Six Ways To Support Someone With Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustration by Jennie Bernstein

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I can’t tell you the number of times each day we receive messages or have posts in the community group or on The Leaky Boob Facebook page wall from women just beginning to wade into the waters of acknowledging their struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. The numbers, if we tracked them, would be staggering.

But they aren’t surprising.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that 9-16 percent of women who have had a baby will experience postpartum depression. Of those, 41% will go on to have it again after subsequent babies.

Which means chances are strong you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression or has dealt with it in the past.

The American Psychological Association describes the symptoms of PPD thus:

For mothers, PPD can:

  • affect ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear;
  • lead to difficulty in providing developmentally appropriate care to infants;
  • lead to a loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child;
  • be particularly problematic because of the social role adjustments expected of new mothers, which include immediate and constant infant care, redefining spousal and familial relationships, and work role.

The day I knew something was wrong with me was when my second baby was 5 weeks old and I was standing at my kitchen counter, staring blankly into the chocolate milk I was stirring, wishing I could get caught in the whirlpool swirling in my glass. I realized that I was fantasizing about committing suicide in my chocolate milk. That’s nor normal and that’s probably not good, I thought, then I took a drink of the chocolate milk I had just imagined drowning in and numbly turned back to my two children. They needed me, I was the one that was so weak of a person in character that I couldn’t handle it and wanted to die. My thoughts were that I needed to buck up, develop stronger character, and just be a good mom who loved being a good mom.

But I couldn’t try my way out of it. I was certain I was inadequate in every way possible.

The day my husband knew I needed help (he knew something was wrong before then) was when he came home to find me hiding in our closet while the toddler was crying downstairs and the baby was screaming in her bassinet. I had put myself there because I was afraid I was going to hurt my children. Standing above my baby’s bassinet where she was once again screaming, I hadn’t felt sympathy or concern for her, all I had felt was overwhelmed, failure, and the desire to throw her against the wall. Feelings that were so foreign to me and so strong that I became afraid for my children, afraid of what I could be capable of. I hadn’t even known I was capable of feeling that way in the first place. My husband called my midwife and appointment was set that would lead to other appointments and some medications.

Coming through that time was like being caught in a whirlpool, fighting a rushing current that threatened to suck me down. Sometimes I didn’t have the fight for it. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn’t but found the fight inspired by my children, my husband, and my friends. In the beginning, that was often the only way I found the fight.

Telling the people around us was a game changer. We were in a transitional time of our life, having just started being a part of a new community a few months before. Our previous community had splintered, we had just moved, and we felt disconnected from friends and never had been very close with our families and I just lost one of the closest family members I had to dementia then death the very day my daughter was born. My family, so far away, was already dealing with a hurt and loss so big I didn’t want to be responsible for adding to it. Hundreds, even thousands of miles and relational fractures separated us from the people in our life that previously had been our people. We were just starting to find that again and I was terrified that this depression, this overwhelming, all consuming inner oppression would drive them away and destroy my family’s chance at having a place to belong and people who cared.

Then something amazing happened. Those people cared anyway.

A small group of friends who we played in a band with and did shared faith with dared to care. Without us even telling them at first, they began to push into our lives a bit, even when I pushed them away. Eventually, we opened up and shared our struggle.

It was then they all grabbed an oar and began paddling my lifeboat against the current of that whirlpool even when I couldn’t. They helped save me. They also helped me find my own paddle not only for myself but to jump in and help when I have friends in the same boat.

As a society we don’t talk enough about mental health and postpartum depression gets little more than a checklist run through with our care providers. So much shame, stigma, and fear comes with admitting struggles with mental health even when we know that it isn’t an issue of good vs bad character. For those of us in the midst depression it can be difficult to express what we need, we may not even know ourselves. For those of us loving someone in the midst of depression it can be difficult to know what our loved ones need, how to be there, or how to help. For those of us with friends and acquaintances we suspect may be floundering, it can be difficult to know. I’m still learning but here is what my friends have taught me in truly supporting someone dealing with mental illness:

  1. Acceptance. Don’t argue that they don’t feel the way they feel, don’t point out they seem to be ok. Accepting what I admitted was what I was experiencing helped me accept it as well. That is the first step for getting better.
  2. Listen. Even if they don’t have anything to say. Even if they do and it takes them a while to figure out how to get it out.
  3. Wait. You may think you know exactly what they need but jumping in with all your suggestions to fix it can be crippling for the one who is not well. Wait with them, along side them but don’t tell them every idea you have for how they can better. Please be quiet about your oils, the diet suggestions, your faith belief promises, your books, your conviction that if they just count their blessings everything will be better, your recommendations for fresh air, and to get moving. Just wait with them. Be with them.
  4. Be there. One of the many sucky parts of depression and anxiety is that it often tells the sufferer they aren’t worthy, aren’t good enough for love. Messages of inadequacy may flood their spirit and in attempting to avoid that pain, they may attempt to avoid the people that want to be there through it and beyond. Be there anyway. Gently, patiently, persistently. Respect your boundaries while you be there and don’t tolerate abuse, but if you can continue being there even when you are pushed away, you may very well help them anchor themselves enough to fight against the current of depression and anxiety that tells them they aren’t good enough.
  5. Share. Knowing others have gone and are going through similar struggles can help. Comfort that maybe they aren’t alone, that others may understand, and that they are not a freak can help those suffering with mental health issues find their own inner power. And to know that others have gone through and emerged able to talk about it and having found a path that worked for them is a message of hope.
  6. Help. Oh this one is hard. How do you help without being pushy? How do you help without trying to fix them? My husband explains it this way: fight along side them, not in front of them (they don’t need a knight in shinning armor), not against them (distracts from the real battle), not behind them (makes them feel they need to watch their back), along side them. My friends helped me most by coming over and playing with my children, holding my baby even when she was screaming (she had reflux, she was often screaming), by sharing their personal experiences with depression and anxiety, by asking me and really wanting to know how I was doing, and by celebrating my good moments when I wanted to celebrate them.

Have a friend or partner you are concerned about? You can help her and by helping her you are helping her children as well. The road to healing isn’t always easy but it’s better when we’re not alone.

Not sure if you or someone you love is experiencing normal baby blues or postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? This list may help put things in perspective.

 

 

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Facebook Removes Breastfeeding Photos and Disables Mom’s Account Ignoring Their Own Policies- Again.

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Breastfeeding and Facebook

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley Abby shared this photo on Facebook previously with no issue.

Between 3 and 4pm on Saturday, May 9th, 2015, the day before celebrating her very first Mother’s Day as a mom, Bump 2 Baby Birth Photography owner, Abby Camarata, discovered that her access to the virtual global town hall that is Facebook was unavailable. More specifically, that her account had been disabled. The new mom of 4 week old Rocco was cut off from much of her community and from her business and she had no idea why. When she attempted to log in she received a message from Facebook that her account was disabled and if she had questions she could visit Facebook’s help center. That was it.

It hasn’t been long since Facebook received praise for finally amending their guidelines for image posting to include supporting breastfeeding photos. Just this past March news outlets, bloggers, and advocates celebrated when the guidelines were further clarified after several years of back and forth drama between Facebook, users, and the media when breastfeeding photos would be removed. There was a collective sigh that maybe this dysfunctional censoring of motherhood and the women that share it was finally over with the social media giant.

