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Ladies & Gentlemen, Husbands & Wives, Mothers & Fathers: We Are Strong

Ladies & Gentlemen, Husbands & Wives, Mothers & Fathers: We Are Strong

I am Strong because I waited until the age of 32 to have my first child.

I am Strong because I saw our would-be son one day looking up at me holding onto the knee of the man who became the love of my life at the age of 28. Dream became Reality.

I am Strong because as the youngest of my home growing up, and the youngest in our family’s generation, I was not around young children much, so everything was new and exciting/frightening.

I am Strong because my husband made it home from his last deployment for the Army in 2010, and we made the happy decision to try and start a family.

I am Strong because five weeks into trying, the hubby and I went to the ER due to me having severe abdominal cramps. We found out after eight hours of waiting that we were less than 48 hours pregnant and in danger of losing the baby.

I am Strong because we also made the decision to do what it took to have me become a Stay-At-Home Mom; the call and eventual resignation from being in Property Management for almost a decade was bitter and sweet.

I am Strong because my pregnancy was filled with obstacles and unknowns, from start to finish.

I am Strong because our pregnancy took, and I was able to carry full term.

I am Strong because when we moved from Texas to Virginia, our insurance was suspended due to an employee’s typo, and we were forced to go without insurance for over 4.5 months of the pregnancy.

I am Strong because we had to ask a local 4D ultrasound locale for a session to find out how many and what we were having during the middle of the insurance nightmare.

I am Strong because our sweet baby boy blew a kiss to us on the ultrasound, one of at least three prior dreams that have become reality. (The DVD shows this amazing gift)

I am Strong because the pregnancy was high-risk from start to finish.

I am Strong because the natural hormonal surges that occur in pregnancy were so great that my hip and shoulder joints were prone to dislocation, making it hard to walk, sit, lift anything, or be comfortable.

I am Strong because despite all my efforts to consume the healthiest of things – the only true craving I ever had was for beer, not a winning scenario as it went unsatisfied – I gained over 50 pounds during the pregnancy.

I am Strong because we made a birth plan, but due to complications with my joints, had to settle for induction/possible csection as a backup.

I am Strong because at 41 weeks, I began having contractions. They lasted an entire week, but to no avail as I did not dilate.

I am Strong because we went into the hospital to be induced, only to have the first induction fail.

I am Strong because after the second induction was administered, my joints could no longer handle the hormonal surge and my right hip dislocated, causing me excruciating pain.

I am Strong because I was scared to death of having an epidural but made the decision to do so as my cervix was still not cooperative.

I am Strong because I had two extremely intense contractions during the administering of the epidural, but managed to stay still enough with the help of my husband so as to not incur any nerve damage.

I am Strong because the only progress the epidural produced was my water breaking.

I am Strong because after 72 hours from being admitted, our son’s heart rate began dropping with contractions. It was decided a csection was eminent.

I am Strong because I sang hymns while being rolled into the OR, strapped to the table, to calm my nerves.

I am Strong because it took over five rounds of pain blockers to get my body to cooperate to have the procedure.

I am Strong because upon delivery, it was discovered our dear son had the cord wrapped around his neck twice.

I am Strong because after being wheeled into the recovery room while our son went to be tested/weighed, the nurses had turned the television on in the room.

I am Strong because our son was born the morning of the tsunami in Japan, March 11, 2011.

I am Strong because I felt at the same time immense joy for his new life, and ultimate sorrow for the tens of thousands of lives who were washed from this earth that fateful day.

I am Strong because we finally had a healthy baby boy!

I am Strong because I found out through two sessions with a domineering and condescending lactation specialist that I had inverted nipples and would eventually not be able to produce enough breastmilk to meet our son’s needs. I was not able to experience the deep bond with our son that so many others are blessed to have.

I am Strong because I left the hospital weighing more than I did while pregnant due to the amount of fluids and medications administered during these events.

I am Strong because the first week of having our son home also involved suffering through a reaction and withdrawal from a medicine the nurses gave me that I had previously admitted being allergic to on top of recovering from the surgery.

I am Strong because though our son was healthy, we noticed him having consistent tummy troubles. At the age of 2, he began having the same symptoms I have experienced as an adult with IBS, but at such a young age.

