Thursday, February 24, 2011

My belly is a table!!!

I just had to share this picture:

I can officially use my belly as a shelf or table.  I highly recommend this.  It is an awesome pregnancy perk!!!  However, as with all superpowers, there is a downside.  I can no longer see my knees, feet, or anything else beneath the 'equator'.  

Baby Paisley is officially full-term and could make her grand entrance any day now without complications!  We hope she sticks around until a little closer to her due date so that we can get the biggest, healthiest baby possible.  Honestly, I'd rather not go past due just because of the anticipation and excitement.  But, as our midwife says, "Babies do not come when they are due, they come when they do".  John and I can hardly wait to meet our baby girl!  Our due date is only 23 days away!  I can't believe how fast this time has gone by!  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Boomer will always be Boomer

Boomer hasn't had a 'pulling' back incident since we brought him home from the trainer about 16 months ago.  He did have two incidents where he dropped and panicked in cross-ties, but not pulling back.  

I still do not trust him and would never consider him 'cured'.  I always treat him as if he can and will pull back.  He still wears his 'Be-Nice' halter and is always tied fast with a cotton rope and bull snap.  

Today I was grooming him and he raised his head while I was spraying his mane with detangler, so I pulled on the lead rope to get him to drop his head and he resisted, so I held pressure strong while I continued spraying.  He pulled back and struggled.  I saw that the rope would hold and I took a step back so that I was behind the line of his shoulder and shouted at him to 'GET UP'!  He stopped pulling, stepped forward, dropped his head and started licking.  I gave him a second to deflate, then I approached him and rubbed his forehead.  

I decided to go get the clicker and a pocket full of treats and do a little training session.  I retied his leadrope to make sure it was still secure.  I approached him and started to apply pressure to the leadrope, he immediately pulled back again before I could even start spraying him.  I stepped back and shouted at him to 'GET UP'!  He stopped pulling and as soon as he dropped his head and started licking his lips, I clicked the clicker and gave him a treat.  

Next time, I started spraying him first, then gave him a click/treat without pulling on the rope.  Then I sprayed and pulled on the leadrope.  He stepped forward, but didn't drop his head- click/treat.  We did this a few more times and eventually he would let me spray him without raising his head.  Same reaction on the other side.  I was very happy with this.  

I think in the past when he pulled back, it really freaked me out and I would untie him right away and then baby him about whatever had freaked him out.  Today, my reaction was different.  I approached the situation by pushing his buttons and TRYING to get him to react.  It was HIS decision to stop pulling back.  I was there to reward, but I didn't try to make things easier or more comfortable for him.  All in all, I think it was a good lesson for both of us.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baby Talk- So, What DO we Want?

The single most important factor in the outcome of your birth is where you choose to begin your journey.  

I am enormously confident in my ability to have a baby.  My body is designed for this.  I am mentally prepared for the stages of labor.  I understand the process.  I have had over 36 hours of led classes preparing me for this event.  I have done countless hours of research on the subject.  I have the most incredible and supportive husband/coach.  I know I can do this and I am not interested in interventions or in my labor being managed by an OB team and various nurses.  I want my birth to be passively managed.  I basically want to be able to go through this process with John and I working together in this experience of labor and birth.  We do need someone who knows what normal is and what an emergency looks like.  We need to trust that person's ability to decide when we need to transfer to the hospital.  

Which is why we have selected the midwife we have to attend our home birth.  Many people have the same reaction when they think of a home birth.  They assume it is unsafe.  I have several articles to introduce the topic here, here and here.  

The midwife we have chosen is trained by the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute as well as serving as an apprentice, has attended over 200 births, and has an 8% hospital transfer rate (including non-emergency transfers from moms who change their minds mid-labor).  There is another midwife who lives 1 mile from us who has attended 1400 births over the last 30 years.  We feel very safe with our choice of care provider.  The reason we chose the midwife we did, even though she has attended fewer births than our second choice midwife, is because of the connection and comfort we felt with her.  If we were picking a surgeon to operate on us, we would pick the most experienced doctor, anyone would.  But, we are not picking someone who is going to get us through a life threatening process.  We are picking someone who can help us navigate a natural birth and also knows what is normal and what is not.  As long as she can recognize when something stops being normal, we will transfer to a hospital and trust the experts to take over our medical care.  Most likely, that will not happen.  We do not need a medical expert, we need a normal birth expert.  That is just what midwives are trained to know.  Normal.  