Apparently not. And this isn’t the first time they’ve violated their own policies about breastfeeding photos.

Abby and I chatted initially when her account was still disabled. Her personal profile was reinstated by 9.05 pm that evening but her business page is still gone. She still doesn’t know why. What she suspects? Somebody complained about the breastfeeding photos on both her personal profile and on her business page. This first time mom shared her thoughts on why this matters not only for her personally but for many parents in today’s society.

TLB: Abby, I’m so sorry your personal profile was disabled by Facebook. I know you’ve used your Facebook to connect with friends and family as well as for your business. Up until your account was disabled, how has FB been important to you both in the past and now more recently? How will not having it impact you?

Abby: Facebook has always been an outlet for keeping in touch with friends and family but more recently, it’s been nothing short of a lifeline. Especially since the birth of my first baby, Rocco, four weeks ago. Life can easily become isolating at this stage, Facebook as been a consistent connecting point for me through this transition. From the moment we announced our little love coming earthside, a meal train was set up in my tribe and quickly a whole month worth of dinners were signed up for. I joined a Homebirth Cesarean Facebook group that has been a shoulder for me to cry on and a safe place for me to vent. The Leaky Boob Community group has been a lifesaver. I love how this is a group of nursing moms so when I woke up at 3am and my boob felt like it got ran over by a truck, I had several responses of support and encouragement with suggested remedies within minutes!

Not having Facebook kept me from my tribe and my resources. Both of which are part of my every day-to-day life. It may not have been for long, this time, but I don’t know if it will happen again and the connections and relationships I have there mean a lot to me, particularly during this difficult postpartum stage. My business is impacted as well. I cant correspond with clients, share new work, or follow up on leads and referrals.

 

Facebook account disabled after posting breastfeeding photos.

The message Abby received when she attempted to login.

 

TLB: How did you discover your account was disabled? Has Facebook given you a reason for disabling your account or indicated that it is a determined length of time for this ban? When did they contact you?

Abby: I discovered the disabling of my account only after several friends messaged me about my account being inactive. My account was still active after the initial flagged photo for nudity so I’m not sure why it was actually deactivated later. I was never given a length of time for the ban. I was never contacted about ANY of the ordeal. When my account was reactivated, it stated that my image was reported for nudity, and that the photos were removed for “violating Facebook’s Community Standards” even though the images remain on my page, and the link to the community standards was broken and I was unable to read them.

TLB: Birth and breastfeeding are big aspects of your work as a photographer, now as a mother yourself, what do you see is the significance of capturing and sharing these moments through photography? How has it been significant for you personally?

Abby: Given the rough journey I’ve experienced so far with breastfeeding, and the utter bliss and healing it brings me, I have a renewed appreciation and love for breastfeeding photography. We are given such a short time to have this special bonding time with our children. Some moms are blessed with more time than others.

Personally, not knowing how long my body will keep producing milk with my hormone issues, I savor every second I can nurse my son. I hope others are encouraged by the images I share as I’ve been encouraged by the breastfeeding images others have shared. I’ve learned a lot too.

Breastfeeding selfie Abby shared on Facebook on May 9, 2015.

Breastfeeding selfie Abby shared on Facebook on May 9, 2015.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

The notice Abby received that her photo was reported by someone on her friend list.

 

Breastfeeding photo removed by Facebook May 2015.

The notice Abby received that her photo was determined to violate FB standards.

 

 

TLB: You had a breastfeeding photo reported just before your account was disabled, why had you shared that photo in particular? Have you had breastfeeding photos reported in the past? Was the photo removed by FB or was the last that you knew, they reviewing the report?

Abby: I take photos almost every time I nurse my son. The awe and love for breastfeeding hasn’t worn off. Again, with my breastfeeding issues, and not knowing how long I will be able to nurse him, EVERY DAY is a victory. Every latch is a reason to celebrate. Every suckle is a savored moment. A moment I want to hold onto. To remember. To document. To share! This new thing, breastfeeding, is totally rad and I want to share my journey and the love I have for it. I want to normalize it!

The very first photo I shared of Rocco, announcing his arrival, was a photo of him breastfeeding. The two week herbal bath family photos that were taken, I shared a breastfeeding photo. I shared a photo of Rocco latched as we enjoyed the shade at the park. I shared the breastfeeding photos from our three week family photo shoot. All were celebrated by friends and family and not one of them were reported to my knowledge.

Shortly after I posted my photo, it was reported. I was taken aback because out of all the nursing photos I have shared, this was the most modest! Rocco was covering his mouth with his hands. I posted a screenshot of my reported image, and then got off Facebook to tend to my son. Before I know it, I received texts from three different friends asking if I had disabled my account. I was blocked out of Facebook. My account was disabled, without warning. I waited and waited for an explanation from Facebook via email and I received nothing.

TLB: Are you familiar with Facebook’s policy on breastfeeding photos and do you believe your photos were in keeping with those policies? 

Abby: I have never read the actual policies, but the last update I read from a friend, is that as long as the baby was actively nursing, any breast or nipple showing was not in violation of any policies.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley Abby had previously shared this photo on Facebook with no incident.

Alternative breastmilk feeding

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley. Abby feeding Rocco. Abby previously shared this photo on Facebook with no incident.

 

TLB: You shared that your breastfeeding journey has been difficult and very important to you, how does it feel in light of that to not only having someone on your friend list report your image but then to have FB actually disable your account?

Abby: It was SO disheartening, on so many levels. It’s overwhelming. What was frustrating right off is that I was provided no explanation from Facebook. It hurts that a “friend” reported my image because the image for me is the same as someone else posting a selfie at a finish line of a race. It’s a triumph. Something I’m working hard for. Something I’m proud of. It’s frustrating not only that a breastfeeding photo was reported, but it was THAT photo, which showed absolutely no nipple. I thought it was modest.

TLB: What did you do when you discovered the report of your breastfeeding photo?

Abby: I shared a screenshot of the flagged version of the photo in hopes to get feedback. Was this image offensive? HOW was this image offensive? I asked the “offended” to message me with an explanation. (I was genuinely curious.) I also asked them to remove themselves from my friends list. And that wasn’t to be malicious, it was because I don’t plan on stopping the share of nursing photos. Breastfeeding, by anyone, should be celebrated.

TLB: Your account is reinstated, will you be doing anything differently in terms of your behavior on FB?

Abby: I did have an impulse to keep my account deactivated and just start a new one with a few close friends and family. I was just so hurt that someone would be so offended by something that’s so innocent and special to me. But, refuse to stop sharing my nursing photos. If it’s a special moment, and I feel beautiful in it, you bet I’m going to share it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding my son exactly as nature intended it. I need to contribute to this societal stigma around breastfeeding. It needs to change.

TLB: If you knew who it was that reported your photo, what would you say to them?

Abby: It depends on who it was and why they reported it. I have more than 100 things I would like to say to them. I really wish they would message me and open a discussion about their concerns than rather “report and run away.” It seems very childish to me. They don’t have to follow my profile nor even be friends with me on Facebook.

TLB: Lastly, is there anything you would like people to know coming through this experience?

