Archive for the 'lactation' Category

The secret weapon

Every once in awhile, someone will ask me this question:

“Is there anything you didn’t know about birth that you wish someone would have told you ahead of time?”

By the time I was 39 weeks pregnant with Animal, I was 100% sure that I knew everything there was to know about labor and birth. I had read everything I could get my hands on–books, articles, research studies, websites, etc. I had talked with countless women who were experienced in natural childbirth. I asked my midwife everything under the sun.

In the last month of pregnancy, I had covered one wall of my bedroom with pictures and descriptions of every position and comfort measure known to woman. I wanted to make sure I could easily reference these during labor. (And I did!) I walked a lot. I leaned on counters, sinks, and on my bed. I sat on the toilet to relieve the pressure of a 9lb baby impatiently pressing down into my pelvis. I sat on the birth ball and rocked. I slow danced with B. I swayed and moaned and hypnotized myself. I found my rhythm, my unique ritual. There were no surprises.

Until a few moments after my baby was born. Until the afterpains came.

I knew that there would be some mild-ish contractions, to expel the placenta. I knew there would be some cramping, as my uterus tightened up. I remembered the aching I felt every time I breastfed my firstborn. But in no way was I prepared for the pain that immediately followed birth. I later learned that afterpains can be more intense as you have more babies. I really had no idea that they even existed, considering I had been completely numbed from the epidural during my first two births. I wonder sometimes if the terrible cramping I experienced was due to the Cytotec my midwife gave me orally immediately following the birth. But what I really wonder is why I did not find these afterpains mentioned in any of the books I had read. Maybe everyone thinks, “Hey, you just went through the pain of childbirth, and now you have this beautiful infant on your chest and you’re so wrapped up in the bliss of Babyland that you just don’t notice too much.”

Well I did. That’s for sure. It hurt so badly that I wanted the baby off of me. In the video we took, you can hear me saying “This is so unfair! My baby has been born and I’m still having CONTRACTIONS!” For me, the contractions were all well and good when there was a baby coming out of the deal. But at that point in time, I really didn’t give a flying fuck what was going on with my uterus. It was terrible.

Somewhere along the line, someone (God bless your soul, whoever you are) brought in a hot rice sock and placed it on my lower abdomen. The relief it brought was amazing.

That rice sock got some serious use. Not only did I use it for the first week or so before EVERY nursing session, I also used it to ease the stiff neck that plagued me from trying to learn how to breastfeed. Later, I would wrap it around my breasts to encourage letdown while I pumped. I utilized it again and again during TWO boughts of mastitis when I came down with influenza and was bedridden for two weeks. The thing was a savior to me.

And so, I want to make sure my clients have the option of a rice sock. Since I don’t have the funds to go buying the fancy schmancy version, I searched the web for tips on how to make my own. Almost everything I read told me to use an old tube sock. Fill it with rice, tie up the end. Voila. Well folks, there is no way I’m pulling out an old sock for my clients to use on their most tender parts.

And so, today, I visited the thrift store and picked out some scraps of material. I came home, lifted the sewing machine that my mother-in-law gifted to me, and took it out of its case. I opened up the instruction manual, carefully following the directions on how to wind the bobbin, thread the machine (wow! complicated!) and sew a straight stitch and a blanket stitch. I cut the material, figuring out how exactly it would work. I sewed. I filled the long rectangular pillow full of rice. I sewed it shut. I SEWED. Amazingly, this thing came out looking really, really nice. I bet you would never guess that I don’t actually know how to sew.

All I can say is that I am totally addicted. And still, the thought of me sewing makes me crack up. Every time. Damn, I’m domesticated. And proud!


The United States disappoints, yet again

This is pretty much disgusting.

Mothering Magazine-an insult to eP’ers

This morning, I continued creating posts for our huge sell-off. I sell items at several different online “stores”, including ebay, DiaperSwappers, and the Trading Post @ Mothering Magazine’s discussion boards. Mothering is an awesome magazine dedicated to Natural Family Living. I refer back to their back issues frequently regarding questions I have about natural birth, breastfeeding, vaccinations, babywearing, and co-sleeping.

Unfortunately, I had an experience this morning at their online trading post that really perplexed and ultimately disappointed me. I posted five 9 ounce Avent bottles for sale. I used these bottles for a limited time while I was exclusively pumping (eP’ing) and supplementing with formula. As many of you know, I had extensive breastfeeding problems and finally managed to find success. In fact, at nearly 15 months, my “flat nipples” are still nursing a tongue tied baby! My breastfeeding story can be found HERE.

