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The Last Time

I lie in bed with him, cementing the details in my memory. The way the morning air is heavy and green. The sound of last night’s raindrops continuing to drip from the overfull gutters on the roof. The insistent stab of a single-note bird song in the air. His head nestles in the crook of my arm the way it has done every morning for three years. Blond hair against my nose, breathing in the slightly baby smell of him. “This is the last img_9756time,” I whisper softly. “We are all done after this. This is the last time we will have nonnies.”

This is not the first last time for me, but it is the last, last time.  The first baby was born 14 years ago and gathered to my breast with all the tenderness and uncertainty and instinctiveness of a first, first. “Do you want nursies?” I whisper to that new little boy, and we begin the next steps in our bond, nursing for nearly three years, until one day, six weeks away from the birth of the next baby boy, the first little brother in our family, I decide that we truly have to be done. I am a breastfeeding counselor for other nursing mothers and I feel like I should want to tandem nurse my two boys. I fondly envision their hands joining across my body, the easy love and camaraderie between them blossoming through this shared time with their mother. But, I feel an intense irritation with nursing while pregnant, nearly a sense of revulsion and the almost irresistible urge to shove away my sweet little boy as I prepare to greet the life of another. I talk to my midwife about my feelings and she explains that with her own two daughters, the agitated feeling at nursing the older one did not go away with the birth of the second, but instead became dramatically worse.

After hearing this, I feel panicky and I decide we do, in fact, have to wean. He is a very verbal and precocious toddler and I am easily able to explain to him that it is time to be finished nursing. One night though, he lies in bed with me crying and begging to nurse. He says he really needs to. I tell him, “remember, we’re all done, but if you really, really need me, if you really, really still need to have nursies, you can.” He doesn’t nurse, but instead falls asleep, reassured that while our nursing relationship might be over, I’m still here.

The second baby boy nurses the longest of any. Beginning while still attached to me by his umbilical cord, after a short and intense birth in my alaina005living room, nursing is the comfort tool that soothes the powerful emotions and hot temper of this baby. To him, breastfeeding is “na na’s,” a word he learns to say at only six months old, reaching towards me from his father’s arms and calling, “Mama, na na! Mama, na na!” At nearly three, when snuggled in my lap for comfort after an emotional meltdown and burst of fiery, destructive temper he explains: “Mama, when I’m not with you, I feel like I’m in lava. When I’m not nursing, I feel like I’m in a dragon’s mouth!” When this boy is 3.5, I nurse him for the last time. I am pregnant again and feeling the same aversion and revulsion towards our once-treasured bond that I felt with my first. We talk and I tell him we are all done. I wonder if I will be sorry that I have weaned him if something happens to the new baby, will I be sorry that I cut him off and then don’t have a new baby to nurse? I decide that no, I will not be sorry. In fact, that I am truly desperate to be done nursing him.

This third baby, a third boy, does not ever make it to my breast. He dies early in my second trimester, less than two weeks after I nurse my second son for the last time, wondering if I’ll be sorry about weaning him. Though I am overcome with grief at the loss of my baby, I never regret the decision to wean the toddler. What follows is the only three months in more than fourteen years in which I am not pregnant or nursing anyone. april-2014-022A short fourth pregnancy, less than six weeks in duration this time, fills in another month, and then, I am pregnant with my daughter.

My only girl is born in one sudden moment, whole and healthy, into my hands as I kneel on a futon in my living room. The wild, sweet relief I feel at seeing she is actually alive is the most powerful emotion I’ve ever felt in my life. She is gathered to my breast in the coldness of this January morning and continues to nurse for the next three years, until I am pregnant with her little brother. “Na na’s” become “nonnies” with her and she is finally weaned in the sunny days of spring. We sit in the field by our house, kites flying on a windy day. She cries on my lap when I tell that we have to be done, “remember, this is our last time. We’re all done now.” My second son comes over to us, he of the big feelings and the lava of emotions. “What happened?” he asks. I tell him that she is feeling sad because we are all done having nonnies now and he reaches out to touch her leg. “I’ve been where she is,” he says compassionately, “I know what she feels.”

