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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

January and Brandon are back from hiatus to discuss none other than THE BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR BOOK!!!

They discuss the entire process, from the initial email January received from a book agent, to the 41 page book proposal, to their trek across New York City with their book agent to meet with six editors, to the actual writing and editing of the book!

It’s a story January and Brandon have been itching to share for a year and a half, and it’s finally here! It’s so exciting that Brandon even busts out his Moviefone voice!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

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Click here to download Episode #42: The Birth of the Birth Without Fear Book!

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Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!

Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

Pre-Order The BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book Today!!!

In her first book, Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum (Hachette Books; March 5 2019), January Harshe, mom of six and founder of the Birth Without Fear website, delivers an inclusive, non-judgmental, and empowering guide to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life.

Each chapter provides you with the all the necessary information, options, and tools to help you take charge of the experience of welcoming your child into the world.

Unlike other pregnancy, birth, and postpartum books, Birth Without Fear will also help partners understand what mothers are going through, as well as discuss the challenges that they, too, will face—and how they can navigate them.

Shattering long-held myths and beliefs surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience, Birth Without Fear is an accessible, reassuring, and ultimately inspiring guide to taking charge of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

The Birth Without Fear movement began as a voice for change in the standard of care in today’s birthing world, and Birth Without Fear will empower YOU to be a voice for change in your own pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Options, support, and respect should be the norm for every pregnant and birthing woman, and it can be if YOU, the Birth Without Fear community, vote for that change by pre-ordering your copy of Birth Without Fear today!

Pre-Order Now!

January Harshe knows firsthand how widely birth experiences can range. She has run the gamut from an affirming and joyful planned cesarean to a traumatic emergency cesarean, as well as a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) in the hospital, and two home births. One of these home births was such a dramatic departure from the confusion, uncertainty, and fear of her other births that a beautiful idea was born — she would make it her life’s mission to promote a revolutionary birth and parenting message: you can have a birth without fear, no matter how you birth.

January is the founder of the Birth Without Fear community, as well as Take Back Postpartum, Don’t Forget Dads, and Mothering Without Fear under the Birth Without Fear tent—all of which today collectively represent a social media following of over 1 million and counting.

Within each chapter of Birth Without Fear is a Partner Point of View written by Brandon Harshe. Having been by January’s side for six pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences, Brandon has learned a lot about what it takes to support the woman he loves through the biggest changes and experiences of her life. In Birth Without Fear, he’s shared some of that knowledge to help husbands and partners be the steadfast support person that all birthing people need and deserve!

Members of the Birth Without Fear community on social media are familiar with the conversation shifting regularly to postpartum, and Birth Without Fear is no different. The focus of so many pregnancy and birth books is on, well, pregnancy and birth. But what about after the birth? You have the entire rest of your life to live, only now with a new baby!

This is where Birth Without Fear comes in. With chapters on breastfeeding, self love, self care, mental health, and sex and intimacy, no stone is left unturned for those of you wondering “what next?” after the baby has arrived.

When January Harshe created the Birth Without Fear community in 2010, she wanted options, support, and respect to be the standard of care for every pregnancy, every birth, and every postpartum experience. Individually, we all have a voice. As a united community, we can affect real change in the conversation about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in our culture. Pre-ordering Birth Without Fear is a vote for real change. Order your copy today!

Pre-Order Now!

My Healing Hospital VBAC

My Healing Hospital VBAC

(Editor’s note: this was originally published on October 9, 2014)

To tell Mel’s birth story, I have to say a few words about Katherine’s and Laeney’s birth stories.

Laeney’s birth was a hospital induction. At my final ultrasound, my doctor told me my placenta was failing and she was losing weight in the womb. They told me she would only be 4 lbs and might have to be transferred to a NICU 40 miles away. She was born, healthy, weighing 6 lbs 3 oz and although I didn’t suffer any adverse effects, I felt cheated. I didn’t even get to go into labor on my own and desperately wanted something different for my next baby.

Nearly 4 years later, during my pregnancy with Katherine, I knew I wanted a homebirth. I dreamed of bringing our baby earthside, surrounded by my friends and family, in the peace and love of our own home. Unfortunately, I ended up with a nightmare instead. My water broke at 25 weeks and we had a traumatic emergency c-section at 30 weeks due to an amniotic infection, followed by a 46 day NICU stay. My c-section was brutal. The spinal block was only effective on one side of my body and my daughter’s heart rate was dropping, so they cut me anyway, even though I could feel it. Once she was delivered into the hands of the NICU team, I completely lost my composure and started screaming uncontrollably and flailing on the operating table trying to escape from the pain. The anesthesiologist put me under and I woke up in recovery terrified for my baby. When I was finally able to see her, I could only hold her for a few minutes. I’ve never cried so much.

