The Aha Moment That Turned My Gremelyn Around

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Somewhere in the Universe, two storks were matching babies to mommies-to-be…

Manager: “Cindy Adams gets a blonde girl. Betty Jones gets twin boys. Bet she quits making fun of cankles now. Renae Rose….give her one of those new experimental models.”

Secretary: “The HN’s? They aren’t production ready! We can’t figure out how to stop the screaming feature. The sleep button is stuck in the never position and we’re pretty sure there’s no off switch!”

Manager: “Eh, what’s the worst that can happen?”

…and I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up with my high-need daughter, Emelyn (affectionately known, in certain circles, as “Gremelyn”).

 

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From the moment she was born, she screamed every moment she wasn’t sleeping and the child never slept. It wasn’t that adorable, sleepy, singing cry either. I have heard animals being eaten on the Discovery Channel that protested less than my daughter did when she was upset. The list of things that offended her included: sleeping, not sleeping, hot, cold, temperate, stress, no stress, and days ending in Y. Of course, we drug Emelyn to the pediatrician convinced she had a twisted bowel/broken bone/demon possessing her. We were told that she had colic and reflux, was spoiled, and just “generally unhappy”…all of which were less than helpful.

 

 

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One day while contemplating making a candy necklace out of Valium and licking it, I came across Dr. Sears’ 12 Features of a High Need Baby. He had plagiarized my child! There was a name for the kind of baby Emelyn was and other people had survived infanthood with babies like her with minimal PTSD. Just being able to point to a label gave me hope and a game plan and from that day forth, I gave in to the needs. I wore Emelyn, nursed her, and was around her, night and day, until she was two years old. I am not exaggerating when I say I didn’t take time off, but that’s what she needed. She would shriek and instead of hiding, I would take her out anyway. Gradually she began to enjoy our outings and balancing between the high need characteristics of “hyperactive” and “super sensitive.” Being worn exposed her to get much needed scenic variety and stimulation but also allowed her to turn into me when it was enough.

One of the most frustrating aspects of having a high need baby is the ignorance and outright hostility towards your child and life. “She’s just spoiled. She’ll never be independent if you wear her. You’re still nursing that baby?!” My one piece of advice is do not listen to the negative people. They would never deny an asthmatic child an inhaler and your support mechanisms for your baby are just as critical. What works for your and your child, WORKS and no justification is needed. For me, realizing that there was nothing wrong with Emelyn and that I just needed to make my world a little cuddlier for her was a huge breakthrough.

 

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While I will talk about her needs as a toddler another time, I want to leave you with this story. This year she begged to do dance class, and the instructor told us three year olds inevitably lose their minds from separation the first few classes. I know my kid and was prepared for an epic meltdown. Instead she walked up to a crying girl and said, “It’s okay. Grown-ups come back” because every time she has needed someone, her needs have been met. For her, mommy will always come and that security is valuable for any child, especially one with high needs.

Renae Rose

Baby-Led Weaning Didn’t Work For Me

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babyledweaningWhen you hear the term ‘baby-led weaning’ (BLW), some think of the magical time when baby starts to eat solids foods, usually after 6 months of age, and after certain milestones have been reached. Others consider ‘weaning’ to be the time when baby stops nursing completely. Though some of the terminology overlaps, I’d like to clarify that in this particular post, I am referring to the time when baby stops breastfeeding completely, rather than the time where solid foods are introduced.

In the ‘crunchy mama’ circles, BLW refers to the practice of continuing to breastfeed a baby well past infancy, until the child no longer wants to nurse. BLW means that baby sets the pace, and the mother continues to breastfeed until baby decides that s/he is done. Many babies continue nursing for a couple of years, some even nurse for what it termed ‘full term breastfeeding’, which is based on the biological norm of somewhere between 4-7 years, as Katherine Dettweyler’s research indicates. It’s hard for a new mom, with a precious squishy newborn, to imagine but as your ‘baby’ grows you don’t see the baby turning into a toddler. Breastfeeding becomes such a normal part of your day, and of how you mother, that discontinuing seems odd. ‘Mothering at the breast’ is what La Leche League calls it, and there’s ample research to back breastfeeding for several years. As the child gets older, it’s also referred to as ‘child-led weaning’ (CLW).

