harpies of the Internet should keep the focus on their own vaginas and worry less about everyone else’s.

The NIH data on VBACs cited above is relatively new, and the medical profession is second only to the Republican party in the speed with which it adapts to updated scientific information, thus for those of us who want a VBAC, it can still be a bit of an uphill battle. I did my research and studied all of the advice Google had to offer, yet in the end I basically did everything wrong and managed to have a successful VBAC anyway. Just in case someone else out there is interested in having a VBAC but is also too lazy to be truly proactive about it, I thought I would share all of the ways you can screw things up and still end up pushing a baby out of your vagina like you’ve always dreamed.

 Tips for Having a VBAC that I Totally Ignored And Still Had a VBAC

  • Find a Supportive Healthcare Provider: I was at my 6-week postpartum appointment after my C-section when I first mentioned to my OB that I might want to try for a VBAC if I ever got pregnant again. Her initial response was: “There’s no easy way to get a baby out. You either ruin your vagina or you ruin your belly, and you’ve already ruined your belly.” I’m surprised they don’t have that embroidered on a pillow in the waiting room. Given the internet’s absolute insistence that I find a pro-VBAC provider regardless of whether that person is a physician or a large animal vet, I should probably have spent the early weeks of my second pregnancy interviewing new doctors. However, I felt like my obsession with having a VBAC needed some counter-balance from someone whose primary interest was not so much in fulfilling my notions of maternal empowerment but rather in getting me and my child through humankind’s most arduous natural transition as safely as possible, so I stuck with my OB despite her penchant for describing childbirth like a scene from a George RR Martin series.
  • Choose a VBAC-Friendly Hospital or Birth Center: The hospital where I delivered both babies (and where my brothers and I were born) has about a 33% C-section rate, so it probably wouldn’t fit ICAN’s criteria for “VBAC-friendly.” However, given my love for in-room food delivery and hydrocodone, there was no way I was having this baby at home, and the most popular midwife group in my area only has privileges at a local medical center known primarily for its willingness to overlook mandatory reporting for gun-shot wounds, so once again I decided to go with the devil I knew.
  • Hire a Doula: Extreme pain makes me act like a rabid wolverine caught in a bear trap—there is no amount of money I could pay a stranger to put up with that.

  • Have an Unmedicated Birth: I’m pretty sure I would be divorced and in prison if I had attempted an unmedicated birth. My doctor told me that she strongly preferred that I get the epidural in case I did have a uterine tear and needed to get to surgery immediately, and I was all, "don’t throw me in that briar patch, how soon can I get the needle?" My labors are long and my uterus has a flare for the dramatic—it likes to act like it’s going to expel the baby on the bathroom floor from the first contraction, while my cervix forgets to set its alarm and oversleeps the whole affair by 10 to 12 hours. By the time I get to 4 centimeters, I’m ready for a cocktail, as is everyone else on the L&D floor.

  • Deliver by Your Due Date: This seemed like a no-brainer. My son was born 9 days early, surely all future babies would follow suit. But my daughter, due on December 25th, did not want to compete with Santa and Jesus for her entire childhood, nor did she feel that she should be in any big hurry just for a single extra tax deduction given the years of being a financial suck she has ahead of her, and so she took her time, arriving on January 4th, a mere 10 days past the VBAC deadline. But it turns out my super medical-model doctor wasn’t a complete head-case about a late-term baby, or maybe she was just moved by my strength and resolve and also by the fact that she was on vacation from Christmas to New Year’s. Whatever the reason, baby girl made her way into the world in her own time, in just the way she was always meant to.

In truth, while neither my OB practice nor hospital are public cheerleaders for VBACs, both ended up being supportive of my birth plan, which made a huge difference once labor had actually started, particularly at the point when I was attempting to book an OR by myself because I was tired of this “contraction” crap.

The only thing I did on my own that I believe made a difference this time around was read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. I read it twice, once in the first trimester and once in the third, and I even took a few notes. Despite having zero interest in having an orgasmic natural birth on a farm, the book still helped me prepare for the pain of labor and develop a few techniques that allowed me to physically and emotionally relax more than I was able to during my first birth experience. Overall I felt more prepared and less anxious, and I believe that made a huge difference in my body’s ability to do what it needed to do.

In the end, having enjoyed both types of delivery, I can honestly say that my doctor was right: there’s no easy way to have a baby. The C-section was harder in some ways, the VBAC was harder in others, and each gave me a beautiful, healthy child to embarrass with his and her own unique birth story for many years to come. Now excuse me while I go grab a Poise pad before I sneeze.

