Breastfeeding Confession: I don’t love breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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As I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Sugarbaby, now 4, I had noticed a few women commenting online that they hated breastfeeding or at least didn’t love it. Not that they were stopping or refused to do it but that they didn’t have any of the warm fuzzy feelings they’d heard others talk about and they were looking forward to experiencing themselves. Often with their confession came the question: “does this make me a bad mom?”

My heart ached with them. I had felt the same.

I watched as some people responded making suggestions as to how they could maybe enjoy the experience more, or how it may take some time to get to that place, some sharing how much they love breastfeeding and are sorry the poster didn’t, and sometimes a few responding that they could relate. These women would respond that they were really struggling or felt broken, or questioned that maybe they didn’t love their child enough and that there was something wrong with them.

And again my heart ached with them.

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I was 35 weeks pregnant that week, preparing for a new nursling. Expecting baby #6, I was fairly confident that everything would be fine with breastfeeding. Not overly so, as I know each breastfeeding experience is different but there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be breastfeeding and that if there were any challenges we’d be able to work through them with our incredible support system. Still, there was this tiny part of me that wasn’t really looking forward to it. Maybe even dreading it a little. Which is almost heresy coming from the person that started The Leaky Boob.

Feeling for those women struggling I posted this status update on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page: 

“I don’t *love* breastfeeding. Nope, I don’t. It doesn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings. I don’t look forward to sitting down with my nursling. I don’t particularly care for the sensation. But I breastfeed and I actively advocate and educate about breastfeeding. Why? Because I believe it’s the biologically normal way to feed a human infant. I don’t see myself as a martyr, just doing what I need to do to care for my children. I also don’t think this makes my a bad mom any more than the fact that sometimes I really hate making dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. Or changing diapers and doing laundry. What about you? Anyone else not “love” breastfeeding? What’s your breastfeeding confession?”

Responses started pouring in and in less than an hour there were close to 200 comments. The first 20 or so comments (I didn’t count, it could be a dozen or 50) are either people sharing they can relate, thanking me for such an honest confession because they felt less alone or freakish, sharing that it’s a love/hate relationship for them, the random “don’t like seeing people breastfeeding in public” (what’s that doing there?), the super excited ones that LOVE it and can’t relate, and the true confession of wanting to go out drinking (one brave soul shared that). Most of the 200 responses were from women grateful to hear my confession, thanking me for letting them know they weren’t alone and weren’t a bad mom for having these feelings. Then came the handful of comments saying that status was terrible and would discourage moms from breastfeeding. A few said that if they had seen that post when they were first breastfeeding and things were rough it would have made them want to quit. They asserted that we shouldn’t lie but we have to be selective with our words so as not to scare someone off. A few came down hard saying they were disappointed to see a post like that on TLB and called into question if I really support breastfeeding with posts like that.

I told my #4 nursling at the time that I didn’t like breastfeeding. Apologizing that I was gritting my teeth through her nursing sessions, I stroked her cheek and told her that even though I didn’t love breastfeeding I did very much love her and so she was worth it. Too young to understand, I felt my little girl sleeping in my arms and my chest tightened as the truth of my love for her surged through me making it hard to breathe. In that moment I vowed that even if I never loved breastfeeding I would focus on how much I love my daughter while she’s at my breast and I could take pleasure in how much she enjoyed breastfeeding even if I didn’t personally enjoy it.

Going into breastfeeding my 6th baby, my feelings about breastfeeding had changed, the skin-crawling, teeth gritting feeling was gone and while I still couldn’t say that I personally loved it I truly and deeply loved how much my baby loves to breastfeed. As her mother, there is an expansive satisfaction in making her happy that overwhelms even my own discomfort. She went on to breastfeed for 4 years and no, I don’t regret doing so. I don’t see myself as a martyr, just as a mother who, like most parents, has to give up some of my own personal comfort for a time for the benefit of my child. Though I’m not breastfeeding now, when I was, when my baby would grin up at me briefly letting go of my nipple, a little dribble of milk coursing down her cheek, I feel privileged to share and be the source of this moment she enjoyed so much. I will continue to support and advocate for breastfeeding and I will continue being honest about my own breastfeeding journey and feelings because in the long run we all need the kind of support to be who we really are if we’re going to grow.

I followed up with this that day on Facebook: (edited here)

“So sometimes breastfeeding isn’t an amazing experience, sometimes it is. We can be honest about our feelings with ourselves and with others and need to have safe places to do so. If that’s announcing loving the experience or sharing that it’s a struggle not enjoyed, it’s important to have that place. Even for me. Being brave enough to be honest enough to admit the hard stuff is where true support is found. When I first started breastfeeding and hated it deeply it wasn’t helpful to only hear how wonderful it was for everyone else. I needed to hear a balance of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t believe anyone actually enjoyed it, they just said they did it because it was expected. Today, 6 nurslings later, I’ve learned that it’s complicated and that’s ok. Everyone’s experience is different and nobody should have to hide it because what we need is to be honest, supportive, and real. Some things are going to encourage you, some are going to discourage you, either way, own YOUR experience.”

