Watch January, Brandon, their kids, and grandparents hunt down Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum at the book store!
January and Brandon are back from hiatus to discuss none other than THE BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR BOOK!!!
They discuss the entire process, from the initial email January received from a book agent, to the 41 page book proposal, to their trek across New York City with their book agent to meet with six editors, to the actual writing and editing of the book!
It’s a story January and Brandon have been itching to share for a year and a half, and it’s finally here! It’s so exciting that Brandon even busts out his Moviefone voice!
Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!
In her first book, Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum (Hachette Books; March 5 2019), January Harshe, mom of six and founder of the Birth Without Fear website, delivers an inclusive, non-judgmental, and empowering guide to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum life.
Each chapter provides you with the all the necessary information, options, and tools to help you take charge of the experience of welcoming your child into the world.
Unlike other pregnancy, birth, and postpartum books, Birth Without Fear will also help partners understand what mothers are going through, as well as discuss the challenges that they, too, will face—and how they can navigate them.
Shattering long-held myths and beliefs surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum experience, Birth Without Fear is an accessible, reassuring, and ultimately inspiring guide to taking charge of your pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
The Birth Without Fear movement began as a voice for change in the standard of care in today’s birthing world, and Birth Without Fear will empower YOU to be a voice for change in your own pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Options, support, and respect should be the norm for every pregnant and birthing woman, and it can be if YOU, the Birth Without Fear community, vote for that change by pre-ordering your copy of Birth Without Fear today!
January Harshe knows firsthand how widely birth experiences can range. She has run the gamut from an affirming and joyful planned cesarean to a traumatic emergency cesarean, as well as a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans) in the hospital, and two home births. One of these home births was such a dramatic departure from the confusion, uncertainty, and fear of her other births that a beautiful idea was born — she would make it her life’s mission to promote a revolutionary birth and parenting message: you can have a birth without fear, no matter how you birth.
January is the founder of the Birth Without Fear community, as well as Take Back Postpartum, Don’t Forget Dads, and Mothering Without Fear under the Birth Without Fear tent—all of which today collectively represent a social media following of over 1 million and counting.
Within each chapter of Birth Without Fear is a Partner Point of View written by Brandon Harshe. Having been by January’s side for six pregnancies, births, and postpartum experiences, Brandon has learned a lot about what it takes to support the woman he loves through the biggest changes and experiences of her life. In Birth Without Fear, he’s shared some of that knowledge to help husbands and partners be the steadfast support person that all birthing people need and deserve!
Members of the Birth Without Fear community on social media are familiar with the conversation shifting regularly to postpartum, and Birth Without Fear is no different. The focus of so many pregnancy and birth books is on, well, pregnancy and birth. But what about after the birth? You have the entire rest of your life to live, only now with a new baby!
This is where Birth Without Fear comes in. With chapters on breastfeeding, self love, self care, mental health, and sex and intimacy, no stone is left unturned for those of you wondering “what next?” after the baby has arrived.
When January Harshe created the Birth Without Fear community in 2010, she wanted options, support, and respect to be the standard of care for every pregnancy, every birth, and every postpartum experience. Individually, we all have a voice. As a united community, we can affect real change in the conversation about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum in our culture. Pre-ordering Birth Without Fear is a vote for real change. Order your copy today!
Saturday May 26, 2018 was the first Birth Without Fear Conference in AUSTRALIA!!!
It was a huge success and we can’t wait to come back!!!
