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“Why not formula?” | Choosing Donor Breast Milk Over Artificial Milk

“Why not formula?” | Choosing Donor Breast Milk Over Artificial Milk

Having a premature baby I anticipated there could be some challenges as we began our breastfeeding journey, however nothing quite prepared me for the challenges we would face.

Jett was born at 25 weeks and in the early weeks of his life he had multiple bowel perforations which can be common in premature babies. He was a very sick little baby and because of his gut issue he couldn’t tolerate even the tiniest bit of breast milk. For the first 17 weeks of his life, he was sustained on TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) and I expressed 8 – 10 times daily to keep up supply so when he recovered and was well enough I would have milk there for him. During this time my milk supply was up and down, sometimes I would only pump 30mls at a time from both breasts. Whatever I pumped though I froze, then when I ran out of storage space I donated some of my liquid gold to a mother who was unable to breastfeed and fed her baby on donor breast milk.

I hoped that with time and once Jett was able to be put to the breast my supply would increase. Finally when he was 135 days old he was able to breastfeed.

first breastfeed 135 days old

I put my baby to the breast and he took to it like a duck to water. Soon after, we were discharged, fully breastfeeding. I was so happy! 6 weeks later we had a hospital appointment and we were admitted the next day. Jett had lost on average 100gms a week since discharge and he was diagnosed with failure to thrive. Dr’s put it down to him having a bad latch, but I of course thought it was my supply. He was put on full nasogastric tube feeds which meant I had to pump 720mls a day. It didn’t happen. I was lucky to pump 300mls. Instead of resorting to formula, a friend of mine used social networking sites and put the call out for breast milk for us.. I had a woman respond immediately, she came to the hospital 2 days later with about 4L for us.  Over the next 9 days, we weaned the tube feeds and got Jett back on the breast, but he started losing weight again. Upon discharge, Jett was breastfeeding, but still needed 500mls through the NG tube. A scoop of prescription formula was added to fortify EBM to assist with weight gain. I expressed as much as I could, but it still wasn’t enough. I began to rely on milk donors on a daily basis. I had called the milk bank near me and they informed me they charged $80 for 1.1L!! So more posts went up on social networking sites and again more breast milk came flooding in.

Jett was supplemented with donor milk for a total of 6 months. I have been asked many times why not formula? Isn’t it dangerous to give a baby another woman’s milk? While it is true that my son has had formula, it was never given to him to replace breast milk. It was simply given as a calorie booster. I never had any intention of replacing feeds with artificial milk when he can have human milk. The women that donate give full disclosure about their lifestyle, medications etc and have also shown me copies of blood tests. Women that donate their breast milk are as passionate as I am about giving human milk to human babies.

During the 6 months my son was given milk from at least 7 different women. I had a regular donor near where I live and had a few one off donations. The first time I received donor milk, it was from a woman that I had never met. I only spoke to her on the phone after she answered my call on Human milk 4 Human babies Facebook page. It was strange, yet, so natural. She drove to the hospital, I met her at the door we hugged, she gave me the milk and left. She continued to donate to me and eventually we were able to catch up and have a cuppa! My regular donor is a friend of a friend. I have only met her once. Her husband is the one that I picked the milk up from. Another donor was someone from playgroup, who upon finding out I fed bub donor milk offered her frozen stash.

Regardless of how many times I have met the women face to face, I feel like I ‘know’ them and they are all updated online with my son’s progress.

Having a low milk supply has been extremely tough emotionally. I felt like I was failing my baby, not being able to do what is ‘supposed’ to come naturally. Having a sick baby, trying to pump around the clock and still try and breast feed was very stressful and often made my supply issues worse. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful women who donated their precious milk. They gave me the gift of having one less thing to worry about. It took pressure off me in times of very high stress and they have given the greatest gift of nutrition to my son. I wish milk sharing was more widely accepted as the norm.I still struggle with supply so still express (once daily these days) as well as take prescription medication and natural galactologues. With the help of these things we are still breast feeding at 19 months and I hope to continue until we are both ready to stop

breastfeeding 18 months old

Reflections on Extended Breastfeeding {One Mother’s Journey}

Reflections on Extended Breastfeeding {One Mother’s Journey}

Today I was struck by the beauty of my breastfeeding relationship with my son. The light filtered through the window after our nap, the new crisp white sheets I had just put on the bed felt heavenly and looked so pure. My son’s hair – a golden blond – was moving in the breeze from the window and shining like a halo. The moment was perfect. Peaceful.

