catching a baby in Africa

This past November I was invited back to Namibia, Africa with the hope of attending the first birth of a good friend.  Of course, timing international travel for the arrival of a baby is an imprecise science. Nevertheless, we planned with optimism.  I weaned my littlest, at 26 months of age, just a few short weeks before my travel and did my best to prepare myself mentally for leaving my family for the first time since our expansion to include offspring.  All of my previous international travel was accompanied by a friend or my husband which, as I discovered, makes 30 hours of travel infinitely more enjoyable.  For all of the complaining I’ve been known to voice about just needing “a moment to myself!” every once in a while, exasperated in the constant company of my affectionate babies, the long series of moments solo international travel provides was a bit much for even the most introverted introvert.  After uneventful travel, I arrived on a sunny, warm Namibian afternoon–thrilled to see my large-bellied and beautiful friend and her husband!

We spent the week catching up: talking birth, babies and breastfeeding.  We ate out, napped, took day-trips to the capital city, enjoyed walks in the warm evening air. I painted her toenails, gave a massage, took photos and we took turns poking protruding baby limbs under her tightly-stretched belly.  Please come out we’d gently beg. Today’s the day we’d plea.  We want to see your sweet face we’d croon. We went on an off-roading safari game drive to admire the local wide life and not-so-gently bounce her womb into action. Unsuccessfully.

Although I believe strongly in the innate and prefect timing of arriving babies, I began to feel a creeping sadness at the thought of the long travel back home without seeing my friend through this miraculous journey, meeting her firstborn.

Just 12 short hours before my flight home, this might be it, she said.  Something feels different.  Maybe…let’s wait and see.  10 hours before my flight home, I was overjoyed with the unexpected privilege of catching her sweet baby girl myself as my friend did the hard, beautiful work of birth with such grace and strength.  I could not have been more proud or humbled by how birth instantly ushers in the first, breathtaking moments of motherhood (and fatherhood!).

I’ve shared the details of the great adventure my friend invited me on again and again.  Each time, my audience voices how scary it must have been! (my medical-mind says “YES!  It was.”), what a crazy story!You caught your friends baby in the remote desert in Africa! And, from an outside perspective, that all is obviously true! So true! But what I love about this experience was how meant-to-be it all felt.  Her baby and I had a divine appointment neither of us were willing to miss!

I impatiently journeyed home.  Having my own babies to hold again had an extra air of sweetness.  This birth took place 4 years to the day that I experienced my own first labor. Divine, indeed.

 

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This weekend I took two finals and competed the didactic portion of my masters degree program.   I’ve been working towards this for over two years now and the rhythm of it feels familiar.  In the last weeks of a term I feel burnt-out, read-out, lectured-out, practice guidelined-out, professional journaled-out.  Anxious to be done, distracted and unable to concentrate.  My husband now laughs at my predictable routine with each term of school:

Beginning of the term: Feel overwhelmed by all I have to do.  Make lists, lists, lists.  Reorganize the house 5 times.

Middle of the term: Accomplish the bulk of my coursework.  Nose-bured in books.  Motivated and running extra miles to cope with the energy of it all.

End of term: Can barely make it through a paragraph of clinical text.  My mind is always on real-life scenarios: how to manage a shoulder dystocia, treat chlamydia, midwife a patient with a history of sexual assault, recognize a baby with a heart defect.  I make lists of what I want to accomplish during my break. Dream of a beach vacation.  Stalk google maps with wanderlust.

During break: Sleep, watch movies and read for about 18 hours until I feel …restless and find myself in clinical journals, board review books and house projects.

It has been comforting and comedic to see it played out 9 times over the past 2.25 years.  This break is different because next month I’m venturing into the clinical realm.  This long-worn cycle has served me well, protected my sanity and become a calendar of sorts for our family.  For all of the struggles that come with graduate school with a husband and two small children, there’s something to be said for the shelter and predictability it has provided.  This Spring, I’m venturing outside of the familiar rhythms and steeling myself for the unpredictability of clinic and hospital nurse-midwifery.

 

 

The end of this quarter marks the middle point of my graduate school program. This season next year I will be catching babies, seeing patients in the clinic, studying for boards and generally pinching myself again and again.  I imagine that I will finish my clinical rotation faster than I have planned for because of the burst of energy found close to the finish line.

I started running to keep up with this nervous energy.  I strap the kids in to the stroller nearly every morning, equipped with snacks, sun hats and drinks.  We run in the Colorado sun, the passing rain storms, the dry air and clear our lungs. I can’t say I’m graceful yet, behind 60lbs of kids-on-wheels, but I’ve found a rhythm.  Sometimes I could run all morning and others I feel the weight of my body, the weight of my kids, the weight of being on the way when I’m ready to arrive.

Running is teaching me to stay here, strangely.

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“The highest educational priority in the country does not have anything to do with universities or high schools. It should be a nutritional program for pregnant women so that they can give birth to children who have all of their brain cells.”

John R. Silber, President Boston University

this and that

Some of these links may have been posted here previously, maybe they deserve a second look-over?  Enjoy!

Labor, Interrupted 

“Obstetrics in modern America is a contentious subject in general. Birth and the actions surrounding it—medical and otherwise—evoke strong emotions.”