Abby: I could tell you to stop sharing nursing photos. I could tell you to choose your Facebook “friends” wisely. To change the privacy settings on your nursing photos. But that wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not going to break down the breastfeeding stigma rampant in our American society. Keep sharing your beautiful images. Together, we can make waves. We can normalize breastfeeding for our future generations. For our children. Nurse on mamas.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

Abby and Rocco

At The Leaky Boob we believe everybody’s story matters and we should have the freedom to share it without censoring from outside sources, particularly in places where we find our community. Sharing our stories not only connects us but strengthens us all. #MyStoryMatters #YourStoryMatters and we hope you continue to share it wherever you are comfortable doing so. Share your story and offer #TLBsupportForward.

Want to share your story? Let us know in the comments.

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The Mothering Oxygen Mask- 4 Steps To Breathing Normally Again

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

See those 4 darling little girls enjoying a magical tea party outside? They are precious and 4 out of 6 of the most amazing people that I get to have call me mom. I’m lucky enough to breathe them in deeply daily. I’m crazy about them. Crazy. Sometimes I’m crazy from them too. Sometimes I end up breathing rather labored because of them.

Sometimes I need to breathe in deeply away from them.

This is a little risky to admit. The internet loves to judge mother who admit they find, well, being a mother can be… difficult. Even more so loves to hate those that admit they don’t always like being around their own children all the time. But I’ll take the risk.

On commercial passenger airplanes, safety instructions are given each flight before take off on what to do in the case of an emergency. Flight attendants (or a video) explain that in the case of pressure changes, oxygen masks should drop down and passengers should place them over their mouth and nose and breathe normally. For those flying with small children or someone that would need assistance, instructions are given to secure your own mask before helping someone else with theirs. The reason for this instruction isn’t given but should you help someone else before securing your own mask, it is very possible that you could end up deprived of the oxygen your brain needs and pass out before your own mask is in place. Should that happen, you wouldn’t be able to help take care of anyone and worse, would be at even more risk.

Are you breathing normally?

Do you know where your oxygen mask is?

When was the last time you did something for you, truly for you? For many parents, particularly mothers, doing something for ourselves can be very difficult. It feels selfish, wasteful, extravagant, unnecessary, and laden with guilt. If we can pass it off as being for the whole family, such as a family vacation, then it is ok, but when taking care of ourselves really is just for ourself it can get much, much more difficult.

Parenting requires sacrifice, it’s true. We give up a lot for our children, getting in exchange such beauty and joy. But are we really able to care for our children if we can’t breathe normally ourselves? If we lose our selves? For a long time I believed that being a good mother required not only sacrifice but a sort of martyrdom, losing one’s self to build up one’s children. That was what I saw modeled for me in my own mother and what I thought I would need to do as well. Some women are able to do this and find it quite fulfilling, maybe even more in touch with who they really are. I was not one of those women. Losing myself, sacrificing so much I didn’t even know who I was any more, being constantly burnt out, led me into a deep and dark depression and instead of being a good mother, I was too lost to care for my children.

I needed an oxygen mask.

I needed to be able to breathe.

As admirable as it is that my mother gave up so much for her children, the truth is to this day I don’t really know her. What I know is the woman who loves me and did her best to care for me as a child even when she was constantly depleted of much needed air herself. As depleted as she was, she gave so much but often it wasn’t what my siblings and I really needed as much as it was what she thought we needed. She was too spent to assess what care was actually required. Our family suffered. Realizing I was headed down the same path, I knew something needed to change. I needed to nurture the nurturer.

My 4 steps to finding my oxygen mask

1) Change wasn’t easy. It would require asking for help. Asking for help would require admitting I needed help. Admitting I needed help would require letting others know that I couldn’t handle it all on my own. I saw that as failure. Failure to live up to a standard of motherhood of a perfectly decorated and cleaned house, perfectly cooked healthy meals, perfectly executed crafts, perfectly planned parties and play dates, perfectly perfect children, perfectly perfect family, perfectly perfect life, perfectly perfect me. This was hard, in fact, it ended up being the most important sacrifice I would ever make in my motherhood journey: sacrificing my pride in presenting a perfect facade by admitting I needed help.

2) Equally challenging admitting that the help I needed was so I could have a break. Time away from my children. Space to do something just for me. A break. In my head it sounded like I didn’t like my kids and the truth was, from my burnt out place, I didn’t. But it was way more than that, it was finally recognizing in myself that there really isn’t anybody I can be around 24/7 and not get tired of them and, for me, that though I seem like an extrovert, I actually get energy from being alone with my thoughts and having time to be creative by myself. What I would come to discover is that I actually really, really like my children but I needed some space from them from time to time to be able to truly appreciate that connection more.

3) At first I didn’t know how to make that space for me, I wasn’t even sure where to find my oxygen mask. With no family close, who could watch my children? My husband was more than willing to equally parent, it wasn’t him that was a barrier, it was me. I felt as though I was slacking, being a lazy mother to let him. Or that he wouldn’t do it as well as me. It wasn’t until I realized that he could parent differently and still not only be capable, given how burnt out I was, he was probably better. Now I love that we have different approaches and styles with our children, agreeing on certain non-negotiables and being flexible on grey areas. Beyond my own partner though, how could I find the space? We couldn’t afford sitters at the time, we didn’t have family near us, and we struggled to trust others. Eventually it was in intentionally finding and cultivating community, finding space for myself in friendships and gradually building trust. Today our family has several dear family friends that are like family, stay with our children for short and long periods of time, join us for meals and events, and swap helping each other find space as parents needing oxygen masks. This parenting thing isn’t meant to happen on an isolated island, being alone isn’t healthy, it isn’t what we would want for our children, we need to be aware of what we’re modeling for them in our own lives. Be it family or friends, we need to put effort into finding our tribe, not just online, but in real life.

4) Eventually I realized that my oxygen mask had some variety. There were big ones and small ones. Some were actually easily accessible right in front of my but I could only see them once I had a shot of fresh air. Making my own self-care a priority gave me the energy to grow as a person and a mother. The little daily hits on my oxygen mask rejuvenate me, giving me the clarity I need to care for my children in a sustainable way. Many of these 22 ways are a regular part of my self-care now.

Now, with my children, I teach them the importance of self care as well because there are times when everyone needs their own oxygen mask.

There is no one-size-fits all and what you may need during one season of parenting may change in the next season. Find what works for you and consider how you can be in community with others and help them find their’s as well. There is no firm how to use it or what it looks like for you, what’s important is just that you use it.

Your children will thank you one day and will know you not only as their loving, sacrificing mother, but as the thriving individual of value that you are.

__________________

Are you burnt out? Even as you love your children and enjoy parenting them, are you ever in need of a break? What steps have you found to making that possible?

__________________

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Why Would You Wear Your Toddler or Preschooler When They Can Walk?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Beco Baby Carriers.
Why wear your toddler when they can walk?

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell. Love this carrier? There are only two like it the whole world and you can win the other one by going here!

Once upon a time I found the whole idea of wearing a child who could walk completely… ridiculous. Seriously, how is that helping them? They can walk, you’re just trying to keep them little longer and probably inhibiting their development. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, CARRY THEM ALL AROUND THEIR COLLEGE CAMPUS?

*If you just want the quick points on why maybe you should wear your toddler, skip to the end.*

I figured if you kept carrying your child after they learned how to walk, you’d end up looking like this.