I grieved for my pregnancy. I grieved over my birth. I grieved for my child’s start in this life. I grieved over leaving her in the NICU and having to go home, 40 miles away. I hated my body for doing this to my child. For doing this to me. I agonized over what I could have done differently that would have kept her inside me even one day longer. I would break down sobbing when I saw other pregnant women in public. I felt jealous and cheated and angry.I suffered through PPD and PTSD and remember very little of my daughter’s first year on this earth.

Fast forward three years and we found out we were pregnant with our third child. In my heart, I was terrified of going back to the hospital and desperately wanted a healing homebirth. But my husband was so traumatized by Katherine’s birth, he didn’t want to take the risk of staying home. So I found a midwife group that supported my decisions about my care and forged ahead, planning a hospital VBAC.

It was a terrifying, nerve wracking, healthy pregnancy. I had nightmares from the day I got that positive test result. PTSD is rough, and the triggers never really go away. We had lost two babies between Katherine and Mel, so I breathed a little easier at 12 weeks. We were out of the worst danger zone and baby was still hanging in there. When we passed 24 weeks (the age of viability), my fears eased even more. 25 weeks, 2 days, the day my water broke with Katherine,it seemed like I held my breath all day. Then 30 weeks came and went without a hiccup. (Well, with lots of in-utero, tickly baby hiccups, but you know what I mean.)

My husband and I both slept a little better once we passed that milestone. At that point, we were finally able to really embrace our pregnancy. We were having another little girl and it looked like she was going to go all the way and be big and healthy!!

I was beside myself when we made it to 36 weeks. I couldn’t believe my body was doing it! I was growing a big healthy baby and nothing was going to stop me from bringing this baby earthside, peacefully and naturally, with my husband and midwife. Yeah!

Until my 36 week appointment. I found out my insurance had dropped my coverage. So, at less than a month til my EDD and 3 days after Christmas, I was on the phone every day trying to get things straightened around. And every person that I talked to had a different reason to NOT put me back on my insurance. Without coverage, my midwife group dropped my care. I was terrified. What would happen when I showed up to the hospital in labor, with no midwife and no insurance? Would they force me into another c-section? Would they call child protective services on me for not having prenatal care for the last month? I decided to just show up at the hospital, basically ready to push this baby out. I would rather have her in the car on the way there, than be faced with another c-section.

Feeling pretty empowered, my pregnancy progressed past 39 weeks (woo hoo, FULL TERM!!!) I had gained 40 lbs and was so big, people (including my mother) insisted every single day that there must be twins, and one was just hiding on the ultrasound. The Saturday and Sunday after I hit 39 weeks just felt different. I was even more tired than usual. Having a lot of gross discharge. Only sleeping a couple hours at a time because my hips hurt so badly. Just being generally miserable. It was January and we had a winter weather warning, it was supposed to be -40 degrees F with the wind chill. My husband worked outside and requested that I have the baby on Monday so he wouldn’t have to go to work. He even talked to my belly and asked the baby to please come on Sunday night. HA! Ask and you shall receive, husband!

Saturday and Sunday I was having weak, lame-o contractions 10 minutes apart all day and all night. They were annoying, but not painful, but they were making my back really hurt. I bounced on the birth ball and walked around as much as I could in the house, but nothing really happened yet. So around 7 o’clock Sunday night, I broke out my breast pump and I power pumped for 40 minutes. I got 4 oz of colostrum (seriously, 4 oz before the baby is even born?! Who does that?), but no stronger contractions. They did pick up a little, going from 10 minutes apart to seven minutes apart. After the pumping, contractions spaced back out to 10 minutes again and I got discouraged, told my husband it wasn’t happening that night, and we went to sleep around 11.

3:34 am,WHOA! Umm, ouch! Calm down in there, baby. I thought you weren’t coming tonight? Since I felt like my bladder was about to burst, I got up, peed, and climbed back in bed. I had a mild contraction while I was up. As soon as I laid back down, another crazy one ripped through my body. Holy crap! This might be it! I started timing them. Two minutes later, another one hit and lasted a whole minute! 2 minutes later, another one! And another one after that! WOO! I woke my husband to tell him that I was in labor and he freaked out.

“What?! Is it time?! Are we going to the hospital now?!” I told him to calm down, that I wanted to labor at home until I felt it was time to go, and to go back to sleep. Honestly, I just wanted to be alone with my baby to center myself and power through those awesome contractions. I was beyond excited. I had never gone into labor on my own and I was really curious what it would be like.

I walked back and forth in the living room and swayed over a side table and hummed through each contraction. I got on Facebook and updated my private mom groups and I texted my best friend. I felt amazing and powerful and beautiful. I imagined my baby inside me, poised, ready to meet the world. In my mind’s eye, I saw my cervix glowing bright and hot as each contraction pulled it open a little more.

