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The last blog post I published was inspired by a morning spent with a friend of mine who had just had her first baby.  We were discussing birth again online and this is her story, from her point of view.  I have a great many thoughts on it, but will leave it to stand on its own.  I find it inspiring and beautiful, though she herself is probably still coming to terms with how the beginning of motherhood was not what she expected.  My birth stories (published in other posts) are quite different from hers, and I have love for every type of birth story:

 

Last night, a friend of mine posted an article to Facebook entitled “Why You Should Prepare for Natural Birth (Why Just Hoping for a Natural Birth is Not Enough)”.

 

I gave it a read through, and on first glance, most would probably find this article innocuous. Sure, you should be prepared for birth. You should do your research. Sound advice, right? Surely no one could find fault with an article that is simply encouraging women to know their rights, options, and bodies before embarking on the grand adventure that is labor and delivery.

 

Right?

 

Right?…

 

And yet, this article, like so many like it, left me feeling angry. Left me feeling hurt, incredulous, and just downright pissed off. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I think I belong to a steadily growing new moms’ club that is comprised of women who, just like me, think this article and articles like it are not only misleading but also directly lending to more and more women walking away from their birth experience feeling like a failure.

 

I began researching how I wanted to give birth more than a year before we even began trying to conceive. I had been born at home, in an upstairs bedroom with a midwife attending. I was a firm believer that birth was a natural process, and I was also terrified of the entire medical spectrum. I rarely took meds, thought a hot cup of tea was a good substitute for antibiotics, never had vaccines as a child, and got the hives just thinking about hospitals. So for many reasons, I wanted to make sure I knew everything I needed to know to make sure I didn’t end up a “hospital horror story”. If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all have friends, or have read online, or know a woman, or were that woman, who gave birth at a hospital and got bullied into unnecessary interventions, didn’t feel listened to, and even experienced genuine trauma at the hands of medical professionals that treated your body like it wasn’t your own and your birth like it was a disease. I wasn’t going to be that woman.

 

We considered home birth, but the options were so limited in our state, and the home birth midwife that we had decided to use had closed down her home birth practice and was working at a local OB office that delivered at the hospital close to our home. Hesitantly, we decided that since we would have a doula, a homebirth midwife, and all the education in the world, we would brave a hospital birth. We had watched “The Business of Being Born” over a dozen times, we had read every Ina May Gaskins book ever published, we were ready. We were ready to say no to pitocin, refuse induction no matter how long little bit decided to camp out. We were ready to do skin to skin after labor in a dark and quiet room.

 

In fact, by the time I was hitting late pregnancy, I had spent two years so immersed in the natural birth culture and language that I had a downright story in my head of how my birth was going to go. I would go into labor in the middle of the night, I would labor for as long as possible at home with my doula, who would provide aromatherapy, take me for sacred walks in the woods, and bathe me in light. At the last moment, I would go to the hospital, bravely go into my warrior space as I pushed out my baby with no drugs, no IVs, and no vaginal exams. As soon as she was born and healthy, we would insist on being released, and I would bring her home and nurse her in my momma cave for 40 days while friends brought me food and offerings at the feet of my newly washed female divinity.

 

Oh yeah. I had it bad.

 

And yes, I knew that I couldn’t control my birth. I knew to be ready for surprises. But I also knew what these articles, books, websites, documentaries and women had been telling me over and over and over again.

 

Birth is natural.

 

Your body knows what to do.

 

Don’t be afraid of the pain.

 

Let go of negative messages about birth.

 

Birth is not dangerous.

 

Birth does not have to be painful.

 

Birth can be so pleasing as to even be sexual.

 

Even if something unexpected comes up, you can still birth your baby naturally.

 

And on and on and on. Those words, phrases and images assured me that no matter what happened, we would be able to have a natural birth. That the chances of a complication actually being so severe as to warrant medical intervention were so low and had just been blown out of proportion by medical staff anxious to avoid a lawsuit and to get you in and out of those beds as quickly as possible.

 

I was ready. I sat back and judged women silently that I saw on Facebook getting inductions at 41 weeks 5 days. “Oh, she must not have watched that documentary. Someone should tell her that her induction isn’t necessary.”

 

See. I deserved what happened to me.

 

And then my due date came. And went. Now, of course, I knew due dates were the unicorns of the natural birth community. They only existed in fantasyland and that really, if they said your baby was due in March, it was completely fine if she decided to land in October. So don’t worry.

 

But I did. I was exhausted. I was enormous. I felt sick, fatigued, and dizzy all the time. I couldn’t stand, sit, or dress myself without assistance. I was in so much pain, and was told it was normal, but something in me knew it wasn’t. And I had every one and their brother asking me when I was planning on pushing that baby out, and I somehow was expected to not set them on fire with my eyeballs all the while laughing as if I hadn’t heard that exact same thing 6,000 times that day just before the breakfast I couldn’t stomach.

 

And on top of that, at least once a day a girlfriend that had gone before would ask me, “Any signs of labor yet?” And the answer was always a definite, “No. Nothing. Nada.” I mean nothing. No show, no Braxton Hicks, no plug, no back pain or cramping, no new stomach upset, no nesting instinct, no nothing. And I kept going to the doctor, and I kept refusing vaginal exams, and I kept waiting for my baby and my body to do the natural thing.

 

But they didn’t. And one day, my midwife who had delivered babies at home for 40 years sat me down and told me that she had seen women present like me a million times, and she could bet me good money I wasn’t going into labor on my own, that my baby was in danger, and that I needed to be induced.

 

And I felt like the world had ended. I went home and sobbed so hysterically for two days that it felt like I was breaking from the inside out. And everywhere I turned I was being told not to listen to her. Inductions being the antichrist in the natural birth community, and all of that. Even my doula, who was outwardly supportive, said in her words and tone and the spaces in between, “Oh, you’re just letting them use fear tactics on you, you don’t need this.”

