Archive for the ‘Babies’ Category

“Keep Calm and Labor On” – Lamaze International Releases New Early Labor Infographic

December 1st, 2015 by avatar

early labor infographic 1


I appreciate Lamaze International for many reasons, and one reason is that they continually provide useful new material for childbirth educators to integrate and adapt for their classes and curriculum.  Additionally, this information is also available directly to consumers on the parent site Lamaze.org.

LI_0080715_EarlyLabor_Infographic FinalThe newest Lamaze infographic “Keep Calm and Labor On” has just been released and posted to the website.  I think it is particularly relevant as it aligns with the ACOG/SMFM Joint Obstetric Care Consensus Statement – “Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery” released in February, 2014.  We discussed the importance of this statement in a blog post by Judy Lothian on Science & Sensibility at the time.

As educators, doulas and other birth professionals, we can prepare our students and clients to pace themselves in early labor by working through early labor at home with the support of their partner, doula and family.  Active labor is considered 6 CM of cervical dilation, and if there are no medical conditions that change the circumstances, most laboring people will be admitted as they round the corner to active labor and a cervical exam shows them to be approaching that 6 CM mark.

Families should understand that early labor may take several days or may even start and stop, and all of this is considered within normal limits.  Having a strategy for how they will handle early labor, what they will do to stay relaxed and well-fueled and the type of support that they will need at home during this time is critical.  When pregnant people and their support team are not adequately informed about what a normal early labor will look like, they may find themselves at the hospital facing unnecessary interventions that can change the course of their birth experience and outcome.  Arriving at the hospital or birth center at the right time can help people to have a safe and healthy birth experience.

This early labor infographic is easy to read and understand and clearly explains the benefits of having an early labor plan.  It discusses the benefits of early labor occurring at home, offers strategies for coping with early labor and makes many useful suggestions that will help with comfort and coping.

early labor infographic 2How are you teaching about early labor in your classes and with your clients?  Have you made the transition to teaching that active labor starts at 6 CM?  Do you have a fun and interactive way to teach this?  I would also love to refer you to a previous Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators post written by Mindy Cockeram, LCCE – “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?” or When To Go To The Hospital or Birth Center for a fun idea to do with your classes.

You can find all the infographics on the Lamaze International infographics page.  Here you can choose to view the “Keep Calm and Labor On” infographic, as well as all the others, as a webpage or download as a pdf or jpg.


Caughey, A. B., Cahill, A. G., Guise, J. M., Rouse, D. J., & American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(3), 179-193.

Zhang J, Landy HJ, Branch DW, Burkman R, Haberman S, Gregory KD, et al. Contemporary patterns of spontaneous labor with normal neonatal outcomes. Consortium on Safe Labor. Obstet Gynecol 2010;116:1281–7. [PubMed] [Obstetrics & Gynecology


Babies, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Lamaze International, Lamaze News, Medical Interventions, New Research , , , , ,

Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators – Events of Late Pregnancy and Premature Birth

November 19th, 2015 by avatar

PlaybillNovember is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th was World Prematurity Awareness Day. This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators post is about preventing prematurity, the events of late pregnancy and the importance of waiting for labor to begin on its own. As they do every year, the March of Dimes leads the way in recognizing the importance of preventing premature births. They have provided information and resources to bring this important problem to light.  The number one cause of death of young children worldwide is complications from being born too early, with estimates of 1.1 million deaths directly linked to being born too early.   In the United States, one in ten babies are born premature.  If you live in the USA, you can check out how your state has performed on the prematurity report card.  On the international level, you can find out how your country ranks here.  In the US, we also know that premature births and low birth weight babies are more likely to occur in families of color.

I cover premature birth in my childbirth classes in many ways, including recognizing the signs of premature labor, and facilitating a discussion around the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice “Let Labor Begin On Its Own” as induction before a baby is ready and has started labor can unintentionally result in a premature birth if the gestational age is estimated incorrectly or even if the baby was not ready and needed some more time in utero.  Not every baby is ready to be born at the same time.

My favorite activity to do in class on this topic leaves families really understanding the benefits of letting baby start labor when they are ready (in the absence of medical complications).  In small groups – the families prepare and present a short skit on the events of late pregnancy.

