Our Third Born: Ophelia's Homebirth Story

Our Third Born: Ophelia’s Homebirth Story

 Ophelia Ella Maaser

Born: 5-21-2013

Time: 7:35 p.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz , 20.5 inches, 13.5 cm head circumference

The Pregnancy

After having Elliot, my body felt pretty depleted, so when I found out I was pregnant for the third time, I met with a homeopathic doctor at Elder and Sage for some wonderful advice. She was able to guide me through a pretty serious case of candida and advised me to cut out sugar and carbs. I did this pretty religiously for six weeks, then half-heartedly for three months, and sort of okay for the rest of the pregnancy. I wish I had stuck with it a little better, as I battled a yeast infection towards the end and then thrush afterwards, but that ordeal is another story! Anyways, she also advised that I drink red raspberry leaf tea as much as three times a day. I did this pretty faithfully throughout the whole pregnancy and it was AMAZING! I was suffering from a practically prolapsed uterus after Elliot’s birth and I could feel my pelvic floor getting stronger and stronger with every cup throughout this pregnancy. During and after the birth, my uterus performed and recovered wonderfully!

At Ophelia's Prenatal Appointment

At Ophelia’s Prenatal Appointment

I also took cod liver oil, a prenatal vitamin, and trace minerals. In addition, I took calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D supplements to help with leg cramps towards the end of the pregnancy. With Ruby and Elliot, I enjoyed small cups of coffee here and there, but with this pregnancy, I cut it out completely. I can’t say that it helped anything per se, but I continued to cut it out after she was born and we never dealt withany witching hour like we did with Ruby or constant crying like we did with Elliot. I did start drinking coffee for about one week and during that time, Ophelia started to cry pretty inconsolably and pretty consistently 12 hours after my daily cup of coffee. When I cut it out, no more crying.

Anyways, our midwife, Sara Badger, was able to give us some wonderful advice during the pregnancy that helped me to enter labor in the best shape possible. She advised a deep tissue pregnancy massage with Lisa Gowins, and a meeting with a chiropractor that helped to melt away the sciatic nerve pain that was becoming quite unbearable. She also moved little Ophelia’s little hand away from her face days before labor, which helped me to avoid tearing like I did with Ruby. During the first three to four months of my pregnancy, I started getting into a pretty amazing kettlebell routine and then after that I stuck with some yoga videos. I tried to do at least ten minutes of yoga daily and that really helped me to stay flexible and in good shape. I’m glad I was able to spend so much time taking care of myself during the pregnancy. It really helped me during labor and recovery.

Leading Up To the Birth

Just like with Elliot, for weeks and weeks leading up to my due date, I thought for sure that I would go into labor early! When I was 37 weeks along and started feeling regular contractions, I realized that we were not at all ready! We didn’t even have any diapers! So that night, when the contractions slowed down and eventually stopped, we talked about things like how we would get through our bedtime routine and what other preparations needed to be met. We spent the next several weeks making and fulfilling one to do list after the other. As my due date drew closer, arrived, and passed, I kept thinking okay, now I’ve finally got everything done, but then the next day I would think of more things to get done! Moving to a new house six weeks before my due date certainly gave me PLENTY of nesting projects!

In my last month of pregnancy, things finally were getting uncomfortable (back aches in the night, leg cramps, the uncomfortableness of getting around, etc.), but I wasn’t anxious about going overdue. Not working for the first time really took a lot of pressure off. Plus, knowing that I wouldn’t have to go back to work when the baby was a few weeks or months old really took a lot of pressure off too. Thanks to being overdue, I was able to get my sister Lisa’s baby blanket made for her little boy due Oct. 31st, and everything ready for her baby shower, everything for the new baby from Amazon was shipped and assembled, diapers, baby clothes, blankets, and birth kit were all here and ready to go, and the massive amount of yard work was finished. (See ya ticks!) Plus, I was even able to clear out the garden boxes and plant my mother’s day flowers, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and herb garden.

Pre-Labor

The days leading up to my labor, I knew that things were getting closer and closer. My Braxton hicks contractions were becoming more painful and I could feel myself effacing more and more every day (on top of being about 2 cm dilated for the past 3 weeks). On Tuesday, May 21st, I woke up at 5 a.m. to some contractions that felt different. Somehow I just knew that these were going to lead to the real thing. I was so excited! Scott and I made good use of our time together in the morning before he had to go to work by doing the one thing that both initiates conception and induces labor… I told him with certainty that the baby would be born that day or the next, but that we still had plenty of time, so he didn’t need to stay home from work or anything.

We enjoyed a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, and toast before the kids woke up and then I enjoyed my second breakfast with the kids. I told them that the baby might come that day and we talked about how it was like mommy had to push out a really big poop and that I might moan and cry out but that I would be okay. I showed Ruby how she could press on my back and help me push the baby out.

We are usually pretty set in our routine of me doing something active with the kids in the morning—be it an outing, playing outside, doing homeschool, or doing some sort of project—but I still wasn’t done with my to do list, so they played quietly while I made a big pot of chicken and barley soup, a fresh batch of cookies, did the laundry, and tidied the house. I prepared the kids some lunch and they ate at the table while watching some LeapFrog videos. When Scott came home for lunch at 1:00 p.m., things weren’t serious, but when a contraction came, I would pause what I was doing and rock through it. For mental reasons, I just wanted him there with me. So we ate some soup together while watching the kids play in the sandbox, and then he called into work, set his out of office message, and then took the kids off my hands. Once I knew he had taken over, I could feel my entire mind and body melt with a feeling of tranquility. I felt more at ease knowing that I didn’t have to manage them anymore and was able to continue to putz around the house and get everything “just so”. That’s when contractions started to pick up a little more and I knew without a doubt that the birth would be happening within the next 24 hours.

So after we played outside, we all went down to the basement to watch Land Before Time and take a rest. My contractions were coming sporadically at about 10-20 minutes apart. I was about 4 cm dilated at this point, but not making any sort of rapid progress. I was keeping our midwife Sarah in the loop at this point. She wondered if we wanted her there at the birth or just after. We had originally talked about doing an unassisted birth, but we didn’t want to take any chances with complications so we said we definitely wanted her there at the birth, but we would let her know when things were getting closer. While we were watching the movie, I all of a sudden felt really tired, so in between contractions I would lay on the futon for about 10 minutes and close my eyes. Ruby was cuddled up with Scott on the little couch and Elliot kept covering me up with his silky. I would get on the ball to bounce through contractions and Scott would massage my back. The contractions were painful enough, but not so painful that I absolutely needed him at that point. He even snoozed for a little while with Ruby. I was feeling slightly frustrated at this point because I had expected things to move rapidly after Elliot’s birth and now things were seemingly moving so slow and I wasn’t making a lot of progress, but the rest time was really great and I felt rejuvenated as we began to migrate back upstairs.

At this point, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted my mom to be there or not. I knew that she would be a great help, and I really wanted her to meet our new addition, but I didn’t want to feel like a watched pot and I thought that it would be ideal to keep the people to a minimum as we bonded as a new family.  But I also wasn’t sure if Scott would be able to manage our 2 and 3 year old on his own AND be there to give me the support I needed. So I was keeping my mom in the loop via email and she was ready to leave work at a moment’s notice and be there in any way she could. (Of all days for her to not have a phone! The night before she had dropped it in the lake while her and my dad put their dock in. My dad was getting her her new phone at 3 p.m. that day.) I finally called her work number to tell her that things were progressing and that I would in fact like her to come out and give a hand with the kids. It kind of dawned on me that we would have to put Ruby and Elliot to bed at some point and that I would be entering active labor soon and I couldn’t believe I had even questioned her coming over in the first place So she said that she could be there about 6:00-6:30 p.m.

Active Labor

I had downloaded a contraction app and started timing my contractions when we were resting in the basement. Contractions went from being about twelve minutes apart when we were resting downstairs to about five minutes apart when I started walking around upstairs at about 5:00-5:30, and I definitely needed Scott to help me through each contraction. The kids were playing on their own so nicely as Scott, and I putzed around the house getting things ready in between contractions.

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Ruby and Elliot Eating Snacks Outside

Scott remained within ear shot and was ready to run to my side whenever I called. At one point, we went and got the mail together and saw our neighbor Amy. I told her that contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart so we had just enough time to get the mail and get back in time for the next contraction. In between contractions, I was folding clothes, cleaning up the kitchen, getting snacks for the kids, and checking my phone. It really helped me to read about the different phases of labor and think about what my body was going through. I started getting really excited thinking about meeting the sweet little peanut in my belly soon! I had my Pandora mix playing Joshua Radin, Enya, Sigur Ros, Camera Obscura, and Melody Echo Chamber, and I felt so calm and at ease.

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Ruby Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

Elliot Pretending to Have a Contraction

My parents arrived at about 6:00 p.m. and it was a relief right away to know that they would be able to take over with the kids. My mom took Ruby outside and they did some puzzles together. Elliot was playing the ipad and my dad gave him some attention and helped Scott finish cooking the hot dogs on the grill. It was so funny to me to be in the middle of this crazy life changing moment and to just see them milling about like they were just visiting on any other weekend.

I had a little “contraction zone” set up in the living room where I would bounce on the exercise ball with a chair in front of it. I would bounce on the ball while holding onto the back of the chair for support while Scott massaged and helped me rotate my hips. When my parents arrived, we moved our “contraction zone” into the dining room area. The contractions were starting to become more painful and I was writing and moaning with Scott supporting me, and it felt like it should just be an intimate moment with the two of us. It’s amazing to think about how much having a baby sounds like making a baby! No wonder my dad seemed a little uncomfortable and I sensed a bit relieved to have the excuse of leaving on his business trip up north soon after that!

At this time, I was dilated to about a 5-6cm. The midwife was going to be arriving at about 7 p.m. (I think I told her at about 4ish after doing the math in my head: the length of prelabor thus far, how fast my contractions were progressing, how dilated I was, etc. and predicted that I would give birth at about 7:00 p.m. How accurate!). When a contraction came I was very vocal with Scott about how to help me, “Higher, lower, squeeze, push!” We eventually settled on a move we called “The Washing Machine” where I would gyrate back and forth and around and around while he pushed and moved my hips with me. Each contraction was lasting about 45 seconds and had about a 15-20 second peak. They were coming about 3 minutes apart. The pain was very manageable and in between contractions the pain completely melted away. I watched my contraction timer to know how long I had to get back to my ball! I kept checking on the kids, taking pictures and videos, and tidying up the house. Scott had put the sheet on the bed and I set up the chux pads and everything else we needed in our room. At this time, my dad left and my mom took Ruby and Elliot to the park across the street.