 

But I felt somewhere deep inside of me that I did. So I faced every fear I had ever known, and I went in for an induction on a Tuesday evening. And immediately, my birth plan started going out the window. Foley bulbs, vaginal exams (I hadn’t dilated even a centimeter), monitors, IVs, and…. A completely awesome, gentle, supportive, empowering hospital experience. But I was on every drug you can imagine for two days. And labor never started. Not even a little bit.

 

They told me my baby was stuck. That contractions couldn’t start because her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix and her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix because contractions couldn’t start. And that she had probably been stuck for a while. And that she was probably in distress. And that she needed to come out, and she couldn’t, and no matter how long I had waited, things wouldn’t have changed. And right there in the hospital, we did every natural method we could think of to get that baby unstuck. We turned off all the drugs, the pitocin drips, we shimmied with the rebozo, we did the Miles circuit over and over, and nothing. And when I told them I was too exhausted, hungry, and in shock to face anything further, they let me go home for 24 hours. And they told me to see a chiropractor before I came back.

 

The chiropractor told me my pelvis was tilted up and to the side. My daughter was literally stuck sunny side up with her head splayed backwards, all on my left side (which explained a lot of my pain and very visible belly unevenness). The chiropractor spent an hour with us. And somehow, that miracle woman naturally moved my baby. I had bloody show a few hours later. The next morning, a fat 42 weeks pregnant, I went in for my second induction and had begun to dilate on my own. But things still weren’t moving fast enough.

 

More drugs. Someone broke my water (the one thing I swore I wouldn’t let anyone do). I had more vaginal exams than I could count. But I knew each step was what needed to happen to help my daughter get here safely. There was meconium in my water. She was struggling. I was struggling. And every single person at the hospital that was a part of my birth was there to help us.

 

And you know what? Labor was painful. Incredibly painful. Maybe it was because of the pitocin, or how fast my labor progressed once it finally began (barely six hours from start to finish). And my preparation helped me. I labored through hours of intense, long contractions, with barely any break in between them, with no pain medication.

 

But then transition contractions began. And maybe not every woman feels like Braveheart being disemboweled and sent to the four corners of the earth during transition. But I did. It was the most terrifying and painful sensation I had ever experienced in my life. Nothing prepared me for that. Nothing. I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I cried for help, for it to end, for them to give me something. Against every one’s advice, I got an epidural. That’s right. Every doctor and nurse in that building told me I could do it naturally. But the truth was, I couldn’t. I demanded and received the most terrifying epidural I think anyone could imagine. In the throes of agony, panic, and the most gut wrenching sensation of my life, I had to hold still while a needle went into my spine that could’ve killed me or paralyzed me at best, and a transition contraction took place right as the needle went in. My mom was shaking and crying in the corner, unable to watch. The kind and gentle anesthesiologist yelled at me to not MOVE. If I had let them check me vaginally, they could’ve told me I was in transition, told me I was almost done, but since I thought vaginal exams were the devil and was trying to avoid them, and because I was in the throes of so much physical agony that I didn’t want anyone adding to it, I was terrified that the feelings I was experiencing were going to go on for hours. And yes, I had been told that when you think you can’t do it anymore, you are almost done. But I couldn’t do it anymore. Really.

 

The sedative they had put into my IV before the epidural kicked in, calming me just enough that I could realize what was going on as I lay on that bed shaking so violently it felt like I was seizing. But the pain and intensity of the contractions didn’t let up. We were told after my birth that the epidural didn’t have time to kick in, and that I took that risk for nothing, that I pushed without pain relief. But thank goodness for the pre-epidural sedative, that at least quelled the panic. Because then there was her head. And I could still feel my legs. And then I was pushing her out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And I pushed her out right there in the most anti-natural birth position imaginable – on my back, with my legs up by my head, for over an hour before they told me she had to come out right that second and I pushed with everything I had in me and I tore almost in half but there she was. And it was what I wanted, what felt right, and the only position I could even think of moving in to in those moments, even though I had learned through the natural birth community that the best way to give birth was hanging from a tree branch.

 

And after she was born? Well first of all, I couldn’t tell every one to get out, or shut up, or leave us alone. There was a special team on hand to make sure she didn’t aspirate on her own poop. And there was this tricky little thing called a placental delivery that had to happen. I held her for moments, barely, and then the pain of labor (yes, I labored out that placenta) was so intense that someone had to take her for me. I was shaking so violently that I that I was going to die. My blood was everywhere, like a slasher film without the bad music. The medicine they gave me to stop the bleeding saved my life. It took almost an hour for my placenta to be forcefully delivered, with the incredible midwife on duty having to push on my stomach and force it out of me at the end because I was losing so much blood we couldn’t wait any more. It hurt more than my daughter did, coming out into this world.

 

After a few hellish days (yes, days) in the post partum ward of the hospital, we went home. And instead of worrying about myself and how to help myself heal from the bruised tailbone, the tearing, the incredible pain that made standing or walking almost impossible, the incredible amount of blood I was still losing, or anything else I needed to be concerned about, I holed up in my room and cried because all I could think was:

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

I failed.

 

My body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Nothing went the way it was supposed to go. I caved in the face of the pain, I exposed us both to the dangers of drugs and interventions, I didn’t have the moments right after her delivery that we were supposed to have.

 

I don’t belong in the natural birth community.

 

I didn’t do it right.

 

And you know why I, and so many mothers like me, fell into that dark hole?

 

Because of articles like this one. You see? I was getting there. Just decided to take my time.

 

Because of every single “I had a kumbaya motherfuckers bath time birth in my living room and I orgasmed and so can you” story that gets shoved down our throats as “normal” while the women who have trauma and bad experiences are either the exception, or they were unprepared, or it happened to them because they were in a hospital and not at home, or whatever other story gets told, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the natural birth community.

 

There are truths about labor, there are truths about birth, and while the natural birthing community has it’s intentions in the right place, women are still being lied to – by BOTH sides.