I am so happy with this decision and so excited for our birth!  John was hesitant at the beginning of our pregnancy when I mentioned having a home birth.  After months of research and education, he has made a complete 180 and fully supports home birth as the best option for our low risk pregnancy and birth.  John is not someone who believes everything he hears.  He in an engineer and likes his facts.  For him to have made such a massive shift really solidifies in my mind that this is the right decision.

So, what DO we want?  A normal birth in a setting where we will feel comfortable, have access to all of our things, have access to foods and drinks we like and are accustomed to.  A relaxed birth with a care provider who understands and  respects our choices, decisions, and ability to birth our baby.  A healthy, happy baby, mama, and papa!

Check back next week for: "Why we didn't want a hospital birth"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Boomer injury progress

The (beautiful, amazing, perfect) weather has finally dried things out a little and I got the chance to put Boomer back to work to assess the damage.  

I bitted him up in the surcingle with side reins and lunged him at the walk and trot for about 15 minutes.  He was pretty high headed and inverted at first, but he quickly remembered that stretching and low is where he needs to be.  He did try very hard and we got a few full circles without him popping up his head. However, after any extended stretching on his part, he would pop his head up and invert, then take a funny step in the back or try to canter a stride.  I think this is strictly a strength issue.  It only happened twice in one direction and once in the other direction.  He has completely lost his top line muscling over the last 5 months and I have started noticing his under neck is starting to get more defined again.  I would expect to see improvement within a few sessions.  If he gets worse, or doesn't improve we will get the chiro back out.  However, as it is, I don't plan on having her back out until we get closer to riding/competing again.  

So, I'm hoping that slowly introducing the bitted lunging again will help him build a little strength and stretch to his top line muscles before we start riding again.  I also anticipate a few months of 'rehab' riding to get him strong again.  I really believe that having that dressage-influenced strong top line really makes a   world of difference in endurance.  It doesn't matter that we don't 'look' like dressage folk.  The important thing is him engaging his hindquarters, lifting his back, and arching over the top of his neck.  Once those muscles are strong, it will make carrying me much easier over long distances.  Not that I'm that heavy- I just realized that even while pregnant, I still weigh in with tack in the lowest weight division of AERC.  

So, lunging from now until May-ish to build strength and stamina.  Then riding from May-ish until September to fine tune and build endurance.  Then hopefully do a few competitions in Oct & Nov!    

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tension, anxiety and horses

We all know that horses can read us well.  Very well.  Sometimes too well.  When you have a silly, spooky, reactive ay-rab this is not always a good thing.  

But, letting go of tension and anxiety is not easy to do.  Even if we *try* to soothe ourselves and look calm on the outside, the danged horse can still tell we are tense or anxious.  

I've struggled with this with Boomer for years now.  My tension and anxiety over his past behaviors and all of the 'what-ifs' really kept me from being calm and relaxed around him.  Which fed into his tension and reactive behavior.  Even though he has not done a thing wrong in over a year, I still didn't fully trust him.

I used to make sure i had my whole grooming set up ready before I caught him so that I wouldn't have to leave him tied to go back into the tack room.  I didn't want to leave him alone for fear of what he might do.  As if I could actually prevent something from happening.    

Though, recently, I have had a very interesting shift.  Honestly, I just stopped caring.  Let me explain.  I used to get really worked up about the what-ifs.  What if he pulls back?  What if he spooks?  The list goes on.  But, recently I've just stopped caring what he does.  I have bigger, more important things to worry about in my life than his silly quirks, reactions, behaviors, etc.  

So, he can pull back if he wants to.  I'll call the chiropractor, get him adjusted, and life will go on.  So what if he spooks.  Just as long as he doesn't get his big horsey ass in my pregnant space, we are cool.  If he does get in my space, he gets a quick lesson with the end of the lead rope.  But honestly, I just don't care what sort of antics he wants to engage in.  

Funny thing, by not caring and not feeding him any tense energy- he has calmed down.  I refuse to get emotionally involved in his horsey drama and it has already changed the way he behaves.  I'm no longer careful around him with plastic bags, etc.  I'm just going on with my life and he is dealing with it.  

I've known all along that this is what he needed.  Its just WAY harder to do than it sounds.  That is, until my perspective shifted and I just stopped caring.  I think this shift is really going to change how I feel and act around him and will hopefully change his behavior as well.  

Of course, there is also the chance that he is just growing up, seeing as he is only 11 days away from his 8th birthday.  I have always head that ay-rabs really 'grow up' in their 8th year.  I'm really hoping 8 is our best year yet!  