Then my 2 and 1/2 year old decided the moment was too calm. He blew “raspberries” on me, pushed himself off like a diver, and proceeded to totally rip apart the freshly made bed by playing a mixture of peek-a-boo and “ghost”.

And the moment was still perfect.

When I was pregnant with my son, the first dream I had was about breastfeeding. In the dream, I looked down at the child at my breast and said, “I love you son.” When we eventually had the 20 week scan and found out the sex of our baby, they didn’t even have to tell me – I knew I had a son inside my womb. That dream was too clear and perfect to be wrong.

If that dream being my first – and recurrent – dream is any indication then it should be easy to see that I was looking forward to breastfeeding. I knew that my mother had breastfed me. It was just what I was going to do and there was no question in my mind. Thank goodness my husband also totally accepted this reality – he was breastfed and viewed it as normal. And so, we prepared for the journey. Bought books, breast pump, lanolin, nursing pads and bras.

The start of our breastfeeding relationship was tough. Mastitis, thrush, tongue tie, bad latch, a very small baby and very large breast, overactive letdown, and Raynaud’s Syndrome/vasospasms. It was an adventure! Some days I wanted to give up – I think we all have those moments. I set a goal – six months. Six months and I would see how I felt. By six months it was a no-brainer and things were now easy and I didn’t have to think about breastfeeding. I was pumping to donate and had more than enough for my son. I set my next goal – a year.

9 Months

As the one year mark approached things were still easy and my son was still nursing often. I was not sure how I would feel about nursing past a year – after all, wasn’t that “weird?” Yet when my son turned one I realized that nothing changed. He was still the same kid, still my baby. He still obviously needed – and wanted – to breastfeed. It was our cure-all. Bumped heads, upset tummy, teething, picky eater days – anything and everything was cured by the “boob”.

As my son approached his second birthday, we moved cross country. My husband had already moved to our new state several months before and we finally got to follow behind in our moving truck – just me and the kiddo on a three day drive. Needless to say, the upheaval of those 6+ months was made much easier by having the home base of breastfeeding. My son felt safe there. It was the one constant in his life. Cuddles, breastmilk, quiet.

21 Months

Suddenly my son was two years old, I was pregnant with our second child, and he was still nursing. Without thinking about it I had been on the journey of “extended breastfeeding” – though I now think of it as full-term breastfeeding. It feels too natural to consider it an extension of a deadline.

We nursed through the worst of my second HG (hyperemesis gravidarum) pregnancy. The nursing connection helped my son and I feel a little better about the fact that I was basically on bed rest for months. I may not have been able to get up and play with him the way he wanted me to, but he could crawl into bed and watch a movie and nurse. It brought peace to the hell that was HG.

Now I am starting to feel much better, and it seems that my son’s need for connection in that way grows less as I am able to do more with him again. He now only nurses every few days, usually in the morning or after a particularly bad bump or fall. I never know if “this time” will be the last time. There is something bittersweet about knowing that he will be the one to end this phase of our mother/child relationship. But also something joyful is there – a job well done, a road that was traveled to the very end.

Today in the beauty of that peaceful moment in the crisp white bed with a spring breeze blowing in, I reflected. I reflected on my first dream and thoughts about nursing – “I love you son.” I reflected on the hard days. The days and nights with tears running down my cheeks from the pain of vasospasms in my nipples. The mastitis and thrush. I reflected on the moments when I was at my breaking point with toddler antics and suddenly he crawled into my lap and signed “milk” (his way of asking to nurse since about 10 months).

I reflected on the essence of mothering that nursing has represented to my son and I.

You see, I can defend our choice to continue breastfeeding all day long. I can point you to scientific evidence and studies. I can point you to the statements of major health organizations stating that there are no ill effects – physical or psychological – to extended breastfeeding. I could go on and on about the benefits.

But here are my thoughts at the end of the day:

This relationship has become an integral part of my mothering skill set. It has helped give me confidence when the going was tough and I was not sure I was cut out to be a mom. It has helped my son through upheaval and sickness. It has given him – and continues to give – a “home base” that never changes. The roof over our head may have changed many times in his two years of life, but his physical and emotional home remained the same.