Got to catchup today with these awesome women at the @birthwithoutfear Sydney conference!!! Thank you @januaryharshe for your total awesomeness 😘 and it was so cool seeing my Doula sisters @doulawisdom and @withloveformama you gals are the best ❤❤❤ #birthwithoutfear #birthwithconfidence #hypnobirthing #hypnobirthinginternational #sydney #doula #2lifedoula #childbirtheducation #Repost @doulawisdom ・・・ It was sooo great to spend the day in Sydney at the @birthwithoutfear conference 🙌🏼 @januaryharshe is so friendly and inspiring. She glows inside and out 😍 Thanks for the fun times @2lifedoula and @withloveformama 💕#birthwithoutfear #doulawisdom #birthwithoutfearconference #loveismyfilter #selflove❤ #doulalife #oxytocinboosting
What a privilege it was to meet the wonderful January Harshe and hear her inspiring words today at the Sydney birth without fear conference 💞 Thank you for the important work you do, you’re fantastic xx . . . . . . #optionssupportrespect #birthwithoutfear #veganidol #womenempowerment #takebackpostpartum #parentwithoutfear #selflove
Can’t even put into words… what a journey, so many moments shared throughout the years, of words shared at exactly the right time, of rewriting of old beliefs and stories! Mama J thanks for all you do in this world, it’s so important, inspiring and uplifting. Thankyou for opening up my mind, heart & soul to a life full of love I could have only dreamed of. For shedding light on dark times, the importance of self care and not giving a shit about what anyone thinks. Thank you for opening me up to possibility and allowing me to hear the whispers of my soul and know that it’s more than ok to have a big family and it’s ok to not be “done” I am forever grateful for the impact you’ve had in my life! #youdoyouboo #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference @birthwithoutfear @januaryharshe
Thrilled to be here with January and all of these beautiful people today at @birthwithoutfear conference in Sydney! We look forward to sharing babywearing with everyone and even launching a few goodies! #babywearing #fourthtrimester #birthwithoutfear #birthwothoutfearconference #moondanimehdai #moondaniexpo #wovenwraps #aussiemade
Today was so surreal. I have followed @birthwithoutfear for years! I think I first discovered BWF as a student midwife and being obsessed with reading women’s birth stories. I came across the blog and then Instagram and just fell in love with the love and acceptance promoted. The no agenda, we love you no matter what your birthing choices are message was such a revelation for me and it really helped shape me as a midwife and I encourage all my clients and friends to follow these accounts in the hopes they feel the same positivity towards birth and their bodies. Also personally, I have always struggled with body image/acceptance. I have been fat, skinny and fat again and that shit really messes with your relationship with yourself and your body. @januaryharshe message of self love and self care really resonated with me today, and has over my years of following her. And I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you January for helping me understand mothers perspectives better, for making me a better midwife and mostly for helping me feel at peace with myself. . . . . #birthwithoutfear #birthwithoutfearconference #birthmatters #choicematters #selflove #selfcare #midwifelife #bodypositive #mgp #blissbirth
The Harshe Podcast welcomes its first guest! Tara Brooke from Doula Trainings International joins January to speak about the difference in parenting culture in Spain vs the US, racial disparity regarding birth in the US, the importance of making a postpartum plan, dealing with family after the birth, not being afraid to ask for help from family or your doula, and what your doula really thinks of you!
Considering certification as a childbirth educator but haven’t quite found the right fit yet? Interested in creating inclusive classes where birthing people can become educated about their options and patient rights?
If you’re eagerly nodding your head along to one or all of these questions, we got ya! Become a childbirth educator with Doula Trainings International‘s Childbirth Edu Training program.
The online platform will take you through certification requirements, tracking your participation progress for your own review of the curriculum and corresponding teaching guide, required scholarly reads and required videos.
This training is available for both conference attendees and those only seeking Childbirth Education Teacher Certification at DTI’s inaugural Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX. What you would normally get in our 3 month online program, you will get in this 2 day in person training. You’ll walk away ready to go!
Check out WeAreDTI.com for more details!
(Editor’s note: this was originally posted in 2013.)
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
“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
“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!
Below is Katelyn nursing her son at the aquarium, her supportive husband at her side!
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Wolf, J. H. (2008). Got milk? Not in public!. International Breastfeeding Journal, 31-3. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-3-11
- Pettis, C. T., & Miller, M. K. (2007). PROMOTING BREAST-FEEDING THROUGH SOCIAL CHANGE. Women’s Policy Journal Of Harvard, 439-47.
- 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.