When this is activity is done in class

I cover this information on week two of a seven week series, at the beginning of class.  The families are just beginning to gel and we have done quite a bit of interactive learning the week before, on class one, but this is definitely a leap of faith on their part to be doing such a “daring” activity at the start of the second class.  They have only been with me and their classmates for one 2.5 hour session.  I am asking a lot of them, but they always rise to the challenge.

© Penny Simkin

© Penny Simkin

How I introduce the topic and set up the activity

I hand out Penny Simkin’s “Events of Late Pregnancy” information sheet that is available for purchase as a tear pad from PennySimkin.com. I discuss how both pregnant person and baby are getting ready for birth in the last weeks of a pregnancy.  Many different processes are happening and systems are moving forward to have everything culminate and coordinate in the labor and birth.  Each and every process is critical to a healthy baby and a body that is ready for labor.  I divide the class into four groups and assign each group to be either a Pregnant Person, Uterus, Fetus, or the Placenta/Membranes.  I ask them to collaborate together and prepare a skit, activity, active presentation, interpretive dance, charade etc., that shares information on the changes their assigned role undergoes during the last weeks of pregnancy and through labor.  I give them around five minutes to prepare and offer to provide any props that they might need from my teaching supplies.  They gather their groups, take their tear sheet and head to four corners of the classroom to get to work.

The results of their creativity

After the small group work is completed, we gather back as a class and get ready for the “show.”  In turn, each group (and their chosen props) heads to the front of the room to do their presentation.  Everyone follows along with their info sheet.  The results are outstanding and usually quite comically.

Some of the most memorable presentations have included a newscaster holding a microphone and interviewing the fetus at different gestational ages.

Newscaster: “Hello 34 week old fetus, can you tell me what you are working on now?”

Fetus: “Well, this week, I am taking on iron and my mother’s antibodies. I need the iron to help me through my first six months and the antibodies protect me until I can make my own. ”


© Anne Geddes and March of Dimes

Other groups have created a giant pelvis with their bodies and had a “baby” assume the birth position and move through.  I recall a group ripped up red paper into confetti, and released it from up high to represent bloody show.  Just this week, one group did a hip hop dance and chanted along with the different events.  “Antibodies” have leapt through “placentas,” and fake breasts have leaked colostrum.  Giant uteri have contracted and pushed babies out.  One week, uncoordinated contractions representing Braxton-Hicks contractions “squeezed” out of sync and then got “organized” and worked in unison to represent labor contractions getting longer, stronger and closer together, flexing and squeezing like a well fabricated machine. I am continually amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of the results.  Everyone laughs and best of all, the events are memorable and easy to recall.


After each group has a chance to present their section, we debrief and discuss any questions.  We bring things full circle by talking about what the impact might be for a premature birth or a birth that occurs before the baby or parent’s body is ready.  Everyone is clear that the process of birth and the transition that baby needs to make works best when baby chooses their birth day.  We admire everyone’s creativity and laugh about the mad skills that the class has!  As the series continues, I can refer back to these skits and remind them of the important steps as they come up again in class.  I am amazed that they have great recall of the progression.

What the families say about the activity

After we have finished, the feedback I receive on this activity is great!  Despite their initial hesitancy to get so far out of their comfort zone, families really remember the events, recognize how important the changes are that occur in the pregnant parent, the uterus, the baby and the placenta and membranes. They can clearly articulate why it is important to reduce the chance of a premature baby and wait for labor to start on its own.  The unique presentations really make things memorable and the families report back to me weeks later, or even at the class reunion after birth, how they often thought of this activity and it helped them to have patience to wait for baby to come.  They knew good (and important) things were happening in the last few weeks that would make for a healthy birth and baby.