This is not just about the nutrients and scientific studies. This is about the emotions as well. I am not supposed to admit that nursing is about me too. But it is. It is about both people and it is a relationship. It has give and take. It has ups and downs. It is the first place that a child learns patience and manners. It is a place that a mother can learn confidence and peace. For me, it completes a circle – I grew this life within me and I continue to grow it outside of me.

One day, soon most likely, it will be the last time he ever nurses. I won’t know until a week or more later. Then I will suddenly think about it one morning and try to count the days since he was last at the breast. And I won’t be able to. It will simply be done. No fan fare. No weaning needed. It will simply  be the end of one chapter that rolled into the next, like a great book you can not put down.

***A few weeks after writing this piece, my son totally weaned. He just turned 3 and is a wonderfully well adjusted and bright little boy. He now insists that I feed his new little brother all the time, any time he cries or makes a funny face. He still knows that nursing is the cure for everything! Thank you for all the kind comments on this story – it means the world to me that my words were able to touch on the emotions and intentions of others.

D-MER {No, You Are Not Crazy}

D-MER {No, You Are Not Crazy}

Newborn Nursing

We all hear about the joys of breastfeeding. The bonding, the flow of love hormones, and the feeling of accomplishment that often comes to mothers upon reaching goals. Breastfeeding can be tough the first weeks of your baby’s life (or longer), but after that it is smooth sailing right?

This promise of positive emotional connections to breastfeeding is true for the majority of women who breastfeed. But there is a small population of women who experience just the opposite – for seconds to minutes – every time their milk lets down. It is not a physical sensation (such as nausea or pain, which can happen with strong letdowns) and it is not a psychological reaction to breastfeeding (not an aversion or part of PPD or baby blues). It is also not related to past abuse or history. It is a purely hormonal response that is independent of any other stimulus.

D-MER stands for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.To break that down – you get a feeling of dysphoria (negative emotions) just as your milk “ejects” (lets down) and it is a reflex – meaning the mother cannot control this. It can come in degrees – from feeling disconnected to feelings of self-loathing. There is also a spectrum of types of emotions the mother can feel – which are fully explained here.

So what causes D-MER in the first place? Preliminary studies suggest that the natural drop in dopamine at the start of a feeding, which happens so that prolactin can rise, is sharper in women with D-MER. Dopamine is the mood “stabilizer” of our bodies and prolactin is the hormone mainly responsible for milk production and let down. Normally, this small drop in dopamine is never noticed by mothers and it stabilizes again a few moments after the initial let down of milk. But in D-MER mothers the drop is larger, faster, and noticable in the wave of emotions that wash over them right before and as the milk lets down but quickly dissipates as the milk begins to flow.

Nursing d-mer

The treatments, both natural and medical, are based on the assumption that the dopamine drop is the cause of D-MER. Some of the treatment suggestions include:

  • Education – many times a woman with mild or moderate D-MER is able to manage the episodes better simply by knowing what is happening and that they are not “crazy”. Mild to moderate cases also tend to resolve on their own within 3-6 months.
  • Tracking your episodes. How often do you have them, and what were you doing before the feeding or let down? Does pumping effect you the same as feeding at the breast? Do you get D-MER with spontaneous let down (you know, the kind where you hear a baby cry in the store or watch a sappy commercial). Things like stress or dehydration can also aggravate the condition, so it is important to note those in your log.
  • Herbs used to treat D-MER: (ALWAYS consult with your care provider first)
    • Rhodiola or Golden Root: this builds dopamine in the body naturally and has a marked effect on D-MER.
    • Evening Primrose Oil: increases levodopa in the body, which converts to dopamine.
    • Ginkgo: helps with blood flow to the brain and may help dopamine flow better as well.
  • Supplements and Diet Changes:
    • B-Complex: B6 is needed for brain function and B-12 promotes dopamine activity in the brain.
    • Adding young Fava Beans to your diet – these contain high levels of levodopa.
    • Other foods which help dopamine production include chicken, turkey, almonds, oats, dark chocolate, yogurt, bananas and several others – full list here.
  • Placenta Encapsulation
  • Acupuncture
  • Distraction – find a way to distract yourself for the start of the feeding. Reading, TV, and talking on the phone, etc.
  • Exercise can naturally increase dopamine and receptors in the brain.
  • Prescription treatments options are available – see options and discussion here.

While there are a few published studies out, the full documents are not available online for free. In any case – the evidence in those studies and even more information is available on this wonderfully helpful site: D-MER.org

The newest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding has a section on D-MER (which is a great read for those who plan to breastfeed in any case). For those mother’s interested in herbal treatments for D-MER (with consultation from your care provider of course), the book The Nursing Mother’s Herbal by Shelia Humphrey is a great guide to start your research.

