A Gentle Birth: Suubi’s Birth Story

“How has your ‘Gentle Project’ been going since the baby, Ashley?” I am condescendingly asked. “Are you up to your eyeballs in cloth diapers and compost?” Serves me right for being drawn to such smart ass friends. 

Yes, since having baby, my blogging for the Gentle Project has taken a bit of a back seat. I arrogantly thought babies just slept and ate all day so surely I would be able to commit to writing… but alas…

With that said, part of my Gentle Project was also about being gentle with myself; my heart, my emotions, and my body. The season of pregnancy, the experience of childbirth, and my survival through postpartum has indeed been a crash course in self-care and gentleness. In that spirit, I wanted to use my final Gentle Project post to share about my birth experience, what I have learned about self-care and the power of gentle thoughts.

Not-So-Gentle Birth Ideas

“Gentle” was never a word I associated with childbirth. In fact, I had never met anyone who, in my opinion, was more afraid of childbirth than me. Fear was a HUGE struggle for me long before I was even pregnant. Television, movies, and other people’s horror stories contributed to me believing that birth was a nightmare women had to survive, as opposed to a natural activity our bodies knew how to perform.

Fast forward to postpartum-me and I can confidently say I enjoyed my childbirth experience. I would even go as far as using the term “gentle.” My pregnancy wasn’t perfect, my birthing experience wasn’t perfect, but I did indeed enjoy it. 

My running joke during pregnancy was that I felt great until I visited a doctor and they told me all the things that were potentially wrong with me. With every doctors visit we would learn of something new detected in my blood or something seen in a sonogram, I would panic, and then the next appointment they would say they couldn’t find any problems… so I never knew what to expect, other than that I was expecting.

I started reading and researching about pregnancy and childbirth, even though my doctor told me never to Google anything ever. What can I say? I’m a rebel. A lot of what I read was SO negative and scary, I started understanding why my doctor discouraged me from my internet research, but in fairness, the doctors were just as scary. 

Hypnobirthing and Other Gentle Things

Somewhere around the 12 week mark, a dear friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of hypnobirthing, and encouraged me to listen to a podcast from Russel Brand (yes, that Russel Brand) where he interviews a woman by the name of Katharine Graves about Hypnobirthing. 

There were three factors in me having a gentle pregnancy and birth: a supportive partner, my “doula” friend, and hypnobirthing! When I first heard about Hypnobirthing I summoned images of a stage performer hypnotizing audience members into clucking like chickens and embarrassing themselves. Then as I started learning more about it I summoned images of crunchy hippies lighting serenity candles, and braiding their armpit hair. I remained a skeptic for a long time, even when seeing it’s benefits during pregnancy, but after coming out on the other side of childbirth, I’m happy to report there was nothing crunchy, hippy, or stage performer about it. I could go on and on about what hypnobirthing is, but that would be a different (really long) blog post. If you want more info go to the experts here. 

Upon the discovery of hypnobirthing I immediately changed my approach to birth. Instead of being an experience I had to “endure,” I started looking at it as the amazing life-changing, life-starting experience it is. I started shutting people down when they’d see my swollen belly and feel inclined to tell me about their traumatic labour experience (everyone from the well meaning ladies at work, to random strangers in the grocery store. I also grabbed a stranger-woman’s boob in the grocery store when she grabbed my pregnant belly… but that’s a story for another time. Well, actually, that’s pretty much the whole story. I’m not into unsolicited touch. The end.) I stopped watching TV shows when birth was being depicted as a screaming, bloody, horror show, and I was also careful with how I spoke about pregnancy and birth. 

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The day before I went into labour (featuring cute pregnant belly: great to compliment, not recommended to touch without asking.)

Funny enough, I found a lot of people struggled with me speaking positively about birth. Many felt inclined to “take me down a peg” when I spoke about what I enjoyed about pregnancy or what I looked forward to in birth. I quickly learned that complaining was far more socially acceptable than being positive. 

Suubi’s birth was an amazing experience. It did not go as I planned, but I was prepared for my plans to change and to go with the flow… so in that way, it went according to plan. 

I planned and hoped for a short labour, no drugs, and natural delivery. That was the dream. I was hoping to be like those women who feel a sneeze coming on and then whoop, a baby.

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One’s high on gas, the other one is high on life.
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My birth team, clearly having a blast.

