This must have been the longest break from you! Thank you for still being here and ‘listening’ to what I have to say. This third-trimester business is exhausting! It’s almost as if I am back to the first trimester- with a tiny little more sass!
Anyway, we’re here now. We have less than ten days to the “guess date” but something happened which should remind us all of the fact that these little buggers might decide to arrive whenever they think is better for them! My husband’s beautiful cousin, whose due date was a month after mine, just gave birth, seven weeks before her “due date”, to a gorgeous little boy. We were at their baby shower just a few weeks ago (see the silly “prom” picture we had taken, below) and everyone, looking at my big bump, was talking about how I seemed to be due soon! The miraculous thing we call birth.
So either way, we are coming close to our estimated due date, and even if our little one decides to hang in the womb a little longer, the end of my pregnant era is not too far from today. Before we enter into another era, with even fewer hours of sleep balanced with the joys of meeting our little human, I wanted to share with you all a few things that have helped me during these last few weeks of pregnancy. If you happen to be Oakland-based, there are more specific recommendations, but I am listing below some websites and apps which everyone can make a use of, regardless of where you are. So read on!
One final crucial note before moving on: None of these suggestions has to be costly. I have my own recommendations, but please do know that most of these services are available to women, free of charge, or at a low cost, at community centers, public hospitals, or by individual service providers themselves. Please do not dismiss any of these recommendations, assuming that they cost a lot. As you will see, I too have asked for and received help in this regard. Every woman has a right to a safe and an empowering birth!
I admit that ignorance can be bliss. But not for everyone. I am the kind who would rather know as much as I can, design an informed path for myself, including alternatives, in case things go awry. Would you not like to know your options and choices, in case you find yourself in a situation where you have to make a decision? This decision might affect you and your baby psychologically as well as physically, and I wanted to make sure that I know as much as I can about what choices I have. We also wanted the birthing experience as empowering for us as new parents as possible.
Birthing classes can help you to learn about what mamas can do to promote well-positioned babies (to ease the labour process, and make birthing less traumatic on the baby), how partners can comfort you, and what techniques you both can use to help reduce the pain of labor and birth. These classes will provide lots of recommendations on apps, meditation techniques, websites, articles, and other resources to use if you are curious and would like to know more.
My husband and I went to Then Comes Baby in Oakland. We took a birthing class and a breastfeeding class there (the breastfeeding class comes with a huge discount once you enroll in the birthing class).
Our birthing teacher was Anna Hurty who was simply an amazing teacher. She explained the stages of labour, what to expect, how to ease labour naturally, home vs hospital birth vs birthing centers, pros and cons of pain medications, and so on, without being judgmental or biased. What is more, Anna went above and beyond her obligations: She gave us her phone number to call in case we feel worried or have further questions, or need help with something else. She stayed in touch to check on us regularly. I mean, who does that?!
The breastfeeding class was incredibly helpful as well. I had tons of questions and doubts about what I had been hearing/reading up until that point, and the teacher was able to cover it all in a short amount of time! I am much less worried about breastfeeding now, and more confident that there are ways to solve problems which might come along the way.
Before enrolling in a class, do your homework and see if the staff is helpful; if the place offers any other class or service, like prenatal yoga, CPR classes, massages and so on. These might come free of charge or with a discount once you enroll in the birthing class.
Have a doula – and accept (ask for) help
A doula is your birthing angel, basically. Her purpose is to help the birthing person to have a safe, memorable, and an empowering birthing experience. Some doulas give post-partum help as well. We are lucky to have my mum fly all the way from back home only to help us to cope with everything during the first few weeks after the baby. But if we need additional support, I know that I can turn to my doula. I cannot even imagine going through all this otherwise overwhelming experience without any kind of support.
The doula prepares you for the actual labour and delivery by helping you with a birth plan, answering all kind of questions you might have along the way- questions which you are not able to ask anyone else. She might recommend a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a naturopathic doctor. She might just be there to talk to when you are scared and worried or simply, lonely. Perhaps more importantly, she is there 24/7 during those last few weeks, when the baby might arrive anytime! She is there when you forget what you have learned in the birthing class, there to tell you when it is time to go to the hospital. She relaxes you during and between contractions, reminds you of breathing techniques, and other coping mechanisms, guides you through pushing and so on. She is your informed mediator – she knows how to deal with the hospital staff, how to deal with you as a patient, and how the whole process works in general.
I am sure there will be times when I will have no idea what is going on outside of my somatic experience! I am counting on her to protect my wishes in relation to induction, pain management, c-section and so on, as much as we medically can.
For the Bay area people, I strongly recommend Lori Jaffe, who remembers every single appointment I have at the hospital, at the acupuncturist, chiropractors, or what not, and texts me the day of or after, to see how I am doing. She remembers when my mum is coming to help us out, sends me information about workshops which might be helpful, online videos and articles. She has brought affirmations to me, showed me exercises to relieve pain, came to our house to go over what to do during a possibly lengthy first stage of home-labour and so on. If you live around here, contact her for a prenatal or post-partum support.