“Midwives’ training, Osborne says, focuses on optimizing the chances of vaginal birth throughout prenatal care and labor. Midwives usually spend more time with laboring women than obstetricians do, and studies have shown that even passive, nonmedical support during labor leads to better birth outcomes. Midwives are also far more tolerant of slow labors, and are therefore less likely to determine “failure to progress” (when a provider decides that labor is proceeding too slowly to be safe) or “obstructed labor” (caused by a mismatch, of position or size, between the baby’s head and mother’s pelvis)—among the more commonly stated reasons for proceeding to cesareans.”

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A lovely birth story with breath-taking photos

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I wish women were more familiar with the risks associated with epidurals.

Primary health care by advance practice nurses.

 

weekend links

Some interesting links to keep you busy this weekend!

Sterile water injections for pain relief.

Nitrous oxide for the management of labor pain.

A kiss for labor pain relief.

A great list of common obstetric procedures NOT supported by science

Some great book suggestions for expectant parents.

Breast milk composition differs based on baby’s gender!  (Could breast milk BE any more amazing?!)

Over-the-counter oral contraceptives?

smart bra to detect breast cancer!

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genome sequencing

This past year I made the switch from working as a hospital-based labor and delivery nurse to working for a busy nurse-midwife practice offering nursing support in their clinic.  During this transition, I’ve learned a lot and have been particularly interested in the array of prenatal genetic testing available to expecting mothers today.  Even as a nurse, the options are a bit overwhelming.

For example, the Materniti21 test is a genetic test offered to mothers as early as 10 weeks gestation and can predict with nearly 100% accuracy the risk for carrying a baby with Down Syndrome as well as trisomy 18 and 13.  In fact, this test also detects Y chromosomal material which means that it can reveal the gender of the fetus–again, at just 10 weeks gestation!  This early test offers parents the time to prepare for a child with a genetic condition and is also well within the time frame for parents to choose to terminate a pregnancy based on the results.

I believe that we are just at the tip of what is possible for genetic testing during pregnancy and as technology advances, the moral lines are going to get really blurry.  NPR ran an interesting story this week on the issue.  By state law, newborns receive a limited genetic screening test for a few relatively common but dangerous disorders.  Recent advancements have made it both possible and relatively inexpensive to run whole genome sequencing on infants suspected to have a genetic condition.  Although this allows for earlier, more specific treatment in infants with genetic conditions, it also opens the door to knowledge of predisposition to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart attack, even cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  A true blueprint to a persons health for the lifespan, now available from the day of birth (an soon earlier).  This is an amazing feat of science which has me wondering: Is there a point at which we know too much or too soon?

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Royal parenting

I’m a little too young to remember much from the Princess Diana era.  But last spring I found myself drawn to the Royal wedding which happily coincided with our babymoon trip to southern California.  My husband relented (don’t argue with a pregnant woman!) and we sat in our plush hotel room to catch a few moments of the event on television.  It was lovely–something little girls dream of.  I’ll admit that on our way home from the trip I stopped at an airport kiosk to buy the People Magazine Special Edition Royal Wedding.  After all, I was expecting a daughter and knew that someday she would likely be mesmerized by princes, princesses, long flowing dresses and weddings.  Someday I’ll give her that magazine and tell her about how I watched the royal wedding as I was growing her in my belly.

I’m sure many of you caught the news that William and Kate are expecting their first baby.  I’m no expert in the royal family and I definitely don’t know the details on royal childbirth traditions but I think there’s huge potential for Princess Kate’s pregnancy, childbirth and mothering decisions to impact women all over the world.  Imagine if she chose the care of a midwife!   Pursued natural childbirth!  Breastfed her baby and promoted the same!

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On having it all…

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This quarter of graduate school, my 4th, has been a true challenge.  Hence my absence!  My son turned three, started preschool one morning a week and cut his napping down to a few times a week.  My baby girl, now a walking one-year-old, made the transition from two naps to one and just this week (finally!) started sleeping through the night.  A curious preschooler and a busy toddler have brought Advanced Pharmacology and Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology to a new level of difficult.

The balance of motherhood and school/career is a tenuous one and I’ve been known to confess to other mothers that this balance has been the most challenging aspect of motherhood for me–more so because it is a weighty one I didn’t fully anticipate.  This week I came across an enlightening and encouraging article written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a dean at Princeton and recent director of policy planning in the State Department.  In it she shares her thoughts on Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.   Although her story may be unpopular among modern (feminist?) women, there is so much truth to what she has to say.  And, if anything, what ambitious moms need to hear today  is truth.  Surprisingly, I don’t find her words discouraging.  In fact, I’m comforted by seeing other moms pursue interests and use their talents outside of the home while striving to meet their family’s needs by being present, available, loving.  Also, I’m happy I married the right person.  A present, available and loving husband makes all the difference.

I don’t believe that I can have it all.  At least not at the same time.  I do believe in balance and this past quarter of school is helping me to refine that belief.

What about you?  What did you think of the article?

I’ve learned a lot these past 3 months, academically and otherwise.  I’m happy to have a short break from school because I’ve been storing up some fun and interested things to share with you!

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