Monday, November 5, 2012

Go barefoot? No way!

Pregnancy changes a body in many ways.  Some of the changes in my body have been unexpected and sometimes unwelcome. But, you know, life goes on and you adapt and learn to accept.  One thing that seems to have changed with this last pregnancy is my feet.  

Even before pregnancy, I had issues with my feet. If I stood too long, my ankles would really hurt.  I just chalked it up to weak ankles.  A few years ago I injured my foot while exercising.  I guess I just landed on it the wrong way.  After a few months, it was still pretty sore and puffy with edema.  So I decided to go to a podiatrist who informed me that I had flat feet and prescribed some insoles for my shoes.  

It was actually amazing how much the insoles helped.  Not only was exercise more comfortable but I could stand forever with no ankle pain.  I then started to reconsider all my footwear and invested in Birkenstocks which were great.  Later on, I bought Danskos.  These days, Birkenstocks and Danskos are pretty much all I wear.  When exercising, I put my insoles in my sneakers and in the winter, I put them in my boots.  No matter what, I need the support.  Or so I thought.  

After reading many articles like this one from Mark's Daily Apple about the benefits of going barefoot, I wanted to give it a shot.  Already, I knew it was better for babies to be barefoot and so I had always refused to put anything more than soft-soled leather shoes on them up until about age 2.  But I was a bit skeptical about going barefoot myself.  I certainly did not want to injure myself again.  But I was intrigued.  Could it be possible that my feet didn't need more support but less?  That flat feet are not broken but are only one variety of normal feet?  I was intrigued enough to give them a try.

I decided to purchase a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers despite the fact that they looked so odd.  They felt great on my feet and I loved the feeling of being so close to the ground.  The first time I tried running in them on concrete was a complete disaster.  Lots of pain and it did not feel natural at all.  But using them to lift was good.   Because I was so close to the ground, I felt more grounded when lifting heavy weight.  And there is lots to support barefoot lifting or lifting in shoes specifically designed for the purpose.   Wearing the Vibrams to do my cardio was amazing.  When jumping around doing cardio, I could feel my feet getting stronger and learning how to work.  It felt so good, I started wearing them all the time, everywhere I went.  

But I couldn't wear the Vibrams throughout my pregnancy because I did experience some swelling in my feet--severe enough that I couldn't even get the glove-like shoe on.  And now, after the pregnancy, I cannot imagine wearing them!  Why?  Because it feels like my feet have really changed.  Perhaps the arches have fallen even more.  But boy, even walking around barefoot in the house can be excruciating.  And so I know I need  to do it more to strengthen my feet again.  But honestly, ouch!  I'm not ready to push through the pain just yet but I am trying to walk around barefoot for a couple of minutes daily to see if it helps any.  

Eventually, I want to get back to wearing Vibrams full-time but right now, I am devoted to my Birkenstocks.  Even though I feel like the Danskos offer more support, I don't wear them as often because I'm afraid of falling over while carrying Z3 since Danskos are a platform type shoe.)  I am pretty sure that when I get back to exercising, things will improve with my feet.  I mean, I will get stronger all over but t's just so interesting to me--such a noticeable change.

So would I recommend Vibrams?  Absolutely.  They take some getting used to because your feet definitely have to learn how to work in them but in the end, I think they are well worth it.  So much so that I'd like to get my children wearing them.  

How about you?  What do you think of the whole barefoot movement?    

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The midwife saga

Back in March, I was pretty sure that having Z3 at home wouldn't happen.  For Z2's homebirth, the insurance company covered only about 1/3rd of the midwife's fee and we had to pay the balance out of pocket.  And since things have changed for us significantly in respect to our finances since having Z2, I knew it would be hard to pony up the thousands of dollars it would take to cover the portion the insurance company wouldn't.  But I also knew that home is where I should give birth. 

So we went to go visit a few midwives anyway and settled on one that we thought was okay.  However, she was not really willing to help us out in terms of a way to pay the balance.  Everything had to be paid up by week 36 as per her contract.  This midwife lacked warmth and compassion too.  It was about business.  Period.  Or at least it seemed that way.  So when I bid her farewell, I was also bidding my homebirth farewell (although I was not sad to see her go).  And truth be told, I was tired of trying to find midwives who would work with me.  I am guessing many of them have been burned in some way or the other and have to be all business to ensure they get paid.  I understand that.  So I gave up on the homebirth and tried to move on.  

