Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We're back from vacation.  Missing these:
But sleeping in my own bed last night was bliss!  I've got a few blogposts in the works in my head, but I will probably be spending most of the day unpacking, doing laundry, and restocking my refrigerator.  So, in the meantime, I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek of part of my new website: the "About" page.  Just in case you've been wondering... who is this "Buscando la luz," anyway?

I'm a mom of three, doula-in-training, soon-to-be book author, lover of mountains and trees, wannabe photographer, and a Mormon. I have a school psychologist husband I call "Ax" in the blogosphere, two daughters born in hospitals, a son born at home, and a two-year-old shih tzu we call Boston. I grew up in a variety of places (Arizona, Utah, and Massachusetts), traveling often between divorced parents. I graduated in April 2003 from Brigham Young University where I majored in English (with an emphasis in editing).

In December of 2007, I turned to Blogger as an outlet for my passionate drive to share what I learned and loved about birth, taking on the psuedonym, "Buscando la luz." When I started that blog, I was coming out of a difficult phase of my life. I had spent the previous year or so full of anger and frustration about the world. Following my second daughter's birth, I became ill repeatedly, culminating in kidney stones. Those illnesses weren't surprising considering all the negativity and darkness I felt weighed-down by. Then we moved out of the basement where we lived to cute old house with lots of sunlight.

It was incredibly refreshing moving to that sunny little house. We had literally let the light back into our lives, but I still needed to let the light back into my heart.

Then one day I found and checked out a copy of Dan Zanes' album, Night Time!, from our public library. The pure joy and beauty of that music changed me. In his version of "What a Wonderful World," the end of the song has some lyrics not found in the original---a lullabye interspersed with Spanish phrases:
Sleep mi bebe, we are all here
Buscando la luz in the city
So that you may hear the laughter
El cantar y el gozar through the night
Arruru mi nene, arruru mi nena
Y que duermas con los angeles
Arruru mi nene, arruru mi nena
Y que duermas con los angeles
I loved how the song made me feel. I especially loved the Spanish phrase: "Buscando la luz en este mundo." It basically means, "Seeking the light in this world." The song and that phrase was exactly the mantra I needed at that time in my life. Seeking the light in this world. As I bathed in the warm light in our new home, I also began filling my soul with light and positivity. When I decided to take on a blogging psuedonym, I knew exactly what I needed to call myself: "Buscando la luz." And that's what I try to do. No matter how discouraged I become by the problems with maternity care in the U.S. (and other countries), no matter how many horror stories I am bombarded with, I'm not going to stop seeking out truth and light and goodness and sharing what I discover. I am and will forever be "seeking the light."

So you can call me Buscando la luz, or "Busca," for short. Or you can call me by the Hawaiian name my mom gave me nearly thirty years ago: Lani. And, coincidentally, this light-seeker now resides in the land of year-round sunlight--the Valley of the Sun, AZ.
Now I'd love to hear about you!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The irrelevance of home vs. hospital

Ever since a conversation last night with my brother and sister-in-law, I've had this phrase going through my mind:  "It's not where you are, it's who you're with."  It seems to me that traumatic births often prompt couples to choose an alternative path for subsequent births.  For those who experience that trauma in the hospital, home birth often provides the healing they seek.  Because of the trauma my brother and his wife suffered following their home birth (and I do think my brother has some valid and genuine post-traumatic stress), they will likely have all of their subsequent children in hospitals.  I think it's just human nature to associate those intense frightening emotions with the place where they occurred regardless of whether the place contributed to their occurrence.

We can strive to reduce complications, we can keep our bodies healthy and strong, but we can't control everything that arises as we give birth.  Complications can and do arise in all birth locations.  As long as a laboring woman is within the standard "thirty minutes from decision to incision," what matters most in the midst of a birth complication is who is taking care of her and how do they respond?  Do they have the skills, experience, presence of mind, and knowledge of evidence-based practice to ensure her safety and well being?  Being five minutes from (or even inside of) a hospital doesn't guarantee that a care provider will advise the best possible solution to a problem.  Likewise, being at home with a midwife doesn't guarantee that a birth will be peaceful and empowering.  Midwives can degrade and doctors can earn the title "Wonderful." It's not where you are, it's who you're with. 