 

Birth CAN be dangerous. It IS dangerous. I go to a mother’s circle a few weeks out of the month, and the moms that I share my Friday mornings with are as crunchy as you can get. They all cloth diaper, they all breast feed, we sit on the floor cross legged as the babies lay naked on sheep skin rugs and we burn sage. And their stories are heartbreaking. Some of them truly almost died. Many of them are scarred in more ways than one. And all of them were prepared. All of them did their research. And all of them were taken somewhere by their birth that they were told was wrong, rare, and shouldn’t really happen if you were just doing it right.

 

Birth is painful. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe you are lucky and have a fast, pain free birth. Maybe you did hypnobirthing and it worked for you. But for most of us, it is the most pain you’ll ever know, and if your transition period is like mine, it will move beyond pain and into a place that you may be able to handle. You may not.

 

Your body doesn’t just automatically “know what to do” because you are a woman. There are a million things that can go wrong, and that go wrong everyday, and those things make medical interventions not only necessary but the best thing that could ever happen to you and your baby. Maybe those stories of women and babies dying in childbirth still permeate our brains because they need to. Because we need to take birth seriously enough that we don’t endanger ourselves and our children by refusing medical care when it could be the difference between a positive and a life-altering outcome.

 

Hospitals are not the devil. Medical staff members are not necessarily going to bully you. I was in the hospital for a full week, I had two separate inductions, and each and every person there tried to help me have as natural of a birth as I could possibly have, and respected and served me in every moment of my birth.

 

You might not be able to have the “golden hour”. You might need drugs to keep you from bleeding out and dying. You might be in so much pain that you can barely hold your child for days.

 

You might end up with drugs, no drugs, water breaking, no water breaking, vaginal delivery, c-section, pain, no pain…

 

And you did it right. You were a warrior. Nothing should have happened that didn’t happen.

 

What has to happen is that ALL kinds of births have to be normalized. We have got to stop sitting in these camps that speak these surface languages that tell you one birth looks like this and is bad, one birth looks like this and is good, and for the millions of women that don’t fit into either of those camps, that there is no place for your birth and the implication is you must’ve done something wrong.

 

We didn’t do a damn thing wrong. Except maybe, spend too much time reading the articles.

 

 

Quiet little steps

We met on a quiet, dark, rainy morning, as her baby slept the entire time I was there.  Were it not for her having had a baby 10 days prior and being exhausted, it would have felt like a few friends chatting over coffee on a gloomy morning.  It was still, quiet, and dark, and she shared with me the amazing story of her birth, which was unique, and of her first days as a mother, as all postpartum periods, beautiful but a little sad, as her challenges would pull at the heartstrings of any mom, remembering the challenges of the first weeks with a baby, and thinking of the things she is going through.

Many LLL Leaders don’t do many home visits compared to the meetings we run and phone calls we do, and I’ve done only a few, when I really felt I could sacrifice the time away from my home and work and family.  We ARE volunteers, after all.  Paid lactation consultants probably do more home visits, I’d wager.

I will have been a La Leche League leader for five years this August.  To become one, a mother must have nursed at least one child for a year before applying and then completed coursework in lactation support.

We run our LLL Meetings—support groups for women who are pregnant, nursing, pumping, have nursed—in which they can share what worked for them and get support and information for whatever they may be going through.  I’ve always run the Working Mother’s group, since becoming a part of LLL.

The vast, vast majority of the issues women face can be worked through with the correct information about how to latch a baby, how to maintain milk supply, how to nurse while working, what a certain type of discomfort or pain is indicative of, and etc.  So many problems moms face—while you might not call them myths—are problems that are fixed with correct information and not accepting that breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards.

Working with a mom that so wants to feed her baby this way, and seeing how empowered she is when she gets the right information she needed to attain her goal when she may have thought it impossible—it’s rewarding, it’s heartwarming, it’s fulfilling.  It’s drawing upon the ages old model of women lovingly supporting women through pregnancy, birth and motherhood—a model that is somewhat lost upon a large population in our modern day culture. 

While the meetings I’ve run are one part social gathering, one part support group and one part information session from a trained lactation professional, and are incredibly rewarding and helpful to mothers all by themselves—the much more rare “home visit” as a volunteer is…. sacred.

Recently this friend and kindred spirit and 10 day old new mother—whom I hadn’t seen in… oh, 13 years probably, (ah social networking does do a few good things!) very much needed some contact from a friend, a fellow mom and a lactation professional all at the same time.  Interestingly enough, I recently moved to be only 15 minutes away from where she lives.

This little baby was stuck, head up, somewhere in the mother’s abdomen or rib cage (I’m not a doctor and am retelling a story that isn’t mine, so won’t attempt serious details).  She hadn’t been moving much, the pregnant belly seemed to not look perfectly round and things just didn’t feel as they should.  The first induction wasn’t doing anything at all—no contractions, no water breaking, no dilation.  Luckily, she was sent home to rest.  She went to a chiropractor who adjusted her pelvis (and said it was very needed) and I believe she said she felt immediate relief and by that night her stomach looked normal and she was free of some of the odd pains that had plagued her last weeks of pregnancy.  She went back to the hospital and was induced, resulting in a successful vaginal delivery but some tough pushing.  The baby was visibly bruised, had broken blood vessels and some birth trauma.

What does this have to do with breastfeeding?  Or my work as a lactation professional?  I already knew there was more to the story than just baby wasn’t latching well, or gaining well, or mother was in pain, or the many common issues dealt with.  When a mom says her baby is adamantly *refusing* to breastfeed, you have to get the details.

I told her to start at the beginning, with the birth, before we even discussed breastfeeding.

Not only did the child have some birth trauma—she rejected the breast from day one, from feeding one.  This isn’t usually the case, by a long shot.  Even a baby having a hard time latching is typically pretty excited about being fed.

This already puts this story as one I must really listen to to understand what this baby is telling her mother, and not just give the usual advice about how to latch a baby onto a breast.  Not only was the baby not wanting to feed—which I personally feel was probably due to shoulder and neck pain from the position she was stuck in in utero or the birth—but a nurse, probably using a method that may have worked just fine with another baby—was pushing the baby to the breast.  I wasn’t there, and so I’m not criticizing what may or may not happened—but according to the mother, the baby was being forcefully pushed towards her breast and it was decidedly NOT working, making the baby more and more upset.

