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Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

Plan Your Baby Moments {Baby’s First Year}

I recently posted about this new rad camera Canon sent me. Check it out here. I am an iPhone picture taker, but having this on hand has been a game changer!

Canon Canada is releasing a new app to help parents capture sweet memories of baby’s first year! This time is such a flies by so quickly, that it’s easy to forget to do so. I took one look at the app suggestions and knew just what to do! I asked a bunch of local moms with adorable babies to meet up at a park so we could get the cutest baby pictures ever!

Here are some inspired by the Canon Canada app. I’m not a professional photographer and these are not edited. We just had fun with beautiful families and a Canon Rebel SL1 and 50mm lens. Not to mention, these moms are happy to have these moments captured on camera to save forever.

First steps.

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And dirt.

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Kids usually love swings! This little guy had other thoughts.

You think he’s smiling…

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But don’t be fooled.

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He was so mad at us, but capturing these pictures was hilarious and great!

So we tried again with this cute little one and…SUCCESS!

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Love that little foot and smile in the background.

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Some babies love tummy time, some can’t stand it. This adorable baby loved it!

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Oh, but first we had to wake him up. Haha, thank goodness for a fast camera so we were able to capture it.

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Inbetween our sessions, I captured these candid moments between one mom and her son.

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The amount of bonding, releasing of hormones, growth and love by simply holding your baby is not only incredible, but important.

We have the dad hold.

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The gazing and smiling into each other’s eyes.

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Breastfeeding on the go.

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The hip hold.

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And of course we can’t forget baby wearing!

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Parenthood can be a blur and it’s hard to remember precious moments just as they are. If you can capture them, it will help you remember these sweet moments you otherwise may not (in such detail). Yes, put the phone down and soak in this time, but sometimes pick up a great camera and record the every changing first year (and beyond) of baby’s life!

What other special moments did you make sure to capture of your baby’s first year? Follow up post to come!

All photos copyright of BWF, LLC. Post sponsored in party by Canon Canada.

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

***When I wrote my piece on community support and its effect on breastfeeding, we had a huge request for a follow up piece about breastfeeding and the workplace. So mamas – here it is!***

Breastfeeding in today’s social climate is sometimes an uphill battle. Not only do we encounter booby traps from the media and cultural cues but we also have to avoid traps set by our care providers and hospitals and even from our loved ones and friends. Now, if we avoid all those negative influences, have proper educational sources, and hopefully some positive social support we have a decent chance of reaching our breastfeeding goals. But then the majority of us need to return to work. What is a mom to do? What are our rights?

Simply put, breastfeeding works easiest (usually) when the baby can be at the breast on demand and without interruption. That is how nature designed the system to work. Nature never expected us to live in a society where it takes two people working 40+ hours a week just to make a decent living. Our breasts simply don’t have that sort of knowledge, expectation, or wiring. Luckily the invention of the breast pump came into our lives.

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Mothers who work and continue to breastfeed, be it directly (baby comes to work or comes to visit) or through pumping, deserve major respect and kudos. I know as a stay-at-home-mom that I have it easier in many respects when it comes to maintaining my breastfeeding relationship. A working mother has to figure out not only the logistics of making sure her supply is maintained, but also the logistics of making sure her rights as a breastfeeding mother are respected.

Because of the many changes to the law, varying laws in some states, and the newest changes to insurance and breastfeeding coverage, I wanted to create one easy resource with all the information in one place. After all, you are a new mom and you have a baby on your breast (a lot) and you only have two hands and so many hours in the day. So let me do the leg (or rather mouse) work for you.

Starting at the federal level, I am going to look at the United States Department of Labor and what they say about nursing/pumping and the workplace. The basis of the federal law has to do with changes from the Affordable Care Act:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

To break this down a bit further, there is a specific fact sheet HERE. Some highlights include a note that the number of breaks, duration, and frequency will likely vary from mother to mother. The location made available to the mother must NOT be a bathroom and must be private with some security from coworkers walking in. It does not have to be a dedicated space just for pumping, but needs to be available to the mother when she needs to pump. [As an example, some businesses will offer an office to use that has a lock.]

Now the cravat (and where many businesses fall through the loophole) is that if a business has less than 50 employees they are not required to provide pumping time or space if it would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. [Never mind undue hardship to the mother and baby I suppose.] They do have to demonstrate to the Labor Department that it would cause the hardship to the business. You are also not covered by this if you are exempt from Section 7 protection (however, State laws could cover you). The break time also does not have to compensated (unpaid breaks). These federal standards do not override any higher protection given by states in which the woman lives.

They provide a PDF of a handy card to carry with your rights on it HERE, and if you need a file a complaint you can do so HERE.

Looking at the state level, additional rights vary. An overview of state laws and links can be found HERE at the National Conference of State Legislators. While 45 states have laws ensuring mothers can breastfeed in public and 28 further protect that public feeding from indecency laws, only 24 states have laws related to breastfeeding and the workplace (along with D.C and Puerto Rico). Those states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, [As an authors note: I am happy to say that my states protects breastfeeding mothers in public, from indecency laws, and at work!]