An hour passed like that. I called my sister down to make me a snack but couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. I ran a warm bath to try to take the edge off the intense back pain that was coming with each contraction. But I couldn’t stay in the tub longer than about 10 minutes. My body wanted me up and moving! Around 5:30 I woke my husband up and told him it was time. He ran around like a crazy person, grabbing all of our things I wanted to take with us. He went out to start the car since it was so cold and my mother called and wanted to talk to me. A contraction hit and I just yelled at the phone and threw it back at my sister. “She doesn’t really want to talk right now.” I heard her say. Then we got in the car.

That was the most painful drive ever. I couldn’t move through the contractions. I was vocalizing loudly and started to feel out of control. I felt pinned to the seat by the pain. And they were coming hard and fast, only a minute apart and a minute long. I wanted to climb out of the car and run away. We had just had an ice storm and the roads were AWFUL. The 15 minute drive to the hospital took 40 minutes and we arrived somewhere around 6:30. We parked in the garage and headed up to labor and delivery. My husband grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me through the hospital between contractions. It was too painful to stay seated the entire time, so I got down on my hands and knees when each one hit. We checked into labor and delivery and they started monitoring me.

When the nurse checked me, I was 4 cm. My brain came out of my labor haze. “Only four?!”

“Four is great!” she said. “You’re doing amazing!”

A young doctor came in and told me that he would have to perform an ultrasound to make sure baby was head down. She was and he estimated her at 8 and a half pounds. He checked my chart. By some miracle, my surgical records had finally come through and I was cleared for my VBAC!!

The nurse came back, “We have to move to a delivery room, now. Here if you want to put this gown–“

“NO!! I don’t want to wear that!”

“Ok, well can we just wrap it around you?”

I guess the rest of the hospital didn’t appreciate a full term pregnant woman walking the halls naked. I made it to the delivery room with only a couple stops in the hall. A nurse came in and asked if I wanted the epidural. No, I can do this. My husband was my rock. He kept telling me how wonderful I was doing and how powerful I was. They checked me again. 6 cm. Okay, making progress.

My brain totally disengaged at this point. My nurse kept trying to talk to me, asking me questions, but I was just sitting on the edge of the bed, utterly focused on the contractions and my baby. It was like she was speaking another language.

I was hooked up the the monitor, trapped on the bed, and the pain was inescapable. I couldn’t even get down on all fours to get through the contractions. At this point, I was no longer vocalizing, I was screaming as each contraction peaked and felt totally out of control.

Another nurse came in right when a contraction hit and asked if I wanted the epidural again. “YES! Give me the epidural!!”

My husband rubbed my back. “No, honey, you don’t want it, remember? You can do this. You’re strong. You’re doing amazing. You can do this.”

“I can’t do it.”

“You can. I know you can.”

I started crying, “I can’t. Please. It hurts too much. I can’t do it. Please.”

He buckled under the tears. “Get her the epidural!”

A million years later, the anesthesiologist came in to do the epidural. He was great and it was very light. It only took the edge off the contractions and brought them down to a level that was bearable. I could still feel them all and even stand up. It was perfect. I relaxed and we waited.

As soon as the epidural took effect, the nurse checked me again and my husband walked down the hall to grab a snack (and try to sneak me something to eat as well). I was at 8 cm with a bulging bag. I couldn’t believe I made it to 8 cm on my own! I kind of felt like a wimp for caving in when I was so close. The doctor wanted to break my water but I asked her not to and she didn’t press the point. My baby was so close. I called my husband and he ran back upstairs without the food (sadly).

A little while later I felt something warm and wet on my thighs and reached down. My hand came back up covered in blood. I called my nurse and she brought in the doctor. I was 9 1/2 cm with an anterior lip. She asked again about breaking my water saying that the baby’s head against my cervix would help it finish opening and get rid of that lip. I agreed and she ruptured it. There was a little meconium in the water, but baby still looked good on the monitor. They left us alone so I could finish dilating.

A few more contractions and I started to feel pushy. I could feel her head descending through the birth canal and knew it was time. I called the nurse to “check me” and told her I was feeling pushy. She tried to check and only felt baby’s head. “OH! Baby!!” she said.

We were at a learning hospital so within seconds there were four OBs between my legs, four pediatricians by the warmer, about eight nurses scattered around, and three anesthesiologists in the back of the room. PUSH!

I pushed. And I pushed. And I pushed again. She crowned. One of the OBs said “Look at all that hair!”Really? Try to focus, Doctor. PUSH! Man, her head was so big!PUSH!Too big! PUSH! I can’t! She won’t fit! PUSH! NO, ouch!! PUSH! Just take her out! I can’t do it! PUSH!