Beco Carrier teenager

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Then I had a kid. Our first turned out to be a late walker and didn’t really become mobile until between 15 and 16 months old. By that point the other toddlers in our circles were running circles around her and I began to panic, in spite of our pediatrician’s reassurance, that she was never, ever going to walk. Worried that her my dreams of an Olympic gold medalist were fast slipping out of reach, I become a little pushy to get her to walk. And also because carrying her was killing my back and arms, back then we didn’t have any carriers with a high enough weight limit and I just plain didn’t want carry her. Well meaning people around me warned that she was just using me, being lazy, and would never become independent if we “let” her make us carry her all the time. We were “spoiling her” and we’d have to carry her FOREVER. So I pushed. Walk, you’ve got two legs, use them! Besides, you have to become self sufficient and independent some day. Sheesh.

You guys, she was really still just a baby.

But even after she started walking she wanted to be held a lot. In fact, she was timid and scared and insecure. To “help” her through that, I pushed her to be more independent. I’m not proud of this, in fact, it makes me sad. Looking back, me pushing her to walk when she wanted to be close to me was really a jerk thing to do. I would refuse to carry her or carry her for just a moment and then put her down even if she wasn’t ready. My fears were completely unfounded, today she walks and runs and dances ballet just fine. Not only that, after some therapy and healing, she is a self sufficient independent introverted 16 year old who has taught me that connection is more important and respecting individual personal ways of interacting with the world is what makes you not be a jerk of a parent. She didn’t need me pushing her to walk, she needed me available for lots and lots of connection until she was ready. To this day she prefers to observe the world from a bit of a distance before racing into it. But when she does race in, watch out, she has found her confidence and her voice to make a difference.

Since our eldest taught us about respecting our children as individual people, we’ve had 5 more children but it wasn’t until our 3rd that we began to wear our toddlers on purpose. Another introvert, our third daughter felt safest close to a parent and would for several years. Meaning when she was three and four, she still wanted up in certain settings. Instead of traumatizing her with environments she wasn’t ready to navigate independently, we listened to her. When she was ready, she would progress into the world around her on her terms and now confidently moves through the world secure in her steps and returning to us to share her adventures and discoveries. Now, with our almost 3 year old Sugarbaby, we let her set the pace for how she interacts with the world. All 6 of our children have unique personalities, some have loved being close and super snuggly for a long time, others just have moments they need to check in before rushing off again. Every single one of them has, at times, requested to be held and carried even after they could walk. Sometimes for physical reasons, sometimes for emotional reasons. All of their reasons are valid.

And so far, of our older girls, they each also reach a point where closeness doesn’t require us carrying them and we grow together in developing other ways to connect.

Because it turns out, you can’t spoil them by respecting them, they will eventually not want you to carry them everywhere.

Todllerwearing Beco

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Last year, just before she was 2 years old, Sugarbaby accompanied us to India, a culture of amazing people that adore children and love to touch young ones. Another introvert (we have a pretty even blend of introverts and extroverts in our home), she quickly learned 2 things: how to clearly say “go away, don’t touch!” and “Beco up!” From her safe position on my back she would offer high fives to the people who wanted to hold her, kiss her, and touch her face. Happy and secure in a place she knows to be safe, she interacted with those we encountered in a way that respected her unique way of being in the world. She runs, dances, jumps, and climbs freely but when she needs to be close or when her little legs are tired from all that exercise and strengthening, up into a carrier she goes on mommy, daddy, or even a big sister. Our long family walks or forays into downtown to go to markets and explore happen with a combination of her walking, running, hoping, and twirling (always twirling, she doesn’t really walk right now, she twirls everywhere) and when she’s tired, on somebody’s back. Occasionally she keeps me company during meal prep on my back when she tires of her spot on a stool.

And from the spot on my back and sometimes on my front she whispers in my ear “I love you mommy.” I don’t know how much longer she’ll ask to “Beco” but I’m willing to as long as she does.

For me the question isn’t why would you wear your toddler or preschooler, the question is why wouldn’t you.

Beco Toddler Two of a Kind

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

7 reasons to wear your toddler/preschooler

Want a shot at winning a carrier just like the one in the photos here? Enter here!
  1. Who doesn’t love snuggling? Besides, science shows us that positive physical touch is soothing and healing at all ages, it can even reduce pain. “To touch can be to give life” – Michelangelo
  2. Not only does touch heal, soothe, and connect, neuroscientists have found that physical human contact activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion. All good stuff!
  3. Touch can reduce stress. Young children often ask to be held when they’re experiencing stress such as fear, anxiety, or uncertainty and for good reason, touch can calm them, lower their heart rate and blood pressure, and of course releases positive hormones such as oxytocin. Wearing a child who is experiencing stress can provide them just the support they need to successfully navigate that stress when they’re ready.
  4. Young children can become overstimulated quickly, having a safe place to work through that overstimulation can mean the difference between a toddler becoming a destructive force in the world around them, having a meltdown of tears and screams, or observing and interacting as they see modeled from their safe perch on a trusted adult’s chest or back.
  5. Running. Need I say more? Parents are all excited when their baby learns to walk but in a no time they realize their excitement was misguided. Walking leads to running. You know what you can’t lose at the children’s museum? THE KID STRAPPED ON YOUR BACK. Sure, you have to let them down from time to time but when their running is running you ragged and reminding them to walk 3,342,438 times has made you horse, a ride on mama’s back (hey, let’s play horsey!) is a relief.
  6. Strollers are awesome, a great tool and we use ours still. But strollers are not always awesome. The view is limited for the rider and sometimes the world just feels like an obstacle course when you’re dealing with one. An assisted piggy back ride with a carrier is much easier to contend with than a stroller in many settings.
  7. They love it. Not always and as they grow in their own desire of “I DO IT!” they will have times they most certainly do not want to be worn. But toddlers and preschoolers aren’t really much bigger than babies and they still love to be close. And that’s the best reason. There are plenty of times in life where we have to tell our children no and deny them what they think they want. Being close, being held, having our touch should never be one of them.

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Do you wear your toddler? Want to but aren’t sure if you should? What are your thoughts on toddlerwearing?

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For a limited time you can enter to win the same carrier pictured in this article by going here.

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#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

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Why You Shouldn’t Pull That April Fool’s Pregnancy Announcement Prank

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Infertility

Don’t ever believe a pregnancy announcement made on April 1st.

I grew up in a home that enjoyed practical jokes. A good prank was appreciated with gusto in my childhood home; run the hot water in the kitchen while someone was taking a shower so they’d get a blast of cold water, cover a door knob in Vaseline, fill someone’s hand with shaving cream while they were sleeping then tickle their nose and watch them slap their face with the shaving cream, create trick food such as mashed potato ice-cream, or cover the toilet in plastic wrap under the seat; it was the stuff family bonding is made of. It taught me a lot and I’ve learned to laugh at myself easily… along with everyone else. To this day I have a deep appreciation for practical jokes and an enduring sense of humor.

Then I fell in love with and married someone who has a great sense of humor but doesn’t have the same appreciation for practical jokes as I do. He was a bit more sensitive in his jokes, aware not only of his own feelings but the feelings of others. Pranks I played were sometimes met with laughter but just as often were met with frustration that I would want to laugh at his or others’ expense. The ones that hurt him the most, even if I didn’t pull them on him but someone else, were those that were an oversight of someone’s personal struggles. Just plain insensitive. Because causing others pain is not funny. It was eye opening and I slowly realized that humor was great but humor without sensitivity can be very damaging and hurtful.

