Hey, it’s Ariel. Part of my heart has been to use this space as a place to share helpful tips that relate to anything health and family related… more than just the pregnancy, birth and early postpartum time. With that in mind, I want to share my family’s experience with Covid-19 and some of the things we felt helped our illness. I get asked a lot of questions regarding our symptoms and remedies so it’s easier to have everything in one place- especially since we have a wide range of family members so this can help normalize what it looks like in a breastfed infant vs. a young child. vs an adult. This does not replace medical advice, and as always, speak with your provider for treatment.
What were our symptoms?
Dad- Fever of 101, body aches, fatigue, slight sore throat, loss of taste and smell (which lasted approximately 2 weeks).
Esther (age 6)- Off and on sore throat along with fever. On day 1 there was also an upset stomach along with a sore throat at dinner time. It was at this time that dad and E1 went to go get tested. 72 hour strep test was positive along with a positive Covid test. Acted normally in between 1-2 hour fever spikes on day 1&3.
Elias (age 5) off and on fever on day 1 only. Acted normally.
Mom- started symptoms on day 3. Fever (101), body aches, fatigue, slight sore throat, massive headache, dizziness, loss of taste and smell for roughly two weeks. Long term, lost a lot of hair 3 months after illness and while sense of taste came back there were some foods with unusual after taste.
Elena (8months)- started symptoms on day 4. Fever (never above 102) and general fussiness for about 3 days.
Prepare for Covid-19 like you would prepare to have a new baby.
Stay at home, rest, hydrate, order in food and groceries, have loved ones drop off meals, consider using disposable plates and utensils so less time cleaning up a kitchen with limited energy stores, prepare ahead of time numbers of doctors/clinics, stock up on basic necessities ( reasonably, not all the toilet paper ;-). Whatever you can do to ease the mental and physical load.
These are just some of the things I encourage the families I work with to prepare welcoming a new baby while physically and emotionally healing from birth.
Somethings that may help along the way.
We live in a perpetual sick society. Instead of addressing the root cause of things, we treat the symptom. We recognize there are major barriers to health and wellness for many communities, particularly BIPOC communities.
Boosting and strengthening the immune system needs to be talked about more as well as identifying the things that weaken and lower the immune system and cause chronic illness.
Sugar, alcohol, lack of sleep, caffeine, inflammation, stress can all weaken the immune system.
Healthy diet and exercise are just some of the things that can help boost the immune system.
Natural at Home Remedies
The things suggested below, please consult your doctor. Remember these are just suggestions and may not work for everyone or every case.
-Anti inflammatory diet- dairy free, gluten free and sugar free… avoiding processed foods as much as possible. These things can cause inflammation in your body and make it harder to fight illness.
-Drink water. Cut down caffeine.
-Brisk walks around house or yard 3x a day as physically able.
-Increasing intake of healing foods such as ginger, lemon, hot pepper, garlic, oregano, onion. Making teas or bone broths can be a great way to consume these.
-Increasing daily vitamins. My chiropractor put out this generic virus dosage chart that can be used for most viruses, including Covid-19. Check with your provider if these are right for you.
-Add Zinc-it’s believed that Covid depletes zinc stores in body.
-Liposomal -Glutathione- helps immune response in body.
-N-Aceytal Cysteine (NAC) thins the mucus in your body along with other health benefits.
–Oregano on feet with socks over them.
-Diffusing, applying or cleaning with Thieves essential oil.
-Enjoying a detox both. 1 cup epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda- and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil for aromatherapy.
Content Warning- Shoulder Dystocia and Neonatal Resuscitation
At 40+6 I was more than ready to be done.
My first came at 39+6 so OF COURSE my second would have arrived earlier. It was under this assumption that I didn’t have anything on the schedule or on my routine after 40 weeks.
Back to 40+6, it was a Saturday morning and my husband started texting the husband of a close friend of mine who I knew my whole life. He is a mechanic so they were discussing putting a rack on top of our vehicle. At that point he invited us for dinner so that we could hang out and do car/rack stuff. The minute Kennedy (my husband) asked me if I wanted to go, I did not hesitate or bat an eye to the fact that they lived 1 hour away. Labor was nowhere in site, I was depressed, annoyed at all the “is baby here yet” texts and I needed to get out of the house and hang out with “non-annoying” loved ones.
We made the hour drive to “the farm” and it was instant peace. I knew this was exactly what I needed. I think I had a slight fear that my labor wouldn’t start on it’s own because with my first, my water broke and my contractions stopped after arriving to the hospital… I eventually needed pitocin to get them rolling again. Read here for Esther’s birth story.