Reaching out to a support group, be it on Facebook or a local breastfeeding group is highly recommended as well. And above all – know that you are not “crazy” and you are not alone. You can get through this with support and love. Your choice of treatment, even if that means weaning, is one to research and approach with an open heart and armed with information.

Ashley Nursing

*Pictures shared by Anna M. and Ashley O. Do not copy or use images without permission.

This is Breastfeeding

This is Breastfeeding

Lilla Ban sent me this picture to share. I was taken back when I saw it. Not just because it’s gorgeous…a sweet baby, the lighting and breastfeeding, but because it perfectly captures those first few weeks of nursing. The boppy pillow, working on the latch, the way mom is holding her breast and the milk dripping down.

Yes, this is breastfeeding.

You can follow Lilla’s work here.

A Fast Hospital Birth with a Doula and Nurse

A Fast Hospital Birth with a Doula and Nurse

I am a military wife who had high expectations for my second labor and delivery after a not-so-great experience of an induction (selfishly chosen) with my first baby at 40 weeks. I chose to be induced the first time on my EDD so that my husband could be there for it, as he was leaving for 5 months of training. It wasn’t terrible, but it was definitely not what I wanted. After nearly 36 hours of labor (17 active with pitocin), we welcomed our first son into the world, but I was so exhausted from the pitocin contractions that I did not get to enjoy those first few hours with him.

The second time, I knew what I wanted. Once again we were faced with the possibility of my husband not being there since he was due to deploy within days of my EDD. I found a fantastic birth doula who would be my rock if I ended up cooking my babe to perfection a bit longer than expected. I had been having inconsistent and non-painful contractions for a few days. The day before my due date, I woke up with a whole lot of nothing. I went about my day as normal, checked in with my doula to let her know nothing was going on and made sure that our bags we ready, on the off chance that something did happen. Around 7:30 p.m. I was laughing at my dog for giving me the sideways dog glances. I thought I peed myself from laughing so much, but I had a pop feeling in my pelvic area. Almost instantly after I assumed I peed myself, the first contraction came on awfully strong. Two minutes later, another. And again. And again. I told my husband to not get too excited, because I had been experiencing the random contractions for weeks. To be on the safe side, I called my doula to ask her to come over, as my plan was to labor at home for as long as possible. Less than 10 minutes later I called her back to let her know to just meet me at the hospital. These were getting painful and closer!

We dropped my oldest off at a friends house and calmly started our 20 minute drive. My husband talked me through every contraction along the way. Keeping focused on his voice definitely helped. We got there around 9:30 p.m., and I just gushed all over the examining table. The doctor said that it was absolutely my water. After it calmed down a bit, he did a check of my cervix and said I was 100% effaced and very close to 4cm dilated. I was admitted. I pulled out my birth plan to make sure the nurses and doctor knew exactly what was going to happen. We had previously brought them a copy for my files and everything in it was agreed to be followed. Unfortunately, I got the mean nurse I had encountered before. She was apparently pretty threatened by my doula, since she spent a good 20 minutes arguing with her over her right to tell me about the epidural, even though it clearly stated in my birth plan to not even mention it unless I ask. In that 20 minutes, she blew 2 of my veins. I was group B+ so I had to receive antibiotics. She sent my doula from the room and threatened to have her removed from the premises if she “overstepped her boundaries”. At this point, I was in full on tears over her arguing with my doula. My husband, being the superhero, told her that my doula was to be present at all times and she would be my voice when I didn’t have one. She very obviously was unhappy and proceeded to tell me that I was not allowed to be off the monitors and that I could not use the shower or the birthing ball. That nurse left and never reentered my room.

