A new kind of nesting.

A new kind of nesting.

At 37 weeks pregnant, I can see the finish line! Last night I dreamed that I gave birth on the tiled floor in our entryway. I just pulled that baby right out myself and laid him on my chest while J rushed around getting ready to go to the hospital. I say, the positive thinking that hypnobirthing has given me! I usually have worst-case scenario dreams about everything, but I’ve yet to have one about labor or birthing. 

And the nesting. It is happening. I’ve heard stories of full-term ladies getting on hands and knees to clean their kitchen floor with a toothbrush or organizing baby socks by color. I’m doing the equivalent of this for sure- but only at work. I’ve cleaned/organized my desk, am currently cleaning and organizing the lab’s -20 freezer, and happily creating the most elaborate spreadsheets for my bacterial strains, plasmids, and what-have-you. I’ve had (almost) limitless energy the last couple days at work. It’s just so funny that our house, where the baby and I will actually spend the next 3 months, is pretty much a disaster and I have no motivation to change that. Does this mean labor is near? I’ve read the nesting urge increases towards the end. Either way, I am being super productive at work, so bring it on!




A letter of loss and hope (*trigger warning*)

Someone very close to me just let me know that her pregnancy has ended in a miscarriage. Ugh. So feeling for her right now and wishing there was something I could say or do to ease the pain of such a loss. It’s a very sad reminder that pregnancy loss is very much a part of the pregnancy business. It’s not the part you excitedly post about on facebook or the part that gets a party thrown for it. It’s a part that many people don’t want to talk about. And it comes with a landslide of emotions and complicated feelings and can be a very lonely place.

J and I had a loss over a year ago now- a missed miscarriage at around 10 weeks that we found out about around 13 weeks.  It ended up being a long ordeal that I’ll share more about someday, but today my heart just hurts for my loved one and anyone else who is going through the same thing.

Today, I just want to share this. A letter I wrote to myself about 3 months after my miscarriage. It was one of those rough days. I felt so raw, so torn up, so broken. I didn’t know how things would play out but I hoped some future version of myself would find a way through the heartbreak. Overall this is a letter of hope, but I do want to warn you that it was also a dark, complex time for me.

And all I can say is- it DOES get better. 

It’s been almost 3 months since the miscarriage. It feels like a long time ago…. In many ways, I have “recovered”. But it many other ways it still feels like it was yesterday. I can still picture the nurse running the ultrasound, searching, searching, searching for that heartbeat.  Measuring the size of the fetus. Then turning to me and saying “I’m sorry sweetie, but I’m not finding a heartbeat.” And that weight in my heart, so heavy. Because deep inside, I already knew it was over.

Every day I think about that feeling, knowing there was life growing in me. I loved to rest my hand there, to think about what was happening inside.

The plans we’d made while I was pregnant… I’ve now done many of those things post-miscarriage. I’d pictured the Radiohead concert with my 5 months pregnant belly- but I was there post-miscarriage, beer in hand. The preggo in my department who was a month or so ahead of me- she’s due in 2 months. I had imagined the excitement of seeing her have her baby, knowing my own experience was just a couple of months away. Now I can’t even look at her belly without feeling that sinking feeling of pain and desperation. I feel like an empty vessel. 

It’s hard not to feel there is a clock ticking somewhere, a limited span of time in which the variables can align to produce a baby. I know how amazing reproduction is, given all the factors in play. The right time of month, healthy egg and sperm, cells dividing correctly… I know too much not to wonder if this will ever happen for us. And the hormones, I feel them in my chest, in my heart, surging with this need to try to get pregnant again. That I’ve healed enough and it’s time to do this again. That parents are waiting to become grandparents. That the only remaining grandparent is waiting for her great-grandchild. 

Future self, I hope for you the very best. I know you’ll find happiness, even if it comes in ways you weren’t expecting.  I don’t know if you’ll remember how heart-wrenching it feels right now, to be in this place. But I know it gets better for you. And I hope you can live in the moment- that you can be grateful for what you have and hopeful about what tomorrow will bring.  

And if it’s in the cards, and you are pregnant again as you read this, I don’t know if you’ll remember how heart-wrenching it feels right now, to be in this place. Just know just how lucky you are that, against all the odds, you have that life inside you again. And I hope you can live in the moment- that you can be grateful for what you have and hopeful about what tomorrow will bring.  

Hypnobirthing – what does science say?