Much later, as I complain about still nursing her little brother and exclaiming that I just need to be done, she asks me: “why don’t you get a kite?” “What on earth are you talking about?” I ask her, “Why would I need a kite?” She stares at me as if I’m foolish, “so you can fly it and then be done nursing Tanner!” she exclaims.

Tanner. The last baby. The baby I wasn’t expecting, the first pregnancy of six pregnancies that took me by complete surprise. The baby that taught me that blogging about how I was done having children was not, in itself, an effective means of birth control. The baby that challenged me to re-open myself, my heart, my body, and my family after I had mentally and emotionally shut the door on being pregnant again. The baby I whispered to as I knelt in the birth pool in my living room, “We want you, baby, we really, really want you. You can come out now.” It is finally with this baby, become toddler, that I realize that it is not nursing during pregnancy that I find so incredibly agitating, it is simply that I don’t really enjoy nursing someone after they reach about two. I always blamed the subsequent pregnancies on the agitation, the anxiety, the tense unrest, the canine or feline-like urge to nip and snap at my pesky offspring and to stand up, letting my overgrown baby plop to the ground, watching after me bewildered as I walk away, waving my tail. In truth, I simply do get done nursing. This is the first baby for which I have to admit that I am done july-2017-049simply because I am done, not because I am expecting the birth of another.

I do not always feel like a good mother, in fact I have often felt very badly about myself as a parent, and yet on this morning when I nurse the last child for the last time, I do the math and realize that I have put a child to my breast approximately 32,200 times over the last fourteen years. Maybe there are more than 32,000 ways to say I love you, I reflect, and each child has felt that from me day in and day out, in this embodied dance of interconnection, this weaving of cells into souls into life.

I stroke the soft little arm of my youngest son, here in my bed on this August morning as we nurse for the last time. I notice how my thumb and forefinger easily meet around even the uppermost portion of it and my eyes pinch with tears. In the last month he has lost his sweet yogurt-smelling baby breath in the mornings and instead smells a bit sour and in need of a tooth brushing. He unlatches and peers at me in the darkness. “I’m done,” he says, and rolls away from me. I cup my hand on the back of his head, the way I’ve done with each of my kids when they were newborns, feeling the curve of their skull under my palm and marveling how that head rested so easily in the cradle of my pelvis. My cells, my blood, my milk, made flesh. And, I cry.

This is the first time my body will be wholly my own, sustaining no one else’s life force but my own, in fourteen years. My body at 24 years old weighed just 159 pounds the day I gave birth, full-term, to my first eight pound baby boy in 2003. My body now 38 years old, weighs 160 pounds, and is pregnant with no one but herself.

Crossposted at Feminism and Religion and Brigid’s Grove.

Birth and Breastfeeding Christmas Ornaments!

 

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We are delighted to offer birth, breastfeeding, and goddess ornaments for your holiday celebrations this year! Perfect for nursing mothers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives, as well as for goddessy women in any stage of life, these ornaments are offered in four of our classic designs, one mini-design (so far!), as well as five new Story Goddesses. Each ornament is individually hand cast in clear casting resin from our original sculptures. Their beautiful translucency gives them the appearance of being glass or crystal, while still being extremely durable and nearly damage-proof (we have four energetic kids, so our products get a lot of serious product testing to make sure they can hold up to being dropped!).

Each ornament is about 3 inches tall and the prices range from $15-21. The mini goddesses are only an inch tall and are $7. Each is freestanding and can also sit on a mantle or table, or can grace your tree with abundance, empowerment, and bountiful blessings throughout the season!

These are extremely limited edition. We will be making them by hand from November 1-December 1 only. After that, they’re gone!

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Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding Wisdom & Social Context

December 2015 029Like all of life, breastfeeding occurs in a context. While it is easy to simplify it down to a matter of “personal choice,” the issue is really much broader than that and people often overlook the powerful influence of the systems surrounding them on the accomplishment of women’s breastfeeding goals.

