Our Nourishment Journey

by Angela Parish

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I am a proud “lactivist” and breastfeeding Mama of almost 17 month old twins. There was a time when I thought I would never get here. Not because motherhood and nourishing my babies isn’t something I desperately wanted, but because I struggled (and still struggle) with infertility. Infertility isn’t really part of my breastfeeding (and bottle feeding) journey but it is part of a more complete picture of me as a mother and as a person. My husband and I struggled the dark years of infertility from November 2009 until the conception of our first successful (In Vitro) pregnancy in August of 2011. It was a long and painful year and ten months.

Our first son, Elijah was born in April 2012. It had been my dream to nurse Elijah, exclusively. I did so for about five and a half months before introducing solids. He was developmentally advanced…sitting up unassisted at 4 1⁄2 months. We practiced babyled weaning with him and because he showed all signs of readiness, we allowed Elijah to experiment and ingest a slowly increasing variety of whole foods.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Nursing Elijah, my first born.

I produced A LOT of milk and so I had bloodwork done so Elijah and I could donate milk through Mothers Milk Bank. We also made several donations to private individuals struggling with supply. It was a very fulfilling time in my life as I not only fed my baby but also helped feed others in need. As we neared Elijah’s first birthday, I began to stash my milk again. We knew we wanted to pursue more children and had decided that after Elijah’s first birthday we would have another fresh in vitro cycle. This would require weaning my baby. And so by Elijah’s first birthday, he was no longer breastfeeding but did continue to get Mama’s previously pumped milk every day until he was almost 16 months old. Although I think Elijah would have been an excellent candidate for full term (extended) nursing, the choice to wean was the right one for our family and it resulted in our beautiful fraternal twin boys born in February 2014.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

We had planned an HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) for our twin boys, Patrick and Rory. But God had other plans for our family. After about a week of prodromal labor, and what felt like an eternity of some very difficult and painful labor at home with no progress, we transferred to the hospital. I continued to make no progress for several hours until the Pitocin and epidural had been in place. When we arrived we had been turned away at Texas Children’s Hospital by the OB on call because we were a home birth transfer. However a Fellow on duty not only agreed to take me as a patient but allowed me a trial of a vaginal birth….and actually seemed excited about it. Still, I was heartbroken. I found out that I had to push in the operating room and my midwife, doula and birth photographer would not be allowed in. This was not the birth I had planned.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I was put on an operating table, forced to lay on my back on a table that was broken and push. I got my first VBAC. Rory Mark was born and immediately taken away so that I could start working on Baby B. This was not the plan. At home, I was supposed to nurse Rory to keep contractions going, and get on hands and knees if necessary because Baby B often needs encouragement. I don’t think they even showed me Rory, let alone allowed me to nurse him. One thing that I was not expecting was not being able to feel my tummy tighten from contractions once one baby was out. My stomach was so tight and stretched from pregnancy that once I gave birth to the first baby, I could no longer feel when I was supposed to push. And the nurse that was supposed to be helping me with that was not telling me when to push.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

In the end, little Patrick was in distress and I ended up having an emergency cesarean. (So much that they started cutting me before the anesthesiologist was in the room and I felt EVERYTHING for the first few minutes.) Patrick was not breathing nor did he have a heartbeat when he was first born. His vitals started shortly after birth, but he was whisked away to the NICU before I could see him. He was placed on a cooling blanket treatment for four days and not allowed to nurse (or get anything other than an IV) or be picked up. I got to see the him next morning, but had to leave Rory in our hospital room because he was not allowed in the NICU. My twins, who had been together for 38 weeks 2 days, were separated for the first time.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Rory and I seeing Patrick from our hospital room. 

When day four arrived and Patrick was taken off his cooling treatment, the first thing I wanted to do was nurse him. He had a lot of catching up to do! And to my surprise, my tiny boy latched on right away! It was a weak latch but a latch nonetheless. It was my intention for this baby and his twin to be exclusively breastfed. But plans change. And in order for him to come home more quickly, he needed to be given bottles of Mama’s pumped (and some donated) milk. There would have been no way for me to exclusively breast feed both babies when they were not allowed to be in the same room. And even if I could have exclusively breast fed Patrick, the NICU doctors liked to keep track of intake and I knew the bottle would get my baby home faster. I went down at every feeding I could and administered his bottles myself, also offering the breast so he could practice. I called his nurse after every feeding I was unable to make it to in order to find out how many cc’s he had consumed. It was two steps forward, one step back for twelve days. During that time I consulted with the hospital lactation consultant who basically told me I was doing everything right and while that was flattering, it was not at all helpful. I knew that once I got him home, I would need to call BABES, a very reputable and supportive lactation consultant organization here in Houston.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Patrick came home on Valentine’s Day, 2014 which was my original due date. I always nursed him first. And then I would offer the bottle. He came home on a Friday. By Wednesday, my lactation consultant, Leah, came to our home and gave me some amazing advice on how to hold him so he had a better angle. By the following Friday, he was OFF THE BOTTLE! We were so blessed! I know it would not be that easy for everyone. I was and am so grateful that we had bottles when we needed them. And I am also grateful that we no longer did. Both parts of our journey are precious and special. Both provided needed nourishment to my baby. And even when I was bottle feeding him my pumped milk, I felt this incredible connection and bond as I nourished his little body.

