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Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

meme

And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2” measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2” or “almost 3” or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

The Nursing Babe

The Nursing Babe

My daughter is currently 5 1/2 months old. I haven’t introduced solids on a regular basis yet, and really don’t plan to until after she is 6 months old.

When I was pregnant my whole family was against breastfeeding. “How are going to feed her in public?”, “Breastfeeding will get old, you will never get a break.”

Then once I had Venice, every time she whimpered they would say, “It’s the breast milk making her cry, you might need to try formula!”

I got offered formula on a daily basis and I even starting receiving formula in the mail! I was so confused. My head was spinning with thoughts like, “Maybe they’re right, maybe she isn’t getting full”, “maybe she’s not gaining weight.”

Though my heart and my gut said “Sara, this may be your first child, but you know what is best. You know she’s doing fine.”

Then two weeks after birth, she wouldn’t latch. I was having to use nipple shields and I was very stressed. I thought I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t get positions down, she wanted to nurse herself to sleep. It was exhausting. But I didn’t quit, nor do I pump. I am here for her when ever she needs. Whether in public or in bed.

I can’t explain to anyone how overwhelmed I am with the fact that I did it. I am doing it. I am a mother. And it’s easy…I want to. I have a incredibly strong bond with this little stinker and I would never do anything besides breast.

The Nursing Babe 1

The Nursing Babe 2

Nursing Babe 3

This is Breastfeeding {Take 2}

This is Breastfeeding {Take 2}

I fell in love with these photos when they were sent to me earlier this year from photographer Laura Eckert. Why haven’t I shared them, you ask? Simple, Facebook will ban me yet again. I came across them again last night and decided to put them in a blog post. They are too beautiful not to be shared. Every mother that has nursed a child can relate to these photos. The newness, awkwardness, sometimes pains along with the joys and bonding.

nursing photos breastfeeding

Baby girl, less than an hour young, snuggled up with Mom and nursing like a pro!  She was in quite the hurry to get into this world, arriving less than 1/2 an hour after Mom and Dad’s arrival at the hospital.

breastfeeding new baby

nursing newborn

You can see another favorite {This is Breastfeeding } photo here!

 

Breastfeeding Rights: On Being Asked to ‘Cover Up’ By a Home Depot Employee

Breastfeeding Rights: On Being Asked to ‘Cover Up’ By a Home Depot Employee

I noticed how polished she was. Flirting with a guy who was loitering around the taco truck and asking her again when she got off work. She said, “Nine.” I considered complimenting her on her perfect ankle boots.

I sat down on the gray wooden box that probably holds pylons or road salt (but wait – it’s California – no ice here) and put my shopping bags beside me. Baby Evie wasn’t in her carrier because we had taken the car. My husband and son had gone to Home Depot, and baby and I to my preferred big box store. It’s a craft emporium and sells such craft-making necessities as “Christmas scent” and “One hundred things you might need someday”.

I waited. We were supposed to meet at the Home Depot checkout but I needed to nurse Evie. She had been patiently smacking her lips and making occasional lowing noises since half-way down the Mod-podge aisle. In the thousands of square feet of the craft store, patronized mostly by women, there was nowhere to nurse her. Outside in the new evening there were some wire-frame benches at the bus stop but to reach them I would have had to cross a busy parking-lot street with a baby, a purse, and two full shopping bags in my arms. I’m always scared of being hit by a car anyway.

So I sat on that gray box outside the Home Depot exit and cuddled baby up. I wasn’t wearing a nursing top, just a v-neck sweater and a tank-top underneath. I pulled them both down and latched her on. She nursed contentedly. I found I couldn’t meet the eyes of the well-dressed security woman checking receipts at the door. I found I had already known she would disapprove. Much to my chagrin, I found that I cared. I didn’t want to, but I did.

She asked me to cover up.

In my two-and-a-half years of nursing I have breastfed in public places across Canada and in parts of the US. I have breastfed in front of friends, family, strangers, public officials, flight attendants, doctors, my husband’s boss, and at least one family pet. Nobody has ever asked me to cover up.

She said people were staring.

I asked who. I looked around. I saw no one. I shrugged. She rolled her eyes and huffed. Like, if I want to be a slut, that’s my problem. Which it is. I mean, which it would be.

My heart was pounding. But my baby is hungry. She has been so patient. She doesn’t nurse with a cover and would inevitably pull it off. Why would I have to cover, anyway? I’m not doing anything wrong. My right to do this is protected by law, dammit! And breastfeeding in public won’t become culturally accepted until women start breastfeeding in public. 

Kristie Robin I

As if on cue, Evie felt the (immense) milk letdown coming and pulled off. So now my nipple, spraying like a geyser, was exposed. I pulled her close so it would just spray onto her onesie (babies are supposed to smell like milk, right?). Under the stare of the security worker, I let her latch back on. We nursed for a few more minutes. I stopped it early and gathered my things, walking around to the entrance of the store so I could look for my husband. I just didn’t feel safe.