I am Strong because we had many trips to the doctor and even the ER but to no finite clarity on how to help our sweet boy.

I am Strong because our son suffered open sores for seven months during this ordeal.

I am Strong because I made the decision to attempt fixing his troubles through an elimination diet. It took over a year to find the source of the problem, mainly being all grains, but within a week of a completely benign diet, his sores healed and we began to enjoy watching him be a little boy with no more pain, only joy and curiosity.

I am Strong because our family is now on a modified paleo – low FODMAP lifestyle, with all of us having seen significant improvement in our health.

I am Strong because I only discovered Birth Without Fear through an acquaintance’s chance post on Facebook.

I am Strong because I wept with grief and relief to see how not alone I am in this world of traumatic births.

I am Strong because I’ve been able to lose all the weight I had gained and be more healthy now than ever before.

I am Strong because my Husband never left my side, from start to finish. He is my Rock, and I will Love him until my last breath.

I am Strong because we want a daughter.

I am Strong because we may not be able to have any other children.

I am Strong because I rejoice in the glorious secret world that is our happy home with my husband and son.

I am Strong.

Ladies, Gentlemen, Husbands, Wives, Mothers and Fathers:

We are STRONG.

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When Breast ISN’T Best – One Mom’s Challenge with Breastfeeding

When Breast ISN’T Best – One Mom’s Challenge with Breastfeeding

When people started finding out my husband and I were expecting, one of the first questions people asked was if I planned to breastfeed. Of course I did! It’s what is best for baby! It’s natural! It’s free! It helps with bonding! Little did I know that none of those things were true…at least for my family. I never got around to taking a breastfeeding class, but I did watch a ton of YouTube videos by “natural mom vloggers.”  They all made it look so easy. I couldn’t wait to breastfeed my baby!

On May 30th, 2014 at 39 weeks and 1 day, my water suddenly broke at 11:30 am. I immediately started having contractions every four minutes. I was dilated to 3 cm by the time I got to triage at the hospital. By 2:00 pm I was having intense contractions every three minutes that made me moan and cry.  By the time I was admitted into my labor and delivery room, I was screaming out in pain and trying to make it through contractions that never really ended. They would peak, then ease up for about 10 seconds and then peak again.  My nurse kept saying how she couldn’t believe how close together and how intense my contractions were without giving me a break in between. I finally got an epidural which was the best decision I have ever made! By 7:00 pm I was completely dilated and ready to push. I had to wait 45 minutes for my OB to arrive to start pushing, but once I started, baby girl started to fly out! She was born at 8:02 pm and was completely perfect!

After all of the commotion had settled, I was asked if I wanted to breastfeed. Baby girl “latched on” immediately (now I know she actually did not have a correct latch). The labor and delivery nurse looked at baby nursing one time and said, “Looks good,” then left the room. I thought we were doing it correctly. My postpartum nurse and 3 lactation consultants in the hospital kept talking about how baby was “breastfeeding like a champ”. This made me feel great! I was so encouraged that breastfeeding was coming so easily!

We spent two long nights in the hospital, and we were discharged after a long night of painful non-stop cluster feeding. When I got home from the hospital, I took off my nursing tank only to pull of 2 huge scabs from my nipples that had stuck onto my shirt. I cried and cried not only from the pain, but from being so afraid to nurse my baby because of what it was going to feel like. My husband had to massage my shoulders and have me clench his arm when she latched because I would bawl every single time. I would wake up with my nipples stuck to my sheets and had to wet them to get them off in order to not rip the new scabs off. I tried every nipple cream I could find with no results.

In addition to bleeding nipples, I became extremely engorged and had clogged ducts the size of golf balls. I wanted to pump just enough to relieve the engorgement but the lactation consultants I had in the hospital gave me strict orders not to pump before four weeks or I would become engorged! Looking back I don’t know why I just didn’t do it anyway, but I was a first time mom and I wanted to do everything “right.” I saw my OB and he told me my breasts were “normal breastfeeding breasts,” even though when I saw him my breasts looked like huge lumpy bowling balls that were so tight they were shiny and had red streaks all over them. I told him I thought I was getting mastitis, but since I didn’t have a fever yet he said I was fine, and that breastfeeding “was supposed to be painful for a while.”