The new nurse was awesome! She brought me the birthing ball and offered the shower to me. She also let me off the monitors as soon as my first round of antibiotics was complete. At this point, my contractions were back to back and I had terrible back labor. My doula showed my husband how to do the massages and he countered the pressure with each contraction. We laughed, listened to music, looked at pictures and videos of my oldest son. At one point I told her I could not handle the pain and was afraid I would be in labor for as long as I was the first time. She told me to go to the restroom and empty my bladder. One of the biggest reasons I did not want an epidural was due to the catheter. My husband walked me to the toilet and I continued to labor there for at least 15 minutes. Little did I know, sitting on the toilet rushed me into the beginning stages of transition! By the time I made it back to the bed, I asked the nurse to check me and call in the epi. She asked if I was sure and I told her that I was not sure, but I was scared. I was at a 5. She checked baby’s heartbeat and he was still going steady. Less than 20 minutes later I asked her why it hurt so bad, to which everyone kind of chuckled and had the ‘because you are in labor’ look on their face. She asked if I would like to be checked again. I agreed. She took a look and said “You don’t need this epidural, Amber. You’re baby is coming NOW!” Cue the deer in the headlights look. She JUST told me that I was a 5! In less than 20 minutes I went from 5 to complete! My husband gave me the biggest smile ever and said “You did it! We did it! No epidural!”.

One of the other nurses asked if I would be able to hold off until the doctor, who was delivering another mom at the moment, could make it in. I looked at Katie, the nice nurse, and shook my head no. She said “Alright, I’m going to deliver your baby. Are you okay with that?” to which I just smiled as my body took over and pushed on it’s own, without me thinking or trying. One push. That is all it took. One push and my beautiful 7lb 11.5oz baby boy, who had been sunny side up, was delivered into my arms. The only thing not natural about my delivery was the antibiotics and the fact that I was sitting in a hospital bed. Then I realized I never got my second round of antibiotics. I looked up at the clock. 12:13 a.m. Less than 5 hours from my water breaking. They let us do skin to skin right away while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating before it was cut. He was latched to me.

My perfect birth. My first experience breastfeeding. I felt so empowered, so high on life. After our hour of skin to skin was up, they took him to the other side of the room to check his vitals. I got up out of bed, went to the restroom, walked around. I could not comprehend how much difference there was between my first and second. I never had anything for pain, not even Tylenol in the days following. When someone asks me what I would do if we have a 3rd, I tell them that, hands down, I would have the natural experience a million times over before I’d ever consider being induced again.

Amber's fast hospital birth

Amber's fast, natural hospital birth

hospital birth

delayed cord clamping

placenta prior to encapsulation

breastfeeding, skin to skin

Photography by Angela Roper Photography

Doula Services and Encapsulation Provided by Elsie Naturally Placenta Encapsulation

Birth Without … Me! {A Story of Adoption and Supplemental Nursing}

Birth Without … Me! {A Story of Adoption and Supplemental Nursing}

I had NO water breaking, NO contractions, NO C-section, NO vaginal delivery, absolutely NO pain whatsoever; and yet there had been a birth. My daughter was born and needed a tube-feeding right away.

Only it’s not what you think. It wasn’t for medical reasons. She was perfectly healthy. My baby and I were meeting each other for the first time. It was late at night. I was on an adrenaline rush and was not going to sleep. It’s a good thing too … I’d be awake for hours!

This was an adoption. She was the adoptee. I was the adoptive mom.

Although I’d not been pregnant, I had chosen to experience everything a mother does, from eating for two (smile) to adoptive nursing. It was NOW time to feed her.

Acting Like a Mom

My first decision as a mom was to nurse her at my breast with the aid of a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS), a small tube-feeding system. A close, personal friend was my inspiration as she had done this with her adopted son.

I’d had plenty of time to prepare myself thanks to my Lactation Consultant, Karen Evon.

Karen contacted the hospital’s maternity and nursery teams ahead of time and prepared them for my adoptive-nursing. After birth, I was given a private office with a chair and promptly set up shop with my Igloo ice chest of breast milk. The nurses were curious and supportive, each one coming in to look over my shoulder or ask questions and offer words of praise or encouragement. Sixteen hours later after logging about 5 feedings, with the necessary legal papers signed, our daughter was discharged and we were on a plane headed home.

It Takes A Village

Four friends were pregnant and delivered during the time we waited for our baby to arrive. Generously, they’d offered to supply and freeze breast milk for our long-awaited baby. I affectionately called them my ‘Milk Moms’. Their donations filled my refrigerator’s freezer section with little storage bags of breast-milk.

We all bonded. One of those mothers delivered a day ‘ahead of me’ and I put her breast-milk to use first since our girls were closest in age. There was even colostrum to share. I rented an electric breast pump, a double pumper. She was relieved to have it when her milk came in and from that day on, produced enough for twins!

My husband played a huge part, granted, quite a bit different from the norm.