Almost immediately after posting the bottles for sale, I was contacted by a moderator and told that my post was deleted. The reasoning behind this decision was based on Mothering’s support of the World Health Organization’s code of “Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes.”

Cynthia Mosher, Mothering’s Discussion Board Administror, has posted the following:

ATTENTION All Trading Posters


Advertising formula, bottles, and pacifiers is a violation of the WHO Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes which Mothering and MDC voluntarily supports. So please refrain from posting such items for sale, trade, or giveaway, inclluding coupons for such items.

Any questions or concerns can be addressed to me by email or PM. Thanks for your help and support in this matter.

~Cynthia Mosher
Administrator, MDC

There’s a part of me that wants to jump up and down and clap for Mothering’s hardcore stance against formula and their militant advocacy of breastmilk. And yet, who are we forgetting here?

We’re forgetting the moms who, because of economic need, are forced back into the workforce at 6 weeks postpartum. The mothers who are sitting in bathroom stalls at their place of employment, closing their eyes and thinking of their child as they let down for a double electric, battery operated pump. We’re forgetting the moms who are hooked up to plastic tubing as they make the long commute home. The moms who sit in the NICU for months with their premies and sick babies. The moms who have scoured the internet for help and resources and have found online communites full of other women who are chained to the breastpump, every 2 hours. Pumping, storing, freezing, thawing, warming, pumping.

After you get the hang of it, nursing isn’t difficult. Rolling over in bed to plop a breast into the waiting mouth of your child isn’t hard. Lifting your shirt as you sit on a bench at the mall doesn’t take any work.

Pumping 8-10 times a day, taking supplements and aids to build supply, waking up in the middle of the night to sit up and pump, cleaning and sterilizing pump parts, buying a pump, renting a pump, buying storage bags, bottles, nipples, bottle brushes. Never being able to leave home for long periods of time without a huge supply of equipment. This is hard. This is the most difficult feeding method. It takes dedication, sheer determination, and fierce mother love to make this sort of commitment.

So to Mothering Magazine, shame on you. Shame on you for outcasting these mothers by your elitist refusal to help supply them with equipment at a reduced price by other helpful mamas.

And for pumping moms everywhere, the resource links:

Breaking the mold

Here is what you will see if you are following behind my green crapovan:

It took me a long time to decide on a bumper sticker. I knew that I only wanted ONE, and I wanted it to be GOOD. So many things I believe in, so many stances to take, so many witty little thoughts to convey. For a long while, I debated this one, but was afraid that I might get gunned down or something by a bitter and hostile mama.

To be fair, I would rather the sticker said “homebirthing'” instead of “babywearing'” since I now only wear Animal when the terrain is too rough for stroller pushing. It also could say “non vaccinating”, but then people would probably avoid my van like it was the plague or something. Actually, that might be a great anti-theft device.

Last week I took Animal to a pediatrician. He had his last checkup when he was 6 months old. Because we’re not vaccinating, I wasn’t seeing much of a reason for his checkups. He’s always been the picture of health. However, since we’ve relocated, I thought that it was best to get him hooked up with a doctor here. I found out the hard way that when you actually NEED to see a doctor, it’s damn near impossible unless you’re already an established patient. I checked around with some of the La Leche league moms to get a recommendation for a doctor who wouldn’t harass me about my decision to refuse vaccinations. I had several mamas refer me to the same pediatrician. I figured that was a pretty good sign. However, when we went to see him, he asked me why I had chosen not to vaccinate. He said that since it was our first visit, he wanted to know my reasons so that he could make sure I was making an informed decision, and then he wouldn’t bring it up again. He went on to ask me about 15 questions. Things like, “Do you know how many children experiece a side effect from the DtaP vaccine?” Now, not only am I a non-confrontational sort, I don’t retain information well and I certainly don’t memorize statistics to use in debates with my doctor. Perhaps I should. I had no clue what any of the answers were, and still am really suspicious about the accuracy of his responses. He went on to tell me that I can’t listen to anecdotes, stories from parents whose children have died from vaccines. He talked about how the media blows up ONE bad case to instill fear and paranoia. He told me that I couldn’t trust anything that I read on the internet, and that if I wanted “to go looking for info against vaccines, I’d find it.” (Insinuating that I was only looking at one sided sources.) He filled up the entire tissue paper used to cover the exam table with graphs and statistics. He told me that the chance of death from a pertussis vaccine was 1 in 1 trillion, but that he had personally treated a 7 year old boy for whooping cough and the child had ended up mentally retarded. He said that for the money that had been spent to treat this one child, they could have paid to vaccinate every child in the state of California. It just went on and on and on. It was terrible. Truly terrible. I knew that arguing or even asking questions would make the visit even longer, and the last thing I wanted to do was continue to trap myself in this stuffy exam room with Dr. Save The Country From My Unvaccinated Child.

