Saturday, November 7, 2015

Breastfeeding is a Commitment Worthy of Being Paid For!

Recommendations are to "breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months" and I have probably repeated this statement over a thousand times - always with the intention of informing women, mothers. 

But today, the day I reach this goal, I now understand the enormity of this statement. The unfathomable weight I have placed on women's shoulders when I so confidently uttered it. 

I'm sorry for my previous naivete! 

Because exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months isn't easy to do and I think for most women in the U.S., it is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE.

Let me explain...

I had it 'easy' compared to many moms when it comes to trying to exclusively breastfeed for 6 whole months. Not only am I well versed in the mechanics of breastfeeding (I've been in the field for almost 8 years), but more importantly, I work from home.

I am beyond thankful that I have been able to spend every day of this past 6 months with my precious bundle of perpetual energy and, for the last two months, my husband has been able to be home with us.

...and exclusively breastfeeding my baby was still a challenge!

Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to learn. Some moms have a rough go of it, in my case, where the only issues we faced seemed minor (thrush, nipple pain), there were still many many times when I felt overwhelmed by the commitment of it.

Breastfeeding while working full-time started to make it feel like a chore, which broke my heart. My baby deserved my attention, a time-out from the world for connection between the two of us, but so often work related topics clouded my time with her.

Trying to juggle work tasks and full-time breastfeeding was exhausting!

Babies eat often, oh so often!, round the clock. Taking 10-30 minutes every two or three hours to feed them is challenging for anyone... especially when you have a thousand other pressing things to do.

Not to mention that even when you aren't actively feeding your baby... you are thinking about feeding them. It was a struggle to slowly learn how to focus on things other than my baby. My body is hard-wired to need her near me all the time, so focusing on working was sometimes impossible. 

Working and mothering :-) Multi-tasking level: expert!
... and I can't even imagine trying to do this if you work out of the home! To me, that seems a near-impossible task.

It's worth it, don't get me wrong. I have always known I'd breastfeed my babies, rain or shine and I have loved far more of this journey than I've wished away... and even those moments I wish away, I remember to be thankful for them later!

But I'm lucky... I got to stay home with my baby...

A mother working out of the home, well she has to pump, and pump, and pump, and pump.... when she should just be able to feed her baby, to respond to her baby when he needs her, and to adapt to this new human and her role as a mother. 

But this isn't possible when over HALF of American mothers return to work when their baby is only 5 weeks old. (link)


It really isn't surprising, then, that most women don't reach their own breastfeeding goals, I couldn't even tell my right from left when my baby was 5 weeks old... and we are expecting mothers to LEAVE THEIR BABY to return to work full time!?

Oh yeah, and keep giving that breastmilk... pump, pump, pump!

Just another thing for an exhausted and stressed mother to do... and it comes at a cost. 

A cost to our mental health, to the health of our families and children - and in the end, our nation will suffer for it.

No amount of free pumps, or workplace time for pumping, or home visits from IBCLCs (all things we certainly DO need more of!) is going to get all women to this goal. 

Support means letting mothers and fathers spend time with their newborn babies. Letting them navigate the new (non)sleeping schedules and the world of rapidly, ever-changing babies from home; together.

So here's the thing... we need to stop placing this expectation, this lofty lofty goal, squarely on the shoulders of mothers, because it isn't them we need to convince. 

It isn't mothers who need to work harder, is EVERYONE ELSE!

Politicians, employers, educators, doctors, nurses, researchers, and aunts and uncles, fathers and grandparents... ALL OF US!

Breastfeeding takes work and sometimes a lot of it. It is a commitment worthy of being paid for. It deserves respect as one of the most certain ways to improve our nation's health, but also as something that isn't just a stroll in the park. 

If we care about children, if we want healthier babies and healthier families, and if we ultimately want to improve the health and well-being of our country, then PAID parental LEAVE is a MUST. 

Nursing at Denver Airport!
Plain and simple.

Babies deserve to be breastfed and mothers deserve to achieve their breastfeeding goals, but it is everyone else that needs to step up now and make that happen.

Babies deserve better than this. We can do better than this. 

Do you agree?

~Wisdom and Birth

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Home Birth Story of our Little Izzi Moon

She was born at home, on the bedroom floor of our little Florida apartment, with only her daddy, mommy, and midwife present. 

I have planned to give birth at home for years. Not 'just' a crazy hippie, it was actually my extensive education and years of work in the field of maternity care that had convinced me.

I knew that for my healthy baby and I, the care of a trained midwife at home had far fewer unnecessary interventions, more personal and respectful care, and was as safe as giving birth in the hospital. I wanted an unhindered, natural, and private birth, and I was only going to find that at home. 

And I did. Our little Izzi Moon was born with power and in peace, unhindered and naturally, in the wee hours of the morning, at home, on Wednesday May 6. 

Labor began the day before - a labor fiesta for Cinco de Mayo ;) I was 38.5 weeks along.

I had not-so-secretly hoped (like all pregnant women do) that our little squish would emerge early... though I constantly prepared myself to go 41 weeks, as a seasoned birth worker like myself knew most first-time mothers do.

Tuesday morning was certainly out of my ordinary normal routine. I woke early (completely out of character for me, especially pregnant!), spent some quality time with my husband (my dad reads this, so we'll leave it at that!), and then I even joined him on his morning walk with the dogs... seriously, usually I just lay in bed until a few minutes before I log-in to work.

