Black Women Breastfeeding: Obstacles and Motivation

by Isreal Jean Holland

If you spend any time on social medial, you’d have no idea that black women nurse their children just like white women do. Most of the images you see are those of white moms and their kids. In most movies it’s always the white granola mom whipping it out in the park, at the café and at church. There are magazine covers, movies, and more all focused on white women nursing. This is a shame because black women nurse their children too.

Historically, black women were the wet nurses for the white masters’ children. This caused them to end up neglecting their own children. This fact has left a lot of women of color questioning whether or not they want to nurse at all. You see, we don’t want anyone to think of us as subservient. However, nothing is better in life than serving your child in this manner. No matter how much infant formula has improved over the years, there is still nothing better than what God has made for your baby. This National Breastfeeding Month, let’s go over why mother’s milk is best.

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Mother’s milk is full of nutrients for your baby. What’s more is that those nutrients are specifically designed and created just for your baby. The design is so amazing that your body will produce exactly the type of milk your baby needs if he’s sick, healthy or going through a growth spurt. Breast milk, according to The Lancet is actually “very specialized medicine” created just for your child. Many women report the milk changing texture or color when their baby has a cold or is vaccinated.

Even though the milk is individually designed, any mother’s milk can nourish another baby successfully. Donated mother’s milk keeps the babies in neonatal units healthy. It does wonders for the babies and is often thought of as the only reason these special babies grow and get healthy. Think on that for a moment. Even highly funded neonatal units use breast milk to save the babies. That says something. There are even ingredients in breast milk that we don’t fully understand and cannot duplicate in the lab.

Today, black women don’t have the same blocks to giving their own children this highly nutritious food like they did in the past. However, there are still forces that try to interfere in the education of women about nursing. For example, anytime a woman signs up for W.I.C. she’s often given free formula. Many formula companies often target women of color in poor neighborhoods because they assume they’ll get W.I.C. to pay for the formula.  

As a Black American Jewish woman from D.C brought up in a not so great neighborhood, I can vouch for the fact that women like me have to overcome a lot of obstacles and stigma to succeed in one of the most natural acts a woman can do. I know, because I am part of the first generation of black American moms to breastfeed in my family. Breastfeeding isn’t supported or encouraged and those in authority seem to be doing everything that they can to stop black women from being successful at nursing. I want to change that.

I believe that we can get more women to nurse by showing more images of black women nursing, fighting the powers that be by encouraging breast feeding education in inner cities and lower middle class neighborhoods and right in the W.I.C. office. If nursing starts as the norm, the thing one does unless there is a serious problem, more black women like me will nurse their children. Nursing has proved to improve I.Q., keep kids healthier, lower obesity rates and the act itself has shown to even improve self-esteem. When you know the truth, why wouldn’t every mother who can nurse?

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Isreal Jean Holland is a Black American Jewish woman from a bad neighborhood in Southeast DC who is part of the first generation of Black American women in her family to nurse and she wants to empower black women to take back their bodies and nurse their young regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances. You can learn more about Israel at www.breastfeedingincolor.com.
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Not Having Enough But Still Being Enough

by LaTia Wilson Barrett 

Note from the editor: This guest post from a Leaky is sharing one person’s journey through breastfeeding. Her story isn’t a prediction for yours but like your story, her story matters. For those that can relate to LaTia’s story, we hope you find encouragement and support to know you are not alone, for those who can’t relate, may empathy and understanding be your guide.

LaTia Wilson Battett article- June 2016 pt.1

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was ecstatic. My mind was instantly flooded with all the hopes and dreams I had for myself as a parent. I was excited for the chance to experience that first flutter, first kick, first… everything. One of my first thoughts about giving birth, well, following wincing at some of the stories I’d heard about the process, was about the experience of breastfeeding. So many of the parents in the various online groups I was a part of talked about how much of a bonding time breastfeeding was, and how much their sweet newborn took to it right away, and how much pride they had in being able to exclusively breastfeed their baby. I read these kinds of stories with a kind of wonder and glee that one feels when thinking about the magic of Christmas. I mean, it all sounded so idyllic and perfect. I never had any reason to think that things wouldn’t be just as magical for me. As it turns out, it was not at all magical for me. I had always assumed that everyone could breastfeed their child if they chose, and it never occurred to me that I would have an issue. But I did. And it hurt. A lot. It shattered me, until I was able to redefine for myself what it meant to be a mother.