Transition

Shortly after my mom left with the kids, I had a pretty intense contraction and Scott suggested we move into our bedroom. “Already???” I thought, but I followed him in there. He brought my ball and a chair for me to lean against. In between contractions I brushed my teeth and hair and when I checked myself to see how dilated I was I was shocked that I couldn’t feel any sides to see how far dilated I was. “Hmmmmm, I guess that means I’m at 10 cm!” I thought excitedly. Things still didn’t feel too crazy though, so I didn’t know what to expect at that point.

Birth

The midwives got a little lost and finally showed up at 7:15 p.m. Scott ran to the door to make sure they got in alright and as soon as they entered the room, I heard Sarah’s new little boy Thorbin cry just I was racked by a powerful contraction. I sat on the ball and Scott rushed to my side and did what he could to ease the pain but at this point things just felt crazy. I felt a little pop and warm fluid start to leak out. “My water broke!” I shouted. The contractions were coming quickly and the next one was really intense with a long peak and no break. “Make it stop!” I yelled. So Scott stopped rubbing my back and I said, “NO! Not you! The pain!”

Then I pushed the ball aside, dropped to my hands and knees, and couldn’t believe the words as they came out of my mouth, “I’m feeling pushy!” I shouted. I grabbed onto some blankets that were on the floor and tried to make a little tower to lean against. It had worked so well with Elliot and I was trying to recreate that moment. I remembered that I wanted to just breathe the baby out at this point and waited for the contractions and my body to lead me.

I felt a huge amount of pressure and the incredible urge to push, so I gave one giant push with all of my might. After that, I breathed deeply and felt a delicate hand applying oil to my perineum as I slowly pushed. I gave another slow and steady push as I felt the baby’s head crowning. Words of encouragement made me feel relaxed and took away any panic that was creeping up. “You’re doing great! I can see the head!” they encouraged. I could feel the excitement building as I knew I would be soon holding my sweet little angel. I pushed the head out and felt a huge wave of relief knowing that I was almost done. I waited until I felt the next contraction. Scott said he could see the head moving in and out with each breath. Then when the next contraction came they said, “Ok, give one big push!” So I did, and then I felt the rest of the body slip out. I turned over and couldn’t believe the little miracle that was placed upon my chest.

After the Birth

I wanted to get settled in and cozy with our little darling, so I left the midwives sitting there in complete shock as I picked her up from where I had given birth in front of our dresser about 15 feet from our bed and carried her there. They hurried over and put some chux pads underneath me as we waited for the placenta to come out. Scott and I were practically weeping with joy at our sweet little angel and didn’t even think about the gender until the midwife asked us if it was a boy or a girl. We promptly looked and both shouted,“It’s a girl!!!” Our midwife just had a baby and brought him along. Here’s our midwife and her assistant below.

Our Midwives

Our Midwives

“Tell my mom to come back from the park,” I said to Scott, thinking about how excited Ruby and Elliot would be to meet their new little sister. Soon Ruby and Elliot came into the room. Elliot was crying because he didn’t want to leave Grandma’s van and Ruby came bounding in with curiosity and wonder. I had delivered the placenta (which seemed to take forever to come out…about twenty minutes after the birth) and a very long umbilical cord. The cord had stopped pulsing, so Scott helped to clamp both ends and then he and Ruby cut the cord together. Ruby was simply mesmerized as she saw her new baby sister and proclaimed, “Finally I’m not alone anymore!”

I held Ophelia and just stared into her sweet little face and Scott and I marveled at the little human that had been nestled inside of me—her beautiful dark hair, her delicate and long fingers, and how absolutely perfect she was in every way. She had some vernix on her arms and back and I rubbed it in and she rooted and began to nurse. She latched on right away and we sat there in peace under the red glow of our bedside lamp.

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Nursing Ophelia with Ruby and Elliot Nearby

Scott and I with Ophelia

Scott and I with Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

At some point, my sister Andrea had arrived and her and my mom then proceeded to try to put the kids to bed, but they were kind of thrown off by the whole day of me laboring, meeting their sister, and then a different bedtime routine. So as soon as I was done breastfeeding, I handed Ophelia to my sister and went to rescue my poor little crying Elliot. I sat in the rocking chair in his room and cuddled him close while his body heaved with sobs. I told him stories about Captain Hook and the Crocodile and Pinnochio and Monstro the Great Whale until he finally stopped crying. Ruby had been pretty upset too, and Scott was calming her down when Elliot and I came into Ruby’s room for stories and milk and cookies. Both kids were so happy to have us both there reading stories and we made barely a little mention of the sweet baby who wasn’t in my belly anymore before tucking them in for the night. They both slept soundly for the rest of the night.

We went back into our room and my sister Andrea was expertly rocking our little girl while chatting with the midwife. We learned that we missed her first meconium poop that went all over Andrea and the towel. Oops! Probably should have put a diaper on her! I took a quick shower and then nursed my little angel and wrapped up her sleeping little body. Then Scott and I met my mom and sister in the kitchen and reflected on the amazing experience of the birth. We all talked with my dad on speaker phone while he was driving up to the U.P. It was such a magical moment to realize that our family was forever changed. We discussed our possible name choices of Veruca Ella or Ophelia Ella, but decided we would sleep on it and see which name suited her in the morning.

That night, Ophelia didn’t sleep much. She just wanted to look deeply into my eyes. And I was so thankful to have that peaceful time with her in the night. I could literally feel my heart expanding with my love for her and I marveled at what we had just went through together. My afterbirth pains were quite intense – way more so than with Ruby or Elliot – and I couldn’t have slept much anyways. When we woke up the next morning, we both knew that Ophelia was the perfect name for our little angel. Veruca was such cool and rocking name, but it belonged to Ruby first and seemed to fit her personality more. Just one day old (plus 9 months of getting to know her in the womb), and we could already tell so much about her personality. Her long languid movements in the womb, her deep soulful eyes looking intently at us right after birth, her contentment upon hearing the shrieks from Ruby and Elliot…yup, she was Ophelia.

That morning, Scott made us a delicious breakfast and at 9:00 a.m., we all ate at the table as our new “five family”. We talked with Ruby and Elliot about their new sister and then gave them their “after the baby is born” presents of play-dough, bubbles, and M&Ms. It was so nice to give them both a lot of attention right after Ophelia was born. As much as we wanted to give me some rest, we also knew that in these first few hours/days as a new family, we would have to be careful to set the right dynamics in place. We didn’t want Ruby and Elliot to feel like they were being put on the back burner by any means so we proceeded to make our first day together as normal as possible. That included a family trip to the farm in Marion 45 minutes away to get our raw milk, then a stop at McDonald’s to play at the indoor play place, followed by an entire afternoon and evening together as well.

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

Elliot and Ruby Open Their Gifts

We mistakenly gave Ophelia a pacifier that night and following that she did not want to nurse and was crying a lot. I pumped and gave her droppers full of breastmilk, but she didn’t sleep all night and after getting only 3 hours of sleep since giving birth, I felt like I might just have a nervous breakdown. Our midwife suggested a bath together and lots of skin to skin. At 10 a.m. the next morning, I finally got her to nurse again and we both finally got some much deserved sleep! Ophelia then proceeded to sleep for pretty much the next two days straight (and so did I) and we felt incredible after that! What an amazing journey, an amazing family, an amazing life.

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Ruby Holding Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Elliot Checking Out Ophelia

Ophelia Ella Maaser

Ophelia Ella Maaser

Our Second Born: Elliot's Homebirth Story

Our Second Born: Elliot’s Homebirth Story

Elliot Edward Maaser

Born: 12-28-10

Time: 11:06 p.m.

Measurements: 8lbs 13oz, 21 inches long, 14.5cm head circumference

Leading up to the Birth

It’s hard to say when labor began since I’d been feeling contractions for the two months leading up to the birth. At 34 weeks, I even got worried that I would go into premature labor…little did I know how far from that I was! I did a lot of walking at work which stimulated barrages of Braxton Hicks contractions (about 8-12 per hour) on a regular basis. Once that started happening, I really tried to take it easy and stay off my feet and that helped to settle things down a bit.  I told everyone at work that I might need to go on bed rest (per the midwife’s instructions) so that I wouldn’t have a premature labor.

Everyone was so understanding and just couldn’t believe how hard I worked all through the pregnancy. Although we did joke a lot about how many times I thought I would be going into labor “any day”. I got REALLY tired of hearing the phrases, “You’re still here?” or “I thought for sure you were going to have that baby last night!” I thought for sure we were going into labor on Thanksgiving. We were in the middle of dinner at our friend Nadine’s house when my contractions started becoming more intense and I could feel them regularly. It was also a new moon that night…my labors seem to be quite affected by those. I also thought I was going into labor Dec. 5th, the next new moon. So many false alarms! I didn’t know what to believe at that point.

So on Dec. 15th, three days before my winter break started, I stopped working at the recommendation of DeAna, our midwife. She didn’t want me going into a long hard labor after working all day. (After 36 hours with Ruby’s birth, I was preparing for a long and hard labor.) Scott also stopped working, and we began a blissful second honeymoon together. We saw our due date, December 18th, come and go. Because we were worried about a premature labor, we had been ready months ago, but every day seemed to bring “one more thing” that just HAD to get done before the birth. One of the first things we did is move our bedroom upstairs with the help of our friends Mark and Jessica.

Ruby was just starting to sleep through the night and we didn’t want to wake her up with the new baby. We kept making casseroles, chilis, and other dinners so that we would have a good amount of food at hand. We enjoyed spending a remarkable time together as a family as we waited for the arrival of our New Magoo. Every morning we would cuddle in bed, read Ruby stories, and feed her a greek yogurt. Mmmmmm…. Then we would find some sort of task to accomplish like doing the laundry or scrubbing the bathtub. The rest of the day was spent going to the park on these beautiful 50-60 degree sunny days, walking at the mall, going to the library, and basically spending hours and hours playing with Ruby. We found ourselves feeling thoroughly rested and blissfully happy.