I dealt with this for three weeks. My baby literally needed to nurse ALL the time. My breasts never felt empty. Now I know she was hardly getting any milk. I was talking to one of my best friends who finally told me what I was going through was not normal. I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant outside of the hospital and saw her the next day. I was so excited to get this sorted out because I wanted breastfeeding to work!  She told me my breasts were very full and my nipples were extremely damaged. She told me she couldn’t believe I had not quit breastfeeding with how damaged my nipples were.
I liked her at first. Then she hooked me up to my pump. I pumped about half an ounce from each side even though my breasts were so full. She then watched my baby latch and told me I should be smashing her face into my boob more and told me that should help. She told me my baby had a lip tie and a posterior tongue tie but they were not so severe that they should be causing me so much pain, and baby should still be able to latch and empty my breasts.

Then she told me to have a good day! I was shocked that she was rushing me out so fast. I asked her what my plan should be, and if I should just pump and bottle feed until my nipples healed. She replied, “They are YOUR nipples. Do what you want.” I was so upset and cried the whole way home because I felt more lost and confused than I was before. I wanted so badly to breastfeed my baby but it felt like I had no hope.

I decided to pump until I healed because I couldn’t take the pain any more. When I got home and pumped 5 ounces (total), my breasts finally felt so much better! I gave my baby a bottle for the first time that night and that was the first time I think I bonded with my baby. I wasn’t in pain and she was full for the first time in her life! I was happy but still wanted to go back to breastfeeding. I researched and decided to get her tongue and lip tie fixed. We got then fixed at 5 weeks old and I thought we could go right back to breastfeeding! My nipples felt better for the most part. Unfortunately, since we didn’t get them fixed until she was 5 weeks old, she was unable to re-learn to breastfeed the right way. I then had to accept the fact I would be an exclusive pumper.

I became obsessed with pumping and my supply. My supply was very low. Since baby girl could not latch correctly, she never completely emptied my breasts and my body had regulated to this low supply. The same lactation consultant told me that I needed to pump every two hours to boost my supply. I wasn’t sleeping (now I know sleep is one of the best ways to ensure a good supply!). I was setting my alarm for every other hour to pump, even overnight. I would pump for 45 minutes  and only get out 1 ounce or less total. My nipples were so bad again from constant pumping. I was not making enough milk to feed my baby. I tried every supplement out there to boost milk supply and spent hundreds of dollars on them. I had to start giving my baby formula. She was hungry and I had no milk.

I was devastated and felt like the worst mom in the world. I felt very judged because of the whole natural parenting movement. I kept getting flashbacks of a YouTube video I watched when I was pregnant that showed a picture of formula and said “If you want to feed your baby breast milk instead of THIS STUFF, you may like my channel!” I was so stressed out because I wanted the best for my baby, and “breast is best!”  No one understood the guilt I was feeling, or the pressure I was putting on myself to give my baby the best. My husband had the best of intentions but would say things like, “Why is this SUCH a big deal to you? You are feeding her and that’s all that matters.” Comments like this just made me feel crazy and like my feelings were not justified.

Finally, one of my friends said something that made everything click for me. She said, “Maybe the breast actually isn’t best for you and your family.” I thought about this for a second. She was right! I did not have one fond memory of breastfeeding. I was in so much pain I was actually beginning to resent my baby. My husband was so stressed from seeing me in constant pain My baby never got full from it which made her constantly want to nurse. I know she could feel my body tense up when I nursed her and that made her tense. All breastfeeding was doing for my family was causing us pain!

This was the very moment I decided to give myself a break. I had worked so hard. I did everything I knew how to do to have a good breastfeeding relationship with my baby. It just wasn’t working for us. I decided I would pump and give her as much breast milk as I could, but also give her all the formula her little tummy wanted! I began pumping every four hours instead of every two. I finally relaxed and accepted our situation, and guess what? The moment I accepted it, I started making more milk.