A calm baby with no stress, no pain from birth trauma, can be encouraged to latch quickly and firmly, probably without it harming her feelings toward breastfeeding.  Babies can be pretty adamant and voracious in trying to find the nipple, actually.  And thus, I think that if a baby is crying and refusing the breast from day 1, before so much as a bottle has even been introduced, we absolutely must listen to what the baby is telling us, and listen to the mother’s intuition.

This mother may get all types of advice from well-meaning friends, some encouraging breastfeeding, some not—but few understanding what this motherbaby pair is dealing with.  I spent my time listening to her, rather than the usual observing nursing and giving pointers.

I reassured her that any and all of the things she has or is beginning to deal with—engorgement, pumping, a little nipple confusion, possible reflux or food intolerance—each and every one of those things are difficult for a mom without her unique story. 

I told her that were this to be my fourth child– three times I’ve nursed a baby—and with all that experience, this would be hard, and challenging, and would take all my strength to stay calm and continue to work for the breastfeeding relationship I thought I would have, but that is just not working at this time.

The baby still refuses the breast, but is eating by bottle and is sleeping well.  This is not a baby that one can just give a few tips to the mother and will get over a bit of latch issue or nipple confusion in a week.

The look of gratitude on her face when I told her the number one rule, above all this stuff to try to make breastfeeding work, is FEED the BABY.  A tired, hungry, spent baby cannot learn to breastfeed.  So whether it is with SNS, cup, syringe, bottle or breast, FEED the baby.  The nipple confusion and latch issues from bottle feeding can be dealt with— the baby will get older, stronger and bigger.  My friend feels that “breast is best” but that no one can understand her baby’s outright refusal, often with screaming, to breastfeed. 

She must simply get her little girl comfortable with being around the breast, not even feeding from it at first, and must address any shoulder or neck pain that there may be.  Her plan may be to take the baby to a chiropractor or cranio-sacral therapist.  I have heard story after story, since becoming a mother, of colicky, unhappy little ones that are like night and day after some neck/spinal adjustment, probably because they are feeling some type of pain from the birth that they cannot tell us about in words.

If she addresses any underlying causes, gets the baby comfortable with that area of her body again, THEN she can begin seeing if she baby will latch well and deal with any nipple preference to the bottle.

A mother in this situation may look into skin-to-skin contact, rebirthing, and babywearing.  She may attempt breastfeeding in the tub, or when the baby is night feeding or waking up and its instincts are at its strongest. 

The look on her face when I told her a baby with this history may be looking at weeks, not days…. A few months, maybe not weeks… before breastfeeding happily was not one of worry over the time frame, but relief that she didn’t have to have this all figured out and fixed RIGHT now.

Usually, the earlier the baby gets to breast the better to set the nursing relationship off.  But this is not the usual case, at all.  Anything else can be dealt with, but this baby needs to heal, and her mother needs to know that she was thrown a tough deal and not to judge herself on the standards of other births, other babies and other mothers.  Of course, this *should* be our society’s standard attitude toward any mother, but we all know that isn’t the case.  Even among breastfeeding advocates such as myself, I think the extremity of this little one’s situation might be met with some skepticism.

We have lost the art of storytelling, of listening to another’s story and putting ourselves in their shoes, and then of sitting back without judgment to reflect. 

I don’t know if this baby will breastfeed.  I don’t know if the mom will pump for a year, quit pumping, get the baby to breast.  I can’t tell.  I think it is entirely possible she gets the baby to breast, but the baby will need a lot of support along the way.  It will be one amazing crash course is perseverance, to say the least.  But most importantly, the mom and baby (and dad) should feel good about their experience and their choices.  They are all doing their best.  I think that with quiet little steps, over time, little by little, she may be able to reach some of her goals.

In my official role as a lactation professional, I want this mom to succeed in her goals that she originally had, which were something like breastfeeding for a year or so—pretty normal.  But it is also completely a part of my role to know when to tell her that her situation was unique and hard and remind her that her and her baby are making up their own story, and it’s not going to be the same as some of the other stories we might have wanted it to be.  We all want uncomplicated births and easy first years with our babies, and we all know life hardly ever works that way.

The baby is loved and the mom is balancing what she wants to happen with what she can make happen and making peace with the rest.  Which is basically all parenting really is anyhow.  

I’m always grateful that my child doesn’t have anaphylactic, “true” food allergies (true only means that they are not IgE food allergies that provoke anaphylactic shock, not that they are not really serious in other ways).

I’ve always been grateful for that for many reasons. A slip up doesn’t have the potential to end her life quickly. I don’t have to learn about how to use an epi-pen. I’ve never felt the panic that a parent must feel when their child is in the same room as a particular, harmless-to-everyone-else-around food. I’ve never seen her lips turn red and swell. I’ve never endured a night while she tries to sleep covered in itchy hives.

Perhaps now I’m even more grateful for that fact after the place where my child is supposed to be kept safe suddenly had a breakdown in the system.

A breakdown so simple it’s aggravating. At the beginning of the school year, when I filled out my first-grader’s student health form along with parents across the country, I wrote in the section about food allergies that she cannot have dairy, artificial colors or wheat. I met with the teacher. I discussed sending her safe treats.
Last year, kindergarten, I never had an issue.

But then the past few weeks my child had been acting different. We are all the way in March… just one quarter left to the school year. She went from getting “greens” for her behavior every day to getting yellows and reds. She went from getting all 7 of her spelling words correct at the end of the week to getting 2 out of 7 correct.
She came home, unwilling to eat, emotionally fragile all the time—one night clutching her stomach and going to bed around 6:30. She missed 4 or 5 days of school in a 3 week period.

Then we got a call from the school telling us we owed a cafeteria balance, because our daughter had been eating breakfast at school for the past two weeks.

We both noticed something was off with her. We both wondered… am I giving her too much sugar? Chocolate? Not getting her to bed on time? Not spending enough time with her after the recent baby was born?

