Category Archives: Education

My Birth Story

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Jeremy, Sydney, and I went to Anchorage to pick up Papa and Nenaw (my parents) on August 11, 2012, which was our estimated due date for Baby August. We joked that it would be really awesome if we went out to dinner at the Moose’s Tooth and then just stopped off at the birth center to give birth, since we were right there by it. We were so thrilled to see my parents, and made it to the Moose’s Tooth, and all the way back home, without stopping off at the birth center. We had a great visit with them, even though they were exhausted and on North Carolina time.

We went to bed, and at about 2:05 am, I woke up and needed to poop, bad. My labor had started with Sydney in this way, but I’d had so many stops and starts with this baby, that I had put it out of my mind to consider labor until I couldn’t ignore the contractions. As soon as I was finished using the bathroom, I had a sudden feeling of not only was I in labor, but it was time to leave the house for the birth center, in an expedient fashion. I did not, however, voice this to Jeremy, and instead climbed back into bed, where Sydney had opted not to sleep that night, so I was free to paw and writhe about on the bed while making my labor sound of choice, an angry cat sound. Jeremy woke up, and asked me if I was ok. After I continued to make more sounds, he leaped out of bed, in a semi-calm fashion, and got dressed and brushed his teeth. Then he went into the room where my parents and Sydney were sleeping, and told them it was time to go.

Within 10-20 minutes, we were in the van, and on the way to the birth center. The midwives and our doula, Stella were called at some point, and I started timing my contractions. Less than 4 minutes apart. We weren’t very smart the night before, and had not filled the van up, so we had to stop for gas. While timing my contractions, I tapped on the glass to let Jeremy know they were 3 minutes apart, he got a bit freaked out. Because our midwife was at a birth at the hospital, a different midwife called me back, and I was talking to her, and was overheard by Jeremy, who was driving, and he thought I was saying I had the “urge to push”, and started to gun it, until he found out I was not feeling like I needed to push. We eventually made it to the birth center, where my cervix was checked by midwife Felicity, 5 and a half centimeters.

I began cruising the medical building where the birth center is housed, and ascending and descending the stairs, in individual steps and lunges, with Jeremy or Stella applying counter pressure. I was very happy that we had the entire building to ourselves, and we were the only people at the birth center. While I labored, Sydney toodled the building with Papa and Nenaw, and made great use of the elevators. Never had she been awakened at 2 something in the morning to play, so this was a real treat.

Stella applying counter pressure

My contractions were coming about a minute apart, and Stella said it might be a good idea to get them to be spaced a bit more, so I went to the bed, and got on all 4s, howling like an angry cat. At some point, I switched to the birth ball, which was awesome, and my hips could be free to move, and I could be supported. I opened my eyes, coming out of one contraction, and midwife Karen was there. In the quiet, respectful nature of my labor atmosphere, she had appeared, so gently, and I was greeted with a smile.

I need to take a moment to mention that while planning for this labor and birth, music was a huge consideration. Music, for me, is what makes life flow so nicely, music helps life make sense at times, and music has helped me carry on through some tough times. So, I knew that music should be strongly considered for this birth. At first, I began to put instrumental and relaxation music on my iPod, but then began to consider that there were other types of music I might like. I ended up with quite a bit of music, from different artists that help my days pass more smoothly at times, they included: John Mayer, Deathcab for Cutie, most of the Garden State soundtrack, The Fray, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. None of the songs were about birth, but they were all songs that I enjoy. The playlist was named Baby August, and at times during my labor, I was so very grateful for the music we had playing in the background. It added to the atmosphere, the ambiance, and really helped me to remain calm.

As labor progressed, I became increasingly more uncomfortable, but stayed fairly relaxed, with lots of vocalizations. I could feel my support system there, though my eyes were closed most of the time, their gentle, positive presence was ever present. It felt truly amazing. Most of the time, my parents were in the common area of the birth center with Sydney, keeping her entertained, and sometimes, they would enter the birth arena to quietly view what was taking place. I am so thankful, that though no expectations were discussed about them attending the birth, they were so peaceful and wonderful an addition to the birth environment.

Sydney in the common area

As labor progressed I had to use the bathroom, and asked for Jeremy to hold onto me. I was shaking and feeling increased pressure and my contractions were growing ever more effective. I knew I was in transition. I went to the bed to be checked and was 8 centimeters. I think I labored some more on the ball, then went to the bathroom again, and said I wanted to get in the tub, which was then filled, and I got in. Shortly after I got in the tub, Sydney entered the room, dressed in her swimsuit, and got in with me. She showered my belly and legs with water and love, and was just so peaceful and gentle and quiet. This is sort of a rare thing for Sydney-girl to be, and so that’s why I mention this. She realized the situation called for calm, and everyone else in the room was so calm and quiet, and she followed suit. I am so very proud of her. She stayed in the tub with me for a bit. Sydney was allowed to remain in the tub with me as long as I was not pushing.

Jeremy, Sydney and our midwife

Midwife Karin and me

I labored in there, sitting, working through contractions, becoming increasingly more uncomfortable, feeling like birth was right around the corner, and becoming a bit doubtful about whether I could give birth. I wanted to escape, and I began to feel like I could push, as my tones changed, and the midwife noticed. She checked me, and I had a cervical lip left along the front of my cervix, next to my pubic bone, so that each time I had a contraction, I got an intense pinchy feeling that translated to me as intense pain. I began to vocalize more in words, and because I knew my daughter was in the room, I tried to be aware of what I was saying, so most of what I said was, “OUCH!” The midwife left her fingers in there for a contraction and had me push to get the lip to go over the baby’s head, and asked me if I wanted to get on all 4s to try to get that to move (either out of the tub or in the tub), I decided I was NOT getting out of the tub.

Midwife helping me push the lip over the baby’s head

Moving the cervical lip, with a super cute Sydney in the foreground

I got on all 4s, and found that there was pain to be had in getting the lip to disappear. I continued to be cognizant of the fact that Sydney was in the room, but finally gave way with a word that is not so nice, and rhymes with ‘duck’. The midwife laughed and noted that the baby was likely not far behind. I continued to feel a lot of pain, and then sat back down in the tub after several minutes to be checked again. With the help of the midwife’s fingers, I was able to push hard enough to get the lip past the baby’s head, and to a position of rocking back and forth under the pubic bone. None of this was a picnic, and far more painful than I thought it could possibly be.

A note about pain: I will say that I had no idea that it would be painful at all, and I know that sounds very silly, but in my preparation for Sydney’s birth, I took HypnoBirthing that addresses comfort levels and not feelings of pain, and I had an epidural during her birth (not because of pain, but out of sheer exhaustion), so I experienced little pain. At this point, I had been in labor for about 5 hours, as compared to reaching the pushing stage in about 20 hours with Sydney, so my ability to process what was happening was different. There were many differences in my labors, and at this point, the baby was very ready to be born, quite literally around a turn, just around the corner, so close. I was very afraid at this point, afraid I couldn’t push the baby out, afraid of the pain (if it already hurt this much), and I wanted to ask to go to the hospital. But my inner dialogue was something like this… “Oh my God, I need pain relief! I need to go to the hospital. I wouldn’t make it to the hospital though, the baby is about to be born. The only way to get the baby out is to push the baby out. I can do this.”

The midwife kept reminding me to not hold back, because I was fighting what my body was trying to do, out of fear and pain. The patience of the midwife’s voice, and the whispering in my ear by Stella was incredible. At one point, I remember Stella telling me I could do it, and I started to repeat, “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK…” (While my inner voice was saying the complete: “Ok, I can do this”) over and over again. The rocking of the baby’s head continued, until one huge push, and there was no stopping what was taking place. I was no longer in control at all of my body, as the Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER) took over, and I shook all over and felt like I was yelling inside. I really wish we had video of the labor/birth at this point, because I feel like I lost all control. I know I was making noise, I felt like the baby was going to come racing out. I kept feeling for the head, and eventually I felt it. I remember feeling immense pressure and fullness as the baby’s head was emerging, especially at the front of my pelvis, and as if the skin from my urethra back were splitting, never to return to true form again. And, I couldn’t stop any of this.

While all of this was happening, Sydney was being held by Nenaw, and in all of the noise and commotion that I was producing, Sydney hid her face in Nenaw’s shoulder. She was scared. Nenaw reassured her, but she wanted to cry from seeing me in a struggle. Sydney eventually turned her head back to watch.