Patrick has now been nursing for one year, four months and three weeks. Rory has been nursing for one year, four months, three weeks and four days. Neither shows any sign of stopping any time soon and while nursing toddlers (especially TWIN toddlers) presents its own challenges, I love this season of life. They both had Mama’s milk exclusively until their first birthday as planned, consisting of mainly nursing with occasional bottles so Mama could get out for a bit. Mamas needs breaks in order to be good mamas! It has been an amazing journey providing nourishment to all three of my children and I look forward to doing it again one day.

Angela Parish, guest post, Our Nourishment Journey

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Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post
 Angela, who is a photo-junkie, lives with her husband and three beautiful boys in Houston. 
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Newsletter: THE NEW MOM- Our Best Advice EVER!

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For the BRAND NEW MUM, or for the NEWLY-MADE-MOTHER in your life, this newsletter edition is just for YOU. Resources curated to keep, share, and change lives plus some special discounts! We welcome you and your new bundle. If that new baby stage is over for you, scroll down to our contribution from our sister sites that have nothing to do with babies and infant feeding for recipes, relationship stories, and reviews.

 

Dear Leakies,

How will parenting change you? Let me count the ways. We’ll start with 4 for now though.

Whether everything went according to the serene picture in your head or nothing like it at all, becoming a new parent is an experience like no other. Largely because all the preparation in the world doesn’t really prepare you and before you know it, parenting is sink or swim.

So you start swimming. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep SWIIIIIIIIIIIIIMING!

The reality is no matter how much you envisioned being a perfect parent, you will fail. I know, not very encouraging. But the sooner you accept that, the better it will be, you are not going to ever be a perfect parent. Parenting will change you and though you won’t be a perfect parent, you ARE the perfect parent for your child(ren). Flaws and all. There are glorious, amazing moments in parenting that will take your breath away. There are sweet, tender moments in parenting that will make you smile and treasure the little things. And yes, there are horrible, nightmarish moments in parenting that will cause you to question what you were thinking getting into this gig in the first place. All of the moments need the other moments.

Three ways parenting will change you:

You will redefine a good night’s sleep. And you’ll be amazed at how little can feel so good. Four months into parenting our second daughter, who had a personal vendetta against sleep, we had our first night with 4 hours in a row. Plus another 2 after that. It was amazing. I celebrated. Never mind that a year before a good night was 10 uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Clean takes on a new meaning too. So just how much like sour milk does that shirt you wore yesterday smell? On a scale of 1-10 if it’s a 7 it may likely pass as wearable.

You will need more storage on your phone. Sure, it’s popular to be annoyed with your friends posting pictures and videos of their kids all the time on social media but, OMG, you should have seen the way she discovered her fingers! You’re going to need more room on your phone.

Patience for yourself. At least I hope parenting changes you this way. If you are a perfectionist, this is particularly hard. In the end though, if you wouldn’t want someone treating your child the way you treat yourself, then you’re going to need to model that with how you treat yourself. Patience is key.

You’ve got this. You will keep swimming.

And for some of the more fun parts of parenting a newborn, see these 12 signs that you’re breastfeeding a newborn here.

Scroll down for more support for new parents, a great coupon code (20% off!) for a top that will convert all your shirts into breastfeeding tops, and for topics well beyond those baby days, see the sections from our sister sites OurStableTable.com andBeyondMoi.com.

GO HERE for an exclusive coupon code and MORE!

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Traumatic Birth: Resources for Healing and Protecting Breastfeeding

by Tanya Lieberman
This post was made possible by the generous support of MotherLove Herbal Company.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Having intrusive thoughts about your birth?  Flashbacks?  Feeling disconnected from your baby?  Do you steer clear of hospitals, or try to avoid talking about your birth?

Many women experience trauma related to childbirth, and estimates range from 18% to as high as 34%.  One third of women who experience traumatic births go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite its widespread nature, the experience of birth-related trauma can be an isolating one, as mothers are encouraged to focus on their babies and quickly “get over” their birth experience.  Trauma can affect a mother – and a partner’s – ability to connect with their baby, carry out normal activities, and can also impair breastfeeding.

In this post we’ll discuss traumatic birth – what it looks like, how it impacts breastfeeding, and where you can turn for help.

 

What’s a traumatic birth?

 

According to PATTCh, a birth trauma organization co-founded by noted childbirth author Penny Simkin, a traumatic birth is defined as one in which a woman experiences or perceives that she and/or her baby were in danger of injury or death to during childbirth.

It’s important to note that it is the mother’s experience of the events, regardless of what happened or the perceptions of other people, that determines whether she experiences trauma.

Here are some characteristic features of births that may lead to an experience of trauma, according to the Birth Trauma Association:

  • An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).  [Note that it’s the mother’s perception that is important, whether or not others agree.]
  • A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
  • The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
  • Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on guard all the time).

