stacking the odds

I knew I wanted a “natural birth.” I didn’t know exactly WHY I wanted that, or WHAT it meant exactly, or that it would be such a BIG DEAL to want that. I had a lot to learn. I knew that birth could be unpredictable and potentially complicated, but I wanted to do everything possible to increase my chances for a positive, healthy, natural birth.

The way we approach birth says so much about our personalities, families, cultures, and histories. Maybe you asked friends and family about their experiences (or you didn’t have to ask because they bombarded you with stories and “advice”), maybe you jumped in and forged ahead following your gut, maybe you went solely with advice from a trusted midwife or doctor. Maybe, like me, you read 101 books and solicited advice from online forums and a few select friends.

One of my trusted friends gave me the first of the many birth books I’d read, The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. She’d had a positive natural birth and found the book helpful. I also highly recommend it, and found it very accessible and practical, good for anyone who wants to, well, give birth with confidence.

As someone who needs facts and data, I liked how they built the case for the best things you can do to have a healthy birth. Drawing on the meta-analyses of the respected Cochrane library, they distilled and simplified the data into their six healthy birth practices. Visit their website for more information on each practice, including short videos.

Following these practices are no guarantee, but they greatly increase your odds of having a birth that’s positive, safe, and healthy for you and your baby. For me, following these steps worked well. I knew I couldn’t control it all, but I wanted to feel in control of the things I could. Just like life.

One key step that isn’t mentioned here (but is addressed in the book) is to do your best to find a midwife or doctor and birth location that you trust. Ultimately, you’ll be working with your care provider to make decisions and having a trusting relationship will be critical. Good luck!





Twenty odd years ago in my early twenties, I experienced the breaking up of a friendship that was the most deeply traumatic experience of that kind that I’d had before or since. It was a painful lesson that no matter how much you love someone or how good you are to them, it just might not matter at all in the end. If they have some other shit to deal with, and think they cannot deal with said shit with you around, or maybe believe that the shit is attached to you somehow, it can be quite easy for them to cut you out. And you’re sitting there completely bewildered, stunned, crushed. Neither your heart or mind can grasp why or how someone can turn like that.

For over a week, I cried myself to sleep alone in a hotel room. I was between apartments and was meant to stay with this friend until my new lease started but it quickly became evident that this was no longer possible. I could have stayed with other friends, but felt like way too much of a disaster. I needed the alone time, too, to try to start to make sense of what had happened and to grieve.

On one of those rough nights, I decided that I would no longer make decisions based on fear. It hit me that choices made out of fear wouldn’t save me, help me, protect me. They wouldn’t help me grow, to be a better person, to have a happier life. Choosing to be with someone because you’re afraid to be alone, or choosing to keep a shitty job because you’re afraid of taking a new risk, or choosing to stay in a city you hate because the devil you know… nothing good will come of this. From then on, I would make decisions based on love. Love for another person or myself or for adventure or for the planet, whatever it was.

In the years since, I have come back to this frequently. When I find myself at a crossroads, I make myself pause and really consider what is driving me to lean toward one choice versus another. If I find that underneath all of the logic and rationalizations and practicalities and intellectualizing is a big ole mountain of fear, I know that isn’t the correct choice. I know I have to go the other way. Maybe it’ll have to wait a month or a decade, but eventually I will have to go the other way. I thought I could cross this lesson off the list years ago…

Recently, however, I’ve been reminded of this as well as some other lessons I’ve been learning (and relearning) along the way. Some of us (like me) believe that saying that life gives you a lesson over and over until you figure it out already. I was smacked hard with the realization that while I know these lessons in my head– FEAR kept me from implementing them at critical moments. Life was all, LOL, let’s try this again, sweetheart. And now I’m like, oh fuuuuuuuuuuuckkkk. Right. I know this. Dammit. Ok. Try again. Learn again.

Some of these other lessons include trusting my intuition, being honest with myself and others– trusting that we can handle the truth because if we don’t, nothing good can come. In fact as I’m writing this, I’m realizing it all comes back to FEAR. Fear is why I didn’t follow the many lessons I’ve already learned.

Ok. Trying again.

OMFG is it winter break yet?

Only about 2 weeks to go. My family is lucky in that our work and school schedules allow us some real downtime over the holidays. We are so looking forward to seeing friends, no morning or evening rush, hanging out together doing not much of anything. Oh, the new Star Wars, of course. The grandparents have already given my kids everything Star Wars (merchandising! where the real money from the movie is made!), so a very merry Christmas to you, J.J. Abrams!

How’s your holiday shopping going, anyway? You know the whole thing about going for experiences over things, right? You don’t want your thoughtful gift to be konmaried right out of the house come spring cleaning.

The gift of a doula is the best gift I ever gave myself. It’s one of the most thoughtful, loving, nurturing experiences you can gift to the expectant parents on your list. The onesies are so cute, the tiny booties and softest blankets, the high tech strollers… but the postpartum doula is the one who will make sure the new parents are fed and rested. That the laundry isn’t piling up. That they are remembering to take care of themselves while everyone around them is asking about the baby. That they aren’t alone in the middle of the night and the baby won’t stop crying and they are too tired to see straight. A postpartum doula helps them figure out how they want to parent, the best approach for their family at that time. A birth doula cares for the family before and during that most intense and unique of human experiences– bringing a baby into the world, be it naturally, medicated and assisted, or surgically.

Every person, every family is unique in what will be most helpful to them. A doula can adapt to their needs to assist them in the best way possible. Pretty much the best gift ever.

Quick, you have 5 spare minutes, what do you choose?

Greetings, I'm your new demanding unpredictable boss. And I'm adorable!

Another “life with new baby” observation. Suddenly you have these little windows of time to do something other than care for the baby, usually when the baby is napping or someone else is able to hold the baby for a bit. People say “sleep when the baby sleeps” and while this is an awesome suggestion, sometimes you may be tempted to do something else. Like eat. Or tend to some basic hygiene. Or really go crazy and check email.

While on maternity leave, my choices have varied from day to day. Yesterday I took a nap. Today I choose shower (and the neighborhood rejoiced). Crap, I think I hear the baby….

What would you choose today? How did you tend to spend those little pockets of time during the newborn phase?

The Best Postpartum Gift

Your friend might be a little odd, but if he wants to bring you a warm meal in his Superman outfit, LET HIM.

Leo is already 3 months old and my return to work is around the corner. I know it is a nauseating cliche, but how time flies! I’m already feeling overwhelmed with the juggling balancing act I’ll have to figure out anew.

Our wonderful friends and neighbors set up a meal chain for us, so we’ve been receiving one or two meals a week for the past three months. Some people cooked elaborate gourmet menus worthy of a Saveur cover story, while others made a simple dish or ordered us some take-out. Whatever it was, we appreciated every bite. How glorious to tuck in to some delicious food with no prep and minimal clean up? I don’t think I could put into words what a huge help this was during the new baby adjustment. We are so sad the meal chain is over! We used a website called Meal Train but I know there are a few others sites that do the same thing– making it easy for friends to choose dates, get a reminder, see your dietary restrictions, address, any other pertinent information, and help out in the best way possible– feeding you.

There are lots of great posts out there about how to best support a family with a new baby. Here are a few that I like.

How friends and family can help:

After the birth, what a family needs

Good reminders for mama:

Planning for Postpartum

A Time to Heal

Think ahead about what will help make the transition as smooth as possible for your family. Lean on friends and family and call in those favors. Make life as easy and simple as possible so you can focus on rest and bonding with your baby as much as possible.

What was the best thing someone did for you as you adjusted to life with a new baby? 

And maybe for fun, what was the worst/most annoying thing?