Natural Living Family

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Sunday, 20 May 2007

Why I choose to Homebirth

by Annie Austin

While most doctors will tell you that giving birth is a medical event which needs to take place in a hospital, with doctor in attendance “in case something goes wrong”, there is a whole range of alternatives out there. From having baby in a hospital with a midwife instead of doctor, to unassisted childbirth. With a whole spectrum of options in between.

Thought I would start with the birth of my second child. I had resigned myself to having a hospital birth, my husband was totally opposed to a home birth. He was worried that we were too far away from help if something went wrong. I think he realized that we would have to look at other options to hospital birth after a completely stressful visit to my now second OB. The first one and I parted ways on rather bad terms as he was completely unprepared to allow me to have a birth plan or to have any say whatsoever in the kind of birth I wanted. He said we would either do things his was or he was not prepared to be my doctor anymore. I was not about to let him bully me into having a medicated, medically controlled birth, especially since my first had been a home birth without complications. I changed OB’s only to end up with even more stress and being told I would probably need to have a c-section as my placenta was low lying – this was at about 24 weeks – I had had an ultra sound at 19 weeks and my placenta was nowhere near low lying. To cut a long and boring story short, the two OB’s know each other pretty well and both have an incredibly high c-section rate.

So there we were 25 weeks along and no care giver, I was desperate enough to consider using my GP who operates from the only hospital in our nearest small town – a state hospital – but at least he would be reasonable and would not try to bully me further.

I decided to look at other options, there had to be something better than the options I had considered thus far. Even if it meant me giving birth in Durban almost two hours drive away. I found a midwife in Ballito, not as far as Durban, but still over an hour away. I went to see her and we clicked immediately – she gave me the confidence to seriously consider home birth as an option, after all my first pregnancy and labour had been straightforward. My husband and I agreed (or rather I convinced him) that home birth would be the way to go and we haven’t looked back since.

Our son was born on the fourth of May, after an amazing labour assisted by a midwife and doula. I used a birthing pool for pain relief and was allowed to labour at my own pace. Ryan was born in water, with the membranes still intact. I was able to nurse him as soon as he was ready, he went straight into daddy's arms and was never left alone to fend for himself for one second.

After the birth we got into the family bed and got to know our youngest son better. Our oldest son was present to meet his new brother and the whole day was relaxed and pleasant. And I never had to eat hospital food!

Compare this to how most birth happens in a hospital. Firstly there is the drive to the hospital, in our case 40miles along bad roads, then having to get checked into hospital. After arrival, spending time on your back attached to monitors, and being examined by a midwife and nurses you have never met before.

If all this is not enough to stall labour, then chances are that the constant interruptions and offers of pain relief and IV needle in your arm would be. Not to even mention the fact that you are not allowed anything to eat or drink but clear fluids – just in case.

If you are one of the lucky ones, labour will proceed as expected - doctors expectations that is - not yours. If your membranes have not ruptured, then labour will be ‘helped along’ with rupturing of membranes. This often has the effect of speeding labour up and making the whole process more far painful.

Labour is given a time limit and if things take too long or start to slow down - due to all the interruptions - then drugs to speed up labour are given. Chances are that this will lead to the mother needing pain medication, as the labour inducing drugs cause harsher and more intense contractions, forcing baby out into the world before it is ready.

Due to the drugs extra monitoring is required, mother is expected to lie on her back so that baby’s heart rate can be monitored. Lying on her back not only makes for a more painful labour, but will also have a negative effect on baby’s heart rate.

If baby is seen to be in distress – possibly due to drugs given to the mother, or due to mother lying on her back, words like emergency c-section or forceps delivery start being bandied around.

What started out as a straight forward birth, has been turned into a medical emergency. Unfortunately most doctors are taught to deal with medical emergencies and not healthy mothers giving birth to healthy babies. One intervention leads to the next.

Add to this the risk of infection from other patients, risk of kidnapping (a common occurrence where we live in South Africa) and homebirth starts looking like a far better option.

These are only two of the options available to moms, there are many great free-standing birthing centers available – these are staffed by midwives and doulas. Some hospitals are open to independent midwives attending births instead of doctors. On the other end of the spectrum is unassisted childbirth where the mom chooses to labour at home with only her partner present without any medical intervention whatsoever.

Further reading on homebirth and birth stories:
~Mothering homebirth article
~Mothering Reasons to choose homebirth article

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Quick and Easy Tomato Sauce Recipe

2kg tomatoes
1kg onions
1 house of garlic
3tbsp olive oil
Fresh parsley and either basil / thyme / oregano

Tomatoes can be blanched and peeled, but I generally omit this step unless I am using really tough skinned tomatoes.

Chop the onions and fry lightly in olive oil. Add the tomatoes and herbs mix well and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until ingredients have cooked down and most of the liquid has evaporated. If you want a really chunky sauce, keep out about 500g tomatoes and add these in about half way through cooking.

The riper the tomatoes the tastier the sauce will be, and of course if you can grow your own organic tomatoes and leave them on the vine until really ripe all the better!! This recipe is a really great way to store and freeze excess tomatoes for the winter.