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What about you? Have you had times where even if everything was working fine, you just didn’t enjoy breastfeeding? Why do you continue?

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Making The Mothering Season Matter: Summer Edition

by Carrie Saum

This summer, I made a few promises to myself. Kind of like a reboot of my New Year’s resolution except better, because SUMMER.

  • I will eat all the vegetables I grow in my garden. (I’m winning that one.)
  • I will take my toddler for an outdoor adventure everyday. (This has happened every day except when we have had record breaking heat.)
  • I will take a shower every single day because I stink when I don’t. (Hahahaha! Yeah. NOPE.)
  • I will eat a real breakfast and no longer count a handful of trail mix and a cup of coffee as a complete meal. (I have replaced trail mix with scraps of my toddler’s rejected breakfast. I’ll call this a wash.)
  • I will pack up the car once a week and take an adventure with my son during the day. (I’m killing it!)

The last two summers have absolutely sucked. I mean that literally and figuratively. I pumped exclusively for my baby for 21 months, spanning the length of two summers. Lugging around the breast pump and a newborn and then a toddler made it tricky to do activities on my own with my son. I still did it, but we stuck closer to home and the mental/emotional/physical/logistical effort was just TOO MUCH.

But this summer? This summer has been redemption.

My BFF and I have been dreaming of having babies and doing fun things together with them. We chose an easy spot close to home for our first excursion. We loaded up all of our stuff and our babies and our courage and struck out for a nearby river. ALL BY OURSELVES.

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Our sons were less sure than we were about this.

Sweet, child-riddled-but-still-doing-it-anyway Freedom.

We were wild mamas, spreading out blankets and packages of seaweed snacks and mango and splashing in the frigid river with our babies who seemed completely immune to shockingly cold water. We doled out food and milk and took turns corralling our sons who only wanted to eat the sand and make big splashes in the water.

We upped the ante for our next adventure. The coast is about 90 minutes from our front door, so we gathered our courage, planned for the entire day, and set out for the Pacific Ocean like mommy pioneers. In fact, I’m certain we had enough gear to fill a covered wagon.

After two tantrum stops, lunch at a café where our boys behaved like tiny well-behaved adults and never threw a single bit of food or fussed once, a stop for an over-priced dark chocolate bar and lattes, a pee break, and quick conversation about which actual beach to go to, we arrived. A mere four hours later. We were so jubilant that we made it, we didn’t care how long it took us.Echo Beach River

We splashed and played and chased our tiny monsters all over the beach with abandon. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you those 2 hours were positively magical. We learned that beach sand is just as delicious to toddlers as river sand, and nothing is funnier than watching mommy run full speed into the surf to rescue a ball before it is lost to the sea forever.

There were many other adventures this summer, and sometimes involving long rides in the car, and others just a walk around the neighborhood with a low key brunch and bit of thrift store shopping.

There were tantrums and mishaps and close calls and moments when we questioned our sanity, but WE DID IT. And we will do it again.

As autumn approaches, I’m already dreaming up more adventures. It gets a little tricky because of the cold and rain, not to mention indoor play spaces are a total no-go for us because of severe food allergies. But we will keep trying, enjoying and relishing every season. Even if it’s simple.  Even if it’s hard.EchoMommyBeach

We only get to experience our children as children once. It doesn’t need to be magical, but it needs to be memorable for all of the right reasons. For both of us.

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

Dear Allison,

Thank you for giving my son life.

ThrivingOnDonorMilk

My unlikely squishy baby.

I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold.  Your gold.  Your life-force alchemy.

Thank you.

I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end.  Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other.  You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.

Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce.  My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both.  Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand.  Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever.  You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.

Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies.  We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.

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My son’s last bottle of Allison’s donor milk from Texas.

And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.

I cried.  With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us.  You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.

Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.)  You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived.  You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing.  And you never complained.

I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop.  You altered your diet, too.  You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much.  You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.

Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears.  Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle.  I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter.  The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama.  That milk was made for her. I was adamant.

You said no.

Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.”  And you were right.  We found another way.  Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.

You gave my son seven months of milk.  Seven months to heal and thrive without taxing his little body even more.  Seven months of weight gain. Seven months of knowing he had all the milk he needed and more.  You gave me seven months of relief knowing my son would not just live, but he would thrive. Seven months of a little more sleep, a little less stress. Seven months of hope.
Donors

Three of my closest friends, years before we had babies, on the night before my wedding. Each of them gave their milk to my son. Allison, the woman in green, was our main donor.