Some common triggers, according to the Birth Trauma Association, are: lengthy labor or short and very painful labor, induction, poor pain relief, feelings of loss of control, high levels of medical intervention, traumatic or emergency deliveries (e.g. emergency cesarean section), impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes, not being listened to, lack of information or explanation, lack of privacy and dignity, fear for baby’s safety, stillbirth, birth injuries to the baby, NICU stay, poor postpartum care, previous trauma (such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, trauma with a previous birth).

How can traumatic birth affect breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can be healing for many mothers after a traumatic birth, and may also repair the relationship between a mother who feels estranged from her baby.  But a traumatic birth may also cause breastfeeding problems.

A traumatic birth can delay on the onset of a mother’s mature milk (“milk coming in”), known as lactogenesis II, sometimes by several days.  This effect is well documented, and often leads to a cascade of breastfeeding problems including jaundice, poor feeding due to sleepiness, poor milk removal, and low supply.

While research on the independent effect of Pitocin on breastfeeding is not sufficient to draw direct conclusions, according to Linda Smith, author of The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding, its effects on factors related to breastfeeding are more clear.  Pitocin increases the risk of other interventions, such as IV fluids and cesarean section, which are associated with breastfeeding problems.  Linda Smith also notes that induction of labor often causes babies to be born earlier, and “early term” babies are known to be at higher risk of breastfeeding difficulty.

 

What are some steps you can take after a traumatic birth to minimize the effects on breastfeeding?

There are many steps a mother and her provider can take to minimize the effects of a traumatic birth on breastfeeding:

Skin-to-skin.  Skin-to-skin contact lowers stress hormones, promotes the release of hormones important to lactation, and helps establish a bond between mother and baby.  Some mothers are too overwhelmed by their traumatic experience to practice skin-to-skin, but for those who can it should be encouraged.

Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping.  Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping, may help to speed the onset of mature milk.  If a baby is not feeding well, pumping can protect a mother’s milk supply and prevent or lessen the downward spiral noted above.

Find support to ensure that breastfeeding is not painful.  In research on the relationship between traumatic birth and breastfeeding, authors Beck and Watson found that mothers who had traumatic births and who didn’t have the emotional reserves to work through breastfeeding pain were less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  So finding someone who can help you feed without pain is important.

Focus on your motivation.  Beck and Watson also found that the mothers who were very determined, and those who were motivated by a desire to “make up” for a baby’s less than optimal arrival, were more likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  They suggest setting short term goals and finding respectful support.

Supplementation when medically necessary.  A brief period of supplementation is sometimes necessary in order to bridge the time before your mature milk arrives.  Ideally this would be donor breastmilk, but it is not often available for these situations.  See the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol for supplementation.

Know where to get good help once home.  Since mothers are generally sent home from the hospital before their milk comes in, they should plan to seek help if their milk is not in by 72 hours (the period defined as normal for the onset of lactogenesis II).  This may head off further difficulty.

If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, connect with your baby in other ways.  As noted above, breastfeeding can be healing to many mothers after a traumatic birth.  But some mothers are truly too overwhelmed to initiate or continue breastfeeding.  In these cases, consider other ways to connect with your baby, such as infant massage, skin to skin, and babywearing.

 

What are some resources for recovery for mothers and partners experiencing birth-related PTSD?

Connecting with other moms.  Connecting with other moms helps you see that you’re not alone.  There are a number of online communities for mothers experiencing birth-related trauma, including Solace for Mothers, Birth Trauma Association’s Facebook page, and Baby Center.

Self care.  A number of forms of self care can aid in healing, including: getting adequate sleep, exercise, yoga, bodywork and massage.  Getting help with cooking, cleaning, and baby care from family, friends, or a postpartum doula may also help you heal.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is considered by trauma experts, including the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the American Psychological Association, to be a front line treatment for PTSD.  EMDR involves thinking about the traumatic experience while experiencing a stimulus engaging both sides of your perception.  This might mean moving your eyes back and forth, listening to a tapping sound in alternating ears, or feeling a tapping on alternating knees.  EMDR typically reduces symptoms after just a few sessions. To find a certified EMDR professional, see the EMDR Institute or the EMDR International Association.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy which addresses beliefs caused by trauma and helps to counter conditioned-fear responses related to the traumatic experience.  To find a CBT therapist, search the websites of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapist’s or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

Medications.  You may want to discuss medication options with your healthcare provider.  A summary of medication options is provided here.

Care for partners.  Partners can experience trauma related to childbirth as well.  Encourage partners to seek help if they are experiencing trauma

For more information, listen to Motherlove Herbal Company’s podcast interview.  You may also be interested in this podcast interview on traumatic birth with Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, president-elect of the Trauma Division of the American Psychological Association.

 Tanya Lieberman is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) who has helped nursing moms  in hospital and pediatric settings.  She writes and produces podcasts for several  breastfeeding websites, including  Motherwear,  Motherlove Herbal Company, and  the Best for Babes Foundation.  Tanya recently authored Spanish for Breastfeeding Support, a guide to help lactation consultants support Spanish-  speaking moms.  Prior to becoming a lactation consultant she was senior  education policy staff to the California legislature and Governor, and served as a  UN civilian peacekeeper.  Tanya is passionate about supporting nursing moms, and especially to eliminating the barriers so many moms face in meeting their breastfeeding goals. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her 8 year old son and her 1 year old daughter.
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Nurturing Life Motherlove Giveaway

Happy Earth Day!