Nope. She’d simply been eating all three of the things that screw her body all up. Artificials being the worst. Dairy next. And wheat being tolerable in small amounts when she is otherwise healthy, but a bad idea when she isn’t.
She figured out, just being outgoing and curious as she always is— that if she goes to the cafeteria on her way to class in the morning she gets given a second breakfast. The teacher doesn’t know she’s there and the cafeteria seemed unaware of the fact that she can’t eat there. And they were most definitely supposed to know.

We both felt a little in shock as she listed the things she’d been eating. More than enough to make her sick, make her unable to concentrate on her school work and cranky and tummy-achy at home. First I went to her teacher.
She felt awful. The look on her face when I explained the change in her behavior let me know she did.
“Maybe I should have called you when she came in with breakfast,” she’d said.

Well, yes, she should have. She didn’t connect the dots about her not being able to eat lunch carrying over into unsafe food at breakfast. Yet, I’m not really upset at her. I hate my kid being sick being an example or anything, but I’m willing to bet it was a learning experience for this teacher that might be helpful to a mom and child in the future.

That’s not even the major breakdown in the system. Maybe that’s why I’m not that perturbed with her. One teacher can only do so much when she has 20 other kids to look after. So one kid comes in after breakfast that has some food allergies—she isn’t going to automatically realize and that sucks but I get it.

It was *really* affirming to me that I am doing the right thing with my kid’s diet when a person who knows probably next to nothing about food intolerance says “That explains so much!” If the teacher saw the difference in her too, well, that makes me feel good about how I feed her.

After the teacher, I had to go and speak with the cafeteria manager and front office. That was the real breakdown.
Apparently, my child’s student health form was never sent to the cafeteria. Her name was never added to the manager’s binder. Her intolerances were never added to her name when they pulled it up and rang up the food that makes her sick.

I’m not sure whose job that is. Was it the teacher’s? Was it the front office’s job when they got the student health form and it had food allergies listed?

I mean, really, whose fault would this be if a kid went into shock? Now– if she had that type of allergy the school would probably have an epi-pen and this mistake probably wouldn’t have happened. But probably is way too large a margin for the child that you nurture and spend your life loving and raising. What if the epi-pen stayed with the teacher, and the child, like mine, bopped on into the cafeteria in the morning before class officially started?
The system to keep her healthy and safe broke down along the way in that the cafeteria never got the forms I filled out.

The cafeteria manager took me seriously, apologized a few times, entered her allergies right on the spot, and then asked me to pay the $6 for the food my kid ate. The front office ladies seemed much less concerned. I will probably write a letter about this to the principal.

What’s unfortunate is that the food she was fed is not good food for *any* human. It has no place in a building that’s sole purpose is to foster the development of the next generation of minds that will shape our world. I have no doubt my kid is not the only one that can’t focus and has tummy aches after eating Trix and Cocoa pebbles.

What’s done is done and my kid is still recovering from the effects of two weeks of bad eating. She gets a near addictive response. She’s stolen candy at the store—snuck candy at two other houses and tried to hide it—fed her little sister something with gluten that she snuck (so now I have *two* sick children).

I think a lot of parents think that if they give their kid just a “little” of the junk—in “moderation”—then they won’t pine for it. But in actuality, for many of us, it just makes us want it more. There are biological reasons for that— that I’m not going to write about now. But I hope this saga is over. And I hope my kid gets back to herself quickly.

Not only for her, but for us as parents. Her behavior is really hard to cope with. Why on earth parents thing it’s harder to eat free of artificial stuff and anything else their kid is allergic/intolerant than to deal with regular colds, tummy aches and tantrums is truly beyond my comprehension. And it’s not like I’m a good cook. I’m not. I’ve just figured out fast ways to always make homemade food and keep us healthy. It’s just easier that way.

As I walked into a restaurant the other day, the lady greeting me asked “Don’t you have a car seat to bring in?”

“No, I prefer to hold him,” I answered, and she smiled.

It’s so funny to me that these detachable car seats have become a part of the developed world’s parenting culture.

Even at our first trip out to the store when the baby was two weeks old, my husband just assumed we’d take in the car seat and put it in the cart– which I hate doing– while I made sure to have my wrap with us. If I’m going to be somewhere for an hour and a half, I want the baby with me, smelling me, feeling close to me– not enveloped in a plasticky, impersonal car seat, and– at least in my mind– more likely to need to be held when I’m at home and may want to put him down for a minute.

I don’t have a huge objection to detachable infant car seats, and our car seat does detach, though I could take it or leave it more than most people. My husband definitely wanted the detachable car seat, but we use it mostly for the advantage of bringing it in the house when it is cold outside and taking him to the car from our house to a warmed car than anything else. I don’t really cart the baby around stores or restaurants in it at all.

I think people tend to think this is convenient, especially if the baby is sleeping, but I’d rather babywear. It’s more convenient to me. The car seats are heavy and cumbersome to me. And then you have to take them out to feed them or change them anyway. I always put the baby in a wrap and keep him next to my chest while we are out. It keeps me in tune with him– I know when he needs to eat before he fully wakes up and gets upset, and I know if he needs to be changed.

Part of it is the paranoia that this baby will be how his older sister Ada was in the car seat. She had so much tummy trouble and “colicky” behavior because of her then undiscovered gluten-intolerance that car drives were hell. Literally. I’d put her in at the very, and I mean *very*, last instant and drive as quickly as was safe because she’d scream for far more car drives than she didn’t. We switched her from the detachable one to a Britax convertible car seat at 6 months old anyway. It may have help but that’s also the time we started figuring out her stomach problems, so who knows.

Either way, I think I’m becoming more entrenched in the baby wearing subculture with each baby. I wore my first in a ring sling, and would nurse her that way because it helped with my over-active milk ducts– nursing upright and while walking. I wore the second in the wrap because it would soothe her to sleep with her tummy pain and my first was only 2 at the time. It was much easier to keep track of them both at a store and to get work done at the house with one strapped to my chest.