How do you teach about preventing premature birth and the importance of waiting until baby starts labor?  What interactive teaching ideas do you use?  Do you think that you might try something like this in your childbirth classes?  How might you modify it.  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

Babies, Childbirth Education, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Newborns, Pre-term Birth, Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , , ,

Lamaze Parent Satisfaction Survey Will Benefit Families – Educators Play a Key Role in Increasing Response Rate

November 3rd, 2015 by avatar

VoteSurveyParticipation at in-person childbirth education classes has been on the decline in past years.  There has not been much research on the benefits of taking a childbirth class, and with the plethora of information available online, it is no surprise that enrollment may very well be on the decline.  At the same time, cesarean rates and obstetrical interventions have overall been increasing.  Maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality rates have not been improving either.

In the 2013 Listening to Mothers  (LtM) III report, 59% of all first time mothers took childbirth classes, compared with 70% in the 2002 LtM I report.  In 2013, 17% of experienced mothers took classes, down from 19% in 2002 (Declercq, 2013, Declercq 2002).

Lamaze International, with its diverse and experienced team of Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators, is in a unique position to collect data on the experiences of parents who take Lamaze childbirth classes and utilize Lamaze International resources.  The Lamaze staff and Board of Directors have developed and initiated a Parent Satisfaction Survey that can be filled out by families who have completed a Lamaze class.  The survey is meant to be completed after the birth of their baby, so that the information can be used to determine how their Lamaze class impacted their actual choices and experience.

The information being collected in this Parent Satisfaction Survey can play a key role in helping to:

Understand the impact of Lamaze classes

Data collected through these surveys can be used to understand the impact of Lamaze classes on families and birth outcomes and guide further research on this topic. Exploring this area of research can help Lamaze and other organizations to access funding to further develop and continue studying this important topic

Lobby for improved access

Information gained through these post-birth surveys  can be used to educate lawmakers on the outcomes of births when families participated in birth classes and encourage legislators to offer reimbursement and increased access for childbirth education classes across all socioeconomic and ethnic categories. Lamaze International plans to repeat their “Hill Day” campaign and lobby Congressmen/women in early spring of 2016 by visiting them in their D.C. offices and sharing information about maternal infant health and outcomes experienced by parents and infants during the childbearing year.

Improve information and educational materials

The results of the survey can help Lamaze International to be sure their message is on target and their educational materials are effective in sharing information on best practices, evidence based care and informed consent and refusal.  Lamaze can continue to develop curriculum and services that help families to “Push for Their Baby” during pregnancy, birth and postpartum.

Help LCCEs to deliver education

Every childbirth educator’s goal is to communicate important information to expectant families through engaging and effective activities.  Aggregated survey information can help Lamaze International provide information and direction to all the LCCEs so that they can assess how they can continue to provide valuable and useful information to the families participating in their Lamaze classes.

Share the message with other stakeholders

Information gleaned from the survey will be shared with policymakers and key third-party organization stakeholders at upcoming roundtables that Lamaze representatives facilitate in and host.  It is important for health care providers, hospital administrators and maternal infant health organizations to recognize how effective Lamaze childbirth classes can be be in creating a safe and healthy birth for participating families.

Linda Harmon, Lamaze International’s Executive Director took a moment recently to answer some questions about the Parent Satisfaction Survey.

Sharon Muza:  There is not a lot of research available on the effectiveness of childbirth/Lamaze classes.  Do you feel this information could be used as the basis of that research?

 Linda Harmon: Lamaze has commissioned a White Paper which will present the evidence related to childbirth interventions overuse in the US hospital system, and the effects they can have on childbirth outcomes, and present the argument that evidence-based prenatal education is a critical avenue for women when making childbirth care decisions.  The parent satisfaction survey will support this research by providing data from the parents who have used Lamaze resources.

SM: How could the information gained from this survey be used to further reimbursement for families who take childbirth classes?

LH: Data gained from the Lamaze Parent Satisfaction Survey will be used to provide important insights about the impact of Lamaze childbirth education on the experiences and outcomes of pregnant women and their babies. These insights will provide valuable information to support discussions with healthcare insurers, hospitals and other strategic partners to advance Lamaze education.  Preliminary data from the Lamaze national parent satisfaction survey shows that women engaged with Lamaze have a cesarean rate of 20%. That’s about 13% less than the national cesarean rate of 33%.  If a 13% reduction in cesarean could be translated across the U.S., the potential cost savings would be nearly $4.7 billion annually.