The moment of breastfeeding is more than just a soft, intimate act. It’s also a moment of vulnerability. It feels primal to me. No female ancestor could fight off a saber-toothed tiger while holding a baby to her breast.* While only I can decide whether or not I want to breastfeed, my success in breastfeeding requires consideration from other people. When I sit down to nurse Evie, I depend on other people not to insult me, ostracize me, sexualize my actions, or invade my space. You know, to take a turn battling those saber-toothed tigers – not to come running at me shouting caveman obscenities.

boobs gif

*It’s reflected in the biology of breastfeeding – for most women, stress inhibits their ejection reflex (instead, I have an ejection reflex like those bullet-shooting ta-tas in Austin Powers, but that’s another GIF altogether).

Because let’s face it: I’m human and if people told me to leave or cover up everywhere I went, I would stop nursing in public. If my husband acted grossed out or jealous when I nursed at home, I would stop nursing there, too (or just get a divorce, but then who would take our kids to Home Depot every week?).

In a culture that fetishizes female bodies, their exposure is not inert. Maybe some people were staring, just as they would stare at a woman wearing a revealing shirt. But I can’t imagine an employee asking a woman who was baring her breasts in that way to cover up. In fact, she might even receive better service. In any case, it’s up to me whether or not I am concerned about people ‘staring’ at me.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about people staring at me. I’m just that kind of gal. I do care about having society’s shame thrust upon me when I am feeding my baby. It was the Home Depot employee who felt uncomfortable and it was wrong for her to project her discomfort onto me. I’m starting a correspondence with the store manager the moment this post goes live. Stay tuned for a follow-up.

Home Depot, you messed with the wrong mama.

Kristie Robin II
Have you ever been told to cover up? What did you do? How did you feel about it?

**Images of breastfeeding at Home Depot by Kristie Robin of Kristie Robin Photography.

Managing Breast Milk Oversupply: the MDR method

Managing Breast Milk Oversupply: the MDR method

Breast milk is amazing. It provides everything a baby needs to grow into a chubby ball of cuteness. It fights disease. It’s nutritious. It’s delicious (yes!). It’s always on hand, it requires zero preparation, and it’s close to free.

But sometimes, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

Enter, OVERSUPPLY. Clad in stained pajamas, she runs to center stage shrieking hysterically. Smelling of regurgitated, rancid milk.

“THE MILK IS COMING, THE MILK IS COMING, WHERE THE F*** ARE THE TOWELS… OH, IT BURNS! IT BURNS!”  (Her bountiful bosoms peak as ten or more jets of milk shoot through her shirt. Specs of white milk fall upon the black wooden stage.)

Has Oversupply paid you a visit recently? She’s a regular at our house. Today I’ll share some of the strategies I’ve used to deal with her because, let’s face it, she tends to overstay her welcome. I call my approach MDR: Manage, Donate, Reduce, and I pronounce it ‘moder’ because that’s how they say ‘mother’ in Sweden. Those three tactics, in that order, have allowed me to get my life back. I can leave the house. My breasts are no longer painfully engorged every day. My baby is not a gassy, army-green pooping mess. And I can leisurely get out of the shower without scrambling for a towel because the cold air has triggered my milk ejection reflex and wow, I really don’t have time to wipe that off the floor. But before I begin, I should say this: I haven’t received any compensation for endorsement of the products discussed in this blog. And I am not a doctor, a nurse, or a lactation consultant. Just a mom with a lot of milk.

Manage:

You need to find something to absorb all that milk. Your first stop, of course, is your baby. But while she’s valiantly gulping down the river of liquid gold coming from your right breast, your left is holding its own wet T-shirt contest. You need to get yourself some nursing pads.

If you have hyperlactation, the terry cloth reusable nursing pads are a joke. They were soaked even before they reached my nipple. I splurged on the most expensive reusable bamboo cloth nursing pads, and they didn’t do jack, either. So: disposable. The bad news is that they don’t come cheap, and they go straight into the landfill. The good news is that disposable nursing pads are sold in most pharmacies. And they work.

I have tried all the disposable nursing pads on the market and in my experience, the Lansinoh brand is the best. There’s a lot I don’t like about them: they have the same super-absorbent chemicals as disposable diapers (sodium polyacrylate, yummy!); they come individually packaged (it takes a special kind of idiot to sell a nursing pad in a plastic bag that says ‘keep away from baby’); and they cost $7.50 USD per package of 60. At my peak, I was filling up several of these per breast per day. But if it works, it works, right?

disposable-nursing-pads-500_500_500

A disposable nursing pad won’t cut it over night. They’re unlikely to cover the nipple as your breast moves in its bra while you toss and turn. Some women have used super-absorbency menstrual pads for this purpose. We co-sleep and my practice was to put a folded cloth diaper (CLEAN, people!) in my bra on the breast that I wasn’t going to nurse off of. I slept in a fresh nursing bra and tank top every night, because they were damp with milk when I woke up. But damp is better than wet! And wet is better than soaked…

Which is what your mattress will be if you don’t protect it. I layered thin, flat receiving blankets under my nursing breast (the one that – sexy! – didn’t have a diaper on it) and put my baby to sleep with his head on top of them. He would spit-up in the night and I would leak while nursing him. This did something to protect the sheets. To cover the mattress, we got a waterproof mattress cover. Concerned about PVC off-gassing into my fresh little newborn baby’s lungs, I shelled out for an organic cotton canvas cover. I’m pretty sure you could just make one yourself from, you know, organic cotton canvas.