“Her head is out! One more big push!” Her shoulders were born and then the rest of her.

And there she was. After nine months. Perfect, beautiful, healthy. And fat!! Whoah, fat, rolly baby! She was 8 lbs 10 oz (which is almost as much as my other two daughters’ birth weights combined). They put her on my chest and she just laid there. She never cried, she just snuggled on me and looked at my face. We hadn’t decided on a name yet and my husband looked at her and looked at me. “She’s definitely a Melanie.” After seeing her, he picked the name I had wanted. We just laid there skin to skin for what seemed like hours. She didn’t show any signs of wanting to nurse for quite awhile, so we just snuggled.

It was a perfect birth. Even though I had planned a natural birth, I don’t feel guilty about the epidural. It allowed me to relax and truly enjoy the perfect birth of my daughter. I was glowing with happiness. I did it. I grew a full term, healthy baby. I went into labor on my own and I pushed that baby out! But taking her home after only 24 hours in the hospital, only having left my side for 10 minutes to have her hearing test, was the truly healing part.

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The 1st Birth Without Fear Conference in Australia!!!

The 1st Birth Without Fear Conference in Australia!!!

Saturday May 26, 2018 was the first Birth Without Fear Conference in AUSTRALIA!!!

It was a huge success and we can’t wait to come back!!!

A post shared by Kayla Rees (@kayla_rees85) on

Got to catchup today with these awesome women at the @birthwithoutfear Sydney conference!!! Thank you @januaryharshe for your total awesomeness 😘 and it was so cool seeing my Doula sisters @doulawisdom and @withloveformama you gals are the best ❤❤❤ #birthwithoutfear #birthwithconfidence #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthinginternational #sydney #doula #2lifedoula #childbirtheducation #Repost @doulawisdom ・・・ It was sooo great to spend the day in Sydney at the @birthwithoutfear conference 🙌🏼 @januaryharshe is so friendly and inspiring. She glows inside and out 😍 Thanks for the fun times @2lifedoula and @withloveformama 💕#birthwithoutfear #doulawisdom #birthwithoutfearconference #loveismyfilter #selflove❤ #doulalife #oxytocinboosting

A post shared by 2Life Doula (@2lifedoula) on

Can’t even put into words… what a journey, so many moments shared throughout the years, of words shared at exactly the right time, of rewriting of old beliefs and stories! Mama J thanks for all you do in this world, it’s so important, inspiring and uplifting. Thankyou for opening up my mind, heart & soul to a life full of love I could have only dreamed of. For shedding light on dark times, the importance of self care and not giving a shit about what anyone thinks. Thank you for opening me up to possibility and allowing me to hear the whispers of my soul and know that it’s more than ok to have a big family and it’s ok to not be “done” I am forever grateful for the impact you’ve had in my life! #youdoyouboo #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference @birthwithoutfear @januaryharshe

A post shared by With Love, For Mama (@withloveformama) on

Today was so surreal. I have followed @birthwithoutfear for years! I think I first discovered BWF as a student midwife and being obsessed with reading women’s birth stories. I came across the blog and then Instagram and just fell in love with the love and acceptance promoted. The no agenda, we love you no matter what your birthing choices are message was such a revelation for me and it really helped shape me as a midwife and I encourage all my clients and friends to follow these accounts in the hopes they feel the same positivity towards birth and their bodies. Also personally, I have always struggled with body image/acceptance. I have been fat, skinny and fat again and that shit really messes with your relationship with yourself and your body. @januaryharshe message of self love and self care really resonated with me today, and has over my years of following her. And I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you January for helping me understand mothers perspectives better, for making me a better midwife and mostly for helping me feel at peace with myself. . . . . #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference #birthmatters #choicematters #selflove #selfcare #midwifelife #bodypositive #mgp #blissbirth

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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #35: 5 things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

The Harshe Podcast welcomes its first guest! Tara Brooke from Doula Trainings International joins January to speak about the difference in parenting culture in Spain vs the US, racial disparity regarding birth in the US, the importance of making a postpartum plan, dealing with family after the birth, not being afraid to ask for help from family or your doula, and what your doula really thinks of you!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on iTunes!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Google Play!

Subscribe to the Harshe Podcast on Stitcher!

Click here to download Episode #35: 5 Things Your Doula Wants You To Know!

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Considering certification as a childbirth educator but haven’t quite found the right fit yet? Interested in creating inclusive classes where birthing people can become educated about their options and patient rights?

If you’re eagerly nodding your head along to one or all of these questions, we got ya! Become a childbirth educator with Doula Trainings International‘s Childbirth Edu Training program. 