SM: Lamaze International is an international leader in childbirth education and offers a great curriculum filled with best practice and evidence based information.  Have initial survey responses indicated that our classes have been a useful component for families welcoming a child?

LH: The preliminary data is very positive, but we need substantially more parent survey responses to  validate general trends. In the initial review of survey findings in March 2015,  we compared what women told us in the Lamaze survey with what women reported in the highly-respected national survey Listening to Mothers III: Pregnancy and Birth.  Early survey responses show that 94% of women taking Lamaze classes say that education provided by Lamaze improved their childbirth experience and 91% feel well informed about decisions in labor and birth.

You Can Help Advocate for Childbirth Education

Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators play a key role in getting the word out to the families who participate in their classes.  Through information received from you, families can be directed to the survey and asked to participate.  During the online survey, participants are asked a handful of simple questions that seek to learn if childbirth education improved their birth experience.

Lamaze has put together many resources for LCCE educators to help you understand the importance of this survey.  These resources include:

  • An FAQ to help you become familiar with the survey and encourage you to participate.
  • How to introduce the survey in class – We have created sample messages and instructions for  encouraging your students to sign up for the survey
  • Promote the survey – We have developed a sample email you can send your class, introducing them to the survey, as well as sample Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.

Every family that participates in the survey will receive a coupon for a discount on a Lamaze toy.

Win a 2016 Lamaze International conference registration

If you encourage participation, you will be entered to win a complimentary Lamaze International 2016 Annual Conference registration. If your name is referenced as their childbirth educator in the survey, you will be entered in the drawing—and the more your name is referenced, the more entries you will have!  This is a real bonus reason to share the survey with parents, even beyond the benefits to research and programs. 

 Are you already encouraging your families to take the Parent Satisfaction Survey?  Share your experiences in the comments section.  If you have not yet begun to communicate information to your families about the survey, I hope that you will reconsider as you recognize the importance of your role in collecting this valuable data.


Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Herrlich, A. (2013). Listening to Mothers III: Pregnancy and Birth; Report of the Third National US Survey of Women’s Childbearing Experiences. New York, NY: Childbirth Connection.

Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., Applebaum, S., & Risher, P. (2002). Listening to mothers: Report of the first national US survey of women’s childbearing experiences. New York.

Babies, Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Lamaze International, Lamaze News, New Research , , , , , ,

Breast Pump Recycling Programs – Good for Families, Good for the Earth!

October 20th, 2015 by avatar

By Cara Terreri, CD(DONA), LCCE

Breast Pump Recycling (1)If you are a childbirth educator, doula, lactation consultant, midwife or doctor who works with expectant families, one of the topics you may be discussing with them as their birth day draws near is the acquisition of a breast pump. You may make suggestions on which pump will best suit their needs, let them know that breast pumps are considered durable medical equipment under the Affordable Care Act and are provided at no charge to them, and even provide instruction on how and when to use it, along with information on breast milk storage.  Do you realize that you can also provide information on what to do with that breast pump when it is no longer needed in the family?  There are several programs that offer breast pump recycling programs and families and the environment will benefit if they were utilized more.  Cara Terreri, Community Manager for Lamaze International’s Giving Birth With Confidence blog shares information that you can pass on to parents, helping them to keep breast pumps out of the landfills and support recycling efforts. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility

Breast pumps are an expensive — and important — piece of equipment for many breastfeeding parents. But what happens when families aree done with their breast pump — like not going to have more children done? Do they sell it? Donate it? Recycle it? Trash it? Let’s take a look at the options.

Selling A Used Breast Pump

Families may have spent significant money on their high quality double electric pump — it would be nice to see some of that money back in their pocket! Be aware that many breast pumps are designed as “single use” pumps, which means that they are not created to be safely used by another person. The reason is, these pumps use what is known as an “open system,” which means that there is not a barrier to stop milk (even tiny particles) or moisture from traveling up into the pump’s motor. There is no way to fully clean or sterilize these kinds of pumps — even if the pump’s new owner purchases new tubing and plastic parts. The good news is that many, many breast pump brands sell pumps with closed systems. That said, even a closed system pump can be problematic when passing along to someone else. The motor can be weak, which affects the pump’s ability to operate as it should, causing less suction. A weak pump can impact a breastfeeding parent’s milk supply! If a parent does consider selling their pump, be sure to let the new user know that it’s used and for how long. Many lactation consultants will test a pump’s suction for free, which is something that can be done before selling.