 

For the last 20 years, Motherlove has created herbal care products to help women discover the bond between motherhood and mother earth.  With a specific focus on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, Motherlove strives to use ingredients that come straight from the earth.  Their support of organic farming, sustainable practices, and their use of all-recycled materials for their office and product packaging, are a testament to their dedication to caring for our earth, for the benefit of mothers everywhere.  And if that weren’t enough, they also manage a 120 acre farm, called the Legacy Organic Farm, in Colorado, where they are growing many of the herbs they use in their products.

Welcome to Our Legacy Farm

To help celebrate Earth Day 2014, Motherlove is sponsoring a giveaway here on TLB, but first, here are some pics of some of the cuteness that’s happening at their farm, where Motherlove staff is hanging out today:

baby pigs nursing

nursing piglet

To read more about their day on the farm, check out today’s entry on the Motherlove blog!

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Motherlove is giving away a Nurturing Life Giftbox, celebrating new motherhood, to 1 lucky winner.

Each Nurturing Life Giftbox has a Retail value $59.95 and includes:

– pregnant belly salve

– nipple cream

– birth & baby oil

– sitz bath spray

– diaper rash & thrush

– environmentally responsible Motherlove tote bag

Currently Leakies can find these and other great pregnancy and nursing products on the Motherlove website and in some local retail stores and boutiques.

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered, and check out motherlove.com for more products related to fertility, pregnancy, and nursing .  The giveaway is open from April 22, 2014 through April 29, 2014.  A big thanks to Motherlove for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women, please be sure to visit their Facebook page  or follow them on twitter (@motherloveherb on Twitter) and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is open to US entries only.

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Breastfeeding after a C-Section

by Star Rodriguez, IBCLC- this post made possible by the generous support of Rumina Nursingwear.

 

During my pregnancies, I planned for a natural childbirth.  No medications, vaginal, et cetera.  It was going to be awesome.

Except that then I wound up with two c-sections.  So that was unexpected.  And scary.  And threw a big wrench in the whole breastfeeding thing.  I’d planned to have my baby skin to skin minutes after birth and after a natural delivery where I’d have a vigorous, hungry baby.  Now I was exhausted and itchy and pukey and I could barely move.  I had no game plan for this scenario.

My first c-section led to a lot of problems with breastfeeding.  The lovely IBCLCs who helped me fix my breastfeeding relationship actually inspired me to begin this career path.  In this article, I will pass along information that will (hopefully) help you if you are going to be having a c-section and plan to breastfeed.

With most c-sections, mom will get a lot of fluids.  This often translate into an inflated birth weight for baby.  Subsequently, your baby may pee a lot and appear to lose a lot of weight as it gets rids of the fluid (this can also happen if a mom has a lot of IV fluids and delivers vaginally; it’s just even more common in c-sections, though.)  Most doctors and nurses are aware of this, but some are a little less familiar.  Most hospitals have a cut off on weight loss for babies but not all hospitals take the inflation into account, some don’t.  If your hospital does not, and you are asked to supplement, bottles are not always your friend.  Nipple confusion and flow preference are real things.  Not all babies will have an issue, but we don’t know which ones will.  So instead of a bottle, try finger feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding, supplemented at the breast with an SNS, or something of the like.  You can also ask if your baby can be supplemented with your milk.

Some c-section moms experience a delay in their mature milk coming in.  C-sections are not linked with delayed copious milk production, but traumatic births are.  Some c-sections can be very traumatic.  Also, c-sections are more likely to offer longer separations between mom and baby; some theorize that the less stimulation in the early hours can delay things slightly, too.  The moral of this story is to try to get your baby to the breast as soon as possible.  More and more hospitals are having skin to skin in the operating room for non-emergency c-sections.  If not, ask that your baby be brought to you right away when you are in recovery.  If your hospital has a lactation consultant or breastfeeding expert, see if they can come see you as soon as possible, too, to assist in that latch, especially since you might be tired or not feeling well.  If you still have issues with delayed milk, pumping can help.  Sometimes a 24 hour burst of pumping after most feedings can ramp up milk production and make your body get its act together.

C-section moms can have a lot of soreness.  First of all, don’t ignore the medications that they offer if you’re in pain.  The normal pain relievers prescribed in hospitals are fine for breastfeeding moms to take.  If you’re worried, ask your doctor or nurse.  They will be happy to check for you.  If you are sore and tired, it is often tempting to have someone else feed the baby while you sleep.  No one but you can make that decision, but in those early weeks, skipping feedings can be a problem.  If you do need someone else to feed your baby, again, I highly suggest not using a bottle.  When soreness is a factor, trying an alternate position can also help moms more comfortable in those early days.  C-section moms are often told to use the football hold, and while it is a hold that I love, every mom is different.  If you nurse in a different hold or position that works for you and your baby, great!  In my experience, about 50% of moms that love the football hold post c-section.  The side lying hold is also a great one (where you lie down and pull your baby in to your breast – Miranda Kerr famously released a Tweet of her nursing her newborn this way) but is not always possible right away, since you are probably going to find it hard to impossible to move.

Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

Support for a c-section mom is key.  You just had surgery, and recovery can be hard.  Breastfeeding naturally has a learning curve, and those two things together can feel so overwhelming.  Make sure people are around to help you out the first week or so.  My mother, for instance, made us dinner every single night for a week with my second baby.  It was the greatest thing ever.  I was so not up to cooking yet; I was still trying to figure out how to recover from surgery and handle two kids.  Just make sure that you are getting supportive support, and not unsupportive support and be willing to protect your boundaries, it can make a difference in your breastfeeding journey. 

Finally, many of the moms I see that are up and moving around regularly after surgery do better at breastfeeding.  This is totally anecdotal, and it could just be that those moms didn’t have it as hard as others for whatever reason.  But I do encourage moms to do what they can to feel like a normal human being again.  Walk if you can.  Those fluids that I talked about earlier?  They are still in your body, too, and some can hang out in your breasts, making it harder for the baby to latch well.  Moving can help your body to eliminate those  fluids.  Although I tell you to try to return to some semblance of normal as soon as you can, I am not telling you to overdo it.  Go with your body and how it reacts.  With my second baby, I was ready right away to walk after my c-section.  I felt great.  The second they allowed me, I had a nurse in there helping me up.  Anddddddd then I projectile vomited and almost passed out.  When I thought about it later, I was so gung ho to move nownownow that I ignored a lot of signs that I wasn’t ready yet (sporadic dizziness, nausea, and just a general unwell feeling.)  Don’t force yourself to do things too early and don’t make yourself sick or hurt.  Also, remember to eat and drink to hunger and thirst.  This will help your body to heal and produce the milk that you need.  You don’t have to force yourself to eat extra, just eat what you need.

And if possible, relax.  Be gentle with yourself and your new baby.  Having a newborn is challenging.  Having a newborn and recovering from surgery is that geography between rock and hard place.  Postpartum recovery is important not only to your health but in reality to your entire family, read this on how important taking time to heal birth is for your whole family.  To take care of your baby well you must take care of you.  Your recovery matters and your healing is a key piece in the continuation of your breastfeeding journey.

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Did you have a c-section?  Did it impact breastfeeding?  If you had a c-section and breastfed, what helped you and how would you encourage other c-section moms?

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StarbabyStar Rodriguez, IBCLC, RLC is a provider in the Central Lakes, MN area.  She provides services online at Lactastic Services and in person.  She also blogs for The Leaky B@@b and volunteers her services to loss mothers at Stillbirthday.

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Why I shared the journey through Sugarbaby’s birth

 

I could tell you women are strong, powerful, brave, self-aware, supported, loved, connected, and more.

Or I could show you.  With that, maybe you can show yourself.

On Thursday, April 19th, 2012, The Piano Man and I live streamed Sugarbaby’s birth (see videos of the birth here).  On that day there were over 105,000 page views on the live stream birth page and we know there were at least just over 18,000 participants on the live chat stream.  I never imagined our birth experience would reach so many.

When we found out we were expecting last fall we began to ask ourselves how we could use this pregnancy and the birth for good for not only our family but others.  The Piano Man and I tossed around ideas and talked about options.  Then we quickly fell deep into managing HG mode and the conversation ground to a halt.

But the desire was still there.  The idea of live streaming the birth tickled at the back of my mind and I found myself reflecting on the labor and birth videos I had watched over the years either preparing for my own births or as a student midwife.  Those women that allowed camera crews into their births inspired me for both myself and eventually for the women I supported in labor and birth.  A couple of years ago I saw a live birth streamed from a birth center and was drawn into the camaraderie of those chatting and watching the birth online.  It was a virtual experience of the sisterhood of the red tent.  Here was my opportunity to extend that experience to others and help educate others on not only home birth but birth in general.

Why do this?  It wasn’t to convince anyone to have a home birth or even an unmedicated natural birth if possible.  I have read criticism of others that have chosen to share their births with the world.  These women were called horrible names, exhibitionists, narcissists, careless, vain, and much, much more.  I knew that should I share my birth it was possibly opening myself and my family to harsh attacks from those that wouldn’t understand.  And I had to ask myself what if something DID go wrong?  Still, there was one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Back when I was 20 years old and pregnant with Earth Baby, I never dreamed I could handle anyone in the room when I birthed, let alone a camera.  In fact, I thought I was crazy brave to look in the mirror while pushing to see what was happening on the other side of the blue drape that cut me in half and removed me from my own body. Yet I had some idea of what to expect in the birth of my first daughter less because of the childbirth education class we attended at the hospital and more because of the videos we viewed in preparation.  Videos of other women who had permitted a camera to capture their moment. Progressively over time though I began to see birth a bit differently and when I became a student midwife I experienced something that taught me even more.

My eldest cutting the cord for my youngest.

