Thursday, December 18, 2014

Birth matters: Attempting a VBAC

This post has nothing to do with running but a lot to do with health and even more to do with lady business. Feel free to skip.

I don't know what a contraction feels like. I didn't feel my water break. I didn't push. I didn't cry out. With a cut and a tug, I was a mom.


On July 7, 2011, I didn't care that I hadn't experienced labor. I was just happy to have a 5-pound, 14-ounce baby in my arms who, by all accounts, was healthy. He had 10 fingers and 10 toes and rated high on the Apgar test. And, oh could he cry.

But in the months and years to follow, I began to wonder. I wondered if I had been able to have a successful, natural birth whether I would have had a better milk supply. I wondered whether I really needed to be induced that day and whether I could have been a better advocate for myself.

I never felt that by having a C-section that I was less of a mother or less of a woman but there was something missing. It wasn't tangible. I couldn't explain it — and I still can't — but Miles' birth story never sat right with me.

So when it came time for baby No. 2, even thinking about it, I knew one thing: I wanted to attempt a VBAC — a vaginal birth after Cesarean. Again, I couldn't explain why. I hadn't done extensive research nor watched any documentaries (though I since have). The most articulate answer I could give when asked why was that I just wanted a chance at the process. I didn't want to have a second Cesarean just because nor did I feel right choosing my child's birth day.

I just wanted to experience birth, what I could of it. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Of course, it's not that easy. "Mothers who deliver a first baby by C-section are about 90 percent more likely to deliver subsequent babies that way, too." {Source} I couldn't just go to my doctor and request a VBAC. I had some work to do.

It was in my best interest and that of the baby's to seek out a physician who was not only committed to avoiding C-sections when possible but had a good track record for VBACS. I switched to a new practice, led by a reputable doctor, that included midwives.

I started reading and watching. Just because is not a good enough answer for my friends and family when I share what I'm hoping to do. More importantly, it's not good enough for the doctor. VBAC candidates must show a commitment to education, whether going through a special workshop session by a local, non-hospital-affiliated group or doing it on her own. I can now say that I want a VBAC because it will enable me to parent better, avoid major surgery and is better for baby and me. (I'm also hoping that it will lead to a better milk supply this time around so that I can nurse happier and longer.)

I started building courage. It's not just because I will be delivering a baby for the first time, something unknown, if I'm successful. If I'm going to do this, I need to be mentally strong and firm in my decisions. I need to be willing to fight for myself and for the baby. I'm known to be stubborn but I can also be timid and afraid, and I find it difficult to stand up for myself. It takes work. It takes courage.

And I will need it.

According to the Consumer Reports piece cited above:
“What it boils down to is culture,” said Elliot Main, M.D., director of the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative and former chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. “Culture of the hospital, the nursing staff, even the patients.” He points out that hospitals with a culture of facilitating vaginal birth—those that allow vaginal birth after cesarean, for example, or those where 10 percent or more of births are attended by nurse midwives—have far lower rates of C-sections.

Why do I share this? I want to hear your stories, good and bad. I know very few people who have attempted VBAC and the success stories I read don't always resonate with me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

10 Ways Driving a Manual Is Like Running

Seventeen hours, give or take, in a car. With my husband. And my toddler.

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If the prospect of driving to Colorado was not daunting enough, Mark sprung this on me a few months before the trip. He thought the trip west would be best made in his car, as it has a roomier backseat and more trunk storage than my hatchback.

The car, which I not-so-kindly refer to as Old Man, also happens to be a manual transmission.

In case you haven't guessed yet, I didn't learn how to drive a manual when I was a teenager — or as an adult. I did make a few attempts, it is true. Once, my uncle tried to coerce me into backing up his work truck out of my grandma's uphill driveway. It didn't go well. Then, after dating Mark, I tried to learn on his red Toyota Yaris but a few marginally successful lessons ended with me stalled in the middle of an intersection crying.

I vowed never to try again.

I was fairly obstinate about it, even when Mark pitched and pitched the idea of taking his car to Colorado. It wasn't one day, when I must have had an epic run, did I agree. The process wasn't easy — not at all — but I did become a valuable partner for the drive to Colorado. And, now, I no longer get heart palpitations if Mark is parked behind me when I need to go to the grocery.

"I'm taking your car," I say, grabbing the keys and heading out the door.

The more I drive the car, the more I can't help but relate driving a manual transmission to running. Maybe it's because I relate everything to running or maybe because there are similarities.

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10 Ways Driving a Manual is Like Running

1. You can't judge an outing based on the first mile, much less first tenth. The driving lessons started slow - down the block, to the ice cream shop, to my in-law's house. On one such drive, which was no more than 2 miles, I apprehensively got behind the wheel. I managed to back out of the driveway and get the car into first. Then second. I went for third (ha!) and instead found a gear yet to be named. Or, maybe it was neutral. Or first. Anyway, I pulled over and started ranting that I could never drive the car. We all know, though, that we need at least 10 minutes to get in a groove. If it's not going the way we want, rather than give up, just slowly hit the gas and see what happens.

2. Hills are hard — don't stop on them. Just keep your pace steady, eyes ahead and go.

3. Uphills might be the worry but if you aren't careful, you can burn out the brakes on the downhill.

4. Start your journey in first gear.

5. But if you don't and accidentally start in second, you won't wreck the transmission. Just don't try it in third.

6. A good warm up is preferred when easing into higher gears. It's scary and challenging to go from first to fifth over a short stretch of road.

7. Stop and go traffic is the worst. The more you have to stop and start, the seemingly harder it is to get into the higher gears.

8. If you want to get going — and then keep moving — you have to give the engine enough gas. Not too much or you'll flood the engine. But enough.

Note: In terms of running, gas means fuel ... like Gu or peanut butter-filled dates. It does not mean gas. I think as runners, we have enough.

9. Not everyone can drive a stick and definitely not everyone wants to. Once you are in the club, you get the appeal.

10. Once you master it, you feel like a total bad ass.