OK, so we’ve got the spray under control: you’re not leaking through your shirt because you have a stash of industrial-strength disposable nursing pads in your purse and a few in your bra. You’re not drenching your bedclothes because you have a clean cloth diaper to absorb the milk instead. And your mattress won’t smell like a pair of sweaty gym socks stuffed into a tennis ball canister and left on the dashboard of your car over the summer, because you’ve taken steps to protect it.

My next step was to donate.

I told my mom that I am donating breast milk to another family and she said, “That is such a beautiful, loving thing to do.” If you feel even slightly comfortable donating your breast milk, you should give it a try. It’s worth it. Mom says.

There are three ways you can do this, with varying levels of intimacy. The first is through wet-nursing, which used to be a respectable working-class profession (one in twenty babies born in Paris in 1780 was nursed exclusively by their own mother) and remains common in some parts of the world. Most American moms don’t wet-nurse or have their babies wet-nursed, but I personally think it’s great. If you want to do this, you might casually mention it to your close family and friends – not, “Can I nurse your baby?” but, “I love the idea of wet-nursing – I just have so much extra milk.” Only young babies will take to the breast of a woman who has not nursed them before. When our friend offered her breast to my one year-old son, he smiled, nodded his head, and backed away. It was hilarious.

The second is through local milk-sharing. Check out the Facebook groups Eats on Feets and Human Milk For Human Babies. You can post a bit about yourself and the milk you have to share (is it frozen? are you willing to donate on an ongoing basis? about how much do you produce in a day?) and parents will contact you to arrange a shipment or pick-up. Be honest about your intake of alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and any other medications and supplements you take. To collect the milk you can use a breast pump – but if you have hyperlactation, you probably won’t need to. I just put my little Medela hand-held pump over my nipple and think about breast feeding. My milk lets down and sprays into the nozzle, down through the flange and into the bottle (could it be any easier?). Add a little bit of pumping at the end to get the engorgement down and it is heaven.

While you pump/moan in relief, you can use an O-cal-ette cup on the other nipple.* 377735214O-cal-ette cups have been around forever and are about a quarter as expensive as Milkies/Milk-Savers. They’re little plastic cups which go into your bra and collect milk when it lets down. They have a vent hole at the top (which is great for airing out those nips and preventing thrush) but with the amount of milk I produce, I have to put a piece of tape over it to prevent leakage. Depending on your arrangement with your recipient family, you might store the milk in breast milk freezer bags or in sterile jars in the fridge.

*In fact, these may be a good option for use around the house.

Lastly, you can consider donating to an established milk bank. Because I don’t like it when people try to get me to donate my bodily fluids for free so they can sell it at a large profit, I avoid banks like Prolacta. You can find your nearest non-profit milk bank through the Human Milk Bank Association of North America. To qualify as a milk donor, you will have to complete a short phone interview and a home blood test, which they pay for.

Reduce:

Before you take steps to reduce your milk supply, make sure that breastfeeding is established and that you truly do have more milk than your baby needs. It’s harder to increase your supply than to decrease it, so proceed with caution.

The first thing you should know is that, because low milk production is the number one cause of early weaning in the United States, nearly all of the breastfeeding advice out there is aimed at increasing supply. So you, O Madonna of the Moo, can forget about nursing from both breasts during each feeding, pumping extra milk to store, and waking your baby up to nurse (unless your baby is very small and needs it). Instead…

  • Block feed. Nurse on cue, but nurse from one breast only. Do this for 3-4 hours at a time and then switch (and hold your baby at bay for the first few minutes of that let-down; your unnursed boob is going to rival the space shuttle Atlantis in its, uh, lift-off). output_snPRadBlock feeding is the most effective way to decrease your milk supply. But it also increases your risk of blocked milk ducts. Blocked milk ducts can lead to mastitis. So pay careful attention to your breasts, noticing if they develop any painful, hard, hot lumps. If so, immediately nurse from that breast, aligning baby’s nose with the lump. (If you are also nursing a toddler, get them to do it. Bonus points for nursing a toddler!) You may have to place baby on the floor and dangle your breast into his/her mouth to do this (breastfeeding! It’s glamorous!). You can also place hot compresses on the lump. If it does not go away within 24 hours or you develop a fever, head in to your healthcare provider, stat.
  • Stop pumping. Did you hear what I said? Stop pumping. JUST STAHP. Pumping mimics the sensation of suckling which is precisely what gets the milk production process started. Some people will tell you to pump for the first few minutes of your let-down to capture the foremilk so the baby can get some hindmilk. This well-meaning advice has ruined countless tank tops. Babies need fatty milk, but the distinction between fore- and hind-milk is not clear-cut. If you let your initial let-down spray into an unused diaper (CLEAN, PEOPLE), and then let your baby latch on once it’s reduced to a steady drip, you should be fine.
  • Side-nurse. If you nurse lying on your side or with your babe lying on top of you, your ejection reflex won’t be nearly so active. I pretty much only nurse my baby lying down on the bed (or grass, or sand, or carpet…). When I decide to nurse her in the Beco, I de-latch her as soon as the let-down comes, pinching my nipple in two fingers before I can cover it with the nursing pad. Then I let it spray for at least a minute while she wails like the wronged creature she is.
  • Drink a cup o’sage. I’ve never tried this, but apparently sage decreases blood estrogen levels. So if you drink a cup of sage tea in the evening, it will decrease your milk supply. Try it and tell me how it works out.

