Monday, 28 September 2015

The Durban Doula Pregnancy Diary - Week 12

Mom's belly and 6-year-old's toes

I think most moms breathe a sigh of relief when week 13 comes around! 

My nausea is almost totally gone, dizziness too, and I feel like I have more energy than I have for the past 8 weeks. On the first evening I still had some vooma left at 6pm, I chopped and I cooked and I baked - I felt like superwoman! It was great.

Twelve weeks is also that magical date when miscarriages become much less likely - but when you're pregnant I feel every day is a milestone! I don't have any scan pictures for you because I'm not going for a 12 week scan - shock and horror, I know! But I do have some reasons for my decision:

Firstly, I know my cycle really well, so I know exactly how far along I am, so no need for a scan to establish date.

Secondly, even if the usual checks at 12 weeks did pick up something odd on the scan, I wouldn't do anything about it. If there was a problem with the nuchal translucency measurements (used to pick up Downs Syndrome) I would not do an amniocentesis or even consider an abortion, because I know how high the false positive rate is for those tests, and that up to 25% of Downs Syndrome cases aren't detected until birth anyway despite all the testing. I also know the stats of how many healthy babies are miscarried because of the amniocentesis.

Baby apparently measures 5.4cm from crown to rump -
about the size of a plum!
"Plum on tree" by byfir0002 via Wikimedia Commons
For me, getting a possibly positive test would just cause unnecessary stress over something that I can't really do anything about. I've had too many friends who were told they have placenta praevia or that baby had water on the brain or some other dire diagnosis, only to be told 8 weeks later that all was fine... I'm thinking the effects of all those stress hormones on an otherwise healthy baby can't be good!

Having said that, I will go for a scan around 20 weeks, to check that we are all on track for the home birth we are planning, and yes, we will see if we can check gender, purely because we have had two girls so we have mountains of dresses and frills, and I'd like to be able to know what to say if people ask if we need anything. If we can't see gender at that scan I don't think I would have another one just to check.

Furthermore, I am increasingly concerned about the risks of ultrasound scans, especially 'recreational' scans i.e. scans that aren't medically necessary.

Some links about possible risks of ultrasound scans:

Ultrasound Scans - Cause of Concern - Dr Sarah Buckley

Natural childbirth IIb: ultrasound not as safe as commonly thought - Chris Kresser

Concerns were being raised back in 1999 already!
Ultrasound: Weighing the Propaganda Against the Facts - Beverley Lawrence Beech

So as you saw above, we are planning a waterbirth at home. I had an incredible home water birth with my second child, and so I am due to go for my first checkup with the same midwife soon.

Looking a bit tired!
I am getting a little bump and I'm already having to use the hair elastic trick on the buttons on my pants to make extra space for my growing belly...

One odd thing though, is that I won't feel any physical sensations in my womb area for a few days, and then all on one day it will feel like everything is stretching and expanding and aching. It would be fun to know what is happening on those days! Is it a growth spurt? Who knows?

I've had one or two flutters that I would like to believe are baby moving, and as baby is just over 5cm in length (from crown to rump) I know it's not impossible. They say second time moms can sometimes feel baby as early as 13 weeks, so maybe 12 weeks isn't such a stretch the third time around!

That mystery is also part of the joy of pregnancy for me. While I sleep my body feeds this baby and takes care of all its needs, and my baby gets on with the business of reaching and connecting and expanding... all alone in the dark. It's like a little seed planted in the ground - all alone in the dark without any help or intervention, it somehow germinates and starts forming all the bits necessary to be a tree or a flower, and reaches for the light when the time is right.

Big sister giving the belly some love!
The girls are super excited about the new baby - they often ask me how big the baby is now, and love telling strangers at the shops that mommy has a baby growing in her tummy!

I also got my first two little gifts for the sproglet - some newborn clothes and other bits and bobs - and I can't believe my girls were ever newborn sized! Those leggings are so tiny! But on the other hand, I am truly grateful they weren't bigger - for obvious reasons!