In addition to all the regular newborn tasks, twice a day he’d make a ‘milk run’ for that liquid gold. Later he would thaw out the little 2-3 ounce bags of that motherlode. I would put the SNS on like a necklace. The little bottle would hang upside-down like an oversized pendant, the small feeding tubes securely taped down. Voila! We were in business. When she wasn’t feeding, I would comfort-nurse her anytime she needed me, on-demand.

Mother and baby, we were connected

I was able to experience so much during those first, wonderful months. At nine weeks, I was stunned and completely thrilled to observe a droplet of milk coming from ME! I ran yelling through the house in disbelief! I immediately phoned Karen and she was at my house in no time. We were ecstatic! Before the birth she’d told me that producing was possible, but encouraged me to focus on the bonding and closeness instead, and gratefully I had.

Well, there in my living room, we were witnessing icing on the proverbial cake! The calendar declared it was Mother’s Day weekend. There couldn’t have been a more life-affirming moment for me. In less than 24 hours, my parents, grandparents, siblings with their spouses and children would be arriving to help me celebrate with a Baby Dedication at church.

Karen made arrangements to attend my daughter’s next paediatrician appointment. It was during that visit, after placing her on the scale before and after BREASTFEEDING, that the weight calculations showed I was producing about 30% of her intake! So amazingly sweet! The doctor wrote the astonishing notes in the chart.

Karen published an article about my experience soon after. I continued to breastfeed my baby until she was 16 months old.

That was in 1987.

The Present, With Presents!

Today, my daughter is a mother to two beautiful children, my grandchildren; a girl and a boy, homebirths, the last one, a feature of your Birth Without Fear blog entitled, “Beautiful (Surprise) Breech Home Birth” on October 9th, 2012. I am so proud of her and am enjoying this new phase of life as a grandmother.

Breastfeeding in the Wilderness: Portraits and a Story

Breastfeeding in the Wilderness: Portraits and a Story

We are thrilled to share this breastfeeding story and series of portraits, sent in by Rebecca. She writes, “Recently we had our family portraits done and I requested some breastfeeding portraits with my sweet baby. I love how they turned out and thought I would share them with you.

Breastfeeding for me was a nightmare. It’s a long story, but against all odds Baby and I have made it to 12 months and have decided to keep going. I originally wanted these photos taken when he was nine months old, but I am so glad it didn’t work out because I realized that not many women in my community breastfeed past 9-12 months. I wanted portraits done that were conservative (for my own personal reasons), yet portrayed the beauty of breastfeeding, particularly for an older child in hopes that other Mommas would feel confident and supported in breastfeeding past 12 months.

These were taken in a thicket on our farm at sunset.

Of course I had to have some with our sling too (made by my best friend back home specifically for big babies – he weighed 9 lbs, 3 oz at birth). I love that he still loves his sling even at one year. He still eats and takes naps in it, too.

And of course my “Hippie” look wouldn’t be complete without a Baltic Amber necklace. 🙂

I have always loved breastfeeding in the “wilderness.” I feel closer to God and closer to the special Spirit that thrives in our little man’s body.

The biggest thing that makes me feel proud and accomplished as a Breastfeeding Mom is that I was always told I wouldn’t be able to for medical reasons, but with some guidance and changing my health I was able to. It was a lot of work. I also exclusively breastfed my baby for 10.5 months until a health issue forced us to start him on solids (I had set a goal to exclusively breastfeed for 12 months.) Still, he was 98% exclusively breastfed until his first birthday at which he weighed 22 lbs, 4 1/2 oz.

In no way do I feel like I failed in my goal. I look back to those first weeks and months and can’t believe how far we’ve come, despite the lack of support and biochemistry working against us. Seeing these images and knowing what they represent for me makes me feel like a rock star. 🙂

All photographs are by Sami Jo Photography – www.samijophoto.com

And my little disclaimer on exclusively breastfeeding: It really isn’t for everyone. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of prayer and research went into this decision. It was a really personal decision we made. We felt it would greatly benefit our baby.”

Sojourning Earthside: Breastfeeding and Bonding

Sojourning Earthside: Breastfeeding and Bonding

Julie Sadler of Sojourners Photography in Roanoake, VA shares these beautiful pictures of her family welcoming their newest member, Jude.