And now, a survey: raise your hand if your milk let down while reading this post.

Mmm-hmmm. I thought so.

The Freebirth of Apple Blossom Light Hawk Summer Willow Wind

The Freebirth of Apple Blossom Light Hawk Summer Willow Wind

March 10, 2011

It’s the middle of the night. I’m laying awake, thinking of how there will be three of us sleeping here soon. I can’t lay still. I’m feeling different, off, restless. Every once in a while, I’m compelled to get up on all fours and rock back and forth. I don’t think a whole lot of it. I’m not expecting Peacy to come for another week, even two. It doesn’t occur to me yet that this might be the beginnings of labor!

A Bit of Background

I never sought prenatal care during my pregnancy, and I planned to have a freebirth. I was the first of all my cousins & family and friends to get pregnant. When I shared with my friends and family that I planned to have an unassisted birth, lets just say it didn’t go over so well. Apart from a few who had faith in my choice, I was constantly bombarded with fearful advice from so many people. It was an isolating time for me. I felt very alone in my choice, and sought support through books and blogs on the Internet, support I received so graciously!

In late February of 2011, Joey and I drove from Maine to New Hampshire to move into our new house, a tiny log cabin with no running water or electricity. I was about eight & a half months pregnant. The snow was so deep that winter, we had to bring all our belongings down to the cabin by way of a sled. I spent our first week there sewing curtains for the windows & making sheets for our new bed. It was so cozy and warm there. I felt safe and comfortable, and so relieved to be moved from our dark, cold house in Maine. Peacy was born about a week after moving to our new home.

Peacey's freebirth cabin

March 10, Around Midnight

Sleep isn’t coming. Something tells me to use the potty. Maybe this is all it is. I just need to go and then I’ll be able to sleep. The outhouse is a minute walk from our cabin, and although it’s March, it’s still very surely winter. But, I have to go. What else am I going to do? I throw on a big flannel shirt, climb down the ladder, and head outside. I make my way through the snow, huddled against the chill wind. There’s a bit of an icy path to follow, but its dark, and every once in a while I step off the path and find myself knee-deep in the snow. I make it to the outhouse. Then I make my way back to the cabin and open the door to find the warm relief of the woodstove. Ahhh, I can relax! I crawl back into bed next to Joey.

Still no sleep. I have to go to the outhouse again. Not again! I just got warm! After a few trips outside in the freezing wind, I decide to give up on sleeping. I light a candle, (our only source of light at night save the moon,) and stay downstairs near the woodstove. There is obviously something going on now. I’m hot one minute & and then I’ve got chills the next, and I can’t sit still. I begin to suspect, just maybe, that my little girl is on her way.

Then I really notice the contractions. They are pretty close together, maybe once every 3 minutes. They’re short and mild, very bearable and growing in intensity. Suddenly, I’m very cold. The fire in the woodstove has died down. There are only a few embers left. I attempt to make another fire. Usually I consider myself a pretty skilled fire-maker, but this attempt was nothing short of hilarious. I start to break up the slightly soggy kindling as best I can, (jumping on it between contractions.) I squat down, and what I’ve managed to break to a decently small size I pile into the woodstove. I light a bit of birch bark to get the fire going, and the flames start to rise, and then a contraction comes! The contractions are getting stronger, and require much more energy. My attention is pulled away from the woodstove into my pelvis. I close my eyes and rock back and forth, immersing myself in the rush of energy. When the contraction passes, I look up to see a whole lot of smoke, and no flames. This goes on for a while. Every time I try to light the fire, another contraction comes! Soon, there’s a chard, smoking mass of kindling in the fire, and there I am, cold & bouncing around in front of the woodstove. Finally, my ridiculously persistent drive to do things myself gives in to the reality of the situation. I call upstairs to Joey.

