The Tyrant is now 28 weeks pregnant, and has officially entered the third trimester!
It’s interesting how the weeks and trimesters correspond with specific stages in fetal development. For instance, last week, What to Expect (a pregnancy app Susan uses) said to start expecting fetal hiccups. Seemingly right on cue, Gator Steve (the temporary joke name for our son) had his first hiccups last Thursday, which was quite adorable.
Hiccups mean his diaphragm is developing normally. He’s starting to practice breathing by inhaling amniotic fluid — which can sometimes result in hiccups (which are diaphragm spasms). The Tyrant felt like her stomach was popping popcorn. After a few minutes, Gator got things back under control. He’s since had a few more hiccup sessions.
Our periodic pregnancy updates are intended to help other expectant parents out there who might take comfort in hearing about other parents-to-be going through similar experiences. It’s nice to know you’re not alone and other people are asking the same questions you are!
Our Week 28 pregnancy update is about:
II. Lamaze classes
III. Favorite parenting & birthing books
IV. Kinesio tape review for pregnancy back pain
I. To doula or not to doula? That is the question…
The Tyrant and I have been trying to decide whether having a doula would be beneficial or necessary. For context:
- In case you’ve never heard of a doula before, the American Pregnancy Association (APA) defines a doula as “a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. The doula’s purpose is to help women have a safe, memorable, and empowering birthing experience.” The APA also outlines the many proven benefits of using a doula (reduced medical interventions, more positive birthing experience, shorter labor).
- I’ll be with Susan throughout the birthing process and her sister (who is also a doctor) plans to be here too.
- As we mentioned in our last pregnancy update, we’re having a midwife-led birth at our local hospital.
A doula’s vast experience and training helping mothers through the process of natural birth seems like it would be a great help. However, between me, the midwife, the medical team at the hospital, and Susan’s sister, we think we might have things covered and any more people in the room could turn things into a circus. The extra cost of a doula is obviously a consideration, too.
Hmm… No decisions yet.
II. Lamaze classes
Speaking of doulas, we’re two sessions into Lamaze classes which are being taught by Jen Hutchison, a local doula. I’d always thought that Lamaze classes were about teaching moms/parents breathing and mental exercises to help them through childbirth.
While that’s a small part of Lamaze classes, they’re WAY more to them than pregnancy breathing and pain management training. After two sessions, we feel so much more knowledgable and prepared for childbirth…
For instance, during our last class, one of the things we learned about is the three stages of labor and how to distinguish them + what to expect and do as you go through each stage:
Stage 1 – Early / Active / Transition
Early – The mother is somewhat herself/normal during this stage. In fact, she might even be giddy now that the moment she’s been waiting for for nine months is finally here.
Contractions are just starting and are about 30-45 seconds long and about 30 minutes apart.
Active – Things get serious and the mother enters the “get to work” mental state. This is when it’s time to get to the hospital (and call your midwife/doula to meet you there, if you go that route). Contractions are about 60 seconds long and about 4 minutes apart.
Transition – This is perhaps the hardest phase of the birthing process, usually characterized by the mom’s profound experience of self-doubt. “I can’t do this anymore,” is what moms in Transition are likely thinking (and screaming).
Coincidentally, the Transition is often where the “dominoes” of medical interventions start (at the mom’s request) – especially if they and their *birth partners don’t know in advance what to expect. These medical interventions can then increase medical risks/complications for both mother and baby. At this point, the mother is 8-10 centimeters dilated; contractions are 90 seconds long and 2-3 minutes apart.
*During the transition phase, it’s especially important for spouses/birth partners to be supportive, encouraging, and grateful towards the mother to help her get over the emotional and physical hurdle. Our doula also suggested having a “code word” that mom can use in the event she truly has passed beyond the threshold of what she can endure and needs pain meds or an epidural.
Stage 2 – Pushing and Delivering of Baby
Adrenaline kicks in and the mom gets a second wind.
The mom is now 10 centimeters dilated and her body will soon give her the urge to start pushing. Pushing before the urge hits is unwarranted and can use up mom’s energy reserves.
Contractions are now spaced 5-6 minutes apart and about 1 minute long. Finally and slowly, baby makes its way into the world.
Stage 3 – Birth of Placenta
Mom is feeling relieved and overjoyed, ideally holding the baby and making skin-to-skin contact. But things aren’t totally over yet. Another wave of contractions hit — albeit much less intense than baby contractions. The placenta soon comes out, which is orders of magnitude more manageable from a pain standpoint than a baby coming out.
Personally, we like knowing exactly what to expect: the nuts and bolts, with no glossing over or sugar-coating. Having realistic expectations and knowing what we’re going to be going through helps us prepare for the experience and not give up or panic when we’re in the middle of the worst of it.
We’re incredibly grateful for Jen and her Lamaze classes. We’d also highly recommend Lamaze classes to any expectant parents. If you happen to live in Upstate South Carolina, sign up for Jen’s classes.
Are Lamaze classes redundant with our Centering classes we’re taking through our midwifery? Nope, not at all. They’re complimentary.
III. Favorite birthing and parenting books (thus far)
“Favorite” might not be the right word here. We’re learning a lot from each book we read.