This time I’ve been wearing the baby just about anytime I get up to do anything. Clean the kitchen, do some work for my business, vaccuum. He’s been in the wrap a better part of today so far, and is still there now, which is why I decided to go ahead and write a blog post. He’s snoozing away.

I still make a lot of milk– too much again, for the third time around, to have a baby that can effectively comfort nurse. Often, as a baby nurses off to sleep the milk flow tapers down and they drift off well. My breasts will continue to bring more and more milk until the baby is overfull and hurting and sometimes gagging. He’ll either spit it all up, or cry until he falls asleep and the food can digest, or come off to burp and I can put him in the wrap and walk around. This soothes him to sleep without getting such a full, painful tummy. Thank goodness. Usually when he does spit it all up it’s because it’s nighttime and I’m tired and therefore let him continue to nurse b/c I don’t want to get back up again!

Between working at home, trying to get housework done and having two other kids to keep track of, I think he’ll spend a good part of his first year in the wrap. I still put him in a swing or bouncer some, but I’ve just never succesfully had a baby that will sleep that way– not next to someone– though he will sit there for a bit. He’s the most easy-going baby I’ve had. I obviously missed the mommy class on how to have a child sleep without me being close, b/c it does seem that other people accomplish that. It is beyond me.

What baby doesn’t want to be snuggled up on their mother anyway? With my first I always wanted to put her down. She slept well in the car seat or co-sleeper, and mildly tolerated a bouncer or swing, and was mostly in the wrap at stores or if I really wanted to get something done. Now fast forward to the third, and I no longer care about anyone’s assertions or advice that I should put him down, and it doesn’t bother me as much either to have a baby that wants me just about 24-7. He gets to be held all the time just because it’s easier. And he’s still quite good about going to my husband at nighttime when I put our 4-year-old to bed and give her some one-on-one attention.

My oldest truly has the position of oldest. More responsible. She had to share me at age 2– and with a colicky sister, she cried to sleep with her father b/c she wanted me so much. The second one is 4 with an easy going little brother that I hold all day and is happy to go to his father at bedtime. Both the younger ones hugely benefit from the experience we learned from having the first one. It seriously makes me want to go snuggle with her and tell her she’s the most amazing 6-year-old there is.

It seems each child I have gets more of me because I get better at taking care of babies and know already which tools– like the baby wrap or sling– I plan to utilize.

Even the eldest’s attitude towards the baby benefits him, because my 4-year-old mimics her. If she didn’t have such a sweet example to follow, I’m not sure that she would be quite as positive to the new baby. But so far there have been no hard feelings at all. There is a little insecurity and both older girls have needed some time with me, alone, that I’ve tried to give them. Baby wearing does make that easier.

It honestly makes everything easier. On the one hand, sure, it’s easier to clean the kitchen without a baby tied on my chest, but if having him there makes him happier to be put down when my older girls need me, or when I need to do something for me— you know, like, *shower*, then baby wearing makes life better.

Yesterday Darius and I left the house for the first time, aside from picking up my oldest from school one day but not getting out of the car.

We had our 2-week appointments at the birth center where he was born.  He’s gained over a pound which is pretty cool, and I’m doing fine too.  The drive is over an hour away and I was nervous about it.

I’ve been content to just Babymoon,since it’s my third time doing this and I’m at a place in my life as a mother where I can just enjoy the baby stuff and not really want to rush it, even though feeding and holding a baby 24/7 can still be overwhelming at times.

But being nervous about the drive is part of the reason I haven’t gone anywhere.  Ada had such a hard start in life and a difficult time in cars even up to 18 months or 2 years old, though it got a lot better after she turned a year.

I told the midwife yesterday that in some ways it’s like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I doubt I’m the only parent that has had a colicky– difficult– high needs– food allergic/in pain– whatever phrase you want to use– I doubt I’m the only parent that is holding their breath waiting for the next baby to get fussy and cry all the time too.

But Darius nurses well, and sleeps well (in my arms mostly, at this point) and is mostly content, most of the time.  

I’d say that this time I feel like a ‘seasoned’ mother.  I’ve had the lack of sleep, the nursing all the time, the holding all the time.  And I’m okay with it.

When you have a child in first grade, sleeping on their own, able to get their own snacks, able to ask you abstract questions about the world— holding a baby all day for three months or so and feeding him 12 times a day really *doesn’t* seem like such a big deal.

Yesterday when we drove home, it took two hours.  We had to stop twice because he was crying.  But eventually he nursed twice and wore himself out (and filled a few diapers!) and slept and we got home.

With my first kid I would have thought this was just totally exhausting.  But with him my husband and I both are simply just willing to stop, take care of him, and be patient as we make our way home.

The little rascal nursed for two solid hours when we got home and protested if he thought I was setting him down for a second.  I would have found that overwhelming with my oldest, but now it doesn’t bother me.  And I plan on holding him all day today too, to make up for his upset yesterday.

At a group I run for nursing and working mothers, I see a lot of new moms.

Many come in with the common concerns, the worries about the things they’ve been told.

“If I don’t put him down now he’ll never want to be put down.”

“My mom says I’m spoiling him.”

“I *can’t* nurse him this many times in a day!”

“I HAVE to put him down while he sleeps but he just wakes up!”

It’s true that I found those things hard the first time.  And it’s true that when people told me holding my first and nursing her and letting her co-sleep will not make her need me more I wasn’t sure I believed them, but I followed my heart on how I wanted to mother her. 

It’s true that when people told me children are young for such a short time and to try to cherish it, it didn’t help me at all.  It didn’t help me not feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

And now I know that’s very true, and yet when I say it to new moms I meet, I can tell they feel like I did back then.  So I’m not sure what the perfect thing to say to the new mom is, but I know now as an experienced mother none of this baby stuff bothers me at all.  He can need me all he wants and I won’t care.  With my first her needs were very very overwhelming.