I laboured for a few more hours than expected (48 more hours actually), and after successfully dilating to seven centimetres, ended up having an “emergency” cesarian section (“emergency” is in quotes because it did not feel like an emergency; we calmly came to the conclusion that c-section was the best route, and 8 hours later, there we were). KmyXVl2BTqy1Mbk7oTJC2Q

Though Suubi’s birth turned out a lot different than I planned, anything I was able to have some control over went beautifully. My time labouring at home was peaceful and quiet. The people who surrounded me were positive, encouraging, and empowering. I listened to music, cracked jokes, and felt an absolute gentleness around the whole experience.

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Hypnobirthing helped me not only in pregnancy, and labour, it also helped me during postpartum. It taught me how to speak and think kindly about my body, my feelings, and my baby. It taught me to be  prepared with close friends to support me and check in on me. Most importantly, it assured me that I know what’s best for myself and my child, and that I am allowed to advocate for my own care.

Living Gently 

I recognize, statistically, that the experience of birth for many women can be quite scary and dangerous. I recognize the privilege I have to live where I do, with the medical care I have, in the skin I have. It is not lost on me the absolute blessing [miracle] it is to have a healthy baby and an incredibly supportive husband.

I wrote this post out probably about 14 times. I was meant to post this in December but kept second guessing myself. I didn’t want to feel like I was rubbing salt in the wound for anyone. I didn’t want to trigger those who have struggled. 

But I also think about pre-pregnancy me. I think about the YEARS I spent fearing something that turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. I know how much I needed to hear from somebody that birth could be gentle and not terrifying. I know that not everyone’s experience can be guaranteed, but if I have learned anything from this year of The Gentle Project it’s that there is no harm in attempting to live more kindly, and more gently, no matter how imperfectly. 

“Just wait…”

“Just wait…” and other horrendous things people say to pregnant women

Pregnancy has acquainted me with a phrase I have grown to hate: “just wait!” 

Let me take you back a few steps so you can understand why this simple phrase makes my stomach turn. 

Before becoming pregnant, and I’d say even going back to when I was a child, I absolutely feared pregnancy and childbirth. I used to tell my parents that if I was to ever have a child it would be through adoption because there was no way I was letting THAT happen to my body. 

When I began exploring careers based around childcare my fear only intensified, not because of the children themselves but because of the ongoing exposure I often had to pregnant women. I heard all the horror stories.

Oh the ripping… and the tearing… and the leaking… 

It was all too much for me, and I came to the resolve that if my destiny was to always be “fun Auntie Ashley,” I’d be alright with it. 

Then of course I fell madly in love, got married, and here I am, 38 weeks pregnant.   

Boundaries and other things people love. 

I have had to set up some serious boundaries around my pregnancy, and not the boundaries I expected I’d have to put up. I thought my biggest struggle would be people giving me unsolicited touches in the grocery store, and though that has happened once or twice, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as people’s traumatic story-telling inclinations. Any woman who has ever had a negative pregnancy or birthing experience merely has to gaze upon my swollen belly, and all of a sudden I’m sitting front row for the re-telling of their birthing story. Instead of flicking hands away from my belly button, I have found myself stopping women (and sometimes men) mid-sentence to say, “I’m sorry, maybe this is a better story for me to hear after baby comes.” 

Here’s where the “just wait…” comes in. 

I have been working very hard to keep myself in a positive space about pregnancy and birth (hynobirthing is hugely to thank, but more on that later) but I have noticed a pattern develop. 

Whenever I am asked, “how are you feeling?” (or any variation of that) and I respond positively, the response is almost immediately receive is, “well, just wait…”

Person: “How are you liking maternity clothes?” 

Ashley: “Great! Stretchy and comfortable; I’m thinking about transitioning to maternity pants full time.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you’re further along; you’ll be sick of them.”

 

Person: “Being pregnant in the summer is the WORST.” 

Ashley: “Oh, it’s actually not that bad. We have air conditioning, so I’ve been more than comfortable.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until it gets hotter and you get more pregnant. You’ll swell up and it’ll be awful.” 

 

Person: “How are you sleeping?”

Ashley: “Pretty good. I’m on summer vacation so if I need to nap, I take one. It’s awesome.” 

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you have a newborn. You’ll never sleep again.”

 

Person: “What’s your birth plan?” 

Ashley: “I’m hoping to try natural, and see how we do.”

Person: “Well, JUST WAIT until you’re begging for an epidural, because you know it hurts right?” 

Needless to say I avoid talking pregnancy and childbirth with a lot of people because it’s depressing AF. 