Birth is beautiful, mysterious, and intensely intimate.  Yet it is also ordinary, normal, and common place.  Birth has a way of unveiling a woman’s true inner strength where she can more fully embrace her own power.  Every day women give birth not only to their child but to themselves as mothers.  Birth doesn’t complete her, it just reveals another layer of who she is by daring to expose her without filters, without pretense, with raw power to herself. Even with the ordinary nature of this profound event, most women have never really seen a real birth and at worst their expectations and education have been limited to that of entertainment media and the often one-upping horror stories of friends.  For many at best they go through a class talking about birth but with only limited exposure to an actual birth.  So women often experience this life changing journey with no idea of the path so many, many have trod before them.

This isn’t how it used to be or even how it is in some parts of the world today.  Women supported each other, birth being more than an event that happened to an individual woman but rather an experience that united all the women of a community.  It wasn’t all rosy and perfect, but it was real and that authenticity allowed the power of birth to impact more than just the family embracing the new person.  Power, particularly power that is difficult to control, scares us sometimes though, and in an effort to make birth safer we lost that community aspect of birth as women began to birth in isolation with only those considered trained professionals present.  In that absence of community in birth, fear could grow unchecked.

I’m grateful for the advancements made in keeping birth safe and for those trained professionals that can help us get our babies when safety is in jeopardy.  I’m also grateful for the women that allowed cameras into their intimate moments of birth so I could receive the message that the sensationalized media versions of birth that would have me believe that my own body was frightening, that women aren’t strong enough, and that surrendering the control over my body to strangers was the only way to navigate the passage of birth safely are simply not true.  Because those women were brave enough to share I discovered my own inner strength to have the audacity to pursue a different kind of birth experience for myself and my baby.  With fear removed I could explore and inform myself as to what kind of birth my baby and I would be able to have.  Thanks to those women I went on to have an unmedicated hospital birth followed by 5 safe, low risk home births.  Thirteen years later I am now audacious enough to pay it forward and to share those truths with others.

The birth of Sugarbaby wasn’t quite as I expected but that’s kind of the beauty of birth, there’s only so much that you can expect.  By now I’ve learned not to have strong expectations about my birth but rather to be flexible and prepared for just about anything.  Still, never establishing a regular contraction pattern frustrated me and made it more difficult for me to relax through the contractions.  A stubborn baby with not-so-great positioning led to hip pain that wore me down after a while.  I had no intentions of artificially breaking my bag of waters but when I had been in labor with an irregular contraction pattern for over 12 hours and hip pain that wouldn’t let up, I felt my energy and endurance giving way.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d give birth on hands and knees, it has been my least favorite position every time before but this time, with a difficult position for baby, it was where I found myself.  My ideal surrendered to my flexible strength for what I needed not only physically but emotionally and Sugarbaby and I had the right birth for us as a pair.

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

1 week old, photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

Some people don’t understand why we shared our birth and I admit it’s a little strange when someone at church tells me they just watched my birth video last week.  I know what I sounded like on that video, I know what they saw.  But that’s kind of just it, now we all know and maybe someone is less afraid, less detached, less unsure about her own journey through birth.  Which is exactly why I shared my birth experience.

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Help them help you- new baby sign with ways for visitors to help

Sugarbaby, minutes old. Photo by Debra Parker

For my last 2 babies, my midwife had a piece of paper she taped to my front door before she left after the birth.  Announcing to visitors that there was a new baby in the house, it shared birth facts such as weight, length, name, date, etc.  That part was nice but what I really loved was the part about what visitors could do.  Informing them that a new baby means help is needed and that their visit should be brief, this little piece of paper taped to my front door encouraged those that loved us and wanted to celebrate with us to keep their voices low, limit their time, understand if we needed to be alone, and give them ideas of how to help such as offering to do the dishes, sweep a floor, run the vacuum, or take the bigger kids to the park.  In short, it helped our visitors figure out how to be the best kind of visitors and I discovered that I didn’t mind having people stop by as much as I did with my older kids simply because they helped more and were more understanding of our needs.  Knowing they already saw a notice of sorts on the front door before they came in made it easier for me to respect my own boundaries, excusing myself to rest or not feeling awkward about them asking if they could help with something around the house.

There are far too many expectations on families when they have a new baby.  Respecting the postpartum recovery and the important bonding that needs to happen with the new family member sets up families to continue on well for the long haul.  If you’re breastfeeding, this time is crucial to establishing your breastfeeding relationship and focusing on that will have a long term pay off.  Pushing for too much too soon, other people interfering with the bonding, can leave moms feeling burnt out and unwell months, maybe even years later.  Having true support and help to take the time to really heal leads to endurance in the parenting journey.  That, and knowing we’re not alone along the way.

