Don’t just do something — stand there!

We’re used to the saying, “Don’t just stand there — do something!” and many times it’s true. Many times, however, it’s not. We value action — as measured by clichés like “He who hesitates is lost.” But we also understand the value of assessing a situation, to determine the best course of action — “Look before you leap.”

The father of a former coworker is a good example of not rushing into doing the first thing that pops into your mind. One time, there was a small kitchen fire that somehow started and caught the window curtains on fire. He rushed in, saw the fire, and pulled the curtains down. With his bare hands. Severely burning his hands, and if I remember correctly, requiring hospitalization. Far better would it have been for him to pause half a second longer, and grab a broom or some other object to get the burning curtains away from the walls and into the sink. Other similar stories abound of people throwing water on a grease fire, and spreading the fire instead of stopping it. They just reacted to the immediate situation… and reacted wrongly.

A great medical example is that of a nurse, pharmacist, or anyone else handling medication to double-check to verify that the medication they are dispensing is the medication they are intending to dispense to that patient. Or do an ultrasound to make sure that the baby really is breech before doing a C-section for a supposed breech baby (who may have flipped sometime in the past few minutes or few days).

Sometimes, it is better to pause, take a breather, and really think before acting. Or not to act at all.

What is commonly trumpeted by obstetricians is that maternal, neonatal and infant mortality dropped during the 20th century, for which they claim sole credit; what is not commonly told is that in the first part of the century, maternal and infant mortality increased under the care of doctors and particularly with births in the hospital. There are numerous quotes which demonstrate this, and show that it was known by some of “the powers that be” at the time, but I’ll just include a few [emphases mine]:

~ “Why bother the relatively innocuous midwife, when the ignorant doctor causes many more absolutely unnecessary deaths”. [1911-B; Dr.Williams,MD,p.180]

~ “In NYC, the reported cases of death from puerperal sepsis occur more frequently in the practice of physicians than from the work of the midwives’”. [Dr. Ira Wile, 1911-G, p.246]

And from the same source, later quotes from a 1975 study on the topic:

~ “Whether because midwives provided more skilled care or because obstetricians were too eager to interfere in labor and birth, obstetric mortality rates often rose as … midwife practice declined.” [DeVitt, MD; 1975]

And then from this document, quoting a conclusion made about midwives, a report presented to the White House,

“…untrained midwives approach and trained midwives surpass the record of physicians in normal deliveries has been ascribed to several factors. Chief among these is the fact that the circumstances of modern practice induce many physicians to employ procedures which are calculated to hasten delivery, but which sometimes result in harm to mother and child.

On her part, the midwife is not permitted to and does not employ such procedures. She waits patiently and lets nature take its course.”

While the doctors’ motto was, “First, do no harm,” the reality was that oftentimes, they caused harm by acting, when less harm would have come to mother and/or child had they not acted. “Well,” you might say, “that was then! A lot of things have changed since then.” Yes, and no.  Sometimes waiting patiently is still the best course of action:

Sometimes acting and intervening and speeding things up is the best course of action; but how often is slowing down and waiting on nature to take its course much better! When you have technology and gadgets and other things at hand, it’s easy to use them even when unnecessary. “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” And the ever-excellent quote from Jurassic Park via Jeff Goldblum, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

First make sure you’re right, then go ahead. — Davy Crockett


Induction or Augmentation?

When a woman’s labor is started artificially, it’s considered an induction — whether elective or medically indicated. When a woman’s labor starts on its own, but for one reason or another is put on Pitocin to strengthen the contractions, it’s considered an augmentation of labor. But what is it called when a woman’s water breaks but contractions don’t start immediately, and she goes to the hospital and is put on Pitocin? Is it an induction or augmentation?

My first pregnancy, my water broke about half an hour before contractions set in; one of my sisters had rupture of membranes followed by no labor for 18 hours, at which point she went to the hospital for… an induction, or augmentation?