My midwife provided support of my perineum, and my husband waited with hands ready to receive our baby. My eyes remained closed the entire time, and on one of the pushes, the head came forth. Soon after, another push, and the shoulders, and the body slid out into my husband’s hands, and next thing I knew, our baby was on my chest. I was relieved to meet the baby, relieved to meet on the outside, joyful about everything. We asked Sydney if she wanted to tell us who the baby was, and she announced that it was “Collin”. This surprised no one, since all of us thought the baby was a boy, and everyone was elated to finally see him. Sydney stood there, looking at him, talking to him (we told her this was one of her jobs after the baby was born).

Here he is!

Sydney was so excited.

I don’t remember much, other than thinking that our Collin looked just like his big sister did at birth. He looked at me, calmly, wide eyed, as if he were in shock about what had just happened (I was too, my son). I continued to feel immense pressure, and about 2 minutes after he was born, I was informed that his cord had finished pulsating, and so it was clamped and cut. This was a choice that was incredibly important to us, so that Collin could receive all of his cord blood, to help him acclimate to the outside world and breathe more easily. The placenta was soon birthed, and Jeremy was asked to remove his shirt for skin to skin bonding to begin with our son. We were moved to the bed to begin bonding as a family. Collin was able to latch on, after he was laid on my chest again. After some time, Collin was weighed and measured. He was a whopping 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 21 inches long! (Sydney was 6 pounds and 10 ounces and 19 and a half inches long) Soon after that, I was wheeled down the hall to be stitched up (I tore in the same place as I did with Sydney). Collin was assessed and given his Vitamin K injection, a decision we weighed very heavily, and after much consideration, we decided we would rather he have a vitamin injection than a blood transfusion if for some reason he should have a bleed before his blood clotting factors became present.

I was brought back, and we were able to relax for some time, eat, and were attended by the most wonderful midwife assistant named Cindy. I really am so grateful for her presence after Collin’s birth. She was there as a gentle presence in the background, and after the midwife left, she remained there, helping me use the bathroom, showing me how to smash my uterus to make it clamp down, and just there as a resource for our family. We left the birth center about 4 and a half hours following Collin’s birth, and have been adjusting to life ever since as a family of 4.

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Afterthoughts about Collin’s Birth:

After giving birth to Collin, I felt completely different than I did when I gave birth to Sydney. There were so many differences in their births and the time immediately following. Sydney’s birth, for me, has brought up many angry feelings that are still healing. In some ways, I felt robbed of what my experience with her birth could have been. That is another post entirely. I’d do it a million times over, to get my Sydney-girl, of course, but there are some things I wish I’d known, wish I’d said, wish I’d done differently. Can’t go back, so I prepared for Collin’s birth differently. Following Sydney’s birth, there was no sense of dignity, peace or silence. There was always some sort of noise and activity, always someone coming in to look at my “bottom”, and at times, the nurses would bring in nurses that were not assigned to me, to see the trauma that had ensued from pushing her out. No sense of respect.

Following Collin’s birth, and during his birth, there was nothing but dignity and respect. I never felt barked at or talked down to, and there was silence and peace when the time was right. There was encouragement, support, comfort, and an overall environment of positive energy. I am so thankful to have given birth at the birth center, and there is nothing I would change about my experience there.

Postpartum Period:

Currently, I am 15 days postpartum. My postpartum period with Sydney was rough, to say the least. We had some trouble with breastfeeding, sleeping, stress, and all kinds of other things. I remember at some points wanting to throw her out the two story window, and being so weepy and frustrated all the time. What I did not know then, I know now. I will share.

Collin’s postpartum period has been filled with me accepting help from others, lying down to heal, napping nearly naked (skin-to-skin) with him, tons of breastfeeding, my primarily holding him, taking my time, being patient with myself, and consuming my placenta. Yes, I said it, I’m consuming my placenta. I had it encapsulated, in a process where it is herbed, steamed, dehydrated then ground up and put into capsules. Benefits include increased milk production, decreased postpartum mood disorders, and a more even keel feeling. My postpartum period this time, because of the combination of everything I mentioned above, has been incredible. I was weepy on day 2, when my parents had to leave, and I still am missing them terribly. My patience has been thin sometimes, and I feel tired a lot of the time, but I think that comes with the territory. I am joyful to have our son, to have all the love and support we have received, and I look forward to everyday.

Breastfeeding:

I mentioned that Collin latched on well at the birth center. All of that changed by our 24 hour visit with nurse Jen (she came to our home, so super nice). Collin had been refusing to nurse, had had no dirty or wet diapers since the day of his birth, and was extremely fussy. Nurse Jen looked him over, and suggested that we see the lactation consultant at the birth center after trying to express or pump milk and feed it to Collin in a spoon or syringe. I tried this, and he nursed a bit that day, but we had a terrible night filled with him crying, and my cringing because of a poor latch. Because my parents were leaving on day 2, we decided I would stay home with Collin to heal some more, and we would go to the lactation consultant on day 3 if we needed to. Another night of crying and feeling like my nipple was being sawn off with razor blades told me it was time to seek help. We saw LC Sarah, and she assessed his latch (weak and poor), saw that his lower jaw is short, and that he has a tight frenulum on his upper lip. She suggested we go see the chiropractor. I have to sing the praises of our chiropractor!!! I called, 5 minutes out, less than an hour before they were closing, and asked if we could be seen, affirmative. We were seen immediately. While there, during the adjustment, Collin peed for the first time since birth, and we borrowed some clothing of the chiropractor’s son (he’s over a year old). He also received a skull massage and cranio-sacral adjustment, and I received instruction on helping with his lower jaw. Since seeing the lactation consultant and chiropractor, Collin has been a champion nurser! At his 11 day visit with the pediatrician, he had gained 13.5 ounces since birth, and grown a half an inch! Go breast milk!

Sydney:

Sydney has really adjusted so well to being a big sister, and has worn this hat beautifully. She, perhaps, is a model big sister, and is so very proud of her little brother. Her challenge in adjusting was that she felt abandoned and unloved by me. I was able to set this straight with her, and reassure her of my undying love for her, and things have been much smoother ever since. Sydney is very gentle with Collin, and is always ready with a “Hi, Collin!!!” and “Is he awake?!” She loves to hold him and talk to him most, and has been extremely helpful with so much. She has also made a huge transition as a 5 year old: she started kindergarten!!! We are so extremely proud of her, as we always are, and are so pleasantly surprised by how well she has adjusted and acclimated to life as a big sister.

I would like to thank some people who have helped make our transition so smooth:

Midwife Felicity

Midwife Karen

Midwife Assistant Cindy

Nurse Jen

LC Sarah

Dr. Jessica (chiropractor)

Stella (Doula)

Dad & Cheryl

Jeremy’s Mom

Grams and Poppy

Nikii

Ladies that are participating in our Meal Train

Everyone who sent me a bead and a cloth

Facebook friends

And most of all, Jeremy and Sydney

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Convenience in Parenting

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If I mention Attachment Parenting, it conjures many images, doesn’t it?  It also brings up some stigma, some judgment, and some distaste for some.  But many others who practice this method of parenting find great comfort in it.  I think that many people don’t think that this form of parenting has a place in our modern society, and see many other things as far more superior and convenient than holding, wearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping with their baby, and for those families, that’s all well and good.  I would like to argue, though, that Attachment Parenting is not weird, and it does indeed have a place in our modern world. Sure, there are times when strollers and baby swings do offer those of us who parent attached some convenience, but allow me to offer some scenarios, and you may judge for yourself which sounds more convenient, easier, less stressful, and possibly more cost effective.  I think that most people who parent like I do, do so because it is cheaper, easier, much more convenient, and just fits with our lifestyles.

