Damn Itchy

At a week before the end of my leave from work, I thought I’d gotten into a good groove of things. Mastitis was seemingly at bay, I was getting back into sprinting and some easy jogging, and we had several good days in a row.

Alas, it was not meant to last. I suddenly developed some hive-like rashes that itched like all hell. They started out small, and I’ve had hives before, so I was not too concerned. However, they quickly expanded, and exploded out of my stretch marks in numerous, patchy, bumps. It was the worst itch I’d ever had, and I didn’t want to use anything that would interfere with breastfeeding.

I Googled these horrible bumps and it sounded and looked (Google images, shudder) exactly like PUPPS, which strangely typically occurs in women pregnant with boys, entails pretty much the worst imaginable itch (a woman on a forum said she’d rather experience labor 5 times over than deal with this again), and is only resolved with time. Just my luck. Not pregnant anymore, and had a girl, and breaking out in this horror less than a week before returning to work. I emailed my doc and she didn’t think it was PUPPS but suggested cortisone and making sure to wipe it off before feeding, along with a low dose of Benadryl.

I’ve always been a little hesitant when it comes to using medications, probably owing partly to the fact I’ve never been seriously ill, but I’ve gotten so much worse after having a kid. It’s worrisome to put random shit on my skin when I know she’s going to eat right off of it. I caved one night and used cortisone, making sure to wipe it off thoroughly in the morning before Little V ate, but I wasn’t too keen on it, so I started googling “home remedies” and “natural” ways of dealing with horrible rashes.

This led me to sending poor husband on a hunt for Witch Hazel (easy to find) and pine tar soap, which I had never heard of, and which was not readily available at Wal-Mart or any nearby pharmacy. After making some calls and consulting the internet, we discovered GNC carries it (how fortunate that we live close to a GNC store!) I scrubbed with pine tar soap, which smells like campfire, and then slathered myself with tons of coconut oil and globs of aloe, which I had previously purchased for making homemade charcoal masks.

The combination of these substances helped somewhat, and I’m crossing my fingers it clears up sufficiently before I go back to work. Please oh please…

Unmedicated Birth?

Although my mother and mother-in-law both gave birth without the assistance of epidural analgesia, this does not appear to be the norm for most women, at least in the current times. I do not go around broadcasting that I plan to have an unmedicated birth, because I really have no clue how it will ultimately all play out, and it could very well be the case that medical interventions become necessary… but hopefully not.

Some of the sentiments I’ve heard about an unmedicated birth are quite snide, and I get these from all kinds of people, including those who are professional healthcare providers (not my own, fortunately). No, I don’t want a gold star or a pat on the back for needlessly suffering through pain, nor do I believe that “natural suffering” should be part of the grand experience of labor and birth. Believe me, if I could literally snap my fingers and have a pain-free birth, I’d do it. However, the fact remains that no medication or medical procedure is without attendant risks and potential complications.

Some studies suggest epidural use causes increased labor time and increases the need for instrumentation use in the form of forceps and/or vacuum, which in turn leads to increased risk of severe tearing (here). I have no strong opinions on what other people should or should not do, except that I believe every woman should have enough information on data and risks to come to whatever conclusions based on her personal preferences. But just as to myself – as a person who has never undergone any sort of surgery, medical procedures frighten me. I have not so much as had tonsils removed, had a mole biopsied, or ever needed stitches. No joke, the most invasive medical procedure I have undergone is probably a pap smear. So the mere idea of having a needle in my spine that pumps drugs continuously in my body, along with a catheter up my urethra, or potentially having someone stitch my vagina or slice my belly open, causes just as much if not more anxiety than the fear of labor pain.

Further, having worked in the medical field, I have a selective awareness of all the things that can and do go wrong with medical interventions. I’ve had a case where a patient experienced a severe spinal infection from spinal analgesia and have also had a case in which a woman permanently and completely lost bladder control after a catheter mishap during birth. Granted, these complications are extremely rare, but at least with an unmedicated birth, I know what the worst complication is – pain. Pain sucks, but if you can tolerate it, it’s a lot less scary than complete loss of bladder control, paralysis, or a c-section.

All this being said, I dread pain and am not about to go into this without the right resources and tools, which is why we decided to take a Hynobirthing class. My clients are almost exclusively composed of healthcare providers, and being a person who very much appreciates medical technology, embracing alternative measures was not easy for me. This is particularly the case because the alternative measures inevitably involve a certain degree of what I describe as Hippie crap, for lack of a better term.

I own more than a handful of boho skirts and love Bob Dylan. I don’t wear deodorant because I don’t need it but that does not mean I want to give birth while dancing in a naked circle in the ocean or that I will ever be sold on the spiritual/emotional benefit of candles, incense, or aromatherapy [NOOOOO]. I am not one of those “spiritual not religious people.” I am not searching for cosmic truth or seeking to be one with nature.

I previously had no interest in meditation, spirituality, and certainly no interest in hypnosis, because I liked my life at a certain pace, and I liked to be in control. On my high school graduation night, a hypnotist performed a demonstration, and of about 40 people, I and one of my friends were the only two skeptical individuals who were not able to succumb to the hypnotist’s antics, despite following directions.