So my gift to you is my version of this life-saving piece of paper.  Ask your care provider to sign it complete with the appropriate initials behind their name then stick it on your front door when your little one arrives and leave it there for at least 6 weeks (8 if you birth via c-section).  Be a good friend and print it off to give others that are expecting for them to put on their front door.  Don’t hesitate to point out the note, referring to it by asking if they saw how much baby weighed or how long she was and if they didn’t notice, encourage them to go check out the info posted on the front door.  It can be hard to ask for help yet not allowing others to help ends up creating isolation and robbing others of the joy of offering support and encouragement by helping. This little bit of guidance can help not only the new mom and family but the friends and family that want to offer quality support but just aren’t sure what is needed.  Take the guess work out of the picture and everyone wins.

new baby help sign for front door

 new baby sign and help list for front door

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Ordinary Miracle- the labor and home birth of Sugarbaby, April 19, 2012

Jessica and Arden Credence (Sugarbaby) 1 week after birth. Photo by Kelli Elizabeth Photography

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two months since the birth of our little Sugarbaby!  (Read her introduction here.)  As promised, here are the videos that we shot during labor.  Finding the time to format the videos for YouTube and uploading them took a bit longer than we had anticipated.  We apologize for the long wait, especially for those who had a sneaky ad pop up just when our Sugarbaby was being born, but as you will see, her arrival was a surprise for everyone in the room!  Except maybe Jessica.  I’ll give a brief synopsis of each video, but otherwise let them speak for themselves.  I left them raw and virtually unedited (except to find a logical beginning and end for each).  Enjoy!

In this first video, it’s morning and still in the early stages of labor.  Jessica had checked herself and was about 4cm with a bulging bag of waters.  This is pre-live-stream, so if you tuned in to watch the birth, this is previously unseen footage even for you!  Dancing and singing in our living room, and the participation of our eldest, Earth Baby, contributed to make this a sweet start to a very long day.

 

In this second video, also, pre-live-stream, we moved to the bedroom, spent time on an exercise ball, and we try something we’ve never done before to get Sugarbaby to change her positioning: the rebozo technique.

 

This third video shows footage that was near the start of the live-feed.  It’s a great example of the lighter side of labor, with lots of conversations and bantering going on between more serious contractions.  Of utmost importance is the conversation near the end where the birth team discusses their favorite pizza.

 

The more serious side of labor is demonstrated in this fourth video, along with Jessica’s favorite laboring technique, sleep imitation, which was rendered extremely difficult thanks to the unusually intense hip pain Jessica experienced.

 

For the final installment of this five-part video experience memorializing the birth of Sugarbaby, you will see just a couple of very long contractions followed by her sudden arrival.  Don’t blink, or you just might miss it.  At least in this format, no one can blame it on a Captain Morgan’s or a Formula ad popping up at just the wrong moment!  And you can replay it.  This fifth video also includes some very ordinary footage of what it’s like in the first few minutes after a home birth, full of sweet, tired and, excited family interactions.

 

Our deepest gratitude to our midwife Cathy Rude, LM, CPM from Katy Birth Center in Katy, TX.; to Anna from Momma on a Mission for live blogging the labor and birth as our media rep; to Deborah Parker, our birth photographer; to Sue Potts our friend and the RN birth assistant; and to all our daughters for giving us the greatest reason to share this joy with others.

It is our hope that these videos demonstrate the natural, simple and beautiful alternative to the accepted hospital experience.  It isn’t the right choice for everyone or for all births, but our home births certainly have been for us, and we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.  We chose to share this birth journey and TLB with many as a way of paying it forward for all those that have shared their birth and parenting journeys with us and have inspired us along the way.  If you would like to help us continue to be able to do so and to offset the expense of running TLB, you can give a donation via the donate button on the right hand side of the page but please know there is no obligation.  Thank you for sharing this journey with us, it was an honor.

 

Sincerely,

The Piano Man and Jessica

 

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Mother’s Day Wishes- Motherlove Herbal Company Nurturing Life Giftbox Giveaway

For this Mother’s Day Motherlove is giving away one Nurturing Life Giftbox.  I was given a Nurturing Life Giftbox and absolutely love it, used the birth and baby oil while in labor, my nipples love the nipple cream, and everything else in the giftbox has been put to good use over the last couple of weeks.  My favorite gift for expecting moms and new breastfeeding moms.  It has been a privilege to work with Motherlove Herbal Company (makers of More Milk and More Milk Plus) and I have completely enjoyed getting to know Kathryn Higgens and her eldest daughter Silencia over the past year.  Making quality herbal products that are of the highest quality, safe, and organic, Motherlove invests in Mother Earth and mothers of the earth through their company and their non-profit, The Nurturing Life Foundation.  Please read on to learn more about this trustworthy company from Silencia, the daughter of the mom that started Motherlove and now the Director of Marketing of her mother’s company.  This mother and daughter team go above and beyond in supporting mothers and promoting breastfeeding.  

Kathryn and Silencia

TLB:  What should TLB readers know about Motherlove Herbal Company?

Silencia:  Motherlove was started by my mom, Kathryn Higgins, over 20 years ago — when she was a new mother looking for natural options for her own pregnancy. The company has remained true to its roots and never compromised on quality. We were the first natural product line specifically created for pregnancy and breastfeeding. Today we make products for pregnancy, breastfeeding, postpartum and baby care. Our focus is on herbal products designed to nurture, soothe and heal women and babies.

 

TLB:  How does Motherlove support mothers?