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Scott and Ruby at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

Ruby and I at the Park

At Nancy and Bill's with Brian and Derek

At Nancy and Bill’s with Brian and Derek

Me at the Tennis Courts

Me at the Tennis Courts

But there was just ONE teeny tiny thing weighing on my mind….WHEN AM I GOING TO HAVE THIS BABY?!?!?!?!  The pregnancy had been wonderful and fairly easy, but as I watched myself go one day overdue, then two, three, four…up to nine days overdue, it just became too much to bear. I was having trouble sleeping, my back was hurting, and I was just getting sick and tired of being pregnant.

I was also really anxious about the labor. The baby had been presenting itself in a posterior position (which makes for a really long and painful back labor…often times the baby will get stuck and a c-section will be needed) and we tried countless times to get it to rotate only to have it move back again. Also, I remembered what it felt like with Ruby and I just didn’t know if I would have the strength to go through that much pain again…and for so long. (Prelabor with Ruby lasted about 27 hours. Active labor, transition, and delivery were about another 9 hours.) I just wanted to get things going and be done with it so that I could stop worrying.

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Me Feeling a Little Sad

Then one night I got really nauseous and sick. I ended up throwing up in a bucket near the bed. The baby moved like CRAZY that night and it felt like it moved back into a posterior position. I also felt so much movement that I became certain it was twins. The next day after comparing pictures of my belly from this pregnancy to Ruby’s pregnancy, I started to think more and more that I was having twins. I chatted with my mom and she shared with me her premonitions when she thought she was having twins but the midwives just couldn’t detect that second heartbeat until 9 days before they were born!

Scott and I went to bed that night nervous and frustrated. All that day we had tried EVERYTHING to get labor going (sex, foot massage, breast pump, walking, and the belly lotion) but to no avail. So we felt frustrated that maybe we were getting things started and then nervous that we may have been off on our due date and were in fact expecting twins who were just barely 37 weeks along (if our due date was off).

Pre-Labor

The next morning, which was Tuesday, December 28th, I called DeAna and shared with her my fears about having twins. I really wanted to get an ultrasound, but she said that if it WAS twins, we would have to do a hospital birth…some kind of Colorado law or something. We were scheduled to have a prenatal appointment the next day, but she said she would come over that day to do the appointment and give me some things to stimulate labor.

She also said that the excessive movement I felt could be due to the baby’s posterior position. She asked if we had been doing hands and knees and Rabozo to turn the baby. I felt like screaming, “NO!” but I calmly explained that we had not and would try before she came over. For days I had been crawling around on all fours which was both degrading and uncomfortable. I would also lay on my ball, do yoga positions, Scott would use the Rabozo, and I would gently massage my belly trying to coax the baby to turn like a sleeping kitten. Every time, we would work so hard to get the baby to turn a little bit, and then it seemed to turn right back the other way! So I was just really really really frustrated with the task of rotating the baby and even more frustrated by the thought of a painful posterior back labor.

So anyways, both DeAna and her assistant Whitney came over around 11:00 a.m. DeAna explained where she was feeling the baby’s shoulder and bottom and where the pockets of amniotic fluid were. She predicted a larger baby…about 9 lbs, but said that she was certain that there was only one baby in there. She also listened to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler for the first time. We could really hear one really strong heartbeat on my left side (so the baby WAS NOT posterior…for now) and no other heartbeats.

I shared my frustrations about being ten days overdue and how I was crying, getting emotional, and just having a really hard time. I had been checking myself to see if I was dilating any more. I was having so many painful contractions that I thought at some point the baby might just fall out!  At this point I was about 80-90% effaced and about 2 cm dilated. I had tried several times to stretch my cervix out and to strip my own membranes, but it was really hard to reach that far up and back! I had a good amount of bloody show and had been losing my mucus plug over the last few days. So there was progress at least!

DeAna recommended that we try the castor oil. I was really hesitant to go that route, but she said that if the baby was ready for labor, this could be just the nudge we needed to get things going. She told us mix 2 oz. of each of the following: castor oil, vodka, and orange juice. She also gave us the herb blue cohosh to take every hour, some belly lotion with herbs to use every half hour, and recommended more sex, massages, and walking. Whitney also gave me this amazing pep talk that made me feel empowered and like, “I can do this!” Sometimes moms just need a little cheerleading!

So after they left, we walked to Whole Foods to get the ingredients for the castor oil cocktail. I was feeling contractions that day, but no more so than I had over the last few days…weeks…months. (Over the last few days, they were starting to get more painful, but mainly just annoying.) After we put Ruby down for a nap, we each drank a cocktail (mine was the only one with castor oil). Then Scott tried setting up Mario Kart online so we could play with his parents while I hung out on the ball and tried to encourage the baby to turn.

Our friends Mark and Melissa came over with their one month old Olivia at about 4:00. (They had really hoped to be pregnant when we were pregnant with Ruby, and they were overjoyed when they finally became pregnant this time around.) We had fun seeing them and tried to get Ruby to interact with Olivia, but she was being pretty whiny and needy and didn’t want much to do with her at all. They left at about 5:30. I was a little frustrated because I had hoped to go for a walk to encourage the baby to come out, but it was getting too dark. Turns out I didn’t really need the walk…

Labor Begins

When I share my five hour labor story, I say that it begins at 6:00 p.m., but things were so mild then that I have a hard time even saying that this was the beginning! It was VERY clear, however, that this was the beginning of the castor oil effects! I started to have a few cleansing trips to the bathroom that were followed by some pretty nice contractions (or cramps as I was referring to them then). Then the trips to the bathroom started to come more and more often and were getting rather annoying…and my butt was getting rather sore (or like it was going to turn inside out as I referred to it then). Meanwhile, Scott and I were playing with Ruby while she built lego towers, stacked her cups, and pulled all the books off the bookshelves. Then around 7:00 p.m., I got the urge to “set the stage”. I felt like things were really starting to happen and I wanted to be ready.

I started to arrange things just so and tidy up a bit while Scott played with Ruby. She was getting more and more whiny and after she started crying one time I just kind of snapped and yelled at Scott to get her out of there. I felt so bad abandoning my sweet little baby girl (who at 15 months, suddenly didn’t seem like a baby anymore), but I just felt this snarling protective mother instinct pour through me and I knew that I had to focus all of my attention on what was happening to me, my body, and this new baby. Her and Scott watched a “Your Baby Can Read” video and she said every single word on the video. She was also very calm and obedient for the rest of the night, as if she sensed the impending seriousness of what was going on. Meanwhile, I finished up a few dishes, put some toys away, lit some candles, and started to play my Enya, Siger Ros, and Imogean Heap labor mix.

By 8:00 p.m. Ruby was ready for bed. We snuggled up in her room, gave her a bottle, and read her a stack of books. Every time I would have a contraction, I would just slip onto the floor and soundlessly rock on my hands and knees. They were getting more intense, but I could still read the words to the story along with Scott. After Ruby went to sleep, I called DeAna to tell her that things were starting! She said that if it really was labor that nothing could stop it, but that the contractions could just be from the castor oil and if so then things might just slow down once the effects wore off. She told me not to get discouraged if that if things were stalled out by 9:00 p.m., I should take a bath, try to relax, and possibly get some sleep.

So Scott and I played a game of Monolopy together on the Wii. He started to time my contractions, but stopped after awhile since they weren’t really forming a pattern and were only lasting about 30-45 seconds; also the time in between them was anywhere from one minute to five. Every time a contraction would come, it was intense enough for me to have to stop playing and rock on the exercise ball while moaning, but I still wouldn’t really call them painful. It was the worst game of Monopoly I ever played! Scott and the computer players kept offering me deals, and I just couldn’t concentrate enough to think them through, so I just accepted them! (We moved from Colorado to Michigan when Elliot was 6 months old and were living with my parents for several months when we finally unpacked our Wii and found our unfinished game. Scott finally got the glory of winning!)

At about 9:00 p.m., we paused the game and I went to take a bath while Scott played some DragonBall Z on the Wii. Our bathtub was my favorite thing about our little condo. It was a HUGE oval with tile all around to put candles on and little steps leading up to it. It totally accommodated my huge pregnant body and it felt REALLY good to relax in during labor! My music was playing in the background, and I was engulfed in the soft flames of candlelight. I kind of had a panic moment thinking, “I’m just not ready for this train ride yet”. I started to convince myself that the contractions I felt were really just from the castor oil and that we would go to bed soon and possibly have the baby in the next few days. I was FINE with that and started to feel pretty silly for trying to rush things along with the castor oil rather than let them take their own course. When a contraction came, I rolled over onto my hands and knees and kind of floated there in a frog like position. I stopped moaning during contractions and just really let myself enter a deep state of relaxation. Contractions REALLY slowed down and I was only feeling them about every 10-20 minutes. When they did come, they had about a 10-15 second peak of pain, but it was very mild.

At about 10:00 p.m., Scott came in to check on me. I told him I was feeling very relaxed and that we should probably just go to bed. I also shared with him, however, that I checked myself and I could very easily feel the head in the bag of waters and that I was about 5-6 cm dilated. Even with that information, I was STILL convinced that we would not be having a baby that night! Things had stopped and started so many times that I just couldn’t accept that things were really happening! Scott kept encouraging me to call DeAna, but I didn’t think there was any rush.

I got out of the bath, put on my nighty, and then I was all of a sudden gripped by a really powerful contraction that brought me down to the floor on my hands and knees. Scott started to apply pressure to my back and it felt really good! Seconds later he put my phone in my hand and said, “Call DeAna now!” So I called her and told her that things had really slowed down in the bath but that I was about 5-6 cm dilated and had experienced one painful contraction after the bath. I explained that we were probably going to go to bed. She said that she would come over and even just sleep on the couch if nothing happened. Then I got another contraction while we were talking and started moaning really loudly; it was quite intense! DeAna’s voice changed and she was like, “I’m coming over right now, that sounded pretty intense!” She also said to have Scott call her immediately if things started to progress rapidly.

The contractions started to come about every two minutes and lasted about 45 seconds to a minute each. With each contraction I would get low on my hands and knees and rock back and forth. Scott applied REALLY strong pressure to my back and I would tell him, “higher, lower, both hands, squeeze!” until he got it just right. And when he did, oh boy, the pain just melted away! The peak of each contraction was only about 15 seconds and was very manageable. After each contraction, I would get a very definitive break where I felt no pain.