I wanted to see which states go above and beyond the current federal protections, since some of the states listed above simply reiterate the federal standards. Those states include:

  • Colorado: the federal standards are extended to TWO years after the birth of the child, and the Department of Labor in that state provides a list of ways for employers to accommodate nursing mothers.
  • Hawaii: specifically prohibits an employer from denying employment, withholding pay, demoting, or in any other way discriminating against a lactating employee. Another plus for Hawaii: they also give any mother who is discriminated against at work or in any public place the right to a private cause of action against the person or business who infringes on her rights. This actually gives the public breastfeeding law there some “teeth” to protect the mother with more than words.
  • Indiana: any state or political places of employment must provide PAID breaks for the expression of milk. Any employer with more than 25 employees must make every effort of accommodate a mother to federal standards and also to provide a refrigerator for storage of milk.
  • Louisiana: state-owned buildings, educational institutions, and certain office buildings must all provide suitable areas for breastfeeding and lactation. (While not specific, this seems to imply that a lactation room is needed in these locations)
  • Maine: provides for a mother to provide milk for her child at work for THREE years after the birth of her child. They also specify they the mother cannot be discriminated against in the workplace for her choice to pump milk.
  • Montana: specifies that a storage location (fridge) must be available to mothers who express milk.
  • North Dakota: creates the term “infant friendly” that can be used on employment information if an employer complies with certain policies such as adequate break times and work patterns for expression of milk, safe and convenient space to express milk, and a fridge to store milk in within the work place.
  • Oregon: allows for a 30 minute break every 4 hour shift for the expression of milk (though some businesses can be exempt).
  • Puerto Rico: allows for women to have the opportunity to nurse their baby directly for 30 minutes during each full-time work day for up to one year.
  • Texas: creates the designation of “mother friendly” for businesses to use if they make efforts to accommodate working nursing mothers.
  • Vermont: provides protection of pumping right for up to THREE years after the birth of the child and creates a task force to encourage and improve workplace pumping policies.
  • Washington: also uses the designation “infant friendly” for employers, similar to North Dakota (above).

Any states not listed above all must still follow the federal guidelines. These above states simply have specific laws giving extra protections.

Now this next bit is where I will admit, I get confused. You might too. Insurance issues are swampy in this country (well, for American readers) due to the massive variety of coverage levels, copays, etc, etc, etc. Health insurance is enough to give me a headache. However, I am going to try to pry what I can from the changes at the federal level (though from what I have heard from mothers, some insurance plans or providers can still wiggle around; for instance plans that were “grandfathered” in).

On this fact sheet we see that breastfeeding and lactation services and products are mentioned. It states that pregnant and postpartum women be given access to coverage for lactation consultants and counselors from trained providers and have coverage for breast pumps and related supplies. They state that non-grandfathered plans must do this, but that they still have the freedom to decide at what level they will provide coverage and what they will cover. This leaves things very murky.

The HealthCare.gov page doesn’t really clear things up much either. The pump can be covered before or after baby gets here, at the insurance companies discretion. The pump covered can be rented (for a certain period) or yours to keep. It can cover a manual or electric pump, single or double. Again, this is all up to the insurance, not on you and your needs. Sometimes a recommendation from your doctor can override the basic coverage of a policy. For instance, many women report that a “prescription” from their doctor for a pump or pump rental allowed the insurance company to cover what they needed. Medela*** provides a helpful little list of list for figuring out your coverage. One thing that does seem to be clear is that for non-grandfathered plans, a lactation consultant should be covered with no co-pay.

The bottom line with insurance coverage for pumps and lactation help is to be proactive and get on the phone with your insurance company. Don’t take “no” for an answer – talk to as many people as you need to. Sometimes the person you first connect with won’t know the answers but might not admit that – they may just give a generic answer and hope to satisfy you enough to get you off the phone. One thing I have learned from my mom (an insurance-company-phone-talking whiz) is to write down each call you make. Write down the person’s name and extension, what you ask and what they say. That way if you call back you know everything you were told and don’t get flustered. It is also a good idea to write down your questions before hand.

The bottom line for navigating the workplace and breastfeeding and pumping rights is to know your rights and be prepared. Your employer may not have dealt with this before, so you don’t necessarily have to go in with guns blazing. But be ready to stand up and help educate them not only on the law, but also on the benefits for the workplace that come with your baby getting breastmilk. Working on preparing both your workplace for postpartum and pumping and navigating your insurance before the birth of your baby will make the start of your breastfeeding relationship smooth and less stressful.

Breastfeeding and Benefits for the Employer (further reading):

 Pumping Tips from the Pros (aka, other mamas!):

  • Having a picture or video of baby is helpful for letdown. You can focus on your little one and let the oxytocin flow.
  • Get a good pump. This will vary from mom to mom, but generally a double electric pump is the fastest way to get the most milk. However, some moms have better luck with single pumps, manual pumps, or hand expression.
  • Consider two pumps – one for work and one for home, that way you don’t ever forget your pump.
  • If your job means you are mobile, keep a manual pump with you in your purse or consider a battery operated pump or car adapter.
  • Relax for a minute or two before pumping. Take that time to have a drink of water, think about baby, and just unwind. Tension makes letdown harder.
  • A hands-free pumping bra can be a life saver. You can also “diy” one, just check out pinterest/google for ideas.
  • Try to pump at the same times each day if you can, it will help your body regulate and prepare for a good letdown.
  • Know what your employers breastfeeding/pumping set up and rules are before you have baby. You want time to negotiate for what you need.
  • Nursing at night can help bolster supply. Night feedings give the strongest cue to make more milk and provide the most fatty milk of the day.
  • Never hesitate to seek help or guidance if you feel supply is low or you need help with your pump.
  • Pay attention to flange size – if the flange is too large or too small it will not get milk out as well.
  • A little olive or coconut oil around the inside of the flange can help with soreness.
  • Be sure your child’s care provider is not over-feeding. This is a common problem for breastfed babies who also take bottles and will kill your freezer stash. Kellymom has a great guide HERE. (there is a PDF link as well)
  • There is a handy milk calculator to see how much your baby should need while you are gone HERE.