I know our friendship is life-long and this donor bond goes deeper than words can express.  But I also know you.  You with your elegant grace, generous heart, deep well of love, creative time and resource management, and desire to change the world in your strong, quietly fierce way.  I know you.
And I know you would have done this for anyone.
You, my alchemist soul sister, are pure gold.
With love and gratitude,
C
P.S. ~ My son received milk from a total of six different women over the course of 14 months, all of whom I want to acknowledge and thank from the depths of my mama soul:
  • Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
  • One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
  • My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
  • My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
  • A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
 _________________________________________________________________________If you like this post, check out How Jimmy Fallon Saved My Morning Milk and I Am A Sh*tty Friend over on our sister site, Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
 
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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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Why take and share breastfeeding photos?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
why women share breastfeeding photos

Photo credit: Cleo Photography

What is the deal with all those breastfeeding photos moms are doing?  Breastfeeding selfies, professional photo sessions, family snapshots, they’re showing up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, even birth announcements and Christmas cards, and hanging on walls.  This hasn’t always been a thing, has it?  (Check out these and these historic photos that show it isn’t quite as new as you may think.)  When TLB was kicked off Facebook in 2011, allegedly for posting breastfeeding photos, I was asked frequently why post breastfeeding photos in the first place.  What is the point, they wondered, why do women feel the need to share such an intimate moment with the world?  I have been patiently explaining this phenomenon for years, sharing blog posts like this one from Annie at PhD in Parenting, this one from sons & daughters photography,  and personal stories as to why and content to leave it at that.

Still, comments on websites, social media threads, and some times in person continue to come in comparing these photos to sharing an image of someone taking a dump, calling the women posting them “attention whores”, and sometimes even accusing them of sexual abuse.  The reasons why these people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding totally aside (and here are 9 potential reasons), it’s obvious they don’t understand why this would be important.

Over the years I’ve seen the power of breastfeeding photos being shared.  Much like images of other aspects of every day life, seeing breastfeeding photos reminds us of the importance of the mundane in our daily lives.  There are more reasons than I can list, but there are real reasons none the less.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering support.  Many women haven’t seen breastfeeding or have only seen it briefly.  Seeing breastfeeding and hearing the breastfeeding stories of other women supports women where they are in their journey and gives them the space to ask questions and know they aren’t alone.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering information and options.  For some women, breastfeeding is as natural as breathing, everything just works.  Others encounter difficulties.  Seeing how another woman navigates the obstacles she experiences in breastfeeding, such as when Jenna shared an image of feeding her daughter with a supplemental nursing system, mothers who had never heard of such a thing suddenly had a new option.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering community.  Because breastfeeding has been replaced in some cases with alternative feeding methods, some breastfeeding mothers find themselves feeling isolated.  Thanks to the global community now accessible via the internet, mothers can connect with others that can relate to their journey.  While many are willing to walk alone, it is comforting to know you don’t have to.  Sharing the visual builds a community built on more than words.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering encouragement.   When Serena Tremblay shared her photo of breastfeeding in the ICU with the help of a nurse, she never imagined how it would touch and reach so many with encouragement and inspiration.  But that’s exactly what her photo did.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering recognition.  It’s not for attention, the sharing is more about connection and celebration.  But when a woman shares her breastfeeding journey through images, she is recognizing (and helping others recognize for themselves) this very important aspect of her life.  She does it day in and day out, it consumes much of her time, and sometimes it can feel quite invisible.  Or worse, shameful.  Recognizing the time and commitment breastfeeding requires can be a reminder of why it’s all worth it.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering normalization.  More times than I can count people have written in to say that before they joined The Leaky Boob community they thought breastfeeding was gross and creepy.  They didn’t want to see it because they thought it was like watching sex.  But then they saw it and learned that it wasn’t that at all, in fact, it was oddly normal.  Then there are the mothers that discovered they weren’t freaks for continuing to breastfeed past the first 12 months when they discovered there are many others like them.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in rehumanizing.  I know, I know, that’s not really a word.  But the objectification of women has reached such high levels that unless a woman is airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed, she isn’t seen as being a woman.  A woman’s worth is almost entirely wrapped up in her looks.  Women are barely seen as human or at least, aren’t allowed to be human.  Images of woman that aren’t airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed remind all of us what living, breathing, human woman really look like.  Breastfeeding women remind us that a woman’s body is for her to use as she pleases and her worth not dictated by how sexually attractive she is.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in celebrating.  Parenting is hard work and much of it goes unnoticed and under appreciated.  Celebrating the milestones and goals reached, be they breastfeeding, potty learning, educational, or any other important aspect of parenting, is energizing.  Celebrating them with others even more so.