During this time, I was tidying up the area in front of the fireplace. I made sure the nice white silky that my mom had just made for Ruby was laid out smoothly underneath me. (A white silky for a birth! Crazy, I know, but I wanted to feel its softness beneath me.) Then I organized my tower of pillows that I was leaning against so that I could look at the roaring fire in the fireplace. I also made sure our coffee table was free of clutter and that the water bottles were organized just so. When I wasn’t having a contraction, Scott would race upstairs to make the bed with plastic sheets. He would quickly rush downstairs when he heard another contraction starting.

Dealing with Contractions

Dealing with Contractions

DeAna arrived at about 10:40 p.m. and started getting things set up. She tried to listen to the baby’s heart beat right away, but I was just getting another contraction. She was like, “Oh boy! That was intense!” She tried to apply pressure to my back as I rocked back and forth on my hands and knees, but it was too weak and I demanded right away that Scott put his hands on me again! Ahhhhh! Instant relief! DeAna stared to call for the supplies that she needed and Scott brought them over. “No! Not those towels Scott!” I pleaded. “I have the blue ones neatly stacked on top of the washer…get those!” DeAna stared to put some chux pads underneath me as I continued to rock back and forth.

She tried to listen to the baby’s heart again, but the next contraction brought forth an animalistic growl and DeAna asked if I was feeling a little pushy. “Yes! I am!” I said in both shock and amazement. “There’s NO WAY I should be feeling pushy now,” I thought to myself. I guess there was still a part of my brain that thought we wouldn’t be having this baby tonight. The next few contractions were bringing more and more of that pushing sensation and it felt SO GOOD to know that I was getting through transition sooooooo quickly. (Transition only lasted 20 minutes!) “I’ll be meeting my baby soon!” I thought. “No way, no way, no way!” Then I felt as though some other force was taking over my body and I became completely overwhelmed with the urge to push.

The Birth

I was still rocking back and forth on my hands and knees, and I didn’t even notice that DeAna had slipped my underwear off. She shined a flashlight on my bottom and her and Scott could see the head (which was still in the bag of waters) starting to crown. I didn’t force the push; it just sort of came out of me naturally. My first instinct was to push as hard as I could, just to get that baby out. But I remembered from Ruby’s birth that I needed to breathe the baby out as slowly as possible so I could avoid all of that awful tearing that was so painful to recover from. It felt unbelievable to have this giant watermelon of a baby just hanging out inside the cavity of my body! With each contraction, I could feel the baby coming down a little further.

Scott told DeAna months prior that he was interested in catching the baby, but when she asked him, “You want to catch the baby, right?” Scott had forgotten about this and got really excited. I felt myself stretching beyond what was humanly possible, and the words “ring of fire” certainly rang true. DeAna told Scott the head was about to come out, and to position his hands in a way to cradle it as it emerged.

I was still positioned on my hands and knees, and with one good push, the head popped out! My waters finally broke and Scott thought that I had peed on him! It didn’t even phase him a bit. Our little baby emerged with a face that was stone cold serious, looking straight up (eyes closed). At that point, in between contractions,  I grabbed our little flip camera and held it over my back in the hopes of capturing the birth on video. Scott and DeAna were both in shock that I just did this right in the middle of pushing and DeAna snatched the camera from me and set it up on the TV stand – this gave us a wonderful video capturing everything from that point on until about 10 minutes after birth.

I waited until the next contraction, which felt like eternity, especially with that head hanging out of me, for my next opportunity to push again. When the next contraction came, I actually did push with all my might to get the rest of that baby out. Scott and DeAna could really see it coming and said “Come on! Just one more good push!” – and sure enough! After that last great push, out popped the rest of him into Scott’s waiting hands.

DeAna told me to turn over and she brought our sweet baby to my chest. Scott pulled down the straps on my shirt so I could start breastfeeding him, and we were in complete shock and amazement that it was over already, and we were holding our little baby in our arms. We didn’t even think to check his gender right away! Words cannot express the feelings of joy that we had as we kissed each other and bonded as a new extension of our family entered the world. One of my first words after the birth  was “That was sooo easy!!” because really, it was. I had been a little afraid that after this birth I wouldn’t want to have any more children, but Scott and I looked at each other and agreed we would love to have more kids.

We just agreed to wait a little longer next time, and avoid the castor oil. I had an immediate desire to wake up Ruby so she could share in this joy as well, but decided against it as the reality of that set in… We couldn’t believe she had stayed asleep the entire time! I felt another contractions rise, and then plop! There was the placenta. So then, the three of us cuddled in front of the fireplace and we finally thought to look to see if it was a boy or a girl! “It’s a boy!” I squealed, and we laughed and cried and kissed just as when we he was first born. We couldn’t belive we waited so long to check. Scott and DeAna adjusted the pillows so I could sit up, and 30 minutes after he was born he got a great latch on my breast and began his first feed.

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

DeAna Feeding Me Yogurt After Birth

Nursing Elliot

Nursing Elliot

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Nursing in Front of the Fire

Scott and I With Elliot

Scott and I With Elliot

At this point, the midwife’s assistant arrived. She was so sad that she had missed the birth, but DeAna got her right to work getting an herbal sitz bath ready to go. She and DeAna checked me out to make sure I had no tearing, or skid marks like I did with Ruby. I did a little kegel and the muscles felt great.  They did say there was one little tear, and if we wanted, DeAna could have put some super glue on there. It didn’t really hurt so I just opted to wait and see. Scott caught a quick glance while they were poking around and noticed that I looked nothing like I did when Ruby was born. He said I looked pretty much normal down there!

While we all had a chance to catch our breath, we decided to watch the birth video since we were all just sitting around in front of the TV. It was incredible, and we were so happy all over again. After a while, Scott took Elliot and I got into the bath. I was afraid of it burning or stinging like it did when I bathed after Ruby – but I felt nothing but comfort. As I was comfortably soaking, Scott took off his shirt and had some incredible skin to skin time with our little boy.

Then after I was settled in the tub for a while, he brought Elliot in to join me, with the placenta floating nearby in a metal bowl. Elliot was scared at first, but then I fed him and he fell asleep with me holding him there in the tub. Meanwhile, we could hear the midwives scurrying around cleaning up, making some eggs and cheese, and doing some laundry. Scott sat tubside and we just had so much fun talking about everything that happened. We talked about playing monopoly, having a boy, the quickness of labor, how amazed we were that Ruby was still asleep, etc. They eventually came in and helped me out of the tub while Scott brought Elliot upstairs to the bed room. They helped me dry off and get a pad, and then they helped me get upstairs.

Weighing Elliot

Weighing Elliot

Elliot's Newborn Screening

Elliot’s Newborn Screening

This is where they did their newborn check of him and I cut the cord while Scott held him. We ate our eggs and cheese and they went over a few postpartum care directions, which we promptly forgot in all the excitement and exhaustion. DeAna said she would call the next day at 11 to see how we were doing. Then she would stop by for the 2-day old visit (and a one week, 2 week, and 6 week visit as well). Then they tucked me into bed and Scott helped them bring down all their stuff to their car.

At this point, it was 2 a.m. and we thought we would be too excited to fall asleep. But as soon as we got snuggled in, we conked out until 3:30 a.m. when we heard Ruby through the baby monitor. Scott went down and gave her a bottle and changed her, and she went right back to sleep until 8 a.m. Elliot woke up at 5 a.m., I fed him, and off we all went again until Ruby woke up and we started our first day together. Scott snuggled her right in between us and she did not know quite what to think of her little brother, so she just gave him a sideways glance and snuggled in a little closer, and ate her yogurt while watching Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers. We were careful not to give Elliot too much direct attention while Ruby was around. We wanted her to discover him on her own (which she slowly did over the weeks to come).

It felt so crazy to have gone through such an amazing experience and to then just settle into normal life, WITH ANOTHER HUMAN IN OUR FAMILY! And a little boy too! We were so happy and felt so complete. Scott had the next two weeks off, and we enjoyed a blissful family moon. I got lots of bedrest, and Scott took care of all of us. It was perfect.

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

Ruby Loves Her Little Brother

(Ruby decided to add her impression of the night: “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxszszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzxcfvfADVCZ”)

Elliot Edward Maaser

Elliot Edward Maaser

Our Firstborn: Ruby's Birth Center Story

Our Firstborn: Ruby’s Birth Center Story

Ruby Lynn Maaser

Born: Friday, 8-28-09

     Time: 2:52 a.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 3 0z, 22 inches, 14 cm head circumference

The Pregnancy Story

After having been married for five years, Scott and I knew that we were ready for the next step. We didn’t quite say, let’s have a baby, but we did say, “Let’s go off birth control”. I was sick of all the side effects anyways and I thought that we’d be able to give natural family planning a try until we were really ready for a baby. Well a few weeks later, we were snowboarding up in the mountains, like we did every weekend in the winter, and in the midst of a huge blizzard. Fortunately, we had already booked a room for the night at the Keystone Inn, our favorite place to stay at in the mountains. They were super close to the slopes and had an indoor/outdoor heated pool, hotub, sauna, and were next to our favorite little pizza place.

We had a wonderful day snowboarding and an incredibly romantic evening. We didn’t use any protection, but I assured Scott that I would just get the morning after pill the next day. (How’s that for natural family planning?) Well, the next day came and we were shocked to see that the all of the highways were shut down because of the horrible blizzard. I had to call in some emergency sub plans for my 3rd grade class and of course, no morning after pill. We stayed another night at our hotel and the next day I did get the morning after pill, and even though I took the first pill, I forgot to take the second pill 8 hours later like I was supposed too. Well, it didn’t work apparently, and after I missed my period, I saw those infamous two pink lines on the pregnancy test. We were both shocked and elated. We weren’t sure we were quite ready for a baby, but whether we were ready or not, it was coming!

Positive Pregnancy Test

Positive Pregnancy Test

We found an ob office right away and started going to prenatal appointments. As the pregnancy progressed, we learned more and more about our impending life change. I read all of the books I could get my hands on and we took every class that the hospital offered. I was eating right, doing yoga, and Scott regularly gave me some incredible pregnancy massages. By the time I was 30-some weeks along, we took a tour of the hospital and that is when everything changed for us. The hospital had plans to tear down that maternity ward and building a new state of the art facility the next year, so needless to say the place looked like it was falling apart. When we saw a moth flying down the hallway, we took that as an omen to look at other options! Besides, the idea I had in mind for a natural birth did not seem to fit with the small hospital bed, no eating or drinking policy, and large scale focus on interventions.