Being with a friend who understood me, understood what it was like going past 40 weeks and who understood out of hospital birth, I was able to relax throughout dinner and the evening and actually enjoy the time I was having. Low and behold, I began to feel the familiar cramping of my uterus warming up through the laughs and tears. I had a half glass of red wine and then our family started to make the drive home as it became clear that these waves were coming more rhymically.
During the car ride home, I was experiencing moderate contractions every 3-5 minutes. These ones seemed much more bearable than the pitocin ones that I remembered with Esther’s birth. I called the birth center hotline and made a plan with the midwife to come in around 1 am to get my first round of antibiotics for being GBS+. My step mother came over to pick up Esther and I did some last minute vacuuming to keep me moving and occupied. My thought was, “better get this done now, I won’t be moving from my bed and planned postpartum babymoon for the next two weeks.” I took seriously the prep into making the time after having Elias sacred and well rested.
We arrived at the birth center and after the initial intake and cervical exam, I was 4 cm dilated. A little while later I received my first round of antibiotics. I was having back pain with the contractions so the birth assistant gave me an oil blend of black pepper to apply on my back. Surprisingly, it felt really great! I labored for a bit there and eventually settled into laboring in the bathroom shower alone. I sat on the birthing ball with the shower spout hitting my lower back. With every contraction, I would move my hips in a figure eight, pray and sing over my baby as I visualized him moving downward. Looking back, this had to be one of my favorite parts of my labor. For two hours I was in this special alone place of me and my baby and I felt so joyful and peaceful.
Things seemed to slow down a bit so I went and laid on my left side on the bed. My mom laid next time. A little while later, my midwife came in and said it was time for the next round of antibiotics. Because of things seemingly settling down and it was close to morning, there was talk of sending me home so I could get some rest in my own bed. My mom felt strongly that I was closer than everyone thought so she kept bringing up another cervical exam. We decided to do the check. With a look of surprise and a twinkle in her eye, my midwife proclaimed, “you are the most graceful laborer!” She asked if I wanted to know where I was at and I said I did. At this point I was almost 8 cm.
To encourage contractions to pick up again, my midwife’s recommendation was to, “go for a walk, grab some breakfast and then come back and have your baby!” And that’s exactly what we did. We slowly got ready and started the journey outside on that gorgeous and sunny April Sunday morning. Just over 3 blocks away was a favorite breakfast diner that Kennedy and I used to go to a lot our first of marriage. I was feeling ambitious, nostalgic and ready to have this baby so off we went! I laugh because I can only imagine what the people driving by thought. Here’s this trio walking slowly with a pregnant woman stopping every few minutes to sway and moan.
We finally get to the restaurant and of course I had to. Lucky for us, the bathroom is in the basement so I slowly begin to make my way down the stairs after I put in the breakfast order. I must’ve been down there awhile because Kennedy came to check on me. As I started walking up the stairs I felt the lower pressure sensation like the need to poop. Which in the case of being 8 cm, that could only mean that baby had moved down further and I needed to get my booty back to the birth center. We paid and took our food to go and my track/soccer athlete hubby took off running to get our vehicle as my mom and I started walking back.
We arrived to the birth center with a tub already mostly filled with warm water. I jumped in and relaxed although things seemed to get more intense with the back labor. Shortly after, I felt a pop and noticed my bag of waters released. It was then that we noticed a light meconium staining. Meconium can sometimes be an indicator of stress on the baby but it can also be normal, esp being later term at 41 weeks. My midwife wasn’t too worried as heart tones seemed great.
The back labor intensified and at one point my midwife showed Kennedy how to do the double hip squeeze. It wasn’t the same as when she did it, which looking back, it would have been the perfect place for a doula to take over!
This transition time was so incredibly hard. I remember thinking, “how do I make this stop and get out of here?!” I started I feeling the slight urge to push although it was only towards the end of the contraction. My midwife did a check and I had a small lip of cervix left. She asked if I wanted to let it naturally slip away or if I wanted her to hold it back while I pushed baby’s head past it. I needed to be done, so I asked her to hold it. We did about 2 contractions worth of her holding to back while I pushed. Baby’s head got past the lip and I pushed another contraction and his head came out. At that point she unlooped the nuchal cord from around his neck and then noticed his face turtle back. The face turtling back is a major sign that shoulders weren’t releasing and she asked me to get out of the tub. I was helped out while the midwife had her hand placed over Elias’ head so it wouldn’t be accidentally bumped as I moved over the edge of the tub.
