Viral Video: Contractions

A loving aunt recently made a quick video for her niece, an aspiring midwife, but it’s gone far beyond its intended audience, it’s gone viral! And it’s not hard to see why! It’s honestly one of the best visual explanations of contractions and labor that we’ve ever seen. And oh so simple.

Liz Chalmers, using just a ping pong ball and a balloon, first demonstrates the difference between Braxton Hicks contractions and labor contractions, and then shows the ‘arrival moment.’

It is utterly addictive viewing – and the perfect tool for understanding what’s happening inside during labor. Chalmers said it was something she was taught in a workshop called ‘Stomp Out Boring Childbirth classes.’ (High five to that, and LOVE the name!).

This simple visualization can go a long way in helping moms-to-be stay calm and focused during delivery – because understanding what their body is doing, and why, can help them feel in control.

Like people often feel about childbirth, it looks seemingly impossible at first to get the ping pong ball out of the balloon….you sit there just waiting for the balloon to pop! But it doesn’t. Slowly, steadily and surely, that little ping pong ball makes it way down the neck of the balloon, which first ‘thins’ out just as a cervix does, and then starts dilating until one last push…. And voila. A ping pong ball is born.

Like Chalmers suggests, it’s not just a great exercise for moms-to-be, it’s also a neat and unintimidating way to show older kids how babies arrive – and just how phenomenal the female body is!

Here’s hoping that Liz makes some more videos after this triumph! What a cool aunt.

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The Third Trimester

Welcome to T3!

The rest of the world thinks your pregnancy is flying…. whereas you have never known, days, weeks and months to drag soooo long! Am I right?

Just think of poor elephants if it helps at all – they’re pregnant for nearly TWO years!  You can do a few more months….or maybe it’s only a few more weeks you’ve got left now? How exciting!

This final chapter certainly doesn’t come without its challenges though. Here’s a few of the things you might be in the midst of…or that might be coming next! Hang in there mama-to-be, you’re doing great.

Backache – You might have already felt some discomfort in earlier months, but now all that extra weight is really adding the pressure to your back. As well as your breasts. Did you know that by the end of a pregnancy, breasts can grow by as much as 2 pounds? Discomfort in your pelvis and hips isn’t all that uncommon either – that’s just your ligaments loosening up for labor. Practice good posture, sleep on your side with a pillow tucked in your legs, get a better bra, wear low heels, try a heating pad or speak to your doctor if you really find yourself struggling.

Braxton Hicks – This is the warm up guys! Mild contractions which are preparing your uterus for the big day to come. It can be ultra-confusing trying to figure out if this is a drill or not, because they may feel a lot like labor. One real difference to keep in mind between BH and labor is that contractions gradually get closer and closer together – and more intense. Don’t feel embarrassed to call your midwife or health care provider if you need reassurance!

Breasts again – Close to your due date, you may start to see colostrum – baby GOLD- leaking from your nipples. This yellowish fluid will nourish and fuel that newborn bundle in its early days.  It’s not glamorous, and it’s not ideal in public, but get yourself some absorbent breast pads for inside your bra and you’ll be just fine.

Discharge – Again, it’s not glamorous, but pretty normal in this phase. If you are worried about the volume, don’t hesitate to call your health care provider. Close to your delivery date, you might also see a thick, clear or slightly blood tinged discharge – this is your mucus plug, a sign from your wondrous body that your cervix has begun dilating in prep for labor. Hooray!

Fatigue – You regained your energy in the second trimester….only to see it dwindle once again. You might also find yourself short of breath thanks to your uterus rising up under your rib cage. Sorry lungs! It’s frustrating as well as exhausting, but try to embrace this slowing down – eat healthy, nap often and stay calm!

Urination – It’s not just your lungs getting squashed, your bladder is getting more of a squeeze nowadays too. Laughing, coughing, sneezing, or exercising…. It’s all a bit more of a gamble in T3 as chances of leaking increase. Avoid pre-bedtime drinks to minimize night time bathroom visits, and try a panty liner to absorb any day leaks.

Veins – not just varicose veins caused by increased blood circulation and pressure on your legs from baby, but also hemorrhoids – swollen veins that form around the anus. You can make yourself more comfortable with the help of support clothing, warm baths, ointments, and even stool softeners, but don’t worry, this symptom will soon improve after delivery.

Swelling – Tight rings? Puffy ankles? Bloated face?  Again, blame the pressure.  To reduce swelling, put your feet up whenever you sit for any length of time, and elevate your feet while you sleep. If the swelling is sudden however, seek medical attention as it may be a sign of preeclampsia.

Following months of body changes and hormone surges, it’s quite the finale isn’t it? You might have rolled your eyes when people told you how much they miss being pregnant….but believe us, one day, you will look back and miss all those kicks and waddles too. While you are in the thick of it, it’s all too easy to forget the wonder of it all. WHAT A JOURNEY! And my goodness, it’s worth it!

Best of luck Mama – those first cuddles and snuggles are almost in sight!

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The Second Trimester

The second trimester is just the BEST! And for a number of reasons:

  • That daily dose of nausea that plagued you throughout the first trimester starts to fade (though sadly, not for everyone)
  • Your energy levels should start to rise – hello, old you, welcome back!
  • You can finally let the cat out of the bag (if you haven’t already) and share your happy news in some ridiculously adorable or creative way
  • You get a legit cute bump now – you no longer have to feel and look a little extra chubby.
  • OMG! You can find out the sex of your little bean! (if you want to know that is…)
  • AND you will start to feel little flutters or ‘quickening’ and then full on kicks in T2, – perhaps any day now – AKA, the best and weirdest feeling in the world!