Social media introduced a whole new way to prank people and April Fool’s quickly became the perfect platform for pulling ALL. THE. JOKES. None became more popular (and overdone) than the fake pregnancy announcement. And why not? It’s easy, it has an easy shock value, and for many it gets a lot of laughs after putting people on for a bit.

But really, there is a big reason why not. Because it causes others pain.

Only those that have struggled with infertility or pregnancy loss may really understand this but it is enough for me that there are those that have indeed been caused pain by this attempt at humor. I have no doubt that those pulling the prank aren’t intending to hurt anyone, they are just having fun. The reactions from their friends and loved ones gives them a laugh and they are able to move on. What they may not see, however, are those friends and loved ones who don’t comment, don’t “like,” don’t laugh. Those friends and loved ones for whom a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Not because they don’t have a sense of humor but because there is a deep ache within them to have a real, not a joke positive pregnancy test of their own. It’s not funny, it’s painful. It isn’t necessary to understand or relate to that pain, it’s just human decency and kindness not to cause them more pain once you’re aware of it.

Please, before you pull that overdone April Fool’s prank announcing a fake pregnancy consider that for those struggling with infertility, a pregnancy announcement is no joke. Humor is great but not when it causes others pain.

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What other April Fool’s pranks ideas do you have that are sensitive and fun?

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Six Meaningful Ways to Honor Motherhood and Our Children

by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post is made possible by the generous support of Baby Bee Hummingbirds.

@jixxs92 heart hands feet

Parenting is at once a lot of overwhelming work and a precious beautiful joy. The saying, “the years are short, but the days are long”, while cliché, is so true. Each day can be long and quite frankly, full of actual poop. They aren’t always fun. And though they drag, they go by quickly. Amidst the poop, sleep deprivation, stress, and whining, there are cuddles, giggles, dance parties, and heart melting smiles. It’s the best, with moments that can be the worst. Worth every second of the poopy stuff. Though it’s impossible to enjoy every moment of our parenting journeys, there are so many special moments to cherish. I propose that we make memories, commemorate them, celebrate the stages, and create a narrative that keeps it all alive in our hearts. Inspired by the many ideas shared on this post, here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate our mothering journey and the stages of our children. There’s much to honor in our journeys, pregnancy, birth, feeding, play, sleep, and milestones or just the whole journey itself. What you focus on depends on what is the most important and moving for you, there’s no right or wrong way.

Journal
Whether you start it when you find out you’re pregnant or sometime after your baby has made their entrance, a journal to share with them later can be an inexpensive and meaningful way to honor not only their journey through childhood, but your journey as their parent. It doesn’t have to be filled with long profound thoughtful entries, brief, honest looks at that moment can hold a lot of meaning. If a journal is overwhelming, a baby’s first year calendar may feel a little more manageable while still helping you record those special moments. Some days are red letter days, some are green, some are purple, and some are black. Whatever color you use, using a calendar for a baby’s first year or two can be a precious way to look back at all their firsts and big moments in their start to life.

Photographs/video

You may start with documenting your bump growth or it may not occur to you until you see their adorable little face, but pictures are an easy way to celebrate the big moments and the most mundane. In this digital age we can snap as many photos as we like, it’s no big deal to scrap 30 shots if they don’t turn out and that could easily be what it takes to have that one perfect capture that immortalizes the look on your 18 months old face when daddy walks through the door each day. Same with video, smart phones make it easy to forever grab the moment when they first take tentative steps feeling grass under their bare feet and trashing the times when they refuse to put their feet down at all unless of course, that moment is a laugh worth holding on to as well. Saving these files digitally and converting a few into photo books or sharing with friends and family on social media lets you look through them over and over. While it can be fun to create clever staged photos, some of those more candid ones may very well end up being your favorites. Just make sure you don’t end up never being in the photos with them, you’re worth remembering in your different stages too so don’t be too much of a momarazzi and practice the art of a good #selfie and handing the camera off.

Repurpose

That sweet dress can be handed down to future children, future grandchildren, or passed along to friends and with all the clothes a baby will go through, you can’t keep them all. But a few can be repurposed, specially your favorites. A quilt made out of the softest pajamas, several pieces deconstructed into a whole new outfit, a scrap of that little onesie they came home in added to a shadow box, that cute t-shirt from your sister becomes play clothes for a favorite plush animal, or even just displaying that frilly dress as part of a room’s decor. If you’re not personally ready to cut up your baby’s clothing to create something new, there are many incredibly talented work at home moms that take custom orders that can create something special for you.

Mini time capsule

Take the hospital wrist band, a piece of the hospital cap, a snip of the swaddle blanket, the first pair of socks, or any other small memento and put it in a clear class ornament available at craft stores. Write baby’s name and the date for a mini time capsule ornament for a holiday decoration. Or gather similar items and display in a shadow box. An actual time capsule, hidden in the ground or even just under your bed or in the attic, can be added to annually, the contents reviewed together with your child on their birthday.

The talented Katie M. Bergen has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

The talented Katie M. Berggren has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

Art

If you’re artistic, creating your own piece of art that captures the essence of your parenting journey or your child’s spirt can be especially meaningful. It can be a continual work in progress, adding to it over time or it may be a complete work. If storytelling is your talent, a self published story book can capture your own unique narrative. If you’re not comfortable creating your own art, purchased art can be just as meaningful and some artists are happy to create commissioned pieces inspired by your family, you can find some on Etsy, and here are three of my favorites: Katie M. BerggrenKate Hansen, and Claudia Tremblay. Taking commissioned work even further, some may want to honor their parenting journey with ink on their own body. Whether they be symbolic or representative, tattoos can fit both your personality and your journey. I wrote about the meaning of my tattoo here.

Jewelry

A special piece of jewelry, intended specifically to celebrate parenting and/or your child, be it personalized or more general, is such a meaningful expression. Again, you can have one custom made and it can honor your parenting or child(ren) in a more general way (such as birthstone charms) or some specific aspect such as breastfeeding. A breastmilk pendent, created with your own milk, a curl bead the incorporates a lock of your child’s hair, or some other specific area of focus are all possible and unique you can find some at Baby Bee Hummingbirds. A designated necklace, bracelet, or ring, something you wear every day or just for special occasions makes for special conversations in the future. My children love when I wear my mothering necklace, it means a lot to them that being their mother is so beautiful and important to me that I have a special piece of jewelry just about that.

 

 

What would you add to our list of ways to celebrate and honor our children and our own parenting journey?

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Shredded Mother, Whole

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Visiting with the residents of a nursing home in south east India. Photo credit: Ashley Tingley

Visiting with the residents of a nursing home in south east India. Photo credit: Ashley Tingley

I have never shared this publicly but as I reflect on last year I think I’m ready to share it now:

I had pregnancy loss this time last year.

March, 2014 we were headed to India with International Teams, Initiative 31.8 and a group of people who would go on to become some dear, dear friends. This trip would be filled with beauty, ugliness, joy, pain, learning, teaching, listening, speaking, and the beginning of the end of our relationship with ITeams. Fresh clean water would flow in communities that hadn’t had fresh clean water, our lips would burn with “mild” curries, we would hold hands and listen to stories with those many years our seniors in a language we couldn’t understand, and we would paint a wall with the words of that language with kids who smiled easier than we did. There was singing, dancing, laughter, conversation, and bonds forged sitting in dirt with women breastfeeding their babies.