Hanging Out in My Classroom

Hanging Out in My Classroom

The next day I discovered a free standing birth center that was right next to a state of the art hospital 20 minutes from our condo. We weren’t quite ready for a home birth, but this birth center seemed like just the right thing. My mom had given birth to her last three children at home, and I remember helping to cut the cords and being right three with her. But even still, with this being my first, I was a little nervous about any possible complications. The rooms at the Mountain Midwifery were beautiful, the staff was amazing, and everything about the facility made me feel empowered. We transferred when I was 33 weeks, so we barely got a chance to meet all of the six midwives who could possibly attend our birth depending on who was on call. Even still, I felt such peace and comfort and really felt like we were making the right decision. We signed up for as many classes as we could and continued to become educated. After watching Rikki Lake’s The Business of Being Born, I felt more empowered than ever.

My Big Pregnant Belly

My Big Pregnant Belly

Leading up to Labor

My due date was August 22nd, but I was sure that I would have our baby on either a full moon or a new moon. The doctors at the hospital had said that more babies were born on a full moon, and the midwives at the midwifery said that they had more births on a new moon. August 6th was a full moon and sure enough, I started having contractions after meeting some coworkers at Baker’s Street. It was, however, a false alarm. Next, I was sure that I would go into labor on the new moon which was August 20th, but alas…nothing.

Scott and I went for lots of walks and I was drinking tea with blue cohash to try to encourage labor to start. I was just sooooo excited! After nine months of waiting, I really wanted to meet my little girl! Every time labor would seemingly start though, I would get really scared thinking about the unknown and secretly breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I had a little bit more time to prepare. I was just worried that I would be over two weeks overdue which would risk me out of delivering at the birthing center and make it so that I would have to be induced, have an epidural, and basically have my birth plan thrown out the window.

Prelabor: Wednesday, August 26th

With my due date come and gone by four days, I was in a constant state of expectation. At my last midwife appointment, I was 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced, so things were happening. Knowing that labor could start at any minute of any day really kept me on my toes. I was kind of hoping that labor would start during the meetings before school so that I could miss them and wouldn’t have to start the school year, but it was actually quite a blessing that I was able to be in the classroom for a few days because I was able to help start a lot of my routines and get to know the students.

Anyways, the night before, Tuesday, August 25th, Scott and I went for a nice long walk, made love, and then I lost my mucus plug. (I thought I lost it earlier in the week, but I guess that was just a little bit of blood.) I knew things would be happening soon! I went to work Wednesday morning full of excitement and proudly telling the ladies about my bloody show! (Ahhhh, it’s great to work with women sometimes!) I started feeling contractions that morning. They weren’t really painful or close together, but they were definitely regular.

I just couldn’t concentrate any more, and I definitely didn’t feel like teaching! Rochelle got me a big bouncy ball to sit on and I basically just sat in the back of the room organizing papers while my replacement started taking over the class. (I had found an incredible sub named Misty who went to all of the beginning of the year meetings with me and co-taught with me in the classroom. I was planning taking 12 weeks of maternity leave, so she wanted to be prepared. My principal was just wonderful and paid for the sub to be with me until I officially started my maternity leave.) Everyone kept telling me to go home! I was worried that I couldn’t leave until I was definitely in labor, so I called the maternity leave office and she asked why I was still at work! I learned that I could have started my maternity leave one week before my due date! So I decided that I was going to leave at lunch. I really wanted to use as much maternity leave as possible to be with my daughter, so I wanted to work as long as I possibly could, but I figured that I was close enough at this point!

I called Scott telling him that I was going home to rest and not to worry or leave work early. I went shopping at King Soopers for some last minute groceries and busied myself at home with some last minute cleaning. Scott of course couldn’t stand being at work once he found out things were starting so he rushed home. I was feeling contractions more regularly and with more intensity. I was writing down every time I was having a contraction. They seemed to be coming every five minutes! Looking back at that time NOW after having gone through labor, however, I wouldn’t really call those contractions. It was more like a little tightening. A little more painful that the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had felt during the last months of labor, but definitely not PAINFUL.

So Scott came home and we busied ourselves around the house getting everything in order. We put the final touches in the bag to bring to the midwifery, charged the ipod, and made sure the house was ready for a new baby. Things started to get more intense that evening. We tried playing some video games together, but the contractions were getting too painful for me to concentrate on the game, so I just watched Scott play some Bubble Bobble. Contractions were coming every 15-20 minutes.

Every time I felt one creep up, I would bounce on the exercise ball and breathe deeply to get through it. We thought for sure that we would be going into the midwifery that night, but things were just not progressing any further, so we decided to try to go to bed and get some rest. The contractions slowed to every 30-45 min. so I was able to get some rest in between them. The contractions were still quite painful, however, and I wasn’t able to stay in bed when they hit. I tried laying on my side once and it was just too much to bear. So every time I had a contraction, I would get up and bounce on the exercise ball.

More Prelabor: Thursday, August 27th

After what seemed like the longest night ever, it was finally morning. Scott at least got a decent night’s sleep! We got out of bed and sort of waited around to see if things got more intense. I took a shower and got dressed. We ate a light breakfast and decided that we needed to do something to get our minds off watching the clock. We went to the stone house for a nice long walk. It was a beautiful sunny day and I would drape my arms around Scott’s neck every time a contraction hit and we would sway together. After the walk we drove to pick up some cables that we had found from someone on Craig’s List to connect the computer to the TV. During the car ride, the contractions were getting too painful to bear, so we hurried home. We played some more video games and watched the clock to see if the contractions were getting closer together.

Things seemed to be pretty much the same, so we decided to get some rest while we could. Scott laid down for a nap. I tried to join him, but I couldn’t sleep during the frequent contractions, so I got up to listen to some HynoBabies. I drew a nice warm bath, lit some candles, and let myself slip into a very relaxed state. I got in and out of the tub and kept adding more hot water for several hours. The contractions were quite painful, but as I listened to the HynoBabies, I kept thinking of them as pressure waves that were bringing my baby one step closer to me. During the bath, I checked to see if I was dilated. I expected to feel a big gaping hole, but instead found that I was modestly dilated about 2-3 cm. Scott and I found an image to make the background of our computer that showed what each dilation looked like.

When I finally got out of the bath and Scott woke up from his nap, he made me a big fruit plate of mango, orange, and pineapple. We downloaded a program that helped us to keep track of contractions. Every time I felt a contraction, I pushed a button to record how long my contractions were and how far apart they were. Being in the bath must have slowed things down, because as soon as I got out, my contractions were 3 minutes apart and lasting for about a minute each. We recorded contractions for about an hour before finally calling the midwives. It was about 7:45 p.m. at this point.

To the Midwifery: Active Labor

Nancy was the midwife on call, and she wondered if there was any blood. I had lost the mucus plug already, but hadn’t seen any blood recently. She made it sound like we could come in if we wanted, but it wasn’t very urgent. I had just checked myself and I was dilated to about 4-5 cm and with the contractions becoming longer, stronger, and closer together, I wanted to get there asap.

We had a nice bed made up in the back of the Durango. It’s a good thing the windows were tinted because it would have probably drawn a lot of attention to see a woman rocking back and forth on all fours moaning loudly! I was afraid that I might have the baby in the car or something, but Scott got us to the midwifery in a cool twenty minutes. I had a big contraction right before heading up to our room, but and then when I got inside the birthing center, it was like I got stage fright. Nancy checked me and said that yes, I was at about 4-5 cm. She watched me have a contraction and must not have thought I was very close because she said it was going to still be awhile and wondered if we wanted to go home or walk around. I felt really judged and like I didn’t perform well enough for her or something. Did she even realize all that I had been through already???

 

Feeling at a Contraction at the Birth Center

Feeling at a Contraction at the Birth Center

In Between Contractions

In Between Contractions

Feeling a Contraction

Feeling a Contraction

We didn’t want to go anywhere, so we decided to get settled in and go for it. Scott set up the ipod and continued to play the HypnoBabies. The lights were dimmed and the whole room had a nice homey atmosphere. It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable, and as soon as that happened, my contractions intensified. Nancy said we were definitely making progress but that I still probably had about 6-7 hours to go. (Note to anyone ever helping a pregnant woman: DO NOT EVER TELL HER HOW MUCH TIME YOU THINK IS LEFT! ESPECIALLY IF YOUR ESTIMATE INCLUDES THE WORD “HOURS”!!!)

I was devastated. I thought we’d get there and within an hour I’d be pushing the baby out. Knowing that I had to go through 6-7 hours was enough to make me just want to give up. But you can’t give up when you’re in labor, you just have to take what your body throws at you. Nancy got me some energy water while I sat on the ball for another contraction. Scott got behind me and massaged my back just like we had practiced. Knowing that he would be there by my side for the whole thing started calming me down. I just listened to the HypnoBabies and tried taking it one contraction at a time like Nancy said.

We had been there for about two hours, walking the halls, sitting on the ball, propped against various chairs and tables when I decided that I wanted to get into the tub. The contractions were coming so fast and they were so painful. I just needed to keep trying something new so that it didn’t feel like I would be in pain forever. I got naked and slipped into the tub and it felt wonderful. I was weightless and there was no pressure on my back. I swam to the edge and Scott held me in his arms. We were bracing ourselves for the next contraction. We waited and waited and waited. The contractions had been coming about every minute and now 2-3 minutes slipped by with nothing. I enjoyed the break, but was starting to tense up as I anticipated the next wave.

The next contraction rolled through my body like a bulldozer. I could feel my body ripping, tearing, searing, burning, and consuming me with the most painful contraction yet. I stayed in the water for about 45 minutes. And while it helped to give me a nice break inbetween contractions, it made them so much more intense, so I decided to get out. Scott and Nancy dried me off and helped me back into my nighty. I was dressed just in time for another big contraction. I knelt in front of the log bed and squatted down as I held onto the wooden frame at the base of the bed.

When I was in the water, I didn’t think I could possibly tolerate any more pain or handle any more contractions of that magnitude, but this one was even more intense. I felt like I was going to panic. I didn’t think I could handle the pain that was consuming me. Scott was crouched beside me with encouraging words. My body felt like it was being torn apart by a viscous source of unknown agony. I tried to visualize what was happening to my body. I tried to see myself opening up and preparing the way for our beautiful little girl. I tried to not think about what was happening in terms of pain but as pressure sensations like the HypnoBabies had trained me. It was the longest contraction yet and I listened to Nancy as she advised me to take it one contraction at a time. It won’t last forever, I thought. It’s almost done.