I’ve been replaying the entire situation in my mind for days. I spent close to a year researching this issue. I pored over some of the most mind numbing medical literature out there. It was nothing but sheer torture. There was a time when I was confident. But now, I’m just tired of fighting. I know that rationally, I cannot dwell on the horror stories. And yet I cannot stop thinking about the healthy 7 year old whose life was completely ruined by a disease that could have possibly been prevented by a vaccine. I’ve talked with B about it. He’s never been very supportive of my choice, but has been draggged along with it. We’re considering shelling out the money to see the naturopath, and possibly creating a delayed vaccination schedule.

Today, I went on my favorite discussion boards to get some support and encouragement from the natural moms. I explained the above situation, the pediatrician, my fears, etc. The replies came pouring in, and every single one felt judgmental. “I can’t believe you would give in to vaccination just to get a pediatrician off your back. What are you AFRAID of?”

I also posted another topic about leaving Animal for a week while I go to Florida. I wanted to see if anyone had any experience with leaving a nursing toddler for an extended period of time. Again, the responses were negative. “I would never leave my nursing child–our breastfeeding relationship means more to me than that.”

The comments just made me so flippin’ angry. I feel that I am labeled no matter what. I had a homebirth. I breastfeed. I am breastfeeding a toddler. I cloth diaper. I wear my baby. I practice gentle discipline and attachment parenting. At times, I co-sleep. I am training to become a doula. I don’t vaccinate. I strive to eat organic. It feels like I’m being pushed into a mold, and if I decide against something that doesn’t perfectly fit the mold, I get cast out from the group and discarded. I no longer fit into the elitist, yuppie, neo-hippie revolution. It makes me want to go all teenage-rebellious, rip that sticker off my car, buy a pack of Huggies and enjoy a little Walmart spending spree.

Being cheated

Last night I attended a Childbirth Ed class taught by the wonderful Hannah. She’s a fantastic educator, very entertaining and informative. We took a tour of the hospital where she took the bed apart, hoisted her little frame up into that bed and showed several different positioning examples, including all-fours and legs spread with feet up on the squatting bar. What a dynamic lady she is. I’m just not sure I could get in front of an entire roomfull of people and spread eagle. Lol. Very cool of her.

The whole experience was really neat, watching everything from an observation standpoint instead of being an expectant parent. I got warm fuzzies just seeing all of the couples, so excited and full of hope. The Daddy next to me was rubbing Mama’s belly and the one in front of me kept looking at his wife and smiling lovingly. It made me want another baby so bad I could taste it.

But when I got home and sat down to unwind, I was overcome with so many feelings that needed to be sorted out. Mostly, anger.

I’m angry that at 18 years old, I trusted my doctor when she told me at a prenatal appointment that “an epidural would be best for me.” I’m angry that I was always stuck in the waiting room for my appointments, that I could never get through on the phone, that everyone was too busy to answer my questions, and that she would fly in and out of the examining room before I had a chance to process the information she had given me. I’m angry that I was treated like cattle, along with the rest of her patients. In and out. Push them through. I’m angry that she sent me to Childbirth Ed classes, where I was taught how to be “a good patient”, to do exactly what they wanted me to do instead of giving me options. I’m angry that although my labor was only 6 hours long, she augmented with Pitocin. I’m angry that I was gripping the bed rails, curling up into a tiny ball and screaming from the pain. I’m angry that there were decels in my son’s heartrate, that there was distress and meconium that probably could have been avoided if my doctor would have been patient enough to keep the Pitocin out of my veins for a few hours longer. I’m angry that I never moved from the bed, strapped to monitors and an IV pole. I’m angry that I was numb from my breast bone to my toes, that I could feel nothing, that nurses were yelling, that I pushed so hard I bruised the sockets of my teeth and popped blood vessels in my eyes. I’m angry that my son was pushed too hard and too fast into the world and countless stitches were needed to repair the damage. I’m angry that my doctor tugged away at my placenta and that there was so much blood that she mentioned a transfusion, that I was anemic afterwards and had to keep my catheter in for the entire next day because I could not even stand. I’m angry that when breastfeeding went terribly wrong, the nurses, the lactation consultants, everyone gave up on me. And I’m angry that 18 months later, when my second child was born, everything happened all over again.

I almost feel like I need to grieve my first two births. Sure I had no major complications and my babies were healthy. But there was so much I missed, so much my boys missed. I feel so lucky to have had my last child be born at home. It was definitely a real healing experience for me. But in a way, it made things worse. I feel cheated. Even though I was reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding, the information that was presented to me was one sided. I was molded into my doctor’s perfect patient. She got paid for doing so very little, and now I forever pay the price for her lack of concern.