A quick high level overview of five books we’d highly recommend to other parents:
1. Expecting Better by Emily Oster
Oster is an economist who does an amazing job at breaking down what the data says about each step of the birthing process, and the tough decisions parents face along the way. She expertly dissects current research studies (based on the quality and type of study) to provide simple high-level advice for expecting mothers/parents.
2. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman
Druckerman is an American reporter/writer who moved to France with her husband and had three children. At first, she couldn’t understand why French babies/children slept through the night, weren’t picky eaters, were far calmer and better behaved than typical American children, among other differences.
After investigating what was happening, she breaks down subtle differences in the French parenting style to make them easily accessible to parents anywhere else in the world.
3. The Danish Way of Parenting by Jessica Joelle Alexander.
Another absolutely fascinating read that will get you thinking. (This is also a much quicker read than the other books on the list.) Year after year, Denmark ranks #1 or #2 in producing the happiest people in the world, despite having pretty miserable weather. (The US is currently #18.) Why? How?
It starts at birth. One big difference: parents let young children play outside with other kids (independent of their parents), thus allowing them to experience and overcome emotional hardship, form lifelong social/coping skills, and develop internal resilience. There’s a lot more to it than that, which you can read in the book.
4. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Åkeson McGurk.
As you may have noticed, The Tyrant and I love the outdoors. So do Swedish people – and their babies and children. Why? Because they were taught to from Day 1. This not only leads to happier, healthier people (Sweden is also at the top of the list on health and happiness), but it also leads to a more environmentally conscious culture.
Who knows, maybe we’ll start our own forest school and do outdoor baby naps in January!
5. Cribsheet by Emily Oster.
Another phenomenal book by Oster (author of Expecting Better). In this book, she applies her data analysis skills to all the big parenting decisions you have to make from birth and beyond. From potty training to vaccines to sleep training, Oster boils down the data into simple, actionable takeaways for parents.
IV. Kinesio tape for pregnancy back pain
As mentioned in the last update, The Tyrant has been dealing with some pretty intense pain. Specifically: back, SI joint, rib, and belly discomfort as her small body gets stretched and pulled in every direction. These pains aren’t just due to her expanding belly, they’re also caused by the hormone relaxin causing her pelvic ligaments to relax and her cervix to soften and widen.
To help with some of these pains, I’ve been giving her 1-2 back massages every day, and she’s been regularly stretching on an exercise/pregnancy ball.
Kinesio tape has also been a big help. She uses kinesio tape to support her ab muscles and prevent ab muscle separation, and to provide some relief for back pain.
Straight from The Tyrant, here’s a summary review and recommendations of Kinesio tape that have helped during her pregnancy:
We used this blog post and this YouTube video to help with my belly sling/support taping & this one to help support my ab muscles and prevent diastasis recti, a painful condition where the abdominal muscles separate. I do a slightly different iteration of the belly sling where I use two pieces of tape that extend ribs to hip bone b/c I think it gives me more support than just a sling between my two hip bones.
Honestly, I didn’t love the level of support brand name KT Tape gave me. I used the Pro version on my SI joints, which is supposed to provide the most, but didn’t feel like it did much. It is also the thinnest of the tapes I tried, which is probably nice if you’re looking for a tape that isn’t going to add much bulk. I’d imagine it would be very useful for mild sprains and strains, but pregnancy seems to be a whole new level of ouch than any sports injury I’ve ever encountered.
- I use Dynamic Tape Eco Black on the areas that need the most support – my lower back (when I decide to tape it) and my ab muscles (diastasis prevention). It is the thickest and most supportive tape in their product line (and also thicker than Rock Tape). It’s made from a breathable, synthetic material and is latex-free. It’s been 95+ degrees here for over a month and I haven’t found that it’s any warmer to wear than KT Tape or Rock Tape.
- I use Rock Tape Original for my belly sling. Rock Tape is 97% cotton and provides a nice mid-level of support that is perfect for my belly sling. Like Dynamic Tape, it’s also latex-free.
Both Dynamic Tape & Rock Tape give me 5 days of wear before re-taping is needed, and both are better for sensitive skin (which I seem to have developed during pregnancy).
A few tips:
- Remove the tape, not your skin. Use copious amounts of coconut oil (or your oil/lotion of choice) to remove the tape. I usually soak the tape in oil, let it sit for a few minutes, then slowly begin to peel the tape away from my skin. The few times I’ve been overzealous or impatient have yielded skin irritation and even small blisters.
- Be careful to only tension the middle part of the strips, leaving 1-2″ at each end not stretched. You don’t want to stretch the entire length of the tape with tension. We accidentally did that on our first application and I ended up with blisters. Here’s an excellent video that starts off talking about the basics of using kinesio tape for ab/belly support. I highly recommend starting here.
- Have someone apply the tape for you. With my belly getting in the way with virtually everything I do now, having Aaron put the tape on, makes a huge difference in proper application. It also reduces the frustration factor that goes along with using sticky tape on parts of your body you can’t see or reach very well!
That’s it for now! If you’re an expectant parent with a question or you want to commiserate about the challenges you’re facing, let us know in the comments!
-Aaron and Susan (The Tyrant)