Usually, when a woman’s water breaks before labor begins, contractions are not far behind; but sometimes, some time passes before it happens. I think of stories I’ve read of women who have had “high leaks” or even a full “water breaking”, but either the tear resealed itself, or the baby was so premature that even with ROM, it was better for him to stay in utero than to be born (as long as the mom didn’t have an infection or any other medical reason for the baby to be born then). Most of the time, however, either the baby needs to be born early, or the woman is at term or close enough to term that the doctors want to start or speed up labor, out of fear of infection.

Men vs. Women

First up — sleeping men can’t hear a baby cry, but sleeping women can. I know, I know — pick your jaws up off the floor, because that is so shocking! 😉 What about you — who hears the baby first in your household?

Researchers believe it is women’s maternal instincts — whether they have children or not — that kick in when they hear any young child cry that wakes them up.

Meanwhile, men are more likely to jump up at the ring of car alarms, a buzzing fly or howling wind. Men can also go right back to sleep after having been woken up much faster than women.

I remember once or perhaps twice that my husband heard the baby and/or got up to get the baby first. However, I’m pretty sure that it was because he happened to be already awake. Possibly it was because I was sick or otherwise exhausted and sleeping soundly. While this may sound like whining, it’s not — he works, I stay home, so I think it’s just a normal and equitable “division of labor,” especially since… I could take a nap during the day… I was breastfeeding so had to feed the baby anyway… and I could operate on much less sleep during the day at home than he could at work (and particularly driving). In fact, we’ve changed “who sleeps on which side of the bed” with great frequency — it’s always just automatically been that I sleep on the side nearest the baby/children/crib/door. When we go to a hotel, or stay at someone’s house, or rearrange the bedroom furniture, I get “whichever side is closest to the door,” regardless if that’s the right or left side of the bed.

Speaking of which — sort of off-topic, but I’ve always wondered…

Secondly, from the Journal of the International Association of the Study of Pain [who knew that there was such a thing?!]: Women get accustomed to pain, and men don’t.

Strikingly, females reported more pain than males at the outset of the first exposure to pain, but then experienced less pain and annoyance than males as a painful stimulus was sustained and with repeated stimulation… Notably only females demonstrate adaptation and habituation that allow them to experience less pain over time.

Finally! A use for white rice

Ok, so I’m a fan of brown rice — it’s just about all I buy and cook any more, and I’ve even got my husband not complaining about it, which is always a plus! White rice has nothing on brown rice, nutritionally speaking. So… maybe it’s not exactly the food of the devil, but just as with its color, white rice pales in comparison to brown. I’m so used to the flavor of brown rice that when I happen to eat plain white rice (which is rare, because usually the only time I eat it is at a Mexican or Chinese restaurant, and it’s pretty well seasoned), it tastes kinda like styrofoam. Just sorta “blah.”

However, I do have an excellent use for white rice (which many of you may already know about) — hot packs! I recently saw a post by a doula, about how she always keeps a rice sock in her “doula bag” for when she goes to a labor. I’d heard about that before, actually, numerous times, but had never done it because, well, I’m not a doula, and I just never decided to put rice in a sock and sew it up for the heck of it. But, when I found out I was pregnant, my mind started turning over with all these things I wanted to do while pregnant and/or have in place before the baby came; and to read that post, I thought, “If I don’t do this now, I’ll forget about it, and then I won’t have a rice sock in labor, when I need it!”

So, since brown rice is more expensive than white rice (and brown rice is a health food, and white rice is, well, “not quite”), I bought a bag of white rice at the grocery store next time I went. [And got a deal, because there was a four-pound bag that had gotten a hole in it, and a few ounces of rice had spilled out, so I was able to buy it for $1 — yes, 25 cents per pound! Ok, so maybe that doesn’t rock your world, but I’m also a frugal nut, so that’s a thrill for me. ;-)]

Anyway, I had some old socks of my husband’s — the big, long tube socks that go nearly up to his knees — and I put about half the bag (two pounds) of rice in one sock, and sewed up the top. It’s easier if you use a funnel to pour the rice into the sock; and I hand-stitched the socks closed, using a whip-stitch, but it would be even faster and easier if you have a sewing machine and can just zip-zip make a seam or two to sew them shut. I made two of them, and enjoyed them so much, that I got some more rice and some more old socks and made more rice socks — in different sizes, as well, sometimes cutting down the socks, so they wouldn’t be so big. I think you can also put in some essential oils or fragrances, so that they smell like lavender or whatever when you heat them up, but I didn’t have anything like that, so didn’t use any.