So, Boomer- you can keep your drama and I'll keep my sanity.  How about that?  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Baby Talk- Arguments for Intervention

 First things first, I want to express how deeply my desire runs to have a healthy baby.  This is the number one priority for me.  I have had several family members and friends say things to me like, "Don't get too attached to your birth plan.  Things happen and you may end up with interventions."  I just want to express that of course we are aware that we may encounter complications.  Of course we are prepared for the potential interventions!  In the case of a true emergency where either the baby or I are at risk, John and I will be nothing but thrilled by the level of care offered to us by any of our local hospitals.  This isn't about 'following our birth plan'.  This is about giving us the best chance possible for a natural, normal birth.  Healthy mama, healthy baby- at any cost.  I just so believe that avoiding interventions as much as possible from the start gives you the best chance of both mama and baby being the healthiest they can be.

Ok, lets move on to when medical interventions are commonly offered and when they actually do become necessary.  

There are several reasons commonly used to introduce interventions in labor.  A few common ones for inducing labor are: baby is too big, low amniotic fluid levels, baby is past due, and the waters have broken but labor hasn't started.  

The way to determine weight of a baby is by measuring the length of the femur and comparing it to full term babies birth weights.  This measurement is frequently off by a pound or more.  An average woman's pelvis can birth a 13 pound baby.  This reason is bunk to me.  

Low amniotic fluids is a scary term to throw at a mom.  The way this is measured on ultrasound is by averaging several pockets of amniotic fluid around the baby.  This is clearly not an exact measurement.  A better gauge is monitoring the baby for a normal heart rate and activity.  

A baby being past due is probably the biggest reason people induce labor.  The due date is calculated at 40 weeks and generally first time moms deliver at 41.1 weeks.  As long as mom and baby are both healthy, there is no reason to induce just because you are nearing or past 42 weeks.  Of course, the placenta has an expiration date and can start to disintegrate around 42 weeks.  If this occurs, the baby's heart rate will drop and induction becomes necessary.  

The bag of waters breaking before labor begins is a huge no-no at the hospital.  There is an increased risk of infection and nearly all hospitals give you a 24 hour window to have the baby before they intervene.  What I have learned is that if your waters break and are clean and neutral smelling (no infections or meconium), the baby's head is engaged (cord can not wash under baby's head and cut off circulation), and the vagina remains a one way street (no infectious stuff being introduced) you are fine to birth on your own time frame.  The problem with hospital births is that they can't seem to keep their fingers and tools out of the vagina.  They want hourly exams to check progress, thus introducing an infection risk.  So, if your water breaks and the hospital staff give you an internal exam, you do indeed have a 24 hour window to have that baby before infection becomes a real concern.  

As far as an epidural goes, that is a personal decision for a woman.  I want to avoid an epidural if at all possible for reasons discussed before.  Avoiding induction is a key part of avoiding an epidural.  

I truly believe that the medical community has the best intentions in mind.  I don't think they are 'out to get' anyone.  However, when delivering in a hospital, the hospital follows protocol for everyone.  Everyone is treated in the same manner, no matter their risk level or individual situation.  John and I feel that hospitals treat births like a medical condition, an emergency waiting to happen.  Going against the grain is possible with a strong birth team and thorough birth plan.

Come back next week for "So, What DO we Want?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

For obvious reasons, it is nearly impossible to plan for the future right now.  I clearly have no idea what life will be like with a child.  

That, however, is not keeping me from daydreaming about the ride schedule for this fall!  

There are 4 rides that I would like to make it to in October and November:
Indian Territory 
October 1st 
at Lake Oologah

Jo Tate Fall Paradise
October 15th
at Washburn, Mo

True Grit
October 29th
at Cedar Lake

Season Finale
November 25-26th
at Bell Cow Lake

Knowing Boomer and his performance history last year, I know it is entirely possible for him to complete three rides in October and then be fit enough to do a 2 day ride the next month.  Of course, this plan hinges on several other factors.  The biggest two factors are me getting a saddle and getting back to riding in May or June!  

I have no idea if the best plan would be to bring John and Baby Paisley along for the trips or to leave them at home and take a horse vacation on my own.  I would rather not travel alone, but I have no idea how babies handle weather and camping.  Doing internet searches brings up lots of advice for camping with babies that makes it seem doable.  Paisley will be 6-7 months old then.  It would be a MUCH easier decision if we had a trailer with some sort of climate control and a generator!  

So, I'm really hoping that I will be able to do a few rides in October/November.  Whether I end up doing them alone or with the whole family is yet to be determined!  

I had so much fun with Boomer last year doing rides and I really look forward to being able to get back into the swing of things again soon!    

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baby Talk- What is Natural Childbirth?