Joey comes down the ladder, groggy, and comments on the smoking mass of kindling that was my attempted fire. I smile and relax. He starts a blazing fire in a matter of minutes. I tell him I think Peacy is coming. The cabin begins to warm up, the fire in the stove roaring and red hot, and my contractions get much stronger. I spend most of my time on my knees, my torso resting on the edge of the couch, swaying and moaning, and then resting when they pass. Joey rubes my back and brings me water. I can tell he is tired. I’m tired too. In between contractions, I lay down on the couch with him. A few times, I try to let the contractions come while laying down, but it’s too intense, almost unbearable, and each time I end up back on my knees, bent over the couch, moaning my earth chant and pulling all my power into my pelvis to speed my baby’s passage.

I need to rest. It’s only been a few hours since I noticed the beginnings of labor, but the contractions are strong and relentless. I am so tired. Finally, rest comes. Joey and I drift off to sleep, laying together on the couch, in the pre-dawn darkness.

March 10, Just After Sunrise

I wake up to the most brilliant light! Our little cabin is illuminated by the sunlight beaming through the windows, spilling over onto the walls and the ceiling and the couch where we still lay. It is so beautiful and breathtaking! Contractions start again right away, as fast and intense as they had been before we fell asleep. Joey starts to steep some herbs for me to drink after the birth. It was so intense now! I can’t even get up to get myself water, or even to go pee!

I’m on my hands and knees; the only position that feels comfortable. Rocking and moaning through the contractions which seem to be coming every minute. Joey brings me water when all I can manage to say is “water,” and he brings me containers to go pee into when I need to. He rubs my back, I think maybe because he’s not quite sure what else to do to support me. During an especially intense contraction, he rubs my back again. “Don’t do that!” He stops. I need every ounce of my attention. Even back rub is too much for me to handle, too distracting. Sometimes there is pain, although not unbearable. I rock my way through it. My moans are louder, filled with tension. Sometimes they are grunts, even screams.

About an hour after sunrise, I feel a swelling in the birth canal. This is such a powerful moment. I can really feel her. She is so close! Somehow, through all those months of her growing inside of me, it never really hit me that she was real. Now it hits me! The contractions are so intense that I don’t even really feel them. I am in the most beautiful trance. I can feel her so close! Soon, I feel her pushing against the wall of my vagina, her door to the world. I put my hand back to feel her. So incredible! I can feel her! But… is that her? It doesn’t feel like a head! I ask Joey to look. He agrees. It doesn’t look like a head, or like any part of a baby. It looks like a membrane. Then I realize my waters never broke! It’s the caul! She keeps going back up inside me and then pushing back down. I can feel her with my hand, and I feel like I’m stretching as much as I can. I even try pushing her out, but she’s not even close to crowning.

I ask Joey to look in our copy of “Spiritual Midwifery” to see if he can find anything about what’s happening. I want to know if it’s ok for us to break the caul, or if I should just keep trying with the caul intact. Joey reads for a bit, while Peacy keeps going in and out. He finds something on late rupture of membranes, but nothing helpful. I ask him to break the caul – he uses his fingernail and breaks it. Relief! Instantly I feel freer, and can tell that Peacy does too. Her head starts to crown!

Peacy crowns for a minute. I let out a grunt-scream-bellow-cry, and my body gives an enormous involuntary push, followed by a very voluntary, strained push and her head is out! Her body follows easily, along with a rush of waters and a bit of blood. Joey catches her and holds her as I turn to take her. I hold her to my breast.

Peacy is blue and wailing, and quickly turns pink. She is pudgy and squat and round and so perfect! I have never seen such a perfect, beautiful being! Our dog Naynie, who I had forgotten about completely, comes running over to sniff this strange, loud, new little thing. I’m afraid Naynie is going to bite Peacy, or eat her! I tell Joey to put Naynie outside, which he does. Peacy definitely does not want to nurse! She cries and squirms and cries some more. I cry with joy. She is so beautiful, so beautiful! I could never have imagined! The light in Joey’s eyes is so bright and beautiful as he looks at her.

My body feels so strange. My belly is limp and squishy.

The placenta comes. Joey ties Peacy’s cord and cuts it. I eat a tiny bite of the placenta, not exactly my idea of tasty, but it certainly feels nourishing. Joey wraps it in a towel and places it in a cupboard, where I proceed to forget about it until a few days later.

Joey holds Peacy for a long time. She sleeps in his arms while I clean myself and the cabin up. Naynie is outside, scratching at the door to come back in, she is so curious. We let her in, finally. I try going pee outside in the snow. It burns and stings. It is so painful. I have a tear, in the front, right by my pee-hole, probably because of that last strained push as her head came through.

Peacey's free birth

March 10-15, 2011

The next few days were a struggle. Peacy didn’t seem to want to eat or sleep, so we didn’t get to eat or sleep much either. I remember being so exhausted one night that I passed out right next to Peacy while she was wailing. Finally she took to nursing. There were a lot of diapers to wash and dry. We got water from the stream and heated it on the woodstove to wash the diapers in, and strung the clean, wet diapers above the woodstove to dry. Joey did pretty much everything for me those first few days. It was a good lesson for me in accepting help. He made me amazing soups and went out to do food shopping; he walked up the hill to collect our drinking water and washed all the diapers. Although it was challenging, I’ll never forget those first few days. They were so beautiful.