Written by: Kathleen



The Art of War: Tips on Toddler Discipline

Hahahahahahaha! The secret to disciplining a toddler is kept in the same place as the cure for the common cold and that sock you're missing. I hope you didn’t open today’s blog post hoping to find the oracle of knowledge on how to create the perfect toddler. If this post does anything for you, it will let you know that you are not alone in this crazy, toddler-run world. Trying to build a foundation of respect and obedience with a child between the ages of 2 and 22 is like trying to understand why people support Donald Trump running for president—it will drive you to drink and possibly move to Canada.

The toddler years are made especially hard by the crucial milestones that must be achieved, putting pressure on all parties involved. Potty training is one of the messiest and most arduous of these. How do you explain to a 2 year old that it makes more sense to go to the bathroom than it does to continue playing, uninterrupted, until someone else literally cleans up your sh*t? Not a convincing agenda. In short, this is the only advice I can attempt to dole out while I am in the midst of trying to stay afloat myself:

  • Pick Your Battles: This is easier said than done, but I have found that repeatedly screaming "no" or "stop it" just lands you talking to yourself all day and desensitizes your kid to those words. For example, I allow my toddler to eat a stolen apple in the grocery store in exchange for her sitting quietly in the buggy while we shop. In my defense, Whole Foods does allow your kid an apple while you shop . . . or at least mine has let us get away with it thus far. My guess about the long term effects of this behavior is that she will always get hungry upon entering the grocery store, so worst case is that I'm simply creating a very polite over-shopper.
  • Be Consistent: I feel like I am living in the movie “Ground Hog Day,” except my mistakes are not erased at the end of each day but the lessons I have tried to bestow on my offspring are completely forgotten. Your kid has an uncanny ability to completely delete any of the guiding principles that you so carefully laid out for them the day before. Explaining why we don’t throw food at the table or put peanut butter in the dog’s hair feels like a total waste of energy.  After the 500th time asking my daughter not to put toys in the toilet, I had to ask myself, "are we teaching them or are they teaching us"? Did she really learn not to put peanut butter in the dog’s hair or did I simply learn to put the peanut butter on a higher shelf? Probably a bit of both. After 10,000 hours of this, one of us will be an expert at something.
  • Don't Show Your Weakness: The moment your toddler sees you looking overwhelmed, they will rip your heart out with a spoon. Do your best to keep it together and save your break downs for your showers. The only thing worse than an irrational toddler meltdown is an adult joining them. Stock your wine cabinet and power through as best you can for the next 36-48 months. This too shall pass.
  • Don't Get Divorced: Just as hard as it is trying to figure out whether the kid's behavior calls for a time out, a suspension of all activities, or a deep sigh with a look of disappointment, is making sure that you and the person currently assigned to co-parent (husband, wife, aunt, uncle, Whole Foods check-out lady, etc) are on the same page about which disciplinary action should be taken at any given time. This dance can get downright dirty and turn into a scene out of The Clockwork Orange. Before you decide that you would rather be a single parent, remember that your teammate is just trying to figure out how to survive as well.

In closing, I leave you with this quote: “Remember, the race is long and your toddler has more energy and a greater ability to act irrationally in almost every situation that will challenge and degrade your sanity at every turn.” In other words, we’re screwed.

Written by: Alice

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The Birds and the Bees Revisited

The moment you go from actively not trying to get pregnant to actively trying to get pregnant, your sex life changes. Often it’s not a single moment but a month or more of inactively not trying, the birth control equivalent of slowly stepping into a freezing cold swimming pool rather than closing your eyes and jumping. You pull the goalie then forget to invite the other team to play. Or the other team is so freaked out they don’t even try to score. Or they do try to score but don’t, and then you start to wonder if there’s something wrong with the other team, if they’re too old or too stressed out or smoked too much pot in college. That’s when you go from dipping your toes in the water to doing a running cannonball off the diving board—Geronimo, kids, it’s time to get busy.

Unfortunately, despite what the Lifetime Movie Network and your high school guidance counselor want you to believe, making a baby is not as easy as a six-pack of Zima and a rec room couch. I went to a progressive school that prided itself on a liberal and comprehensive sex education curriculum. I remember writing anonymous questions about boobs and periods in fifth grade, a particularly horrific slide show about STDs in seventh grade, and a series of heated arguments throughout high school about whether legalizing prostitution would empower or oppress women. At the age of 32, when my husband and I decided to close our eyes and jump into the baby-making pool, I could argue the constitutionality of abortion, gay marriage, and pornography. I knew how HIV was transmitted on a molecular level. I could recite statistics on the risks associated with advanced maternal age as they related to miscarriage, infertility, and chromosomal abnormalities. But I didn’t truly understand that I could only get pregnant on four, maybe five days of the month, and probably fewer, because I was a maternal dinosaur and my husband smoked a lot of pot in college.