Donating A Used Breast Pump

When considering donating  used breast pump, all of the information above applies. Families can donate a used pump directly to another family, or seek out an organization that will give it to a parent in need. Be forewarned, however, that many non-profit organizations will not be able to accept a used pump due to liability and health concerns, even if it is a closed system pump. A parent’s best bet is to connect with other families in their community, or perhaps a charity or community organization, to find a family in need.

Recycling A Used Breast Pump

Good news! There are now two pump manufacturers who offer recycling. Medela developed the Medela Recycles program, which allows families to ship their electric Medela pump for free back to the company, where they will then break down the pump and recycle all components appropriately. With each recycled pump Medela receives, they support the donation of new hospital-grade, multi-use breastpumps and supplies to Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC®). This helps provide parents with high quality pumps hospital during their stay at a Ronald McDonald House, which helps ease the transition for families caring for a baby in the NICU. The recycled pumps are not re-used or re-sold in any way.

Hygeia, who promotes “No Pumps in Dumps™,” also offers a pump recycling program. Depending on the pump’s age and model, Hygeia may refurbish the pump and provide it to a mom in need (or work with an agency to do so), or if a pump can’t be refurbished, they will recycle it appropriately. Hygeia also recycles pump parts replaced when servicing customers’ pumps. Hygeia’s pumps are a closed system designed to be used by multiple families when each breastfeeding parent has their own “Personal Accessory Kit.”

If a family owns a pump made by one of the many other manufacturers, families should contact them directly to find out if they offer a way to recycle their pump. If not, recycle the pump’s plastic pieces appropriately and then take the electronic components to a facility or business that recycles electronics.   Often communities and municipalities hold recycling events where community members and drop off electronics to be recycled for free.  Families should monitor local news sources for upcoming recycling opportunities.

Throwing Away A Used Breast Pump

With the many safe and eco-friendly options available for getting rid of used breast pump, families don’t have to throw it away! And really, they shouldn’t — with the amount of garbage in our landfills, trashing a recyclable breast pump is not a good option.

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Newborns , , , , , , ,

Honoring Henry Dean: A Mother Shares Her Journey after the Stillbirth of Her Son

October 15th, 2015 by avatar

henrydeanOctober is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today, October 15th, is also a special day of remembrance.  As a childbirth educator and a doula, I have worked with several families over the years who have experienced losses while taking a childbirth class with me, after the class ended or while they were my doula clients. I have had the honor of attending clients as they birthed their baby, born still.  I have also supported client and student families who lost their child several years after the birth.  You never know when such a tragedy might hit.  I asked my recent student, Rachel to share her experience, still very fresh, of the still birth of her son Henry Dean, on June 17th , 2015, shortly after she and her husband finished a seven week childbirth class series with me and several other families. I am grateful and honored that she was willing to share such a personal journey with me and all of you.

Sharon Muza: You recently gave birth to a son who was born still. Can you share the events leading up to the birth of Henry?

Rachel: I had a wonderfully boring pregnancy. All tests came back with good numbers, my blood pressure was always good, I never had any protein in my urine, we had a good anatomy scan, Henry’s heartbeat was always in range…everything seemed right on track.

At my 37th week checkup, once again everything checked out fine. The very next day, I had a busy day at work and by the time I got home, I realized I hadn’t felt him move much that day. I did all of the tricks and still couldn’t get any movement, so we went to the hospital that evening to calm our fears. The nurse must have hunted for a heartbeat for 20 minutes. I had a horrible sinking feeling. I knew something was very wrong, and I could read it on her face. The doctor came in with the ultrasound and announced, sadly, that there was no heartbeat.