The entire time I would be bleeding from a twin pregnancy loss and D&C 4 days before we left.

Taking a breastfeeding break inside a classroom in India. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

Taking a breastfeeding break inside a classroom in India. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

I was a conflict of emotion. Earlier in that new year, I was surprised and quite frankly, upset when I discovered I was pregnant. We had decided to wait on a permanent decision regarding having more children for another year but when our prevention method failed I was filled with fear. Fear that the timing wasn’t right, that our finances wouldn’t survive another pregnancy at that time, fear that hyperemises gravidarum would be too much to handle away from the support network we had previously had in Houston now that we were living in Portland, fear that I wouldn’t be able to handle my job and pregnancy without that support, and fear that the judgment many others have about a large family of 8 adding another person wouldn’t be held quietly inside by those around us and their critical words of hate would reach my amazing children’s ears. Almost immediately upon getting the positive test result I wished I was comfortable terminating the pregnancy.

We decided to tell nobody but my best friend while we tried to figure out how to prepare for the months ahead. Really though, we just avoided talking about it, avoided preparing. Every time we would discuss finding a care provider I would end up in tears. My friend was going through her own nightmare with a messy divorce with an abusive soon-to-be ex husband and was overwhelmed with the stress off that. When I started bleeding near the end of February, I was relieved and then immediately felt guilty. Prior to this pregnancy, I had experienced 4 losses and now I hoped this would be a loss too.

And I had a new fear, maybe I was really a shitty mother because I didn’t want my babies.

Sugarbaby and me in India, March, 2014. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

Sugarbaby and me in India, March, 2014. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

The ultrasound showed twins but things didn’t look good and the measurements were off by 3 weeks. There wasn’t even one heartbeat, let alone two. Maybe my dates were wrong but the bleeding didn’t stop.

We had a choice: stay home and not go to India and see what happened while Jeremy led the trip, go to India and take a risk of complications in another country, or have a D&C and go to India. This trip I had dreamed up, envisioned, advocated for, recruited for, and worked hard with an amazing team to plan for over a year called to me. And then, so did my babies. The next day my bleeding increased and I felt certain I was miscarrying. We made the difficult decision to have the DNC. And then I knew I wanted them, wanted them to stay, wanted them to survive even though I was still relieved they hadn’t. I was torn between loving them and being glad they weren’t going to be born and hating myself for feeling that way. It called into question everything I knew or thought of myself as a mother. How could I be any kind of good mother if I was relieved my babies weren’t going to be born?

It shredded me.

A day later I boarded a plane for Chicago where just 24 hours after having the inside of my uterus scraped, I spoke at MommyCon Chicago’s VIP Meet and Leak, a day after that I spoke in two seminar sessions, one while breastfeeding our one and a half year old as I spoke. At MommyCon I hugged hundreds of women, listened to their mothering journeys, cried with them, laughed with them, and was honored to receive the stories they chose to share with me. All the shredded parts of me received them, even as I was wrestling with my own worthiness as a mother.

Four days following the procedure we were on our way to India.

Tasting the water from the new borehole. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

Tasting the water from the new borehole as Sugarbaby slept on my back. Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

I couldn’t tell my team at the time, not because of them, because of my inability to talk about it. One of our team members was dealing with infertility and the grief that goes along with that, another was figuring out their own family planning, and still another was facing joblessness when they returned. All of us were dealing with some kind of recent loss and unfolding on that trip was our own loss of our place within the organization. My own emotions were a conflicting mix of sadness, freedom, gratitude, and anger over both the pregnancy and the unavoidable reality that we would be parting ways with this organization and work we loved so much.The truth was it was time for us to move on, to focus on other work but we didn’t want it to end so painfully and what seemed to be so senselessly. But that wasn’t our reality and so I was frustrated and yet peacefully determined to not lose myself in the process. The truth is, if our financial situation and support network had been different, we would have been glad to be pregnant. But that wasn’t our reality and so I was at once heartbroken and relieved. When I returned home from the trip amidst drama between us and the organization, I was still bleeding and I was bleeding still when we were officially dismissed from ITeams for reasons that to this day I still don’t understand. Even still I can’t help but feel a connection between the pregnancy loss I don’t understand and the job loss I don’t understand all somehow connected to love, joy, beauty, grief, pain, loneliness, and India. And all the shredded parts of me. We went to India to learn, support, encourage, get clean water flowing, what I ended up finding was beauty and healing even as my heart and my uterus were bleeding.

Last week I spoke at MommyCon Chicago again and as I walked into the same room where I had spoken a year before, I remembered that shredded version of myself. She was stronger than I realized then and I honored her, the conflict and turmoil and grief to come.

Wholeness has come again, there is still grief and relief in my scars but I’m not so afraid that I’m a shitty mother, I believe I’m just a human one with human feelings. Sharing this, I know I will likely be judged for a good number of things, but that’s ok, my wholeness is not determined by the judgment of others and if it touches one other shredded and very human mother, it was worth it. I don’t regret the procedure and I still feel confident it was the right choice for me and my family but I do wonder how it all would have played out if we had waited or if the pregnancy had stuck. Today as I look back on the first anniversary of the loss of the babies I never knew, I still have that same mixture of emotions with the added inner wisdom that our family and our work is exactly right for us in this moment. In an odd way, though I don’t think the timing was right, I miss our babies though I never held them, never named them, and wasn’t ready for them. They have impacted me and helped me forgive myself to find wholeness, accepting what is and all the loss. The conflict within me hasn’t lessened much, it is only subdued by the rightness of my family right now.

Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

Photo Credit: Ashley Tingley

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More Than a Pair of Tits, But Can I Be Human?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Breasts. Comfort? Sex things? Feeding utensils? Provocative snares? Defining body parts? Or just a pain in the neck?

Breasts. Comfort? Sex things? Feeding utensils? Provocative snares? Defining body parts? Or just a pain in the neck?

Once, a supportive male boss told me I was more than a pair of tits. Thanks, I think, so what does that make me? What about other women?

Breasts are at once over celebrated and under appreciated. The bastion of physical femininity, breasts rise up before young girls as the ultimate marker of becoming a woman while at the same time being berated for tripping men up and getting too much attention. Slap a pair of breasts overflowing a lacy bra on the side of a bus and watch the accidents’ ticker tape start rolling. As for coming of age, periods shmeriods, it’s not the uterus the world notices, it’s your tits! We idolize the lactating breast as the best, the mark of superior motherhood, yet we worship the sexually available ready to have fun-oh-sex-goddess-of-desire-breasts as the mark of superior womanhood. Shake those milk jugs and bring all the boys to your yard! Here’s a cover for feeding your babies, don’t let that disgusting best milk of awesome slutty motherness get anywhere or be noticed and here are some pasties for when you set aside your mom of the year sash at night and it’s time to BLOW HIS MIND!