I vaguely registered some cramping and tightening sensations while working that morning, but I completely disregarded any thoughts of labor, (I had at least two more weeks and could expect a loooong, slow labor... right?) 

The sensations continued and in the early afternoon I began to allow myself to hope that these could be a sign of early labor (just a few more days of these, if I'm lucky!).

It's labor! It is actually labor! We will meet our baby soon!!
A bathroom break around 2pm revealed a large amount of bloody show and for the first time I dared to allow myself a moment of elation... LABOR! I'M REALLY IN LABOR!!!!

The tightening and cramping sensations continued and I could tell they were rhythmic and seemed to be less than 10 minutes apart. I began wrapping up my work, prepping for maternity leave (in case this was actually it!), and around 4pm I sent my husband and midwife (Charlie from Barefoot Birth) a text that I may (dare I hope!?) be in early labor.

I climbed into a warm bath, enjoyed a hot raspberry tea, and began timing... they were about 7-9 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds. They picked up rather quickly while I relaxed in the tub (yep, OMG!, this is real labor!) and I started needing to pause, close my eyes, and breathe as a surge moved through me.

When my husband arrived home he tried to convince me to go to dinner with friends, as we had planned. Months ago we had agreed that we wouldn't get all excited in early labor, since it can take awhile, so we wanted to continue with our plans... but by 5pm I knew I couldn't get in the car or labor at someone else's house. The contractions were coming closer together (6-7 minutes now) and I needed to relax and get into a rhythm. I needed peace. I needed to breathe.

So he took the dogs to their babysitters (thank you dear friends!) and grabbed a few groceries - I watched half an episode of Outlander while he was gone :)

Labor continued to pick up, stronger and longer contractions coming more frequently. I labored around the apartment, on the birth ball, hands and knees, standing, and even I tried to lay down a few times and rest (like all good birth workers tell mothers to do) but the contractions were too strong in that position and I couldn't cope. I remember feeling like I was going to completely lose it both times I tried to lie down. ...I ended up laboring on my hands and knees for most of the 12 hours. 

Laboring with my doula kitty

My water broke in the bathroom a little after midnight. I was leaning over the counter and vocalizing through contractions (read: hard core moaning!). At this point they were coming about 4 minutes apart and lasting a minute. Within the hour they were getting closer to 3 minutes apart and I told my husband to call our midwife.

Around this time I realized how quickly this was actually going and told my husband to fill the birth pool - I would soon need something greater to help me cope and a tub of hot water sounded amazing!

... and then the #!$* hit the fan...

First, the hose didn't actually reach from the laundry room to the birth room (no big deal, right!?)... so my husband, Chase, moved the pool to the living room... then, the water pipe - yes, the one in the wall that connects to other apartments - BURST!!!

From my position laboring in the bathroom I heard every swear word known to man (and then some new ones) as my husband tried to fill the pool and sop up all the water pouring from the wall - fill for 10 minutes, turn off the water, and then sop up then clean up the lake on the laundry room floor, before turning the water back on ... over and over and over. ...poor husband - A true home birth, y'all!!!

All the while I was laboring louder and louder and begging for my birth pool.

Soon after this fiasco began, our midwife arrived and was able to help Chase boil water to heat the tub as she checked on me, the baby, and prepared for the birth.

Then, (oh yes, there is more!) KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK... yep, wtf!?, someone was at the door.

The emergency maintenance man became an honorary member of my birth team when he fixed the pipe (yes, because other apartments had called due to flooding) and gave us water!

RELIEF! My birth pool :) Just in time for transition ...!

Transition - my wonderful husband cooling me down

... and then I was pushing. As I began to feel an urge to push I also felt a sort of sharp contraction pain - after a few of these Charlie checked (my first and only internal exam!) and I had a small cervical lip and after pushing through one or two of the next contractions it was gone.

Pushing was certainly the most intimidating of the labor experience. I handled contractions just fine all the way to the end, but pushing was scary. The thought of a human... a head!... moving through me provoked some new-found anxiety and I needed to be reminded to breathe deeply and rest in between contractions. Charlie had me try different positions to keep me moving and help the baby down - she was having some decels and I needed to be more progressive in my pushing.

Holding tight to my husband's hands, and with my head buried into his shoulder, I pushed out our (SURPRISE!) baby girl at 4:44am on the floor of my birth room/baby room. I pushed for a little less than an hour.

She is here!

Izzi had a bit of trouble taking her first breath and needed some help from Charlie in doing so. Since she was still connected to me through the cord she was able to receive oxygen while working on her transition earth-side.

Once she came around, we cuddled and snuggled and began to foster the strongest and most fulfilling love with our beautiful little girl :) I can't believe we had a girl! 

Our first family photo!

Our little Izzi Moon was born weighing 6lbs 7oz and 20inches long. The day after a full moon!

We didn't actually name her when she was born, though, it took a few days... we had truly been expecting a boy and we hadn't picked a girl's name! Apparently old wives tales are truly just tales! 

Overall my labor was about 12 hours long and I pushed for a little less than an hour. It was challenging and, for awhile, difficult work, but it was totally worth it!

Izzi's newborn exam with Charlie

Some may say that my success birthing at home was "luck"and perhaps in some ways it was, but I also know that my preparation (and I've done lots of it!) was an important factor in my ability to cope and even welcome the contractions. I have certainly done my research and the hard-work paid off!!

I do believe that more women, with knowledge and confidence, and a great birth support team, could deliver at home!

Welcome Earth-side, precious Izzi!!!
~Wisdom and Birth