My midwife had me standing and leaning way over (Gaskin maneuver) as she tried to maneuver Elias’ shoulders out. I was instructed to keep pushing. My mom started crying and praying and then I started praying too. Finally his shoulders released. The second midwife had already arrived and placed warm blankets on the floor while my first midwife placed Elias on them as she began resuscitation. I now know that it’s normal for shoulder dystocia babies to be stunned and have a little harder time transitioning to take the first breath. He was connected to a still pulsating umbilical cord that was giving him oxygen from a mama standing over him who was connecting him to a lot of prayers. After what seemed forever, he finally took his breath and we all took one then too.
My midwife handed him to me for skin to skin contact then helped me onto the bed for us to rest and deliver the placenta. The placenta was ready to come and I felt nervous by all the pressure when my midwife said, “it’s not as big and there’s no bones!” Again, this confidence in my birthing space helped me push out the placenta. She asked if I wanted to save it and I looked at Kennedy and we both agreed after that experience we would do the encapsulation we had been discussing for awhile. Next she checked for repairs and surprisingly, I needed no stitches!
Things settled down, my body rushed with the most incredible high feeling of the postpartum hormonal cocktail. I was on cloud 9 and I finally got to chill and focus on falling in love with my son. I looked down and he looked up at me in awe with wide alert eyes and an open mouth- like I was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. I then noticed this striking patch of gray at the front of his head. This little man had a lightning bolt in his dark hair. We later called him Rogue baby.
We had a pretty easy rest of the stay at the birth center. All was well, we went home at the 4 hour mark and took a long amazing nap in our own bed before big sister came to meet little brother.
Looking back, I’m incredibly thankful. Thankful for the sweet little moments in labor. Thankful that I chose the birth location that I did. Thankful for the birth team that surrounded me and affirmed my choices. Thankful that I had an incredibly skilled midwife who handled an emergency quickly, without panic, episiotomy or broken clavicle to baby. Thankful for my safe and healthy 9 pound 11 ounce boy that was perfect.
While watching Bird Box for the second time on New Years Day with some friends, one friend asked, “Why do Malorie and Olympia start labor at the same time?” My birth nerd self was able to excitedly share a theory as to why.
“You do realize now that there is NOTHING you cannot do.”
I recently overheard this statement said to a woman during the golden hour after delivering her breeched son vaginally. It was said to her by her provider.
This statement goes beyond birth as it can speak to different areas of life. There’s nothing too scary or new that you cannot walk through and come out on the other side. Seasons of disappointment, victory over trials, new beginnings, it’s all apart of the journey. Your birth…your life doesn’t have to be perfect or always go according to plan in order to believe in yourself.
We live in a culture of fear. Fear of missing out (hello, FOMO anyone?!), fear of failure, fear of pain, fear of change, fear of the unknown…fear in general. Many fears can manifest in our bodies, the building up of anxiety and the increase of stress hormones. Positive words, positive thinking, positive touch all play a part in reducing the stress and increasing the oxytocin which is the comfort, love and trust hormone in your body. Which is why this provider’s verbalized belief in this other woman’s body was so moving.
Take away points:
-build a birth team that speaks life, that helps draw out the hope and confidence that’s inside of you. It’s okay to have moments of fear and doubt, and that’s why surrounding yourself with those know birth and believe in your capabilities is crucial. Birth is intense. No matter which way your child decides to arrive. That same birth team will be with you through up and down… the easy and the hard moments.
-believe in yourself. You can do this. Your body innately knows how.
-You, my friend, are powerful.
Recently I’ve been asked a lot of questions on testing GBS+ and what that means for placenta consumption. Here’s additional information to help you make a more informed decision for you and your family.
Am I able to encapsulate my placenta if I test positive for GBS?
Yes! A GBS positive test result is not a contraindication for encapsulation unless there is an active infection in birthing parent or baby immediately following birth. Providers test at around 36 weeks for GBS colonization in the vagina/rectum and 1 in 4 women will test positive. Testing positive for colonization does not mean testing positive for an active infection in your baby (which occurs post birth) which is a lot more rare, especially after the use of antibiotics during labor.
Birth Twin Cities maintains a high standard of practice that prepares placentas in a separate at home work space, requires the TCM (steam method) and dehydrates at 160 degrees. This method follows food preparation and blood borne pathogen safety guidelines and is effective in reducing bacterial counts, including potential Group B Strep.
What’s the bad rap with placenta encapsulation and testing GBS+?