My daughter was born at 36 weeks and 3 days via emergency cesarean after 32 hours of labor and 1 hour of pushing. I had been induced due to severe pre-eclampsia, and by the time my daughter was actually born, I was too exhausted to fully enjoy the moment. But here she was, all 6 pounds 14 ounces of her, looking just as harried as I felt. But she was here and not too much worse for wear. While I was in the recovery area, one of the first things I asked for was a breast pump. I knew that if my daughter and I were going to be separated even for a just a few hours that I would need to try to get things started on my own.

However, a few hours turned into 5 days. Over the course of the days that we were separated I pumped, even during the 2 days that I spent in the ICU due to respiratory distress. I never got the “rock hard”/full feeling, I never woke up leaking, but I continued to pump, assuming that I was one of those women who took a little longer than a couple days for her “milk to come in”. I was so happy the first day I saw a few drops, and cried happy tears (and took pictures!) the first day I was able to pump a measurable amount (about 10mls)! I very clearly recall the day that I finally was able to put my daughter to breast. I cried because it was one of the moments I had been looking forward to the most since finding out I was pregnant. We were both tired and more than a little worn due to our experience, but we were finally together and all was right with the world.

LaTia Wilson Battett article- June 2016 pt.2

After 10 days in the hospital, we were finally released to go home. My milk still hadn’t “come in”, but maybe I was just one of those who was a little later than everyone else. I mean, I did have an emergency cesarean, an ICU stay, and was really sick following her birth. But, it was going to happen any day now, right? Right?? As it turns out, I did have milk, but it just wasn’t enough to feed my baby. It never dawned on me that I could actually have supply issues and that I wouldn’t be able to feed my daughter.

We are never really told what to do when breastfeeding doesn’t work out, aside from, “take fenugreek… pump more… drink more water…” But what about those of us who have serious supply issues that a simple cup of tea or oatmeal cookie just won’t fix? Why aren’t more women educated about what CAN happen, and how to address it? Why are so many of us made to feel like failures and told if we just “put baby to breast more often” or “pump more often” things will work out just fine? I spent many months and lots of money chasing my dream of breastfeeding my baby, when I really should have been more focused on just enjoying her.

LaTia Wilson Battett article- June 2016 pt.3

At the height of my breastfeeding journey, I produced roughly 2 ounces of milk PER DAY. My self-worth for quite some time was measured in ounces. It wasn’t until I developed tendonitis which required I stop pumping altogether around 5 months that I realized that my daughter loved me whether I gave her breastmilk or formula. She would smile just as bright and laugh just as long. She loved ME, not what my breasts could or couldn’t give her. And while I cried on the last day that I gave her my breast milk, I know that she has gotten not only what’s best for her, which is a full tummy, but I’ve also gotten what’s best for me, which is less stress. I still think about “what ifs”, and all the things I maybe could have done differently to produce more milk, and I still feel a slight pang whenever I see a parent nursing their child, but I know that our journey turned out “right” for us, and that’s just fine with me.
 

Concerned you may have low supply? Go here to learn more about what’s normal, what’s not, signs of low supply, what you can do, and when to seek help.

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LaTia's headshot- June 2016

 

LaTia lives in Maryland with her wife and daughter. She loves all things food and Disney, and tries to combine the two as often as possible. When not at Disney (or planning a Disney trip), she is a WAHM, babywearing educator, postpartum doula, and singer.
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How to Help Your Kids Love and Connect with Their Father After Divorce (Even When You HATE HIM)

by Shannon Streger

I will be the first to tell you, I HATE divorce!  I never thought I would find myself divorced, single at 35, whilst raising 3 kids under 8; but life is unpredictable.  There is a LOT of judgement out there when it comes to divorce. I know I’ve dealt with my fair share of critics, especially having walked through this as not only a Christian, but also, a pastor’s wife.

People told me I was “ruining my life”, that I was likely, now “damned to hell”, and the real zinger, “I had selfishly ruined my kids FOREVER”.  And, all this to scare me into staying in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship I had worked hard to keep together for over 17 years. I realized that with hard work and openness, my kids didn’t have to be “ruined” and infact, they could very well thrive in a two-home, co-parenting arrangement.

One of the first steps was coming to an agreement with their father about how that would look.  He was in agreeance we needed to work on having positive exchange and open dialog about our children, especially in front of them.  They needed to see we were on the “same team” when it came to parenting. I would like to share with you some steps I have learned towards having a healthy co-parent relationship that gives your children space to feel connected to their father, while still allowing you to “move on.”

*It is important to note: these steps may not be possible in every situation. If your ex is unwilling to work with you, the fact is you will only be able to do so much and if your ex is not a safe person for your children to be around at all then your path will look completely different.  