By Billie Criswell
I was overjoyed when I became pregnant at 28 years old, and gave birth just before my 29th birthday. My pregnancy was planned, and was fairly uneventful. Because I had struggled with anxiety throughout my 20s, I prepared for postpartum, which in hindsight, sounds funny because who can really prepare for postpartum? But I did what I thought was my due diligence…I attended regular therapy sessions. I prepared my one-line birth plan: no interventions. I lined up my placenta encapsulation. I hired my doula. I had a plan for accepting help from my “Grandma dream team,” compromised of my mom and my mother-in-law, who supplied us with food and help for two full weeks.
I had an unmedicated, vaginal birth in the hospital. It was pretty routine except for a couple of things. Unbeknownst to me, a doctor or midwife in the rotating practice wrote in my chart that my baby was breech (she was not) and there was confusion about me getting a c-section. The second thing happened while I was pushing. Out of nowhere, the midwife who was attending asked the nurses to bring a mirror. I asked them not to. She nodded and insisted, “bring in the mirror.” Seeing myself giving birth in a mirror felt very violating. It was distracting, and disturbing as though I was having an out of body experience and being forced to watch something that I found traumatizing.
But all of that behind me, I left the hospital and came home. I was exhausted after having been awake for 36 hours straight, but I was well cared for by everyone around me. In those first days, I felt disconnected from everything. Trying to catch up on sleep, learning to breastfeed, and adjust to caring for an infant is pretty haze-inducing. I took the placenta pills. When people asked me how I felt, I responded with “good.”
I got to know my baby, who loved me above all people and never wanted to be put down. EVER. We adapted. We co-slept. We had a sling, and an Ergo baby carrier. Little did I know that I would literally be carrying my child around for the next 10 months (she is the most attached child I have ever, ever met.)
After two and a half weeks, it was time for my husband to go back to work, time for my mother and mother-in-law to go back to cooking for their own families. And that morning, as I kissed my husband goodbye, I was feeling a bit excited to be alone with my baby for the first time. She was asleep, and I took a breath, sat down, ready to admire her until she woke up. And that was when it happened… I felt a hot wave rush over me, and I thought I was going to pass out. The room was spinning. I panicked. I grabbed the baby and got into bed, thinking I was surely about to die. I was experiencing what would be the first of several months of panic attacks.
I was terrified to be alone with my baby, afraid that I would drop her, or that I would faint while carrying her and kill her. I was afraid that the walls were closing in. I was afraid of everything, all of the time. I had these horrible visions of bad things that could happen to her. She would be sitting in her bouncer, and I would be cutting carrots and suddenly be horrified that I could cut off her finger, even though she was ten feet away. I felt crazy.
I knew that something was really wrong in my mind, and so when she was a few months old, I told my primary care doctor about how I was feeling. She flippantly looked at me and said “Well stop breastfeeding, you’ll feel better. And by the way, if you have any more kids, this will only get worse for you.” I went home and cried for five days straight. I didn’t want to give up breastfeeding…it was the one thing I was doing with success. So I dug in my heels, and decided that I would continue breastfeeding, consequences be damned.
I attended regular therapy sessions. My therapist knew that I was struggling, but I don’t think that even she knew the extent of the pain I was in mentally. I think the anxiety had become so bad that I didn’t know how to properly express how bad it was. I coped by always scheduling a visit with a friend or family member while my husband was at work or school (he was finishing his degree at the time.) And crying when I was alone, wondering if I was a bad mother, whether I would ever feel normal again, and hiding some of the darkest moments away.
When my daughter was six months old that everything really came to a head when I had this strange pain in my groin and a rash on my back. I had become so stressed and riddled with anxiety that I had gotten shingles. It was probably the best thing that happened to me postpartum. On doctor’s orders, I had to lay down, rest, and keep myself from being too stressed. This was when I finally began laying down with my daughter for naps. I began resting, and knowing that I had those two hours each day to lay down, helped tremendously. It also gave me an unspoken permission to actually ask for help from those around me.
The fog slowly began to lift. Then, around the 8 or 9 month mark when I was arbitrarily surfing Facebook, I came across an article about postpartum depression and anxiety. It talked about how people who had been sexually abused or assaulted were more likely to feel violated by childbirth and had higher instances of postpartum depression and anxiety. I had no idea.