I remember the first time we took Peacy outside, a few days after she was born, all bundled up in a million blankets and we walked through the snow with her to the Sugar Shack to talk with Steve, the man who was renting the cabin to us. We walked into the shack, greeted by the smell of boiling maple sap and a look of surprise on Steve’s face. “You had your baby!” And then, “Aren’t you supposed to put up a flag or something?!” It was so good to feel the lightheartedness of Steve’s presence. Something about his words brought me back to reality a little. They felt like a testament to what a monumental undertaking this all was and, to the fact that this was something all mothers and fathers do. Something Steve had done three times! It felt like a consecration, a blessing from Steve in his own way.

Peacy's free birth a few days postpartum

April, 2011

Peacy’s name took a long time to come. At first I called her little-one, and that was perfect. We called her squirmo, and pea-belly, and squirmo-pea-belly, and all sorts of other names for fun.

Before Peacy’s birth, Joey had told me of a Native American tradition where children’s names were constantly in motion – constantly changing based on their phase of life and their spirit. I tried this out with Peacy, but it didn’t feel right; I wanted her to have a name of her own. It felt like something she was entitled to, something sacred. I thought about it for a long time. I over-thought it. I came up with a name, Lynnea, and I shared it with Joey. He didn’t like it. He asked me why I had chosen it. I told him it reminded me of the forsythia – the first vibrant blossom of the spring.

“What about ‘Spring Blossom,’” he said.

I fell in love with this – I had never even considered a name so beautiful. Over the next few months, her name evolved. It became like a poem. It came to embody her soft, radiant beauty, her fiery spirit, and her deeply passionate soul. We gave her a nickname too, “Peacy,” because who can say “Apple Blossom Light Hawk Summer Willow Wind, come get your dinner!”?

A Home Water Birth Based on Faith and Evidence Based Care

A Home Water Birth Based on Faith and Evidence Based Care

Around my daughter’s first birthday in December, it was placed heavily my heart to have another child. I had just graduated college, and the timing seemed perfect. My husband agreed and we found out we were expecting in January with an estimated due date of around September 17! I immediately started researching home birth midwifery options. I had an all natural, un-medicated hospital birth attended by a midwife with my daughter. I was at the hospital less than an hour before she was born, because I knew I needed to wait as long as possible before going in to be able to stick to the birth plan. It felt weird to not have a care provider with me while I was laboring. The post partum care was disappointing with my hospital midwives. So I knew I wanted to give myself something more with this baby. We deserved the best care possible. I found a homebirth Certified Nurse Midwife in my state, and she took me on as a client.

I was incredibly blessed with an easy pregnancy. I didn’t have HG this time; in fact, I never even threw up once. I was able to work out until the middle of the third trimester as well. This was such a difference than my pregnancy with my daughter, which was great because having a 1 year old and being pregnant at the same time is quite challenging! We had an anatomy scan with the maternal fetal medicine doctor that does the ultrasounds at the birth center and found out we were having a healthy son. I still tear up thinking about that day. I knew God had a plan for us to have a son, and to keep him whole and intact. He was created perfectly, and I would not change that by circumcising him! I felt instantly connected to him the moment I saw him on the screen. I knew at that moment I would do anything to protect him!

maternity shot for birth story

Having my midwife come to my house for all my appointments was so nice. I never had to make childcare arrangements for our daughter, and it was simply convenient! I also had regular chiropractic care during this pregnancy, which alleviated a lot of aches and pains. Also, I treated myself to pedicures with my girlfriends which was fun!

Once September came I had some episodes of prodromal labor. I knew my baby was getting ready to enter the world, but each time the prodromal labor would end without me actually going into labor, it was disappointing. He had been posterior most of the pregnancy, so I figured it was him trying to get into the best position.

The early morning hours of my due date, I started having contractions that I knew weren’t Braxton hicks. I knew Berkley was coming to meet us. I was timing them and getting so excited. I cleaned and lit candles, prayed and told my husband. He needed some convincing that it was time, but once he realized it was, he started blowing up the birth pool. It was around 3:30AM at this point. We called our midwife and told her we believed I was in labor. We also sent text messages to the doula and photographer. We were so excited!

birth pool for story

My midwife called around 6:00AM to let us know she was on her way. She told me my labor may stall a bit once my toddler woke up, and recommended sending her to Grandma and Grandpa’s so I could get on with my labor. In her experience, mothers of small toddlers can get out of the labor when they mother their toddler. And I was so ready, so off she went to Grandma and Grandpa’s. I remember sitting with her on the rocking chair, where I nursed her for her first year of life, telling her mommy loves her so much, and she will always be my baby girl. It was such an intense moment knowing when she would arrive back home she would be a big sister.

My midwife was right. My labor slowed way down once Faith woke up. I went almost 2 hours with no contractions. My midwife still set up all her equipment though. She suggested I take a walk, use the breast pump, take a shower, all to get things moving again. I asked for a cervical check and I was 4 centimeters dilated and 80% effaced and baby was at minus 2 station.