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Provide a means for them to communicate with him directly..and often.

In this day in age of smartphones and FaceTime, connecting face to face with someone is easier than ever.  While at times I find it tempting to discourage phone calls for the sake of busyness and staying on routine, this is a lifeline that could be crucial to showing your child you will not stand in the way of them building a strong relationship with their other parent.  It’s not always convenient but it’s important none the less.  We often will do facetime calls from the car on the way home from school or they take turns on the couch talking to Dad while I make dinner.  

TIP: Avoid calls when they are emotionally vulnerable such as bedtime. Sometimes you may feel that an exception is appropriate but be aware that this could potentially be upsetting.

You may opt for a regular phone call vs. facetime, particularly in the beginning.  I was given this advice early in my separation.  Seeing their other parent but not physically being with them can be confusing for young children.  At times too, when emotions are high, it can be a manipulative exchange and in turn will create an unhealthy relationship for the parent and child.

 

Share stories and point out commonalities.

As you find yourself healing from a separation and/or divorce, it is tempting to rid yourself of all things that include or remind you of your former partner.  You may even catch yourself becoming irritated at the very mention of their name.  To help my children feel connected to their Dad, I began making a point of sharing stories or pointing out common interests.  My kids favorite story about their Dad is “the roach story”.  I’m pretty sure my re-account gets longer and more dramatic with every telling.  They also love when we talk about where they got some of their distinctives such as hair and eye color.

TIP: You never want your child to feel that because they may remind you of your ex that you are rejecting them. Encourage them that the traits that they share with their other parent are ones you love, even if you don’t love it in your ex.

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Encourage them to celebrate special days and help provide a means for them to do so (birthdays, religious holidays, Father’s day, etc..).

Kids love giving gifts as much as they enjoy receiving them. Perhaps with little ones, give them each a certain amount to spend on an individual gift and give suggestions on things you know your ex-husband will enjoy. If they are older, this is a great opportunity to teach savings and budgeting, allowing them to plan their own giving.  But, better yet, a homemade gift goes just as far, if not further. Remember, this is their father, and gifts are a great way to express love and build a deeper connection.  Allow them to brainstorm what their father enjoys, his interests, hobbies, etc.

TIP: Let them own the gift as being just from them, not from you, no matter how much you did to make it happen. And then let it go, don’t expect your ex to make the same effort and don’t stew on that because this is about your child and their relationship with their other parent. You’re doing this for your child, not your ex.

 

He isn’t JUST their father; he is ALSO their parent.

Make a point to keep the other parent informed, whether that be phone, email, counselor, or direct communication from their school of successes and difficulties your children may be experiencing. You may now be leading your household alone, but it doesn’t remove their other parent from helping to guide and teach. For instance If your child is having a tough time making good choices, or is struggling with their friend connections at school, give their parent an opportunity to speak into that situation as well and address disciplinary problems. This will further cement the fact that as a two-home family, Mom and Dad are still “on the same playing field” when it comes to their parenting roles.

Tip: Do not take this as an opportunity to blame-shift or use the other parent as “the bad guy”.  This will jeopardize the co-parenting relationship and create a toxic environment for everyone! Also, do not make disciplinary decisions for the other parent. For instance, do not set restrictions that apply to their time with the other parent. Allow Dad to set his own consequences for his home.

We all worry about our kids and want them to thrive as they develop into the amazing people they have the potential to become. Even through divorce, your children can and will flourish and develop normally emotionally, and having a strong plan in place will help make that possible. This isn’t realistic in every situation, and that’s ok! Your children still have a strong future ahead of them, with your help. You’ve got this!


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Shannon Streger, a work at home mom, is the project manager for The Leaky Boob. She is a (not so proud) native Houstonian.  Truly the most un-Texan Texan you’ll meet. She has 3 amazing children who keep her days full! She has a degree in Kinesiology and Psychology from Houston Baptist University. Recently, she began the certification process to become a birth doula and IBCLC.  In her free time, Shannon enjoys road trips, anything outdoors with her kids, and 90’s movies. 

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10 Ways to Love Yourself, Love Your Life, and Not Lose Your Mind

by Brianne Martin

The alarm rings, I jump up, get dressed, run to the kitchen, make coffee and breakfast, wake the kids, prepare their lunch, pick out their clothes, and send the them off to school. In the midst of the morning madness, I make sure my husband doesn’t forget the leftovers from the night before, and a hot cup of coffee to go. That is just a glimpse to the start of my day. The chaos continues throughout the day with feedings, diapering, meal prep, clean up, dinner time and baths. As moms our jobs are never done and with hectic schedules it is easy to forget one very important thing. Ourselves!!!

