This is an old post that I'm re-posting. It's interesting to see the decisions I made with L, that have carried through for S and J.
Wow! Every day I look at my daughter, L, and feel amazed. Amazed that she's really here, seemingly out of nowhere, and all mine. Seeing her all fresh and new to this world inspires me to do the best I can by her.
What follows is a little bit of my pregnancy/birth story, as well as my where-to-from-here plans for raising a healthy, happy baby girl.
My sister, Mel, gave me the book Well Adjusted Babies at my baby shower and it was great to read in the weeks leading up to the birth. It opened my eyes to alternative ways to prepare for birth and care for L's health and happiness. I've jotted down some of the decisions I've made below.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I had a bath each day where I would rub my tummy and sing songs to baby, just enjoying the time with her and anticipating her arrival. I've tried to continue on, enjoying L each day, giving her as much love, encouragement and stability as I can. She is a wonderful little girl, pure delight for Paul and I.
Raspberry leaf tea
In the last few weeks of pregnancy I drank two to three cups of red raspberry leaf tea each day to help prepare my uterus for labour.
A week before L was due I visited a craniologist/bowen therapist to get my spine and pelvis aligned for birth. I didn't want anything making it harder for L to come out.
Before the birth I consulted with a homeopath and purchased remedies to take during labour. The two I used the most were Gelsemium to strengthen contractions, and Arnica to help prevent bruising and tearing. I continued to take Arnica for three days after the birth to help with swelling and bruising.
I chose not to use medical pain relief during labour as there can be negative side effects for the baby. (My labour was relatively straightforward and only lasted eleven hours, but I imagine if their had been complications or it had dragged out a lot longer I would have changed my mind on that.) Instead, I used heat to help with the pain. I spent most of the labour in the bath, where Paul held a hot shower head to my lower back during contractions. When I was out of the bath I pressed a hot wheat pack to my back. (L was posterior for most of the labour, so my back took a beating.)
I would've liked to have avoided giving L antibiotics for as long as possible. Unfortunately I'm a Strep B carrier (about 30% of women are) and it's life threatening to babies so I chose to be fed antibiotics during labour to help prevent L contracting it.
I looked at alternative ways of preventing passing it on to her and found tea tree oil can help, so added a few drops of that to my daily bath leading up to the birth. After birth, swabs were taken from L and it looked like she had contracted Strep B so we were transferred to Waikato Hospital where she was put on antibiotics. Not ideal, but better than her getting a life-threatening illness.
In some cases, antibiotics are a good option. I just want to avoid using them for minor ailments if I can. (I know I tend to freak out at the first sign of pain or discomfort in L, so I'm not sure how this will go in reality when she does get sick.)
Newborns have naturally low vitamin K levels and some babies are at risk of haemorrhagic disease, which is why the Ministry of Health recommends babies be given a shot of vitamin K at birth.
Paul researched this one and decided there was no way L was going to get injected with vitamin K as their is a link between it and childhood cancer, among other reasons.
Instead, I took a pregnancy supplement that included vitamin K and we specified in our birth plan that we didn't want it injected, but would consider whether she receive it orally if the birth was traumatic.
In the end L did have bruising and swelling on her head because she had to turn from a posterior to an anterior position in the birth canal, so we opted to give her vitamin K orally. This required three dosages over a six-week period.
I was all set to breastfeed because I had read so much about the benefits of it for babies. Unfortunately my body had different ideas. I was able to produce some milk, but by far not enough to feed L.
A lactation consultant gave me several ideas to try boost my supply - expressing between feeds, eating rolled oats, taking domperidone, taking Lactation AOK (a natural booster), eating LSA (ground linseed, sunflower and almond) - but to no avail. After eight days of doing everything we could, I agreed to give L formula. We used a lactaid so I could still breastfeed her while the formula was fed through a small tube into her mouth.
We tried to continue this method at home but L hated the tube and kept spitting it out. In the end we switched to a bottle and that was so much better. I still breastfed a little bit to try and get my helpful antibodies into her system, but after three months L refused the breast so then it was all bottle. I did express from time to time, but it seemed so pointless - mere drops for 15-20 minutes solid work.
I admit, this has been really hard for me. I've had to deal with feelings of failure as a woman and mother. Paul comforts me by pointing to L and saying "Look! She's healthy, she's happy."
And there are positives. L has been sleeping through the night since she was two months' old, and Paul and others have been able to feed her too - giving me an occasional break. I think it has also given me more compassion for others - we can have the best intentions for our children, but sometimes things just get in the way.
Goat's milk formula
We use a goat's milk formula for L instead of cow's milk because it is gentler on her stomach, less allergenic and doesn't aggravate mucus membranes like cow's milk can. (Downside is it's three times the price, so L costs almost as much to feed as Paul and I do.)
We always use filtered water when making up the formula, to try and keep out as many nasties as we can.
This is a controversial topic, but I think it's an important one. Whether to vaccinate your child or not is a huge decision - yet Ministry of Health campaigns and doctors' advice would make parents think it's a given, stating the following reasons:
- An unvaccinated child may be at greater risk of contracting childhood illnesses.
- These illnesses and diseases are a serious health threat for a child if contracted. They may even be fatal.
- Not vaccinating is socially irresponsible, as unvaccinated children place other children at risk.
- A child may not be able to attend daycare/school unless he/she is vaccinated.
- Vaccine immunity may not last.
- Vaccinations may threaten a child's health rather than help it.
- The health threat for a child exposed to the stabilising and preserving substances contained in vaccines is unknown.
- The long-term health consequences of vaccines are unknown.
- Vaccine dosage is the same for all children, irrespective of age and weight.
- A vaccinated child's natural immunity may suffer.
- Children today receive almost three times the number of vaccines of children raised in the previous two to three decades.
- Vaccines may not protect your child against illness. In fact, their is a chance of contracting the very disease the vaccine is supposed to be protecting against. The antibody response may persist, mutate, or over-react, appearing later with a sinister health threat or consequence.
- Should the artificial immunity diminish and the individual be re-exposed to the antigens as a teenager or adult, the health consequences are unknown. It is suggested that the severity of experiencing these diseases increases with age and can often be fatal.
- Vaccines are not properly tested, yet they are sold as 'safe' for all.
I've also given my GP a copy of Just a little prick, by Hilary Butler so he can get an idea of some of the reasons behind our decision.
My plan instead is to feed L the best diet I can, minimise her exposure to toxins (not germs), and let her build up her immune system naturally. I will also look for alternative ways to treat her when she gets sick, trying to avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Wish me luck!