So how did I get over this?

First, I told myself I had to. I did some light research and found that plenty of women can and do experience bearable births without epidural use, and told myself that if I wanted to take this path, I would have to consider, accept, and follow the advice of the practitioners who specialized in this area. I’m not one to follow anything blindly, but I did make a commitment to this particular path. I bought Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, my friend gave me Mindful Birthing, and I signed up for prenatal yoga.

During my first couple of yoga classes, I internally cringed at instructions to “send loving thoughts” to my baby and affirmation cards about beautiful birth goddesses. When told to “let go,” my instant thought was Let go of what? No, I don’t want to. But then the Asian mom in me said Listen to the teacher! What do you know? Plus, you paid for this, so pay attention and just do it! While yoga was not life-altering, it did bring a sort of calm and balance into my life.

In turn, the breathing techniques and general culture involved in prenatal yoga primed me for the Hypnobirthing class, which was taught by an experienced and knowledgeable midwife. The course featured much informative material about the stages of labor and delivery, the relevant anatomy, and exercises for managing pain. Don’t get me wrong; I still engaged in internal eyerolling at some of the videos, particularly the one where the narrator spoke like she was trying to get me to join a cult, and proclaimed nonsense about the spirals of the nautilus shell having some relation to the order of the universe and pain relief [please, just don’t]. However, I do strongly believe the meditation, breathing, and relaxation practices and visualization techniques were on point, useful, and will be immensely helpful during labor and birth.

In the end, as with all things in my life, I settled on a mishmash of what worked for me. I fully embraced Ina May’s perspective on dispelling the fear associated with birth, but ignored her implicit calls for further socializing medicine; I incorporated the benefits of prenatal yoga without resorting to paganism; and I fully engaged in meditation/relaxation exercises without committing to birthing in a tub at home and eating my placenta.

Dumbest Reasons Not To Use Birth Control

Birth Control, whether in pill form or otherwise, isn’t for everyone. That being said, there are logical reasons to avoid using any kind of birth control, such as actually wanting to get pregnant, or a religious affirmation of celibacy. There are also logical reasons for wanting to avoid certain types of birth control, such as health concerns, interactions with other medications, side effects, etc. And then there are reasons that make no sense. BuzzFeed recently featured a post called “We Asked 24 Women Why They Don’t Use Birth Control And These Are Their Answers.” Many of the answers, unfortunately, are shockingly stupid. As an example, I give you Exhibit 1 from the BuzzFeed post:

BC1
Well, you learn something new every day. It definitely had not occurred to me that condoms, diaphragms, the rhythm method, and the pull-out method (all recognized forms of “birth control”) could be categorized as “poisons,” but OK. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one. Maybe BuzzFeed phrased its question in an ambiguous manner. This would be a perfect time to point out that “birth control” has had a longstanding and broad definition that refers to a method to limit or control one’s reproductive capacity. Hormonal birth control is merely a subset of this category.

BC 7
True, no one can really bitch about someone who wants to take responsibility for their actions. Except, logically speaking, a person who uses birth control to avoid a child they are not ready for and cannot afford is also doing just that, so this is not really a distinguishing reason for which to avoid using birth control.

BC 3
Actually, it is if you want to have sex, but don’t want to have children, like a great, great proportion of women on the face of this planet. Individual minds may differ on what can be done to “fix” fertility, but unless a woman wants many children, she will want to control her fertility in some manner or another.

BC4
So now “womanhood” is defined by the physical/biological capacity to breed? By her logic, the multitudes of women out there who are childless, whether by choice or by infertility are not real “women” then – and that makes her a “feminist.” I have a sneaking suspicion that many feminists would not be on board with defining a woman only as someone who procreates.

BC5
Right, because sex without making babies is of course, merely men “using “women. So infertile women presumably are always being “used” if they ever have sex. It also absurdly follows that a woman who does not use birth control and has sex with her husband is also being used – except that there are consequences – so I guess that’s OK? Definitely in the running for dumbest response of all time.

BC6
One of the crazy “everything needs to be natural” weirdos. I understand not wanting to eat too many processed foods or artificial flavors, but you may want to re-evaluate your very broad claim in this context. OK, Ms. All-Natural, tell this to a guy who needs a pacemaker (an artificial device) to avoid dying (a natural condition/disease process of the body). Or someone who needs antibiotics (something artificial) for a sinus infection (a natural disease process). Also, why not ingest some arsenic or uranium while you’re pursuing the “natural” lifestyle? That shit’s natural for sure.

BC7
True to an extent, I’ll give her that. But certainly not true for a lot of people, for example, a couple who has 5 children, can’t afford any more, and (god forbid!) still wants to have sex.

Everyone obviously should make choices for themselves; but they should be encouraged to make informed choices that are not based on nonsensical, illogical reasons. It’s not nice to make fun of people; I know. But then maybe these women should have thought twice before posing with their self-righteous, supercilious, and highly-misinformed slogans.