Just recently I found myself sitting in my bed, but not in dreamland anticipating the sound of the alarm. I was sitting there crying my eyes out. I let myself go. I lost my identity. I was mom, and no longer had a name that I once belong to. I stopped caring for myself which basically had a domino effect on my family. Since I wasn’t taking care of myself, I slowly slipped into a dark bitter place. I was no longer enjoying my children and I was no longer my happy self. My attitude was affecting my children and husband in a negative way. My relationships with them were becoming unhealthy.

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To understand what was going on internally with me, I had to ask myself some important questions. Why did I stop caring for myself? Why did I put everyone else’s needs before mine? I think as mothers, we tend to naturally put our kids first. We tend to feel guilty when we do things for ourselves, but I am here to tell you to push the guilt aside! If you don’t fill your cup and shower yourself with some love, you are going to grow weary and become bitter. I know many of the reasons I didn’t do things for myself was due to financial stress and the cost to treat myself to something so luxurious as a spa day.

I decided to put together a short list of things you can do for free or almost free to fill your cup!

  1. Take a hot bubble bath or shower- Be sure during this time you are kid free and totally alone. It is important to find peace to regroup for another full day of adventures. (If it requires some bonding time with Netflix and your kids, it is worth it.)
  2. Give yourself a pedicure or manicure- soak your feet or paint your nails in silence or while listening to your favorite tunes. (Netflix can help with this too.)
  3. Barter babysitting with a friend- this will allow your friend some free time and you some free time and there is no cost involved for childcare. Us moms have to look out for each other!
  4. Read a book- turn off the television, close the laptop, and put down the phone. Get lost in a book for an hour while sipping on your favorite beverage. And don’t fret about the Lego pile that has magically appeared in the living room.
  5. Write in a journal- take a few minutes to write down things that are bothering you or things that make you happy. I find writing helps me feel free of things that may have been weighing me down. Doing this when kids have just settled for sleep even before doing the dishes or cleaning can help clear your mind.
  6. Get outside- go for a walk or jog. Breathe the fresh air, stop and look at all that Mother Nature has created around you.
  7. Borrow a fitness video from a friend- I know exercise is not for everyone, but it really is important for your health. It will help with stress and we know as moms we deal with SOME stress.
  8. If you like it and you wear it, put on make-up – sometimes make-up can be that added touch to lift our spirits.
  9. Get dressed up- take off the yoga pants and put on something that makes you feel pretty.
  10. Take a nap- If the kids are napping, leave the dishes and dirty floors, and climb in the bed and rest. Sleep really helps us in so many ways.

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It isn’t always easy finding time for yourself, but it is important to make the time recognizing that what that looks like for one person may be totally different from the next. It is important to love and care for yourself because in turn you can better love and care for your children. As moms the most important people in our life are our children and significant others. For us to truly love them, we need to love ourselves. Loving myself doesn’t come easy, but I will continue to work at it every day to be a better mom and wife.

You can find more ideas on ways to nurture the nurturer with a multi scenery approach here, when you’re in need of an oxygen mask here, 22 more ideas for taking care of you here, and that point where you have to do something here.


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Brianne Martin, a work at home mom, is the brand coordinator for The Leaky Boob. She has 3 children so her days are always full of activities and adventures. She studied American Sign Language at the University of South Florida. In her free time, Brianne enjoys reading and spending time with her kids and husband. They currently reside in sunny Florida. 

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#MyStoryMatters; Breast Cancer

by Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson- headshot

Nursing wasn’t easy for me but I knew it was what I wanted for me and my daughter. I’m 32 years old and my daughter was born almost 2 years ago. I’m so fortunate that I have been able to stay home with her full time since she was born. When she came to this world, I went ALL IN! I nursed exclusively on demand, I gave up dairy, and I very comfortably nursed anywhere I was. I loved nursing and so did my daughter!

Around April of this year something changed. I was feeling like maybe it was time to wean, and ultimately made it happen. Three weeks later, during a self exam, I felt a lump. I first called my OBGYN, and then a breast surgeon (I have a strong family history, and have seen one since I was 27). Neither had any sense of urgency, and were quick to dismiss me as I had just stopped nursing. I was told that breasts of a nursing mother are too lumpy, and milk would distort imaging. But I knew something was wrong. My mother, 2x breast cancer survivor, made one phone call to her doc and I was in the next day.