Silencia:  Providing clean and simple products that work. Our More Milk Plus has helped thousands of women increase their breast milk supply and continue to breastfeed their babies. We donate a percentage of every sale to our Nurturing Life Foundation, which funds projects for low income moms, at risk kids and families who need extra support.

 

TLB:  What was your favorite mother’s day present?

Silencia:  I like to cook for my mom. She has trouble finding the time to cook (plus she doesn’t love cooking) so it is something that I can do to give her a little more time in the day to garden.

 

TLB:  What do you wish for all mothers this mother’s day?

Silencia:  I hope that every mom has at least one day a year they feel appreciated. Being a mother is such hard work and having a day to acknowledge that hard work is important.

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Motherlove is giving away one complete Nurturing Life Giftbox, a retail value of $59.99.

The Nurturing Life Giftbox is Motherlove’s complete selection celebrating new motherhood! From pregnancy and labor, to breastfeeding and babies, these products nurture mother and baby with certified organic herbs and pure ingredients. These products do not contain any synthetic ingredients, fragrances or parabens commonly found in body care products. The perfect gift for the mother who is looking for only the highest quality, pure, natural products for herself and child.

The Nurturing Life Giftbox contains:

  • Nipple cream
  • Diaper rash and thrush cream
  • Rhoid balm
  • Sitz bath concentrate
  • Sitz bath spray
  • Birth and baby oil

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered and be sure to visit Motherlove online to learn more about the Motherlove products and get to know this company that makes it a priority to support mothers and babies.  This giveaway is open from May 9, 2012 through May 16, 2012.  Heartfelt appreciation to Motherlove for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding women, please be sure to visit the Motherlove Facebook page and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is open only to shipping addresses in the USA.

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There is No “ME” in UterUS: A Tale of Uterine Envy

by Jamie Grayson

There are many reasons I’m jealous of women.

You can wear more clothing that shows skin in the summer and it’s still appropriate.

As long as you don’t look like a damn clown, you’re able to wear makeup to cover blemishes.

You can blame mood swings on an “Aunt Flo.”. Who the hell is she?  Why don’t I have one and why doesnt she send me birthday cards???

You can carry a child.

The other day I was on a train and a pregnant lady sat across from me.  She was wearing a skirt and tank top, so she looked like many other pregnant women I see on the train. As a matter of fact, she looked like many men I see on the subway. It’s New York. Expect the unexpected.  But then, she changed.

She moved her hands over her stomach and immediately started glowing. I shit you not. It was as if a connection had been made that no science or religion could argue about.

She is a mother.

I sat on that train trying not to cry.  Sometimes I get emotional while working with clients. The first time I see a new baby I’m usually a wreck. But that’s ok in that situation. Crying on the subway, not so much.  It has been a nutty few months and I’m just a little bit more susceptible to my feelings right now.

I realized a long time ago that I physically couldn’t carry a child. I know, it’s a shocker.  I feel completely blessed to be able to work with and around expectant and new parents daily. The greatest honor of my life was being able to spend six months in Minneapolis with my family and those two nuggets I’m obsessed with, as well as being my sister’s labor doula.  It was life-changing.

When female friends complain about something, I often respond with:    “Yeah. But I can’t get pregnant.”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I mean every single word.

I know women have to deal with many things I’ll never understand:  training bras, heels, haircuts that cost too much, highlights, menopause…the list could go on and on. However, you’ve also the ultimate blessing:  you can carry life.

I know all women cannot do this, and my heart goes out to them. That’s a topic that deserves an entire post on another site.

This goes out to the guys.

I’ve not met many guys who feel this way, so I definitely feel as if I’m in the minority.  Most guys I work with or meet are actually ecstatic that they’ll never be pregnant. I honestly cannot say I blame them for feeling that way, but I’m wired differently.  I dont know when these feelings started. Was it the birth education center?  Maybe. Was it working with my clients?  Mayhaps. I do know that one item I hold near and dear is a video of my sister, Jennifer, and I walking into the delivery room after my sister Olivia was born.  I remember sitting outside and hearing her cries for the first time. Walking in that room blew my mind. What my 16 year-old brain could only understand as something growing inside my mom was now here.  I could touch her and hold her and hug her.  For sixteen years she has constantly amazed/bewildered/aggravated/enraged/enlightened me. She’s my rat girl (long story) and always will be  Sixteen years later I’m amazed at what she’s become, and thrilled by what my youngest sister, Elizabeth, continues to be.

I’m starting to ramble.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be that connected to a life. I’ll never know what it’s like to feel someone kick me from inside.  My loins will never produce my offspring. Women always complain about “the curse of Eve.”

What about the Curse of Adam??

 

Jamie Grayson, known as TheBabyGuyNYC, is a nationally-recognized baby gear expert and baby planner, and has been featured on Martha Stewart, Today Show, and several regional news programs.  Traveling the country speaking at expectant parent events and product launches, writing forStrollerTraffic.com as well as other media outlets, and working with expectant families takes up most of his time–although he still makes time for a movie and a cocktail on occasion.  Questions?  He’s always available on Facebook or Twitter.
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