My next best option was a birthing center.  There are only 2 free-standing birthing centers left in my area and this one happened to be close by.  Interestingly enough, when I was pregnant, the birth center was actually closed and they hoped to reopen it in June.  Z3 wasn't due till the end of August so I wasn't too worried about it.  I just hoped it would actually reopen and so I started my care with the certified nurse midwives there.  My first appointment wasn't so bad.  The CNM really understood that what I truly wanted was a homebirth and that I was settling for the birth center.  So, she did things like gave me her e-mail address so I could write with any questions.  She told me this was a breach in protocol, though, which I found funny.  But the location of the center dictated the kind of treatment the mothers-to-be received.  It's in the middle of the Bronx in a poor neighborhood.  Most of the moms to be were quite young and/or not well educated.  Sitting in the waiting room meant that my ears would be assaulted by all kinds of vulgar language and inappropriate conversation.  But I gamely tried to ignore it.  My second visit confirmed that I could not continue on there.  The CNM I met with on this occasion scoffed at my questions and outright laughed at my answers/positions on certain tests and screenings as well as my grain-free diet.  I guess she was not accustomed to anyone questioning her or not agreeing with her nor was she used to someone not following the standard American diet.  Obviously, I was totally uncomfortable with possibility of having her attend my birth.  And so I reluctantly switched practices, leaving behind my hopes of birthing at the birthing center.

I went back to the practice with which I had Zion.  I was happy to see some of the folks and I was just really trying to convince myself that it didn't matter where the birth happened.  What mattered was a healthy and happy baby.  I tried to convince myself that the birth in the hospital was not so bad.  I mean, it wasn't.  But compared to my homebirth, it pretty much sucked.  Anyway, as I tried to put on my big girl pants, I met with the midwife who delivered Zion and I immediately tensed up remembering her ways at the birth.  The way she was pensive and apprehensive.  The way she seemed unsure of herself and panicky.  Which made me panic and therefore made the birth much more dramatic that it needed to be.  The way she left the room for what seemed like an eternity.  Till this day, I don't know where she went.  But while she was gone, through sheer will and the help of a short Filipino nurse, I got Z1 out.  While lying on my back.  Which I specifically did not want. (I mean, there was so much I didn't know about labor and delivery but this one thing I did know: birthing on one's back is probably the *worst* position--even more so if the baby is posterior as Z1 was).  I remember wanting to switch positions but not being able to because the contractions were coming on too fast.  I remember thinking that the midwife would be wise enough to help me move into a more conducive position.  Not so.  So anyway, I'm face to face with her again and she immediately starts telling me about how it will go in the hospital and how if I don't do this or allow that, CPS will be called in or that if I don't do this other thing, there's a chance my baby might die.  I left that meeting and sat in my car and cried--so upset.

So for a few days after that, I was just meditating on what to do.  I had switched practices 3 times and I was in my 27th week.  I decided that there was no other choice: I had to find a way to make the homebirth happen.  Even if I had to charge the birth (and that's big because I am terrified of credit card debt).  So I reached out to a friend of mine who is studying to be a midwife.  She was also the one who assisted at Z2s birth.  She put me in touch with an angel, I mean a midwife.  Words can't express what a blessing she was.  She was willing to work with me financially but I could just feel her warmth and love.  I felt cared for.  It was amazing.  

And so I went on to have a beautiful birth and I would not change a thing.  

I am still sorting out things with the insurance company and trying to get them to pay my midwife more than they agreed to (less than half).  We are making monthly payments to her to cover the balance of the fees.    If I had it, I would willingly pay her double what she asked--she is totally worth it.  

I talk about following my gut all the time but it's not so easy to do all the time.  It's not always practical.  And sometimes it is risky. I tried the safe route.  The insurance company would have covered the birth center and the other practice in full.  But at the end of the day, I had to do what I believe in and that is homebirth.  I believe that everything will work out okay with getting my midwife paid.  And I believe the universe will bless her in ways that transcend money.  I also have more evidence that it is best to stick to what you hold dear.  Even when it's not the most practical option.  

I believe natural birth is transformative.  There are so many lessons to be learned about the world and about yourself.  I'm extremely grateful that I got to experience it three times.  
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