Four days before Mother’s Day, I got the call. One month later I had bilateral mastectomies. Six weeks after that, CHEMO. Breast cancer does not discriminate! I can’t tell you how many incredible young survivors I have met through this journey. What you said really hit home with me. Enough soup cans with pretty pink ribbons, and No Bra Day? Women don’t need to see beautiful models showing their brastraps in support of awareness.  Real, raw stories are what they need.

Ashley Thompson, breast cancer, guest post, Leaky to Leaky

 

Anyway… I’m done with chemo and now cancer free! I’m still in the process of reconstruction and I will likely be treating/preventing this the rest of my life, but it will be a long life! I am still mourning the life, and the body I had before, but am so grateful for the future! Children are so resilient and my daughter has been so amazing through it all! I miss nursing, and I hate that I will never nurse again.  Although my breasts are gone, nothing can take those memories away. Not even cancer!

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Adoption and Breastfeeding – A #MyStoryMatters

by Meaghan McKracken

It could be said that my adoption story centered around breastmilk. A reality most wouldn’t expect in an adoption story but adoption stories, like all stories, are unique in their own right. This is mine.

If you’re on this site you probably already know that the realities of breastfeeding can be difficult. For many women, concerns about sufficient supply, struggles with engorgement, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, and more can turn what may be natural into what feels like an entirely foreign experience. An experience further complicated when almost exclusively pumping, grief of separation, and a new but essential relationship with adoptive parents. As a birthmom, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be set up for success. In reality, feeding my little boy naturally became the success of my adoption. 

Allow me to explain.

Open adoption is still adapting; still evolving. What it looks like today is vastly different from how it was even 10 years ago. Still, there are holes in the process because when you’re dealing with complicated human emotions and trying circumstances, finding a balance is an ever shifting and unique challenge. Stress, anxiety, and doubt from both birth mothers and adoptive parents are a reality of the journey. But there is also joy; so much joy. 

Meaghan and her baby

Breastfeeding became my test. Incorporating a breastfeeding plan would mean a very gentle transition for the baby and myself. There would be no sharp and severed moment of goodbye. Everything would be slowed down and transition of care would be tapered. I felt this would reduce huge amounts of stress and trauma for my little one and myself. If I could find a couple who was cooperative and willing to take an inclusive approach in involving me in the care of our child, allowing my milk for feedings I felt it would be better for all of us. Such an arrangement would fulfill my desire for real openness between our two families. If they valued nourishing my son through human milk, specifically the milk that was intended for him, I could trust them to put his health first in the future no matter what their anxieties. It was the perfect and natural way to unite us, just as it is the perfect and natural way to unite moms and babies.

My adoption agency shared my specific birth plan with their hundred plus adoptive couples, and over half replied with a very strong yes. When I finally picked my adoptive couple I was blown away by the level of inclusion they were prepared for. Working for my son’s health became a common cause for us to focus on together. A truly baby focused adoption. 

Rowan was born September 28th, weighing 6.8lbs and just 7 weeks later, he already almost weighed 10lbs. I nursed and pumped a bit in the hospital after the pregnancy. The adoptive mother used SNS (supplemental nursing system/at the breast with supplemental nursing system) with my milk so she could also have the experience of nursing and bonding, reducing nipple confusion. Once again I felt supported and valued in a practical way that was good for my son. I stayed with them after my hospital stay to establish my milk supply and to pump milk for them to get storage going for them.

Meaghan's adoptive parents

It was so fulfilling to see them build their family, to share in the happy side of adoption, and to feel accepted as an advocate for my child’s well being. I had a very primal and protective instinct to nurture and care for this sweet little one that was not only met but encouraged. It was simply love without ownership or possessiveness. And truly, what was there to fear? Bonding? Affection? Why would we want to protect our children from experiences like these?

I signed the papers a little over a week after giving birth feeling fully confident I would see my son soon. That all of us were on the same page about what story we were writing for our family. So far it has been a joy and an adventure; the most beautiful work I’ve done in my life. 

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What do you think of breastfeeding and adoption? 

Do you have any experience with breastfeeding and adoption?

Share in the comments below your thoughts on adoption and breastfeeding.