Last summer the CDC released a single case where a baby was infected at birth and then reinfected later. The mother tested negative for GBS during pregnancy (however her status changed by the time birth occurred) and therefore did not receive antibiotics during labor. The baby contracted GBS, an active infection formed and was treated with antibiotics. The hospital released the placenta and the encapsulator improperly prepared the placenta using the raw method and dehydrated it only at 115 degrees (it should not have been dehydrated under 160 degrees to effectively kill bacteria). The baby became reinfected and had to receive a second dose of antibiotics. Thankfully the baby fully recovered. Additional tests showed that the placenta pills tested positive for Group B Strep while it’s important to note, the breast milk tested negative for Group B Strep. The CDC recommended that placenta encapsulation should be avoided however it did not point out a link between the pills and reinfection or explain how baby was reinfected.
-How was the baby reinfected with GBS in this case?
The case isn’t clear since GBS was not found in breastmilk but it may have been from the mother touching the improperly prepared pills that were not up to food prep standards and then touching the baby. Others in the home may have had GBS colonization on their skin and then passed on to baby (as per the CDC pointing out).
Takeaways from this study are:
1) If there is an active infection post birth, encapsulation should not happen. And we already know that… Birth Twin Cities will not encapsulate placentas from birth persons/babies that have chorio or an active infection from GBS.
2) CDC case notes that the placenta in question may not have been dehydrated at a high enough temperature to reduce bacterial counts. That’s why at Birth Twin Cities we encapsulate at 160 degrees and steam any placentas from persons who test positive for Group B Strep during pregnancy as an additional safety precaution.
3) Group B Strep has not been found in breast milk, therefore the assumption that GBS can be passed from mother to baby via breast milk is inaccurate according to the information we have available to us.
4) Proper hygiene and hand sanitization is necessary, especially around newborns as potential reinfection may have been from other persons in home who had GBS on their skin.
If you test positive for GBS (and do not have an active infection) and you chose to encapsulate your placenta, you can be confident in Birth Twin Cities’ high standard of preparation which includes a separate at home work space, quality sterilization practices, steaming (212 degrees) and dehydrating your placenta at 160 degrees which is the requirement for food preparation safety.
We have a lot we can learn from nature. A week ago today I visited a friend who had a baby goat born in last Sunday’s snowstorm at some point. Twin goats showed up the previous weekend to the surprise of my friend who didn’t even know the mama goat was pregnant! Throughout my personal journey of motherhood, that has so easily transitioned into birth work and supporting families, I’ve continuously been comforted (and always amazed) to know that nature is REALLY good at birth. It’s my hope that birthing parents can gain confidence as they see that birth happens all around them. Birth is a natural part of life. And it’s normal.
I recently stumbled upon this research article showing how dates are a magical superfood for labor preparation. A study at Jordan University of Science and Technology showed women who ate 6 dates per day in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy had:
-higher cervical dilation upon admission to birth location (3.5cm vs 2 cm).
-less premature rupture of membranes (83% vs 60%).
-higher rate of spontaneous labor (96% vs 79%).
-less use of pitocin (28% vs 47%)
Last but not least, a shorter 1st stage of labor time!! 8.5 hours compared to 15.1 hours to go from 0-10cm!!
The moral of the story is that consuming dates towards the end of pregnancy can be a major game changer in labor. And c’mon, we all want that “dream” labor, am I right?
Hands down – it’s the tradition of every year on my kid’s birthday we eat where we went while I was in the labor. For example, with my oldest I was first following the no eating in labor policy at the hospital, so my mom and husband ordered in Davanni’s pizza. With my 2nd, we were at the birth center, went for a walk to grab breakfast at a local breakfast diner (at the recommendation of our midwife) and came back to the birth center to have our baby roughly an hour later. I make it a point to tell my kids their birth stories on their birthday and we give a toast of blessings and love over their life and share why we are so thankful for them. It’s my FAVORITE. They’re my favorite.
What’s the last book you read?
Demons and Angels by Dan Brown. I read it on the airplane on my way to Italy at the recommendation of a fellow birth worker who lived in Rome (my Rome doula). I’m in a monthly book club so I’m always excited to see what new topics and books we will read.
What’s a secret talent?
I sing and play the piano. I used to do some songwriting in college as well. As a kid, it was always my dream to be a performer like Selena.
Birth Twin Cities is excited to announce a new partnership with a Minnesota based organization – One Strong Mama!
One Strong Mama is an online program designed specifically for women during their pregnancy and postpartum period. The blend of exercise and education emphasize core strength, pelvic floor strength, and breathing in preparation for birth and postpartum recovery. This program offers training, tips, and videos for the everyday woman so that she can have her best pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. And the best part – it’s attainable for anyone at any stage of their journey with no prior fitness experience necessary!
If interested in learning more, use the link below to get more information about the program.