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-childbirth-edu-training-program/ 

The online platform will take you through certification requirements, tracking your participation progress for your own review of the curriculum and corresponding teaching guide, required scholarly reads and required videos.

https://www.doulatrainingsinternational.com/dtis-edu-childbirth-education-different/

This training is available for both conference attendees and those only seeking Childbirth Education Teacher Certification at DTI’s inaugural Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX. What you would normally get in our 3 month online program, you will get in this 2 day in person training. You’ll walk away ready to go!

Check out WeAreDTI.com for more details!

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

(Editor’s note: this was originally posted in 2013.)

I would like to start this post with a story.

Imagine a mother – a fresh new mother – with a baby just barely 24 hours old. She drives to another city the day after her birth for her first post-birth checkup with her midwife. After leaving the appointment she and her husband decide to stop for lunch. It is late afternoon, so they have their pick of places as none are crowded. A Red Lobster is calling mom’s name – she is famished after the long work of labor the day before and seafood just sounds heavenly. And maybe a little indulgent too!

Mom, Dad, and newborn are seated right away and order their food. Mom orders crab legs (her favorite!) since baby is sleeping peacefully in his wrap against her chest. Surely he will stay asleep long enough for her to shell the crab and eat. (More experienced moms are probably giggling right now!)

The food comes out, hot and steaming. On cue, baby wakes up and wants to nurse. Mom stares longingly at her plate, knowing she can’t bother with it right now because it takes two hands to get this newborn latched and stable for the whole feed. Dad offers to help her but mom declines – at least one of them should get a hot meal after all.

The server comes out to check that everything is going well. She sees mom’s predicament and says she will be right back. She comes back, with gloves on, and starts to shell all of the mother’s crab legs for her. All the while she talks to the couple about her children, her nursing experiences, and how great it is to see a young mother breastfeeding. She also shares stories of many cold meals because of the uncanny ability of babies to wake just when dinner comes out.

She finishes shelling the still steaming crab and gives the plate to mom. Mom figures out how to support baby’s head with the wrap so she can slide one hand out to eat her still hot dinner! Mom and dad get full bellies with hot food, and so does baby. What could have ended in mom sadly eating stone-cold crab legs instead has a happy ending.

That mother was me. I have *never* forgotten that server’s support and love in that moment, and I never will. One mother, reaching out to another giving simple and practical support. That one encounter gave me the pride and hope and confidence to nurse in public in the years that followed. That one encounter helped my husband to feel 100% comfortable with nursing in public as well – knowing that people would not always be rude to his wife. While we have had rude encounters, I can always look back to this first one and radiate with joy.

The support of the community can make a huge difference for mothers who take the journey through breastfeeding. In fact, in studies and interviews women tend to rate social support as more important than professional support on the duration of their breastfeeding experience 5. Why is this?

The answer is simple – we spend far more time in the world at large than sitting in a professional’s office. We need support from our partners, family, and community at large. We need to feel supported by other mothers. When a person feels like they are doing something alone – no matter what it is – they are far less likely to succeed or meet goals. Emotionally, we feel more able to succeed with social support.

The United States has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world among developed nations, and when you look at the rates of exclusive breastfeeding it becomes especially dismal. While about 75% of woman initiate breastfeeding – this is a very large category and a bit misleading. This includes one attempt in the first days of life. While this is great (so many mothers attempting to breastfeed!), it gives false hope as the total rates of breastfeeding. In 2007, at 6 months of age the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was only 13% 1. Lets keep in mind that six months of nothing but breastmilk is the current recommendation from every major group with an interest in infant health (this includes the AAP and WHO). What is happening to cause a drop from 75% of women attempting to breastfeed, to only 13% succeeding at 6 months?

The simple answer for most cases – lack of proper support. Study after study shows that our support network is vital to breastfeeding success. For most women, one caring and helpful IBCLC cannot undo the “work” of a society that does not really support breastfeeding. While it is possible for a woman to physically or psychologically be unable to breastfeed that sub-section of woman is statistically small – most certainly not 87% of woman or the human race would not have made it very far.

The Surgeon General put out a “Call to Action” in 2011, urging America to support breastfeeding. Much of the document focuses on increasing community support across the board – from the family unit, to the care provider, to society as a whole. Some highlights from the document include:

“Women with friends who have breastfed successfully are more likely to choose to breastfeed. On the other hand, negative attitudes of family and friends can pose a barrier to breastfeeding. Some mothers say that they do not ask for help from their family and friends because of the contradictory information they receive from these sources.” (pg 22)

What this little gem tells us is that mother’s who DO succeed in breastfeeding need to talk about it. We need to share our wonderful experience – it actually encourages other mother’s to more seriously consider breastfeeding in the first place. This also tells us that hearing conflicting and outdated information from “well meaning” family and friends is NOT helpful. (Big surprise there, right?)