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If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Meaghan's headshot
Meaghan McKracken is a 32 year old mother of two. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three year old. The adoptive couple of her youngest son also lives close by and they see each other on a weekly basis. Meaghan is a massage therapist as well as currently developing her skills as a Pilates instructor.
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A Poem on Postpartum Depression; A #MyStoryMatters

by Melissa Hoos

depression and motherhood

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. Pregnancy gave me a wonderful break from depressive episodes (my psychiatrist would tell me, just get pregnant! It’ll solve all your mental health issues!), but after my son was born, the relief didn’t last long. The hormonal high lasted a few short, awesome days, and then the baby blues set in. My husband went back to work, and I spent that day’s midwife appointment sobbing on her couch – partly because I just couldn’t stop crying, ever, but also because she said the words I was hoping to never hear her say: I think you need to consider going back on medication.

I’d worked SO hard to get off the medication so I could get pregnant, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed if I took the same medication again. So I was determined to overcome PPD/PPA without it. My husband took some more time off work, we made a plan, and my mom came to help for a while. It worked, for a few weeks, until it didn’t anymore. 

I knew I loved my son. I knew I could take good care of him. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was just not good enough to be a mother, and he would be better off without me. He wasn’t a colicky baby, and it wasn’t very often that he just cried and cried. My inner monologue often went along the lines of “what kind of mother gets angry at her baby? He’s just tired/hungry/wet and now I’ve made him scared too!” 

No matter how calm and rational I made my thoughts, I just could not translate that into calm and rational actions. It was like being stuck inside my own head, watching someone else pick up my baby with rough hands, hearing someone else say to my baby “what the f*ck do you WANT??” And then the next instant it was me again, sobbing and hating myself because how could I have lost it again? Nursing him after those awful moments was just as much an emotional reset for me as it was for him.

One night as I laid in bed crying, watching my baby in his bed after over an hour of fighting to get him to sleep, I wrote this poem. The first sign of a depressive episode for me has always been the loss of my creative side. I normally love to write, and I decided that despite the fact that I did NOT want to, I needed to. Even if it’s only to unscramble my brain so I could sleep. I let my husband read it in the morning, and I think it was the first time he truly understood how I felt. 

I don’t know exactly what snapped me out of that awful episode. It had been months. I knew the whole time that I should probably stop trying to muscle my way through and just take the damn medication. And then one day, I realized it had been a few days since I last felt out of control. I think, for me, the worst part was the anxiety. I was suddenly able to say to myself, “Hey, if he wakes up, it’ll be okay. I’ll just nurse him back to sleep.” Or, “Hey, if I can’t get him back to sleep, hubby will take a turn and I’ll go get a glass of water.” I started being able to recognize the start of a “bad brain day” and could take self-care measures to prevent another episode from beginning, just like before I was ever pregnant. The cognitive behaviour therapy, anxiety classes, and counselling started coming back to me.

It’s not completely gone now. And since depression and anxiety has been a part of my life for well over a decade, I doubt it ever will be. I don’t know what the next postpartum experience will hold, but I’m writing down ways to cope so that next time, maybe I can bypass a little more of the darkness. Ignoring it just doesn’t work, so I hope that shining a little light on the topic can help someone recognize PPD/PPA in themselves or someone they love, and get the help they need. 

This is my poem

When he’s screaming I can’t 
think and everything starts to look 
red and I just want to
scream right along with 
him, this baby I waited so
long for and asked
God for and 
thank
God
for

Where does my heart 
go when I’m so
angry because it isn’t 
here loving my
son, it is somewhere else and I just
can’t quite reach it

My brain tricks me into
thinking how dare he cry, but he’s just a 
baby and he’s telling me momma I 
need you which these ears fail to
hear with all the 
screaming

I just want to be a good
mother but all I seem to do is 
lose my mind and this isn’t 
me, it isn’t 
me, someone please 
help
me

In the dead of night I watch my baby
sleep in his crib and 
wonder if he will remember the
angry momma or the loving one and the
thought breaks my 
heart because what if he
remembers the
angry one?

He is a piece of me and I
love him fiercely but 
he deserves 
better than
me

God help me

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For more information about postpartum depression visit Postpartum Progress.

  If you’re seeking for advice and guidance, here’s an article on postpartum depression and anxiety.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Melissa Hoos

I’m mama to one amazing 10 month old boy. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder at age 15, I knew I was at a high risk for postpartum depression. 
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Almond Joy Lactation Bars for Leakies

by Carrie Saum

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Truth: I once made these beauties to woo a potential future boss.  And it totally worked. I got the job and my (now former) boss still requests these delightful bites of almond and coconut bliss when we have him over for dinner or head out to his house for a hike. I made them to share with a class a few years ago.  The professor still reminds me that the almond joy bars put me on her radar in a good way, and hounded me for the recipe until I relented.

Mamas, food can be magic.