See, there’s a LOT to love in Weeks 13-27 of your pregnancy. It’s no wonder they call it the ‘Honeymoon Period.’

BUT, with the cute comes the new… and by new we mean, even MORE body changes and a whole new batch of symptoms:

Belly & Back Aches – a result of your growing uterus and the extra weight you are carrying around, many women experience abdominal ‘stretching’ aches and back pains in the second trimester. You can help ease the pressure by sleeping with a pillow tucked between your legs, wearing low-heeled and all-too sensible shoes with good arch support, and our favorite – a MASSAGE! Ask your partner to gently rub the sore spots, or better still, treat yourself to a pregnancy massage.

Skin Changes – With your stretching aches can come stretch marks. Though not always, we’ve seen plenty of full term bellies without them. While you definitely start to see and feel that pregnant glow in T2, an increase in melanin can also cause brown marks on the face, known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’ as well as a ‘linea nigra’ – a dark line down the middle of the abdomen. If you do get any of these, then don’t worry, wear them with pride (your body is INCREDIBLE!). Most markings will fade after birth. In the meantime, just remember to use a good sunscreen – your skin is more sensitive to the sun while pregnant!

Breathlessness – at this stage of pregnancy, it is not uncommon to feel out of breath when doing everyday tasks. Relax, it is perfectly normal  – it’s just getting a little crowded for your lungs inside! Take it as another reminder to start slowing down!

Strange Dreams – Just as your body is physically processing a lot right now, so is your mind! There is a lot to wrap your head around pre-birth – and more than likely, you have advice and opinions coming at you from all directions. This can lead to a few odd or anxious dreams.

Sex drive – Feeling a little friskier than usual now that your energy levels have returned? Well that’s because your body is in estrogen overdrive! Did you know that ovaries produce as much in a single day as a non-pregnant woman’s ovaries do in three years? WOW! There’s more than a few reports of multiple orgasm ‘firsts’ during this phase too, so ladies and gents, ENJOY!

Shrinking Bladder – or at least that’s how it feels. The more space your little one takes up, the less room and the more pee breaks we’re afraid. Basic math!

Appetite – You will most likely see a growth in your appetite during these weeks, but BORING KILLJOY ALERT, you’ll get reminded by most professionals that ‘eating for two’ is a myth. You only need about an extra 300-500 calories a day during the second trimester. Ironically, now your sickness has faded and you can stomach food again, you may find yourself experiencing heartburn. TYPICAL! This is because your digestion has slowed down and food is staying in your stomach for longer, triggering more acid. Baby then puts pressure on said stomach, increasing the chance of acid being pushed up in to the esophagus. Boooo! If it gets too unbearable, check in with your health care advisor to see what they recommend.

By the end of your second trimester, you’ll have around a 2lb little human in that ever expanding belly of yours. You’ll probably wonder at just how much bigger you are going to get. Well, just wait and see. The next 12 weeks are all completely different again, with new rules, symptoms and changes. But that’s children in a nutshell really, just when you think you are have mastered something, it all changes, there’s a new phase and something completely different to learn. Welcome to the never ending school of parenthood!

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The Real Definition of Babymoon

Think of babymoon and you’ll most likely picture a glowing mama-to-be on vacation with her partner, trying to squeeze in as much rest as possible BEFORE the new baby arrives.

But did you know that that kind of babymoon is a new thing?

The original babymoon is postpartum. It used to widely mean a ‘laying in’ period of home rest AFTER childbirth. A calming period where mothers heal and where parents take the time to bond with their new arrival alone.

The pace of modern American life doesn’t always allow for this kind of ‘lying in’ time does it? Though it is still common practice in some less-manic cultures throughout the world. There’s a pressure….no, almost expectation… for mothers nowadays to ‘bounce back’ shortly after birth. Don’t even get us started on the ‘yummy mummy’ pressure….

I mean, raise your hands if you had your first visitors within 48 hours of giving birth? Yep, us too. While it’s so heartwarming to see the eagerness of friends and family to meet your new baby, it’s also exhausting having to entertain and host visitors so soon – whatever type of birth you’ve had!

You might feel pressured to get dressed for starters. Probably do a quick tidy up. Go and buy some nibbles. Make coffee etc. And when visitors have gone, there is the clean-up to do. All on little to no sleep and in-between nursing and diaper changes.

Now, a ‘lying in’ period isn’t for everyone. We know plenty of moms whose worst nightmare would be to stay at home doing nothing – and that’s perfectly ok too. If you need to do the housework to stay sane – do it! A happy mama is an honest-to-herself-mama.

But, there are also many moms out there who don’t like the idea of having to juggle normal life with motherhood straight away. Some want to take things slowly and focus on establishing nursing, as well as building strength and confidence. You pick your pace, no one else.

For those pregnant mamas out there who do like the sound of babymooning – here’s an important PSA:  BOOK YOUR BABYMOON. RIGHT NOW! Pick up your phone and block out your calendar. Just do it.

DO NOT let others guilt trip you. Even parents and in-laws. This is your time. To process your birth experience. To heal. To cuddle. To love. And to learn.

It’s a good idea to manage your friends and families expectations in advance. Message them all ahead of your due date to let them know that you and your partner would appreciate the time to yourselves in the early weeks. Let them know that you will be touch when you feel up to visitors.

And when you ARE up for visitors, don’t be afraid to ask for things. Ask them to come at a time that suits you and baby, not a time that suits them. Ask them to bring food. Even ask them to do a chore or two while at the house. Real friends honestly won’t mind and will probably appreciate being told what you need from them. While they have come for cuddles, they’ve also come to support you at the start of this crazy ol’ journey we call parenthood.

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