At the same time, I knew where I stood in my attitude about how I wanted to mother without needing to read any books or anything.  When people told me *not* to hold her so much, or co-sleep, or that if I nurse past a year she’ll “never” stop (which is a ridiculous exaggeration seeing as humans live for, oh, 70 years or so) I knew that wasn’t how I saw it, whether or not having a baby for the first time was tough.

In two weeks my husband is going back to work and Darius will have to get in the car on his older sister’s school schedule, I’ll have to start working at my business and deliver cupcakes a few times a week again soon and he will have to adjust.  Fortunately he’ll naturally want to be put down more as he gets more involved in the world, but either way, life is going to keep moving along.

I do wish those first-time moms I see that don’t want to hold or nurse their babies as much as their babies want it could see it–how fast the time will go– but I couldn’t either.  

And you can certainly read all the reasons why caring for a baby this way is beneficial to both mom and baby, and that helped me some when I was a younger mom.

The research about how stress hormones are released when a baby is left to cry that makes the baby react poorly to stress even as an adult, or how a baby left to cry cries much more often than a baby whose needs are met (so basically, leaving the baby to cry for long periods is like making the cycle worse and shooting yourself in the foot).

Understanding the mechanics of breastfeeding helped me too– that babies will nurse more during growth spurts and milestones and regulate the mother’s supply for all kinds of beneficial reasons, so feeding on demand and not on a schedule is also good for both.

Now I just don’t need any of the knowledge to be happy just holding him and feeding him.

As far as waiting for the other shoe to drop– waiting for an awful night of crying and pacing the halls until 3 a.m. or something, I figure if that happens it happens and I can’t change it now!

You never know what curveballs babies (and life) will throw you.  I certainly didn’t know anything about gluten or colicky babies before my middle child.  Or over-active milk ducts before my first. So I’m sure that whatever little Darius throws at me to make the next year or two tough is something I can’t even predict anyway!

Another safe birth and healthy baby are miracles that not many people take for granted. Maybe that’s why so many of us want to hear each other’s birth stories and so many of us are happy to share them. I’ve had a few people ask for Darius’ birth story and I’ve always written them down for me to look back at anyway.

This year in particular I feel especially grateful. I’ve had 4 friends in the past few years lose children before, during and after birth, in the first year of life. I don’t think anyone can understand that pain unless you’ve lived it– I certainly can’t– but to have a third guy here, born, healthy while I recover quickly– it’s nothing short of the best thing that can happen to a family, really and truly. We can never underestimate what a gift it is.

Darius’ birth was indeed quite different from my first two. Births are so similar in some ways, and yet all the little details make them different.

You can never believe you aren’t going to have to face a birth again (at least I never can!) and then after you’ve done it… after you’ve faced the pain and pushed a 7 pound human being out of your body– you can hardly believe that you did do it.

My oldest was born in a very typical hospital setting, the only thing saving me from many of the interventions I didn’t want being my educating myself, having a doula and the big one— having a complete surprise of a super fast labor and having her 20 minutes after I arrive. It was the exact mad dash rush to the hospital that I assured my husband only happens in the movies, and not to worry.

The second, I knew I wanted another natural birth and I knew I didn’t want it to be at a hospital, so I traveled about an hour and a half to a birth center in Chapel Hill, NC, staffed by midwives and yet five minutes away from UNC-Chapel Hill’s hospital– my impression being that it is a much baby friendlier place than the hospital where I live.

That baby was *also* born 20 minutes after I arrived. Sheesh.

So this time our hope was for me not to be in transition– right in the throes of serious labor pain that will lead to pushing– in a car. Nearly identical to my second birth, I woke up on a Sunday morning having contractions, timed a few, and just knew I was going into labor. Unlike that birth though, my labor all but stopped while I was in the car. That birth it progressed and progressed and that ride I was coping with contractions the entire time.

This third birth my contractions slowed but were expected to pick up once we arrived. When a mother is in an unnatural or unsafe place to give birth, her labor will either speed up or slow down, according to what her body thinks is safest.

If my water hadn’t broken on its own, we probably would have gone home and called it a false start. After 3 hours and about three miles of walking around the birth center, the midwife advised I either go somewhere and rest and see if labor kicks in or augment the labor with black and blue cohosh and belly binding. I want to find more information on belly binding to share with you all, but so far preliminary searching comes up with postpartum belling binding.

It was en entirely different experience for me… the walking around, the attempting to make labor keep going. It wasn’t anything I had ever, ever, ever had to consider with my other births– the births that started like freight trains and kind of left me dazed and pushing as fast as my husband could get me to the right place!

I decided to send my kids home with my mother and “augment” the labor. Of course, if I were at a hospital with a doctor that would be done with Pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which will indeed interfere with a woman’s natural oxytocin after birth and doesn’t allow for breaks for the mother and the rhythm of natural labor. Sarah J. Buckley’s research on how pitocin affects our natural hormones is pretty interesting– I saw her speak on it several years ago at a birth conference.

But belly binding, though I’d only vaguely heard of it, seemed like an acceptable thing, and since my water was broken, I really had no desire to go and rest. At least my desire to go and rest was overshadowed by my desire to have the labor start for real. I kind of just wanted to have him! I can see now why women do choose interventions because once your water is broken its a tad frustrating that labor isn’t really kicking in. Had I had a homebirth, I bet my body would have acted differently, or at least, taking a nap wouldn’t have mattered. Either way, the belly binding seemed natural enough to fit into my comfort level of letting nature take it’s course while in labor. The contractions and water breaking happened spontaneously– when the little boy was ready.

They tied a sheet around my tummy as I lifted it, which pushes the baby downward and increases the pressure on my pelvis and thus the contractions. We decided to go to Whole Foods and pick up some gluten-free meals for me to eat after the birth, since it had become apparent that he would be born at night and not in the morning when we arrived– it was about 4 p.m. at this point, and we’d arrived at the birth center at 11:30 a.m.

First we went upstairs to the Birth Center’s boutique where I bought a nice nursing bra with a gift card that a guy who fell off his motorcycle in front of my house gave me. I’ll be he had no idea what I’d spend it on! Labor was picking up again directly after the belly wrapping. We then started to Whole Foods and by the time we got there I knew– it was going to happen soon.