Now, I know that stress is one of the biggest things that negatively affects milk supply. I began producing enough to only need to give her one bottle per day of formula. Now my baby is 7 months old, happy, healthy, and perfect. I am about to start weaning her from breast milk. My husband and I are going on a beach vacation in a couple of months and I don’t want to worry about pumping and bringing my pumping supplies and storing milk while we are there! I am now dealing with some guilt about weaning her, but I am proud of myself. I am proud of myself for doing what was best for our family. My baby was not happy while we were breastfeeding. None of us were.

Looking back, I wish I would have seen multiple lactation consultants, and followed my gut with pumping earlier to relieve my engorgement.  I wish I could go back and give my baby girl formula earlier, because I missed out on a lot of early bonding time with her. Now one of my favorite things to do is feed my baby a bottle, and watch her sweet little milk drunk (or formula drunk) face fall peacefully to sleep with a full belly.

I want other moms to know that feeding your baby formula is awesome! So is breastfeeding! So is exclusive pumping! It is awesome because you are feeding your baby and keeping a tiny little human alive and that is amazing.


One Z Pillow: Support For Baby And Mom {Breastfeeding}

One Z Pillow: Support For Baby And Mom {Breastfeeding}

Of all the things that I prepared for postpartum, I forgot a nursing pillow. Oops!

So, I recently tried the One Z Pillow (they make the Twin Z Pillow), and absolutely fell in love with it! Not only is a great/sturdy support for breastfeeding, but it gives back support for the mom to do so ergonomically. It is so comfortable!

I’ve had many types of nursing pillows, having pumped for and breastfed six babies now, and this is the only one I’ve used that gives ME support so that I can comfortably sit back and nurse without hurting my back.

I am now addicted to this pillow and keep it in my postpartum space that I still hideaway in sometimes.

I asked them if they would give a few to our mamas and they generously said yes! See our Instagram (@birthwithoutfear) to enter!

one z pillow unnamed

Gorgeous Teething Necklace {The Vintage Honey Shop}

Gorgeous Teething Necklace {The Vintage Honey Shop}

As many of you know, our sixth baby has arrived! I have fed my babies all sorts of ways from pumping, to formula, to tandem nursing. My littlest one has so far been my easiest to breastfeeding and I’m grateful for it!

Being my sixth baby, I know that in no time, she is going to start reaching, pulling, and grabbing with her cute little hands when nursing. It’s nice to have something safe that she can hold onto for comfort as she nurses. As she gets older and starts teething and chewing on things, if she can safely do so on the same necklace, that’s a huge bonus!

What’s even better is if it’s something beautiful mommy likes too!  I recently received this gorgeous, handmade necklace from The Vintage Honey Shop and mommy likes it very much! First of all, it was  fun to open a pretty package to me…

vintage honey shop

vintage honey shop

I absolutely adore it. It’s stunning, sturdy, and I WANT to wear it! For those of you wondering, it is made with designer 100% cotton fabric, and natural organic wood bead/rings. More info on their site here.

I am so in love with it and grateful The Vintage Honey Shop is giving three away to our mamas (your pick up to $27 value). To enter: They are also extending a 15% coupon code for us while the giveaway is live: BWF15.

Happy feeding and teething! {January}

Teaching Strength {I Am Strong}

Teaching Strength {I Am Strong}

I am strong because I got pregnant when my son was 10 months old.

I am strong because it was after a miscarriage and I spent my entire first trimester in fear of losing this baby too.

I am strong because I planned to birth at a birthing center.

I am strong because after only 3.5 hours of labor I welcomed my baby girl into this world in the water.

britt beaus i am strong

I am strong because I remained calm as it took her four whole minutes to take her first breath.

I am strong because at 4 days old my daughters pediatrician heard a heart murmur and referred us over to our local children’s hospital.

I am strong because eve though she said it was no rush, I demanded to be seen the next day.

I am strong because at five days old, my perfectly healthy baby, was diagnosed with multiple congenital heart defects.

I am strong because I let my six day old baby be wheeled away from me and have open heart surgery.

britt beaus baby

I am strong because she was so small she needed a shunt instead of a repair surgery.

I am strong because after her surgery I made it my goal to breastfeed.

britt beaus strong baby

I am strong because her vocal cords were paralyzed during surgery and we were sent home on a feeding tube.

I am strong because I pumped and fed her breastmilk through her nasogastric tube.