Leilani and her daughter Ava featured in the photo at the top of this post, understands this, which is why Leilani sent this beautiful photo in with her story:

I made the decision to try breastfeeding while I was still pregnant. I read Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding (religiously), and it gave me the confidence I needed during that very first time Ava latched on. Knowing that I was capable of producing the best nutrition for my child is what inspired me to nurse. There were a handful of bumps in the road during this past year of breastfeeding, but I’m proud to say, we surpassed them. My daughter had jaundice (pretty bad) her first week of life. Due to an incompatible blood type between her and I, the doctors encouraged me to supplement, in order for her jaundice to go away faster. I refused, and as scary as it was, the jaundice went away, and she didn’t need one drop of supplement to assist. I also thought I needed a pump and bottles to nurse more effectively. Turns out that the pump caused my supply to dwindle, and I forced to deal with a baby that wasn’t getting the correct amount of milk she needed. Rather than giving up or supplementing, I was patient and nursed her as often as she’d allow. My supply finally was back to normal. Between those hurdles and moving cross-country TWICE in two months (military family), I am proud to say that Ava at (almost) thirteen months is still nursing and the bond we share is something even more special than I imagined.

 

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9 Reasons you may be uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber

 

*Please note this article utilizes satire and sarcasm with humor.

Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

Photo from Instagram user Jeniholland.

We’re well into the 21st century yet breastfeeding appears to still make many people uncomfortable.  I keep hoping those individuals that get upset about the biologically normal way to feed a baby are really a rarity but, unfortunately, it still seems to be a hot button issue.  Regardless of how a woman is most comfortable feeding her baby, be it uncovered at the breast, covered at the breast, a bottle of expressed breastmilk, or a bottle of formula, plenty of people are uncomfortable witnessing a woman feeding her child and any form of breastfeeding seems to especially elicit vocal expressions of discomfort from others.  I identified 9 reasons people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding be it on social media or in person settings and tried to offer some solutions in overcoming what is essentially a discomfort about babies being fed.  And that brings us to our first point:

  1. Agism.  Breasts aren’t the issue for you, nope.  You just don’t think babies and small children have the right to eat in public.  Or you think that every. single. time they do eat the experience should be charged with connection and intimacy between that child and their care-giver, staring deeply into each others’ eyes approximately 8-24 times a day and not witnessed by anyone else.  Those babies, they need to keep that stuff happening in private!  And yes, a baby or the needs of a small child should actually come second to your own personal comfort about what you witness.  Older people, that’s a totally different story, they can eat when they need to eat and for the most part, where they need to eat and how they need to eat it without harassment, expectation of high level bonding, or a blanket.  On the go, sitting at a table in public, while reading a book or talking with friends, it’s fine for those over the age of 2 to eat in public and even for them to post pictures of their meals on social media.  But those babies better at least keep it under wraps!  Spending some time watching just exactly how adults eat or watching this video could be key in getting you over your prejudices.  No?  You don’t discriminate against babies eating in public?  Ok, have you considered that you could have…
  2. Boob-phobia.  It’s a real thing, check it out.  Perhaps you’re uncomfortable by the sight of breastfeeding because you have Mastrophobia, a phobia of breasts (or cousins gynophobia, a fear of female parts, or papillaphobia, a fear of nipples) and seeing breastfeeding makes you want to run away.  Which maybe that’s what you should do, complete with screaming and waving your arms hysterically.  Or do what I do when watching a scary movie, hide behind a pillow only risking a peek here and there.  Actually though, if you do really have boob-phobia, you should seek professional help.  If that’s not it though, maybe it’s…
  3. Brainwashing.  Which is totally understandable and you can’t help the cultural conditioning that has brainwashed you into thinking breasts are truly only for sexual pleasure.  You’re a victim of marketing and fear.  Boobs aren’t for babies, boobs are for men/selling cars/selling beer/selling clothes/selling sex/selling music/selling movies/selling… selling, or at least that’s what the prevailing messages in much of society seems to be selling.  If this is an issue, walking around with a blanket over your head to cut out these messages could be the solution.  But maybe you are completely immune to marketing and the societal messages thrown at us from every which way, in which case it could be…
  4. Judgment.  You believe, and the reasons why are unimportant (certainly not fear or brainwashing), that breasts that aren’t properly shielded and covered belong to an immoral, immodest individual of low character.  Women that don’t keep those things contained and pull them out and stick them in the mouth of their hungry child must not have a shred of decency and you judge them for that.  Even if they define modesty or decency differently than you do.  Such as “it would be indecent of me not to feed my child when they are hungry…”  Heading to the bathroom to have your dinner may be exactly what you need to get you over this unfortunate character flaw.  Not a judgmental person?  Don’t care what other people do?  Then maybe you’re uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding because…
  5. Insecurity.  It could be anything.  Insecurity about your own breasts (male or female), insecurity about your friend/father/husband/brother/son seeing someone’s breasts (which of course means you make sure they avoid all malls, sports shows, magazines, and movies), insecurity in seeing someone breastfeed their child when you didn’t/don’t breastfeed yours, insecurity that breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is some kind of mark of “good parenting”, insecurity that others may be uncomfortable with someone else breastfeeding and you feel the need to make sure everyone (but the breastfeeding pair) is comfortable, or maybe just insecurity that humans are all mammals.  Whatever it is, and it could be anything, you personally battle insecurity and rather than face it in yourself you project your issues on to others.  Sitting next to a breastfeeding mother while she feeds her child and having a conversation with her may do the trick.  Not insecure?  If you’re confident enough to not be threatened by a woman feeding her child, could it be…
  6. Confusion.  You get grossed out by the sight of breastfeeding because of two words: body fluids.  It freaks you out that body fluids are free-flowing from a woman right into her baby!  Who needs to see that, right?  It doesn’t matter that it’s only natural because, hello, pooping, peeing, and sex are natural too and you don’t want to see any of THAT in public either, right?  It’s certainly only a matter of time before they’re bottling those body fluids up and feeding them to children too, I’m sure.  Fake urine will be flooding the shelves in no time, specially formulated to be just like the real thing.  Aside from the obvious fact that you really can’t see it happening during the act of breastfeeding, basic biology helps clear this up a bit: breastmilk = nutrition, urine/feces = waste, genital secretions = not food.  Some time studying basic nutrition and biology and understanding the basic differences should fix that right up.  Get the difference and not confused?  Moving on then, maybe it’s…
  7. Misogyny.  This goes along with the brainwashing point but it’s a little deeper.  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding because of misogyny, you actually hate women and consider them less than men.  As such, their bodies are purely for men and a woman that would dare exercise her autonomy in using her body as she should choose, well she’s just asking for it, isn’t she?  A breastfeeding woman is just rubbing it in your face, isn’t she?  How dare she act as though she independently has worth and power over her own body.  Besides, seeing breasts in use in such an a-sexual way is a bit unsettling.  You haven’t sanctioned this and it’s uncomfortable to think that you have something in common with human babies. The way through this could be quite painful: start listening to women and catch a production of the Vagina Monologues.  But you’re not a misogynist?  Totally down with women as equals?  Great!  So what about…
  8. Denial.  There are people that spend time researching the emotion of disgust and have a disgust scale.  What is it, why do we experience it, etc.  Some triggers of disgust are understandable, like food contamination disgust.  We don’t want to get sick.  Obviously.  So why are you disgusted by breastfeeding, AKA, feeding babies?  It’s possible, these researchers theorize, that you just don’t like to be reminded of your animality.  Humanity is good in your mind but anything that connects you to the animal side of humans grosses you out.  That humans are mammals (creatures with mammary glands that use their mammaries to feed their young) is a fact you would rather forget.  Watch some Discovery channel, you’ll have to eventually confront that breastfeeding our young isn’t the only animal-like behavior we homo sapiens have.  Not that?  Then…
  9. Unfamiliarity.  When we’re not used to seeing something it can be startling when we come across it.  This isn’t your fault, you’re just not familiar with this as normal and actually expect the alternative to the biological norm instead.  You just haven’t seen breastfeeding enough to be totally down with it.  The fix to this one is pretty easy, see more breastfeeding.  You’ll get over your discomfort the more you see it and soon it will become just as normal as it actually is.  Don’t worry, more and more women are doing their part in feeding their babies in public, with and without covers, and you’ll get more comfortable with it the more you see them out and about or posting their photos on social media so hang in there, there’s hope for you yet!