To “use” them, just heat them up in the microwave. There may be some “trial and error” as to how long you can cook your socks. I made a couple of small ones from my 5-year-old’s old socks, and put them in the microwave for 5 minutes, and forgot about them. Then I wondered what smelled like burnt popcorn… The smell dissipated, and I think it’s okay to use; but if you’re going to use them in labor, you probably don’t want to be smelling burnt rice while relaxing. Also, if they get too hot, you’ll need to make sure you don’t burn yourself — they probably won’t be scalding hot just from picking them up, but if you keep them on you (particularly right on your skin), then they can become much too hot (so, just as with a heating pad, don’t use them on someone who can’t tell you if it’s too hot).

The first night I made the rice socks it got really cold, so I heated up my two long rice socks, and put them in bed, to warm up where my feet go — like the old-fashioned hot water bottle. Ahhhh… lovely! Because they were so long, I could have them reaching from my feet up to my torso, providing warmth all along the way. However, because they were so long, they were sometimes unwieldy, which is the main reason why I made smaller ones. My kids think they’re neat, and also enjoy having them heating up their feet at night.

When I began to miscarry, I frequently felt a desire to have heat on my abdomen, but it wasn’t always feasible to have a heating pad on me (while cooking, or otherwise being on my feet and active). These rice socks came in handy, though. I was able to tuck a bit of the sock into my waistband, and just have the rest of it hanging down, right where it felt best. And it was completely portable, with no cords to get tangled up.

Another use, particularly for the smaller socks, was for hand-warmers when it’s cold outside. I had heated up several of them for just that purpose, when we went out searching for a Christmas tree to cut down (there are some advantages to rural living!); but forgot them at home. But as cold as it is this year (it snowed the last day of summer in Colorado!!), I think most people in the US will also be able to put this idea to use.

I’ve also put them on my car seats, so that it’s not quite so cold when I sit down — especially good for leather! (At least, it’s good for not having that shocking cold right on your legs and tush; I don’t know if it harms the leather itself… but then, my car is a ’97, so it’s not exactly like I’m ruining a $30,000 car if it does.)

And, it’s like having an extra heating pad, at least for a while, without the expense of buying one. While watching a movie, I had the real heating pad on my stomach because it felt good, and had the hot rice socks at my feet and draped on my legs, because they were cold.

How long the heat lasts depends on a few different factors — obviously, how hot the sock is to start with has something to do with it. The heat can last for hours under the right circumstances — one morning when I woke up, the rice sock was still giving off heat because it had been under the covers and also next to my body; but another morning, even though it was still under the covers, it was cool because it was shoved to the foot of the bed.

Finally, you probably won’t want to stuff the sock full with rice — having it big and bulgy can be awkward to use in some situations, such as making it nearly impossible to drape over a woman’s back, though it might be preferable for a small hand-warmer. If you’re going to make one, you might as well make two — one to use and one to heat up.

You learn something new every day — Epidural Edition

This page is a pretty informative and concise resource on epidurals, including the history of the epidural (which I had never really thought on much before), as well as a discussion of the various medicines given in an epidural (did you think there was only one?)

Did you know…

  • The first-known epidural attempt on a human was in 1901;
  • The first successful epidural was performed in Spain in 1921;
  • By 1935 single-injection lumbar epidural regional anaesthesia was introduced in the US;
  • And the continuous lumbar epidural was developed by 1946?

For more information, you can read the whole article.

Keith’s Birth Story Wordle

Happy 5th Birthday, Keith!

Here is the Wordle from the birth story I wrote last year:

keith birth story wordle



And if you’re seeing this right now, you can watch Lynsee laboring live via webcam. So much different from the “severely chopped and edited to fit in a 30-minute TV show” labors! This is why being a midwife, doula, or other labor support person takes a special gift. The edited labors are so different from the real thing.

Another good hospital birth story

J’s birth. Enjoy.