I am strong because she was exclusively  breastfeeding by 6 weeks old.

britt beaus i am strong baby

I am strong because less than 2% of heart babies breastfeed.

I am strong because she is thriving. She is meeting all milestones and beating all odds.

I am strong because I believe I her strength.

I am strong because I advocate for my daughters health every single day.

britt beaus baby girl

I am strong because my daughter has another open heart surgery at 4 months old in just two weeks.

I am strong because I will have to hold it together as I let go if my precious baby for a second time.

I am strong because I am a mother. A mother to a little girl who I am teaching to have her own strength.

{Story submitted by mama Brittney Beus.}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A short and sweet story of a teenage mother, or just a mother, this is Jada’s story:

I am strong because I found out I was pregnant at 17, two months into a relationship, and decided then to keep the baby.

I am strong because I decided to end the relationship, because I wasn’t happy anymore.

I am strong because during my pregnancy, I went through the worst depression in my life a month before my son was born.

I am strong because I had my mother and my aunt in the birthing center room to support me while I went through with my natural birth, which showed me just how strong I was.

I am strong because I pushed for an hour (which felt like only five minutes) and gave birth to a 8 lb. 8 oz. healthy boy and picked the name of my son when I met him for the first time.

I am strong because despite the criticism on bed-sharing, I am proud to say I have slept beside my son every night since he was born, and have no plan to stop.

I am strong because I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public despite my overwhelming social anxiety, and plan on weaning when he is ready.

I am strong because I suffer from postpartum depression and am raising my son, alone, the way I feel is right for the both of us.

I am strong because I am going through with getting my high school diploma so my son and I can have a good future.

I am strong because now, at 19 years of age, I am where I want to be and have great plans that I see myself accomplishing in the future.


Homebirth Filled with Patience and Love {Water Birth & Cord Burning}

Homebirth Filled with Patience and Love {Water Birth & Cord Burning}

On Friday, April 18th, your daddy, sister, and I were leaving the house for dinner.  I had just stepped outside when I felt a small gush. I joked with your dad that maybe my water was leaking. We went about our evening and had a lovely dinner and then went for a short walk. As we got home that evening, I felt another small gush of fluid.  I decided I’d sit down for a while and then stand up and “bounce” a little to see if I leaked more. Sure enough, I did!

I quickly called my midwife and asked her what to do.  She told me there was an amino-swab in the birth kit and to test the fluid with it and to call her back with the results.  I used the swab and it confirmed that, yes indeed, my water was leaking.  I started to feel anxious and excited, and I was worried about now being put on a time limit. I had been Group B positive for most of my pregnancy, and the longer I went without going into labor, the higher the risk that you might be exposed.

I called my midwife, Sunshine, and she told me that she felt comfortable with waiting a while to see how things progressed.  A week prior to my water leaking I was given antibiotics for an infected tooth (coincidentally, the same pregnancy safe antibiotics they would use in labor for Group B at the hospital). She told me to rest and that we would meet each other in the morning to start me on labor inducing herbs and check on you, but that maybe we would see each other sooner than that.

Meanwhile, your sister was buzzing with excitement about your arrival.  She ran around the house yelling, “Mama’s water broke!  The baby is coming!”  I went to bed that evening, my mind racing with anticipation, and kept telling myself I would wake to labor at some point that evening.

I woke that morning as the sunlight flooded the bedroom. I was having no time-able or painful contractions.  I made myself some breakfast and watched TV until Daddy and Cecilia woke up. Once it was a reasonable hour, I decided to try to find an acupuncturist that could see me that day.  It was Saturday, so most acupuncturists were not available.  I finally got a hold of a woman from the Birth Point Acupuncture group that was able to see me that afternoon.  We met Sunshine before heading to the appointment.  She checked on you and you sounded great!  She then gave me black and blue cohosh and castor oil.  We shared our concerns about waiting with ruptured membranes and I told her I was worried about being transferred to the hospital.  She told me that she was OK with waiting a while longer and trying to get things started with the herbs, castor oil, and some acupressure techniques that an acupuncturist had taught your dad the day before.

