Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Decision...

So I’ve decided to go back to the beginning and document how I ended up where I am today... an incredibly proud 45 year old mother of a wonderful baby girl!  

It all started when I was assessing the last relationship I was in and determining that it was highly unlikely that the relationship was going anywhere.  I was 42 years old and did the math... it would take me some time to over the relationship, then some time to meet someone, a year or so to get to a place where the relationship was ready to consider starting a family and then it was up to God and my body to decide when the baby would actually come!  The catch was by the time all that happened I would be 44 and my fear was that by then it might be too late.  (The irony was that I didn’t get pregnant until I was 44 so I am abundantly glad I wasn’t just starting at that age!)

When I was a teenager I fantasized about being a mom and having a large family.  I couldn’t wait to get started. Being a mom was the only thing I knew I wanted to do in my life.  I figured the career and everything else would get sorted out as I went along.  From then on I thought starting a family was just around the corner... or the next... or the next. And around corner after corner were different careers, different degrees, different cities, lots of wonderful things, but no babies!

At 42 I knew it was time to get the ball rolling and I was going it alone!  It was both scary and exciting at the same time.  Either way, there wasn’t any time to waste... so where to begin?  I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to embark on a journey that embodied every aspect of my being... the psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of my self.  

And so the journey began... it was an exciting time and I couldn’t get started soon enough!  It was September and I figured I might be pregnant by Christmas and what a Christmas present that would be!  As Christmas is approaching and I have the best Christmas present in the world, my first Christmas with my daughter, I am looking back on our story with great fondness and look forward to sharing more of it with you.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Choosing the Sperm Donor Continued... Bu Bye Donor Number One, Hello Donor Number 2!!!

I discovered that one sperm bank will give you unlimited access to the photos of the donors for a month for a set price.  In trying to choose the second donor I was looking at profile after profile getting nowhere so I committed to finding a donor in a month and spent the money.  

Then I invited my girlfriend over to review profiles with me... that was hilarious!  Wine was involved of course and we would look at a donor’s photo and she would start freaking out because he would be young enough to be my son, then she’d remind herself that this wasn’t a dating website, we’re not looking for a partner for me.  Of course normally when looking to have a baby we absolutely would be looking for a partner.  Not this time...   

There were so many things to consider... for me it was a no brainer the donor had to be in good health, his family had to be leading or have led healthy lives, in particular I was looking for no mental health issues. 

I had to consider open donor or anonymous... an open donor is willing to meet the kids when they’re 18, anonymous should be self explanatory.  I decided on open donor which meant for me that I didn’t want to choose a donor young enough to be my son because that would really be weird for my child to meet him one day.  I have to say that the majority of donors fall into that age range because they seem to be students putting themselves through college by donating sperm.  And to be blunt younger is better... they have higher quality swimmers!

In looking at all the different pictures it was amazing how quickly I would discount donors with such simple differences like eyes being too far apart (in my view) or too close together (again in my view).  If you meet someone and fall in love you take the whole package and to be honest many of the slight variances in attribute such as distance between eyes would likely play a role in natural mate selection.  The difference is that you get to know the personality at the same time and that influences you such that you either choose the person as a mate or not based on the whole person not separate attributes.  When looking for a donor rather than a partner I found that I was really clear on what was important to me and likely I had already been selecting partners based in part on what I liked all along I just hadn’t ever pulled apart someone’s facial features to clearly articulate what I liked and didn’t like.  It was funny to discover my likes and dislikes.  

From a biological perspective the second donor I chose made sense as it also represented the man I had been casually dating at the time though I use the term dating loosely.  It was funny, I told him I was planning to become a single mother by choice and while he wasn’t crazy about the idea at first, he got on board and even helped me select the second donor.  Choosing a sperm donor now that's a strange 'date' night!  I had looked at a lot of the profiles before he and I looked together and while the first donor I used had olive skin and light eyes after it didn't work with that donor I chose a donor with brown skin and green eyes.  The man I was dating was mixed race with light brown skin and light eyes.  He admitted he wanted the donor to be a likeness of himself in case we ended up together because then the child would look like him... that was never to be, but I was happy with the donor selection none the less.  Once I was clear about what I was looking for in appearance, that being dark skin and light eyes, donor selection was easy as there was only one Canadian compliant donor.  I figured if I could look at him and read his profile and think I could date him (and he was of an appropriate dating age...) I was on the right track and clearly I was because it worked!  Donor number 2, you rock!!!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Choosing the Sperm Donor... Donor Number 1 Please Step Forward!