Transition

I felt a wave of relief as the contraction subsided, but instead of getting a nice pain free break, I just felt the level of pain cut in half. When I stood up, I could feel a wet stream trickle down my leg. “I think my water broke!” I shouted triumphantly. Finally, some progress. Nancy wanted to check me to see how far I had dilated. Her probing fingers sent another wave of pain convulsing through my body. She pulled and prodded, trying to do what she could to speed things up. She announced that I was 6-7 cm dilated but that I had an anterior lip which meant that I wasn’t dilating evenly.

Only 6-7 cm I thought! All that pain and all that work for just 6-7 cm!!!! I didn’t know how much more I would be able to take. We had been there for almost five hours and it could be five more, or ten. I had no idea what to expect next. I wanted to tell Scott that I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted them to take me to the hospital. I didn’t just want an epidural. I wanted everything to stop. I wanted them to just cut the baby out of me. I couldn’t imagine pushing her through my tiny window. But the contractions were coming one on top of another and I couldn’t even speak. The only sound that escaped my lips was a loud guttural moan as the animalistic part of my body took over. One contraction at a time I kept thinking. That’s all I could think.

After she examined me, I positioned myself onto all fours and started rocking through the next contraction. The pain whipped through my body like a freight train knocking away my breath. I felt dizzy, nauseous and out of control. “I’m going to throw up!” I sobbed. “Get something, get something, get something,” I whimpered, not wanting to destroy the clean bedding with my vomit. I knew that I would be lying here with my daughter and even though I was consumed with pain, I knew that I didn’t want to cradle my newborn daughter in the middle of a pile of slimy sticky bile. Nancy and Scott quickly positioned a little bowl under my chin and I heaved into it as another contraction racked my body. All the fruit Scott had lovingly cut emptied into the basin. It felt good to get rid of it.

After that, I removed my crumpled body from the bed and tried walking down the halls. The contractions were coming one on top of another. I wasn’t getting any sort of break at all. I felt like I had to really choose to keep going, to not give up…because even if I were to give up, my body wouldn’t. So I just took it one contraction at a time and tried to remain calm. I visualized my body opening up to deliver my child. I tried to think of the pain as pressure waves. Scott held me and supported me with his soft voice and steady hands. He was my rock. I knew that if he was there, I could handle anything.

Nancy spent most of the time elsewhere and let us labor together. We were doing such a good job that she told me later she didn’t even know I had entered transition labor. She said that most moms start screaming at their husbands at that point and the midwives take over. But Scott and I were so calm and he was so supportive that she was able to leave us alone. At one point Scott had to go to the bathroom and Nancy was gone. I was all alone as another contraction mounted. “Scott, Scott! Where are you?” I called out. It was the only time he left my side all night and he was back in a flash. As soon as I felt his hands on my shoulders, I relaxed. I knew that I couldn’t do this alone. I needed him to believe in me and to support me.

We made our way to the bathroom and I decided to sit backwards on the toilet. Nancy said it was a good position to open things up. It hurt tremendously, but if pain meant progression, then I was all for it! I sat backwards through a few contractions. The pain was unbearable and I could literally feel myself opening up. I slumped off from the toilet and crouched down into a kneeling position in front of the toilet bowl. It felt like I should be vomiting into the toilet in this position!

Pushing

All of a sudden, I got the urge to push. I was terrified, but ecstatic at the same time. I knew that we were getting so close and I just wanted the pain to stop more than anything. Nancy and Scott were on either side of me. The RN had arrived and everyone was encouraging me to push. I felt the huge mass of her body inside of me screaming to get out. A huge sensation of pressure accompanied the next contraction and I lifted my head and screamed a low, guttural, growling crescendo that crested into the most intense scream I have ever heard in my life. Scott later said how impressed he was with the magnitude of my scream. It was powerful, raw, and I couldn’t believe that sound was escaping my body much the same way I couldn’t believe a small baby was about to come through me.

All of the yoga I had practiced was paying off as I settled into a deep squat. With each contraction came the urge to push and the urge to scream. I felt as the large mass inside of me prepared to leave my body. I could feel my body opening and my baby descending. Nancy and the RN were surprised that I had all of a sudden gotten the urge to push right there in the bathroom, but they adapted well. They put a mirror underneath me to check my progress and used the Doppler to check the baby’s heart rate. After about thirty minutes, I could barely feel my legs as they wobbled, struggling to support me. I could hear the worry in the RN’s voice as she announced that the baby’s heart rate was dropping. Nancy tried to remain calm, but with a twinge of panic said, “I think you better move to the bed honey.” Scott supported me while I stood up and quickly waddled to the bed, afraid the whole time that I was going to suck her back in and lose all of the progress I had made.

When I got to the bed, I felt such a wave of relief as my legs did not have to support me anymore. The pillows propping me up felt so soft and cradled my body like clouds. I was so happy knowing that I was so close, but I was really worried about the dropping heart rate. I felt like I really needed to work hard to get her out as soon as possible. Her heart rate started to do better with me on my back. Nancy told me to grab my left leg and pull it towards me as I pushed. With my chin down and my right arm gripping Scott with all my might, I let loose another loud scream as I bared down with all of my weight. I was starting to lose my voice and Nancy told me to put all of my energy into pushing instead of screaming. I immediately felt like I was able to push longer and harder with a more focused concentration.

“I can see the baby’s head!” Scott shouted. It was so close! I couldn’t believe I was almost done! (Scott said it looked like a hotdog coming out and he thought, man she’s got a little head, until he saw the rest of the head emerge.) Her head started to crown and I immediately thought of the term “ring of fire” and how it was very appropriately named. I could feel myself ripping, tearing, and stretching far beyond anything that I thought was humanly possible. I thought back to the birthing videos we saw where the women simply “breathed” their babies out. I was still worried about her heart rate and I just wanted to get her out to make sure she was okay, so I didn’t even stop for a break after a big push.

At that point, I didn’t care about the tearing, I didn’t care about an episiotomy, I just wanted to deliver a healthy baby. I pushed again as hard as I could and I could feel myself stretching even more. It felt like my whole body was about to tear in half. I kept listening to Scott and the midwives as they shouted words of encouragement. “One more push! Keep pushing! You’re almost there!” I gave everything my body had and finished the last big push. I felt her head pop out and then the rest of her body slide through. Nancy told us that as soon as the head was delivered, she saw a tiny hand, followed by the shoulders and then the rest of the body. It was probably that little hand that gave me the hematoma (a large broken blood vessel under the skin).

Nancy lifted the baby to my chest and I couldn’t believe I was holding my baby girl! Scott and I were crying and looking at the little miracle on my chest. I couldn’t believe she was crying already and I just wanted to rock her and comfort her. As soon as they lifted her up to me, she had her first meconium poop. I didn’t even notice as it ran down my body. I could feel the cord tug inside of my as I tried to lift her higher on my chest. It was too short! The cord had stopped pulsing, so they clamped it and gave Scott the scissors. He cut it with two snips. I pulled our little girl firmly onto my chest and we soaked in everything about her. She was looking up at us with these big dark eyes and her little pink  face. She was absolutely beautiful! I expected her to be a bloody, wrinkled, cone shaped mess, but she was absolutely perfect. I couldn’t believe how perfect she was! I just felt a wave of emotion pass through my body as it sunk in…this is my daughter…my little girl…my precious angel that I’d been talking to, singing to, and reading to for the past nine months.

Scott and I Meet Ruby

Scott and I Meet Ruby

Holding Ruby

Holding Ruby

With one more push, I delivered the placenta. They wrapped our little angel in a blanket and left Scott and I alone to marvel at this wonderous miracle. I was soooooooooooooo relieved that the labor was over and sooooooooooo happy to be holding my perfectly healthy little girl. Scott cuddled with us on the bed and we just stared at her in awe. The room had a soft red glow and we knew that the name Ruby suited her perfectly. Ruby Lynn Maaser. Born at 2:52 in the morning of August 28th, 2009.

After the Birth

I tried to breastfeed her right away, but we couldn’t get a good latch. The RN kept helping us, but my nipples were just too flat. Ruby latched on to one side for just a few moments, but that was it. We laid there together for about an hour and a half. They brought us some sliced apples and some cheese and crackers. The last thing I wanted to do was eat, but they told me I needed to build up my strength, so I forced some food down. It was such a surreal moment to be lying there in bed with our new family. I told Scott to shut his eyes for a minute. He was exhausted too. I kept trying to breastfeed her, but it just wasn’t working.

Eventually, Scott just put his finger in her mouth and she happily sucked on that. We would just have to try again when we were home. I slowly got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom where the RN had drawn me an herbal bath. I tried peeing on the toilet, but screamed out in pain. Apparently, I had a lot of “skid marks” that tore me up on the inside. The RN handed me a Peri bottle and that helped. I weakly washed myself off in the tub. Scott came in holding Ruby looking absolutely mystified. I got out of the tub and the RN helped me get dried off and dressed. Scott and Ruby cuddled together on the bed while Nancy stitched me up. I just wanted to lie in that bed and sleep for days, but they were already getting us ready to leave!

Scott went to get the Durango as I tried to get Ruby dressed. She was covered in meconium poop that just wouldn’t come off and they didn’t have any soft washrags, so I used baby wipes to do the best job I could. (Really, no washrags??? Maybe we could make a donation to the midwifery or something to help out future parents.) I awkwardly put on her diaper, not knowing if I was doing it right. The outfit I brought for her was way too big and I didn’t quite know how to put it on. I was feeling so overwhelmed and wondering why someone wasn’t helping me more!

When Scott came in, the RN went over a bunch of directions for taking care of ourselves and Ruby, but we were too shocked to really absorb much of anything. We hugged her and Nancy, and just four hours after giving birth, we were putting Ruby in her car seat and getting ready to go home. It was a crisp morning and I was just wearing my little nighty. Scott brought me a big sheet from the trunk to wrap myself in and we were on the road. Six hours of labor at the midwifery and four hours of recovery later, we were a family. We called our parents on the way home and through tears I gave them a summary of their new grandchild.