Read the rest of this post at my new website!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The positive impact of prenatal exercise

The following is a re-post of my August 2008 post Wanna Improve Your Odds?:

I mentioned back in April that I had been skimming the book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, by James F. Clapp M.D. I was really impressed at that time with the amazing benefits of exercising through pregnancy. But I didn't read the book in-depth. I decided earlier this week that I wanted to take a closer look. Now that I've read several of the chapters and examined the data thoroughly, I am telling you... it absolutely blows me away.

There are risks inherent in pregnancy and childbirth, but we can do things to minimize those risks. We all know that good nutrition is essential for pregnant women. Poor nutrition often leads to pre-term and low-birthweight infants as well as pre-eclampsia in mothers. Eating well is one of the absolute best things you can do for your unborn child's physical and neurological growth. But now I'm convinced that exercise may be just as important.

I won't go into all the benefits of prenatal exercise here. I'd just like to focus on one set of benefits in particular--the effects of exercise on the course of labor. You might remember my very early post about the benefits of doulas. Having a doula assist your labor and delivery reduces many chidbirth risks significantly. Prenatal exercise has even more pronounced benefits.

Women who continue exercising regularly through the end of their pregnancies (three times a week for at least 20 minutes at a moderately hard to hard level of exertion) demonstrated the following reduced risks during the birth process...
* 35% decrease in the need for pain relief
* 75% decrease in the incidence of maternal exhaustion
* 50% decrease in the need to artificially rupture membranes
* 50% decrease in the need to induce or augment labor with pitocin
* 50% decrease in the need to intervene because of abnormalities in the fetal heart rate
* 55% decrease in the need for episiotomy
* 75% decrease in the need for operative intervention (forceps or cesarean section)
In addition, check these out...
* More than 65% of the exercising women delivered in less than four hours.
* 72% delivered before their due date (but fewer of them delivered before 37 weeks--preterm--than the control group). The exercising women delivered, on average, 5-7 days earlier than active women who did not exercise regularly.
* Significant reduction in the incidence of umbilical cord entanglement.
* Much lower incidence of fetus passing meconium from distress.
* Umbilical cord blood samples indicated that babies of exercising moms remained relatively stress-free with plenty of oxygen. They seemed to tolerate the stresses of labor and delivery better than the control group.
* The exercising mothers' infants were, on average, 14 oz lighter but overall growth was not compromised.
* Placentas of exercising mothers are larger, more efficient, and healthier-looking.
* Infants born to exercising mothers were more alert postpartum and needed less consolation from others.
(All of these results are taken from Dr. Clapp's studies as reported in Exercising Through Your Pregnancy. See this fabulous book for even more amazing benefits.)

It blows my mind.

Imagine how huge the risk reductions would be if you exercised through pregnancy AND had a doula. Whoah. We can do so much to avoid the pitfalls of pregnancy and birth. It gives me so much joy and hope to know that I am not at the mercy of chance. I have a great deal of power over my circumstances when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It is a wonderful thing to be able to choose to pro-actively reduce risks and bring so much benefit to myself and my babies. I love it!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mothering at the breast

Back in January, my baby was admitted to the hospital with a bizarre rash and swelling.  During his illness and our hospital stay, I'd say he was at my breast at least 70% of the time.  When the nurse wanted to give him an I.V. for fluids, fortunately I asked, "Are you worried he's becoming dehydrated?"  After assuring her that he was breastfeeding almost constantly, they agreed to hold off on the I.V. as long as I kept track of all his feedings and he continued to have lots of wet diapers. So they gave me a chart to mark all his "feedings."  It was kind of a joke.  When a baby is almost constantly nursing both day and night?  Ha.