The sound that I made at that moment was pure anguish. Never had I felt that things were so very wrong in all my life. I just couldn’t believe it was true. He was absolutely fine the night before, as far as I knew. And it didn’t make sense that he could have possibly died just as we were planning his arrival into the world. They gave us the choice of a vaginal birth or cesarean and they ushered us into another room to begin induction. That night, my husband and I slept horribly as we held hands and cried. My mom and sister arrived the next morning. When I had dilated to 3cm from the prostaglandin, they started me on a Pitocin drip. I opted for an epidural before I even started feeling bad labor pain. I knew I couldn’t handle the physical torment on top of my emotional state.

This is the laundry I hung out less than a week before we lost Henry. I had packed my hospital bag and there was little left on my "to do" list.

This is the laundry I hung out less than a week before we lost Henry. I had packed my hospital bag and there was little left on my “to do” list.

If there was any mercy at all during this impossible situation, it’s that I had a relatively fast labor, especially for a first time mom. In less than 2 hours, I went from 3cm to complete. I only pushed for an hour and a half, staring in my husband’s eyes and breathing in rhythm to his counting. Once he was born, my son was placed on my chest, as I had requested, and I sobbed as my mom and sister gave me and him kisses and said their goodbyes. Les and I were alone with our son for a little while before the nurse offered to bathe him. I realized I hadn’t really been able to look at his little sweet face. I was clutching him so tightly to my chest, I didn’t want to let him go and I didn’t want to see that he really was dead.

Finally, I handed him over to a nurse and she cleaned me and then him. I was tethered to the bed because of all the IV and monitors. I hated it. I wanted to be able to get up and walk over to where he was at, but I couldn’t. She put some clothes and a hand knit hat from the NICU on him, swaddled him, and handed him back to me. He was so beautiful. He was perfect. We spent several hours holding him, talking to him and kissing him. I remember whispering over and over, “I’m so sorry baby. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry. I love you so much. So much.”

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” sent a photographer and he took some photos of our sweet Henry. They are still my most precious keepsakes, even more than his ashes or his little hat or his feet and handprints. Those photos are the world to me. Soon after the photos, we said our last goodbyes. Leaving the hospital with no baby was  the worst. I felt so empty. And so stunned. It was like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was in that state for several weeks.

SM: During your pregnancy, and while attending childbirth classes, did you ever think that something so tragic and shattering could happen to you?

R: Absolutely not. I heard stories sometimes and of course I had pity for those people, but I never ever considered it could happen to me. It’s not something a pregnant woman really allows herself to think about, if she can help it. I remember in class, one of the couples asked about adding some “in case of death” contingency plan to their birth plan and Les and I looked at each other like “Why are we talking about this? What are we going to do if our baby dies?? We will crawl into a hole and die ourselves, that’s what!”


Remembrance handmade and gifted to us by childbirth classmate Elizabeth Dewar

SM: Did I cover anything during your seven weeks of childbirth classes that helped you during the birth of your child, or in the days and weeks after?

R: I think the exercise when we held our hands in ice water helped me realize my pain management style, which ended up being the same for my delivery. I wasn’t noisy. I just wanted to stare in my husband’s eyes and breathe controlled, rhythmic breaths. That’s exactly what I did during labor and pushing. As for the days and weeks after, I was not on any normal plan. I needed to be up and about much more than the average mom who recently gave birth. I needed to be outdoors and around people.

SM: After Henry’s birth, how did you consider next steps in regards to letting your friends from childbirth class know what had happened? Did you feel it was important for them to hear? Were you worried about the impact this news might have on them?

R: I really questioned how and when to tell them. I wasn’t sure if I should convey my story when not everyone had birthed their babies by that time. I didn’t want to panic anyone, but I had a strange dilemma: I wanted to shield myself from any “hey you must be set to pop!” messages from my friends and family, so I felt compelled to share my sad news on Facebook. Since most of the class was also friends with me on Facebook, I knew they would see a post. So I decided it was more important for the timeline to be dictated by my needs, and what I needed was to share with my friends and family. I made two posts. One for my general Facebook and one for the birth class, which included a bit more detail about my birth. For some reason, writing out some of the labor details felt necessary to keep it in context of the other birth stories. It seems strange, looking back. But I don’t know that there is any clear path forward when you are in that mental state.