I was fortunate, in that breastfeeding was normal for me. Growing up, I’d seen my mother and aunts nurse their babies, so when I was pregnant with my first child, I knew that I was planning to breastfeed. Normal though it was, it wasn’t easy right off the bad like I’d been expecting. I had trouble during the first 4 weeks of so with my son’s latch. I was discouraged, and in pain. I wish I’d known then that breastfeeding has a learning curve, and what I was experiencing was normal, in that it was a common problem, but relatively easily fixed with the right knowledge and support. Once I found that support (through my area’s La Leche League peer support group), breastfeeding was much easier, and enjoyable.

As I learned more about breastfeeding, it became more of a passion. I had wanted to breastfeed, but education about it outside of LLL was severely lacking in my area. I knew that I wasn’t the first mom to plan on nursing, only to have a lack of knowledge on my part compromise my success. I heard time and time again, new mothers say that they were planning to ‘try’ breastfeeding. Overwhelmingly, the attitude was one of defeat before the baby was ever even born! It was so common here to expect to fail at breastfeeding that I was prompted to get involved. I read everything I could find on breastfeeding, from humour to published medical research. I studied the anthropological and economic histories of breastfeeding. I went to LLL meetings and connected with other LLL Leaders all over the US, and finally, I went through the process of becoming a LLL Leader while I was pregnant with my second child (during which I lactivist-continued to breastfeed my older son, and then tandem nursed for some time after my new babe was born). Along the way, during all of my studies, I formed some pretty intense personal ideals of what breastfeeding ‘should’ look like. I wasn’t as keen to push those ideals onto others, but I am sure they leaked out now and again.

I share that bit of history to illustrate just how much of a breastfeeding advocate I was. I was absolutely dedicated breastfeeding my own children, and to helping moms know the joy of breastfeeding their own babies.  Looking back, I am sure I was overly zealous, even annoying, with my crusade to help. But that’s really where my enthusiasm came from; a desire to help. I knew how much mis-information was out there, and how awful it feels to think that breastfeeding won’t work out for your baby. For every mom who was exasperated with my determination to help them succeed, there were ten who were intensely grateful for the support. It wasn’t until I really began working with moms who were having issues that were unrelated to education that my ‘intensity’ began to wane. Seeing moms who really, really gave it their all without success was heartbreaking. Working with moms who eventually had to decide between being a happy mom and being a nursing mom was really eye opening. Time and maturity works its magic, and I learned so much from the moms I worked with. But even recognizing that desire isn’t the only factor in breastfeeding success didn’t temper my own goals and ideals for my plan to nurse my own babies until they were done, rather than according to an external timetable.

I have to admit that during the time, I was also dealing with some fairly serious depression and anxiety issues (though both conditions would remain diagnosed for quite some time yet). Despite how bad it was internally, I managed to put on a happy face and keep on keepin’ on. But nursing two babes was hard – harder than I would have admitted back then. It’s stressful on your time, body, and nutritionally. I did what I thought was best for my family at the time, and while I don’t regret making that choice, it was really hard to admit it when I realized that I didn’t want to nurse both of them anymore. I’d been such an advocate of child-led weaning, and now, here I was changing my mind about it? It was unthinkable!

Beyond the BoobBut that’s the reality. I did change my mind about it, because prior to making the decision to follow child-led weaning, I wasn’t in a position to find any fault with it. But as a touched-out, tandem nursing mama with serious depression, I wasn’t doing myself, or my children, any favors by continuing to stick to an ideal that didn’t work within my family dynamic anymore, regardless of how well-intentioned that ideal was. So, because I am me and research is my thing, I started reading. What I found was a pretty big division between the ‘strictly child-led weaning’ set and the ‘wean on Mom’s timetable’ set without a lot of in-between. I didn’t fit into either camp – I still ‘believed in’ child-led weaning, but only so long as it works for both mom and baby/child. In my case, it didn’t. I needed to wean my older child so that I could continue to nurse my baby. And so that’s what I did. Over the course of 6 months or so, I slowly and gently weaned my oldest and continued to nurse my baby on-demand.