In the previous post, I talked about how the year of 2012 has been the year of doing shit I never thought I would do. And signing up for a class called “hypnobirthing” would have been right at the top of the list had I even known such a thing existed pre-pregnancy. I mean,  I once had an anxiety attack DURING a yoga class. And Therapist M has tried to talk me through some meditation exercises a couple of times, but they’ve only made me more anxious. I don’t seem like I’d be the type of person who could achieve deep relaxation during childbirth.

So why bother? As many of my friends say, there’s no prize for having a drug-free labor. But one of my own recent medical experiences revealed to me that unnecessary medical interventions can cause more problems than they solve. In my case, one unnecessary drug created a cascade of issues that resulted in an emotionally and physically traumatic ER trip and what would have been about $10,000 in medical bills, if not for our glorious health insurance. And although I’m all for doing whatever it takes if my baby’s life is at risk, giving birth doesn’t usually involve a medical emergency. I mean, people give birth to perfectly healthy babies in caves, taxis, on airplanes, in fields… yet all kinds of seemingly unnecessary medical “things” come standard during in a hospital birth.

Anyhow, hypnobirthing came highly recommended by our midwives. The idea is that there is a culture of fear surrounding birth and that this contributes to a stressful environment during labor. Movies, TV shows, and even birth horror stories from strangers on the street all make childbirth seem scary and painful. Then all the standard poking and prodding laboring women experience further diminishes any hope for relaxation. And all this stressful input causes our fight or flight response to kick in during labor, which causes the cervix to clamp down (making the pain of contractions a hell of a lot worse) and the whole birth process to stretch out into eternity. So hypnobirthing uses principles of hypnosis (essentially, meditation) to promote relaxation and a calm environment to prevent stress, thus encouraging the body to open up and give birth on its own.

All this intuitively makes sense to me. From an evolutionary perspective,  it seems beneficial that our bodies would have a mechanism to stall labor in the event of a real or perceived life-threatening situation (like being chased by a rabid animal). And as J and I continue to practice hypnobirthing techniques, I do find myself able to be more and more relaxed each time. So whether or not hypnobirthing works for birthing, it has definitely helped minimize the take over of My Anxious Self in everyday life. But I’m still feeling skeptical. Will hypnobirthing actually help when shit hits the fan during labor? And here I’m looking for cold hard facts- do women who use hypnobirthing during labor have shorter, less painful, and simply easier labors then women who don’t use it? 

So lately I’ve been delving into the research- is there actually compelling scientific evidence that hypnobirthing works? Perhaps not surprisingly, I haven’t found loads of peer-reviewed studies about hypnobirthing. Here I’ll present the first study that popped up in google scholar and review some others next time. If you have a compelling study to recommend, let me know!

This first study is out of Australia (1) and sounds extremely promising from the abstract… they claim to have found shorter labor times, less drug-taking, and fewer c-sections in  hypnobirthing moms (based on surveys) compared to the general population. However, there are serious limitations to the study (most of which the author discloses herself). The sample size is small- around 80 for most of the stats. And instead of a proper control group (ideally, a similar subset of women who were not in the hypnobirthing program but took the same survey), they compare their results to stats from the general population. And one can think of all kinds of problems with this comparison. For example, the study suggests that hypnobirthing can play a role in minimizing c-sections: 22% of individuals in the study had c-sections compared to a general public rate of 38.4%. But what role does the actual hypnobirthing play here? Hypnobirthers are probably less likely to have a c-section even if the techniques themselves are useless. For example, a woman who already knows she’ll get a c-section (for whatever reason) probably wouldn’t bother signing up for a hypnobirthing class in the first place.

In general, this study contains a LOT of qualitative statements about the benefits of hypnobirthing but not a lot of numbers to back up the claims. And because there’s no control group, much of the information collected in the survey seems compelling but it’s hard to know what to make of it. For example, women were asked to address their discomfort level during labor and the author finds an average of 5.8 out of 10. This seems pretty good… except without a comparison to a non-hypnobirthing group, how can we know? And participants who opted for an epidural are excluded from this average.  I imagine their pre-epidural discomfort would increase this average substantially.

In the end, I didn’t find any rigorous scientific evidence in this study that women who use hypnobirthing during labor have shorter, less painful, and simply easier labors than women who don’t use it.

But… that doesn’t mean it’s not out there. And I’m willing to give it a go, sample size = 1.  

(1) Phillips-Moore, J. (2012). Birthing outcomes from an Australian Hypnobirthing Prgramme. British Journal of Midwifery, Vol. 20, Iss. 8, pp 558 – 564.