Trying to Breastfeed

When we got home I tried to breastfeed her again, but we still couldn’t get a good latch. I used the breastpump to extract a few drops. I put those drops in a little dropper and placed it inside her cheek. After drinking just a few drops, we both fell asleep in the bedroom while Scott drove around for hours trying to find nipple shields to help me breastfeed. When he came home, we spent the rest of the day sleeping. I kept trying to breastfeed and feeding her little droplets of milk.

The next night, after lots of patience and guidance, Ruby eventually latched on and I just started crying as her little mouth suckled and she received the nourishment she needed. Breastfeeding flowed smoothly after that. We excitedly called the rest of our family to tell them the wonderful news. We were so happy! Scott had a month off from work and it was the most amazing month of our lives. We didn’t know the difference between day or night, or even what day it was for that matter! We had a baby moon for the first week and didn’t allow any visitors.  It was so much fun trying to figure everything out. Everything was so wonderful and new. We just loved being parents to the most wonderful daughter in the world!

At Home with Ruby

At Home with Ruby

Holding Sweet Ruby

Holding Sweet Ruby

Scott Changing Ruby

Scott Changing Ruby

Ruby Lynn Maaser....Those Eyes!

Ruby Lynn Maaser….Those Eyes!

Ruby Lynn Maaser...Those Fingers!

Ruby Lynn Maaser…Those Fingers!

Ruby Lynn Maaser

Ruby Lynn Maaser

The Truth About Fats

When I read Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions, it literally changed my life. I’ve never had one book so completely consume me and motivate me to change everything about my life. Thanks for recommending it Lisa! In this blog, I hope to summarize what I have learned from Nourishing Traditions, in addition to Weston PriceGary Taubes, and Fathead and show how learning the truth about fats will be as close as I’ll ever come to a religious awakening. 

Like many adolescent girls, I feel like my obsession with weight began with that awkward phase known as puberty. I began to equate being skinny with being hungry, and I began to notice things like “grams of fat” and “total calories” on packaged food. I knew without knowing that fat was bad and so I avoided things like whole milk, butter, and mayonnaise. I remember reading somewhere that if you stopped putting mayonnaise on your sandwiches, you could lose something like two pounds every year. I was able to remain thin quite easily (thanks to an efficient metabolism), but as I got older, and especially after having kids, my old strategies for keeping the weight off just weren’t working anymore. Then I discovered this crazy idea that fat is actually good for you. Say whaaaaaat??? And not just any fat, but the so-called “artery-clogging” saturated fat I’d ruthlessly avoided my whole life. On top of that, I learned that the polyunsaturated fats that I’d always heard labeled as “heart-healthy” actually CAUSE heart disease and cancer. “BOOM!” (That was the sound of my mind exploding.)

The reason why it seems like “common knowledge” that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad isn’t because they ARE bad, but rather because a man named Ancel Keys THOUGHT they were bad and so he made an assumption. (Silly Ancel, didn’t he know that when you “assume” things, you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”?) It “made sense” to him that saturated fat and cholesterol led to heart disease and so he cherry picked six countries that matched his theory to be part of his Lipid Hypothesis and he left out the remaining sixteen countries that didn’t. He didn’t have any credible scientific proof to back up his hypothesis, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a leading member of the American Heart Association, landing on the cover of Time magazine in the 1970s, and becoming “the father of dietary wisdom”. After Ancel Keys and his buddy Jeremiah Stamler were a part of the American Heart Association, the AHA (who originally opposed the Lipid Hypothesis and any ideas like it) flipped their stance and supported it, with the caveat that research was pending. Soon after, senator George McGovern published his Dietary Goals for the United States, which followed Keys’ recommended a reduction of fats along with a drastic increase in carbohydrates. So then the National Institute of Health decided that they’d better drum up some actual research to support the hypothesis everyone was already promoting. (Seems like a pretty biased way to conduct research if you ask me.) No compelling research emerged, and in fact, the research that they hoped would support their hypothesis actually showed quite the opposite. The Framingham Heart study states, “we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.” (JAMA Internal Medicine) But it was already too late. The idea that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad was barreling down the American ideology track like a freight train…and gaining momentum too. In 1980, the USDA released their official Dietary Guidelines for Americans (which were VERY similar to George McGovern’s guidelines). These guidelines have since been republished every five years with very little changes. And that’s that. Now every government agency, every doctor, and every American wrongly assumes that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad. (For a more thorough description of this story, check out my blog post How We Were Duped Into Thinking Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Were Bad.)

The term “artery-clogging saturated fats” isn’t true. When the fat in artery clogs is studied, only about 26% is saturated and the rest is unsaturated, with more than half of that being polyunsaturated. Saturated fats have been wrongly demonized when the truth is that we really NEED them as they play many important roles in our body chemistry. 

  • Cell membranes must be comprised of at least 50% saturated fatty acids in order to maintain their stiffness. (Without stiff cell membranes, arteries become weak and flabby and THAT is when cholesterol comes to the rescue to repair the damage that has been done. This becomes the plaque that clogs arteries, increases blood pressure, and leads to heart disease.)
  • Unless 50% of the fats we consume come from saturated fat, we cannot properly absorb the calcium we need.
  • Saturated fatty acids are made up of short and medium chain fatty acids that are not stored as fat, but used as quick energy.
  • They protect the liver from toxins.
  • They enhance the immune system.
  • They protect us from harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.
  • They have important antimicrobial properties.
  • They are needed to properly utilize fatty acids like omega-3s.
  • The fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated and draws upon that fat in times of stress.

Not only is saturated fat good for you, but cholesterol is too! Say whaaaaaat??? It’s true. This idea of “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol” is totally wrong. LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is REPAIRING damaged arterial walls. In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains how blaming cholesterol for it’s correlation with clogged arteries is like blaming the police for their correlation with crime. (i.e. A high crime area will have an increased number of police officers just like clogged arteries will have an increased level of LDL cholesterol, but the high crime isn’t CAUSED by the police and the clogged arteries are not CAUSED by the cholesterol. Just because two things are correlated doesn’t mean that one thing causes another.) The arterial plaques themselves contain very little cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed for many functions in our body and the only people that are benefit from the misconception that we should lower our cholesterol levels are the multibillion dollar drug corporations that create cholesterol lowering drugs called statins, like Lipitor and the doctors who get kick backs called “research study” funds for every new patient they can con to take them.

  • Cholesterol is needed along with saturated fats to give cells their stiffness and stability. When a diet contains too much polyunsaturated fatty acids, the cell walls actually become flabby and cholesterol is used to make them strong again.
  • It is the precursor needed to make sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
  • It is a precursor to vital hormones called coriocosteroids which are needed to help us deal with stress and protects the body against heart disease and cancer.
  • It is a precursor to vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for healthy bones and nervous system, proper growth, mineral metabolism, muscle tone, insulin production, reproduction, and immune system function.
  • Bile salts are made from cholesterol. Bile is vital for digestion and assimilation of dietary fats.
  • It helps to maintain the health of the intestinal wall. This is why low-cholesterol vegetarian diets can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other intestinal disorders.
  • It is an antioxidant that protects us from free radical damage that leads to heart disease and cancer.
  • Cholesterol is needed for proper function of serotonin receptors, the “feel good” chemical, in the brain. When cholesterol levels are low, there are behavioral links to depression, suicidal tendencies, and violent and aggressive behavior.
  • Mother’s milk is especially rich in cholesterol (as well as saturated fat). Babies and children especially need cholesterol rich foods for optimal brain and nervous system development. Yet, the American Heart Association is now recommending a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet for children! Most commercial formulas are low in saturated fats and soy formulas are completely devoid of cholesterol. A recent study linked low-fat diets with failure to thrive in children.
  • Beware of damaged cholesterol! Just like fats, cholesterol can be damaged by exposure to heat and oxygen which can lead to to the arterial cells as well as a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Damaged cholesterol is found in powdered eggs, powdered milk, skim and low-fat milks (which has powdered milk added to it), and in meats or fats that have been heated to a high temperature.

When people stopped eating saturated fats and cholesterol because they were tricked into thinking they were bad, they replaced them with polyunsaturated fats such as canola oil and trans fats such margarine. Modern diets include up to 30% polyunsaturated fats when the ideal should be about 4%. Excess consumption of polyunsaturated oils has been shown to contribute to a large number of diseases including cancer and heart disease, immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders, depressed learning ability, impaired growth, and weight gain. Polyunsaturated fats (WRONGLY marketed as “heart healthy”) and hydrogenated oils, known as trans fats (marketed as a “healthy alternative” to butter) should be avoided at all costs and are one of the TRUE causes of heart disease and cancer.

  • Polyunsaturated fats tend to become oxidized or rancid when exposed to heat, oxygen, and moisture from cooking and processing. Rancid oils contain free radicals that damage cell membranes and red blood cells. This leads to wrinkles, premature aging, tumors, and plaque buildup.
  • Polyunsaturates also contain a high amount of omega-6 linoleic acid and a low amount of omega-3 linoleic acid. This imbalance disrupts prostaglandins that leads to blood clots and inflammation, high blood pressure, irritation of the digestive tract, depressed immune function, sterility, cell proliferation, cancer, and weight gain.

After learning all of this, I initially felt a bit overwhelmed when I thought about all of the things we were going to have to change about our eating habits. We didn’t change everything all at once. We simply picked one thing to research further and learn more about, and then we gradually implemented one change at a time. Looking back over the past year, we have done a lot to add foods rich in saturated fats and eliminate foods with polyunsaturated fats. Here are some of the things we have implemented so far.

  • We started by drinking raw milk. If there is only one thing you can do to help the health of your family, do this! We bought a cow share and consume six gallons of the freshest, creamiest, best tasting raw milk we’ve ever had every week.
  • We go through about ten pounds of non rBST (bovine growth hormone) butter a month.
  • We just purchased our first grass-fed half of a cow, which is about 160 pounds of the best ground beef, steak, roast we’ve ever had. Hopefully this will last us a whole year!
  • Every week we get three dozen pastured eggs with dark yellow yolks from the Amish farm where we get our milk.
  • We also recently got our fifty pounds of coconut oil that I will use for cooking, baking, and body moisturizer.

Learning about our health has become like a full time job for me, and I am always learning something new or learning about something I had a preliminary knowledge about at a deeper level. It makes me feel so good to know that we are feeding ourselves with nutrient dense food that will heal us from the inside out. To know that as our children are growing, their bodies are being constructed with the best nutrients possible that will enable them to grow into adults free from the plagues that a poor diet will bring. We truly believe that food is our medicine, and every day we are taking steps to ensure that we are taking the best medicine we possibly can.