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***Birth Without Fear is not affiliated with Medela or any breastpump/breastfeeding supply company, nor do we promote any one company. This list was just a helpful source found for this article.

Capturing Sweet Memories

Capturing Sweet Memories

Recently Canon Canada contacted me about their Rebel SL1 and a new app they are launching. They asked if I’d like to try it out. Now, I’m a 100% iPhone pic kind of gal, but thought, “Hey, why not? I have a lot of kids and am always around cute babies!”

I started playing with it and absolutely fell in love. I am in just the beginning stages of learning all this Rad Rebel has to offer, so I can not wait until I know more!

A close up of my sweet girl.

Sweet Girl, Cannon SL1

Something I am already madly in love with is the continuous shooting option. When you choose this option, you can hold down the shutter button and it will take photo after photo. Something I can’t do on my iPhone as it needs to readjust after each shot! This comes in handy with 5 young children, especially my youngest spirited child. I managed to get a full tantrum on camera and it’s adorable (on film, not in person).

Expression of the spirited child, Cannon SL1

Potatoes, Cannon SL1

After just a few hours with this camera in my hand, I’ve realized how many family memories and fun, sweet moments I have not been capturing and I am so glad I can now change that.

Jumping, Canon SL1

These eyes are seeing the world through this amazing piece of equipment, including myself. Beautiful imperfections.

Imperfections, January Harshe

To be continued…

*This post sponsored in part by Canon Canada. All pictures taken with a Canon Rebel SL1 and Canon 50 mm lens and opinions are my own.

Feeding the Children: Memories of a Single-Mom Childhood

Feeding the Children: Memories of a Single-Mom Childhood

Several months ago, I wrote ‘Eating is a Family Affair‘, a post detailing the many ways my husband supports me in breastfeeding. I loved reading the comments readers left. There were lots of mamas tagging their partners and thanking them for their support (love!). Some comments were from moms whose partners did not support them in their breastfeeding (tears!). And some were from single moms who said, “Wow, I do this all on my own. I feel like a superhero.”

Props.

Big, big props.

Many single mothers have great support systems. But many do not. And it’s true that raising a child or children without support is a superhuman act – an act always driven by love, hard work, and sometimes a measure of desperation. Single mothers are an important part of the Birth Without Fear community. So today, I’m writing about the single mom I know and love the best: my own.

NB: Every single motherhood (and every single-motherhood) experience is different. I hope that as you read this post you take it not as a criticism of your own parenting, but as a story about the way hers was.

My mom was 38 when she had me and 43 when she had my sister. She cuddled, clothed, and fed us well up into each of our eighteenth years, at which point we left for college and I’m pretty sure she did a happy dance on the front porch.

She must have been tired – nay, exhausted! – looking after us but I rarely felt it. As a mom now, I know how easy it is to snap at my kids when I’m sleep deprived and stressed out. I am full of admiration for the gentle ways she treated us.

We had money problems. Stay-up-late-scheming-ways-to-get-money-to-pay-for-necessities money problems. She could simply have told us that we couldn’t get new clothes. Instead, she took us to the dustiest, cheapest thrift stores and let us run wild with the dollars we had. My clothes never matched or fit right, but I always looked… jazzy.

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I’ve never met a woman more confident about being on her own. If I were in her shoes, I would be tempted to look for a Man to look after us, and her. But she had no time for that. She just said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and fixed the plumbing herself.

Instead of forcing my high-needs little sister to go to school every day, she let her stay home when she needed to take a day off. This seemed so normal at the time, but now I see that every day she accommodated my sister, she made a sacrifice. It was the sacrifice of her own personal time, of that little sliver of non-kid identity I try so hard to maintain in my life now.

Instead of telling us to sit down and be quiet or using the TV as a babysitter, my mom restricted TV to one hour per day and installed a gymnastics bar hanging from our living room ceiling.

She took in foreign students. As a kid, I sometimes resented their intrusion into “our” family. As an adult, I can’t fathom taking on more responsibility when things were already so crazy. Twenty years later, she still gets Christmas cards from students I only vaguely remember but who, obviously, remember her.

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She made us dinner. She could have said, “I’m too tired, go fend for yourself.” But (usually) she didn’t.
(sometimes she did, and that was OK, too)

I went to a small alternative school that allowed me to read all day. We couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead of telling me I had to drop out, she became the school janitor.

There were always a few dollars on the kitchen fireplace mantle in case we needed to buy milk from the corner store when she was out. Instead of worrying that her kids would take it to buy candy, she trusted us. I never once abused it.

Some yahoos (her word) removed the STOP sign from a busy street corner near our house. I guess they thought it would be funny. Mom survived the accident but the car didn’t. We couldn’t get a new one. Instead of canceling our extracurricular activities, she bought an oversized adult tricycle and ferried us around in it.

Yup.

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We were embarrassed. But she wasn’t.