But that didn’t make it any easier for me to let go of the feelings of guilt and failure that came with not following through on an ideal that I was so whole-heartedly committed to in the past.Thankfully, our local breastfeeding support community, which was La Leche League of Beaumont at the time, and is now the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, was very supportive of my decision to wean as it suited my family’s needs – or in this case, my personal needs, because my needs matter, too.

The biggest issue I have with the CLW ideal is that it doesn’t take into consideration mom’s needs while she’s nursing. For some women, nursing is a huge tactile issue as baby gets older and bigger – more squirmy and active at the breast. As fertility returns, some moms get antsy or start feeling ‘touched out‘ while nursing, leaving little desire or tolerance for intimacy with her partner.  Some women become pregnant, and their choice in the matter is stripped away as their bodies focus on growing a new baby. Some moms, including myself, needed to go on medication, or have medical procedures that preclude nursing, or that would interfere too much with breastfeeding. There are myriad reasons why women need to wean their babies, and yes, sometimes, it may be just because Mom is *done* – and that’s OKAY.  Breastfeeding is a relationship, not a task. As nursing mothers, we are in partnership with our babies while they’re breastfeeding. Though babies under one year very seldom wean themselves, if at any time, breastfeeding no longer works for mom, especially once Mom’s goals have been reached, she should be able to wean without feeling guilty for it.

So, child-led weaning didn’t work for me, but that’s okay. I still nursed my boys far longer than the national average. I met most of my nursing goals, and learned to make other milestones and goals as a parent. Though it may seem silly to quibble over something like how/when baby weaned, that was the first time that I truly had to put what I *thought* out of my head and go with what worked for me. And that’s what all moms should feel confident in doing.

Heather Thomas

 

Educate Before You Procreate

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I was unbelievably excited when I found out I was pregnant. After being married for only six months I somehow convinced my husband, who was set on waiting at least a year, to try for a baby. “It’s not like we’ll get pregnant right away” Ha! The next month I was staring at three positive tests.

Like many newly pregnant women, I started reading. I researched and read blog after blog about pregnancy and natural birth. But from our first ultrasound, our doctor was predicting a ‘big baby’. This terrified me because, though I had been born a normal eight pounds, my husband entered the world at a whopping eleven pounds. Knowing that my sister ended up having a cesarean with her first baby because of her baby’s size made me realize that this was a real possibility for my birth.

I wish now that I had known what to research in this instance – things that would help alleviate my fears, like: ultrasound can be off on baby’s measurements by up to a pound in either direction, that cephalo-pelvic disproportion (the technical name for ‘too big baby’ is impossible to diagnose until a woman is in labor, that certain positions, like squatting, or on hands and knees, open your pelvis wider to allow baby to come out, and other positions, like the traditional supine with legs in the air, constrict the pelvic opening, making birth more difficult.

But since I didn’t have that information at the time, I tried to make peace with the idea of a c-section. I started looking for stories about moms who’d planned on having a natural birth, but ended up with a c-section, and how they came to terms with the change in plans, but didn’t find many. I tried to adjust. I told myself that I was okay if this happened and figured that because I was mentally prepared at the idea of having one that I would be fine.

Fast forward to two days past my due date and I’m still measuring at just a one. My body had not even begun to prepare for labor and I was absolutely miserable. My doctor came in and told me that she wanted to induce. Without knowing what my options were, and being tired and worried, I agreed because I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to walk on my poor swollen legs by the next week. Looking back, I wish I’d had someone with me who was not emotionally involved in my pregnancy. All I needed at that moment was someone to tell me that I could have made it one more week; that my body knew what it was doing and that this baby would come when it was ready. My poor husband hated seeing me so miserable and was going to go along with whatever decision I made. What I needed was a doula, a professional support person, attending me during my labor. A doula’s job is to support the laboring mother, and to help the mother’s partner and family support her as well.