Scenario  – Attachment Parenting

It’s 4:30 am, and this is the 4th time since 11pm that you’re awake with your newborn, you’ve been awakened by gentle stirring and squeaks from her, indicating that she’s hungry.  You co-sleep and breastfeed, so you move your baby slightly to latch her on, and both of you are happy, as you drift off to sleep.  At 7, you both wake up, and get ready to face the day.  After diapering, you carry her to the kitchen to fix breakfast for your older child.  Before you fix breakfast, you put the baby in a woven wrap, latch her on as you go about your routine in the morning.  You are able to help your older child with many things, with the baby in the wrap, and your baby even falls asleep to the gentle movements and sounds of your body, which are so familiar to her.  After breakfast, you go to bathe, and take a bath with your new baby and older child.  After nursing again before leaving the house, you’re off to do errands.  During the errands, you push the shopping cart with your older child in it, and wear your baby, this time in a soft structured carrier, with legs froggied.  Baby sleeps most of the time, and only wakes to be changed, and nursed, but then goes right back to sleep.  After errands, you return home, and fix a little lunch, again, wearing your baby, then go with your children to take a nap, all together in one bed.  You nurse your newborn to sleep, and sing to your older child.  You all three fall asleep after a short period of time, and wake refreshed.  This scenario could continue, but you get the gist of what attachment parenting looks like.  Sure, there is some chaos in the lives of parents who attachment parent, but for the most part, many of the parents that parent this way have easier, more cooperative, go with the flow children that feel very loved, protected, nurtured, and often know how to express their needs more clearly since their needs have been met in the ways they have.

Scenario – Non-Attachment Parenting

It’s 4:30 am, and this is the 4th time since 11pm that you’re awake with your newborn.  You hear her on the monitor, from her room, grunting, indicating that she’s hungry.  You walk bleary eyed to the kitchen to make a bottle, and by the time you return to your baby, she is screaming in hunger.  You pick her up, sit in the rocking chair, and struggle to stay awake as you feed her.  When she has finished her bottle, you burp her, change her diaper, and set her back in her crib.  After you leave, she cries a bit, because she doesn’t smell or hear you any longer, and you are so tired that you go back to bed, letting her cry herself to sleep.  At 7am, you’re awakened again, by your grunting hungry newborn.  You get up, make her bottle, and get her up as well.  While you make breakfast for your older child, you put your baby in a bouncer with bottle propped up, so you can tend to what needs to be done in the kitchen.  As you play with your older child, and help her with things that she wants to do, you transfer your newborn to her swing, and are interrupted by your crying newborn who wants to be held by you.  You hold her, but are very busy with your older child, and the things you’re doing with your older child require two hands, and so your newborn is put back in the swing.  After another bottle feeding, you go to take a shower, and put your baby in the bouncer in the bathroom with you, and she cries through the entire shower.  You get yourself and your children ready and go do some errands.  You put your baby’s infant carrier in the large part of the shopping cart, and your older child in the front of the cart.  Your baby cries in the carrier because she is uncomfortable and hot, and wants to be held by you.  Your errands are cut short, because you grow tired of hearing your baby cry so much.  You return home, feed your older child lunch, hold your baby to feed her a bottle, and barely eat anything out of sheer exhaustion.  You then go to put your children down for a nap, but your older child fights you, because it’s still daylight and she doesn’t want to go to sleep in her room, she wants to play instead.  This ends in crying, a spanking, very much frustration, and a stressed out mama.  The baby senses the stress and doesn’t want to go to sleep either.  It takes 45 minutes to get the baby to sleep, and you’re not even sure if your older child gets a nap.  Again, this scenario could continue through the day.  Just typing it makes me exhausted.  I speak from my own earlier experiences when I say that this form of parenting did not work for us. My husband and I have had to learn the hard way, with much trial and error, what works best for our family.

When Sydney was born, nearly 5 years ago, we really and truly were clueless, with very little physical support system.  I attempted co-sleeping, since breastfeeding was the one thing I was really attached to, but I didn’t understand that I could stay in bed and nurse her to sleep, so I would get out of bed, and sit in a rocking chair for exhausting amounts of time, with both of us falling asleep, and nothing productive happening.  I was sleep deprived, anxious, and suffered from postpartum depression, which I’m sure could have been made better with more sleep and better support.  We stopped co-sleeping very early.

We tried baby wearing, but the ring sling I had, I never knew how to use, so I got rid of that quickly. I had no knowledge of other carriers (soft structured carriers, woven wraps, stretchy wraps, mei tais, etc).  Sydney spent a lot of time in a swing (which she hated) or in a bouncer (which she also hated).  It didn’t occur to me at all that we needed each other.  There is a special bond between mother and baby, where oxytocin and endorphins are exchanged when they are in physical contact with each other.

As Sydney grew older, parenting went well, but then frustrations mounted as she was becoming her own person, with her own thoughts, and could do more for herself.  We employed spanking as a form of discipline, out of sheer frustration.  I wish I could take that all back.  I wish I had never laid a hand on her.  Spanking is proven, through years and years and years of research to cause very real psychological damage to children.  Never have I felt like a bigger pile of crap, than when I was hitting my helpless daughter, and never have I seen a child change so quickly for the bad.  Her personality changed, and she was no longer my sweet little girl who was full of life.  We eventually got a clue and stopped spanking her, and our cheerful, wonderful, spunky, beautiful light of a daughter returned to us, but I do believe she is still learning to trust us again.

When Sydney was 2 and a half, we returned to baby wearing on a trip to California to visit family. We got an Ergo carrier as a gift, and still have it, and use it often.  Wearing Sydney has not only been very convenient for us, but it’s increased our bond as a family.  She loves being close to us, and we know and understand that now, and so many times throughout the day, she’s with us, physically… attached.  We love it, all three of us.

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Additionally, in November, when Jeremy came up to Alaska, Sydney and I started co-sleeping again, simply out of convenience, and I felt safer with her in the room with me.  She has grown to love this, and bedtime, which was once a challenge, and sometimes, even a battle, has gotten much easier.  We have a king sized bed, and she sleeps in between us.  I love co-sleeping.  I get to hear her, in the middle of the night say things like, “gorilla shoes”, and answer her bad dreams immediately.  It is obvious that she feels very safe in our bed, and very much wanted by us.  I wasn’t sure if my husband would respond positively to having a 4 year old in bed with us, but on one night when she decided to start out in her own room, as we went to get her, my husband was giddy to have her join us.  We will be adding a new baby soon to our family, and he/she will also sleep with us.  I now know that I can stay in bed to nurse, which is such a blessing.

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The transition from our parenting days in the beginning until now has been sometimes slow and challenging to go with.  But the results, ah, the results.  Wow.  What a difference.  Not only has it made a huge difference with Sydney, but our family is so much more tightly knit.  Sydney, who was always really intelligent, has grown so much more intelligent.  Our trust toward each other has increased so much.  We all sleep so much better.  Sydney knows that if she needs something, she can depend on us to meet her needs.

We are learning daily how to be better parents.  But there are some things that we definitely stand for and stand by.  Our family is so important to us, and nurturing it into the best family we can is very important to us.  We make every effort to research what is best, psychologically, physically, emotionally for our children.  This is how we have come to Attachment Parenting (which we simply call parenting), because all of these fit well in our lives, work well for us, and are founded in well researched practices. What we have found to be the best things for us may not be for you, and we have come to them through a lot of trial and error.  If you’re having trouble or challenges with some of your methods, it’s never too late to try other methods, we are prime examples of that.  I’m thankful everyday that we parent the way we do now.  My personal stress levels are so much lower, and I feel as if my communication with my uber intelligent daughter is so much better and effective.

Comments Welcome, Please.

The Questions to Ask

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Last night at the Natural Birth Meetup in Fayetteville, we talked about different topics.  The main topic of the night was Placenta Encapsulation, but it morphed into many other subtopics, as these meetings always do.  I am always so refreshed to hear other women’s experiences, and to share some of my own.  I felt compelled to share the experience I had with our OB when I was pregnant with Sydney, and during my birth.  I stated that often, women do not ask the right questions, so this post is going to be a guide, of sorts, in dialogue form, to help you with the right questions to ask your provider.

The Wrong Questions:

Sally:  I need to ask you some questions, do you have time?

Provider:  Sure, (glances at watch).

Sally (feeling rushed and embarrassed for even asking):  My partner/husband and I would like to do a natural birth, are you okay with this?

Provider:  Of course.

Sally (feeling more confident, now):  We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, do you see any problems with this?

Provider:  No, not really.

Sally:  We would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary, will you suggest medically unnecessary induction?

Provider:  No, we do inductions that are necessary.

Sally:  We would like to avoid c-section at all costs, do you have ways to help us do that?

Provider:  Yes, we have many ways.

Sally:  I would like to push in a different position than on my back, is this okay?

Provider:  Sure, why not?

Sally:  We request skin-to-skin bonding, where the baby is placed on my belly/chest immediately after birth, will you do this for us?