Years later, she bought a third-hand camper van and drove us all the way to Montreal. We had to pull over all the time because it was so top-heavy we were being blown off the road. No matter what, every day she made me come up to the front cab for a French lesson. She can’t hear out of her right ear and her left was drowned out by the rattle of the vehicle and the sound of Trans-Canada highway traffic. I remember shouting: “Je… SUIS! Tu… ES!! Il… EST!!!”  Conjugation quality time is the best quality time.

Hilarious, warm, imperfect, intelligent, sensitive, and willing to put everything on the line for her kids. My mom showed me what being a parent is all about. It’s not money, it’s not appearances, it’s not parenting according to a book or a guru or a website. In the poetry of Oriah Mountain Dreamer, it’s waking up “…after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and doing what needs to be done to feed the children.”

Thank you, mama.

In Pursuit of Perfection

In Pursuit of Perfection

Let me start this post by saying, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Yep. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. And I am about to admit to you that I AM NOT PERFECT.

I’m learning to live with it.

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Society in general is pretty obsessed with perfection. We want perfect bodies, perfect jobs, perfect houses, perfect lives. Messy relationships, screaming kids, stretch marks, boring jobs…not exactly the “American Dream.”

But the idea of perfection has been taken to a whole new level with women. As women, as mothers, as wives – we are held to ideals. We are supposed to be beautiful, skinny, smart, sexy. We are supposed to be Wonderwoman of the PTA, June Cleaver of the home, and alluring in the bedroom. Not only does society push these ideals on us, but we push them on ourselves and each other (aka, “Mommy Wars”).

This pursuit of personal perfection is what I really want to touch on. This is something I have been working on within myself. As Birth Without Fear has turned a spotlight onto self-love, I have noticed my biggest issues. (I know, not the core of self-love, but hear me out). I have found that the biggest way I am cheating myself is in this idea that I should be perfect. Not only should I be perfect, but I need to prove it to the world.

I have a Pinterest account with almost 1,400 pins.

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I mean, REALLY? When am I ever going to get around to doing 1,400 things? Most of which are focused on cute/non-essential things. Sure, about 150 pins are birth related. About another 150 are homeschool related. But other than that…basically it is one big to-do list for me. That is around 1,000 things that I felt the need to remind myself to do. And when I accomplish one of them? This is what I do:

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Yes, that is my fridge. I put baskets in it, because Pinterest told me to. Now granted, it really did help keep the fridge in order. But honestly, did I have to prove myself to Facebook? Did I have to let everyone know that my fridge was clean? Several days after posting this, a thought hit me. “What if I made someone else feel like they need to clean their fridge?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all stop posting photos of those moments when the laundry room is finally clean, or the walls get a new coat of paint. But I do think that we create a paradox here. If we only post photos and statuses of when we have out “$hit together”, we are telling ourselves we are only allowed to share our perfect selves. And that is not self-love.

I take pictures of my kids all the time, most moms do. But only a fraction are posted to Facebook or shared with family. Sometimes it is due to the blurry capture of a running child, or the fact that I have already posted a million things that day. But usually the biggest reason I decide not to post something? You can see a mess in the background. You can see crumbs on the carpet or the dingy soapscum in the bathtub. You can see the dishes I have not washed or the toys that seemingly procreate each night while we sleep. I don’t post the photos because I don’t want you to know that we have a mess in the house…a house with a three year old and six month old and two not-so-neat adults.

Who am I helping when I don’t share those photos? Surely not my children who are adorable and love taking pictures. Surely not my family who would love to see photos of every little thing we do. And I am not helping myself or you either. For myself, I am just reminding myself, “Damn, I haven’t vacuumed yet. This place is so gross.” And for all of you out in Facebook land, I am only showing the most perfect side of my life. As far as you know, my house is always spotless and my kids are always dressed nicely. And then you turn around and judge yourself by those standards, whether you realize it or not.

To give an example, lets look at a common mommy subject – potty training. I have majorly struggled with this within myself (with admitting my three year old is not potty trained, not that I can’t use the potty 😉 ). What is the one thing we usually hear most? “Oh, my child was potty trained at 10 months!”, “Oh, we were diaper free all the time, even for bed, by the time he turned two!” And you know what, if that was your kid that is GREAT! I would be excited too! I mean, who really loves diapers? But you really don’t see a mom say “My three year old refuses to poop in the potty and hates underwear.” Why? Because society in general has told us that there is something wrong if a child doesn’t “get” the potty at an early age. Not only are our mothering skills brought into question, but we also think someone might judge our child too. And so, we don’t share and we don’t ask for help or maybe we even tell a little white lie about how well the potty learning is going. And then we unknowingly add to this idea that all kids are potty trained by “x” age.

I find myself not sharing certain photos of me baby-wearing simply because the straps pushed my love handles into view. I go as far as deleting a photo totally if my REAL smile is caught on camera because I am really insecure about my teeth. I am striving to help other women feel inspired and beautiful and I am striving to teach my children to love themselves just as they are. Meanwhile, I am deleting photos of myself or hiding my love handles. I am not going to become skinny or have better teeth by doing this…but I am going to slowly wear down my self esteem. I am not living honestly.

We do this to so many things in our lives. I catch myself judging myself in all these little ways so often. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I am striving to not only recognize these moments but to also push my boundaries a bit. Perhaps, just maybe, if I post that photo of my adorable toddler dancing complete with crumb covered carpet some other mom won’t feel so alone in her struggle to keep the crumbs away. Chances are, most people won’t even notice the carpet because my son is stealing the show with his amazing smile. I am going to focus on the fact that *I* made that kid smile…hell, I MADE that smile, literally. I created that ball of joy. Screw the carpet.

Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

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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.

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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.

Prepping for Your Home Birth Without Fear {The Ultimate List}

Prepping for Your Home Birth Without Fear {The Ultimate List}

One of the most common questions about homebirth from those considering it is, “What do you need?” While the list of supplies varies from midwife to midwife, there are some basic things that almost everyone is going to need to gather in preparation for the birth. There will also be things you will (probably) want to do for your comfort and peace of mind before “go time”. This is meant to be an Ultimate (I hope I thought of everything) List, but please don’t stress yourself to cover all the little extras. Birth really is pretty basic. This list is long and detailed so that you have a chance to consider everything you might want to do, not everything you have to do.

Early Prep

While not everyone plans a homebirth from the start, many women do. If you can get a head start on a few things it makes the final months much more peaceful. After you have lined up your midwife, get a head start on your prep.

One of the first things you can do is to create a peaceful space. (Right about now mothers of small children are laughing). If you know which room/area you plan to use then work in the early months to slowly declutter and create your space. Your nesting urge will come in handy with this as well.

If you have older children, you will want to decide if you want them at the birth or not. If you do there are things you can do to prep your child for the birth. Some things will depend on their age – for instance a one year old won’t need the same prep as a 5 year old. Older children may be interested in the mechanics of birth and understand more. You know your children best. Birth can be a beautiful family event if you decide to have your children there. And if you don’t think you want them there – no guilt! Everyone labors differently.

For younger children helpful prep includes books, videos, and role playing. There are a few children’s books out there that discuss homebirth, one of my favorites is called Hello Baby by Jenni Overend. It is beautifully illustrated and is great for little ones. Birth videos are also great for prepping kids. I previewed many, many homebirth videos on youtube and created a little playlist of those I thought my son could see. I included water births, “land” births, quiet moms, loud moms, and especially videos that included the whole family.

Speaking of “loud” moms – this is where the role playing comes in. While I was a very quiet laborer with my first born, I wasn’t sure if I would be again. We never know how labor will go (and I wasn’t quiet the second time, by the way). So we discussed as we watched the videos that mommy may “Roar”. I talked about roaring like a dinosaur or a lion. We had a lot of fun roaring at each other and I explained that if mommy roars it is okay – I am not hurting and it just means the baby is coming soon. Apparently this worked really well since my two year old was not phased at all by my roaring at the birth – and I was loud!

Another opportunity for prep and role play with little ones can include your midwife visits. Many homebirth midwives do home visits for prenatals or have offices that are child friendly. I made my son a little midwife kit of his own, including a little plush placenta I whipped up with some felt. During my appointments in our home he “helped” my midwife and we talked about the baby. All of this helps children feel included in this life changing event.

plush placenta

Now whether you decide to have your children at the birth or not, I highly suggest lining up a support person for them. If they are going to be taken somewhere else for the birth be sure they are comfortable at the location and with the support person. Also try to pick someone with a flexible schedule who can be “on call” for the birth.

If they are going to be staying with you for the birth then you need to pick a special person. You need to pick a person who is there just for the child/children. This means that if they need to leave the house or room and miss the birth, they will be 100% okay with that. I would suggest clearing this specifically with them, since in some cases support people at home births might be signing up in the hopes of being a spectator. This isn’t the point of a support person for the older child. Be sure to acclimate them to your routines and places they can go with your kids. Discuss car seats if they need to drive the children anywhere. While this may seem over-kill it will give peace of mind in the last weeks and while in labor. It also clears up your support team to work just for you during the birth and not have to split their attention.

You will also want to consider if you want a doula for your home birth. Be sure to set up an interview and get someone who you feel is comfortable in your home and is preferably experienced or knowledgeable about home birth. Another part of your team to consider is a birth photographer. Again, interview them and be sure they make you feel comfortable. It also helps if they understand home birth or have shot one before, since they have different highlights and flow than a hospital birth.

Almost to the Finish Line!

Once you hit about 32 weeks, order your birth kit. This may seem a bit early, but some companies take a few weeks to ship. Or, if you are lucky like me, it will get lost in the mail because apparently your house is invisible to UPS. This also gives time to clear up any issues if the order is wrong or missing something. You don’t want to be stressed at the last minute!

There are many places to order birth kits and your midwife may have a custom kit set up with a particular company. You can also order kits of your own making or a basic kit from places such a In His Hands or Baby, Birth and Beyond. *

Basic Supplies Include:

Now that is just a starter list, and as I mentioned above some midwives will want more or less or different items. Some additional items might be an herbal after bath, different herbal items (for cord care or afterpains), Depends-type underwear, and a “birth certificate” and foot printing kit. You can also take off items from a premade kit on most sites, and substitute in your own items. For instance you may get your own postpartum pads and “depends” (hey, those are handy the first day or so!). The one thing I suggest not skimping on is the chux pads. Most births require a good amount of them, and they are handy after birth too. I tend to use them for a couple months under my sheets to protect the mattress from breastmilk leaks in the night.

Once you have ordered your birth kit it gets exciting! You have all these cool things ready to go, so what do you do with them until the big day? Enter the plastic tote.

boxes

I love “totes”. Really – my house is full of these lovely plastic boxes. It makes everything look organized, even if you really just threw stuff in there eight years ago when company was coming over. But I digress. Plastic totes are perfect for organizing your birth supplies. The above picture is actually my birth supplies from my second birth. The top tote has all the little stuff. Here was my personal list:

  • Everything from the basic list above, plus a few additional items from my midwife’s list
  • Several hair ties (in a small plastic baggie, taped to the inside of the box)
  • Chapstick (in the small plastic baggie as well)
  • A roll of paper towels
  • My heating pads, both the plug-in version and my rice heat pack
  • A bath robe

The bottom tote has all the linens I would need. For the bed I had a fitted sheet and flat sheet, a plastic bed protector (I actually scored that at the dollar store), and a really old holey fitted sheet. I gathered four or five old towels I didn’t mind getting dirty or stained (none of them ended up stained) as well as several wash cloths. I also threw in a few pairs of underwear and a pair of socks. This box wasn’t so much about needing things set aside for me, it was more about having it set aside for my birth team. This way I could just say “check the tote” instead of explaining where my sock drawer was.

A note about the bed, and more experienced homebirth moms will know this already – prepare the bed whether you want to birth there or not. Labor is a funny thing and may not go the way you planned (as I found out myself!). The most convenient way to prepare the bed in my opinion is to make what I think of as a bed sandwich. When you go into labor, have your partner strip the bed. Then put on a fitted sheet and flat sheet that are clean and nice. Over this, put the plastic mattress protector (or large plastic shower curtain liner). Then over this put the crappy/holey/old fitted sheet you don’t mind messing up.

If you birth on the bed or get anything on it, you simply strip off the old sheet and protector and VOILA you have a clean and ready made bed underneath! It may sound odd but this was one of the best things after the birth was over. I ran to shower off and when I came back the bed was totally ready with minimal effort for my birth team.

Another great place to store your birth supplies for easy access is the pack-n-play or crib:

tamara birth supplies

Okay – so that is your supplies covered! That was easy.

The Last Weeks

Now there are just a few additional things you may want to do. One is a list. This list will be for your main birth partner. On this list include the steps you want them to take once labor starts. For me and my husband the list looked went something like this:

  • Call midwife (include number)
  • Call photographer (include number)
  • Call child care to give a “heads up” (include number)
  • Make bed
  • Empty washing machine
  • Hook up hose attachment for filling the birth tub, start to fill tub if in established labor

This list meant that I could concentrate on labor and not have to direct anything. I could get in “the zone”. I included the numbers on the paper just in case he couldn’t find them in my phone or his or if someone else was there doing the list instead. I didn’t include “call family” since we agreed we would not call family until the midwife had arrived and I gave the go-ahead. This was a lesson learned in our first birth that sometimes alerting family at the start of labor isn’t always the most peaceful thing to do if labor is long.

If you have a support person for your child, create a little cheat list for them of your child’s routine and favorite foods if they are not familiar with all of that. While the lists might seem over-kill, trust me that the less questions directed at you in labor the happier you will be. It also helps you avoid the little mini-panic that tends to happen in the last weeks when you realize that life is about change in a big way and you want to scream “I have no control” – yes, most pregnant mamas have been right there with you!

The next thing you will most likely want to do is a trial run on your birth tub, if you are using one. My friend and I both were very glad we did a dry run. For myself, we found out the tub had a slow leak and we created a plan for dealing with it. For my friend, she found this:

tamara tub hole

Yes – that is a giant hole. Apparently the plastic of the tub got brittle from the cold of the trunk it was stored in and it cracked. Since she looked at the tub around 36 weeks she had time to get a new tub from her midwife and do a dry run with that tub. Imagine if she had not inspected the tub until she was in labor! Doing a dry run also lets you see where you want to set it up and make space. Keep in mind you want room around the tub for your team to work and have access to you. Also figure out how you are going to fill the tub and think about how much hot water you will need. Some sinks may need an attachment to put a hose on it or may not have good water pressure. You can also fill your tub from the hot water heater or shower. If you are using your own built-in tub in your home, put some nesting skills to use and give it a good scrub down or have your partner do it (I vote for the partner).

tamara tub test

Another thing you may like to work on is affirmation cards. This would be a good activity for a quiet evening before baby comes or even as part of a baby shower or mother blessing. You can hang the cards around your birth space and even put some around the house where you will see them in the coming days (like on your bathroom mirror).

One of the final things you might want to do is be sure a space is clear for your midwife. Most midwives like to lay out their supplies if they have time before the birth is imminent. This can simply be a good patch of clean counter top or space on a bed in the birth area. If your kitchen looks like mine, a clear bit of counter space may mean moving your stand mixer under the cabinet or storing the blender or clearing the kitchen table (mine always ends up as a catch all). If you don’t have time to do this (or birth catches you by surprise) don’t worry, your midwife will find a good spot. Again, remember this is the Ultimate List – not the “stress about everything” list!

krystal midwife prep

You can also take a moment to set up all your postpartum supplies in the bathroom and by your bed. Myself and another friend I know created a breastfeeding station – nursing pads, nipple butter/lanolin, a good book, children’s books and small goodies (for the older child), and a nice water bottle. Some postpartum supplies you might like are a peri-bottle, pads in easy reach, herbal preparations (like those sold by Earth Mama Angel Baby), and over the counter pain medications for after pains (or herbal preparations). Always discuss medications or herbal options with your care provider.

krystal postpartum supplies

A small note about the cleaning that needs to be done. One midwife described it to me this way: “Clean like your Mother-in-Law is coming for a visit.” Basically, clean like you are having an overnight guest and then just take some extra care in a couple key places – your birth space and the tub/shower you may want to use. There is no need to over sanitize and totally tear apart your home in preparation for a home birth, just keep clean and neat. A great investment if you have it in the budget (or have an amazing friend) is to have someone come in and do a nice deep clean around 36 or 37 weeks.

Now you have all the preparation done. You have a peaceful birth space; you have your tub ready to blow up and know how you are going to fill it. You have your support team ready and affirmation cards made. Now you can relax and focus on that moment. That sweet, sweet moment when you hold your baby for the first time. Birth Blessings mamas! Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

krystal home birth

*Please note Birth Without Fear does not have an affiliation with any birth supply companies and these are only suggestions.

**Last three photos credited to Aperture Grrl Photography.

Did you do anything else to prep for your home birth? Let us know in the comments!

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

Circumcision Doesn’t Beget Circumcision {One of These Things is Not Like the Other}

Circumcision Doesn’t Beget Circumcision {One of These Things is Not Like the Other}

Yes, you read that right, we’re going to talk AGAIN about circumcision, but this post is a little different. I’m not writing this to try to tell you what to do. In fact, this post is actually going to start off with a confession; the day after my first baby was born I had him circumcised.

Whew. Okay. We got that part out of the way!

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I must have read everything that I could get my hands on. I was very strict with myself and did everything that I could to maintain my weight, to avoid every item on that list of no-no foods (deli meats, sushi), and struggled through headaches and pains to avoid using medications like Tylenol even though my OB said it was fine. I started a pregnancy journal and had the baby’s full name picked out by 14 weeks along.

pregnancy second baby

When I got to the chapter in my pregnancy how-to book about circumcision, we had just found out that the baby was going to be a boy and I remember reading about the detailed procedure and cringing, picturing them doing this to my tiny, new baby. I had never really read anything about circumcision before, and not only that, but I literally knew NOTHING about foreskin. Like many new moms-to-be, I decided to leave that decision up to his father, figuring, “Well, Dad’s got a penis and I don’t, so he will know the correct decision to make here.”

Well, it turns out that my husband was reading FAR less about this baby than I was and without researching any part of it, or even reading the chapters I had so nicely bookmarked for him, he told me that we would have it done because “that’s just what you do” and “we don’t want him to look different.” Even though the description had made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I didn’t argue with him.

I ended up being (unnecessarily) induced and after 12 hours of Pitocin, our perfectly healthy baby boy came torpedoing into this world. The circumcision was performed the following day and we listened closely as all of the aftercare instructions were explained to us. They even sent us home with a whole packet of information about how to care for it and danger signs to look out for in case he got an infection. (Whoa, wait… an infection?? Isn’t that what we were trying to avoid? We’ll get back to that.)

Have you ever seen a freshly circumcised penis? It’s basically an open, raw wound that you smother with Vaseline and hope that it keeps it moist enough to not stick to the diaper. Have you ever skinned your knee open? Imagine the feeling of peeling a gauze bandage off of it when it gets stuck. Now imagine someone pouring warm, acidic liquid all over it; because that’s what’s happening to this brand new, little person every time they urinate. Then that wetness gets to just sit there. You ever wear a moist Band-Aid over a cut?

Every time our new baby wet his diaper we immediately had to change him because it hurt him so badly. And when he would poop, well, that was a whole different ball of wax! Cleaning poop off of a penis and a set of testicles (especially when it’s a learning experience with a less than one week old) is one thing, but having to do it while your child is screaming bloody murder in your face because he has feces covering his raw, sensitive glans is quite another.

Fast forward a few years and now he is almost five. We are constantly reminding him to clean himself and have had to teach him to be sure to tug on his “foreskin” (basically just the remaining bit of skin that was leftover) and pull it away from the glans because it is constantly trying to reattach itself. As our son has gotten older, we have had issues with the “foreskin” trying to reconnect and also teaching him how to keep himself clean.

So when we got pregnant with our second child, I was in a different spot with the medical side of birth. I had not had a good experience with my first delivery and therefore spent a lot of time reading more than just baby books and fear-mongering websites. I started to look into the facts about birth, the facts about induction, and even the facts about circumcision. We found out that we were having another boy and the decision of circumcision came up after a prompting from our care provider.

Like I have already stated, my husband was not into researching everything pregnancy like I was and so it wasn’t something that he was concerned with. He had automatically assumed that because we had circumcised the first boy that of course we would be doing the same with the second. All those complications involved with the first baby? Yeah, those weren’t necessarily complications at all! They were just snags that happened when you leave the glans open and raw like that. Those issues we had with our first baby in the first several weeks we were all learning how to be a family were totally “normal” and were all listed in our handy little info packet that was sent home with us.

In reading up about circumcision I was very surprised to learn that, with the exception of Israel, the United States has the highest rate of circumcision. Most countries don’t practice it, in fact many have had the procedure banned. In some cases, circumcisions are botched, leaving men with noticeable scarring or sexual dysfunctions – and that is in mild cases: baby boys sometimes die from the complications of circumcision.

I also took the time to learn about the many functions of the foreskin and how having one intact would benefit my child. It might be tough to think of it like this, but the foreskin can easily be likened to an eyelid or a pair of lips. One of its main functions is to protect the sensitive skin underneath and to keep that area clean and moist.