But hindsight is 20/20, as they say, so what ended up happening was that, as my doctor recommended, we arrived at the hospital as scheduled for my induction. Again, I wish I’d asked more questions. I’d assumed that they’d start the pitocin drip, and then I’d be allowed to let me body labor for a while. But before they started the pitocin drip, my doctor decided to break my water. I was shocked! I knew that once your water breaks that there is a time limit on how long they’ll let you labor before they start talking about bringing you into surgery. Luckily, she was unable to break my amniotic sac, and it eventually ruptured on its own. I loved being able to at least experience that. By mid-day I was maxed out on pitocin, but they put a monitor on babies head and cranked it up again.

Fifteen hours after we started this process, I was still not dilated past a one. After being forced to stay in the hospital bed while enduring very painful contractions, I was told that my doctor ‘felt that I needed a c-section’. What I didn’t know was that there was an option for us to turn off the pitocin, let me rest through the night and start it again in the morning. Again, having a doula would have been invaluable at this stage. But I was exhausted at this point and thought I was out of options, so I agreed to the c-section.

I am so thankful that despite my birth veering dramatically from what I’d planned it resulted in a beautiful healthy baby girl. My biggest regret is, not that I had to have a c-section, but in not educating myself enough. It’s unbelievable how high the cesarean rates are here in SETX, and I believe that if we are taught to listen to our bodies more, educate ourselves during pregnancy in order to know what is normal and what is unnecessary, and not be afraid to ask questions or ask for options or alternatives, then in some situations, like my own, these can be avoided.


I won’t devalue the birth experiences of mothers who ended up with unplanned c-sections by saying that ‘a healthy baby is all that matters’, because it’s not. Though I have come to terms with the unexpected circumstances of my birth now, the first couple weeks after my baby was born, I dealt with a lot of postpartum anxiety. I was put on medicine to help alleviate my symptoms.

Unfortunately, this led to me giving up breastfeeding so my baby wouldn’t  be exposed to the medicine. As you can see, one unforseen event has had a domino effect on the things I’d planned to do with and for my baby. There are many mothers whose unplanned c-sections cause this type of cascade of effects that has farther-reaching consequences; even things like PTSD. Unplanned c-sections are a leading cause of post-partum depression and other post-partum mental health issues, and that’s a topic that one of the other WMC Bloggers will be tackling soon. Stay tuned!

Whitney Bucklew

 

What NOT to Ask Pregnant Mama

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“Is this your first?”

This seemingly benign question throws me for a loop every time. One in four women have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss so lindsay2I’m in good, although mostly unspoken, company. A brief back story: we lost our baby girl named Gabriela during our first pregnancy, at 22 weeks gestation. That’s right. We knew she was a girl and we gave her a name. People always seem surprised by that. I suppose it is because everyone grieves differently. I imagine some people want to forget the whole thing ever happened…not me. I’m exactly the opposite. She was and still is so important to me and that’s why “Is this your first?” is such a complicated question!

I was fortunate enough to find myself pregnant again fairly quickly. About the time my baby bump became apparent  is when the uninvited questions from strangers and acquaintances start rolling in. “Is this your first?” was a frequent inquiry.  I always paused and offered a reluctant “yes”. Inevitably, my hesitation was noticed and followed by a laughing, “What, you don’t know?”. “It’s complicated”, I’d say. (Thanks, Facebook!) What people were really asking was whether or not I had any other children. At that point, I didn’t but my second pregnancy, with Evelyn, wasn’t the first time I had felt a baby move inside my belly. It wasn’t the first time I’d put together a nursery or the first time I’d done research on car-seats and strollers. It wasn’t the first time I had thought of my future as a mother and dreamed of what my daughter might be like. Having to answer the question “Is this your first” is a unique dilemma that accompanies pregnancy after a loss. I never knew whether to respond with “Yes, this is my first.”, forsaking Gabriela, or to say no and open up the door to more uncomfortable questions. No, this wasn’t my first pregnancy. That was the answer tugging at my heart and the reality of my situation…even though it could potentially make a conversation very awkward for the person I was talking to. Why did I seem to care about someone else’s awkward feelings more than my own? Gabriela was and very much still is my daughter and nothing could ever change that.