In this journey that John and I have been on, we have discovered that natural childbirth is something that both of us are very passionate about.  There is a huge amount of research supporting natural childbirth.  It is my goal here to explain some of the choices that John and I are making as parents.  I intend to provide statistics and article links as needed.  If I ever say something that you doubt or want more information on, please ask.  Sometimes talking about these subjects can be difficult as everyone makes their own choices.  My intention is not to insinuate that anyone who chooses to birth differently is wrong or a bad mother.  
So, what IS natural childbirth? 
Natural childbirth is a term that is often used to refer to an epidural-free labor.  Having an epidural-free labor is a very important component, but it isn't the whole picture.  In order to have a natural labor, the mom must be able to fully relax, remain undisturbed, eat, drink, move freely, be allowed to deliver or 'push' in any position, AND remain unmedicated.  

If a woman is not fully relaxed, her body is able to stall labor.  Mares in foal are the same.  If they feel like they are being watched, they will stall labor for hours or days until they feel safe and alone.  The question for me is, how do you relax in a hospital setting?  Does constant monitoring by strangers and frequent internal examinations make you feel relaxed?  Read this blog post on why internal exams don't tell you anything useful.  The opposite of relaxation is tension.  Tension can intensify pain and make it very difficult to accept and work through pain.  Is it possible to remain undisturbed in a hospital?  

Most hospitals have rules on mothers not being allowed food or water while in labor in case they need to go under emergency anesthesia.  This is a two-fold issue.  First is the rate of women who do end up with emergency surgery.  In America, the cesarean rate is 32%.  This rate is unusually and unnecessarily high.  More on that later.  The second issue at hand is why food and drink is important during labor.  Labor is an athletic event lasting hours and days.  It is physically exhausting.  It is an endurance event.  Would you deny a marathon runner sustenance?  How would you expect your horse to perform in an endurance race if he is not allowed food or drink?  How far would he make it before he HAD to stop?  What if you were in an athletic event that doesn't allow you to quit?  You MUST continue through to the end?  Is it fair to set yourself up for failure by not providing your body with nutrition?  

Moving freely during both first and second stage labor is important for a number of reasons.  First is that movement and being upright allows the baby to begin its descent through the pelvis.  Movement and remaining upright also help to speed labor.  Its simple physics.  Gravity is working with you to get things moving.  This is a pretty simple concept, however it is often thwarted by hospital protocol and interventions as well.  The most common thing that takes away the ability to move freely is an epidural.  You are physically unable to remain upright or mobile when given an epidural.  

Being able to deliver or 'push' in any position is a key in natural childbirth.  Most people picture a woman delivering a baby on her back in a bed.  We have been conditioned to think this is the normal way to deliver.  The truth is, delivering a baby on your back is not normal at all!  When on your back or reclined, you are putting pressure on your coccyx which decreases the size of the pelvic opening.  I don't have to tell you why that is not an aid in birthing a baby!  Reclining also requires the baby to make an extra turn to get out of the pelvis and through the birth canal.  The baby is headed just a little lower than the vaginal opening and frequently tears the mother's perineum.  If a woman is allowed to push on her own terms, she will invariably push upright in a standing, squatting, or hands and knees position.  All of these positions allow for the baby to make an easier exit with less pain and tearing for the mother.  Again, an epidural makes this decision impossible.

The most important factor in a natural childbirth is avoiding drugs.  Epidurals are not the only medical intervention that should be avoided to achieve a natural birth, but they are the most common.  The Epidural rate in America is between 50-90%, depending on who you ask.  Another form of medical intervention to avoid is induction.  The rate of inductions is between 20-40%.  The reasons for avoiding inductions are numerous.  First, they often encourage out a baby who is simply not ready to be born.  Our NICUs are fuller than ever largely due to preterm babies.  Second, induction makes labor very intense and painful for mom.  It gives her contractions that are much stronger and closer together than natural contractions.  This often leads to an epidural, which then slows labor, often putting the baby into distress and ends up leading to an assisted deliver or even an emergency Cesarean section.  This cascade of intervention (another article here and here) is totally avoidable if we would just allows our bodies to work naturally.  Trusting your body is so key in birth.  In addition to the effects an epidural have on mom, we need to consider how they effect baby.  The biggest problem babies encounter after a drugged birth is difficulty breastfeeding.

Topeka Birth center has a Cesarean rate ranging between 3-9% since 2002.  Several local home birth midwives have Cesarean rates under 4%.  According to the CDC article I linked above, The rate of cesareans has increased over 50% in the last decade.  What does all of this tell us?  Something is wrong with the way we are treating births.  Birth is not a medical emergency.  Birth is normal.  Birth is natural.  We need to be proactive in our own care to ensure that we remain in control of our own births and avoid interventions that complicate the process.    