Now, there is a whole section on Embarrassment. Yes, in the great nation of America, the Surgeon General actually has to address embarrassment as a barrier to breastfeeding.

“A study that analyzed data from a national public opinion survey conducted in 2001 found that only 43% of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places. Restaurant and shopping center managers have reported that they would either discourage breastfeeding anywhere in their facilities or would suggest that breastfeeding mothers move to an area that was more secluded. When they have breastfed in public places, many mothers have been asked to stop breastfeeding or to leave. Such situations make women feel embarrassed and fearful of being stigmatized by people around them when they breastfeed. Embarrassment remains a formidable barrier to breastfeeding in the United States and closely related to the disapproval of breastfeeding in public. Embarrassment about breastfeeding is not limited to public settings however. Women may find themselves excluded from social interactions when they are breastfeeding because others are reluctant to be in the same room while they breastfeed. For many women, the feeling of embarrassment restricts their activites and is cited as a reason for choosing to feed supplementary formula or to give up breastfeeding altogether.” (pg 23)

This section goes on more but let me pause here. No matter how you choose to feed your child, I hope that above statement leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Only 43% of adults feel that a mother should feed her baby in public. Lets not even give the cop out of breastfeeding and “modesty”. This statistic literally translates to mean that 57% of Americans are uncomfortable with a baby being fed in public in a normal way. Only 28% in this particular study believed that breastfeeding should be portrayed on television 4.

Then we see proof that managers and business owners do ask women to leave if they breastfeed and refuse to move or stop. We see this in the news from time to time, but many people think it is rare. Is it really going to be a rare occurrence when over half of all Americans are uncomfortable seeing normal infant feeding? It also goes on to say that we are not just talking about public situations, that last section literally means that within their own homes and social units, women are being made to feel uncomfortable because they breastfeed. What woman is likely to keep breastfeeding if she doesn’t even have acceptance in her own home or social group?

To continue with the “Embarrassment” section:

” In American culture, breasts have often been regarded primarily as sexual objects, while their nurturing function is downplayed. Although focusing on the sexuality of female breasts is common in mass media, visual images of breastfeeding are rare, and a mother may never have seen a woman breastfeeding. As shown in both quantitative and qualitative studies, the perception of breasts as sexual objects may lead women to feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public. As a result, women may feel the need to conceal breastfeeding, but they have difficulty finding comfortable and accessible breastfeeding facilities in public places.” (pg 23)

This section speaks to how our breasts are viewed. First and foremost in our culture they are viewed as sexual. This context of breasts as primarily sexual is actually not the predominate view in the world as a whole by the way 3. This portion also speaks to an issue that comes up more and more with social media – the posting and viewing of breastfeeding photos. These studies and surveys prove that women need to see breastfeeding. The more you see it, the more normal it becomes.

Our sexual view of breasts did not just evolve from thin air – it evolved through a constant presence of sexual images of breasts in our culture. Simply put, the more we can promote and share the non-sexual view of breasts, the less sexual our breasts will become in the culture as a whole. I, for one, would be very happy to see that happen – not only for breastfeeding rates but also for the self-worth of women in general.

In the last sentence, the Surgeon General notes that even though women may feel compelled to hide breastfeeding because of these pressures, there is no where to hide! Our society seems to insist that we breastfeed “somewhere else” but where exactly is this wonderful place we are supposed to hide? Very few places, especially outside of large cities, have breastfeeding spaces. When was the last time you saw a breastfeeding room at your local grocery?

In the section of the document about ways to help increase breastfeeding rates, special attention is given to educating the fathers/partners and grandmothers. Studies show that lack of support from those two sources can lead to shortened breastfeeding (or never starting). There is also special attention given to strengthening and supporting woman-to-woman support groups, such as local La Leche Leagues or other community breastfeeding groups. Those two actions in our communities would be especially helpful to low-income women, where studies show that social support and acceptance are paramount to breastfeeding success 2.

Now I would like to switch gears. We know that community support can make a difference, but we hear little about it. Normally, we only see stories of mothers being harrassed for feeding their babies. If positive stories and experiences with breastfeeding can make a difference in breastfeeding rates, then we need to share them. I reached out to our support group and got many stories and photos, all about positive experiences with nursing in public!