SM: What type of response did you receive from your classmates when they became aware of the situation?

R: They were amazing. They showered us with support and words of comfort. Many of them chose to sign up to bring meals to us and a few have reached out and followed up even recently. Just today, we received a wonderful gift of handmade memorial artwork from one of the couples. It truly made my day.

SM: Have you remained connected to anyone from the class? Did you continue to stay in the online FB group? As others announced their births, how did you protect yourself while being in such an emotional place?

R: Yes, I am still in touch with some of them. I am planning to stay on the FB group, I think because I want to see the babies grow up.  It might be difficult but nothing about this is easy. I had mixed emotions seeing their birth announcements. In some ways, I had a wave of relief every time another healthy baby was born. In other ways, it was such a horrible reminder of what we lost. Frankly, I did a bad job protecting myself. I convinced myself that I needed to scroll through Facebook every day and see photos of all those newborns to desensitize myself. “It’s life! Get used to it! Better to sob over babies in the comfort of your own home than out in public!” I only recently gave up on keeping up. I found online support groups that take more of my time these days.

SM: What community and online resources did you find most valuable after you lost your son that should be included in every childbirth class?

R: We met some very good friends from our local support group, “Parent Support of Puget Sound.” I like reading “Still Standing” magazine and “A Glow in the Woods.” And there are other blogs I read, including “Scribbles and Crumbs” and “Pregnancy After Loss Support” to keep some hope for the future. I am extremely active in a reddit group called ttcafterloss and they have been amazingly supportive. It’s a small online community and you really get to know each other. Really, I don’t know if it’s appropriate to distribute a list of these resources to every class. I think doulas and childbirth educators could maintain their own lists and then let everyone know ahead of time that they have a good current list if it’s ever needed.

SM: What would you like to tell other childbirth educators and birth professionals about your experience that could help them to help others who find themselves in a similar situation?

R: During this type of birth, the parents cannot think straight or make all the right choices. Nurses are asking you whether you want an autopsy and to which funeral home they should send your baby’s body. These are not normal questions, and they are impossible to answer. Meanwhile, you are trying to determine what to do with the last hours with your baby as your world is crumbling around you. I would like childbirth educators and birth professionals to have their own list of “default” decisions. Most people who don’t have an autopsy seem to regret it, for instance (we did have one). People who refuse photos are also likely going to regret it later. Somehow, please find a way to gently usher these poor parents toward the choice that they will regret the least. Don’t be pushy, of course, but don’t assume each half-brained decision is set in stone. They are not themselves. Tell them a friend of yours whose son was stillborn (me) only got a few photos because it was uncomfortable to watch the photographer…she didn’t get any of her holding her son and it is her biggest regret about that day. Comfort and words of support are great, but sound and practical advocacy is downright necessary. Also, be sure they know what to do when their milk comes in. It is agony on so many levels, and some people in my support group were not even warned that it would happen!

rachel henry

18 weeks pregnant and blissfully ignorant.

SM: What else would you like others to know about your experience? What has been helpful and given you strength to move forward in the face of such a significant loss?

R: My greatest fear is that people around me will forget Henry or expect me at some point to have moved on. In reality, Henry will always be my first child, and I will never ever “move on” or “get over” him. When people ask me about him or say his name, it means the world to me. Even if it makes me cry, it is the greatest gift to know that others haven’t forgotten and they miss him too. I’m still very fresh in my grief, but I worry that as the years go by, my husband and I will be grieving alone.

What has been helpful and given me strength is finding ways to connect and feel close to Henry, and finding ways to create a meaningful legacy for him. Being outside is always very helpful. Just looking at the trees sway in the wind or watching waves on the beach makes me feel close to him. And I truly believe I am a better person because of him. My love for him didn’t go anywhere. I have more love and compassion and empathy, and I want to spread more “good” into the world to try to make up for what we all lost. I want to live life more fully, since he never got the chance. I want his birthday to prompt “Random Acts of Kindness,” and I want his due date to be a “Day of Hope.” Finding these ways to share him with my friends and family has helped me heal.