This article takes an in-depth look at why breastfeeding, and the benefits of breastfeeding, don’t need to be “debunked” or have a “case” made against them. (My only critique of the article is that it falls into the comfortable default of “formula as the norm,” by saying things about how babies that breastfeed have a health advantage. Actually, they don’t. What they have is a normal species-appropriate immune system developed in direct response to a diet of species-specific milk.) It is a long read and covers a lot of important ground so settle in…

What the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other organizations failed for too long to note, however, is how difficult breastfeeding can be. Yes, they showed the world how beneficial breastfeeding was, and, yes, they helped design policy to ease the transition back to work. But the messy, exhausted moments that change a mother’s mind about breastfeeding? The bleeding nipples, the crying baby, and the paralyzing fear that the baby’s not eating enough? The back-to-work struggle and the boyfriend who thinks breastfeeding is dirty?

Those were, for a long time, left out of the breastfeeding conversation beyond a cursory, “Yes, it will be hard, but it will be worth it.” It’s this difficulty, and the fact that it remains unaddressed in many ways, that drives so many women to start supplementing with formula or to stop nursing altogether.

The most frequently cited challenges associated with breastfeeding include pain, supply issues, work-related pumping issues, and lack of support.

Source: The case for breastfeeding: what skeptics miss when they call it overrated – Vox

Luckily, breastfeeding also develops species-appropriate cranial development, jaw structure, and facial development. This also in-depth article looks at how the motions of breastfeeding shape and develop the skull and jaw muscles for life (at the end it also has some interesting comparisons of the shape of infant skulls after chiropractic adjustment soon after birth). Again, it uses language that implies breastfed babies receive a “benefit” in this area, while in reality breastfed babies simply have normal craniofacial development.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BREASTFEEDING – A Craniopathic Perspective | Speaking With Major

When we swing too far towards the science of breastfeeding though, we overlook the intense emotional impact of new parenting and the widespread lack of sociocultural support for healthy parenting, especially parent-baby togetherness. This is the context in which breastfeeding occurs and it is often one that actively or passively sabotages the breastfeeding pair. This mother writes heart-wrenchingly, and all too familiarly, about her postpartum experience:

I have many days when I feel truly well, and I have other days when I wonder if I’m still climbing. But in the meantime, I’m living life, I’m enjoying lots of moments and not enjoying others and learning to be fine with that. Because when well-meaning people tell you to “enjoy every moment” they are setting an unrealistic goal for any parent. Many aspects of parenthood are simply not enjoyable. Instead, I focus on feeling every moment, good and bad. If I feel afraid, that’s okay, I just sit with it and let it pass. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. And if I feel happy I clutch that joy to my chest and absorb it into my soul, and try to keep it safe forever.

Source: I Can’t Enjoy Every Moment – Postpartum Progress

Another powerful systemic variable is our national workplace culture and the lack of reasonable parental leave:

When it comes to women and work, the largest myth of all is that working is somehow optional. Like men, women work for personal fulfillment and a passion for their job. Also like men, women work to support themselves and their families, and always have. The reality in the United States today is that earning money is an absolute necessity for the vast majority of women. And the sad truth is that we aren’t doing anything to support them or their families — not because we can’t, but because we won’t.

Source: We act as if work is optional for women. It’s not. – The Washington Post

I often feel puzzled and angry with myself about why I can’t do everything in one day. “Is it really so much to ask?” I say, waking each morning with the optimistic faith that during that day I should surely be able to eat adequate food, exercise, play with my kids, spend time writing/reading/personally enjoying something, work on my many projects, and go to bed/wake up at a decent hour every day. Unfortunately, it apparently is too much and the most we can hope for is to “pick three”:

This sounds harsh, but it’s true, according to a recent interview with Storenvy founder Jon Crawford on Founder Dating. “Work, sleep, family, fitness, or friends–pick three. It’s true. In order to kick ass and do big things, I think you have to be imbalanced. I’m sure there are exceptions, but every person I’ve seen riding on a rocket ship was imbalanced while that rocket ship was being built. You have to decide if you want it,” Crawford declares.