I may have started to cry a bit and asked my husband why my body seems to think I have to be in a car or at a public store when labor starts to get painful??? Labor picked up for me or continued at Wal-Mart, a restaurant getting Azita food with the second, and now at Whole Foods. He ran in and got the food and I continued to freak out and tell him to get me back to the birth center ASAP. It was only 5 minutes away.

We got back and I told the midwife I was officially in pain. She checked me and I’d moved to 5 cm dilated, which is about what I felt like. She wanted to start the bath so that I could finally make it in time for a water birth, and with my history of fast labors, I’m glad she did– though at the time I– once again, even being the one in the middle of painful contractions– didn’t seem to realize just how close I was.

She put me in the shower, which always helps the pain, while she filled the bath.

I was in the bath for about an hour before he was born. In all I went from 5 cm to birth in about an hour and a half. He was born at 6:20.

It was an entirely different thing this time, being at the birth center, focusing on labor, letting it come while not at my house. The last hour of his birth was incredibly serene, actually, though during contractions my insides and head felt pretty tumultuous.

In between contractions I just soaked in the tub, holding my husband’s hands and almost… sleeping? Zoning out? I’m not sure but it was very, very quiet and the lights were low. During contractions I breathed very heavily, stared at my husband while he tried to keep me from hyper-ventilating, wished that my hands and legs hadn’t gone numb and wondered how many more of these contractions I could take.

About 45 minutes in the tub and the midwife told my husband that my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart when he asked, and yet she told me it could be any contraction now that he descends down and my body starts to naturally push.

I freaked out inside— thinking that my contractions needed to be every 1-2 minutes… and yet, just a few contractions later, down he went and the huge climax that is birth was happening. Lord have mercy, what woman experience with a natural birth. Oy, how it felt when he descended into the birth canal. It’s indescribable. I started flailing around and trying to change positions, I don’t know what I was trying to do. Squat, maybe. But between the midwife and my husband I just did what they said– somehow willing myself that if I’d just calm down and push the pain would stop.

I screamed through a huge push, and through another, and out he came. It was the only birth where no one told me to stop screaming— perhaps this was because I was yelling while pushing, not stagnating. I’ve never screamed the “f” word and pushed out a baby at the same time. First time for everything.

When they handed him to me I was in disbelief– more than the girls, I don’t know why— that he was out. I kept repeating “I don’t believe it.” I guess because this time it was an all day process, and also because I’d again convinced myself that it was going to be several more hours when the midwife said my contractions were 3-4 minutes.

But I finally got my calm, peaceful water birth. I didn’t tear at all this time and am recovering well… a world of difference from my first birth, which included third degree tears and passing out from blood loss several hours after the birth.

The funniest thing this time I was that I wrenched my calf and thigh muscle flailing around when he descended down, and that hurt about as much this week as the birth-recovery part!

I got out of the tub, made it into the bed, and have pretty much been nursing or holding him ever since. We got home that night about 2 a.m.

Darius’ First Week

Sometimes you know as you tell people things over and over that you may end up being wrong. I was totally sure that our third kiddo, Darius, was going to come around his due date.

I was already the weight I was when I delivered my older girls at 38 weeks but I thought that was because Darius was going to be bigger. I felt overly exhausted the last few weeks and kept getting lots of false little labor starts where I’d time contractions but with this third pregnancy, I felt every twinge and ache and pain more and that is supposed to be normal as your ab muscles get tired of being stretched yet again. He was measuring spot on for the amount of weeks he was, and fortunately he wasn’t really “early”, he was just born at 38 weeks and not 40. My other two kids went to 40 weeks so I thought he would too.

I’m happy he didn’t. It’s so much more fun getting all the birth-recovery stuff and engorgement out of the way while staring at a newborn little baby than being pregnant this week. And to know that labor pain and another natural birth and all the “what ifs” that not knowing how labor will go are behind me, I’m quite happy he’s already here.

Every time I said to someone “Oh I’ve still got a few weeks, he’s going to way until his due date” I kind of thought maybe he’d prove me wrong.

I can hardly compare this first week with him to the first week with my other girls. My husband is home this time. He knows how to handle babies. *I* know how to handle babies. My first few weeks with my first were entirely overwhelming and incredibly difficult, but this time I’ve been through the sleeping in two hour blocks, the breastfeeding stuff, the after birth stuff. And there are parts of it that are still pretty miserable, but this time I am just hanging out, nursing through the worst engorgement of all three kids, resting as my husband is home and cooking and cleaning (sort of!) and I have, since my first kid, acquired the ability to nurse and change a baby and go right on back to sleep.

What’s amazing is I have a great situation this time and I’m still pretty exhausted, so I know from previous babies how good this week has been.

I’m afraid to jinx anything of course, but Darius is a very laid back kid so far. I have over-active milk ducts, and make lots and lots and lots of milk, and my other girls did not handle it well– projectile spit-up is loads of fun.

But he is a nursing champ, and has only lost 2 ounces of his birth weight. Because he seems to handle the high volume of milk, I think he will gain weight quite differently from the girls that struggled for several months with my supply.

Being gluten-free may be helping that too. Ada’s vomiting was always related to gluten in *addition* to the fire-hydrant-boob syndrome. I don’t want to mess up the sleep I’m getting, and he’s starting to spit up a bit more, so I’m staying dairy and coffee free along with the gluten for now.

Either way, it’s been a good first week. Darius sleeps, and eats. And sleeps and eats. And with his dad around he’s been sleeping on him as well as me. We kind of hope since he’s able to be home with us this time, Darius won’t be so rigid in his sleeping needs as the girls, who pretty much had to have me. Of course, I’m never not there for him either, but it just can’t hurt that he’s got us both around for a bit.

He’s stayed awake for tiny little amounts of time more this week than last, but the girls can’t wait for him to just be awake and be someone they can play with. Azita is always overjoyed when his eyes are actually open! It’s kind of funny.

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