So anyway, that's me for now...
Feel free to ask questions or add comments below!
Keep an eye out for our 16 week diary! (Update: I decided to switch to posting every 2 weeks instead - so here is week 14! And in case you missed it, you can find week 8 here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Thoughts on supporting young or vulnerable mothers and mothers-to-be

Young, unmarried or otherwise unprepared woman gets pregnant, family has conniptions about 'irresponsible behaviour', family accepts the situation and steps in to help, family ends up taking over and mom lets them, confirming family's perception of mom as irresponsible.

I see variations of this story reasonably often in my line of work.

The young mom carries the stigma of 'irresponsible' pregnancy, very visibly for the term of her pregnancy; partner / sperm donor / rapist is usually unscathed by such societal strictures. Well meaning family steps in to save the day - which is all good and well, except that the help usually comes at a price, and that price is often compliance.

It is truly a challenge to be strong and make good choices when you have been labelled as 'irresponsible' and you feel like you have become everyone's problem, which is often how these young moms feel.

'How are you going to look after this child?' 
'What about your studies?'
'What were you thinking?' 
'I told you he wasn't good for you.'

Once everyone is done asking questions, completely overwhelming the young mom to be, breaking down every last shred of confidence she has, then the moment comes for her own mom and dad to step and and fix it all. As if her 'failure' becomes their 'failure' and they have to do their utmost to 'fix it.'

She hands over more and more power as she feels less and less capable.

I'm sure that the delight in being the rescuer, the rock, the provider, isn't a conscious thing, but I sometimes feel that sense of power that comes with being the rescuer ends up causing disempowering situations for the mom to be.

I've seen moms given absolutely no choice about the circumstances of the birth, not because of the actual costs of her choices, but purely because mom's choices didn't line up with the choices of the financier. Mother's options are not even a point of discussion, because the perception is that she has already proven herself incapable of making good decisions so decision-making needs to be taken out of her hands. To be honest, it's not only the young or otherwise unprepared moms who experience this. Moms who are experiencing domestic abuse or marital difficulties or financial strain get similar treatment.

Often these moms are left with little to no autonomy,  as implicit or explicit threats of withdrawal of finance and / or accommodation and / or acceptance are enough to keep her toeing the line. Her parents speak on her behalf, pay on her behalf and decide on her behalf. 

I have yet to see a grandmother-to-be present her daughter with options, encourage her to research those options for herself and find a solution that makes the best of the situation, with the resources at hand, and most importantly, accepts and supports those decisions even if they weren't necessarily the decisions she would make.

I understand that a young mom may choose options that add extra strain to a family, but I'm suggesting that those who are willing to help be honest about the degree of help they are willing to provide, be it financial or otherwise, and then allow the mom to decide how to use the resources that have been made available to her.

Stepping in and fixing everything often seems to end up paralysing the mom-to-be. She may be overwhelmed at the task ahead of her and steps back, confirming the prevailing perception of her as irresponsible and not up to the task of parenting. This then requires family to step in even more, creating a cycle of disempowerment and resentment.

Rather, family should give resources as they are willing and able, and thereafter empower and equip the young mom to make the best plan she can with those resources. She is, after all, about to be a parent, and that is, after all, what good parents do. They do the best they can with what they have.

And it's not just about the birth, often these young moms are kept in check or subdued for many years with the 'Remember how much you owe me because I saved you' line.

Which brings me to the party we haven't yet considered - the baby. That baby will be the one living with the consequences of the mother's choices, as a baby, and into its future as an adult. Surely a dynamic of rescue and disempowerment is not the example one would want to set, as I have seen where the grandmother continually criticised the mother's parenting in front of the child. How is that helpful for this little person who ends up cscond guessing their mother's every move? In one particular case the child became horribly confused and acted out in the most impossible ways, never sure who to listen to or who to be loyal to, and grandmother's perception of her own daughter as a lousy mom was confirmed, thus justifying her intervention in her own mind.

Rather than disempowering moms, let's remind them that as mothers they have the most powerful influence over that child's life, equaled only perhaps by the father's influence if he is around. Let's show them the power they have and support them in exercising that power to make the decisions that will carry them and their children into the future as responsible individuals, confident in the knowledge that they are equipped to deal with whatever life gives them.

Obviously this isn't the situation for every vulnerable mom, but I do see it quite often. Congratulations to all the families and grandparents who have made the effort to encourage and support vulnerable or single moms rather than 'rescuing' them!

Have you experienced something like this?
Share your thoughts below...