Hours passed with pretty minimal contractions. My midwife went to go eat some lunch around 11:00AM to give us some space. It was so weird having such irregular contractions, yet they were so intense. I was pretty confused about the situation. When my midwife arrived back, I told her I would like an intervention of some sort to get labor moving. Once my doula arrived, I consented to a stripping of the membranes. Literally, once that happened, things picked up so fast. The contractions were coming so quickly. I could barely breathe and talk through them. I noticed all my hypnobirthing techniques weren’t helping to cope. I told my husband to call the photographer, I knew it would be soon that we would be meeting our baby boy!

My midwife didn’t want me getting into the birth pool prematurely. So when I asked her if I could get in and she said yes, I knew it would be close. This was around 2:45PM. I already felt so tired from being up all night with contractions. The pool was very relaxing, I am so glad I got that thing! It was nice being able to stretch out in it. The contractions were coming so quickly. I didn’t know how much more I could handle. I felt like I was loosing it. We put on my hypnobirthing tracks which helped a little. I even said I wanted to transfer to the hospital. Looking back, I know this is a “sign post” that means that the baby is coming soon, but I couldn’t think at that point. I just didn’t know how I could handle any more labor. The photographer walked in and I couldn’t even say hi. I felt so rude! I was sobbing. I was a mess. I felt like I was failing at my peaceful birth.

janet hugging me

labor in pool 3

birth story photo 1

 

labor in pool 2

I felt nauseated (which again, usually means baby is coming SOON) so my doula did some aromatherapy which did help.  I asked to get out of the pool. I went into my room and was crying some more. My midwife came and gave me a big hug and told me I just needed a little more courage and the baby would be here. I told her she was right, that I was scared. Looking back at my photos of that moment, I realize I definitely picked the right care provider. She hugged me and told me everything I needed to hear.

laboring on ball

Right at that moment, my water broke. My midwife called her assistant in to chart the time. It was clear fluid. I felt so much better once my water broke, but then the contractions kept coming even more frequently. I started having bright red blood drip down my leg. My midwife immediately (yet calmly) figured out I was involuntarily pushing against a cervical lip. I asked if it were too late to get back in the pool. Of course not! So I ran back into the pool. The bleeding stopped just as soon as it started. Everyone was right there with me. I told my midwife I felt like I had to have a bowel movement. Again, a sign the baby is right there. She just told me “poop the baby out”, “it’s okay!”, “you can do this”.

labor in pool 4

labor in the pool 3

The pushing was an experience I had not really had before. With my daughter, she came very quickly with no pushing stage, and I had 3 first degree tears. I wanted to be in the water to minimalize tearing. It is amazing how natural it is to push. I didn’t need any directed coaching about how long to push or how to push. If given the opportunity, it comes naturally!

pushing

Within just a few minutes, he was born! I did it! I leaned against the back of the birth pool and he was right on my chest. He had vernix! He was so cute and tiny! It’s amazing how quickly you forget how tiny they are! He got a 9 and a 10 on his APGARs. He was so beautiful and calm. My photographer said when he was born, I was saying “We wanted you so much, We wanted you!”.

group shot at birth

birth of c 2

birth of C

 

after birth of c 2

I felt like I didn’t have a lot of traction sitting in the birth pool with him, so I asked to move to my bed. We went to the bed and just cuddled, hugged, breastfed, everything that should be done in that golden hour. When we were ready, my midwife checked me and I didn’t tear! She weighed our boy and he was 7 pounds 12.5 ounces and 20.5 inches long. There were no hands on him other than mine and my husbands until we consented to his exam. She didn’t even have to draw blood to test his blood type, she collected a sample from his umbilical cord! It was such a private birth, this was the experience I wanted, the experience we deserved. I know God designed me to be able to give birth, and having a midwife with so much experience and evidence-based practices made the home birth decision even more excellent. I know my fast recovery and lack of PPD can be attributed to such a peaceful birth and loving care from my midwife and family.

we did it

kale at birth

Maternity Photo by Brink Street Photography

Birth Photography by Aperture Grrl

Twins Born at 27 Weeks {A Mother’s Story of the NICU and Coping}

Twins Born at 27 Weeks {A Mother’s Story of the NICU and Coping}

My twin boys were due August 28, 2012. They were born June 1, 2012, 13 weeks early.

I had a doctor appointment that morning. I was so excited because it was an ultrasound appointment and I was going to get to see my little boogers. I met with the doctor after the appointment and he kept me a little longer because he was afraid that I had twin to twin transfusion. They tried to hook me up to heart rate monitors but said I wasn’t far enough along for them to work…. So he sent me on my way and made an appointment for the following week.