 

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Pregnancy after loss is so different than a primary pregnancy. At least for me, it was. It was never as excited about the journey the second time around, but more focused on the finish line and the prize. My first pregnancy was a constant state of bliss and excitement and, from my perspective, my body was doing exactly what she was supposed to…until she wasn’t anymore. My body had always done everything I had asked of her. She had varsity-lettered as a Freshman in two sports. Then, she betrayed me and grew a baby that was incompatible with life and that was the root of the anxiety that I experienced during my pregnancy after a loss. It was as if I could no longer trust myself. I was emotionally unavailable to bond with my unborn child because I had been there before. With Gabriela, I had only the anatomy scan and opted out of other testing but with with Evelyn, we tested everything. We hired a perinatologist in addition to my regular obstetrician and I had an appointment every 2 weeks because it was my threshold for inner calm. Inevitably, around 12 days after each doctor’s visit, I found myself no longer able to combat the feelings of doubt and suddenly needed someone (a medical doctor) to remind me that everything was still okay.

I didn’t enjoy pregnancy small talk with other expectant mothers and I quite impatiently awaited becoming a mother myself. My birth plan and preferences drastically changed between my first and second pregnancies. The first time, I had imagined joining an ancient sorority of women who experience birth completely naturally but with my second, I had mounting feelings of doom as I approached and then passed my due date. I couldn’t trust my body to take care of the baby she was growing and couldn’t calm the irrational thoughts, so I opted for an induction. I know induction isn’t some women’s ideal birth experience. From my perspective, though, I had the perfect birth which resulted in the perfect baby for me.

“Is this your first?”

Now I can answer this question with confidence. Yes, this is my first. This is the first baby I have had the pleasure of intimately bonding with through breastfeeding. This is the first time I have cared about the color and frequency of anyone’s bowel movements. This is the first baby I’ve rocked in my arms. I’ll make all the silly mistakes other first time moms do because she’s my “first”, but…Gabriela was the first to make me a mom.

It’s complicated.

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Gabriela Brake – 8/06/2013

Evelyn Marie Brake – 6/26/2014

 

- Lindsay Brake

It Takes a Village

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There’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard a thousand times; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Most of us hear this and automatically think that the village is there to benefit the child. But it has application for parents as well. If you’ve considered this in the past, then you may be wondering who the village is for, and where your village is.

In our culture (the US, specifically), we’ve lost the wisdom in this maxim. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives and pursuits that without sustained effort, many of us have little time to visit our relatives, much less worry about an entire village. As we’ve become more focused on our little nuclear families, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to both build and sustain that village.

When we say ‘village’, what comes to mind? Most of us think of a small, close-knit community. Maybe this community is made up of relatives; perhaps it’s an intentional community of like-minded people who’ve come together for a common goal. In either case, it’s clear that the members of that community belong there. Each individual member is committed to the common goals, and benefits from being involved in it.

Much of the same is true about your village. As a parent, we have ‘villages’ around us as well, made up of the same types of people – family and friends, and the communities around you that you intentionally involve yourself in through the internet, playgroups, hobby groups, mommy groups, church groups, exercise groups and the like. For most of us, especially if we’ve lived in the same area for a while, it’s easy to access some of those groups. Small towns (or medium-sized towns that feel like small towns), like Beaumont, tend to be somewhat church-centered, and so for many women as new mothers, a MOPS group, or other mom-focused group is often the first step into the ‘mommy village’. We find older moms who’ve been there, done that, we find moms who seem to have everything together and make motherhood look like a breeze, and we find kindred souls who know our particular struggles intimately – and we start making ‘mommy friends’.

Mommy friends are different from your ‘regular’ friends. These are women who band together for commiseration. You may find what my small circle of intimates call ‘platonic life partners’ – BFFs for life, and that’s a wonderful thing – but it’s much more likely that you will meet women who are in your life for a season. These women serve a specific purpose in your life – to support and nurture you as a mother. As your children get older, you will find that you fulfill that role for younger mothers.