Suddenly everything clicked. In all the preparations I made, in all those OB/GYN appointments I had, not one person ever asked me if I had been the victim of sexual abuse or assault—not even my therapist knew to ask. Even though I had the birth I “wanted,” I still felt so traumatized and I finally understood why. In those moments of realization, it was as though I could finally come out the other side. A huge burden lifted off me, as if all at once.
Since then, I’ve still had my ups and downs… breastfeeding was a huge culprit as well in the hormonal cocktail that spikes my anxiety. I breastfed my daughter until she was 3 1/2, and when I weaned her, the anxiety was once again palpable. Now, having weaned her, I feel like my postpartum period has FINALLY, at long last, come to a close. It’s been an often dark place for me, but understanding where the sense of trauma comes from really helps.
I have been lucky. I reached out, and I had a number of people who came to my aid. My family, and a few close friends really hung in there with me and, on numerous occasions, dropped everything to come and literally sit beside me as I struggled. My husband has been a major support for me in both my mental health and my extended breastfeeding. The journey has been hard, and full of love.
Coming through this period of my life has changed me. It’s made me more able to acknowledge when I need help, and it’s made me more thankful for my moments with my daughter where I feel like myself. Postpartum anxiety robbed me of a precious time with my newborn. Guilt is motherfucker and she doesn’t go easy. But just like the initial trauma of sexual abuse, the birth trauma wasn’t my fault, and the postpartum anxiety wasn’t my fault.
I want to share a picture with you all.
This was taken on August 19th, 2015 – the day Jack turned 5…the 5th anniversary of our breastfeeding journey. When he was born, I had educated myself a lot about breastfeeding and knew that I was going to do it—I was going to succeed—it was the normal and optimal food for my baby. But I didn’t have anything like Cafe au Lait. I had never been to a La Leche League meeting… I didn’t really have any close breastfeeding mama friends yet at the time, and I hadn’t really ever seen a mom breastfeeding her child. But my instincts were powerful, and Jack latched on in his first few minutes of life.
By keeping him with me, nursing him often and following his lead, our nursing relationship grew, evolved and blossomed over the years. We luckily never ran into any issues and I quickly learned that breastfeeding was so much more than nutrition – it became how I mothered. I wasn’t only nourishing and growing his perfect little body – I was meeting his every physical and emotional need in the most natural and amazing way. In return, the relationship was also so very healing for my soul and mental health – not only as a new mom, but as a woman: after spending most of my life hating my body and abusing it through an eating disorder (spending so many years wishing my boobs would disappear because they were “extra fat on my body”), watching my son thrive and grow on the milk my body made was just the most intensely awesome thing.
He continued to nurse through my pregnancy with Wyatt (he turned 3 two weeks before Wyatt was born); and when our new baby joined us, my two boys nursed together. Tandem nursing was an amazing experience – one that truly made me feel like “mother earth” and was a HUGE benefit in helping Jack in adjusting to our new family member. Instead of this new baby taking his mom away from him, tandem nursing allowed the transition to be seamless and natural.
Those early days of newborn bliss and our new family of four were so beautiful and special (not that every moment is perfection of course, but when I look back on it I absolutely remember it that way). Jack continued to nurse here and there as Wyatt grew older, but his sips of milk grew further apart, mostly asking for a sip during the day and at bedtime. Knowing that both the nutritional and immunological benefits are ALWAYS there, I was glad that he still wanted to drink my “liquid gold”.
I took this picture on Jack’s 5th birthday because I knew that our days of breastfeeding weren’t going to last forever (though I remember in sweet bedtime discussions when Jack was little, him saying that he’d never wean and he’d drink milk until he was in his 40s). At some point between that day and his recent 6th birthday, he stopped asking for milk. It wasn’t an “event” I could pinpoint the date of… there was no “last time” that I can really recall in my head…but gradually and in his own time, I can now say he has weaned.