Provider:  Yes.

Sally:  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before clamped or cut, will you honor this request?

Provider:  Um, sure.

Sally:  (Feeling peppy and like she’s chosen the right provider)  Thank you so much!!! We know we have chosen the right provider for us!

This line of questioning could go on forever, I could list so many more, but this line of questioning is all wrong.  Notice how the provider does not say much, provides no detail, and really is not answering the questions.  This is no indication of how the doctor might respond during birth.  The questions Sally is asking are the right questions, but need much more detailed answers.  She asks closed ended questions, or questions that do not require much more than a one or 2 word answer.  So I will outline the correct line of questioning.  This puts the ball in your court, and you can make a much more educated decision about your baby, your birth, and your provider or your place of birth.

The Right Questions

Sally:  Dr. Moe, my pregnancy and birth experience are very important to me, so I would like to ask you some questions quickly (pulls out a sheet of paper and pen).

Provider:  Um, Ok.  (Sits)

Sally (feeling empowered and confident.):  My husband/partner and I are preparing for a normal physiological birth (expound as much as needed: intervention free, few interventions, pain meds free, whatever you want to say), how many of the births that you’ve attended have been this way?  And, how will you help me to achieve this?

Provider:  (Slightly taken aback with this open ended question) Most of the births I attend at Candy Hill Hospital are medicated with epidural or some other form of pain management.  I have only attended maybe 10 unmedicated births.  I am willing to help you achieve this by allowing you to labor for as long as possible without intervention.

Sally:  Okay… We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, unless it is medically necessary to take action before hand.  How many of your mothers have you allowed to continue being pregnant until 42 weeks?  And what are your reasons as a provider for requesting birth sooner?

Provider:  We generally don’t allow women to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, our cut off is 41 weeks.  We don’t like women to continue pregnancy until 42 weeks because the risks of a larger baby/aging placenta/elevated blood pressure/etc go up.

Sally:  (Red flags going up, immediately, she’s done her research):  Okay, I understand your reasoning, and I’d love to see some written research to support this reasoning.  But, in our case, we would like to request a non-stress test following 41 weeks to ensure everything is fine with baby and me, and to ensure that everything is going smoothly in my pregnancy so we can go until 42 weeks.

Provider:  I guess we could do that, we will talk about it more as time gets nearer.

Sally:  Sounds pretty good.  Since we would like a normal physiological birth, we would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary.  What is your induction rate? And what are the reasons you induce?

Provider:  Our induction rate is pretty high.  We induce because the baby is too big, the baby is late, there are medical problems with the mom such as high blood pressure, diabetes, other issues, and to help the mother to be more comfortable.

Sally:  Oh, ok.  (Increasingly more uncomfortable with the answers her provider is giving)  We would like to avoid c-section, unless medically necessary, first, what is your c-section rate? And, how would you help us to avoid c-section?

Provider:  Our c-section rate is right along with the national average of 32-33%.  We would monitor you and baby, to make sure that both are okay, and allow you your trial of labor, until it is deemed that c-section may be the best option.

Sally:  (Thinks she may want to switch providers, at this point)  All right… I would like to push in a position other than semi-sitting or flat on my back.  How many births have you attended in which the mother was in an alternate position for pushing?

Provider:  Since most of the patients I attend have had an epidural, we require the mother to lie flat during birth.  I have not attended many births where the mother wanted to push in a different position, but I guess I’d be okay with it.

Sally:  Okay.  We would like our baby to come directly to my belly/chest following birth for immediate skin-to-skin bonding.  Are there reasons you would not allow this? If so, what are they?

Provider:  We generally take the baby directly to the warmer to do the assessments of the baby.  While we understand skin-to-skin bonding is beneficial, we like to get the assessments done as quickly as possible so you can have your baby following.  We could maybe do skin-to-skin bonding for a few minutes.

Sally:  (Disheartened)  Wow.  Okay.  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before it is cut or clamped.  Will you honor this for us? If so, why not?

Provider:  We like to clamp the cord and cut it immediately, so the assessments can be done on the baby, and with the baby attached to the cord, we cannot do that.  I guess we could do that so you could have a few minutes with your baby before we have to do the assessments.

Sally: (Feeling disheartened, discouraged, and frustrated, yet she knows she can switch providers) Thank you so much for answering these very important questions, we have some decisions to make.

Like I said, the questions are endless, and they all depend on what is important to you.  In this line of questioning, Sally receives the complete picture of what her provider is like during labor and birth, and is able to make more educated decisions about whether she would like to switch providers.

Let me say something else, if you decide to switch providers, it is YOUR decision.  You will not hurt feelings or step on toes, and if you do (Say this out loud to yourself), “IT IS MY BIRTH”.  What happens at your birth should be the well thought out plans you’ve decided on, not that your provider has decided on.

My personal experience with this was much more like the first line of questioning.  I can blame it on being a first time mom, being uninformed, or whatever I’d like it to be about, but what it came down to was I chose my provider for the wrong reasons.  My neighbor at the time wanted a fully medicated birth, and said her provider was “really nice”.  Well, most providers are really nice, they wouldn’t have much of a practice if they were ogres.  So my decision was made because my neighbor, who wanted a totally different birthing experience than I did, suggested the doctor to me.  If you want an intervention free birth, unmedicated birth, natural birth, normal physiological birth, however you want to describe it, DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER BASED ON THE CRITERIA OF “NICE”.  Ask open ended, detailed questions that will require thought, words, and an indication of the actions your provider will take.

Also, remember that you may always decline any procedure.  Simply say no, stand firm, and ask to sign a document saying you declined, if necessary.  Again, I will say this, and again, I want you to say this out loud (let this be your mantra), “THIS IS MY BIRTH.”

Please share comments, experiences, input, whatever you want to say, myself and my readers would love to read it.

Thank you so much for reading. Have a beautiful day!

The Truth About (Medicated) Birth

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I read an article today that really lit a fire under my butt, made me extremely frustrated, and wanting to say a lot.  The article was about how a member of the media “delivered” his baby at home, and how it was made to be so dramatic.  This spurred me to think about my passion for birth, how much birth is made out to be an emergency, a medical event, or something that needs to be managed or fixed, and about how little truth women tell other women about how they gave birth.  The natural birthing community is often shunned because of how people who had medicated births perceive the natural birthers’ stories as bragging.  Come on, now, people!  We need to hear more of the natural birthing stories, they often have so much more vivid detail than the medicated birth stories.  Wonder why?!  Because the women who give birth without the use of medication actually remember their births.  That’s one reason, but I think that women who have given birth with the use of medication don’t necessarily want to tell the WHOLE story.  I know that after I had my epidural (after not planning or foreseeing such a thing taking place in my labor), that I didn’t want to tell the details.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I know there is a time and a place for interventions such as medication to be used during labor.  Sadly, though, these interventions have been so overused that now it’s a problem, a BIG problem.  Women and babies are suffering, and some are dying, because of the overuse.  Babies are being forced out of their mothers’ wombs because they are “too big”, “too late”, and for many other reasons that are not medically related, and this has affected their health, growth, and has caused some of them to die.  Mothers are not being given time and patience to labor and birth, instead, they are put on hospital clocks, and often hurried along with the use of induction and augmentation drugs, which ends in cesarean sections.  While cesarean sections are sometimes very much needed, they also have MAJOR risks, and repeat cesareans put women at further risks.  Women are dying because of the overuse of cesarean sections.  Yes, interventions are sometimes needed, I know that, but not routinely.

What we need to do, as a society, is expose women to what birth is intended to be.  Make birth this glorious event, instead of an event that’s shrouded in dark mystery, with hints of disaster and doom.  So here is what birth is, to me.