The messages we get about our breasts and our bodies, messages we may internalize, can end up defining us. They don’t have to but often they do without us realizing it. Our successes and our failures may be measured against these messages. We all want to pretend we don’t care what other people think, but the truth is most of us do to an extent. Understandably so because none of us want to be alone. We actually need each other, need community, and needing people means we care about what they think.  Sometimes we can’t see past the tips of our nipples. Sometimes, we can’t see past the tips of other women’s nipples either. And more and more we can’t see past the tip of an artificial nipple. Do men have to put up with anything like this? Society gets their panties in a bunch when a woman feeds her baby no matter how she does it, oddly enough, not so much when a dad feeds his baby. Men get accolades for “babysitting” (AKA: parenting) and adored for feeding their child. Women get covers, judgment, shunning, and news reports. Why? Because they’re women. And there are breasts involved even when not being used.

When I began developing I mostly had a feeling of dread tinged with excitement about my impending new appendages. Then they were real, not just a developing idea, they were really, really there and I was thrilled, I was a woman, not only did I bleed between my legs, I had BOOBS! That lasted for all of 2 minutes and came crashing down when I realized that when properly clothed, the tiny bits I had wouldn’t bounce joyfully in a bra, wouldn’t fill out a bathing suit, they wouldn’t even cause a disturbance in the fabric of my shirt. I got mosquito bites for breasts. There had been fire ant bites on my ankles bigger than my tits. Before my breasts grew, I hated the idea of having my own pair of tits and being seen as a sexy symbol of busty lust but once they set up a very disappointing shop on my chest, I wanted nothing more. I had been betrayed!

They were supposed to be alluring. Sexy. Comforting. Nurturing. All at once. Instead, my breasts were barely there. My disappointment was palpable. Unlike my breasts.

My mother has fabulous breasts and I had a deep appreciation for them. To comfort me when mine were disappointing she shared how she had tiny tits once too. But then she got pregnant and breastfed, and my brother, sister, and I gave her the gift of big boobs which stuck around after all her children weaned. It was hope. Except, of course, there wouldn’t be any tits there for my some-day-partner to feel up and lead to baby making, my chest still looked, and felt, like a preteen boy’s. If the only thing that was going to change that was having babies, I might have a problem.

Later, after I had managed the baby making feat, my breasts would still be disappointingly small and my mother, out of love and concern, would come to me with an offer from her and my dad. Breast implants, they would pay for them to ensure my husband was satisfied with me sexually and would not leave me and my daughters. Because they believed what I had long suspected, with my tiny tits, I couldn’t possibly be enough.

Breastfed or not, little girls and boys tend to find comfort at their mother’s or a mother-figure’s breast. Nurturing and comforting, breasts are just pleasant. Why? I’m not sure anybody really knows. Biologically it’s probably because they are both sustenance for the infants of our species and have a certain erotic appeal that helps with the continuation of the species. But none of us are thinking about that when we’re drawn to them. Besides, essentially breasts are skin covered sacks of fat with some glandular tissue and milk ducts thrown in for functionality. They’re more complicated than that, but when you break it down, boobs are fat bags with nerves. Which hardly sounds attractive at all. Still, humans are drawn to these fat bags, the human female breast. At first for food and comfort, then for fascination, and then for sex. Sex, of course, leads to more babies and the cycle starts all over again. Beautiful, important, and confusing.

Are they ever really even ours?

How do we reconcile how we’ve seen our mother’s breasts, the breasts of other maternal figures, the breasts of our peers, the breasts of celebrities, and even the different stages and functions of our own breasts? There’s no switch we get to flip, you know. Moving from one phase of boob love to the next is complicated and confusing. Often it doesn’t go smoothly and there’s struggle involved. Find nurturing comfort and sustenance at the breast, baby! Stop that. Grow some tits! Stop that. Cover them up! Stop that. Flaunt them! Stop that. Boobs = sex! Stop that. Nurture a child with them! Stop that. Play things for your partner! Stop that. Tie them up, nobody wants to see those tired old things hitting your knees, that’s not SEXY! How do we go from being comforted at the breast, to admiring breasts, to wanting our own breasts, to discovering how the world sees breasts, to embracing the sensuality of our breasts, to properly covering them, then by just having breasts somehow being responsible for being harassed for sex, forget the nurturing stuff breasts are for sex, have a baby and hold them to your chest and just be ok with now your baby’s mouth and hands and head are there more than your sexual partner’s. Be a good child, a good sex goddess, a nurturing goddess and don’t be a slut or a bad mom or sexually unavailable. Do. It. All. What you do with your boobs, how you dress them, how you use them, how you present them, and how others notice them requires a lot of time and energy. A defining factor of how others see us and more importantly, how we see ourselves. The shape of our breasts can shape us.

Which can mess with our heads.

I talk with women every day about their breasts. It’s a casual conversation, but honest. Women are surprisingly willing to talk about them, if somewhat hesitant at first. But talking about our tits is kind of like taking our bras off at the end of the day: HALLELUJAH, I DON’T HAVE THAT CONSTRICTIVE TORTURE DEVICE HOLDING ME UP ANY MORE! I CAN BREATHE! We can talk about our boobs! You see, everyone else is talking about them and we know it. Men, fashion designers, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, fashion magazines, politicians… you name it, everyone’s talking about our tits. Except us. Some of us are still whispering “breast” before cancer because even the word makes us uncomfortable. We’re not supposed to actually notice our own breasts! And noticing the breasts of others comes with baggage packed with jealousy and judgement. We’re certainly not supposed to be talking about them. Feel your boobies? Ok, but could we not say that out loud please? Don’t you just have a card I can stick in my underwear drawer for a monthly reminder? To talk about our breasts means we have to dance our words around in a complicated choreography of avoiding the conflict and appreciation we have about our own chests. It’s not a safe dance. If we like them, we sound like we’re bragging. If we don’t like them, we sound like we don’t enjoy being women. If we enjoy them in sex, we wonder if we’re weird. If we don’t enjoy them in sex, we’re pretty sure we sound frigid. If we’re proud of them, we’re going to be heard as putting down other women. If we’re not proud of them, we’re perceived as being dissatisfied. Most of all, we wonder how much of our success as women, as sexual partners, as mothers is tied up in these things we contain between some elastic, padding, and maybe a bit of wire. If we participate in titty talk, do we risk exposing ourselves with our womanly failures to the world? Are we enough?

Sometimes, our breasts and all the baggage that society hands us to go with them, get in the way of remembering we are human. Perhaps we could connect with our own humanity a little bit deeper by appreciating our breasts without shame, no longer worrying about how others are or are not using theirs, and talking about our own breasts without apologetic whispers. And to look in the mirror and tell ourselves we are enough.IMG_3816.JPG

This post is inspired by a portion of one of the talks sponsored by Ergobaby and Ameda, Inc. at MommyCon 2015.

 

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Not Your Typical 10 Tips for Surviving Traveling with Children

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Mamava Lactation Stations.
who-needs-vacation

When you do both without a partner you’ll find yourself peeing in a public restroom with a baby strapped to your back and everyone’s luggage in there with you.

 

Traveling with children, I don’t understand how there isn’t a reality show based on this yet. There would be plenty of drama, melt-downs (and not just coming from the kids), arguments, ridiculous situations, questionable wardrobe opportunities, and oh-no-she-didn’t moments.