That’s the annoying truth of it. While it seems like every teenager on reality TV can get pregnant 26 days a month, and you swear your best friend occasionally gets knocked up in the shower, you and your old “career oriented” eggs have only a 12- to 24-hour window to get fertilized after ovulation. Your husband’s boys may be able to survive longer, depending on whether your fallopian tubes resemble a mahogany-paneled man-cave with a built-in beer tap and 60-inch plasma television or a women’s studies class at Smith, but at most you have five days during which sex leads to baby. Five days is the best-case scenario, and let’s be honest ladies, at our age, we have to aim for the bull’s eye just to hit the target.

So if you’re done testing the water and you’re ready to dive in, don’t waste your energy shaving your legs the first day after your period ends. Start spritzing your fancy Versace perfume a few days before you think you’ll ovulate, and save date-night at your favorite martini bar for the day before. And if that night happens to coincide with a major sporting event or highly anticipated episode of The Walking Dead, you might as well throw on your yoga pants, open a bottle of pinot, and wait ‘til next month.

Written by: Kathleen

PS: If you've been doing cannonballs for several months and are starting to get antsy, or if you're just trying to be more precise in your baby-making so you don't end up with, say, a Christmas due date, I highly recommend www.fertilityfriend.com and the accompanying app for more comprehensive information and tools to maximize your chances of getting pregnant regardless of who dies in the next episode of Game of Thrones.

 

Are You Raising an Asshole?

If you haven’t gotten there yet, you will: that moment when you realize that you may have given birth to Rosemary’s baby. The first time your precious offspring starts acting like Kanye West, humiliating you in public, interrupting others and  wearing Gucci, you know you have trouble brewing. Now some of you might say it is offensive to call a young child an A-hole, but I think we all know that there is really no other term to describe their behavior. If they were adults, you would most certainly call them something you can’t say in front of your grandmother.

Here are a few clues that you might be raising an asshole. If your child has ever:

  • thrown a sizeable hard toy at your head
  • screamed “I hate you” at you in a public place
  • asked you “mommy, do you still have a baby in your tummy?”
  • squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste out on your counter
  •  painted your walls with her poop
  • shown up with a twin—while technically I know the child didn’t choose this, we all know it’s rude to bring a guest if the invitation didn’t specifically say plus one
  • woken up two hours early when you decide to have a few extra drinks the night before
  •  used your bedspread as a blank canvas for finger painting
  •  stiff bodied herself so you can’t get her in her car seat in front of a crowd of parents at school (tip: tickle her stomach so she’s forced to sandwich)
  •  grabbed items off the grocery store shelves as you cart by so that they break on the floor
  •  ran from you in public forcing you to look like you are abducting her

If you have experienced one or more of these things, or something worse, you are, in fact, raising an asshole. You are not alone. We have all either dealt with or are still dealing with the bi-polar antics of a youngster. The best we can all do is hope that the problem can correct itself once they become teenagers and we have the opportunity to be even bigger assholes back to them. Stay strong! Also, I can’t leave you without mentioning that we are not raising the very first generation of assholes and we should all take the time to call the people who dealt with our former A-hole selves and thank them for not kicking us at out of the house at 4 years old.

DISCLAIMER: For those “mature” parents, I am sure there is much worse coming down the pipe as our kids get older. Not there yet. Stay tuned. 

Written by: Alice

 Always let your little a-hole know you have the upper hand...

Always let your little a-hole know you have the upper hand...


The Art of a Meltdown

MELTDOWN [melt doun]: Describes what happens when a person freaks out, cracks, loses control of herself. Life - reality at large- becomes overwhelming. She just can't deal with it all. The person may act out, withdraw, become emotional, run, etc...

If you are lucky enough to have experienced one of these special moments with your child, then you either powered through with flying colors, gave in and bought your kid that life-sized inflatable elephant, OR you are currently trying to figure out how to transfer custody to your least favorite sibling. Whatever the means of coping, you deserve a pat on the back. For those of you who have not yet ventured into the world of floor tantrums, get ready! You may be wondering if your toddler screaming in the car seat because he is tired or your baby getting extra fussy around mealtime qualifies as a meltdown. They DO NOT!!! There is so much more to this special developmental milestone. Note, there are some “child specialists” that would suggest that there are ways to avoid tantrums all together. I’m calling B.S. on these claims. These “experts” have clearly never tried to go grocery shopping with a 2 year-old who has just discovered how good it feels to smash a bag of bread with her butt.