Like all mammals, humans are designed to give birth, and in most cases, women are able to give birth, with little or no intervention.  There are many things that must happen within the body for labor to begin, one of which is that the baby must be ready.  Because the woman’s body is so perfectly designed, with a flexible pelvis, that moves to accommodate her baby, birth is entirely possible.  If a woman is able to let go of all fear, the muscles in her birthing body should work correctly, and a sort of birth dance happens, where muscles work together in perfect harmony, to help the baby move down, turn, maneuver to a perfect position for birth, and finally be born.  The mother’s perineum, which is strong and muscular, if it has been massaged adequately in the weeks leading up to birth will stretch perfectly for the baby to make his entrance.  The baby is so perfectly designed for birth, the skeletal structure is pliable, and the bone plates in the head (fontanels) are able to overlap each other to make descent into the vaginal canal, and out of the body possible.  Much more happens in the body, cervical changes that include so much more than dilation and effacement, and oh how I WISH providers would teach this to their expectant couples!  Hormones (specifically oxytocin, the love hormone) work in the body to drive off stress and fear, and make birthing easier, help the cervix to open, help the labor to progress, help the baby to be born, help the mother to BOND with the baby, and help the mother to feel protective toward her baby.  Many other things in life produce oxytocin (love, like-minded women communing, intercourse, breastfeeding, etc).  As I said before, this is the watered down version of what birth truly is, what it’s meant to be.

So let’s look at what happens when women do not go this route (for whatever reason).  And let’s address that many women are told (by media, friends, culture, family, doctors, language, their own experiences, etc) that they are not capable of giving birth without the use of interventions/medications.  Women who give birth with the use of interventions are mammals, still, there is no denying that, but different things happen in the body once medication and other interventions are introduced.  The lovely love hormone, oxytocin, that I talked about above, when pitocin (artificial oxytocin), epidurals, and other drugs are introduced is cut off.  This means that the lovey, floaty, euphoric feeling that some women feel during labor, that counteracts pain, is gone.  What I didn’t say about the hormones in the body, above, is that these also help the baby, because what a mother experiences, so does the baby (if a mother is experiencing a comfortable labor, so is the baby, and conversely, is a mother is experiencing a painful pitocin driven labor, the baby no longer has a hormonal love cushion to protect him).  Epidurals also cut off the oxytocin, and cause the baby to feel a much more painful labor and birth.  And when mothers feel threatened in labor, their bodies stop working in perfect harmony, the cervix will not want to open (a protective instinctual mechanism to keep baby from harm), and labor stalls.  The mother’s pelvis and baby’s fontanels still function, but once an epidural is introduced, babies often have to be born when their mothers are on their backs (the least conducive birthing position, because baby has to go against gravity to be born).   This is the version of interventive/medicated birth that people often describe, without the “what happens in the body” mumbo jumbo.  I will tell you more… Here is the part we often do not hear.

With pitocin, contractions, or surges as HypnoBirthing calls them, often feel like they never end.  I’ve heard pitocin contractions described as one big one that never let the mother regain composure, catch her breath, and was extremely painful.  So when we hear about inductions and augmentations, the whole truth is not being told, I fear.  And with pitocin, epidurals are often right behind, because labor is so traumatic with pitocin, that it’s like cruel and unusual punishment to have pitocin WITHOUT an epidural.  And with pitocin and epidural, especially combined, cesarean section rates rise.

With epidurals, tearing is a lot more prevalent, as is malposition of the baby (baby’s face not facing his mother’s back).  Episiotomy (cutting of the perineal tissue) is more common as well.  And here’s the kicker, because the mother is numbed, many things can be done, without her knowing anything is wrong (legs being cranked back so far that hip damage is possible, episiotomy, breaking of the bag of waters, or release of membranes as HypnoBirthing calls it, etc.)

Cesarean section is a major surgery that has a long and painful healing course.  The art of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being lost among obstetricians, and so women who have primary cesareans are often put under the knife for no medical reason, other than the primary cesarean, for subsequent babies.  And the hard truth about cesarean sections, though some of them are truly needed, is that some mothers die following surgery.

My own experience was not what I expected it would be, partly because of Sydney being turned “sunny side up”, with her head resting on my tailbone, which made my labor much longer than I’m sure it would have been.  After 20 hours of unmedicated, unmessed with labor, I asked for an epidural, after having researched the risks and benefits.  What I never anticipated was how it would affect me, how it still affects me now.  Because I could not feel anything, my OB was getting my perineum ready for birth (which we had explicitly asked not be done (perineal massage) during labor, in our birth plan), and she tore me.  My legs were cranked back to my ears when I was pushing, to “make more room for the baby”, and I still have hip issues today (stiffness, pain, loss of flexibility).  After Sydney was born, I felt emotionally dead, all of my protective instincts I thought I would have were deadened by the narcotics present in the epidural.  Bonding with Sydney was near impossible, and took at least a month, if not more.  She had a poor latch to begin with, because of the drugs in her system from the epidural.  Sydney cried incessantly for about the first month, and I’m convinced that she had some sort of birth trauma from not being cushioned by my cocktail of love hormones during labor and birth.  I felt distant from her, and did not want to hold her, comfort her, and be with her, nor did I make an effort to learn how to.  I could probably go on, but you might imagine that this tore at me as a mother, and still does.  I don’t view myself as a failure at all, because at hour 20 of my labor, my body had reached a level of exhaustion it had never reached, and was ready to give up, and I was quickly heading for a cesarean.  So as a mother, I look back on my experience, and want desperately to do better, do more, educate other mothers, help mothers, help babies, just speak about this.

My point in saying all of this is that birth is not supposed to be scary, dramatized, medical, or an emergency.  When it is made to be these things, women lose their ability to think about what their babies might need, and instead think of simply getting through it.  With interventions come risks and consequences (lower rates of bonding, harder times bonding, lowered protective instincts in mothers to protect their babies, lower breastfeeding rates, higher infant and maternal mortality rates, higher infant and maternal morbidity rates, birth defects, emotional trauma, physical trauma, and the list goes on).  So here is my challenge for you.  Research everything, if you’re having a baby, research everything (your provider, hospital, interventions, alternatives, birth plans, having a doula, how your partner can better support you, etc).  And for those of you who have had beautiful experiences, PLEASE share your story (post it online, share it on Facebook, I’ll share it too!)!!!!

As always, thank you so much for reading this, and your input is always appreciated!

Birth and Death

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Recently, I’ve encountered some very real, natural life occurrences.  And as I have encountered them, I have realized the similarities between birth and death, and realized there are huge, vast differences between the two as well.  As I teach HypnoBirthing classes to excited expectant parents, I also know that there are people preparing for death.  Everyone dies, but it seems that we, as Americans are so afraid of death, that we keep it a secret.

I’ve had a challenge in explaining to my daughter, who will be 4 this year, the realities of life.  I don’t know how much she understands,  but I am as honest as I can be, at an age appropriate level for her.  I answer questions when she asks, while sometimes inside, I have questions too.  It seems that in this past week, I’ve reached a level of comfort and clarity with the end of life.  I’ve also discovered that I have almost as much passion for end of life issues as I do for birth.

I think this passion grows out of my Social Work background, and the belief that everyone has the right to dignity.  At the beginning of life, mothers choose to birth their babies in a manner that is most comfortable to them.  Dignity is present when mothers’ wishes are honored.  At the end of life, many people prepare an advanced directive, decide what they would like to have happen, and how they would like to be treated.  Dignity is present when the wishes of the dying are honored.

Sometimes, though, wishes are not honored.  Many providers who care for pregnant women have a skewed view of what normal birth is, and so their methods do not mesh with the wishes of mothers.  Many times, birth is hurried, labor is induced, babies are rushed, when this is medically unnecessary.  A similar situation arises with the end of life, hospitals are so concerned with saving life, that even in situations where patients wish for no intervention, intervention is ever present.  Advanced directives can be helpful, as can Do Not Resuscitate orders, but if they are not in hand, they cannot be honored.  Procedures are performed to keep people alive, because a large part of the medical system is there to “fix” what is wrong.  In dealing with birth and death, since they are both natural occurrences, there is nothing to fix.

I understand that we, as humans, are extremely selfish.  We want our babies here NOW, and we want our loved ones to stay with us forever.  The thought of saying goodbye is excruciating, but it is a reality that we must face.  Allowing people to be born and to die on their own time is essential.  It provides a balance to life, but it also provides dignity to those who are entering or leaving our lives.

With death especially, we must remember that there are some things that death has no power over.  Death cannot change the love we feel and it cannot take our memories.

For those of you preparing for the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, I pray for the wisdom for you to know that it will happen in its own time.  I pray for you to feel the comfort of just letting things stay as they are, now.  I pray for you to understand that you cannot control what or how it happens, though you may feel an intense need to.  I pray for you to soak in every moment of waiting, allow it to saturate your very being.  I pray for you to just be.  Allow yourself to not rush or prolong what is inevitable, it will happen, and when it does, just breathe.