We went to drop off your sister with Grandma Donna so that we could spend some time that evening focusing on helping you drop lower. We headed to the acupuncture appointment and I had a very intense session.  The acupuncture was bringing on some contractions, but once the needles where out they stopped. The women told us to go home and rest for a while, then head back at 4pm for a second round if I wasn’t in labor yet.  We went home and Daddy and I cuddled and took a nap.

We woke to find Grandma had brought us a breast pump we could use to try to stimulate labor. We headed back to the acupuncture for another session and once again contractions stopped once the needles were taken out.  We headed to pick your sister up from Grandma Donna’s house and headed home. Once I was home, I texted Sunshine to let her know I was still not in labor and we made a plan to meet around noon on Easter Sunday at my fathers house to check on you.  Daddy, Cecilia and myself went about enjoying what we thought might be our last evening together as a family of three.  We watched a movie as I pumped and Daddy got the herbs and castor oil ready for me. I cuddled your sister a while then she was off to bed.  Daddy and I stayed up for several more hours working at the acupressure, herbs, and castor oil.  As I laid down to sleep that night, I envisioned laboring with you, the contractions coming strong, feeling you drop lower, and finally you being born into the water into your father’s hands. I envisioned this over and over again until I drifted off to sleep.

I woke once again as sunlight began to fill the bedroom. I laid still for some time and felt the sun against my face praying you would decided to be born that day. I finally got up, got myself some fruit and found a comfy spot to sit and pump and watch TV until everyone else was up. The contractions were coming while I pumped, but once I took the pump off my breasts the contractions faded like they had the day before. I waited for Daddy and Ceci to wake up so we could get the day started. The morning went quick once everyone was up. We made a light breakfast, sister enjoyed all her new gifts, and dad and I went about doing the herbs, acupressure, and pumping. Soon it was time to go to my fathers for Easter lunch. I was looking forward to this meal because that evening I would be taking the castor oil for the second time.

Once we got there we talked with the family, enjoyed the sun, and ate probably one of the best meals my dad has ever made! Cecilia hunted for her eggs, and daddy did more acupressure on my hands and feet. Sunshine came over right after we had finished eating, she checked your heartbeat which was perfect, then we talked about taking a bigger dose of castor oil and meeting that evening to do a membrane sweep. I texted my acupuncturist early that morning to see if there would be anyway for me to see her today and she responded at lunch saying she could meet at 3:30. We enjoyed a little more time with the family and decided Cecilia would go to grandma’s to swim while we went to the appointment.

The acupuncture appointment went well. I talked to you while the needles where in and told you not to be afraid, that we could do this, that you would be born at home but I needed you to decide to come soon and that we where all very ready to meet you. The contractions started to have some discomfort, but they faded again once the appointment was over. Daddy and I decided to take a walk on the cliffs above the ocean before picking your sister up. We walked hand in hand enjoying one another talking about who you would be and what you would look like.

The waves were massive that afternoon and so strong when they hit the cliffs it misted salty sea water all over us. I rested my hand gently upon your home and told you to come as strong as the waves. We walked back to the car and went to grandma’s. We visited with Cecilia for awhile, I cuddled her on Grandma’s bed, and we decided it would be best for her to stay with grandma that night to give daddy and I some more time getting you to come. After saying our goodbyes to Cecilia we made our way home, stopping along the way to get a few last things for the birth.

Once we were home, I started pumping and waited for Sunshine to get there to do the membrane sweep. She arrived around 7 that evening and we talked about everything. Daddy was starting to feel nervous about the chance of infection the longer my water had been broken. Sunshine also started to feel a little outside her comfort zone. I told them both that I knew you were OK, I knew I was OK, and I knew that you would be born at home. Sunshine was willing to let me go until tomorrow afternoon to see if labor would begin.  I did not want to be in the hospital giving birth and I was very confident that you were perfectly fine, and that you would come before then. Sunshine did the sweep and told me I was 3cm but my cervix was mush. Sunshine left and daddy and I spent some much needed time cuddling and being close.

We drifted off to sleep for the night, but I woke in the middle of the night to some contractions and decided to spend some time pumping. They started to fade, so I went back to sleep. I woke again right before the sunrise. I spent some time envisioning your birth, the contractions coming strong, your head pressing against my cervix, you coming lower and lower until you where born into the water then into your fathers hands.  I was having no contractions when I woke up and went back to pumping.