Experienced doulas are the angels who know what they are talking about. It is not like having a supportive friend- it is like having a supportive friend whose job it is to know what will happen and guide you through the way. So even if you have a supportive family, but especially if you are not taking a birthing class, I highly recommend a doula.
You have to Relax. And sleep! Try the Meditation/hypnosis apps out there!
You can try most of the meditation apps and tools for free, for at least a week. Some of these have free meditations, videos and so on, along with a series of meditations which require a subscription. So play around, and see whatever works for you.
I have tried a bunch of these meditation tools. I still have the Headspace subscription which I do like and use from time to time. Simple Habit, Breathe, and Shine are some other great examples, all of which you can try for free. But my favourite these days is Gentle Birth . They have affirmations, meditations, hypnosis recordings both for pregnancy and post pregnancy. I hope these will somehow be helpful to “hack” my mind and relax during labour, but I already do experience their help to relax these days. I have found that their hypnosis recordings is the only thing that helps me with sleep these days. I am typing these at 3 am, so clearly, it is not an all-time solution, but I was able to fall asleep, night after night, listening to their “sleep sanctuary” or “visualizing the new you” when nothing else was helping for days. I highly recommend giving them a try.
Acupuncture and chiropractic
Because I have had no major issues throughout my pregnancy, the pains and aches that are so common to the third trimester were a shock to my spoiled body. They would not last long, but they were uncomfortable nonetheless. Besides, I did not want the pain to possibly get worse or affect the birth experience in any way. In order to alleviate pain, prepare the body for birth, and thus prevent a potential need for induction (which is what I am most concerned about), my doula, Lori recommended acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. I am glad she did.
Some of you might remember that I am a big believer in acupuncture, when it is expertly practiced, of course. So I was excited to meet Rachel Alkire from Grow Family Acupuncture in Oakland. Again, for those who are not based around here, I am sure you can find a licensed practitioner who will be helpful throughout and after your pregnancy. That said, I do hope that whoever you find will make you feel as comfortable as Rachel made me feel. It is also incredibly helpful that Rachel offers a sliding scale depending on one’s household income and/or current financial situation. Before we even met, when I expressed my financial concerns, she responded suggesting that if we could not work together, she would help me find a community center which offers acupuncture for free or at a low cost. Do find someone like that- because this one gesture shows that the practitioner really cares about the welfare of the client/patient, don’t you think? I am glad that it worked out with her though because she is incredible. The pain on my glutes disappeared after only one session. The second session focused on preparing the body for the labour that is right around the corner now, and both times I actually fell asleep on her table, which is great because my chronic sleep problems have gotten worse during the third trimester, and is rare that I fall asleep without listening to those recordings I mention above! Now I look forward to the following session.
Unlike acupuncture, I had had no experience with chiropractic. I decided to see Dr. Ariel of Flow Chiropractic because a) I trust Lori, my doula b) Dr. Ariel seems to be adored by her patients, many of whom are pregnant or post-partum, and c) She holds certification for The Webster Technique which is a specific chiropractic analysis and adjustment that corrects pelvic and sacral imbalances. This re-alignment will hopefully contribute to a safer, easier birth for me. She has given me suggestions, recommendations, tips (see below) which were all helpful. I am continuing to see her, and will hopefully go to her again after the birth, but what was almost miraculous so far was that the stiffness on my neck and on my back has gone. I did not even know that I was that stiff- people can get used to anything, can’t we?! But, my goodness, what I felt after that session- I can only describe it like this: I felt light like a feather!
Breech or transverse babies? Try to spin that baby!
Around week 37, I was worried about the position our little one has taken in the womb. He was still not head-down and was lying sideways. Then Dr. Ariel, the chiropractor I mentioned above, suggested I try the “Three Sisters” on the Spinning Babies website. I did know about the website. I had been there before, which was informative, but I must have missed the “three sisters” section which is helpful if you think your baby is breech (buttocks coming into mother’s pelvis before the head) or transverse (sideways position). The “three sisters” refers to the three techniques you can employ on a regular basis to support and comfort the baby so the baby will move to a more ‘ideal’ position. In a few days after I started to employ these techniques, our Luka was head-down. There is no way to be sure that it was these techniques which made this happen, but I will continue the moves until the birth. Thanks to my doula’s suggestion, I am also “resting smart“, meaning, knees lower than the level of my hips, and the lower back sway forward as I stand and walk. I also lie on my left side at night- which is frustrating because I am used to sleeping on my right side, but I’ll try anything to make the birthing experience as pleasant as possible!
I promise to stay in touch! No more long breaks from you all. Please send us your good wishes and your wonderful energy, because there is nothing more powerful than that! Much love from the three (ooops, I forgot the cats!) – the five of us!