I guess it’s important for me to keep focusing on the fact that I was able to reclaim my motherhood, my instincts, myself. I have to remember that a year ago, I was in my own bed, watching my baby be born. I was letting him come, allowing my body to do the work as his head crowned so slowly and gently. I have to remember the waves of contractions that washed over me, the absence of fear and pain. I have to remember lifting his body to my chest, no one cheering or yelling, no bulb syringe, no gleam of the scissors to immediately sever him from me, no towels to scrub away his vernix. I have to remember that a year later, he still finds nourishment at my breast, that my child is still nursing when I was told again and again that I would never breastfeed. I have to remember it all, and be gracious for it, for the way I was given that one last opportunity to discover empowerment.

Saltshaker confusion?

My mother has a cupboard in her dining room that is filled to the brim with fragile items such as vases, plates, and wine glasses. Among the rubble you will find two very small, antique salt shakers.

Animal has been fascinated with this cabinet for months. At first, I thought the fascination was stemming from the fact that it’s one of the only cupboards in the house that isn’t secured with a childproof lock. However, we’ve finally figured it out.

Every time he sneaks into the dining room, he very calmly opens the cupboard door, and carefully selects the salt shakers. Now, this in itself is a miracle, since Animal amongst breakables is much like a bull in a china shop. However, no matter where these objects are located on the shelves, the choice always remains the same.

The next matter of business is to remove the pacifier that occupies his mouth for 22 hours per day. And then, the salt shakers get double fisted and one of them is prompty placed into the mouth and suckled.

Wonder why?

On related matters, Animal has also learned to recognize the word we use for breastfeeding. This word is “milky.” I’m not quite sure how this term came into existence. If I were to wager a guess, I’d say that it originated as a combination of “nursie” and “milk.” Regardless, he is now able to hear anyone speak the word “milky” from a one mile radius and he will frantically come running for it.

Strangely enough, he has also formed a new obsession for a book about Jack & The Beanstalk. It seems rather odd, considering that this book is probably more age appropriate for a 5 or 6 year old. Nevertheless, he brings the book to me at least 15 times a day and smacks me with it until I take it from his hand and begin to read. In the book, Jack’s cow is named “Milky White.” It took me quite some time to realize that whenever I read about “Milky White”, Animal would ferociously grab my breasts and begin to squeeze and grunt impatiently. And come to think of it, I wonder if he actually brings me this book in an attempt to communicate that he wants to nurse? Either way, we’re well into the weaning process, and because of this, the entire household has been warned against uttering the word “milky” and Jack’s cow has been renamed “Mr. M.”

P.S. I just read this blog aloud before posting and guess who’s super spidey senses heard me muttering under my breath and came running once he heard the “m” word? Bah.

Movin’ on up (err…down)

When Animal was 6 weeks old, I decided to get fitted for a high quality nursing bra. I figured that my breasts had evened out to their permanent nursing size, and I wanted to make sure that I had a few good bras to last me through the breastfeeding experience. I decided to be professionally fitted, which I highly recommend. (Most women are wearing the wrong size bra.)

And so, the lady with the tape measure and the granny glasses checked out the goods while I stood there shirtless in the dressing room, waiting for the outcome. She tapped her finger to her mouth. “40F” she announced. I just about shit my pants. Sure, I knew that I had grown some since Rylan’s birth, but I surely hadn’t expected to be in the 40’s, much less in an F cup. In fact, back then I had no idea that anything past a D cup even existed. And so, for the next 11 months, I’ve owned two nursing bras. Very expensive, but very boring. White, lacy, latches at the shoulder to expose the jugs to the hungry bebe. I’ve worn them around the clock, 24/7 and I’ve had about all I can handle.

So last night, I decided to take another trip to my local high end department store for another fitting. Considering that Animal is almost done weaning, I figured that now is the appropriate time. I tried my hardest to stop dreaming of a black bra without monster straps. I focused on the fact that I would at least leave the store with something that didn’t have a little bead in the center that could be pushed from one side to the other to remind me which breast had been emptied last.

I followed the Fitter into the dressing room. “What size are you wearing now?” she asked. “40F”, I mumbled. She raised an eyebrow. I peeled off my shirt and out came the tape measure. I braced myself. “36D,” she said firmly. The heavens opened up and I heard angels singing. She promptly left and returned with armfulls of black, lace, patterns, colors, fabrics and styles. I was in D cup heaven. And believe you me, I left the store with a little black number.