I felt from the beginning that I wanted to give my kids the option to breastfeed until they outgrew the need. As my kids grew, they didn’t only want milk when they were hungry or thirsty – they wanted to nurse when they fell on the playground, or when their feelings were just too big to handle—and I was more than happy to take the time to cuddle them and nurture them in the most natural way I could – to offer my breasts. Wyatt is now 3 and I am currently almost in week 18 of my third pregnancy. He still drinks some milk at bedtime, but at this point, there isn’t a ton coming out. He’s been fine with it and is perfectly happy snuggling in as we read together before they fall asleep. I totally look forward to the days of milk abundance when the new baby is here and Wyatt can join baby, just like his big brother did with him.
Of course, not all moms choose to nurse until their little ones outgrow the need – and that’s okay! Our topic at La Leche League of Mt. Lebanon this past week was Full-Term Nursing and Child-Led Weaning (if you know me, you know I cringe at the term “extended nursing” because there’s really nothing “extended” about it and I really don’t like what that phrase implies). There are SO many benefits to continuing to breastfeed for as long as is mutually desirable for both mom and child, though there are many roadblocks that can unfortunately get in the way. That’s why I’m passionate about empowering, encouraging and supporting moms to make the choices that feel right to them – not to talk them into making the same choices I did, but to making the choices that feel right for their families.
Remember: for as little or as long as you breastfeed, you are giving your child(ren) a priceless gift of physical and mental health, and a connection that builds a lifetime of love, trust and confidence that will be special to you forever.
I am strong because at the age of 19, my husband and I became pregnant with our first child.
I am strong because at our first ultrasound we were told that our son would be born with “myelomeningocele”. The most common and most severe form of Spina Bifida.
I am strong because on July 05, 2011, I went in for a c-section. Jonah was born at 12:32pm with Spina Bifida, hydrocephalus, bilateral club feet and Chiari Malformation II.
I am strong because two years later we decided to try for another child, even though the chances of this baby being born with Spina Bifida were even higher than the first time. I am strong because I went through an emotional battle with myself when we found out our daughter did NOT have Spina Bifida.
I am strong because even though I had a c-section the first time, I knew I needed to go for a VBAC for the quick recovery. Our son needed me to carry him and take him to his therapies.
I am strong because I went in for my VBAC January 1st.
I am strong because I was induced with Pitocin, even though it was much against my birth plan. I am strong because I was given foley bulbs to help the process, which was also much against my birth plan. I am strong because after 32 hours of labor, I decided to get an epidural even though it was against my birth plan. I am strong because after two “failed” epidurals, the pain was excruciating. I am strong because even though I was dilated to a 7, I knew something was wrong and I needed a repeat c-section.
I am strong because I went in for my c-section around 6pm, and I woke up around 10pm that night. I knew something had happened. I am strong because I listened to my body and had my c-section just in time to save my baby and me.
I am strong because my uterus had ruptured.
I am strong because after my surgery, I spent the night having nightmares of my daughter Genevieve crying, and I could not get to her. I am strong because I finally decided to take a sleeping pill, and ease some of my emotional pain.
I am strong because I spent the next few days in the hospital, in terrible pain, with a surgical drain attached to my c-section scar, all while waiting to find out if I would need a hysterectomy.
I am strong because at the age of 22, I was told I could not have any more children without risking mine, and my unborn child’s life.
I am strong because I could not lift my son. I am strong because I had to watch him fall down and get back up without my help.
I am strong because just two weeks after Genevieve was born, I was in the same hospital again for two surgeries to remove my gall bladder. I am strong because I fell into a dark depression during this time, and I never let anyone know of my struggle. I am strong because even though I felt emotionally and physically drained, I continued to produce the milk my daughter needed.
I am strong because I continue to have those same nightmares of my daughter crying and I cannot get to her.
I am strong because even though one doctor told me not to try again, I am looking for another specialist to get a second opinion. And I will get a third, fourth, and fifth opinion if I have to.
I am strong because even though both my c-sections were traumatic, I cannot forget how alive and strong I felt during my labor with my daughter.
I am strong because if it is God’s will…we will try again.