Julie writes, “I love the encouragement and support shared on your FB page/blog for women and all of the choices we make in caring for our bodies as well as our babies. For me, photos that evoke the mystery of the unborn child being real, whole, and at full potential both in utero and once out are beautiful and help us garner respect for the mystery and miracle that each pregnancy and childbirth is. I gleaned so much wisdom & comfort from the BWF community during my last pregnancy with baby # 5. He was born ALL NATURAL on the floor of the shower in the hospital on June 14th, weighing 10 lbs. 5.6 oz.! He made quite an entrance and was rather famous at the hospital…

 

…Now I am so inspired by all of the breastfeeding pictures – I plan to take more of my own! I am currently tandem nursing lil man (Jude) as well as his big sissie (Faith Ruby), who just turned 4. The breastfeeding relationship is also of keen interest to me, as I have been pregnant &/or nursing for nearly 14 years now. What an adventure!

Here’s my Dad meeting his newest Grandson for the first time, in June. I loved the contrast of his big strong rugged hands against the new soft skin of the babe.

Here is my step-Dad holding Jude and (I got lucky), catching a dreamy smile!

…And last but not least, my hubby – one of the world’s BEST DADS! He is absolutely smitten with this lil guy – our # 5!

We’re out for a walk one week after delivery. I love how small this 10 1/2 lb baby looks in Daddy’s arms.

So, yeah while we have our hands full (as people love to say to us), our hearts couldn’t possibly take much more!”

 

See more of Julie’s photography at http://www.sojournersphotography.com

And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SojournersPhotography

 

Powerful Labor, Gentle Cesarean, Breastfed on Operating Table

Powerful Labor, Gentle Cesarean, Breastfed on Operating Table

On Tuesday Sept. 25th, after two weeks of prodromal labor, I awoke just before 6 am with my bleeding and cramping. At that point, my surges became much more intense and more regular. I called the birth center, and my midwife Cathy G. was thrilled for me and told me to check in when things got more intense. That night around 11 pm, the surges really took off, and I labored all night on my own, finally waking my husband Frank at 4 am when I really needed his support. I knew this was finally happening for real.

I called the birth center at 6 am to find that Cathy had slept there knowing I was “going to go”. She told me to come in at 8 am to get checked. When I arrived, it was Katie who was now on call, and she checked me. I was only 1 centimeter dilated. Of course, I was disappointed because the surges were so intense, and I was having back labor as well. I went home to continue laboring, and at Katie’s suggestion I spent a lot of time on hands and knees to get the baby out of a slightly posterior position.

At 4 pm we went to the birth center to be checked again, as Frank had to go to work that night. I was deflated when I found out that I was 2 cm. I was sent home again, and Frank went to work. Thankfully, my friend Nina (who is a Doula), was with me to support me that evening.

At around 10 pm, I decided to take a shower to see if I could relax and get some sleep. The hot water felt amazing on my back, but when I got out of the shower, it all broke loose. I was in full-blown, undeniable labor. I called Katie and told her I was coming in. Nina and I went to the birth center, and when Katie checked me, I was still at 2 cm. I begged her to not send me home, and she agreed that I should stay there, get some IV fluids and use the birth ball to get the baby in better position. Frank arrived at around 1 am, and I felt like everything got easier with him there to put counter-pressure on my back, and to remind me to relax my jaw and my shoulders with each surge. Just his presence made me feel more relaxed.

Around 3 am, Katie checked me and told me I was progressing, so I requested to get in the tub. I labored in the tub for quite awhile, and Katie and the nurse prepped for the baby’s arrival. As the sun was coming up, I started to feel something in the pit of my stomach. Something was wrong. The surges were spacing farther apart, and the baby was not coming down. The next midwife, Cathy P., came in to start her shift at 8 am, and I got on the bed to be checked. She broke the news to me that I was still only 4 cm. I was heartbroken and confused. How could I only be this far along when I had been laboring for two days? She then told me her honest opinion that she felt I needed to transfer to the hospital for Pitocin and an epidural so I could sleep and progress. We were over 50 hours into natural labor, and we weren’t getting anywhere. I trusted Cathy’s instincts and made the heart-wrenching decision to transfer. I remember sitting on the toilet, Frank sitting on the edge of the birthing tub, both of us crying because we knew how much I wanted the natural delivery which wasn’t going to happen.