I woke daddy up at 6:30 and asked him to make me breakfast and spend some time with me.  I was beginning to feel defeated. I started to fear that I wouldn’t be able to bring you earthside the way I so badly wanted and needed to.  By 7:30am I called Sunshine and told we needed to do something more to get things going, so I asked her to come over and sweep my membranes or break my waters completely.  She agreed and said she would come at 9AM. That hour and half felt like forever!  I laid in bed and cuddled our kitty Luna.  She had not been very interested in me or my belly this pregnancy, but that hour she felt like cuddling right on top of you.  I think she knew it was almost time to meet you.

Daddy sat next to me on the bed playing guitar.  9AM came and Sunshine arrived.  She checked on your heartbeat and told you that today would be your birthday.  She proceeded to break my water, starting by stretching my cervix.  I went from 3cm to 4cm and once she had broken the waters I was at a 5cm.  We talked a little more about waiting longer and we decided that if I was not in labor by the next morning we would transfer. Sunshine left and I went back to pumping.  Contractions started to come strong and they started to have some discomfort to them.  After about 20 minutes of pumping I realized they where not stopping!  So I told daddy to start reaching out to the family & childcare, and to start getting things ready. Before we had made any calls, Grandma Donna called us saying Cecilia wanted to come see me.  Once daddy was off the phone and they were on the way I got my birth playlist going, put on my labor gown and sent Sunshine a quick text saying that the contractions where coming more frequently.  I began working through the contractions by sitting at the edge of my bed and bouncing on my birthing ball.  I was having a hard time finding a comfortable place during to labor, and soon went to the floor and sat in the doorway of my bedroom.  I began to make noise as they passed and rocked my hips back and forth.

I heard Cecilia and grandma arrive so I rolled my ball into the living room and visited them.  I was still able to talk and move when I was not contracting but needed to focus on them to cope with the discomfort.  I started to feel like I needed a quiet place, so I went to the bathroom leaned against the counter, rocking my hips back and forth. Daddy came in to check on me, and I asked him to draw a bath and bring me a drink.  The water felt amazing, but the bath was just to small for me to get into a comfortable position.  Soon I was out of the bath and heading to my bedroom.  Bouncing on the ball was not helping anymore, so I went to all fours and leaned over a pillow tower on my bed.  I was starting to really need to work through the contractions and knew it was time for Sunshine to come back.  I quickly called her to check in and then put my focus entirely into working through the contractions.  Cecilia and Grandma Donna were still home, and daddy and I had made plans for our friend Tona to come by and take your’ sister out to play at the park until I knew you were ready to come. Tona arrived right away, giving me a hug and taking Ceci quickly out to play.  Grandma went to rest in Cecilia’s bedroom and daddy began filling the birth tub.

By the time everyone had left I was on all fours in the living room.  At quarter till noon Sunshine and Angela had arrived.  I remember saying, “Thank goodness, you are here” as they walked through the door.  Angela helped your Dad with a few things around the house and set out all the midwife supplies while Sunshine tracked my contractions and offered encouraging words.  I was really having to vocalize through my contractions and began making a low Om noise. As soon as the tub was filled I asked if I could get into it. The water felt amazing.  I was able to be on my hands and knee without gravity weighing me down.  I was having back labor so Angela massaged with black pepper oil for pain relief on her hands Angela applied counter pressure to my sacrum.  Daddy got into the water as soon as I was positioned comfortable.  He stood behind me, rubbing my back between contractions.  I tucked my feet under his shins and leaned over the tub.  The pressure he applied wasn’t helping much with my back pains and I remember yelling, “Do whatever Angela was doing!”.  Angela showed Daddy how she applied the pressure and I went back to focusing on the contractions.  Angela needed to check your heart rate, and it took a lot for me to move into a position she could hear you at.  I was contracting while she listened to you with the Doppler and needed her to stop more than once so I could moan and breathe through my contractions.