 

The shift from being the supported to being the supporter is amazing. When you’re a new mother, seeing those women around you who seem to have it all together is both awe-inspiring and enviable. There’s always the mom who embodies everything we want to be as a mother, and that can be really intimidating. Forming a relationship with her lets you in on the secret: She has just as much trouble as you have. That’s the big secret, isn’t it? We’re all struggling – and yet talking about it is taboo.

So here’s what I’ve learned, both from being the mom who needed the village, and being a mom who helps maintain one:

  1. Reach out. our culture likes to isolate new moms. As interdependent creatures, we need to be around other moms. Get out there! Look up playgroups, storytimes, or local eateries with a playland to meet other moms. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘mommy groups’. They’re popular for a reason!
  2. Get help. If you have depression, anxiety, social issues or PPD, a fellow mother might be your first sympathetic ear. So many moms struggle with these issues, and they can help you. There is hope. You are not alone.
  3. Share your joys – and your hardships. Motherhood is fraught with doubt and unrealistic ideals. Being honest with yourself and your village about your successes and failures helps us all to keep them in perspective. It helps us grow and learn new or better ways to accomplish what we set out to do with our kids.
  4. Don’t leave the village just because your kids are older. New mothers need the wisdom that more experienced moms can share. Listen to the newer moms in your circle and be there for them when they need you.
  5. Mom’s Night Out. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing yourself! Whether it’s date night with your partner, or a girls night out, or Mom’s Night Out with the local playgroup, nurture yourself. Recharge so that you can nurture your children.

Heather Thomas

How to Succeed at Breastfeeding Without Really Trying

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In the words of Master Yoda: “Do… or do not. There is no try.” (“Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”)

Permit me to describe what I think would be an ideal breastfeeding relationship.

Birth: Baby is born. Boob is exposed. Baby latches on to boob perfectly. Baby sucks out colostrum and never fusses. Baby poops and pees a lot.

One week later: Baby continues to suck out lots’o milk. Baby never fusses or shows signs of gassiness. Mommy never wonders if Baby is getting enough. Baby poops and pees a lot.

One month later: See “One week later”.

And so on.

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When we take it upon ourselves to be the sole source of nutrition for our brand new, seemingly helpless little angels, we also unknowingly accept unfathomable amounts of anxiety about whether or not we are doing things correctly, baby is eating enough, we are producing enough, and what exactly ‘normal’ means.

Thankfully, resources such as Kellymom.com and local breastfeeding peer support groups have been made available to us. Got a question? Look it up. Need some discussion or reassurance? Find someone to talk to. These resources have been designed to assist and encourage mothers along their unique breastfeeding journeys.

In my unprofessional opinion, based on the self-appointed degree I earned from Googling and browsing mothering forums, I have concluded that one of the most critical factors in a successful breastfeeding relationship is confidence. I mean the kind of confidence that plans and hopes for the best, and understands that Plan B doesn’t need to exist until it needs to exist. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances do change the name of the game, but I think this is one situation where it is better to not plan or prepare for the worst. Understand that it can happen, but don’t entertain the notion. There is a kind of confidence that sustains itself by clinging to the understanding that babies know when they need to eat and when they need comfort. The kind of confidence that says, “I will follow my baby’s lead. I will not try, only do.”

The kind of confidence that recognizes that babies are not as helpless as we think because they know how to regulate their own feeding patterns when we give them the opportunity…

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“You rock, Ma. Thanks for the grub!”

I wish I had studied more about growth spurts and nursing patterns before the birth of my first. I’d heard buzzwords like “witching hour”, “gas”, and “cluster feeding” before she was born, but the practical application of those terms had to be learned the hard way. Those first few weeks were brutal, as the evenings seemed to always bring out the worst in her. She was always hungry, always wanting to nurse, always wanting to fight me and NOT nurse, and always just being a general butthead about everything. I felt helpless, and my husband and I didn’t know what to do besides give her some good old fashioned gripe water and ride it out. The only things I knew for certain during that time were that she would eat when she was ready, and under no circumstances was she going to receive formula. I knew my supply was sufficient (at least my rock-hard boobs seemed to indicate such to me), and she was receiving milk during the other times of the day. She had plenty of good diapers, and was gaining weight. As far as we could tell, she didn’t have reflux. I had read somewhere that evening fussiness is a result of a day’s worth of external stimulation to the baby and that babies’ nervous systems sometimes don’t know how to cope with all the extra stimulus, so they become fussy. Assuming that was true, it became my mission to treat those extra fussy times as times when she needed comfort more than food. I changed my focused to helping her relax instead of continuing to torturing myself by thinking that she was starving to death. I offered the breast as frequently as possible, knowing that she would eventually be calm enough to latch on. I bathed her, sang to her, swaddled her, and talked to her. These weren’t instant cures, but she would always return to normal after some time, and become my sweet baby again.