By now it was 10:30AM and I was supposed to be at work at 8:30AM. I grabbed my lunch on the way but I wasn’t able to eat on the way because I had to update my husband, my mom, and my mother-in-law. I worked the drive-thru so I was busy all day long and I ate in between customers. I didn’t get to sit down much, we were just really busy. I was lucky and got off at 5:00PM because I had to work Saturday. I went to the bathroom before I left and noticed something wasn’t right. I called my husband and he said that once I talked to the doctor to let him know and if he needed to he would be on his way.

My mom came because mother’s just worry too much. And we had to wait on the doctor. I couldn’t tell you what we were talking about but I just looked up at her and said my water broke. Her first comment was “Are you sure you didn’t pee your pants?” I laughed then and I still laugh now. I wasn’t able to call Jason because once I told the nurses my water broke all hell broke loose. So I text messaged Jason that my water broke. That’s not something that you want to text by the way, and he followed it with a phone call. I wouldn’t let him drive so I called his parents and I wouldn’t talk to his dad because I didn’t want anybody to be upset or rush or anything like that. So I told his mom to calmly go pick up Jason and we worked out arrangements for Jager (our dog) and that everything was okay.

The plan was to make it to Roanoke Memorial and stop labor. That didn’t happen. By the time we got there it was too late to stop it. We were prepped and I was taken in for an emergency cesarean. At 11:13PM Parker Lewis cried out. At 11:15 p.m. Jacoby Lee cried out as well. I didn’t get to see Jacoby but I was able to kiss Parker on his way out of the room. It wasn’t until the next day that I was actually able to see them both up close and touch them.

The next day everything was put into perspective. I received a call that Jacoby needed to be intubated. He was tired and wasn’t strong enough to breathe on his own. I finally was able to go see them and they were so small. Granted, they were big for 27 weekers, Parker was 2lbs 13oz and Jacoby was 3lbs 2oz, but still so tiny. It’s amazing that they were still able to function. We were informed that we may be qualified for the Ronald McDonald house, since we were an hour away from home. Which meant that Daddy would go back to work and I would stay. Here our new family was, and we were going to have to be separated for who knows how long. We had to take a class on how to handle and take care of our preemies. It was all so overwhelming at first. But with the right nurses, we started feeling like we could handle it. They showed us, comforted us, and became our friends. They took care of our boys, but they also took care of us.

Jacoby was able to come off the ventilator in less then 24 hours but any intubation causes damage to the lungs. He struggled with coming off his CPAP and ended up coming home on oxygen. Parker was able to come off his CPAP quickly only to go back on a few days later. He did this twice and the third time was able to stay off it. He developed an infection in his belly but with some antibiotics and stopping his food we were able to clear it up easily. They both had PDA’s (an artery in the heart that closes closer to 40 weeks) but with the proper medicines they closed on their own, not needing surgery.

 We were finally able to come home July 31, 2012, one day shy of 2 months in the hospital. Both boys came home on heart monitors and Jacoby came home on oxygen. I won’t lie, I won’t sugar coat it. It was hard. My mom stayed with me during the day for the first week and my mother-in-law stayed the second week. After that, I was on my own until after my husband or my mom got off from work. I breastfed at first, but I had to also had to supplement because they needed more calories.  It seemed like all I got done was feeding and changing diapers. So I would pump before time for them to eat and I just mixed it in with the formula. It made life a little easier but pumping for a year was hard. I kept with it though, I knew they needed the breast milk. In September, they both had to have hernia’s repaired. After that, they both were able to get rid of the heart monitors and Jacoby came off his oxygen! I finally didn’t have babies on a leash!

They have come a long way, and they have hit their milestones pretty close to when they should have. We had a developmental doctor’s appointment a couple weeks ago, and they said they were all caught up and advanced in some areas! It felt so good to hear something so positive!

It was a long 2 months but I actually enjoyed the experience. I knew when I went into labor that they were going to be fine. Call it mother’s intuition, but I just knew. I’m so glad for the experience because I wouldn’t know all the things that I know now without the in NICU.

Stacy's Twin Story

I’m so thankful for these two and I love them dearly. It is hard to believe but today is there due date. They should have been a year old, but they are almost 15 months! They are our miracle babies! We love our Parker Lewis and Jacoby Lee!

Stacy's 27 week Twins Story

Stacys Twin Story 2

*The first picture is Parker playing with bubbles. The second picture is Jacoby and the third picture is the first time I was able  to hold both of them. They were seven days old. Jacoby is on the left and Parker is on the right.

Beautiful Breastfeeding while Pregnant Moment

Beautiful Breastfeeding while Pregnant Moment

Yes, it was removed from Facebook, but really we just want to share this gorgeous picture of a mother breastfeeding her child while pregnant with another. This is real life folks. #peaceloveboobs #normalizebreastfeeding.

IMG_7985

I had my first breastfeeding image removed from my personal FB page today.  This photo is so special to me because of 2 things, first, my son whom I never thought I would be able to breastfeed is 2.5 years old and going strong and second, because I am 26 weeks pregnant with my 4th son and am thrilled to have kept nursing through this pregnancy and really look forward to the amazing bond my kids will have through tandem nursing.  {Whitney Hempsey}

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