For some reason, metaphors became quite helpful as I tried to make sense of things. One of the first examples is a quote by Beau Taplin that was shared by my sister in the first or second week after we lost Henry: “Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.” I read and thought about that quote a lot. The idea that I was alive and resilient, even if I didn’t feel like I was either of those things, gave me hope. All summer long, there were wildfires in the area. I started feeling like Henry’s death was a wildfire in my life. I was just a sad and destroyed version of my former self. Then I thought more about it and realized how important wildfires are, and how they are vital to healthy forests.  There are also things that can only grow after a wildfire. In the same way that I was open to the world in a new way. And I can actively choose what to plant and what to leave behind. It was empowering and important, and it helped me put a positive light on the absolute worst reality. I also felt the metaphor of a tunnel. I felt like I was in a pitch black tunnel, but there was as tiny glowing light at the end that represented hope, love, support, compassion – the potential beauty of life. I could turn my back and feel alone in the dark whenever I needed to (and sometimes, you really do need to), but I knew that light was there and I could focus on it when I needed it.

One helpful thing was that I created an Instagram account to keep photos of moments and things that remind me of Henry. I collect photos of nature, the many memorials of stones and sticks spelling his name, and other artwork devoted to him. The sweet thing is that other people have started adding their own photos to #hellohenrydean. People also send me photos with stories that I add myself. I recently decided to participate in CarlyMarie’s “Capture Your Grief” photo project for the month of October. It’s a way to honor Henry and share my journey with people, and the support I have received from my daily posts has been amazing.

SM: Many people are compelled to help after a loss like this. What would you recommend to people, if they are searching for a way to support a newly bereaved mother and family?

R: I cannot tell you how many messages I got from people that included the words “please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” While I understand there is a desire to reach out and help, people should know that those words will almost never solicit an actual meaningful request from parents who just lost their child. Here is a list of the most helpful responses I received from people:

  1. A friend set up a meal train and sent it out to my baby shower list. I then forwarded the link in my announcement email. It was SO helpful to have a place where people could organize themselves. We didn’t cook for nearly two months. You just can’t take care of yourself like normal, so having home cooked meals provided by close friends was a really big help. We were nourished physically and emotionally because we often visited with friends when they dropped by. To follow on my statement above, it was nice to forward the link to anyone who threw out the “let me know if there is anything I can do to help” note.
  2. If there is no meal train but you’d like to help with a meal, be specific with your offer. “I’d love to drop a meal by next week. Let me know if you would prefer breakfast or dinner, if you have any dietary restrictions, if you prefer frozen or hot, and whether you would prefer a visit or for me to leave it on your porch.” And then follow up.
  3. If you have friends or know people who have gone through similar heartbreak, I was desperate to talk to others who have experienced this type of loss but were further along their journey (especially if they had subsequent children). Several people mentioned putting me in touch with friends, but no one ever followed up. Before offering to connect, check with your friend first and then tell the newly bereaved parents that you have a friend who would be willing to talk with them, if they would like. Have the contact info with you, or forward it in an email.
  4. Emailing a list of resources that can be referred back to is definitely helpful. It can include local support groups, websites, blogs, etc.
  5. If you want to send flowers, consider a live plant instead. Something about watching flowers die is depressing.
  6. Offer to come have a cup of tea or coffee with them, and listen to them tell their story. Repeating my story over and over was a big part of my healing.
  7. Going outside was imperative to my healing. Perhaps offer to pick your friend up for a trip to the beach or a pretty park (one that isn’t likely to have babies and children everywhere). It took me some time to realize how important nature is for the healing process. And once my body had healed, I liked going on walks with people.

Thank you Rachel, for sharing your story and the story of your son, Henry Dean. I am very appreciative of your time and thoughtfulness in helping me to share information that may help other birth professionals support families in similar situations.  I want you to know that I will always remember Henry Dean and his story, and his brave and beautiful parents.  I have compiled a list of resources that professionals may find useful.

Science & Sensibility Resources

From our sister blog, Giving Birth With Confidence

2015 Lamaze & ICEA Joint Conference, Babies, Childbirth Education, Newborns, Pregnancy Complications, Trauma work , , , , ,

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