Additional suggestions:

Birth:

  • Think about the kind of birth you want for yourself, your birth partner, and your baby.
  • Research everything.
  • Take a birthing class.
  • Create a birth plan.
  • Talk to your provider at length about your wishes during labor and birth (if he/she does not agree or seem on board, switch providers/hospitals or both).
  • Be confident in what your body was created to do.
  • Be flexible in your approach to labor and birth.
  • Hire a Doula.

Death:

  • Talk to family about your wishes.
  • Create an Advanced Directive, detailing your wishes (on paper).
  • Decide on details concerning what will happen to your body, before you pass on.
  • Know that no matter how much everyone prepares, this will not be easy on anyone.
  • Have the confidence to express your details to those you love.
  • Determine whether Hospice would be a viable option for you in your final journey in life.

Your input is greatly appreciated.

Doula Training

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My goal for 2010 was to complete doula training.  This goal is under way, because of a suggestion from a lovely midwife I know who suggested toLabor, a doula training organization, previously known as ALACE.  So beginning this Friday, June 25 until June 27, I will be completing my doula training workshop in Virginia.  toLabor’s training allows me to use the two (soon to be three) previous births (prior to the workshop) that I have attended to count toward my total of six that I must attend to become certified as a birth doula.

I also have some fantastic books that I am in the process of reading.  To see this list of books and the other certification requirements, click here.

Since last posting, I had the opportunity to attend a birth at a local hospital.  This mother was one of my HypnoBirthing moms, and she was facing a deadline of 41 weeks (the hospital’s policy is to give birth before 41 weeks, or an induction will be ordered), and instead, went into labor the day before her induction date.  She did a fantastic job of getting all the way through her labor, while using the support of her husband, her friend and me.  Her baby boy was born early on the morning of the 9th, and was completely unmedicated.  Beautiful reason to want to be a doula.

I will be offering “in-training” doula rates as I complete my training, so if you’re interested in being one of my six births, please contact me!  I am not completely sure of how much the rate will be, but I will post that after I complete my workshop.

Breastfeeding Awareness – Be Aware, Be VERY Aware!

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Please share this blog post with the people you care about… Whether they breastfed or formula fed.  The information must get out there!  Help me raise awareness.

This blog post is written in honor of Melissa Taylor.  You truly inspire me.

As I was awaiting my daughter’s arrival, in 2007, I distinctly remember telling EVERYONE I knew that I intended to breastfeed.  My reasoning behind this, was because I knew that many women face challenges with breastfeeding, including stigma, soreness, blistering, bleeding, mastitis and more, and I wanted to be successful at nursing my daughter, until she was ready to wean herself.  I also knew that if I had the support of my friends and family, that my rate of success would be greater than if I didn’t have any support.  The more education and support a woman receives, the more successful she will be at nursing her baby.

Sydney was born, and I had some challenges, because of a poor latch, and the information I received from the hospital was conflicting.  One nurse would tell me to do it one way, while another nurse would inform me of another way that didn’t make sense.  In the end, I left the hospital not feeling well informed, and at the one week mark, I could not nurse from my right breast, because of blistering.  I called my friend Maggie who had successfully nursed her daughter, and she brought a book to me, and helped Sydney achieve a proper latch!!! I was so overjoyed.  I knew I would be successful at nursing.

Breastfeeding, for me was full of joy, and the bond that Sydney and I developed was incredible.  She self-weaned at 13 months of age, and between birth and 13 months, we had quite the journey.  Breastfeeding in America can be filled with negativity toward the mother, and people think breastfeeding is somehow strange.

Melissa Taylor, of Tampa, Florida was told recently that it was inappropriate to nurse her two year old daughter in the lobby of her daughter’s school.  As I read this story, and learned more about the challenges she was facing, I became incredibly angry at how misinformed and ignorant people sounded as they responded to one particular online news story.

How is it that breastfeeding is an issue at all (much less breastfeeding in public)?! Are there not bigger issues than breastfeeding?  And where do these issues come from?  Are people offended by the act of feeding a baby from a body part that has been so over-sexualized in our society, and/or is it that women have been so marginalized and sexualized that breasts are now viewed exclusively as sexual objects?  Should we not be fired up and angry that an estimated 16.7 million children do not receive adequate nutrition and often go to bed hungry in America?! And equally, should we not be infuriated that children are experiencing obesity at alarming rates?! There are huge, monumental problems having to do with food in the United States, and breastfeeding should not be included in those problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  73.9% of all American women begin breastfeeding.  By three months, only 33.1% are breastfeeding exclusively, and the rates drop off as the time progresses.  At 6 months, 13.6% of all moms are still breastfeeding exclusively, and 43.4% are breastfed with other forms of nutrition also being given.  At 12 months of age, 22.7% of mothers are still breastfeeding.  To read more, and see the CDC’s statistical data, please visit their Breastfeeding page.  Please also view your state’s breastfeeding rates; click here.

Obviously, with these statistics, there is a disconnect. So much is fed to women, about parenting in general, but breastfeeding especially seems to have a lot of societal stigma attached to it.  Along with stigma, there is misinformation, a lack of education, and a lack of support of new mothers to breastfeed.  It seems easier for new moms (according to the results of studies and evidenced by the statistics of the CDC) to move to formula as their babies’ nutrition.  Infant formula companies make a killing yearly, and spend extravagant amounts of money to market their product to families.  It is suggested by formula companies that the second choice behind breastfeeding is formula, but this is untrue.  The second choice is breast milk expressed in some way and then fed to the baby, the third being the human breast milk of another mother, and the last choice is formula feeding.

BARRIERS TO BREASTFEEDING

In the United States, 98%-99% of all births take place in hospitals, and our maternity care system has protocols and policies in place that are not evidence based and will either help or hinder (most of the time hinder) the breastfeeding initiation.  For instance, it is well known that medications during labor affect breastfeeding (if a baby is lethargic because of drugs in his or her system, latching on may be nearly impossible).  Separation of mother and baby is also known to hinder breastfeeding (no skin-to-skin bonding) (Please watch the video below concerning breastfeeding and the effects medicated birth and separation have on the baby’s ability to breastfeed).  And what about hospitals sending formula home with families “just in case”.  The first 24 hours is vitally important to establish a breastfeeding relationship, and it’s a shame that protocols of our maternity care system often retard this relationship.


There seems to be a huge lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding.  Because people do not know anyone who did it, and they may not know where to turn for resources and help, it becomes easy to look to what is familiar.

Our schools do not teach about breastfeeding as a normal, natural and healthy way to nourish our children.  In the case of Melissa Taylor in Tampa, Florida, it was clearly seen as inappropriate (I’m guessing viewed as sexually inappropriate) in the lobby of her daughter’s school.

Women often think that since they were not breastfed, they turned out “all right”, and don’t need to breastfeed their children.  Can you think of the potential in our society if more children were breastfed?!  And what about the potential of the moms who turned out “all right”, could they not have been fantastic, incredible, genius, unbelievable, instead of just “all right”?

Formula companies so vigorously market themselves, that their ads are appearing as “breastfeeding help” on webpage and blog ads.  Can you imagine the effect this has on a desperate mother who is not firm in her breastfeeding relationship?  It is intentional misleading advertising by the formula companies, but they profit hugely from it.  Please visit the following site to learn more about this misleading information.  PhD in Parenting – Sabotage

I spoke to an expectant mother about whether she will breast feed or formula feed.  She stated she would formula feed, to which I asked some questions.  Here is what she told me:  she does not know anyone personally who breastfeeds or has breastfed, she was not breastfed as a baby, nor were her siblings, she thinks it will be difficult and inconvenient to breastfeed/pump as she continues with college.  And my guess is, because she knows no one that has breastfed, there is little support and education about breastfeeding in her community, and in her direct environment.  (While this is her choice to formula feed, because of lack of education and support about breastfeeding surrounding her, it is a largely uninformed decision.  Most of decisions made out of lack of support and education are made out of fear.  Mothers who are in this situation are not to blame, instead, we must look at who is accountable for the lack of education and support concerning breastfeeding, and also at the huge formula companies that market their product in a seemingly appealing way.)

We live in a society of instant gratification, and formula feeding caters to this society.  While breastfeeding proves to be much easier in the long-run than formula feeding, the hump women have to get over to get there is not instantly gratifying to most women.  So, because of lack of support, education, and confidence to push through the challenges of breastfeeding, they choose to formula feed.