Of course these worked to woo friends and family over during the holidays, too.  Last year, I made these because I was on a Total Elimination Diet for my nursling during the holidays.  It was not the worst thing that has ever happened to me, but it was definitely not the best, either.  On one hand, I was glad to have a very good reason to say no to all the seasonal treats. On the other hand? NOPE.

I had to adapt and change my original recipe (which you can get here) to stick to my TED.  But I ended up liking these just as much, if not more than my original ones.  Everyone else did, too. Nobody knew that they were eating a healthy treat, and nobody cared.  They almond joy bars were gone in seconds.

This veer a bit from the traditional candy route.  I love sugar as much as the next gal, but I try to limit my intake as much as possible.  So, I opt for things that pack a punch and are legitimately satisfying without being cloyingly sweet or spiking my blood sugar. There are tons of benefits in coconut, which you can read up on here. Plus, it has a natural sweetness that shines on it’s own when handled properly. Combine this with a little flax to boost milk production during a stressful and busy season, and you’re pure gold.  Well, your milk is pure gold at the very least.

Ingredients for bars:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar, (or coconut sugar if you’re looking for a low-glycemic option)
  • 1/2 cup flour, sifted (I use Bob’s Redmill gluten-free blend)
  • 1 Tbsp flax meal (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1  tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 20 drops liquid stevia, or 2 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • a handful of raw almonds

Ingredients for chocolate drizzle:

  • 3 oz 90% cacao chocolate bar
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 15 drops liquid stevia, or 2 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions for bars:

  1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients and stir.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry and pour mixture into 9×13 pyrex glass dish
  4. Evenly place almonds on top of batter
  5. Bake for 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the middle is firm.
  6. Cool completely then cut into bars

Directions for chocolate drizzle:

  1. In a double boiler or microwave, melt chocolate and butter.
  2. Once chocolate and butter are melted, stir in cardamom, vanilla, and sweetener.
  3. Transfer chocolate to small ziploc bag and close.
  4. Cut a tiny piece of the corner of the bag off and drizzle over cooled bars.

Joy to you!

Carrie

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*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

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If you love this recipe, you might like this recipe for this Paleo version of the Almond Joy Barsor Peanut Butter Cookies on Our Stable Table.

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Carrie Saum, headshotCarrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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Pumping And Grief In Adoption – A #MyStoryMatters

by April

To have swollen breasts filled with milk, and no baby to feed is painful, more so in the soul. The loss is magnified when the milk starts to come in, and you are faced with empty arms. Your body won’t let you forget and move on. Your body remembers. The right decision to be made isn’t always the easy one. Sometimes the right decision is difficult. I decided I wouldn’t fight my body.

I asked the adoptive parents if I could pump for them. They may not know this, but the fact they said yes helped me move forward. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose. One would think that pumping would increase the grieving process. In fact, it did the opposite.

Deciding to pump was healing for me as much as is helped the son I placed. I thought perhaps it would be hard to pump. But I loved my son so much I wanted to give him every advantage. I couldn’t give him much. What I could give him was milk. The research has shown the advantages of breast milk over formula. Due to his premature birth, it was needed even more. I decided to set aside my own pain and pump for his parents.

I placed a picture of him on the pump and the first few times, I wept. I think this was healing and cathartic. It started to hurt less and I started to feel that my self-worth wasn’t tied to my past and the only thing I was good for was being a baby carrier for 8 months. I was starting to look at my present and future. The baby I no longer had was being nourished with the milk I was able to provide with the love of his adoptive mother. I had an intermediary deliver the milk. Despite the fact my psyche was slowly healing, emotions were still raw. Seeing the son I placed regularly was not something I needed at that time. Knowing he was being given my breast milk was enough to start closing the mental wounds. It was enough to know he was given the very best nutrition despite being a few miles from me.

April image

My own nutrition and exercise regimen improved. Women already are faced with horrendous body image issues. Multiply that 10 fold after having a baby, and no baby to show for it. Pumping helped me lose the baby weight, eat right after my pregnancy (again, taking care of myself post adoption), which trickled into other areas of my life and become strong in the gym and out of the gym. I was able to face the world with a renewed sense of purpose.

Even though the baby I carried was gone from my arms, he wasn’t just a faint memory. He was real. I had to face it head on while pumping and that made me determined to be as healthy as I could post pregnancy. I did my best during pregnancy while battling hyperemesis gravidarium. Life didn’t end after the baby was delivered. This is so important to remember as birthmother. Life goes on. I had to go on too. Pumping milk reminded me of that, whenever I felt as if there was no future for me. Many people may feel that pumping was a selfless act. If anything, it was also selfish, in a very good way. It was part of my self-care.