The most difficult part of this journey was choosing the sperm donor.  I know it sounds silly, but choosing the gene pool that is going to contribute to who your child will be in every way is somewhat different than picking a partner with whom you will make babies... you never get to meet the donor to find out if you would even like him, all you have to go on is what is in his profile.  

In Canada we don’t pay for sperm so as you can imagine we don’t have much of a ‘bank’.  Your options are the sperm banks in the states or Europe.  When I was looking I didn’t know about the sperm banks in Europe so I was looking at purchasing American sperm!  Nice... and it’s not cheap so you have to choose wisely!

It’s quite incredible how much information you have access to for each donor... the donor’s ethnicity, his medical history and that of his family, his interests, attributes such as height, eye colour etc.  What he does for living, why he is a donor, there are audio interviews and on and on.  What they don’t let you see right off the bat is pictures.  You can order photographs both of the donor in present day and baby photos, but you have to pay for them.  I started out having ordered a number of photos of donors and after the panic of choosing the other half of the DNA that would create my child in time to get the sperm shipped to catch the window of opportunity the first donor I chose had olive skin and green eyes. He was close to the look I was going for though I can’t say that I was all that clear about what that was...  Another donor that appealed to me wasn’t ‘Canadian compliant’ because we have more stringent testing protocols for sperm which limits our choice.  I used this first donor for a number of rounds of artificial insemination without success.  Next donor please... It’s good to change donors if success isn’t achieved in a few attempts because the sperm and egg might not be compatible for some reason.  The search continues...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Debate Continues... How to Have My Baby?

I wanted to share information about Hypnobirthing in part because I would recommend it for anyone.  I felt well prepared having taken the Hypnobirthing course and all of the birth videos I saw were so beautiful using this technique that I was often moved to tears watching them.  To be honest there may be other approaches one could take, but I didn't do a lot of research because once I discovered Hypnobirthing I was sold.

I worked for months on Hypnobirthing and it is amazing, I felt totally empowered to be having my baby at home, unmedicated and having watched videos of other women doing just that reinforced my commitment.  The whole premise of Hypnobirthing is using self hypnosis to work through the contractions or surges/waves as they are called in Hypnobirthing.  The reason for re-naming them is because contraction suggests something is contracting, most likely the uterus, and while the 3 groups muscles of the uterus take turns contracting and relaxing as the baby progresses through the birth canal, that is late in the process of birth.  Early on it is all about opening and thinning... the cervix thins to paper thin and then opens so to use the term contraction is thought to possibly inhibit a woman’s ability to thin and open her cervix because she is visualizing a closing or contracting.  Just an example of the thinking involved in Hypnobirthing.  Hypnobirthing was developed by Marie Mongan to help women get over the fear of childbirth and empower them to approach childbirth naturally.  For more information: http://hypnobirthing.com/

To be honest I felt like I wasn't able to use the Hypnobirthing technique while I was in active labour though it made early labour a breeze.  However, my midwife and doula assure me that I was using the techniques in so much as my labour which was fast and furious was much shorter because I had 'trained' in the Hypnobirthing approach.  Most home birth for first time moms have active labour of 18 to 24 hours and mine was only 8! It served me well... check it out for yourself and you can even check youtube for videos of women using hypnobirthing and see that they are able to use their breathing to work through a relative painless birth!  

The Debate Continues... Midwife or Obstetrician

The approach I took was to use a midwife and doula at home using the Hypnobirthing technique.  That worked for me and was fantastic, but there are other options, in Ontario you have the option of having either an obstetrician or a midwife attend your birth because a midwife basically replaces the obstetrician and in Ontario both are covered by OHIP.  That said, you can only have one or the other. Midwives can work either at home or in the hospital yet obstetricians generally work only at the hospital.  Apparently there are some family doctors who deliver babies and will agree to home births, but I suspect they are few and far between.  Like the obstetrician the midwife gets involved in the birth once the mother is in active labour which is classified by 4-1-1, contractions are 4 minutes apart, a minute in duration and that has been going on consistently for an hour.  