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I would love to encourage every mother wanting to exclusively breastfeed to not beat themselves up when they think they are failing, because more than likely, things are normal…so normal. Babies go through phases and stages, and they outgrow all of them. I would love to encourage these moms to not even keep to their formula samples as their emergency back-up. I would love to encourage them to trust their bodies, trust their milk, and trust their babies. I would love to hug them and let them know it is difficult, but it WILL get better. I would love to help them see that one day they will look back at what they overcame and be overwhelmed with pride at what has been accomplished. I would love to offer them whatever support or information they need to trust that they can do it. They can achieve their goals, and they will learn so much along the way.

- Emily Brown

 

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If a Doula Were a Drug: Esther’s Birth Story

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There’s a quote about doulas that pretty much sums up how I feel about my doula’s role in the birth of  my baby.

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — Dr. John Kennell

 

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When I think about my labor and delivery no detail doesn’t include the involvement of my doula. She was both a friend and mentor so when I was expecting it was the natural next step to ask her to be a part of my labor and birth. I met with her a few times throughout my pregnancy for advice and support, and also to discuss my birth plan. She lent me oils to diffuse and answered all my texts and calls (before and after birth) with usually odd questions and concerns. She calmed many fears and helped me develop a healthy fear and awe for childbirth.

I loved my midwife, but my doula was the first number I called when the morning of labor dawned bright and early. She is the one that told me it was time to go to the hospital. She met me at the car and didn’t leave my side for the rest of the day.

My husband had taken a birth class with me. He knew all the things he was supposed to say, the positions he should suggest, my preferred comfort measures and the ways I wanted him to hold me, but when the time came for labor, what I needed was the touch of a woman who had been through the same experience and understood what it meant to bring a child into the world. During each contraction she placed her hands on me, usually one on my neck and one on my lower back. She whispered during each contraction for me to relax different parts of my body. She reminded me to let my body do what it needed to do. I was in the tub for the first and second stages of labor and I progressed very quickly. I credit this to the atmosphere my doula helped to create. I was the most relaxed during that time.

Once I hit transition, her role changed. During this time, I let some fear (of tearing and pushing) get the best of me and as a result, my labor stalled for about two hours. This was the hardest part of my labor and also when my doula became the most valuable. When all I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball she helped me labor in different positions to help progress. She reminded me that pressure was good and again, what was happening was normal and GOOD. At one point she suggested a change in position and I firmly told her no, I would prefer to stay where I was. After the next contraction ended, she quickly and quietly got me moving into a new position. I know if my husband would have tried this I probably have bit his hand. When I finally admitted I was afraid of tearing she helped me let go of that fear and surrender to my body.

She spooned ice into my mouth and coaxed me into eating small snacks to keep my energy up. When I was pushing and felt like I couldn’t go any further, she squeezed my hand and told me how close I was. When my boy came out she took pictures that I will treasure forever.

Because I delivered with a midwife, the advocacy role was unnecessary.  My midwife had also delivered two of my doula’s children so everyone in the room was on the same page. We were all there to safely, and with the least amount of intervention possible, get my boy into this world. I was able to follow my birth plan and I’m not sure I would have been able to without the support of my doula. Because of my experience, I would encourage anyone to ask a doula to join their birth team.

 

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My first birth experience was beautiful, empowering, HARD and something I will never forget. There was just something amazing about having a woman I trusted, who had gone through what I was going through, by my side the entire time. I could have done it without her, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to.

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- Esther Jean