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I Am Strong Because I Am FREE!!

I Am Strong Because I Am FREE!!

I am strong because three months after my husband and I got married, we found out we were pregnant, and at 12 weeks, we lost the baby.

I am strong because after three months of waiting to try again, we found out we were pregnant for the second time, but at six weeks, I miscarried again.

I am strong because that very next month, I got pregnant for the third time. My doctor put me on progesterone supplements to help prevent another miscarriage, and soon we had a healthy, growing baby.

I am strong because on New Year’s Eve, I went in to be induced, and after only a few hours, my doctor told me I needed a c-section. She said my pelvis was too small and that I would never be able to give birth vaginally. Not knowing much about birth at all, and being totally unprepared, I had a c-section, and our beautiful son was born a few hours before midnight.

I am strong because even though I was in excruciating pain from the surgery, I continued to breastfeed my son and refused to give him formula.

I am strong because at 2 weeks old, my son’s pediatrician said that he was too small and told me to start supplementing with formula. Not knowing much, and being a scared first time mom, I listened.

I am strong because even though I supplemented, I kept nursing as much as I could. I started researching everything I could about breastfeeding and how to up my supply. I bought an SNS to help wean him off formula so that he could nurse exclusively again. I was prescribed medication to help increase my supply.

I am strong because when my son was a month old, I developed double mastitis, was put on antibiotics and was in so much pain, but I still continued to nurse.

I am strong because twice a week, I had to take my son to the pediatrician to have weight checks, and every time, I just heard about how small he was, until finally, his pediatrician said that my milk wasn’t good enough, didn’t have enough calories, and that I needed to stop nursing. Without running any tests, she decided that my milk wasn’t suitable for him.

I am strong because I went home that day and refused to stop nursing. I knew my son was fine and that he was growing like he should. I started looking for new pediatricians who would be supportive of my desire to nurse.

I am strong because when my son was 2 months old, I found a new pediatrician and canceled my appointment with the previous pediatrician.

I am strong because the next day, Child Protective Services came to my house and took my 2 month old away from me. I could do nothing but watch them take my baby. They said that we were an immediate danger to our son and that we were neglecting him because he was so small.

I am strong because CPS never told us where they were taking our son. We found out later that night that he was admitted to a hospital, but we weren’t allowed to know which one, or if he was okay.

I am strong because over 24 hours after they took our son, they called and told us to come to the hospital where he was, and that they had kept him overnight to run tests on him. They found nothing wrong, and encouraged me to keep nursing. They said that the previous pediatrician had called and said that we were starving our son, and that he was in danger with us. The hospital said that they would be reporting the pediatrician for lying to CPS and causing us so much distress.

I am strong because the hospital offered to test my milk and they found that I was producing an average of 60 calories per ounce! Way above average! I continued to nurse my son, and used donor milk from a friend to eventually wean him off formula.

I am strong because when my son was 9 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. Another boy!

I am strong because at my first prenatal appointment, my OB told me to not even consider a VBAC because I would never be able to do one, I was “too small.” She encouraged me to schedule my repeat c-section that day.

I am strong because shortly after I found out I was pregnant, my husband got orders to move to South Korea. We decided to move there with him and I would give birth there.

I am strong because even though my milk had almost dried up from being pregnant, I continued to nurse until my son’s 1st birthday!

I am strong because I started researching VBACs. I got my operation report from my previous OB and learned that the c-section was unnecessary, and that I COULD give birth vaginally if I wanted to! I immediately told my new OB that I wanted to try. I hired a birth doula to help me through the process.

I am strong because at 41 weeks, my doctor said that he had to induce me (per hospital policy) or give me a repeat c-section. Because this was the only military hospital in Korea, I didn’t have a lot of options. I chose the induction.

I am strong because even though I was in immense pain from the pitocin, I went eight hours without any pain medication. six hours later, I gave birth via successful VBAC to my second son!

I am strong because in the birth canal, he had swallowed meconium, and I wasn’t able to hold him until he was over 45 minutes old.

I am strong because I still haven’t been the first to hold either of my babies.

I am strong because my second son has never had anything but MY breastmilk! He is now 16 months old and still nurses four times a day, and yes, he is just as small. We just have small babies!

I am strong because I knew my mothering instincts were right and I protected my right to nurse, and my right to have the birth I wanted, even when I was told I’d never give birth that way.

I am strong because I was so inspired by my birth and my experiences, that I decided to become a labor Doula and am planning my next birth (not pregnant yet!) to be at a birthing center.

I am strong because even though I have never shared this story publicly, I am ready to help someone else out through my experiences.

I am strong because it has taken me years to trust people and doctor’s, but I am slowly starting to trust my children with other people, and to have faith in doctor’s again. I am slowly letting go of the past and looking to the future.

I am strong because I am FREE.

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A Breastfeeding Mother’s Will Knows No Bounds {I Am Strong; Anxiety, SNS, Donor Milk}

A Breastfeeding Mother’s Will Knows No Bounds {I Am Strong; Anxiety, SNS, Donor Milk}

I am strong because after 5 hours of intense labor I gave birth to my beautiful 7lb 13oz baby girl without any pain medication. My daughter had difficulty latching but was able to with a nipple shield.

I am strong because I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and didn’t feel connected to my daughter.

I am strong because after a week of breastfeeding I got mastitis. I was running a fever of 103.8 and attempting to take care of my newborn. The antibiotics I was given weren’t working and I needed stronger medication. This new medication made both me and my little one sick but we kept breastfeeding.

I am strong because I continued to nurse through excruciating pain.

I am strong because when my daughter was 2 weeks old she and I both got thrush. My nipples were cracked and bruised. It felt like sharp daggers were going through my breast. I cried every time I nursed her. I begged my husband to let me give up but he continued to encourage me.

I am strong because at 3 weeks old my little one still had not gained back her birth weight. She was nursing every hour for 45 mins around the clock. I only had 15 mins in between each session. I was exhausted. I wanted to give up. I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. All she did was cry all day long.

I am strong because I reached out for help and saw a lactation consultant. At 3 1/2 weeks old my daughter was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie. I needed to start supplementing so she could gain weight. I tried pumping but wasn’t able to get enough to feed my daughter.

I am strong because I battled low supply issues related to her tongue tie for weeks. I used donor milk to supplement until my supply came back.

I am strong because on Christmas Eve I took my daughter to have a tongue tie revision done. I returned to the lactation consultant 5 more times to help get her to latch. For three weeks I did tongue exercises and continued to supplement using an SNS.

I am strong because I nursed with a nipple shield for 6 months until she finally learned how to latch on her own.

I am strong because at 8 months postpartum we are still breastfeeding. I have never fought so hard for something I felt so strongly about ever in my life. I would rather give birth a hundred times over than go through that again. And yet I’m thankful for the struggles I had, because without them, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.

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Reflections on Extended Breastfeeding {One Mother’s Journey}

Reflections on Extended Breastfeeding {One Mother’s Journey}

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

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

And the moment was still perfect.

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

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

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

9 Months

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

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

21 Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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