 

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 What would you add to our list?  Why do you think people may have issues with witnessing breastfeeding or encountering breastfeeding images?  If you’re uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding, why do you think that is?   Did you used to be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding but are ok with it now?

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Iola Kostrzewski on Black Breastfeeding Week

by  Iola Kostrzewski

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Black Breastfeeding Week is not, I repeat, is not a week to have more of the white versus black argument. It’s not a week to get white women to notice black women breastfeeding, or even to get white women to acknowledge the fact that black women do breastfeed. It’s a week for us black women to bring awareness to other black women that, yes, we are in control of our bodies, that we need to no longer let historical trauma hold us back, that we need to have more free breastfeeding education classes and access to those classes.

Black Breastfeeding Week is bittersweet. It says, “Hey, there is enough of an issue that World Breastfeeding Week is no longer cutting it.” If anything it’s a black versus black week; it’s about trying to change the outlook on the breastfeeding from within the black community.  We need to do whatever we need to do to raise the rate of black women breastfeeding.

From the time Black Breastfeeding Week was announced, I have seen women who call themselves breastfeeding advocates make some of the most racist comments I have ever seen written by anyone who claims to promote breastfeeding. I have seen women who have had nurse-ins, who stand up for the rights of nursing mothers, argue that there is no need for this week. They argue that the week, even though black women created it, is racist.

Let’s stop, gather our thoughts, and breathe.

Let’s also take the time to remember that this week is not about whites versus blacks.

Yes, I understand that there was a World Breastfeeding Week a few weeks ago that is supposed to promote equality for women of all races who breastfeed. Yet how can we have equality when the statistics show that black women are lagging behind when it comes to breastfeeding? We cannot be equal until all women are on the same playing field.

No matter how hard I try to understand, I don’t understand how this week is offensive.