I mentioned that I used a midwife and doula and you may be wondering what the difference is... as I said before the midwife is the attending care giver at the birth, the person who assists in the delivery of the baby.  Doulas can fulfill a couple of roles: a birth doula is like a birth coach, they can show up much earlier in the labour process if desired by the mother, they can also stay later to make sure all the needs of the mother and child are met.  A post partum doula can come to the mother’s home for days or weeks after the birth to provide support which could be housework, dog walking whatever is needed.  The cost of the doula is not covered by OHIP or benefits, but is not terribly expensive in my opinion and totally worth it.  I found it very helpful to have both a doula and a midwife.  Midwives and doulas can assist in home births or hospital births.  And you can change your mind at any time when you are working with a midwife.  They told me that I could literally be in labour and want to go to the hospital and off we would go.  Midwives monitor both the mother’s progress and the baby’s very closely and are required to transfer to the hospital if the status of either changes i.e. the baby’s heart rate decreases because it is in distress.  In my opinion working with a midwife provides more personalized care which was great for me and they come to your home for follow up visits which I loved!

The decision was easy for me as I had already decided to have a home birth so a midwife was the way to go.  The best thing to do for pregnant mamas is to educate yourself as to your options and choose the best fit that will work for you.  Just be sure to decide as early as possible... both midwives and obstetricians can be booked up far in advance so make sure this is one of your earliest decisions and line up the caregiver you prefer right off the bat.  

Giving birth is an incredibly empowering time in a woman’s life and while before you’re in it it seems like it would be the most vulnerable moment of your life.  When you’re in the moment you find a strength from within that gets you through.  Whatever option you choose... you can do it!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Debate... Where Should I Have My Baby?

I wanted to share how I came to the decision to have the baby at home.  It was absolutely the right decision for me though I understand it isn’t for everyone.

When I found out I was pregnant I immediately considered having my baby at home with a midwife.  Then I thought maybe it makes more sense to have the baby at the hospital based on the fact that I’m 45 years old which makes me high risk or at least that’s what the medical professionals would have me believe.  I figured I should be practical.  At least at the hospital if there were any problems with the baby there would be pediatricians there to deal with it though when working with a midwife as you approach the moment of birth a second midwife joins the party to be there for the baby.  Then there is the practical issue of the fact that if I was at the hospital my dogs wouldn’t have to be shipped off (and therefore rejected) for this new little being that was going to enter my life.

Then I watched the movie The Business of Being Born!  Home birth looked so much more pleasant and seemed to provide greater protection against ‘medical intervention’.  It was an incredibly empowering movie and by the end of it I was sold on the home birth idea!  It’s easy to make the argument for home birth when you hear stats like the majority of ‘emergency’ cesarian sections are done at 4 pm and 10 pm... suggesting that basically either the doctor wants to get home for dinner or to go to bed!  When I heard that I decided if possible I would like to avoid the pressure of medical intervention when I am vulnerable and my midwife said I was having an easy pregnancy so home birth it was!  What I didn’t consider at that time that was that the midwives come to visit you in your home after the birth and they are WONDERFUL!!!  

I have to say I wouldn't want to have a home birth if I lived an hour from a hospital, but in an urban centre where emergency care is a few moments away I am all for it.  Being at home allowed me to walk my own halls, to bathe in my own bathtub, to have my baby in my bed and then without even getting out of it go to sleep and wake up and start my new life as a mom!!!  Consider your options pregnant ladies because as they say in the movie The Business of Being Born birth isn’t an illness so why medicalize it... (or something along those lines...).

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Miracle of Life... Childbirth, WOW!!!

Hello again,

I am so sorry that I have been offline for soooo long!  I want so badly to blog and am finding it very difficult to get two hands to myself in order to do it... I will continue to try to write more and hope you will check back from time to time.

I am so pleased that I was able to have my beautiful baby girl Sandy at my home!  I am also in awe of all women who give birth.  It was way tougher than I expected!!!  BUT I DID IT and everyone who has ever given birth should pat themselves on the back at a job well done!!  I have to say I am so incredibly proud of myself both for succeeding in following through with my choice to have my baby naturally at home and for giving my baby girl a beautiful start to her life here on earth!

I’m sure not all of you want all the details of my birth so I will provide the “Coles” notes version... do Coles notes even exist anymore??? Regardless, here goes... For a week and a half or so I was experiencing abdominal cramping every evening which I knew could be early labour so each night I did my best to get a good night sleep knowing it might be my last for a while.  On April 7, changes in my body led me to believe we were hours or days away... I was a little excited and a lot nervous, but I went to bed for a good night sleep.  I woke up on April 8 at 8 am and my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and I used my Hypnobirthing breathing to work through them thinking this is totally manageable!  