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What do you think of breastfeeding and adoption? 

Do you have any experience with breastfeeding and adoption?

Share in the comments below your thoughts on adoption and breastfeeding.

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If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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April headshotApril lives in Chicago, IL with her son and and four pet rats! Post adoption she realized that being strong mentally and physically was important to her well being. She now works as a personal trainer teaching women to strive for more and be more. One of he goals is to combat the bodyshamng that is rampant in print and social media. She loves teaching women to shift focus from looks and the scale and INSTEAD, embrace their strength – whether it’s deadlifting their own bodyweight, swinging a kettlebell for 10 minutes without stopping, or doing their first pullup.

 

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#MyStoryMatters: Adoption ≠ A Better Life, Just A Different One

by Alyssa Ruben

Nobody prepares you for the grief you feel when you sign those relinquishment papers and forever become what society deems a “birthmom”. Nobody prepares you for the reality of your child’s adoptive parents closing what was promised to be an open adoption. 15 years ago, I gave up my oldest child for adoption. Everyday since that day has been a test of my strength because every day I feel weak. A test to my willingness to keep living, because there were many days in the beginning that I had wanted or tried to kill myself from the soul shattering grief that I live with everyday. 

Coercion in the domestic infant adoption industry is real. They feed on the love that mothers have for their children. They look you in the eyes and make you believe that your baby is better off with strangers. Young impressionable women, told over and over again how much better off their baby would be without them. How more money, 2 parents, a college fund, big house, older more established parents equals a better life. 

I was 17 when I discovered I was pregnant, and much to far along to have an abortion. It was a child by that point, in every sense of the word. Both legally, emotionally, and psychologically. I was homeless, bouncing from one friends couch to another. Unsure of where my next meal was coming from, let alone how I was going to keep a baby. Nobody offered solutions. Nobody offered alternatives. Nobody showed me the resources available to me to keep my baby. The family I ended up living with for the majority of the remainder of my pregnancy told me in no uncertain terms that if I choose to keep my baby I would be out on the street. They also didn’t offer my poor naive teenager self any alternatives or resources to help me make an informed choice. Just adoption. Only adoption. 

I distanced myself during the pregnancy. I told myself I was a surrogate carrying someone else’s baby, that he wasn’t mine. That he was never meant for me. I repeated all the crap the adoption agency told me in my head over and over again trying to convince myself that this was the right choice….and for many years it worked. I believed those words. Until I stopped drinking the “Kool-Aid”. Until I took a real look through open eyes at what I had done. What had been done to me, and what I had done to my child. I died the day I signed those relinquishment papers, forever severing my rights to my child. The girl I once was…is gone. She won’t ever come back. The child he should have been is gone too. He will never be who he should have been. I live everyday with a giant piece of my soul missing. Nothing will ever fill that, even with reunion.

I would love to say that promises were kept and my open adoption stayed open. It didn’t. Once they got what they wanted, they closed the adoption. They ran for the hills and never looked back, except for when they wanted to blame my genetics for problems that he has. Never once stopping to consider that it was because he was an adoptee that these problems exist in the first place. 

Holidays are hard, his birthday is even harder. Watching my kids that I’ve raised mourn the loss of their brother that they should have had is gut wrenching. Not being able to ease their pain, because I can’t even ease mine, is soul shattering. Adoption doesn’t just affect the natural parents. It affects everyone. It affects the aunts, the uncles, the grandparents, the raised children and the spouses. His life is not better because I gave him up. And my life is not better because I gave him up. Adoption doesn’t equal a better life. Just a different one. 

There is so much more I could write, and maybe one day I will. But I’ll leave you with this. If you are considering adoption please remember these words. Your situation is temporary. Adoption…adoption is forever. 

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If you are a birthmom or know a birthmom looking for support or a community, On Your feet Foundation is an excellent resource. They have retreats, case management and an amazingly supportive community just for birthmoms.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Alyssa Ruben is a 33 year old doula, CPST-IC, student midwife, placenta encapsulation specialist and stay at home mother to 5 children. 4 that she is raising. She’s an advocate for national midwifery licensure, domestic infant adoption reform and passionate about car seat safety. When she’s not acting as chauffeur, personal chef and official boo boo kisser she enjoys reading, volunteering, and serving and holding space for laboring and pregnant women. She currently resides in Southern Wisconsin with her husband of 14 years and 4 children and one very fat cat. You can follow her on Instagram @squishymommy1.
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