This sauce can be bottled and frozen – I use glass bottles – mainly as it is a good way to recycle them and also I try to avoid plastics as I just don’t trust that the chemicals will not leach out of them especially during freezing. If you are using glass, make sure to only put the lids on the jars after the contents have frozen to prevent the jars from cracking.

Cooking Kids

My 10yo son has decided to learn to cook; we have incorporated it into his homeschooling activities – after all what is cooking if not reading, maths and science all rolled into one.

Here is one of his favorite recipes, it is easy to make with some supervision and tasty enough for the whole family to eat. This Veggie Bolognese is enjoyed by everyone in our family from my 1 year old to the adults to the cats and dogs!! My son now does most of the preparation himself (including cutting onions and putting the pasta into the boiling water, but you can let kids do as much or as little as they are up to doing – even just measuring some of the ingredients is a maths lesson)!

Veggie Bolognese Sauce and Pasta:

For the Sauce
1 cup red split peas
2 large carrots
2 sticks celery
1 onion
1 tbsp olive oil
500ml veggie stock
250ml tomato ‘sauce’
Salt to taste
Fresh parsley & oregano

I usually make my own stock and tomato sauce (see next entry) but this can be the store bought kind if you prefer. The carrots, celery and onion come straight from the garden as do the stock and tomato sauce ingredients.

Let the kids start by washing their hands and donning their aprons (look out for child size apron pattern soon!!). Then wash all the veggies, peel the onion, top and tail the carrots.

The veggies can now be either mixed or grated in a food processor – kids love this part and it is something even the little ones can safely do.

Heat the oil somewhat in a pan, remove the pan from the heat (I usually let my son put the pan on a heatproof pot holder on the table next to the stove) add all the veggies & herbs, mix well and return to heat.

Allow to cook for about 5 minutes until veggies are starting to soften.

Add the split peas, stock and tomato sauce, removing from heat before doing this – the reason I remove the pan from the heat each time is just an added safety measure for the kids. Mix all ingredients well and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. More stock can be added if necessary.

While the sauce is cooking, cook pasta of your choice to accompany this.
This is also great with a bit of percorino cheese on top.

Be sure to pop in again for more mouthwatering kid’s recipes!!

Monday, 14 May 2007

Co-sleeping in comfort

I have always been pro sharing sleep, my first son spent the first six months of his life in my bed and first year in my room - at the time I was newly widowed and spent so much time away from my son during the day while I was at work that I hated to be parted from him when I didn't have to - including while we slept.

After marrying a wonderful man and finding happiness in a marriage that I thought I would never find again, I was expecting my second child. We looked at cots and bassinets and started putting together a nursery for him, but somehow it just didn't feel right. The more I read parenting info the more the attachment parenting mindset made sense to me. I started reading forums and magazines like Mothering and realised that I agreed with the shared sleep philosophy and all it entailed. Now to convince my huband of this... unlike me he had a traditional South African upbringing and all the ideas that go with it. Anyhow I shared some of the info I had read and realised very quickly that my wonderful husband would prove to be even more wonderful, he agreed with my ideas and was happy to have our baby share our bed. I even convinced him that giving birth to our baby at home was the best option for us, even though we live on a farm and are some distance from the nearest hospital, but that is another story alltogether.

Our youngest is now a year old has slept with us from the begining and we just love having him in our bed. Though even with a king-size bed things were getting a bit cramped as he tends to stretch out across the bed. I then got the idea of putting a single bed next to our bed. We are fortunate in that we live in a really old farm house and the rooms are huge, so this is an option. I adjusted the legs of the bed so that the beds would be the same height and made a fitted sheet that fits over both beds. The single bed is now in the corner of the room, so that my son cannot fall off during the night - he learned how to get off the bed without falling off about two months ago, but I still worry he may fall off while asleep. I now sleep in the middle of the bed and no longer have a bedside table - which will take some getting used to, but there is now enough space for all of us - even my oldest (he sometimes sits on the bed with us and watches a movie) and the really great thing is that should we be fortunate enough to have another baby while this one still sleeps with us, there will be enough room for everyone to sleep safely. Now if I could just convince my body it is ready for the next one, but with Ryan still breast-feeding who knows when this will happen?

Sharing sleep or co-sleeping really is an amazing way for both parents to bond with baby, and I find nothing easier than just feeding my baby when he is hungry during the night without having to leave my bed. While this is not an option that will work for all families I stronly recommend that it is something that is considered by future parents as an option. While many may say it is not safe to sleep with your baby in your bed, there is a lot of research out there that shows, that as long as a few simple rules are followed, it is a truly safe and rewarding experience for the whole family.

After all babies have only been sleeping apart from their parents in recent history, a few hundred years ago nobody had even heard of cots...

Recommended reading:

Get the book

~Three in a Bed: the benefits of sleeping with your baby by Deborah Jackson article Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson
~Safe Co-Sleeping article by Elizabeth Pantley (author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution)