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Category: Motherhood

I Am Strong Because I am Doing What I Feel is Right {An Extended Breastfeeding Journey}

I Am Strong Because I am Doing What I Feel is Right {An Extended Breastfeeding Journey}

I had my first baby when I was 24 years old. From the moment I got pregnant I had made the decision that I wasn’t going to breastfeed. My reasons were selfish, but when my son was 2 months old, I regretted that decision and I suddenly felt so heartbroken that I did not nurse him. I made a promise to myself that I would breastfeed my next baby and this is why I am strong.

I am strong because I am not afraid to admit that I made a decision I now regret.

I gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl 5 years later on September 16, 2011. I nursed her just a few moments after she was born and that was the beginning of the journey we are still on today. I am strong because even on my toughest days with sore and swollen nipples, I refused to give up.

The first month was so hard. I spent hours staying up all night nursing and trying to comfort my baby, but she would just scream and scream. I hit a breaking point one morning when she had been up crying for close to 7 hours and my husband found me sobbing and exhausted on the couch. I knew there was something wrong, but several doctors said she was fine. I am strong because I ignored those doctors and got a second opinion. My daughter was diagnosed with reflux at 4 weeks and we finally had an answer so we could make her feel better.

I unfortunately had to go back to work at 9 weeks and I pumped three times a day to try to keep up with her demand. I remember I cried the first time I had to pump at work. The sound of the machine pumping my milk could not compare to the soft sounds my baby makes while nursing. I am strong because I struggled with my supply those first weeks back to work and had to battle through blocked milk ducts, but I never gave up.

I continued pumping for my daughter for 11 months at work. I had always wanted to donate my milk so even after I no longer needed to pump for my daughter, I still continued pumping for 2 more months to build up a stash to donate. I am strong because I was able to donate 100 ounces of my milk to a mom who could not breastfeed and that was truly such a huge blessing.

My breastfeeding goal was originally 12 months, but as my daughter was approaching her first birthday, I became very sad at the thought of having to forcefully wean her. I had already been dealing with the typical question from others, “how much longer are you going to breastfeed?” I felt like I had a lot pressure to wean my child. There were days that she would still nurse like a newborn and other days, it was only when she was sleepy or hurt. It was obvious that she still needed to be nursed. I am strong because I continued to breastfeed past my goal of 12 months, despite the criticism I got from others.

Since my daughter was just an infant, I had wanted professional breastfeeding photos. She is my last baby after all and I wanted to remember this journey. A local photographer was having a mini session for World Breastfeeding Week and I decided I was going to finally get my pictures. These are the pictures that I am sharing with you

today. I am strong because I am still breastfeeding 23 months later and will continue to until my daughter decides to wean.

I am strong because I am doing what I feel is best for my child.

Jennifer's I Am Strong Post, Extended Breastfeeding

Jennifer's I am Strong post, extended breastfeeding

Birth of New Parents – Photo Story of Adoption

Birth of New Parents – Photo Story of Adoption

This has got to be one of the most touching stories I’ve ever heard. Sebastian was born on June 20. When he was 4 days old some unfortunate circumstances arose and his parents were no longer able to care for him. Unless a family stepped forward immediately to adopt him, he would be going into the foster care system. Brandon and Summer had very recently decided to become foster parents when this opportunity landed in their lap. They followed their heart, trusted God and jumped in with both feet! A few days later, they were parents! Summer says, “It has been so amazing how many simply MIRACULOUS things God orchestrated to make this happen. The natural birth community and church community have stepped up and made everything possible. We’ve received donations of baby items and breast milk, as well as an adoption attorney on a minute’s notice.”

Summer is a student midwife and was in attendance at the twin birth I recently blogged about. The attending midwife, Heather, called me a couple weeks ago and asked me if I’d be willing to photograph something like a birth session for Summer, Brandon and Sebastian. She said she had asked Summer who she would like to do it, and Summer picked me. I was so incredibly touched by that. It sounded like such a sweet (and unique) idea that I said yes without any hesitation. Heather wanted Summer to experience the bonding that happens between a mama and her newborn the way so many of their clients do. And so we photographed Summer and Sebastian in the birth pool having a relaxing bath together. We weighed him and Summer and Brandon discovered he had gained nearly 2 lbs. since they’d joined his family. We got his footprints done. And we took some lovely skin-to-skin shots, as well as a few with a beautiful afghan around them, symbolizing warmth, and a joining together forever as a new family.

As a birth photographer I witness some incredible things, obviously. This was no different. Seeing how Sebastian looked at his mother, and how she cared for him, and how soft Brandon was with him – it warmed my heart to the brim. In fact I think it grew a few sizes! I truly enjoyed capturing this special time in their lives. – Leilani Rogers, Photographer {http://www.photosbylei.com/}

Baby in Water with Mom

Food Budgets and Meal Planning {Challenges of Motherhood}

Food Budgets and Meal Planning {Challenges of Motherhood}

Food. It’s important (just a little) and we all have to buy it. Most of us have to cook it as well (or at least make sure someone in the house cooks it). But when a family sits down to budget – or figure out where the money went – we can usually plan on a large sum going to food. How do we keep this spending controlled and purposeful? [Side Note – click the photos in this post for more recipes!]

Meal Planning.

Why plan meals? One of the main reasons is that it keeps you from playing the “What’s for dinner?” game each night. That game can lead to ordering out or going out which means more money spent. Lets look at an example – ordering pizza. For most families, ordering pizza is going to be around $30 – possibly much more depending on family size. That same $30 can buy my family breakfast foods for at least 2 weeks (including farm-fresh eggs from a local farmer), especially if I pay attention to sales and coupons. When you start to break down your budget in these terms, you may be shocked at how the math plays out.

Another good reason is that you spend less time running to the store. This saves you money in a couple ways – less gas used in the car and fewer chances for impulse buys (those $1 here and $3 there purchases really add up). It also helps your home run more smoothly. Everyone knows what is for dinner and there is less chance for arguing.

Meal planning at first can seem daunting. I remember when I decided to start and I got bogged down in the details. Many blogs and books are dedicated to this subject and include everything from freezer options (cooking once or twice a month and freezing it all) to spending a whole month in your crock pot. Then you add in couponing (which I totally don’t understand by the way, at least not the extreme couponing) and it can feel like too much to consider.

I promise, you can make this simple! First you want to look at your situation with your “reality glasses” on. I am not talking about your ideal life and cooking situation. I mean look at your cooking and meal time plans as they actually tend to happen. Do you and your partner both work long days, leaving little prep time when you get home? Do you stay at home and have time to prep and cook each day? Would crock pot or freezer meals work better for your time management? Do you have sports activities for the kids that require being gone around dinner time?

Chicken Teriyaki

With those answers in mind, here are the steps you want to take:

  • Make a pantry list. What is in your dry goods area and spice cabinet? This list will be important when planning and shopping.
  • Make a list of items you have to buy each week – milk, eggs, bread – the essentials for your house.
  • Call a family meeting and make a master list of favorite meals.
  • Decide on the method that would work for you – a larger portion of freezer meals or crock pot meals, cooking fresh each day, or a mixture.
  • Decide how far in advance you want to plan. Start with at least a week at a time. Some families plan the whole month at once.

Now for the really fun part! You get to make your plan for the week or whatever period of time you decided on. This is where you get out some paper (I use a cheap spiral notebook) and start digging through your ideas. My meal ideas come from several places in any given week. Pinterest is a favorite now, and most people have a recipe or food board – so actually put all those pins to work! I work from family recipes – meals I have made for years and are a hit every single time. I check out cook books from the library – you would be amazed at how many cook books libraries usually have. This is very cost effective – you can get endless recipes without buying a book yourself (and I am sure others can relate to how frustrating it is to buy a cookbook and find you only like a few recipes in it). We even have a post of quick meal ideas here.

You start with dinner for each day and go from there, writing down each recipe name. Some families plan every meal and snack, some don’t. I personally do not. I write down breakfast and lunch ideas for the week at the bottom of my dinner plan list though, especially for my husband who takes his lunch to work each day (a huge money saver by the way). I also plan that my son and I will most likely eat left-overs for some lunches.

Chicken Enchiladas

Then you take this list and look at the recipes for needed ingredients. Make your grocery list, while also checking your pantry list. By checking your pantry list you can avoid buying something for a meal when you already have it at home. You can also avoid that moment where you think you have a certain spice in the cabinet only to find you don’t…while in the middle of cooking!

Then head to the store! If you make your list in sections – produce, meats, spices, pastas, canned goods, etc – you will save time at the store.

Let me do a short example (just a few days). I find examples to be much more helpful than descriptions!

Now I take this list and check my recipes and make my grocery list.

  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 onion
  • 5lbs bag potatoes
  • 3 ears corn
  • Apples (check sales)
  • Grapefruit
  • 2 lbs ground turkey (I am replacing the ground chicken in the chili with ground turkey – I like the texture better)
  • 2lbs chicken breasts OR rotisserie chicken (I check prices and get the cheaper of the two!)
  • 1lbs ground beef
  • large tortillas
  • mild salsa
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 2 blocks Monterrey Jack cheese
  • Lunch Meat (check sales/deli)
  • Oatmeal
  • Bread
  • Granola Bars
  • Almond Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • ***Pick up eggs

Some things I have left off my list. For instance, I didn’t include rice b/c I have it in bulk at home. I didn’t include the tapioca from the chili recipe because I will serve it with rice instead. I have the ingredients for cornbread at home, so I left those items off. This is when your pantry list/inventory comes in handy! And I actually do make notes to myself on my list about checking sales since I tend to forget when I am in a rush to get my toddler out before his “timer” is up. Now I am able to walk into the store and get everything I need in one trip!

Chicken Parm

Some tips I have learned over my time meal planning:

Keep it organized. Have one notebook or binder and develop your system. There are a ton of “printables” online for meal planning with different set ups to suit each family. You can simply fill these in and stick them on your fridge for the family to see. Try to pick one grocery day a week if you can. Mine is Saturday during nap time most weeks so that I can go without my toddler. I plan our week out that morning and then shop that afternoon.

Create a recipe binder for your family. I am currently working on ours, and I am having a ton of fun with it! Personally, I am typing up my recipes, and then I will put them in a binder with dividers (breakfast, chicken, beef, party, holiday, etc). Some families just write them down (or cut them out/print them off) as they go and stick them in a new page protector. This will not only build up a collection of tried and true recipes for your family, but is a great bit of history to pass down one day.

Plan meals based on “extras” or “left overs”. For instance, if I find a great deal on whole chickens I will get one or two of those for the meals that week that need chicken. I will boil them or bake them one morning and then pick off all the meat. That meat can then be used for anything needing pulled or diced chicken for the rest of the week. Or I make chicken salad for sandwiches, or freeze the extra for meals another week. You can save a lot of money doing this if you plan accordingly.

Give yourself the nights off that you need! I know that Fridays are usually days we don’t cook, and typically I skip this on our meal plan. Some Fridays we still stay in and just make sandwiches or something easy. Some Fridays we go out to McDonald’s and let our son play in the play area, or do something similar at the mall where they also have a play area. If you have busy nights in your week, plan for them! Your meal plan should not make you feel like you have to cook every single night. This is about making your life easier and more on budget, not stressing you out!

Check your grocery sales and coupons. I will admit I am not an avid couponer, but I am working on it. But everyone can check the grocery sales. For instance, if they are having an amazing sale on whole chickens, pick a meal that can use it that week. If they have eggplant on sale, make some eggplant parmesan or ratatouille that week.

Create a learning experience. If your children are toddlers or older, you can use your meal plan to educate. For instance, pick a week and make regional foods – this could be from your area (maybe visit some local landmarks that week too), your heritage, or pick a country or region. Perhaps you could have a week of Italian food or Chinese foods? Does your family have an Irish heritage? Pick a week to learn about and cook the foods from Ireland. You could also pick themes like colors or letters for little ones. Maybe one night have all “orange” foods – mac-n-cheese, steamed carrots, and orange cupcakes. Or have all “B” foods one morning – blueberry pancakes and bacon anyone?

Get creative! Meal planning can really expand your menu choices and cooking skills. When you play the “what’s for dinner?” game, you usually fall back on the same things again and again. When you plan in advance you are giving yourself time to plan to try new things. This makes dinner exciting and may just get you interested in cooking if you never have been before now. I try to make an effort to cook one new meal a week, at least. It is also fun to try one new ingredient a week. Have you never used barley? Find a recipe one week and try it! Have you always wanted to learn to make lasagna? Do it!

Stay on budget. When you meal plan, you have a great chance to lower your food costs. Not only by watching sales but simply by keeping your plans within your budget for the week or month. If you know your budget can’t handle steak every other night, then don’t plan for it! But you can look for alternatives like grilled chicken if you are craving some grilling time. I have learned over time how to “cheapen” recipes as well. I know when I can sub out expensive cheeses for cheap ones, or more expensive cuts of meat for cheaper ones (your crock pot is a great way to make cheaper cuts of meat just as delicious). I have also found that taking the time to grate a block of cheese versus buying shredded cheese saves me about $2 each time – and we use a LOT of cheese around this house!

Bonus! I am going to add a couple recipes from my collection just for you! These are simple recipes I turn to again and again.

No-Rise Pizza Dough – Fast, easy, and cheap and you won’t want to order out again!

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp honey, heaping
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, heaping
  • 1 tbsp dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  1. Combine water, honey, oil, yeast, and garlic salt. Stir to dissolve honey.
  2. Add 3 cups flour, stir until combined.
  3. Knead dough a few times, roll out into large pizza size. Top however you like.
  4. Bake on cookie sheet for 12 minutes at 475*F or for 8 minutes on a preheated pizza stone.

**You can also use this recipe for calzones (longer baking time at 350*F – about 20 minutes) or personal size pizzas. Be sure to use a liquid measuring cup for the water, it really makes a difference for this recipe.

Baked Oatmeal with Raisins and Pecans – you can add whatever fruit/nuts you want in this

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • brown sugar for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350, lightly grease 9×9 baking dish.
  2. Combine all ingredients except brown sugar. Pour into dish and bake 20-25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve hot. Enjoy your homemade and delicious oatmeal!

 

The Skinny Mom: Does She Think She’s Better Than You?

The Skinny Mom: Does She Think She’s Better Than You?

“When my daughter was about a week old I was at the grocery store and a woman asked how old my baby was, I told her one week with a smile. Her response was “well you don’t look like you f***ing had a baby a week ago.” and turned and walked away from me. It hurts to be ostracized by other mothers in that way.” – Jonelle, of Aware Beginnings Doula Services, commenting on Mothering the Mother Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

I’m a skinny mom. Not too skinny. But on the slender side.

I gained about 25 lbs in each of my two pregnancies and shed it within a few weeks of giving birth.

When I’m pregnant, people tell me I don’t look it.

I fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans until seven months in.

I wore a short black dress to a party a few days before our second was born.

party

My K’taan is a size small, I can still squeeze into the back seat between my two babies’ carseats, and I still have no stretch marks.

Do you hate me yet?

What if I told you that I don’t diet and my only exercise is babywearing? Would you hate me then?

My body looks the way it does for a number of reasons (including socio-economic status and access to real food) but mostly because of a genetic lottery. In the eyes of our society, it’s a lottery I’ve won. But ‘winning’ isn’t everything. I have a history of starving, purging, cutting, and risking my body. This history is invisible when you look at me. It can be covered up by a short black dress and gold high heels.

Maybe you assume that I have my shit together, that I am in control; maybe you think I’m happy.
Maybe you assume that I am superficial.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly even when I’m pregnant and therefore do not have my baby’s best interest at heart.
Maybe you assume that I’m mean and manipulative.
Maybe you just know that I think I’m better than you. (I don’t. And I don’t think the skinnier mom standing next to me is better than me, either.)

Other people’s ugly assumptions aside, I know and enjoy the advantages of being a skinny mom:

I still get to be seen as cute and slightly sexy (even though I’m a mom, which is, apparently, the least sexy thing in the world).
I don’t have to buy a new wardrobe when I get pregnant.
When I look at pictures of mothers in magazines and advertisements, they look like me (I also happen to be caucasian and able-bodied. Bonus!).
I wasn’t automatically classed as a ‘high risk’ pregnancy due to my weight.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty.
I receive most of the advantages of being a skinny girl – I get served first at deli counters, customs officers are always nice to me, my in-laws think me an appropriate match – but since I’m a mom, these days I get a lot less harassment from skeezy men.

These are important social advantages. It will be hard for me to lose them as I get older. But they’re all from the outside. Inside is a different landscape.

Some nights I tell my husband I don’t want to have sex because I’m tired and covered in milk and I imagine my body has been taken over by a hungry parasite who just also happens to be a baby I love. It feels there is no more space in my body for receiving or giving anything.
If I do compare myself to the mothers in an advertisement, they are still thinner than me, happier than me, prettier than me, less milk-stained than me. I am still lacking.
I wasn’t classified as ‘high-risk’, but I had to pay three months’ rent for out-of-pocket for decent healthcare during my last pregnancy. It was hard to convince myself that my baby and I were worth it.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty, but I didn’t (I still satisfied them – I just felt guilty).
I don’t do it anymore, but I have thrown up or skipped more meals than I can count. Other people liking your body doesn’t make you love your body.
I’m a happy person but I still feel out of control sometimes – especially when my toddler is eating spaghetti with a spoon.
I love breastfeeding now, but when I first lactated colostrum, I felt disgusted by my pregnant body.
The flip side of being told I don’t look pregnant is people thinking that I am not my baby’s mom. “Is this your baby?” they ask, and I try to take it as a compliment but I know there’s an edge in my voice when I answer, “Yes, this is my baby. This is my baby.” This is my body that birthed this baby and I hate that you looked at it and thought otherwise.

My body is real and I am learning to love my postpartum pooch (below: a few days PP in ye olde disposable panties).

Postpartum

My claim is not that, “I too, my full-bodied sisters, am a daily victim of unfair physical ideals!” I know that, on the whole, I benefit from them. And I’m not saying that BWF should have a ‘skinny moms’ day for every plus-sized mama day. I know that every day is ‘skinny mom day’ in all the rest of social media. I’m just saying that in a country where at least 80% of women dislike their bodies and Miss America is perpetually malnourished, we are all capable of hating ourselves. You don’t know how someone feels about their body just by looking at them. You only know how you feel about their body. And your own.

In my better days, this is how I like to think of my body: as a powerful vessel. A vessel for my thoughts and actions; a vessel for my creativity; and of course, a vessel for my babies. It is through this body that I show my love for other people. This body lets me laugh. This vessel has (love) handles but it is tall and deep. It will get old and its enamel will crack. Someday it will disintegrate entirely. I can only hope that when it does, I’m not worried about how it looks.

So, do you hate me yet?

Finally a Diagnosis {Endometriosis: A Series}

Finally a Diagnosis {Endometriosis: A Series}

I got my first period when I was nine years old. I had no idea what was happening to me because no one had explained menstrual cycles to me yet. But why would they?? I was nine, for Pete’s sake!! I had to have my period explained to me by the school nurse because it started in the middle of class; I got blood on my chair and the kids talked about it for months. I was so distraught over what was happening because I legitimately thought that I was dying.

Me at age nine

By the time I was fourteen my cycles had doubled in frequency and intensity. I would have such heavy, painful periods that I would have to stay home from school for the first day or two. I had a doctor’s note in my school file that was laminated because that had become standard for me. I would lose so much blood that I would pass out and the pain often made me vomit the whole first day.

My mother started taking me to the gynecologist when I was fourteen because she didn’t know what else to do and our family doctor wasn’t qualified enough to handle the issue. At fourteen I had my first pap smear which was scary, awkward, and painful.

Over the next few years we would get several “educated guesses” as to why my cycles were so horrendous; they ranged from plausible to preposterous. One doctor told my mother that I was actually twins at one point, but that I had absorbed my twin. I had to have my kidneys checked to make sure I only had one set and doctors warned me that I might expel teeth and nails from my body when I was older. The longest running one being that I had a very real condition known as uterine didelphys (as shown in graphic below, diagram A), which is when a woman has more than one uterus and cervix. Can you imagine hearing news like that when you’re only 14 years old? I thought I was a massive freak. I remember explaining it to my first boyfriend and examining his face for judgment.

udidelphys

That was the diagnosis I believed for close to six years. I believed that I would never have children and also that if I were to maintain a pregnancy to full term that one or both of us would die. I had originally wanted to have six children and had names picked out for all of them, of course. I come from a family of six and my mother had made it look so easy. Hearing that I would never be able to become a mother on my own was heart breaking!

me-18

When I was 19, a reproductive specialist who was performing a cervical leep on me for cancer cells confirmed that I indeed only had one uterus and cervix, respectively. He mentioned to me then that I might have endometriosis, but that he would have to look inside of me to make an actual diagnosis and because of my age he preferred to “wait and see” instead of performing a laparoscopy.

He also told me that if I should ever get pregnant that there was a large possibility that my cervix would no longer be strong enough to support the pregnancy and that I could be at risk for pre-term labor. He gave me a 30/70 ratio of survival for any potential pregnancies. I took a break from school and moved home because I couldn’t handle all of the stress.

handstied

Fast forward through two healthy pregnancies and thirteen years later I found myself dealing with ovarian cysts and fibroids and having to have a laparoscopy to find out what exactly was going on. The cysts and fibroids were causing unbelievable amounts of pain! I didn’t know what was happening! Some days I would be fine and then suddenly I would not be able to even stand up without doubling over from the intense, stabbing pain. The cysts would cause very heavy bleeding too (usually if they happened to burst) and it was very scary; I would bleed so much all at once that I feared I was hemorrhaging. Finally a doctor confirmed what other doctors had suspected in the past; that I did in fact have endometriosis.

Endometriosis is not uncommon, but has varying effects depending on the woman. It is when the uterine tissue grows in other areas of the body outside of the uterus and most times causes abnormal bleeding, pain, and can sometimes cause fertility issues.

endo4

The most common complaint from sufferers is pain, which can come in varying degrees and at different times, not specifically during their menstrual cycle. Some may experience pain during a bowel movement, while others might experience it during or immediately following intercourse.

For me, I have a large build up of tissue behind my uterus so when my cycle is coming I will get severe lower back pain that is freakily reminiscent of back labor. It was always difficult growing up with cycles as severe as mine because I have had to opt out of a lot of activities. I would have to miss out on things because the pain and bleeding were so debilitating and I was often criticized for overreacting over “just having your period.”

Other girls could never really relate to me because their cycles were not affecting their quality of life; they couldn’t understand the severity of what I was experiencing because their cramps didn’t make them vomit for hours, they didn’t need prescription pain killers to function, and they could wear tampons with confidence and not soak through a tampon and overnight pad after just a few hours. (Yes, I would wear them together to make the pad last just a little bit longer. It was the only way I could get through the school day.)

Even when I’m not dealing with a cyst and I don’t have my period, I have constant abdominal pain from the tissue build up from past cycles. I have so much blood loss during my cycles that it usually takes me about a week or so to start feeling better after my cycle has ended. Now that I have two boys under the age of five, it is increasingly important that I can function normally on a day-to-day basis.

endometriosis-1

Over the past year and a half I have had to rely heavily on friends and family to help care for my boys when I am ill so that their father can go to work without worrying about what might happen while he’s away. But people aren’t always available and we both worry about me passing out from blood loss and possibly traumatizing my oldest. A boy who is old enough to understand that something is seriously wrong with me and has asked more than once if I’m “going to die” and if I “will be with him forever”; questions so much bigger than I’d prefer him to worry about at four years old.

I recently sent in all of my medical records and applied for an appointment with the University of Michigan’s Endometriosis Center and Pelvic Pain Clinic and am looking forward to finally getting some answers! While I was filling out their exceptionally thorough application, it was amazing how relevant their questions were to me!

questionnairecollage

On the form they asked about my mood, my sleep habits, and my energy level; there are so many different ways to answer questions about pain level and frequency, as if they understood that it is varied dependent on the patient. Their packet was full of questions that no one has ever really touched on before; it gave me a glimmer of hope about my situation that I haven’t felt in years.

I invite all of you to join me on my journey to the University of Michigan to find these answers. I plan to journal about my experience in hopes that some of our blog readers may also feel that glimmer of hope and that they won’t feel like the only person going through their unbearable “just a period” cycles anymore! Be on the lookout for a post about my first appointment!

Further reading:

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

Community Support and Breastfeeding {Make a Difference}

I would like to start this post with a story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To continue with the “Embarrassment” section:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

breastfeeding

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

breastfeeding

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

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

breastfeeding at Disneyland

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

breastfeeding

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

References

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

Staying Ahead of the Mess {Challenges of Motherhood}

Staying Ahead of the Mess {Challenges of Motherhood}

Let me start with a big fat disclaimer. I am not a perfect housewife. Pretty far from it actually! But, as time goes on (7 years cohabitation, almost 5 years of marriage, 2 years as a mom) I am finding what helps me keep a “groove” so that the housework does not drown me. Because lets face it – most moms are in serious danger of getting taken down by mountains of laundry that seem to spring up from nowhere. I am even going to include pictures of my own house – without cleaning any more than normal.

Kitchen

So how how do I keep up? Schedule, organization, and learning to let go.

My first step is a schedule. At one time I thought that housekeeping schedules were just a bit much. After all, it is the same things over and over again and I should be able to remember them. Right? Wrong. I started to realize that my “clusters” of mess were created by forgetting the small chores many times over. Then you end up with much bigger mess. After looking at many different “systems” on the internet, I sort of mashed them into my own that works for my family.

  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done each day. For our home that would be dishes, vacuuming downstairs, picking up laundry (it never makes it in the basket), toy clean up, and wiping down tables/counters.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once a week. This might include changing/washing all the bed sheets, washing towels, and cleaning toilets and tubs.
  • Create a list of tasks that need to be done once or twice a month. My list includes vacuuming all of the upstairs, cleaning the fridge, and reorganizing spaces such as the diaper changing area and toy space.

Some systems also go into tasks you do once or twice a year, but I don’t include those. One big reason is that we are renters and many of those type tasks are more on the home maintenance level. If you have tasks that need to be done a couple times a year or in certain seasons, feel free to make a list of those too. A good way to keep these lists is in a house management binder. I will admit, I don’t have one of these yet – but one day Pinterest will show me a cool printable one and I will do it.

Now look at your lists and daily/weekly schedule. How can you fit in your daily tasks into your daily routine? Think about how often you need to do dishes (do you have enough that they must be done at each meal throughout the day?). Think about how often toy pickup needs to happen to make your space livable. When is the best time to vacuum? Jot these down in schedule format – not so much with actual times but more like “before nap” or “after lunch”.

Now we need to fit our weekly tasks in. These are the tasks that tend to really get away from us. Changing sheets on all the beds once a week keeps us sleeping soundly and cleanly (just google how much the average person sweats at night and you will see what I mean). Pick one day a week to do this task – change sheets, wash the dirty ones, fold and put away. For my family this task is done on Monday. Towel washing day is Wednesday. On those two days, I don’t do any other laundry usually unless I need to throw in some cloth diapers (which is easy laundry anyway).

Closet

Now fit in your monthly or bi-monthly tasks, and you are set to go. These I usually have to mark on the wall calender to remind myself. I have even created a “Magic Eraser Day”. On that day, I bust out that life saver and attack scuffs and scrapes and marks all over the house. This cuts down on the general grime (like the floor boards, corners where little hands touch often, and fridge handles). You know, the grimy spots that you suddenly see one day and go “OH MY GOSH” and irrationally feel like you live in a garbage pit? Yeah, no more of that if you attack that stuff once a month.

Now put your daily and weekly rotation (two separate sheets) on the fridge. Write your monthly tasks on the calender. You are ready to go!

You will notice I didn’t focus on clothes laundry. I left this out because everyone has a different laundry volume. My family of 3 (almost 4) is going to have a lot less laundry than a family of 7. You know your volume of laundry, so decide how often you need to wash to stay on top of it. Do you need to do at least one load a day? Two? Every other day? Figure that out, and fit it into your schedule. (*Just a side note on the picture below – those things hanging over the washer/dryer are the “lost socks”. If I keep them right there in front of me, I find the matches much faster!)

laundry room

Here is our basic schedule for the day:

Daily Schedule

Of course some days this changes. For instance, on Mondays instead of loading clothes in the wash, I strip the beds and wash the sheets. Sometimes we pick up toys before bath instead of after; it depends on the time. In the evening we also do some things at the same time – for instance bath/dishes are on the same line because whoever is not doing the bath is doing the dishes. This way we kill two birds with one stone and our evening is basically open after that. The point is that you have a basic guide to your day.

Eventually this all becomes second nature and you don’t have to look at your schedules. That is when you have hit your “groove”. You will also learn what you can fit in during other tasks. For instance – bathroom cleaning doesn’t make my list anymore, because I clean the bathroom during bath time.

My second step was organization. This is pretty self-explanatory. The more organized you are, the easier it is to clean. Some basic things to implement are really going to have to do with the kids in your home.

  • PURGE the toys. Watch your kids for a few days and see what they play with again and again. See what they are just making a mess with (for instance, just dumping a basket of small toys but not playing with them for long). Then get rid of toys – lots of toys. The less you have, the less you have to clean up. The less you have, the more creatively your kids will play with what they have.
  • Create a place for everything. Cars go in a car bin, blocks go in a block bin, books go on a book shelf. Puzzles are put away with all pieces in place (and if they don’t have all the pieces, toss them). Not only will this help your home look more orderly, but it helps your kids clean up and play more efficiently. For instance, if they are looking for a car, they don’t have to dump a whole toy box – they just go to the car bin and get that car.
  • Create play zones. Set up a small table just for coloring and keep those supplies there. Buy (or make!) a car rug and store the cars near it. Again – organized toys and supplies makes for less clean up.

Living Room

Now, my last tip. Learn to let go.

Not everything will get done every day. Some days you will be tired. Some days your child will be sick. Some days you won’t be home. This is when we need to take a deep breath and realize that we have not failed and our home will most likely not explode. Forgive yourself if the clothes pile up – they will eventually get done.

There is a fine line between keeping your schedule and going crazy because of it. This is why I have kept my schedule basic and flexible. Some home organization and cleaning systems have so many steps and so many rules…and it was just too much. Create enough structure to keep you on track, but not so much that you feel guilt.

Learn what is most important to you. Are dirty dishes the one thing that really makes you nuts? Then make sure those are at least done before bed, even if you let other things go. If you really need a made up bed, make sure that gets done for *your* sanity. Everyone has that one thing that makes them feel like they have a clean home. Figure out what that is for you.

Now I want to hear from you! What do you do to keep up with the mess of life? Do your older children help, and if so how did you instill those helpful habits? What is your “one thing” that makes you feel like you have a clean house? Share your tips and hints in the comments.

If Only I Had Known {Momma Tips}

If Only I Had Known {Momma Tips}

A small trip with two kids will take no less than an hour and a half

Doing your daughters hair will usually put you both in tears.

Having a good cry, is almost freeing. Its okay, go ahead.

One day your son will ask you if there is a bone in his penis. (Seriously, not kidding)

Its really hard to be angry when awoken at 6 am when your kid looks at you smiles and says “Hi Mama!”

Bribery doesn’t always work the way you plan it too. It can bite you in the butt, hard.

Our kids are WAY smarter than they lead us to believe.

Peanut Butter and Jelly is an acceptable dinner.

Feeling guilty about something, doesn’t help anyone. Its okay to let it go.  *deep breath* Better?

No matter how wonderful your kids are they will always drive you crazy some days.

Your house does not need to be spotless. Stop feeling guilty, I bet my house is as dirty as yours. It is okay.

You fully understand the concept of being mad at someone but still loving them.

The parent you were yesterday isn’t set in stone, you change and evolve every day. Just like your kids.

You can’t get tomorrow back, so do what you can today. If that is just getting up and putting a movie on, that is okay.

There will be some days you don’t think you can hack it as a parent. You can, I promise.

Your own mother will come spewing out of your own mouth at a moments notice.

Sometimes you are the one who needs the time out, it makes a difference.

You can’t always put everyone else first, you will lose your mind if you do.

Do something for you every day.

Being a parent is hard, rewarding, stressful, fantastic, and beautiful all wrapped into one. You do the best you can every day. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are amazing, don’t forget it.

BWF Mommy time out chair

Mental Illness and Pregnancy

Mental Illness and Pregnancy

“I’ve debated telling this story. I’m afraid of being judged and perhaps even… yelled at.  But my story is just as important as yours. My story is the one that no one talks about. My story is about being pregnant with a mental illness.” -B 

My story starts a good 10 years ago, when I was officially diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. In a nut shell, Borderline Personality disorder is all encompassing. Its not usually diagnosed, and some psychiatrists don’t even believe its exists. It includes things like fear of abandonment, mistrust, harmful thoughts, and fast moving emotional thought process that I have no control over. I have very little control over what I think, do, and how I react to things emotionally. Medication makes things easier, but these things will always be a struggle for me. Anyways… 

At that time I had no future. The world was dark. No one cared and everyone else was a hypocrite. I had no future. And honestly it was only a matter of time, before the drugs, alcohol, and cutting caught up to me. Sooner or later… and I didn’t care that much. 

Then I met my husband. He held my hand and offered me a choice. Did I want to continue being miserable, angry and alone, or did I want the future he was offering me? With a career, and a home and maybe even a baby? I had always wanted a baby. If I wanted that, I had to start medication. That was my choice. I was tired of all of it, and I had nothing to loose, so I chose him.   

I was stable for 3 years. Properly medicated with regular therapy and we both felt it was time to have a baby. We wanted a baby and we knew it would be hard. We knew it would be hard because of my illness, but we decided as a team to take the risk. We wanted a baby boy. Maybe it was selfish to want something so badly, especially since I knew I would not be able to go off my medication. My psychiatrist assured me it was safe though, so we quadrupled my folic acid intake to counter act the medication I was already on. And within a few weeks I was pregnant! 

We were thrilled. Nervous, scared. We were parents. There was life growing inside me!!! 

This lasted all of 2 weeks. Then I got sick. 

Typical pregnancy symptoms I was told. They will pass, “you have life growing inside you”. Not so simple for someone like me. For the first 3 months, I was so nauseous I couldn’t eat. I lost 15lbs. Luckily I had enough to spare. Something as simple as not being able to eat was hard for my mind to accept. I cried often. 

The second trimester was worse. “Its ok, it’ll pass, its just part of being pregnant, you have life growing inside you!!” I had a migraine for 3 months straight. Nothing I did alleviated the pain. It only went away when I was sleeping and I wasn’t sleeping all that well either. I cried because I was in pain and tired. 

Please don’t misunderstand. Of course I had moments of elation. Every time he moved. Every time we listened to music together and he danced. We still dance! He amazed me. He was growing inside me and it truly is an amazing thing!  These moments gave me the strength to carry him longer then I wanted to. These moments were very special for me. 

The third trimester, although relieved by the fact that finally after 12 weeks my migraine had went away and I was able to eat again, now the depression kicked in. I hadn’t slept in God knows how long, I was miserable every single day, I ached everywhere I could hardly move. I cried every day because I felt so sick of life. My mental illness had taken over my thought processes, and more then once I threatened to cut my baby out of me! People thought it was funny for me to say that. “You have life growing inside of you. It’ll all be worth it in the end.” They all said. But I had never had a baby before, I didn’t know what they meant, and as far as I was concerned at that point, nothing was worth the pain I was feeling physically and emotionally. I was so unhappy and so depressed and my thought processes were so disturbed. I felt bad for how I was feeling because I knew my son could tell. Every time I cried he got quiet and I knew he knew how I felt about him. So I also felt ashamed. I should love my baby. I grew him and he’s special, but I didn’t. I didn’t even like him anymore! He had put me through a lot already and I was very angry at him.  

At 40 weeks 2 days I called my doctor and begged him to induce me. Once again stating that I was totally serious about cutting him out myself. He finally obliged  and I was scheduled for an induction the next day. I was so incredibly grateful! The induction worked and within a few hours I was in full labour! 

It hurt like a bitch but I was so happy to finally be in the final stretch of things. Morphine, epidural yes please!  

Time is a daze but I think I was in labour for about 14 hours before I started pushing. The nurse has mentioned that I could up the epidural so I did and by 9:00am I was ready to start pushing but I couldn’t feel anything so I did the best I could. 

My doctor showed up and tried to vacuum. It didn’t work, it fell off 3 times and baby wasn’t bugging. Finally he concluded that baby was stuck and we had to have an emergency c-section. Up until this point I was doing fine. My mood had elevated for obvious reasons and I was in the home stretch! This baby that had been tormenting me for 40 weeks would soon be out and maybe then we could start our relationship over.  

They said C-section and everything changed. Now I got scared. I turned to my husband and said, “can you call my parents?” Now I was crying, for the first time throughout the entire labour. I had prepared myself for everything except that. Everyone told me that I had the hips to birth a baby, but my baby was now stuck between them and was not coming out on his own.  

So they did the c-section and everything went smoothly. I was embarrassed because I was laying on the table completely naked and exposed. Nothing covered except my head, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I pushed it down like I had pushed all my feelings and emotions down for so long and just let them do what they had to do. 

They tugged and pulled and the anesthesiologist commented over and over again, “just a little bit more tugging.” I guess baby was really stuck. I felt my body move with each tug, but they eventually got him out and he cried and we were happy. I was so happy he was finally out! 

My husband held him for the first half hour while they stitched and stapled me up. My parents came right away because the C-section was a shock to them too. Apparently my mother was hysterical, “my baby is being cut open!!!”. So they held him too. I don’t remember if they held him before me. I wasn’t opposed to it. I guess I was happy. I was more relieved. 

The one thing I remember is how invasive the nurses were. They wanted to put me on Demerol so I would stop shaking because of course by this time my body had gone into shock. My OB said no right away (the one good thing about the entire experience) and just put me under a heated blanket. Within half hour my shaking had stopped. 

As the nurses cleaned me up, my body completely numb and still fat from pregnancy, one of them commented on my scars. I have about a dozen that are noticeable because of my mental illness and the first thing I thought was, didn’t you read my file?  Must I explain this to you? But I quickly did. Calmly. It was not what I needed to hear, nor was it something I wanted to explain at that precise moment. I mean I had just had a baby literally ripped from my body. Clean me up and keep your comments to yourself! 

newborn after cesarean

Well from here on in, nothing went right. I didn’t sleep for 4 day, because they insisted on having a bright night light on all night long. I was exhausted! Baby wasn’t eating and was unable to nurse because my milk refused to come in.  I looked and felt like shit and this baby would not stop crying! We supplemented. We had to. 

Because of all the drugs, my face broke out in cold sores. I’m prone to them to begin with, I get them quite seriously actually but this time, I had over a hundred! I had them in my eyes, on my cheeks, on my nose, my chin. The glands in my neck had swelled up so much I could hardly move my head, and since the herpes virus can actually kill newborns, I was restricted in how often I could hold my baby. Needless to say, we did not bond..

Now the depression hit a high. We were finally home, still not breastfeeding, or sleeping. I couldn’t move because of the surgery, he was crying because he was so hungry. I was crying because in my mind, I was a failure. I couldn’t birth my baby, I couldn’t feed my baby, I couldn’t even hold my baby. I said to my husband, “if your’e holding him, who’s holding me? ” And I meant it! I felt so incredibly alone and shameful. I thought often of just stuffing the baby in the freezer. Often. If it wasn’t the freezer it was the washing machine… Often. And that scared me.  In my screwed up mind, this baby was the cause of everything bad that had happened for the last 42 weeks of my life and if he just wasn’t here anymore… I felt horrible. What made me feel worse was the fact that I knew he knew exactly how I felt and it was obvious that he didn’t trust me.  

I still cried every day. It was a very difficult time for my husband. I put on a brave face for all the family that came to visit us, but as soon as we were alone everything fell apart…. 

So here’s where the story gets better.

We were sitting on the couch one night, just hanging out watching tv. He was 2 weeks old, and I just looked at him. This was the first time I had actually just looked at him. He looked back and I said, “there is something so familiar in your eyes.” As I looked harder, I realized he had my eyes. I was looking into a mirror! My heart melted. I said, “I guess you aren’t so bad…maybe this isn’t your fault.” And his glare did not faultier. “Can we start over?” And turned his head and started rooting, “You want to try just one more time?” So for the first time I nursed him.

He latched and he drank big gulps and he looked at me and I could tell that for the first time he forgave me. He understood and I promised him then that no matter what I thought, no matter what the voices told me to do I wouldn’t do them. He trusted me now and I couldn’t betray that. The thoughts haunt me on a daily basis even now but he trusts me and he loves me and he cuddles me and he forgave me and now he doesn’t even remember and as time goes by, the thoughts dwindle and they aren’t as strong. That night I fell in love with my son for the first time. He looks just me, so how couldn’t I love him.  

Some days for me are harder then others. My son is my reason now. My reason to stay strong, to take my medication and to go to therapy. He needs me  to do these things not only for myself but for him. Every time I look into his milk chocolate eyes, my eyes,  I’m reminded of where I was, where I could be and where I am now I’m more confident as a mom and more secure as a woman, and its all because of him. I’m so lucky. My husband has been incredibly supportive throughout this entire journey and I have him to thank as well. 

I still don’t know how I’m going to explain things to him as he gets older. Why I need to take medication, what the scars mean, why I get so angry sometimes or cry uncontrollably, and why I can’t control certain aspects of my emotions. I don’t know. But I figure I’ll just take every day as it comes. As a blessing. I grew him inside me. He’s mine and regardless of how I felt about him in the beginning, its not how I feel about him now. He’s the absolute love of my life and I tell him every single day. 

mother and son

pregnancy and mental illness

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