A few of my favorite studies:

  • In his book, Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes explains how in 1990, the National Institute of Health conducted a study that they hoped to answer whether low fat diets prevented heart disease or cancer. So they spent one billion dollars and had 20,000 women eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. These women also cut their caloric intake by about 360 calories per day. After eight years, they lost an average of two pounds each and their waist circumference increased, meaning that the weight they lost was lean muscle.
  • In another study, Taubes explains how a two million dollar government funded study through Stanford University called the A to Z Weight Loss studied four diets. 1) Atkins Diet: Subjects had twenty grams of carbohydrates for the first three months and then fifty grams, with as much protein and fat as they wanted. 2) A Traditional Diet: Subjects had restricted calories, carbohydrates made up 55-60% of all calories, fat was less than 30% of the caloric intake, saturated fat was less than 10%, and regular exercise was encouraged. 3) The Ornish Diet: Subjects at fewer than 10% of all calories came from fat, subjects meditated and exercised. 4) The Zone Diet: Subjects consumed 30% of calories from protein, 40% of calories from carbohydrates, and 30% of calories from fat. After one year, the Atkins dieters lost the most weight (10 pounds), their triglycerides went way down, their blood pressure went down, and their HDL cholesterol went up (which is good).
  • In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon describes a multi-year British study in which several thousand men were asked to reduce their saturated fat and cholesterol in their diets, to stop smoking, and to increase consumption of unsaturated oils such as margarine and vegetable oil. After one year, the group that reduced their saturated fat had 100% more deaths, even though the group that did not still smoked!
  • In another study, Fallon describes a study comparing Yemen Jews who ate only fats from animal origin and no sugar to Yemenite Jews living in Israel who ate margarine, vegetable oil, and sugar equaling 25-30% of their carbohydrate intake. The Yemen Jews had little to no heart disease or diabetes, but the Yemenite Jews had very high incidences of both.
  • She also discusses the Masai African tribes that subsist largely on milk, blood, and beef. They are completely free from heart disease and have low cholesterol levels. When Ancel Keys heard about this study, he purposed that they inherited some sort of genes to help them become immune to such ailments. But as the Masai began eating a western diet, they got heart disease at the same rates as everyone else.

For more reading on this subject, check out the following articles.

Digestion and Absorption of Food Fats by Mary Enig, phD

Why the Current US Dietary Guidelines are Making Americans Fat by Mary Enig, phD

Skinny on Fats, by Mary Enig, phD and Sally Fallon

Who’s Got Time For a Blog?

I am the wife of an amazing husband who works so hard for our family and the mother of three lovely children, a 3 month old who likes to be held constantly, a rambunctious 2 year old, and a very wise 4 year old who is on the cusp of starting preschool. So why oh why would I delve into the world of blogging and web design??? To put it simply, it’s for my sanity. It’s for my soul, and it’s for the fact that even though I am a devoted mother who would lay my life on the line for my children and do anything for my husband, I still need to feel connected to the person who is just me. It’s so easy to give all of me and still feel like there is never enough, but when I am able to give to myself, what I am able to give to others is so much richer and full of honesty and joy. And so I have chosen to write this blog to nurture my soul and feed my adult brain so that I can be there 100% when I cuddle with my children, embrace my husband, and tell them that I love them with all of my heart.

Why We Drink Raw Milk

2012-06-18_18-13-07_380When I was juggling a full time job and raising a family, I never had the time to do much research about what we ate. We just spent a ridiculous amount of money trying to buy foods that were organic and called it good. But now that I am a stay at home mom, I have made it my JOB to feed my family and do it right. One of the first (and best) changes we made was switching to raw milk. Read on to find out why raw milk is clearly the better option, and why if you’re not going to drink raw milk, you really shouldn’t be drinking milk at all. 

Should Adults Even Be Drinking Milk?

I am a big fan of breastfeeding and its numerous health benefits. A mother’s milk is designed to give her baby all of the nutrients it needs to grow as it begins life. All other mammals do this as well, cows included. Does it strike you as a little odd that in drinking cow’s milk we are essentially drinking what was designed for a baby cow? Most adults (60-70%) don’t even produce the intestinal enzyme lactase (which all baby mammals produce) which is needed to properly digest milk! That coupled with the fact that many adults are allergic to the milk protein casein and I’m surprised that it is even so widely accepted that milk is part of our food pyramid (which is another post in and of itself!). So if you do in fact choose to drink milk, the pasteurized and homogenized milk you find on store shelves is hardly fit to even be called milk.

Confined-animal-feeding-operation

Factory Farms House Freaks of Nature

Every grocery store and gas station advertises the low price of their milk as an enticing factor to draw you in. In order to bring you milk for $1.89/gallon, the milk is obtained by treating these living, breathing, feeling creatures like pieces of machinery in an assembly line. The cows are crowded together in feed lots, fed corn and grain to fatten them up (rather than the grass that their bodies are naturally meant to digest), pumped full of bovine growth hormones in order to produce 3 or 4 times more milk than their bodies are designed, get mastitis, secrete pus, and hence need the routine antibiotics that these conditions create. Did you know that there’s an allowable pus content in store bought milk? That means they know that every cow will produce some pus and so they allow for a certain amount of that to be passed down to the consumer. As a breastfeeding mother, I am meticulous about what I eat because I know it passes directly to my baby. It’s the same with cows! When we drink their milk, we are essentially taking in whatever they did.  Now that I have children, I am mortified to think that these hormones could be passed through to them and actually cause them to hit puberty early.

Pasteurization Destroys Everything Good

When you think about the allowable pus content in store bought milk, does it make you feel a little bit better to know that it’s been heated to a high temperature at least? Heated pus…mmm-mm-mmm! The process of pasteurization is supposedly needed to protect us from infectious diseases, even though as Sally Fallon points out in her book, Nourishing Traditions, “ALL OUTBREAKS OF SALMONELLA FROM CONTAMINATED MILK IN RECENT DECADES – AND THERE HAVE BEEN MANY – HAVE OCCURRED IN PASTEURIZED MILK.” Raw milk has lactic-acid producing bacteria that will naturally protect your body from these and other harmful pathogens. Milk is alive! It is full of enzymes that help our bodies digest and assimilate all of the bodybuilding factors including calcium. Pasteurization kills these enzymes along with altering the amino acids and making the protein less available to us. It also reduces milk’s mineral components, losing at least 50% of vitamin C, destroys the essential vitamin B12, and has even been linked to diabetes because of the unnecessary strain on the pancreas. Are you crossing store bought milk off your grocery list yet? I haven’t even mentioned the unnatural process of homogenization and its link to heart disease because the suspended fat and cholesterol particles are more prone to rancidity and oxidization or the fact that skim milk has a bluish color until powdered milk is added to it, and powdered milk has oxidized cholesterol which can damage the arteries and lead to atherosclerosis! But on to greener pastures!

The Benefits of Raw Milk

  • If you had to, you could live off from raw milk alone. It is a perfectly balanced food.
  • It is an excellent source of saturated fat and cholesterol. Both of these necessary dietary components have been unjustly demonized by mainstream media. Read my blog: The Truth About Fats to learn about how wrong we’ve all been about fats.
  • It is rich in fat soluble vitamins A and D.
  • It is an excellent source of protein with all twenty of the standard amino acids.
  • It has immunoglobulin proteins that provide resistance to many viruses and bacteria.
  • It has a perfect balance of minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium that allows the absorption of calcium.
  • It has sixty functional enzymes that aid in its own digestion giving our pancreas a break.
  • It contains lactobacilli bacteria that digests lactose and may allow people who lack the enzyme lactase to digest it.
  • It is abundant in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which is an extremely beneficial polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid that can raise the metabolic rate, help remove abdominal fat, boosts muscle growth, reduces resistance to insulin, strengthens the immune system, and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass fed cows are known to have three to five times more CLA than cows that are grain fed.
  • Drinking raw milk is an excellent way to reverse insulin resistance. There was a recent study done that compared two groups of people. One group consumed four servings of dairy a day and the other group consumed two servings of dairy per day. The group that consumed four servings of dairy per day improved their insulin resistance by 11% over a six month period.

Milk FarmMilk Farm2Milk Farm3The Raw Milk Experience

We get our milk from a little Amish farm in west Michigan. We drive 40 minutes one way to get it fresh every week. The kids get out to stretch their legs and play with the Amish children as my husband pours the milk fresh out of the cooling vat that has been collected within the last few days. We can see the cows grazing in the fields surrounding the farm. Sometimes they are so far away we can’t even see them!  They milk three or four cows at a time using a hand operated electric pump (run off from a generator) and actually bring in the baby cows to feed, which costs them but is better for the baby cows. Their milk is tested regularly and always passes with flying colors. But the best part of all is the taste! The fresh, rich, creamy, ice cold glass of frothy milk is so delicious, filling, and decadent that I almost feel guilty! This is an amazing experience for our kids. They get to see where their milk is coming from and not just assume that everything comes off from the shelves at a store.

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2012-06-18_18-13-48_3512012-06-18_18-14-11_17How Much Does It Cost?

Purchasing raw milk is illegal, so we actually own a cow share and pay boarding fees. We own 6 shares, which costs us a refundable deposit of $300 and we pay $120/month in boarding fees which is $5/gallon. This may seem like a lot of money and a lot of milk for one family, but it is an amazing source of nutrient dense food that doesn’t take any time to prepare that we can have with meals, as a snack, or even as a meal substitute when we’re on the run. Our kids can be picky eaters at times, but they LOVE raw milk and drink it all the time. We keep their sippy cups constantly full and they open the refrigerator often to grab their cups and take a drink whenever they choose.

Being on a budget, we have to prioritize many things, but our raw milk is the one thing that we will maintain no matter what happens. If this was the ONLY thing I could do for the health and well being of my family, it would be enough to make a difference.

For More Information…

  • To find a raw milk source near you, check out Real Milk Finder. Their website also has a ton of great information if you would like to learn more about raw milk.
  • To find the latest news about raw milk and lots of other good information, check out the Weston Price Foundation.
  • If you want a really great informative read, check out Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.
  • I also got some great information for this post about raw milk in Natural News.
  • Check out this 11 minute video if you want to see a great summary of the benefits of raw milk or this video if you want to see a 2 minute video on Sally Fallon’s perspective.