THE COST OF FORMULA FEEDING

Childhood obesity is on the rise.  According to Breastfeeding Fights Obesity, in Atlanta, it is estimated that 15%-20% of obesity could have been prevented by breastfeeding.

Childhood illnesses and diseases (ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, respiratory problems, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Type-1 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer in girls, Hodgkin’s Disease, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), urinary tract infections, vision problems, tooth decay, to name quite a few)  that are preventable by breastfeeding account for $3.6 BILLION in insurance costs by both public and private insurers.  This doesn’t only effect insurance costs, but also effects the amount of time mothers of formula fed babies spend out of work (which then accounts for the additional health claims made by employers).

Not breastfeeding can cause health problems in the mother, to include: excessive bleeding after giving birth (this is caused because oxytocin is not produced to help the blood vessels in the uterus clamp down properly), ovarian cancer, breast cancer before menopause, for mothers who had gestational diabetes, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher, and osteoporosis.)

Formula feeding also has a HUGE impact on the environment!  Not only does it contribute to factory farming and the waste that comes from that, but it also creates a lot of pollution because of the packaging of the product.


MISLEADING FORMULA ADS

If the costs of formula feeding are not enough to convince you that breastfeeding is a more nutritionally sound and superior option, please consider the following.  Formula companies have made bogus claims about the superpowers of their products.  Sure, I understand that they need people to buy formula, but to misinform the public is criminal, and frankly, for you formula moms out there, you should be OUTRAGED!  One such company is Mead Johnson, the company that manufactures Enfamil.  Mead Johnson has been caught making bogus claims about their formula FIVE times (and lost 3 federal lawsuits concerning these bogus claims), with the latest claim being that theirs is the only formula that promotes brain growth and eye development.  Enfamil Premium has NOT been proven to be superior to other formulas in the performance areas suggested.  On the contrary, all formula companies receive their ingredients from the same supplier. Refer to Strike Five for more information about this.

Breast milk will always be the best, most nutritionally sound first food for your baby.

BREASTFEEDING ADVANTAGES

Breastfeeding provides a lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).  Hugely important reason to consider breastfeeding if you are not right now!

Infant mortality rates in the first year of life are reduced by 21% in breastfed babies.  (Again, epic reason to consider breastfeeding).

Breastfeeding enhances the effectiveness of some vaccinations.

Immune system booster through white blood cells provided through breast milk help to fight off infections.

Reduction in the diseases and illnesses listed above in bold and italics.

Less environmental impact (no waste associated with packaging).  Does not contribute to factory farming and the pollution associated with that.

Lower private and public insurance costs for families who breastfeed.  (Less work missed, too).

Reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Reduction in childhood cancers (Hodgkin’s and leukemia)

Reduces high blood pressure, obesity, and bad cholesterol levels later in life.

Eczema and asthma rates are lower in infants who breastfeed exclusively for 4 months.

Lowered incidence of bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis)

In premature babies, breast milk helps the brain stem to mature.

In premature babies, hospital costs and the length of stay are reduced significantly as well.

For the mother, less bleeding following birth, again, because of the oxytocin levels.

In some, but not all women who breastfeed exclusively, delayed ovulation and menstruation for up to 20-30 weeks.  This is nature’s way of caring for the baby, and protecting the bond between mother and baby (thus ensuring the survival of the species).

Bonding is enhanced with mothers who breastfeed (again, oxytocin, and there is a special, empowering feeling of sustaining life through breast milk that mothers produce.)

Lowered risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes (in women without a history of gestational diabetes), pre-menopausal breast cancer, and ovarian cancers.  These risks lower the longer a woman breastfeeds.


HOW LONG CAN/SHOULD BABIES/CHILDREN BE BREASTFED?

According to the La Leche League’s website, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding babies exclusively for six months, and for two years or more beyond that, coupled with a nutritionally balanced diet.  The page I found on the La Leche League’s website is super informative, and for that reason, I will use their quotations, because there is no possible way I can state better what they have so clearly stated:  (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers)

A breastfed baby is dependent on his mother for both food and comfort. This may frighten people in cultures that place a high value on self-sufficiency. A breastfed baby will not be satisfied with anyone other than his mother, and therefore may be regarded by some as a liability, when in fact, a baby simply knows what he needs for his own good.

Some cultures fear that continuing to breastfeed until a child weans on his own will make him more dependent on his mother. Instead of viewing extended nursing as something to question, perhaps the real query should be, “What is there to be gained by abruptly putting an end to the breastfeeding relationship?” It’s interesting that some people think that a child won’t grow out of breastfeeding unless he is forced. In reality, it’s a natural process for children to outgrow breastfeeding on their own. Independence, not dependence, is one outstanding trait that breastfed children who self-wean have in common (Ferguson 1987).

The benefits (for the toddler) of breastfeeding toddlers are huge.  Breastfeeding toddlers enriches  all of the following areas:  Immune system health, Oral development, IQ score, Independence, and Self-Esteem. Again, I am quoting the La Leche League’s website, because the information is so complete (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers):

Human milk is the primary source of nutrition during a baby’s first year. It becomes a supplement to solids during the second year, but it maintains nutritional value, as well emotional benefits for toddlers.

Immune system: It takes between two and six years for a child’s immune system to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered (AAP 1997; Goldman 1983; Gulick 1986; Mohrbacher and Stock 2003; Saarinen 1982). Research on the incidence of illness in breastfed or weaned toddlers reflects these dynamics. Breastfeeding toddlers between 16 and 30 months old have been found to have fewer types and shorter duration of illness and to require less medical care than their non-breastfeeding peers (Gulick 1986).

Oral development: Breastfeeding provides a natural outlet for non-nutritive sucking that promotes proper oral development, which has been found to improve speech (Davis 1991; Labbok and Hendershot 1987; Broad and Duganzich 1983).

IQ score: Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement (IQ scores, grades in school) and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest (van den Bogaard 1991).

Independence: The process that children go through while growing toward independence is a difficult one. Breastfeeding can provide feelings of love, comfort, and protection. When a mother makes herself available to nurse her child through a situation that he can’t handle alone, he will likely develop independence based on faith that mother will be there to help. As a child gets older, there are fewer and fewer such situations. Provided a child isn’t prevented from exercising his developing capabilities, independence comes with his increasing competence (Bumgarner 2000).

Self-Esteem: Babies and young children nurse when they are lonely, frightened, or in pain and responsive mothering through breastfeeding leads to enhanced bonding. Allowing a toddler to nurse (or wean) at his own pace is an expression of trust that contributes to his self-esteem.

Breastfeeding toddlers also benefits the mother too!  These are some of the advantages for mom:  Stress relieving qualities to nursing a toddler, bonding quiet time during hectic days, decreased disease risk (pre-menopausal breast cancer for women who breastfeed children for several years, a reduced risk of osteoporosis), and decreased fertility during nursing relationship (lactational amenorrhea)  (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers).

Parenting is an exhausting business. When a mother says how tired or stressed she is, some people may point to breastfeeding as the culprit. In reality, there are many benefits of extended nursing to mothers, some of which include:

Stress relieving qualities: Breast-feeding suppresses the nervous system’s hormonal response to stress, which is why many mothers recognize that they feel calmer and better able to cope with whatever comes along while nursing.

A few guaranteed calm moments in a day: Parenting can be hectic. Toddlers are bursting with energy and find a lot of interesting things to keep them busy. There are times — however brief — when a mother can count on breastfeeding to provide soothing quality time to calm an upset toddler or to reconnect and bond with her child.

Decreased risk of diseases: One study found a decreased risk of breast cancer among breastfeeding mothers, with the greatest risk reduction seen in women whose total amount of breastfeeding for one or more children totals several years (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer 2002). A mother’s risk of osteoporosis (and other diseases) is also reduced by extended breastfeeding (Gwinn et al. 1990; Hartge et al. 1989; Rosenblatt, Thomas, and WHO 1993).

Amenorrhea: The amount of natural infertility experienced while breastfeeding is known as lactational amenorrhea. Many mothers experience reduced fertility when nursing past a year, with some women going as long as two years or more without menstruating.

Even after the time during which nursing alone is a reliable contraceptive has passed, many mothers continue to enjoy freedom from menstruation and from the physical and emotional effects of ovulation and menstruation” (Bumgarner 2000).