What’s offensive is making the comment “Black women are just lazy” or “Black women just don’t use their mind” after reading explanations about why this week is needed.  What’s offensive is refusing to acknowledge your white privilege while continuing to ramble on about how, yes, you have had hard times when it comes to breastfeeding, but you got over it. What’s offensive is going on to question why there isn’t a “White Breastfeeding Week”.  Though, I sit here and wonder to myself how can you have a “white” week? Wouldn’t you mean a German, Norwegian, or Polish week?

What is mind-boggling is how a person can say she is color blind to race, yet follows that by saying, “I have a black friend who has mixed kids and she breastfed them.” How in anyway is that being color blind?

Yet this week is not about me versus you.

This week, in all reality, is Black vs. Black.  It’s about battling the misconceptions about breastfeeding in the black community, particularly in the United States.  It’s about being able to breastfeed in front of my mother without her cringing and saying, “That’s what slaves used to do.”  It’s about not being told by a black parenting group that the project I have been working on is too “explicit” and offensive to Jesus. Jesus was breastfed.

This week is about letting certain black celebrities know that milk sharing and wet nurses are not just things that slaves did, and that a 150 years later it’s done by free will. This week is about letting black women know that if we work together we can make a change.

So, instead of saying this week isn’t necessary, tell me “I support you.”  Tell me that what I am doing is beautiful.

Many people I know don’t support breastfeeding at all. It isn’t celebrated in my culture.  Black Breastfeeding Week is helping to make it part of my culture. My friends and family, my neighbors and community leaders need to see breastfeeding as a normal part of life.  Help me make that a reality.

This week targets the population with the lowest breastfeeding rates overall.  Let’s work to bring those numbers up so we can all celebrate together.

It is my dream that in a couple years Black Breastfeeding Week will no longer be necessary.  My hope is that we can make enough of an impact together to close the statistical gap. This is something we need to do together.  Black women need to come together and show our community that breastfeeding is normal. And, we need the support of our friends of all colors and walks of life.

The author wishes to thank Amanda Jenson, who provided moral and editorial support for this piece.

Iola Kostrzewski is a wife, mother of two boys, babywearing educator, lactation educator in training, and an aspiring midwife.  Iola blogs at What the b**p and I doing?! .

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Instagram and the global village of breastfeeding

It is said that it takes a village to bring up a child.  Do you have a village?

Once upon a time community was found while foraging, working, washing, around the well, in the birthing room, through places of worship, then in salons, on front porches, over quilts, around suffrage signs.  Most never moved too far from the place where they were born.  Children grew up aware of the work their parents did, helping at times, involved.  With the exception of Victorian era stodginess, much about the reality of life was shared openly, families just lived and extended family and friends involved.

Today the global village has expanded where we find community.  No longer are the borders of our village confined to our geographical context, we find our place through social media with our past, present, and future, via our interests, concerns, and passions.  We learn about life in our context and far beyond, broadening our perspective and opening our minds to other ways of living.  By sharing the exiting, the mundane, the average, and the significant parts of life, people are finding their village again.  In a time when it is easy to be isolated and alone, the internet is drawing people together.

All this and more is what I love about social media.  I found my village.

#beautifulBfing

On June 8th, as I headed out for a date with my husband, Jeremy Beyond Moi, I quickly checked The Leaky Boob Instagram account but was already logged into my personal account which I checked first.  I noticed a comment on one of my photos asking what happened to The Leaky Boob account on Instagram.  Unsure what she meant a knowing feeling came over me and I entered the login information for the account and received this screen.

TLBigDisabled

Hoping it was a mistake but suspecting it wasn’t I tried again.  Then checked my email and saw no email from Instagram so I tried again.  After 4 tries I gave up.  The account was indeed disabled.  This part of my village was gone.

I’ve checked every few days since.  Gone.

I wasn’t sure I had the energy for this.  It’s not the first time The Leaky Boob has had issues on a social media platform and the fight was starting to feel wearisome.  With our eldest daughter preparing to leave for the summer, 5 other kids at home, and work, I was feeling swamped as it was without this issue.  But this is part of my community and not just mine but thousands of others as well.

We want our village back.

On May 23rd I received a warning from Instagram that The Leaky Boob account had been flagged but with no details as to why.  It was the third warning I received within a week.  All that was included was that I supposedly violated the terms of service, terms that are conveniently vague at best, intentionally nebulous for subjective interpretation at worst.  I emailed requesting they let me know what images I posted violated what terms of service and received no reply.

Instagram warning email

Shortly after this, inspired by Instagram’s own weekend hashtag projects and user Instagram_kids, I started a new hashtag on Instagram, #beautifulbfing to encourage more sharing of breastfeeding photos and informed users.  Posting about it I asked users to use the hashtag and I would select from those images ones to feature, or regram, just as thousands of other users and brands, including Instagram’s own account, do.  With each post, I credited the user that posted it and only used images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag.  The #regram is the only way to share other posts and functions much like the Twitter retweet, the only current option Instagram has to compete.  Every image I shared was of a breastfeeding mother and was within Instagram’s terms of service regarding nudity.  While I had forgotten the terms of service to not post images that weren’t yours, I didn’t feel this was a problem as I had permission to use those photos and had modeled this sharing of these images after Instagram’s own usage.