The biggest secret about birth is not that it is painful, but that women are strong.

Check back next week for "Arguments for Interventions"

Sunday, February 6, 2011

32 days and $800 later...

Boomer is back out with his friends!  I am so happy that he is back to being a regular horse!  

He is still slightly off at the trot, especially on a circle or if he bucks or kicks out.  

The chiropractor adjusted him and spend about an hour and a half working with us.  She was really amazing and explained the process very thoroughly.  I have used a chiropractor for me, and I know that it works.  I am just so glad that we could offer that for Boomer!  

She made about 11 adjustments total.  Several of them were old, up in his neck.  We talked a lot about his history, the flipping over behavior.  We also talked about his left lead and left diagonal preference.  I also made sure to tell her that during dressage work, he tends to refuse to bend at the poll towards the right and I never could get him to foam on the right side of his mouth.  

One thing she found that was very interesting is that his last vertebrae in his neck was out to the right, which would cause his scapula to have a shorter range of motion.  Sure enough, when she picked up his front legs I could see a very big difference in the range of motion for forward and up.  

Of course, she also worked on his pelvis and gave me several stretches to do with him that will help him build strength in the back and flexibility in the front.  

He was not too thrilled with the process and made lots of mean, mad faces at her.  She just kept laughing at him and I was pleasantly surprised at how well she handled him.  He, of course, was feeling particularly like a fire-breathing dragon that day.  

We wanted to put him in a medical turnout paddock at first, but he was too worked up and was running the fence line.  We put him out with his buddies and they ran for a few minutes, Boomer trailing behind. After that, they ate and seem to have calmed down totally.  

So, I think that we did everything about as right as we could have.   In hindsight, I would have skipped the Adequan injection and gotten the chiro out a week earlier.  The chiro was delayed by the blizzards and we did the Adequan on day 2 when we still feared for his ligaments/tendons.  Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.  

I'm just going to let him play and build strength in the pasture for now.  Once the weather changes and snow melts, I will start lunging him again.  Though, we could have a baby by then... So, who knows what will happen next?!

I'm just so happy that Boomer is back out in the pasture.  What a relief!  We may do another chiro adjustment once we start riding again, based on how he feels.  Seriously, I can't believe how much we lucked out in this situation.  What a roller-coaster of a month!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Baby Talk- How things have changed

I can hardly believe that we only have 6 weeks left until we welcome our baby girl home!  This whole journey has been amazing!  I really have had a blast being pregnant and John and I are so excited to meet our daughter!  John is the most incredible, supportive 'dad'!  He is so 100% beside me in this, it just amazes me every day!  
I am very lucky to have had an easy pregnancy.  No morning sickness, no swollen hands or feet, or stretch marks, no excessive weight gain, nothing out of the ordinary at all!  Just in the last week or two I have started to get a little uncomfortable.  My belly is just getting so big and I'm lacking space for breathing!  It has been pretty funny trying to get used to the size of the belly.  I often find myself trying to squeeze through tight places where I *think* I should fit!  John also gets a kick out of the fact that I can no longer get up from the couch or off the floor on my own.  I'm like a turtle who is stuck on its back!  
John and I both love feeling Paisley kick and stretch.  It is so fun to push back as she stretches and watch her move or kick somewhere else.  Its so neat to be able to feel her feet and legs and try to guess what position she is in!  
I think that the single most important decision John and I have made for this pregnancy was to attend a Bradley Method birth class.  The Bradley Method teaches 'husband coached, natural childbirth'.  The goal of the class is to use a research based method of education to encourage proper nutrition through pregnancy and teach relaxation techniques for labor and delivery.  There is a HUGE amount of information on common medical interventions, what they are for, when they are needed, and how to avoid them if they aren't needed.  The 'husband coached' part of the class has been the best part for me.  John's role in this birth is absoloutly integral.  He is the person who knows me best.  So, he needs to be aware of the labor and birth process so that he can encourage me when I need it and make decisions for me when I am unable to.  This class has brought us closer and strengthened our bond.  Seeing how supportive and committed he is has really allowed me to hand over 100% of my trust to him.  That was something I didn't realize I was holding back before.  Not that I lacked trust in John, but that I was protecting myself by trying to remain in control.  I now have total faith that I can let go and he will do everything in his power to take care of me.  
This amazing journey has made us better people and a better couple.  We only have little Paisley Blue to thank for that.  So, thank you baby girl.  We love you and know you will continue to humble us and teach us to be better people.  We hope we can give back to you what you have already given to us.  

Check back next week for "What is Natural Childbirth?"