The following is also from the La Leche League website, concerning myths about extended breastfeeding.

Myths about Entending Nursing and Late Weaning

Myth: A child will never wean on his own.
Fact: Children grow and change dramatically in the first several years of life, and their interest in nursing changes as they do. Children want to nurse only as long as it fills a need for them. Sometimes this need will last for several years, sometimes far less. A need that is filled will go away. 

Myth: A child who is still nursing is too dependent.
Fact: Toddlers have many needs that linger from babyhood, including the need to cuddle, the need to be comforted, and the need for help when falling asleep. These needs are all naturally met through nursing, and it is a wise mother who recognizes and honors her child’s need to be dependent. Trusting the child in this way builds self-confidence needed for later independence. 

Myth: Extended nursing is a sign of sexual problems.
Fact: Children who nurse for several years do not appear to be affected in any way in their sexual development. They may actually grow up to be more comfortable with their bodies and with relationships. 

Myth: An older nursing child won’t learn self-comforting skills.
Fact: Giving your child the comfort of breastfeeding is actually the best way to teach self-comforting skills in the long run. It is from this early relationship with you that he learns much about his needs and how to get them met in constructive, self-initiated ways. 

Myth: Prolonged nursing is too fatiguing for a mother.
Fact: Many mothers find that nursing is one way they are able to rest, since nursing assures that there are a few times in every day when the mother can put her feet up and relax with her child. 

Myth: The longer you wait to wean, the harder it will be.
Fact: As children get older, encouraging weaning often gets easier, not harder, since older children have a greater ability to reason and a wider repertoire of interests. When your child is ready to wean, it will be easy. 

Myth: It’s better to wean suddenly and get it over with.
Fact: Weaning slowly is one of the many areas in your relationship with your child where going slowly pays off in the long term. There are no instant fixes that don’t have a cost. By weaning gradually and employing gentle techniques, you will maintain your child’s inner security and trust for you. 

Myth: A mother who nurses an older child is doing it to fill some need in herself.
Fact: Many mothers explain that their satisfaction and pleasure in nursing declines as the child gets older, and if they continue to nurse, it is primarily because it is important to their child. Older children are usually not coerced to nurse, they are allowed to nurse. 

Source: Bengson 1999


 

BREASTFEEDING TESTIMONIALS

The following are stories that have influenced the breastfeeding relationships between mothers and their babies.  These stories are both positive and negative.  It should be noted that if a woman has not established a positive nursing relationship with her baby, negative comments have a HUGE, GIANT detrimental impact on the nursing relationship.  Mothers who are well established in breastfeeding often use negative comments as fuel for their fire to continue, and/or seek to educate the person who is making the negative comment.

Teva’s stories:

My husband’s family was so incredibly welcoming, accomomdating, loving, and kind as I established my nursing relationship with Sydney.  If they entered the room while I was nursing, they praised me, smiled at me, and never made a big deal out of it.  They knew I was feeding my baby, and it was extremely normal in their home.  My husband was nursed as a baby, as was his brother.  On a couple of instances, his grandfather walked into the room, and I tried to cover myself with a blanket, he was so kind to tell me that was not necessary.  After that, I felt so comfortable with nursing.

My grandmother, who is a southern lady and thinks modesty is important encouraged me not to nurse in public.  While I appreciated her point of view, I knew that if Sydney was hungry and needed to nurse, no matter where we were, I was going to nurse her.  I always felt the need to use a nursing cover when I was out in public, and I realize now, that I brought much more attention to myself than I would have if I had just simply nursed her without it.

A young female soldier at Ft. Bragg, one day, in a food court laughed and pointed at me as I nursed Sydney.  I continued to nurse Sydney, but I remember being very uncomfortable and self-conscious about nursing her.

Sydney’s pediatrician, whom we respect and like, told us at 8 months of age, that she was not growing properly, and that she needed to be put on formula to gain weight.  Being a new mom, and not knowing what to research, or even where to start, I started her on formula.  (She still did not gain weight).  I argued the point that she was breastfed, that she has two petite parents, and that she was on par developmentally in every other area, and still this made no difference to the pediatrician.  Sydney still is small for her age, so the amount of nourishment she was receiving had little to do with her growth curve, instead it had everything to do with the medical community needing to chart, graph, and compare her to every other child, based on formula fed babies’ growth curves.

A lady in a restaurant stopped to ask questions about nursing, and my nursing cover.  She thought it was a wonderful gift that I was giving to Sydney.  I, of course, agreed.

Sharon’s stories:

I am 37, and currently breastfeeding my second son, Braden (he is turning 1 this weekend). He was born without meds in Virginia.  I breastfed my first son, Bridger, until he was a few months shy of 3 years old (by that time it was mostly nap/bed time).  I received a lot of questions from girlfriends, funny looks, back-handed comments… Mostly “Sharon, are you STILL nursing him?” or “When are you going to STOP nursing him, Sharon?”
I was surprised my well-educated peers, friends, and neighbors are skeptical about extended breastfeeding. They have MBAs, one is a lawyer, one is an IT manager, they are married to doctors — WHY do these women think an extended breastfeeding relationship is strange? That I am codependent on my baby? Why are we so willing to get degrees and become educated in other areas, but FORGET what’s natural?
Surprisingly, I found perfect strangers to be less difficult. For instance, in stores, such as Target or Wal-Mart, I would tell the dressing room attendant, “I need to nurse my baby, would be it be okay to use a room?” and most of the time never even saw a raised eyebrow.
SO WHAT CAN I DO TO INCREASE AWARENESS?

Write to your local legislature concerning breastfeeding.

Learn more about your state laws about breastfeeding.

Write to your local school, school board, all the way up to the Department of Education to inform them of the importance of breastfeeding being taught in schools, and of a breastfeeding policy in schools.

Educate the people who make negative comments.

Teach your children that breastfeeding is appropriate, normal, natural, and healthy.

Write to your local hospitals and encourage them to stop passing out formula to every woman who gives birth.

Attend local La Leche League meetings to learn more.

Become a lactation consultant, counselor, or even just a friend who is helpful to new breastfeeding mothers.

Pass on information, literature, education, support, etc to those new to breastfeeding.
DID YOU KNOW?!

Breastfeeding often does not cause breast sagginess.  Genetics, age, the size and consistency of the breasts, and the actual pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies) have more to do with it than breastfeeding.  So if you’re thinking your breasts might be ruined if you breastfeed, this will depend on several factors, not the breastfeeding itself, so go for it, it’s for an excellent cause.

The United States has one of the highest rates of babies being fed infant formula in the world!!!

It is entirely possible to breastfeed AND work a full-time job.  One of my best friends has been doing it for the past 16 months.  She is one of my heroes, she breastfeeds when she is with her little girl, pumps for when she won’t be available, and works a full-time job.

Breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day!!!!!!

BREASTFEEDING ACCESSORIES

Nursing Covers:

Bebe Au Lait

Sew Your Own Nursing Cover

Breast Pads:

Disposible

Sew Your Own

Silicone (Lily Padz)

Breast Pumps:

Medela

Nursing Pillows:

Boppy

myBrest Friend

Nursing clothing:  (Motherwear, Mommy Gear)

Nursing bras

Nursing shirts

Nursing Gowns

BREASTFEEDING BOOKS FOR MOM:

The Breastfeeding Book by William and Martha Sears

The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins (Currently reading for doula training, EXCELLENT book!)

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International (Friend Maggie gave me this book, and I passed it on to a friend, EXCELLENT book!)

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Jack Newman, MD and Teresa Pitman

BREASTFEEDING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:

I’m Made of Mama’s Milk by Mary Olsen

We Like to Nurse by Chia Martin

My Very Breast Friend by David and Mutiya Vision  (We have this book, and Sydney absolutely loves it!)

SOURCES USED:

http://mamadearest.ca/en/info/risk_and_costs.htm

http://chfs.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/9130DDE5-1806-4B89-B410-685F26556A96/0/ObesityNewsletter.pdf

http://www.motherfriendly.org/pdf/breastfeeding.pdf

http://www.bread.org/hunger/us/

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/index.html

Special thanks to the moms who helped me write this blog!  Thank you so much for your contribution, pictures and stories!!!

 

(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE PICTURES OR YOUR STORY, PLEASE SEND THEM TO: teva@mygentlebirthing.com)