Instagram weekend hashtag

Instagram Kids

There were no further warnings between the May 23rd email and the account being disabled on June 8th as well as no response to my inquires about the warnings I had received.  I received no warnings after I began sharing the images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag either.  Nothing, just the account disabled.  On June 9th there was another form email that someone had flagged my account and if the terms of service were violated the account could be disabled but no details as to why or how to contact Instagram to dispute.  My account was already gone.

Many don’t understand why images of breastfeeding are shared online, I go into that in my post about my struggle with Facebook over the same issue and you can read that here.  And to go ahead and address the inevitable boorish “peeing and taking a dump are natural but nobody wants to see pictures of that” read this and remember, we’re not talking waste, we’re talking nutrition for a baby, something mothers spend a significant amount of time doing and it’s a part of her life… her life that she shares with her community.  Don’t understand?  Simply put though, moms need to see breastfeeding, it’s important.  Others need to see breastfeeding to put a stop to the dehumanization of women through the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female body.  Sharing these images is important because we need to culturally encourage moms to breastfeed and go beyond just lip service and accept them fully in society without penalizing them by requiring them to hide feeding their children.  Society needs to walk the talk.  What I said about why share breastfeeding images on Facebook applies to Facebook owned Instagram as well:

Why  share breastfeeding photos on FB?  Some may feel it’s too private to share, I don’t.  In fact, I believe it’s crucial to share breastfeeding photos.  Gone are the days where breastfeeding is seen in the day in and day out living of our lives in a community, replaced instead with virtual communities found on Facebook, forums, and other social media platforms.  Social media and virtual communities need to be as multidimensional as the physical community or we lose ourselves as a society, relating to each other as a slick collection of data without the human and biological component that makes us alive.  We need to see breastfeeding in real life and in the virtual world that many of us relate in as our community.  This photo may seem obscene to some but to others it was inspiring and encouraging, leading some to even learn something about breastfeeding.

Women used to see breastfeeding all around them in their community, it is only fairly recently with the advent of artificial breastmilk substitutes or formula that breastfeeding was considered something to be hidden.  Not sure about that?  Check out the number of historical paintings of religious and nonreligious nature depicting breastfeeding as well as the historical photographs from even the Victorian era that include breastfeeding mothers.  We’ve lost that presence of breastfeeding in our community and today new moms see it in their online village.  Breastfeeding may be natural but it needs to be learned and it’s learned by seeing others feed their baby.

I don’t know exactly why The Leaky Boob IG account was disabled, I have received no response to my inquires from Instagram.  My best guess is that the many breastfeeding images, my own, were flagged by other users.  It is possible that Instagram decided to disable the account because of the #regram sharing, singling out The Leaky Boob to enforce this rule while blatantly ignoring it themselves and with other brands.  I don’t know.  But I do know that Instagram has shut down a resource that connected thousands of women and served as one of the avenues of the global village supporting breastfeeding.  In doing so Instagram has essentially said that breastfeeding women are not welcome and sends a conflicting message that may cause breastfeeding moms to question:

 

…if images of breastfeeding are inappropriate and not fit for her community to see, is it inappropriate for her child to breastfeed?  If she’s struggling and looking for her community for support but these images aren’t permitted, how is she going to work out that there can be a wide variety of normal in breastfeeding baby’s latches or any other variety of breastfeeding related questions?  How is she going to know that she’s not alone with how her little one behaves at the breast?  How else are moms going to get over the emphasis on the sexual nature of female breasts to just feed her baby when her very community shames and harasses her for sharing these images?  The message that is being sent is that you can have community, you can be marketed to within that community, but your personal experience with breastfeeding is shameful and not welcome in the community.  Which ultimately means the breastfeeding mother is not welcome in the community.

 

Maybe you’re uncomfortable seeing images of breastfeeding, that’s ok.  In time, with enough moms openly feeding their babies and sharing the experience with their village, you’ll get more comfortable with it.  For now though, just look away, scroll right past it, and remember that a woman feeding her baby is still a person and her child’s right to eat may just supersede your right to be comfortable.  And the law agrees with that.

Help us bring back The Leaky Boob on Instagram.  Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has permitted breastfeeding images to be shared according to their terms of service, we need to pressure Instagram to do the same and to stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and the feeding children.

Instagram bring back TLB

What can you do?

Join the Facebook page: Instagram, stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and babies

Sign this petition.

Tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtags #beautifulbfing #bringbackTLB #stopbfingdiscrimination #normalizebreastfeeding and tag @Instagram to let them know.

Share this post with your village.