“The first time I ever breastfed in public was last summer when my daughter was 8 months old. My family and I were on vacation in Austin, TX and we were on a tour in some underground natural caverns.  We were at a resting area and I chose a rock to sit on and started nursing her.  I was so nervous that someone would give me a dirty look or say something rude, but a woman came up to me and thanked me for nursing my baby.  That one little comment gave me the confidence I needed to keep nursing her in public and I have been doing so ever since.” – Jennifer

breastfeeding

“Over Memorial Day weekend there is a big festival by the beach where we live, so my husband and I invited our folks to join us and our 2 month old daughter. It was HOT with very little shade! My daughter was getting fussy so I sat down on a bench behind one of the vender’s who had an umbrella up. My mom, who is easily embarrassed, kept trying to give me a cover but I told her no and proceeded to nurse my baby. The vender turns around to see me nursing my daughter and says, “Good for you! Not enough mother’s breastfeed any more! Keep doing what’s best for your kid.”‘ – Beverly

breastfeeding

“We took a vacation to Vegas with our daughter. We had just finished a limousine ride, and walked back into our hotel. I sat in the lobby and started to breastfeed my little girl. A lady came by and told me breastfeeding is the most beautiful thing in the world! I wish I had taken a picture with her. It was such a positive experience for me.” – Krystal

Below is Brianna nursing at Disneyland. Just a fun fact, from a former Cast Member – Disney Cast Members are instructed specifically in training about the importance of nursing in public and that it is 100% legal and acceptable for women to do so anywhere in the parks or property. Some companies do care!

breastfeeding at Disneyland

Below is Katelyn nursing her son at the aquarium, her supportive husband at her side!

breastfeeding

If you have a positive nursing in public experience, please share it with us! And remember that the “other person” in these stories is someone just like you. Just one person reaching out to another and saying “Good Job” – it can literally change a mother’s whole outlook on breastfeeding. Next time you see a mother nursing in public – no matter how she chooses to do it – give her a smile or even better, a kind word.

References

  1. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surgeon General; 2011.
  2. Pugh, L., Milligan, R., Frick, K., Spatz, D., & Bronner, Y. (2002). Breastfeeding Duration, Costs, and Benefits of a Support Program for Low-Income Breastfeeding Women. Birth: Issues In Perinatal Care, 29(2), 95-100. doi:10.1046/j.1523-536X.2002.00169.x
  3. Wolf, J. H. (2008). Got milk? Not in public!. International Breastfeeding Journal, 31-3. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-3-11
  4. Pettis, C. T., & Miller, M. K. (2007). PROMOTING BREAST-FEEDING THROUGH SOCIAL CHANGE. Women’s Policy Journal Of Harvard, 439-47.
  5. McInnes RJ, Chambers JA. (2008). Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: Qualitative Synthesis. J Adv Nurs. 2008 May; 62(4):407-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04618.x.

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

Never Underestimate the Power of YOURSELF!

These will never get old. Because women feeling supported and empowered should be the damn norm, no matter how we birth. 🌟 “Never Underestimate the POWER of a Woman. Never underestimate the power of YOURSELF. Sometimes it means digging deep, but I can tell you…you come out the other side feeling on top of the whole entire world. 💙 It felt SO dang good to celebrate birthing Trey and I really cannot wait to tell you guys the full story! Let’s just say it’s a good one: the OB had to deliver him with her fleece on, barely had time to catch him, and it is official that the only way I give birth is standing up. 🙃💙 • I’m also over the moon to raise TWO little gentlemen, because if there is one thing this mama can teach them…it’s that women are every bit as strong and capable as ANY man. They will give women the respect that we DESERVE, that is my #goals.” 🙌🏽 @ameskiefer #birthwithoutfear #optionssupportrespect

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Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum

We often share photos of women, moments after birth, with their eyes wide and full of excitement and joy as they process this new life that they have brought into the world. For nine months their bodies spent creating this miracle; then there is birth – and regardless of how a woman gives birth, there’s always a bit of fear and anxiety mixed with the excitement of meeting this gift your body has worked so hard for. But sometimes, birth is neither the hardest nor the scariest part of the journey. Sometimes it’s the beginning.

We were happily surprised when we found out that I was pregnant with our third child in February of 2013. I loved being pregnant with my first two; and for the most part, they were smooth, non-complicated pregnancies. But at about 6 weeks along, our lives were turned upside down. Everyone told me that I was just experiencing a bad case of morning sickness; but what I didn’t know is that sometimes it’s NOT just morning sickness.

Sometimes it means not being able to keep down even a sip of water the whole day – not being able to eat even a bite for days at a time – not being able to acknowledge the other children that are begging for your attention. Sometimes it means falling into such a deep depression that you become scared of where your mind and thoughts find themselves. You question your sanity, ability and purpose in life.

In just a few weeks, you find that your clothes don’t fit and you don’t recognize the person in the mirror. You lose an unhealthy amount of weight (21 lbs in my case) in a very short period of time. You throw up so severely and so often that you burst every blood vessel under your eyes. Your normally tidy house becomes a place of shame; the laundry piles up, and your husband is forced into taking your place while you are permanently situated in the same place on the couch and in the same clothes for days at a time.

You convince yourself that you are dying.