RECIPE FOR A MELTDOWN

2 parts child age 18 months to 18 years

1 part terrorist

1 part mother-in-law

1 part genetic crazy code (this varies depending on the parents’ crazy tendency)

optional: Public setting

SURVIVAL STRATEGY

Step 1: Do not look it (it=your offspring) directly in the eye.

Step 2: If in public, determine the fastest exit strategy—leave behind shopping carts, luggage, and loved ones if necessary.

Step 3: Once in the car or padded room, let the meltdown run its course.

Step 4: THE MOST CRUCIAL STEP: WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!!! You cannot, I repeat cannot do anything about the irrational way that your child is behaving. Once she is in the throws of a full meltdown, she has lost her ability to comprehend what anyone else is saying or doing.

Step 5: Minimize the casualties by clearing the area of any pets, other children, and sharp objects.

Step 6: Ignore and wait…

Step 7: …and wait.

Step 8: Once your little terrorist rejoins the human world, return to regularly scheduled programming.   

COMING SOON: "How to handle Daddy Meltdowns"

Written by: Alice 

Pump It Up

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Is that your nipple in a vacuum? The first thing to think about when considering which breast pump to get is that they all suck: both metaphorically and literally.  There isn’t a woman in the world that will tell you she loved pumping. It’s a means to an end and a necessary evil, unless you plan to go the formula or attachment parenting routes.

My device of pain: the Medela Freestyle Pump. Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing freeing about this pump. However, it does offer the efficiency of dual pumping, making it easier to open a bottle of wine while your nipples are being abused. A bonus to this particular pump is the compact “engine” that can be clipped onto your stretchy pants, allowing you to do housework, complete spreadsheets, sit in a restroom stall, and walk on the treadmill while expelling the liquid gold for your little one. If you are like me and will need to pump between board meetings and chats around the water cooler, then this model will definitely pay for itself. You can pump in a public restroom or in your office with ease. Further, if you are a stay-at-home mom who is looking to increase supply or readying your stash for going back to work, you can strap this baby on while ordering your significant other around.

Tips for Pumping at Work:

·      Take a cooler or freezer bag. I really liked the Playtex Freeze To-Go Tote. Just throw it in the freezer in the evenings and it is ready to go, and you can leave it at your desk during the day. This helps you avoid having to use the staff refrigerator and screaming at Bill for thinking he was funny for using your breast milk in his coffee. #thestruggleisreal

·      If your employer isn’t progressive enough to provide a pump space and you don’t have a private office, finding a space to relax can be a challenge. When I got a new job and lost the privacy of my own office, I pumped in a chair in a public women’s restroom with my nursing cover. It made for an interesting first day of work as I introduced myself to colleagues and even the board chair in the restroom and then sat silently while I listened to them pee. 

·      If you are working 40+ hours a week and pumping at least 3 times a day then you will likely experience a decrease in production. No matter how hard that pump pulls your nipple, it can not match your little one’s natural sucker—and your body knows it! Fear not, there are great formulas out there that you can use to supplement AND this does not mean that your child is more or less likely to throw your cat out of a window one day. It is a natural side effect to the demand on your body. NOTE: Avoid using bigger bottles for pumping unless you have the production of a dairy cow otherwise it will just make you feel like a failure.

Tips for Milk Storage:

·      If you are stockpiling, then the freezer bags are ideal.  Freeze in varying amounts as baby’s needs will change, and you don’t want to have to defrost an 8-ounce bag when you really only need 6 ounces, thus forcing your husband to drink a “mommy Russian”. *Frozen breast milk, much like raw meat, should ideally be consumed within 24 hours of defrost.

·      For daily storage, Medela offers ample solutions, including lids with dials to indicate the date of pump. These are helpful for working moms who are trying to stay one day ahead: Friday’s pump = Monday’s bottles. Get bottles in various sizes to accommodate for increasing needs.

When/How to Start Pumping:

·      Going back to work post-baby:

o   I suggest you start the practice of pumping 2 weeks postpartum.

o   Pump right after you’ve fed the baby. This will tell your body to increase supply and help to build your stash right away. This also works whether you are doing timed or demand-based feedings.

o   Use some of this stash to start introducing the bottle after the first month so that your babe will be well versed in bottle feeding by the time you are forced, after a quick 3-month maternity leave, to drop her off at daycare.

·      Staying at home with baby:

o   You can start as early as you want, but you likely won’t feel any real pressure to build a stash right away.

o   Do some intermittent pumping after the first month. This will allow you to build up a modest amount that can be pulled out of the freezer in the event that you get the flu or want to go see a movie.

o   For the more social mommy who wants to resume date nights and regular doctor’s visits, I suggest routinely pumping post-feedings starting after the first month. 

Written by: Alice