Sharing breastfeeding images isn’t for everyone, individual comfort level may prohibit you from sharing.  But if you are comfortable sharing your breastfeeding photos, please do and we’d love to see.

Follow jmartinweber on Instagram for more updates on the situation with The Leaky Boob IG account.

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edited: In less than an hour of publishing this post and in only 20 minutes of sharing it on Facebook, I received the following email:

IG apologizes for mistake

 

While I’m grateful they acted fast to reinstate my account once I took this issue public, I’m not satisfied.  Nobody should be afraid their account will be suspended if they share breastfeeding photos.  Rather, Instagram needs to clearly outline in their terms of service that breastfeeding photos are permitted and have a system in place to be sure images and accounts are viewed after a flagging so as compliant accounts and images are not deleted.  Please continue to speak up for all breastfeeding women and let Instagram know their policy needs to change NOW.

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Community and sex

Beyond Moi Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber

Community and sex.

Those 2 really don’t sound like they go together.  They don’t.  Not really.  But I’m talking about them on May 19th at MommyCon Austin anyway, just not at the same time.

Well, I’m not planning to talk about them at the same time.  We’ll see what happens.  You never really know.  Because when you’re talking about finding your parenting community talking about what made you a parent in the first place may just come up.

I had a great time at MommyCon Las Vegas even though I got asked to cover at the lunch by someone unaffiliated with MommyCon in a kind of bizarre turn of events.  That incident aside, the whole experience was a lot of fun.  Getting to meet the companies sponsoring, connecting with the moms and other presenters, making new friends, and talking about parenting… and sex.  In that space of 24 hours, I saw moms (and dads) connect, broadening and deepening their community while educating themselves and finding encouragement along the parenting journey.

Personally, I’ve never really been a fan of “mom” events.  They tend to scare me.  Like an extension of high school I always seem to be wearing the wrong brands, sporting the wrong hair style, and blundering into the wrong topics in conversation.  Between laughing at the wrong things at times and not getting why everyone else was laughing at other times, I have typically felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb at mom events.  Instead of leaving encouraged and with friends, I tended to leave feeling more alone than when I came.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to speak at MommyCon.  Like being the awkward kid stuck standing up naked in front of everyone in a crazy nightmare, I figured speaking at a mom centered event could only be worse than attending one.  Even better, I was talking about being an imperfect parent and sex, because what could be more awkward than that?  But if The Leaky Boob has taught me anything, it’s that we all need community and having someone be openly honest about the struggles they’re having can be all it takes to unleash a torrent of support from those that have been in that same place.  Every time I see a Leaky open up and share vulnerably I am amazed at how powerful it is not only for them but for those that were quietly struggling and feeling alone.  So I went, opened up, and found my own connections with others, some that have had similar journeys and some that have had wildly different ones.

And it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected.  In fact, I’ve signed up to go again this time sponsored by Kanga Care and talking about finding our parenting community and why we need it.

But this time I get to go with my family and The Piano Man is joining me from our joint blog Beyond Moi, to have the sex talk.  I’m really looking forward to our session sharing in a relaxed setting what 16 years of marriage, several years as marriage mentors, and books and counselors have taught us when it comes to sex.  Honest and forthcoming, we’re not ones to sugar coat or pretend nor pander to stereotypes.  We will, however, be sharing some Milk Maker Cookies at our session on sex.  And going beyond the grown up sex talk for couples, we’ll share how we approach the topic with our own children and encourage dialogue about how our own attitudes, experiences, and perspectives of sex as parents can influence our children.  We can move beyond ourselves and our fear of having “the talk” with our children and into developing a healthy perspective on sex for ourselves and our children.

Community and sex.  There’s no avoiding these issues in real life and as moms and dads, recognizing the value of both and coming to terms with their place in our lives helps us guide our children.  We need each other and we need to be bold enough to talk about these realities.

If you’re going to be at MommyCon Austin, Jeremy and I will be around and we’ll have some goodies with us to share thanks to the great companies we felt comfortable partnering with to sponsor our sessions at MommyCon Austin.  Find me (Jessica) and let me know just how RUMPTASTIC MommyCon is and the first 20 I talk to that say so will receive a free Rumparooz cloth diaper from Kanga Care and a fun something for anyone after that.  Talk to Jeremy and tell him how much you enjoy cookies and milk because he’s giving out Milk Makers Cookies and not just to breastfeeding moms.

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Joining us at MommyCon in Austin on the 19th?  We’d love to meet you.  There’s a code just for TLB readers to get $10 off their registration, just use Leakyboob when you buy your tickets.  Need a better deal than that?  Enter to win a pair of tickets as a couple!  Along with a pair of tickets to MommyCon Austin, this prize bundle includes a Beco Soleil with drool pads in the winner’s choice of Micah or Stella, a Kanga Care Rumparooz in the new print Dexter and one in crimson, and a $50 gift certificate to Milk Makers Cookies!  Use the widget below to be entered.

 

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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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