Soon the contractions were coming so strong and fast that my whole body was shaking.  I kept the low Om noises going but they began to grow louder and louder, and I was no longer in control my body.  It had taken over and I was now in Laborland.  I began to feel doubtful and told Sunshine I didn’t think I could do this anymore.  She told me with a smile and a nod that I was doing it, and I leaned over the tub and began to tell my say, ” I am doing it, I am doing it!”.  Daddy says I was smiling as I repeated those words.  I think this is when the change happened for me.  Not only was I feeling intense pain, but I was also feeling pleasure. When the contractions started to release it felt good!  I started to make low pitched “Oh” noises and smiled as I felt myself coming down from the peaks of the contractions.

I remember looking up at my birth flag and being drawn to the word “Flow” someone from my blessing-way had drawn for me.  I started to vision you flowing from my body, and that is when I think I hit transition.  Bob Marley was playing in the background and Sunshine sang the words to the song under her breath.  I remember shouting out that if what I was feeling wasn’t transition than I was ready to go to the hospital.  All I got back was a quiet and knowing “mhmm” from Sunshine.  That was her cue to check me.  She came over to the pool and asked me to float my butt to the top of the water (which was not a easy task).  Once I had gotten into position she checked me and told me I was 10cm! She asked if I was feeling pushy and I said no, but then my whole body started to feel like it was splitting in two and I so badly wanted to close my legs but couldn’t.  A contraction came after that that had two peaks and that is when I felt you move under my pelvis.  I remember saying, “Come baby boy, come.”

The desire to push began to take over and I told them my body was starting to push on its own, I then leaned back into your father’s lap and he whispered sweet words to me.  He told me that I was strong and that no one would ever be able to tell me that I was and that if they did I wouldn’t have to believe them, and began to cry.  I started to feel the “ring of fire”.  Sunshine asked if we were ready to meet our baby and daddy and I reached our hands down to feel your soft mushy head starting to be born.  We were the first people to ever touch you, and it’s something that I will never forget.  Soon your head was born and Sunshine called out “Oh!  There’s an ear!”  After what felt like eternity your shoulders emerged.  Sunshine slipped her hands under your arms and I quickly slipped my hands under hers and we pulled you up together.  You where born at 12:40pm from water right to my chest.  I remember saying “oh my goodness” a few times then peeking to see if we had a son or another daughter.  I leaned back into daddy and softly told him you were a boy!  The excitement from him and midwives filled the room.

water birth


About 10 minutes after you were born I birthed the placenta and made my way out of the tub.  I was having a hard time standing so Angela made me a spot on the living room floor and you where handed to me there.  Your sister and our birth photographer, Paige, got to the house at the same.  Your sister came quickly over to check you out.  We gave each other love and then I told her you were a boy.  Oh, what love was in her eyes when she met you for the first time!  Once I was able to get up I made my way to the bathroom to get into a night gown and you, Daddy and Ceci went to the bed for some skin to skin time.  Once we were all settled in we nursed for the first time.  You took right to it!

We were waiting until your’ grandparents got there so we could all share in the burning of your umbilical cord.  We wanted everyone that cared for us during this sacred time to share in process of detaching you from what nourished you all those months.  Grandpa Steve and Grandma Donna arrived first and Grandpa Steve was so very excited to learn you were boy that he gave Daddy a big high-five!  Then Grandpa Mike arrived and we started the cord burning.  It took about 15 minutes to burn the cord and each of your’ grandparents, Ceci, our midwifes, and Daddy and I all got to be a part of the process.  Grandpa Steve and Daddy finished off the burning together.  Soon the grandparents were leaving and the midwives were finishing your’ exam.  Tona took Cecilia out for a little while so we could get some rest.  Sunshine and Angela left shortly after and Daddy, you and I settled into our first evening together.

cord burning

cord burning


From the time Sunshine broke my water until the time you were born was just 3 hours.  You listened to me.  You came as strong and fast as the ocean waves and you where born with love and in bliss at home.

Thank you, my beautiful son, for taking me on a journey like no other.  Thank you for showing me patience.  Thank you for teaching me to trust myself and for showing me the most blissful side of birth.  Welcome to this beautiful, wacky family.  May you forever feel the love we have for you.

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.


Breastfeeding and the Workplace

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breastfeeding and Benefits for the Employer (further reading):

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

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

950 oz

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

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