I’m a “7” on the Enneagram; don’t hate me because I’m a positive enthusiastIMG_0669.jpg

I am not delusional ; I understand things can be challenging. I also understand I have had a unique experience in that becoming pregnant was not a struggle, and my pregnancy itself has been pretty peaceful. But I don’t think these factors make my experience any less valuable, or un-shareable. I don’t want to live my life in an “Eeyore” state of mind: “it’s not raining now, but it will some day soon.”

I know things aren’t always easy, but I kind of wish more people could have leaned towards the positive side of the “just waits…”

 

Ashley: “I felt the baby kick!”

Person: “Well just wait until you look at her for the first time!” 

 

Ashley: “I’m trying to be positive about childbirth”

Person: “Well just wait until you see what your body can do; it’s amazing!”

 

Ashley: “I think my pregnant body is adorable!”

Person: ”Well just wait until you see all of the beautifully weird and wonderful things it does to sustain your baby; it’s a miracle!” 

 

Just wait until you see how beautiful all of this life is. Just wait for the joy, the excitement, the giggles, and the new adventures. Just wait! 

SO in celebration of our due date nearing, and soon getting to meet our little bundle, I’d love to hear your POSITIVE “Just Waits…” 

Let me have it. 

Spring: Gentle Cleaning and Conscious Shopping

These past couple months have been INSANE! In all good ways, but INSANE none the less. I have been the musical director for a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream-coat” and shows began this month! It has been SO much fun, but definitely all consuming. When I haven’t been obsessing about the musical, I’ve been preoccupied with all things BABY! I have really tried not to be “that” person that finds out they’re pregnant and talks about nothing else, and the musical has definitely helped me bring balance in that area, but alas, I get home from a long day at work, and can’t help but think and plan for baby. 

Speaking of baby… this is not related to anything “Gentle Project”, but just for fun, here are a few pictures from our Gender Reveal last month:  

The good thing about becoming mildly baby obsessed has been that it ties in nicely with my March and April projects. Learning more about chemical-free cleaning, and organizing seems timely.

So with no further adieu, here are 5 easy ways to keep your house clean, organized, and chemical free: 

  1. Stay Organized: I find when everything in my home has a place, it is far easier to keep the house clean. Tidying becomes quick when every item in my home has a place, and quick surface cleaning becomes a breeze. I have become a fan (as many have) of all things Marie Kondo; I find many of her tips and tricks very practical and easy. What do you love? Keep it! What doesn’t make you happy? Get rid of it! What you keep? Have a place for it! Marie Kondo’s Netflix series “Tidying Up” is worth the watch; it’s like a not-as-gross “Hoarders.”
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    I went to Ikea and got a few closet organizers– I am slightly obsessed now.

    One of the things I love about her style of cleaning and organizing is how specific she is about having a place for everything. Little boxes and jars designated for everything! This way of tidying hasn’t just help me stay organized, but it has made it so much easier to clean the house quickly.

  2. Keep it simple: One of the most helpful discoveries I made this month was the Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living. Add a small capful to a spray bottle with water and use it on literally EVERYTHING! I used it to clean the kitchen counters, the shower, and even my washing machine on the clean cycle. Having one cleaner (and one that is chemical-free no less) has really helped me clean more often. I also really enjoy not worrying about what I’m breathing in while I clean. 
  3. Fresh Air: Such a simple, small thing to change, but keeping the air in the house fresh inspires me to keep the house itself fresh and clean. Our beautiful weather lately has been a great excuse to open the windows, and breakout the diffuser to freshen our home up. I have been slowly ridding our house of harmful, harshly scented candles as well, and instead using my diffuser from Saje. 
  4. Norwex: I don’t sell Norwex, or Young Living, but both companies have products I really enjoy. I’ve slowly started acquiring some Norwex cloths and I find they work stupendously to clean the house, completely free of ANY cleaning products. I want to expand my collection, especially with a baby on the way. 
  5. Less stuff = More time: I am a ruthless purger of things! But I wasn’t always; I used to have SO many sentimental items that I could never dream of letting go. I changed after I spent some time in Uganda. It wasn’t necessarily my time in a third-world-country that made me turn from my selfish first-world ways and purge my excess belongings. Truth be told, it was the fact that my time back and forth in Uganda (and the fact that I was never sure where I was going to land) caused me to evaluate my stuff more carefully. I found myself asking, “is this thing worth packing, shipping, and unpacking, potentially several times?” Most of my things inspired a resounding NO! I still apply this concept to my life now that my husband and I are settled in Canada, and I must say that having less stuff does not solely benefit ones ability to travel. Having less stuff in our house truly causes us to have more time. It’s good to be clean and organized of course but nearly impossible when there’s stuff consuming every corner of your house. Less stuff means we have more time to things other than clean.