While some families go for goody bags and apologizing-in-advance notes explaining that their children may act like the juvenile members of society they are, others just hope to make it through the experience with their yoga pants and spit-up embellished shirt intact. Thank you overachiever-extra-considerate parents for making the rest of us look like loser slackers. Board an airplane with a child in tow these days and I swear you’ll see looks of horror, fear, and then annoyance if you don’t have goody bags with drink coupons, ear plugs, and candy for them. As if they could possibly need a goody bag more than the parents do. If I am buying anyone chocolate for when I travel with my children, it’s going to be me. How dare I take my child in public without compensating those who must endure her presence. Hold up, I may have a smushed piece of chocolate in the bottom of the diaper bag if you really feel you deserve a participation award for me traveling with my children.

I’ve had a lot of experience traveling with children over the years. Of course, I now consider leaving the house with children to be “traveling with children.” Over the past 16 years I’ve been forced to develop some serious survival skills for this near daily endeavor. This isn’t your typical Pinterest style tips, here, in no particular order are my 10 tips for slacker parents like myself to survive traveling with children:

1. Dress for comfort. It’s likely you’re going to find yourself lugging too much stuff (and wondering why you didn’t get a Uhaul for it), chasing after someone or something, wearing someone’s meal and probably someone’s body fluid (admit it, either one could be yours), and possibly wrestling an octopus at any given moment. If you’re breastfeeding, comfort and boob accessibility can make the difference between going crazy and just looking like you are. Road trip (all the way to the grocery store!), plane, train, or the mall carousel, comfort is of the essence, you simply can’t dash after a kid in anything more trendy than yoga pants.

2. Have extra. Of everything. Since I have 6 kids, everyone seems to think I even bring extra children. Though it may seem as though you already have brought the entire Baby’s R Us, guaranteed there is something you have forgotten or foolishly didn’t bring enough extras of and that one item is the only one you will need. Just packed 6 diapers in that diaper bag? You’ll need 7 for sure then. You have an extra outfit for baby in your right pocket and for yourself in the left, right? No? There will be a poopsplosion on the airplane and you’ll have been the terrorist with the bomb, the evidence all over you and your baby. You are traveling with a weapon of massive poopstruction, you don’t want to be underprepared. So just go ahead and rent that Uhaul, stuff the glove compartment, or pack that obnoxiously large carry-on, whatever you do, don’t come up short on the 1,239,845,123,020,934 baby “essentials.”

3. Rations. You can Pinterest the living daylights out of this point, I did. A clever little box of snacks including fruit and other healthyish munchies. It was cute and put together. In the end though, you’ll just start throwing food at them and hoping some makes it in and satisfies them for 10 minutes. They say don’t eat when you’re bored but travel is totally the exception to that rule. Why? Because snacks mean silence and if you’re lucky, maybe eventually even a nap. Eat all the goldfish, Honey, I got the big box from Costco just for this trip, you can eat them all day long.

4. Put those kids to work. Once they demonstrate some competent walking skills (with my kids that seems to kick in around 6 years old) it’s time to put them to work. Even toddlers can sort of do it if getting places with any kind of urgency isn’t on your list. Each member of your caravan can carry a backpack, don’t let them slack. You want to eat on this journey, kid? Well then you better carry that food so you don’t go hungry. Want your special blankie or plushie? I got a spot for that right on your back. Activites so you don’t get bored? If you’re ready to carry the weight, you’re going to be entertained for hours.

5. Accessorize. You know what’s hot these days? Babies. They’re like a furnace. So strap one on, ditch the stroller, and strut like the hottest fashion model as you bolt to your gate. Strollers are great for certain settings but for travel can be cumbersome and take up a lot of space. Leave it at home if you can and try babywearing instead. Of course, if you have more than one baby or a baby and a toddler or otherwise think it would be good to have a baby tank handy for your excursions, you can always turn the stroller into a bulldozer to get people out of your way.

6. Find your backbone and don’t be afraid to use it. Since you may encounter people who resent you bringing your children into a public space or may be so happy to see your baby they border on affectionate assault, you may need your spine. When we traveled to India, a culture that loves young children and a fair skinned red head was a bit of an anomaly, our introverted 2 year old learned that everything could go much smoother for her if she just automatically started yelling “go away, don’t touch!” from the moment we opened the car door anywhere. Speak up for what you need and speak up when the boundaries of you or your child(ren) aren’t being respected. I must say “go away, don’t touch” at the top of your lungs does seem to be effective.

7. Sleep. Just kidding, you’re probably not going to get any sleep when you travel with kids, silly.

8.  Have an escape plan. You’ll probably need it. An escape plan when traveling with children can look like anything, not just the exit that the little lights along the aisle lead to, which, unless there are more than just your kids screaming and hysterical, probably isn’t a good idea to utilize. The most effective escape options include a door and a lock, a containment facility for those that like to run and to block everything else out. Even better if there was a foot massage but unless you can get a kid to help you with that, it’s likely trying to have that experience with kids along for the ride will include you saying something like “stop licking the vibrating chair” or “those pretty colored bottles aren’t candy sweetie.” If you have a baby to feed, breastfeeding or otherwise, this can be the perfect built-in escape plan especially if you have an adult travel companion. If breastfeeding is going well for you, breastfeeding while traveling is super easy AND you get a shot of oxytocin each time you feed your kid. Instant stress relief. Nobody needs to hide to feed their child unless they are more comfortable doing so. Still, it’s the perfect excuse, you need to feed the baby, you have identified an escape plan facility (like the Mamava pods!), you hand the other child(ren) off to your partner, you go into escape facility, you lock door, and you revel in the comparative quiet stillness that is just one child and actually sitting down in more than 2 inches of space. And if you have to pump, you can maybe even go alone! Of course, if you’re not traveling with an adult who can wander around airport shops herding cats, I mean kids, then your escape may just mean a spot where they can’t run too far while you feed the baby. When you’re traveling with children you take what you can get. If you magically find yourself with spare time in advance, you can even plan out those spots while looking like a bad mom by daring to tear your eyes of your children (you might miss her twirl for the 4,253,649th time!) and check out this app for finding such havens.

Who is "vacationing" at Target today?

Who is “vacationing” at Target today?

9. Breathe. Impossible, right? But important. There’s a reason they tell you on flights to put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else with their’s: if you don’t get yours on and you pass out from lack of oxygen, you’re not going to be much help. You need to make sure you’re getting air or you’re no good to anyone. Don’t rush and don’t forget to take care of yourself even if it’s just in little ways. For kids, the scent of stress is like the scent of blood for sharks, one little whiff and there will be a feeding frenzy. So breathe. Breathe deep. And for 5 minutes try to ignore the fact that every breath reminds you there’s a diaper that needs changing.

10. Plug in. We get it screens aren’t great for little kids and we miss out on so much when we’re plugged in and out of touch with the world around us. Which is why using technology to entertain kids while traveling is absolutely brilliant. We try to limit screen time at home in our family, so there’s room for many other activities that inspire creativity, physical movement, and adventure. Plus, that denial makes it a huge treat that they get to overindulge in screen time when we travel. At the start of any trip we avoid using screens but it doesn’t really take long before I’m saying “here sweetie, some headphones and digital candies you can crush for the next hour.” Survival of the techiest.

In all seriousness though, I love traveling with children. Seeing the world (or the grocery store), friends, and family is worth the difficulties we plunge ourselves and our children into. It isn’t always easy (why do we say that when what we mean is “95% of the time this is as pleasant as a pap smear but lasts a lot longer”?) but it is always rewarding. What are your realistic tips for traveling with kids?

Happy travels!

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