One of the mornings, when the nurse asked about the feeding chart, I mentioned that it was hard to keep track in the middle of the night because he was nursing so often and sometimes I fell asleep mid-feeding and wasn't sure when it officially "ended." It was clear from her facial expression that my nursing style was totally foreign to her.  She replied, "Well, then that's not breastfeeding... that's just for comfort."

I was perplexed by her response.  What's the difference? Of course he wanted extra comfort... he was very sick, sleeping in a foreign place, being awakened repeatedly (after finally, blessedly falling asleep) for nurses and doctors to "take a peek" at his rash, being poked multiple times for blood draws and tests... of course he wanted and needed extra comfort!  But that "comfort" and my breastmilk were inseparable. Even if a baby is suckling only for comfort, the breast doesn't know the difference.  The breast responds to suckling by giving milk.

And how grateful I was that the only thing he wanted to do was nurse!  While many babies with his illness develop gastro-intestinal discomfort, blood in the stools, and other more serious problems, he never did, and I attribute that to the vast amounts of breastmilk he consumed during that time.

In my mind, nursing is so much more than "feeding."  I have never wanted to restrict my babies' suckling time to conform to when they "should" be hungry.  When one of my babies becomes distressed, the first thing I almost always offer is my breast, even if they just "ate" two minutes before.  If they don't seem interested or aren't calmed by suckling, then I try other ways to soothe them.

I was talking with a friend last week about how my babies have never taken to bottles or pacifiers.  I mentioned that my baby boy will happily drink water from a bottle when he's thirsty, and he would probably even drink milk from a bottle (though we've never tried).  The other day he found an old pacifier and sucked on it for a bit for fun.  But if someone tried to stick a bottle or pacifier in his mouth when he was grumpy, tired, afraid, or distressed, he would cast them away and only scream harder.

I am his pacifier.  I am the only answer to his deepest cries.  Nothing and no one else can give him what I can give.  Call it "just for comfort" if you want, but it's all the same to me.  In my mind you cannot separate breastfeeding, nursing, and soothing... they are all one.

There are many who would say my son no longer "needs" breastmilk or night-feedings because he's 14-months-old.  There are some who would have said he didn't need them when he was in the hospital at 9-months-old.  I say that the time when I am able to provide this gift to him will pass in the blink of an eye.  This time when only my body can comfort him is precious and fleeting.  If it means I will lose a few years of uninterrupted sleep, so be it.  If he's three years old before he's able to soothe himself back to sleep on his own, so be it.

Because of my own history and struggles with abandonment issues, there is almost nothing more important to me than establishing a secure, unbreakable attachment with my babies... telling them with my every touch and action that I will always be here... that I will never abandon them, especially when they need me the most, no matter what time of day or night.  I've never regretted one moment of nurse-comforting my children, and I feel confident that I will look back when I'm past my childbearing years with gratitude that I didn't push those precious nursing relationships away for the sake of independence or convenience.  (P.S. Moms who don't continue nursing through the second year are really missing out on the best trick up their sleeves for dealing with those daily toddler tantrums.)
Me and my almost 15-month-old nursling last weekend

I appreciate these words (shared by Sarah, one of my facebook fans) from lactation consultant, Diane Wiessinger:
Easy, long-term breastfeeding involves forgetting about the "breast" and the "feeding" (and the duration, and the interval, and the transmission of the right nutrients in the right amounts, and the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive suckling needs, all of which form the focus of artificial milk pamphlets) and focusing instead on the relationship. . . . [T]he real joys and satisfactions of the experience begin when they stop "breastfeeding" and start mothering at the breast.  (Source)
Maybe that nurse in the hospital was right, after all.  I wasn't really "breastfeeding" in that hospital, I was mothering at the breast.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

You know you're a birth junkie when... see a photo like this one (taken by yours truly this very morning in the woods near Payson, AZ)...
...and think:  Placenta!