Gentle Cleaning has also caused me to ask some questions (that I fear are dumb, but I’m going to ask them anyway):

  1. Where do you bring old chemicals that you want to get rid of? 
  2. Do you have any solutions for an inexpensive, chemical-free, freshly “scented” (or at least leaves your clothes fresh feeling) laundry detergent? I want to try Saje’s dryer balls and get rid of those toxic dryer sheets… but all the other laundry detergent that’s “natural” seems crazy expensive. Any great suggestions? 
  3. What about car-washing? Anything environmentally friendly for washing the car? 
  4. Coming into the new season of parenthood, how do you stay clean and organized with a baby? And don’t say it’s impossible! How do you control toy accumulation? Organize laundry? Clean your floors easily?

Now, here’s the temptation I often have once everything in my home is clean and organized: I want to shop! There’s space for things, empty hangers, and time to kill… why not indulge in a little shopping? And to take it further, THERE’S A BABY COMING! I NEED ALL THE THINGS! I don’t, but you know, first baby! Who knows what I need? So I should just get it all right?! 

Which leads me to my April project: Gentle Shopping. 

My Rules for April: 

  1. No impulse shopping or mall-wandering 
  2. Learn about “Fast Fashion”
  3. My mantra for the month, “I have everything I need.” 
  4. Learn some DIY’s for things I’d usually buy
  5. There is no baby here yet, I don’t need to buy baby things this month. Say it again ASHLEY! You don’t need to buy any baby things this month! 
  6. Maintain the habits I’ve developed thus far:
    1. Reducing household waste
    2. Make more vegan adaptations to my diet
    3. Continue to rid our house of all chemical based cleaning products

Know of any great resources when it comes to Gentle Cleaning, or Conscious consuming? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

5

Gentle Waste: Mid-Month Update

So far my month of Gentle Waste has been enlightening, but I definitely have work to do to get my household less wasteful! 

My biggest challenge has been cutting down my showers. I timed myself at the beginning of the month and my average shower was about 10 minutes (shorter if it’s a quick “back from the gym” shower, and longer if I wash my hair or shave my legs). I love using my showers to warm me up in the morning, but I have had to consistently remind myself that that is not actually what showers are for. I have, however, found a few practical solutions to help make my showers shorter (and better to be quite honest). I will share some of those solutions in my final post for the month of January. 

Cutting down on my plastic use this month has gone quite smoothly when it comes to my grocery shopping. Where it’s been more challenging? Snacks! I’ve realized how much I use plastic sandwich bags for my snacking items. I know I can use my Tupperware containers but, I confess, I don’t want big bulky Tupperware containers all over the place (which they would be in my car, in my purse, lost at work etc.). 

Has anyone every used those silicone snack bags? I found some on Amazon, they seem pricey… but potentially worth it? These are the ones I have been scoping out:

https://www.amazon.ca/Stasher-Reusable-Silicone-Bag-Clear/dp/B01DZQT9CU/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1547578765&sr=8-7&keywords=silicone+snack+pouch

If you’ve used these ones or something similar, I’d love to hear your thoughts. They look like they could be a potentially helpful solution. 

imageI also had the chance to visit Surrey’s Biofuel Plant where I learned more about how composting my organics positively affects the environment. Surrey’s Biofuel Plant is the first closed-loop waste management system in North America. When I drove up to the facility I was surprised by the fact that I couldn’t smell the organics (I was expecting to be gagging my way through the place). The Biofuel facility processes the city’s organic waste into 100% renewable natural gas which is then used by natural gas powered service vehicles. The most fascinating part of the tour for me was when I ventured into the organics “viewing area” (at least that’s what I’m calling it).img_9334 I was shocked to see how much garbage made its’ way into the organics piles; the most shocking malfeasance was the white plastic lawn chair protruding from the mountain of banana peels and coffee grounds. The facility not only processes organic waste, but also has an education centre where school groups visit and learn more about renewable natural gas and compost. There was something about watching a bunch of 14 year-olds re-learning how and what to recycle that really warmed my heart.

The past 15 days have helped me realize how many things I do mindlessly through out my day. There have been a couple times I have been out, bought a coffee, and then once the dang thing is in my hands I curse the sky remembering my “no coffee without a reusable mug” rule. 

My biggest revelation from this month so far has definitely been: being less wasteful has a lot to do with being more mindful.