Along with keeping the area underneath clean and moist, the foreskin is actually adhered to the glans and won’t even start to detach until around age three! So all that stuff we had heard before about it being “cleaner” to cut that part off was total BS! It’s attached! That means when your baby has one of those really big poo-splosions and craps up the back of his onesie, you won’t have to also deal with carefully and calmly wiping poop off of a swollen and painful wound. With a baby who is NOT circumcised the foreskin does a fantastic job of keeping everything covered, so you don’t have to worry about it getting inside at all! You just clean it off like a finger (likely how you’ll clean up your own finger after checking for poop) and go about trying to remove said onesie without resorting to scissors.

Then there came the whole deal with him not only looking different from his Daddy, but also looking different from his older brother. Well, when you really get down to it, they’re already going to look different in so many more obvious ways, does it really matter? For instance, our oldest boy has green eyes and his younger brother ended up with blue ones. His older brother has light brown hair while his head is covered in pale, blonde locks. They are different heights, different weights, and have vastly different personalities, so why in the world would anyone be worried about their penises looking the same, which they probably wouldn’t anyway.

circumcision decision

I was asked about what we would do when he was teased about his foreskin in the locker room at school and I honestly had to laugh at that one. First of all, adolescent boys are going to tease one another about SOMETHING, so for me to be worried about that NOW seems a bit pointless. Secondly, the circumcision rate in America is going down every year, so chances are he will not be the only boy with foreskin. And lastly, because I will explain to him why we left him intact when he is old enough to understand, he will be able to educate his friends and tell them how when he’s older, having a foreskin will make sex feel better for both himself and his partner, allow him to masturbate without needing lotion, and add girth to his penis. What adolescent boy wouldn’t want that?

And while we’re on the topic of sex we may as well just get it all out there right now: “Anteater”, “turtleneck”, “Water Snake”; the list of horrible, sex-shaming nicknames goes on. It’s a disgrace that we would alter a baby’s body so drastically just to make it more aesthetically pleasing for ourselves. Yet if someone wanted to start trimming the labia from the genitals of baby girls I am positive that people would be totally up in arms. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the basic function should override the supposed aesthetics?

I have also been asked about what I will say to my oldest son if he should ever ask me why I decided to have his foreskin removed and not his brother. Well, I plan on telling him the truth. I thought that I had read all of the right information and, at the time, I thought I was doing what was in his best interest. However, if I am truly honest with myself, reading about the procedure made my stomach turn. That feeling was human instinct and I plum ignored it. I thought I knew what I was doing and I was wrong. I felt in my heart that going through with the procedure was a bad idea but did not feel like it was truly up to me to make that decision.

And truth be told, it wasn’t. It wasn’t up to me and it shouldn’t be up to the Daddy either “just because he has a penis”.

So, okay, they say that circumcision is “cleaner” and “healthier” and will keep your child from “being made fun of.” Well let’s just say you believe all of that (which is fine, and it might be what your care provider has told you); where does it say that this procedure HAS to be done within the first week of your child’s new life outside of the womb? Isn’t there already enough going on? Chances are you’ve got a birth you’re healing from, other children to care for, breastfeeding (which can be quite stressful for some) to learn, and you’re probably hungry and sleep deprived. WHY in the WORLD would you want to add in “caring for an open wound”?

Where does it say that the offer to be circumcised will expire after the first two days? Why can’t it just be left up to the person whose penis status is being questioned to decide? A lot of people will get a child’s foreskin removed because of the possible risk of infection. But what about tonsils? Appendix? TOENAILS? All of these things can become infected yet we make no mention about having them removed at birth. Many people will research more about their newest cell phone upgrade than they will about their own pregnancy and labor, and even fewer will research about circumcision.

brothers

If I were to wish one thing for you, it would be for you to read, read, read about circumcision. Don’t just read about it in the US, check out what they say about circumcision in other countries, where it is seen as a barbaric practice. Or do your baby a solid and watch the procedure being done on YouTube. Arm yourself with knowledge and if anything, wait until the child is old enough to be given proper pain management for such a painful procedure. Even better, leave them intact and allow them to decide it for themselves.

It makes me sad when I think about what I have taken from my oldest son by having him circumcised, but I feel like I have all the opportunity in the world to help make it better by passing on what I have learned to others. Hopefully, with the correct information, they will make better choices than I did. I have looked into the information on foreskin restoration so that I may pass it on to my son should he be interested in it one day.

Having circumcised one child does not mean that you have to circumcise them all. Even if you have FIVE boys that were circumcised you can TOTALLY leave the next intact! None of our children will be exactly like the next. Even if their genitals don’t match Daddy’s or each other’s they will always be brothers and that is what’s important. I leave you with a quote that has always resonated with me about our decisions regarding circumcision:

forgiveyourself

Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” – Anonymous

Photography Credit: http://earthmamaphotography.com

Further reading:
http://www.thewholenetwork.org/index.html

http://www.cirp.org/library/

http://www.catholicsagainstcircumcision.org/

http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/

http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/

http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/

http://circumcisionresources.org/

http://uncutting.tumblr.com/compilation

http://www.publichealthinafrica.org/index.php/jphia/article/view/jphia.2011.e4/html_9

http://www.noharmm.org/anatomy.htm

http://www.icgi.org/2010/04/infant-circumcision-causes-100-deaths-each-year-in-us/

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/myths-about-circumcision-you-likely-believe

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