Around 10 am I thought I should probably get up while I can and get anything done that I need done... like shower and eat.  I managed a shower, but by the time I went to eat, I couldn’t.  So I went back to bed having emailed my doula to let her know things were progressing.  I continued to use my breathing techniques and was surprised to discover that my contractions were progressing rapidly and didn’t have a rhythm to them anymore...  I called my cousin to talk to her about it and get moral support and she told me I shouldn’t be alone so I called the doula and was trying to explain the situation, but had to stop talking when I was having contractions and sometimes they were back to back... to back!  From my original email she had figured we had hours to go, but given the number I had while I was on the phone with her she came right over.  In short order we had my birth partner there as well, that was between 12 and 1 pm.

I called the midwife around 1:30 and she said from the sounds of it I was hours away, but asked if I was doing Hypnobirthing because that could mean that I was further along than she would normally think given what was happening at that time.  She said she would come by to check.  She arrived at 2:45 or so and said I was fully effaced and 3 cm dilated... only 1 cm away from being in active labour!  At this point I was in the tub and I had an audience of my doula and birth partner as I worked through the contractions or surges as they refer to them in Hypnobirthing.  It’s funny I had anticipated enjoying the jets of my jacuzzi tub yet I never wanted to turn them on!  I was in there for hours and as things got more intense I discovered to my surprise that making low guttural sounds was very helpful.  Things progressed... quickly at first and then more slowly and at one point I was back to feeling like the labour was manageable and I was telling everyone stories... and that is the point when my doula started giving me homeopathic remedies to speed things up again... I tried to refuse, but they assured me we had to move things along!

Progress was very slow as I began pushing Sandy through the birth canal... I couldn’t feel her at first to know how to push so it was very difficult.  Once I got her past a certain point I could feel her again and I was much more effective with my pushing.  Sandy was in the birth canal for quite a long time, but she was never in distress.  What I didn’t know was that the two midwives (one for me, one for the baby) had decided if I wasn’t moving along much faster by midnight they were going to have to transfer me to the hospital... luckily I was making much more progress by midnight, had the head birthed by 12:09 and the body a minute later.  Unbelievable that the body was so easy compared to the head!  Turns out part of the reason she was difficult to deliver was because she had her fist in front of her face... the whole way!  And as she emerged we discovered that the cord was wrapped around her neck but was of no concern given it hadn’t tightened and put her in distress at any time.  

I reached down to receive my baby as they placed her on my chest, she was so alert and quite content.  She cried as is necessary to clear out her lungs so that she can start breathing air rather than amniotic fluid, but didn’t seem too concerned with what was going on... I held her and chatted with her for about a half hour as they dealt with everything else.  At this point we didn’t even know if it was a girl or a boy!  The midwife asked me how I wanted to find out... she offered to pick the baby up and let me announce the sex or let my birth partner take a picture of the bits and announce.  I chose the latter because frankly I had worked so hard to get her I didn’t want her an inch away from me!  My birth partner announced it’s a boy... and the midwife made a face and said let’s try that again!  And a girl it was... my baby Sandy, by the end of my pregnancy everyone except my shaman and I thought I was having a boy, I had girl vibes throughout the entire pregnancy, it was nice to discover I was right!  

Such a surreal experience, you’re working so so hard and then all of a sudden its over and you’re holding your beautiful baby!  Let me tell you, it was very tough, the midwife said they usually expect active labour of first time moms to be 18 to 24 hours and here I had crammed it into 8!  There were two points that I would have been happy to have been transferred to the hospital, had an epidural, Caesarian, whatever it took because at those two points I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it.  The first of the two was when I wasn’t getting any breaks between contractions... no time to recover and the second was when I couldn’t feel her to be able to push her out!  I can’t thank my birthing team enough for helping me through the whole experience, specifically those two junctures because if they hadn’t been able to assure me completely that I would get through those two points I would have ended up in the hospital.  

In hindsight now I can say what an incredible experience!  I am so glad I was able to have the baby at home, it was incredibly special and even writing this again I feel enormous pride in myself for having succeeded in achieving my goal.  After the birth I kept saying that I hadn’t been able to utilize the Hypnobirthing techniques, but they assured me that while it wasn’t one of the quiet births they show you on the Hypnobirthing videos, that it was short and sweet because I had employed the Hypnobirthing techniques.  Everyone is different and every pregnancy and every birth is different even for the same mother so of course each woman should choose the type of birth that is right for them.  That said, if anyone is considering either a home birth or using a midwife in the hospital I would highly recommend using Hypnobirthing and a doula is wonderful support.  

To all those women who have had babies, hats off to you and to those who will have them in the future, you can do it, you’re tougher than you think!  They say you forget just how tough it was and at the time I kept saying I’m not going to do this again... now I would be open to it under the right circumstances!

Ciao for now
Copyright protected