The hardest part of my labor was actually between the time I left the birthing center at 10 am and when I received the epidural at around 11 am. This hour was excruciating because I had mentally given up on the natural birth, and I was beyond exhausted. Thankfully, I had Frank, Nina, Cathy, and a wonderful labor and delivery nurse named Alice to support me. Once the epidural was administered, I was immediately comfortable and able to rest while the Pitocin did its work. I labored this way from 11 am until 5 am the next morning, with Cathy coming in every 2 hours to check me, and my beautiful angel of a nurse Alice regularly bringing me chicken broth, lemon ices, and vitamin waters to give me strength.

At 5 am, Cathy told me I was finally 10 cm dilated and fully thinned, so she directed me to start pushing. I pushed and pushed and pushed while getting feeling back in my legs and pelvis. When Cathy and Frank told me they could both see the baby’s head, my energy and determination were renewed. After 2 hours of pushing, Cathy told me she didn’t think I was making enough progress, that the baby wasn’t clearing the pelvis, and my pushes were getting weak. I begged her to let me keep working, so she agreed since the baby’s heart rate was fine. At 8 am, Cathy G. came in for her shift, and I asked her to let me keep pushing. I pushed for a total of 5 hours, in every imaginable position.

Cathy finally told me that her gut was telling her that it wasn’t his head coming down, but rather his head molding and creating the illusion of coming down. She broke the news to me that she thought a c-section was necessary now, and she earnestly said that she didn’t want to see an emergency situation. Again, I had to put my trust in the instincts of an experienced midwife. I grieved hard at this decision. I truly felt like my body let me down, and I felt like a failure. I would later learn that the baby was large (9 lbs 3 oz, 23 inches, and a 38 cm head) and also oblique, and his head had indeed been molding instead of coming down.

I tearfully told Cathy and Alice that I was mostly sad to not be getting the skin-to-skin contact with my baby with a c-section, to which Cathy said “Well, maybe you can”. She had a light in her eyes. She talked to the nurse, the attending OB, and the anesthesiologist and got them all on board with the plan that if the baby checked out okay, I could have skin-to-skin. Cathy told me to start calling for my baby once she gave me the ‘okay’ sign, explaining that she could not demand my baby be given to me. I had to do it.

Alice covered me with warm blankets, and I was wheeled into the icy operating room. I started laughing hysterically (or nervously) when suddenly there were, what seemed like, a dozen people fussing over me in the O.R., getting me hooked up and ready for surgery. Frank and Cathy then came in, and the operation started. I concentrated on relaxation breathing and Frank’s calming voice to combat the feeling of panic I could feel rising in my chest as they were cutting through the layers of my belly. I breathed slowly as I felt them pushing and pulling to get the baby out. When Franco cried loudly as they took him out of me, Frank and I both wailed in excitement and joy. It was done, and our baby was fine.

A few minutes later, Cathy told me the baby was ready. I started calling out “Where’s my baby?! Bring me my baby! I want my baby!” They brought him to me, and I will never forget the look of recognition when he was placed next to my face and I began talking to him. He was wide-awake and alert!

I threw the blankets off, and Frank and Cathy put Franco on my chest, skin-to-skin. With their help, Franco was held in place and latched on immediately. I was nursing him while my gut was filleted open with my organs outside my body during the repair part of the surgery! I found out later that this was the first time this has ever happened at our hospital.

After a bit, I started to get very woozy and felt I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. The labor and ensuing surgery were finally taking their toll. Frank took the baby (and had his own skin-to-skin time in the OR!), and all of us went to recovery together.

I was in and out of consciousness and shaking uncontrollably, but Cathy once again put Franco on my breast and helped him nurse. I recall her saying “Look at all that great colostrum!” as she squeezed my breast to prepare it for latching. In my fog, I was completely frustrated that I couldn’t participate in the experience the way I wanted to, but my heart was leaping for joy knowing I wasn’t going to be separated from my son and that he was getting what he needed at that moment. He was never taken to the nursery during the whole experience.

The recovery was difficult after over 75 hours of labor, 5 hours of pushing, and a c-section, and I have had to grieve the loss of the gentle birth I so wanted for my son, but I’ve learned that sometimes life hands you a difficult situation to teach you lessons about yourself. I am realizing that I didn’t let anyone down, and my body didn’t malfunction. It just happened this way. Cathy calls me a warrior after going through enough labor to birth 4 babies. In the end, I had to make a sacrifice to ensure the safe delivery of my son. I will always wish I could have had a different experience, and I have come to terms with that loss. And, of course, I have this beautiful, feisty, always-hungry baby boy to remind me that motherhood was the ultimate goal, no matter what twists and turns the path took.

 

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