This is NOT morning sickness. This is someone’s life being thrown upside down for months. Because it is something that we rarely hear about or talk about, it left me feeling like there was something wrong with me or that maybe I was just being a big baby and this was all normal (until my doctors informed that it was not). I was fortunate to find relief half way through my pregnancy; and that is when Marisa Pellerin Photography caught this picture of me. I barely recognized my body or myself at that point, but seeing this beautiful picture with the sun peeking through gave me hope after some of my darkest days. Pregnancy can be hard but even then, it sure is beautiful.

I hope that by sharing this, we can help those we love in the future and bring some awareness to Hypermesis Gravidarum. Pregnancy is beautiful, but it’s not always easy.

Photograph by Marisa Pellerin Photography.

Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Rebecca shares a beautiful reflection on her c-section scarring.

I don’t actively go out of my way to look at my scar. I don’t hide its existence, but I just don’t fuss over it either. It is there, under a little flap on my tummy, hiding until I straighten myself out to peer at it in the mirror.

I didn’t always look this way. My tummy was once flat, though anyone who had only just met me in the last 4 years would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

I recently enjoyed reading some stories of old friends experiencing success in their careers, unhindered by children and able to progress to the peak of their industries. I get more time to read about these things on Facebook while I feed my 4-month old as I put her to sleep, lying on my side and stroking her hair as she drifts off.

I wouldn’t exchange her, or my son, for any success in the world; and so I can say confidently and clearly that I have only happiness for these people. There are no “what ifs” or “maybes”. There is only joy and excitement.

Are you waiting for the “But…”? It’s not there. If I learned anything from having children, it’s that comparing success is a dangerous road, which inevitably leads to hurt for one or both parties.

So I stood up tonight and actively looked at my scar for the first time after having my daughter. It’s been four months. It’s still red, and is joined by the little skin flap and array of stretch marks that appeared three years ago after having my son through the same scar.

Both of my children were born by “elective cesarean”, though to say it was an elective choice is a lie. My son was born through a cut in my stomach after 36 hours of labor with no progression. I was given the option to continue labor, but after being told the safest option was to wheel into surgery, I agreed with the doctor’s suggestion and jumped on the trolley towards the surgery room.

People like to tell you when swapping birth stories (sometimes dangerous ground to tread) that they always have a friend who pushed through 36-hour labors, and against the odds had a vaginal birth that was “the most amazing experience a person could have”. Every time I hear these stories I have to remind myself that I chose what was right for me. My son’s birth involved me lying paralyzed on a surgery table, discussing kindergarten options with the surgery nurse whose son was about to enter school. Then my body started thrashing in what I later found out was shock from blood loss. Then the doctors did some stuff, and then I held my son. Then they weighed him, and I held him again while my husband cried with joy and I just made gulping sounds of joy in a greyish state. It’s not the almighty experience that vaginal birth stories have led me to believe.

My son is now 3. He is witty, cheeky, clever and naughty. I have never been more euphoric than when we sit and talk about his day for the single minute that he can stand to sit before running off again to play or explore everything in his environment. He is simply everything and all I could ever dream he could be.

He likes my tummy. He thinks the stretch marks make an excellent road for his mini trains and seems to assume they are ‘”pretty” before he will become socially programmed to be repulsed by them (I dread the day and work with everything in my power to prevent it).

He was recently diagnosed with asthma. My friend, who loves and is loved by my children, let me in on some medical facts she learned from her midwife mama: “Did you know cesarean babies are 90% more likely to get asthma due to not getting their lungs squeezed in the birth canal?” She asked. She didn’t mean for it to hurt; and if she knew, she would have been devastated. But it’s not uncommon for people to assume you were just totally cool to have a c-section and that it was all sweet.

Did my birth decision cause my son to end up hospitalized and struggling to breathe because I chose to be wheeled into that surgery?

My daughter came out of the same scar. They reopened it for her. She was breech and I had an “incompetent pelvis” (what a name!), which made it hard for her to engage and come down the canal naturally. So again, I “chose” to get on the trolley. I “chose” to get a syringe in my spine. I “chose” to risk going into shock again and needing a blood transfusion, and I chose what was medically deemed the safest way to bring my daughter into the world with the extenuating circumstances. If the doctor said that my leg was in the way and could risk my child’s safety during childbirth, you could bet your bottom dollar I would be hopping out of that hospital with my kids.

So tonight I stared at my scar. I took a photo of it. I marveled that this little cut bought my children into the world and made my life complete. I called in my husband to look too. He said what I was thinking without me saying a word – “Can you believe you bought our children into the world through that scar? It’s one of my favorite parts of you.”

I started going to the gym. I would like my tummy to be less wide and a little flatter. No matter how many crunches, sit-ups or planks I do, those stretch marks will stay. No amount of shea oil will wipe away my scar. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, because it made my world complete.

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