Source: Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3 | Inc.com

And, while picking three, things slip away. As I’ve written before, my daughter fell asleep with her head on my arm every night for nearly four solid years until Tanner was born. Now, her opportunity to fall asleep on my arm is hit or miss, depending on whether my arm is occupied with him, and increasingly, even when I do wiggle an arm free for her, she only lies on it for a few minutes before she says, “I’m going to lay in my own bed now,” where she then lies, snuggling her pile of pandas, until she falls asleep.

…I tried.

I tried to capture her smallness. I tried to hold on to the last breaths of her babyhood. But try as I might, it has slipped right out of my grasp. Despite my efforts to slow down and enjoy every moment since everyone told me it goes so fast… all I have left are memories and photographs.

But it doesn’t mean that I can re-live it. Not really. Some of my favorite memories of her as an infant will always be of bedsharing. She always started the night in her own bed, but after her first wake-up of the night, I’d scoop her out of her room and bring her into our cozy nest to feed her and quickly soothe her back to sleep. And for the most part that meant that we all got more sleep… except for the times I’d find myself staring at her while she slept. I’d watch her tiny chest move up and down, and memorize every little detail of her perfect little face. I’d think to myself this is crazy, what are you doing, go to sleep. But those memories, in the dead of night, the ones where there aren’t any pictures – are the clearest in my mind’s eye.

Source: The Beauty In Bedsharing | The best season of my life

This nighttime savoring may also be due to actual addiction to baby-head-sniffing…

Most of the women struggled to pinpoint the baby smell, although they generally said it was a pleasant one. Their brains, however, told a different story. When sniffing the baby pajamas, the dopamine pathways in a region of the brain associated with reward learning lit up, LiveScience reports. Other odors, like those of delicious foods, trigger this pathway, and the same dopamine surge is also associated with satiating sexual and drug-addiction cravings. This mechanism influences us by triggering “the motivation to act in a certain way because of the pleasure associated with a given behavior,” Medical Xpress writes.

Source: The Smell of Newborn Babies Triggers the Same Reward Centers as Drugs | Smart News | Smithsonian

December 2015 006Other related posts:

Tuesday Tidbits: Happy Holidays

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We’ve set our etsy shop to vacation mode and are taking the next week off to enjoy an assortment of holiday festivities with our family! Here are some resources that we are using:

Here are some past holiday-themed posts that you might enjoy or find helpful, or both! The first is about Mary and Christmas:

Another thing that Mary surely understood was that she was specially chosen to bring October 2015 193this new life into the world through the capabilities of her own body alongside that unconstrained power that placed him there in the first place. For birth is about releasing expectations and trusting that you are supported. It is knowing that just by the way your body was designed and grew this life, you are capable of bringing this life forward.

Source: Thesis Tidbits: Mary Christmas | Talk Birth

The second is about alcohol and breastfeeding:

The takeaway message: Long before you have enough alcohol in your milk for your baby to even notice, you would be so hammered that you would hardly remember you even had a baby. The concern for occasional drinkers is not really alcohol being passed to the baby, but mom and dad remaining sober enough to care for the baby–and that’s a really big deal where co-sleeping is concerned! Safely sleeping with a baby means being stone cold sober. Period.

Source: Guest Post: Alcohol and Breastmilk | Talk Birth

The third is about coping with loss and infertility during the holiday season:

I distinctly remember sitting through Thanksgiving and Christmas after the loss of my third baby. The sense of hollowness. The sense of having to put on a happy face. Guilt for laughing. Guilt for not laughing. Going through the motions. Pretending to be okay. When I received this short guest post on coping with infertility during the holidays, it brought back those memories of tension, strain, and grief.

Source: Guest Post: Holiday Coping: Dealing With Infertility or Adoption Process During The Festive Season | Talk Birth

The fourth is a past guest post about toddler meltdowns during the holidays: Guest Post: 8 Toddler Pitfalls to Avoid on Christmas Morning | Talk Birth

(My own personal best tips involve an Ergo and plenty of “nonnies” on tap, on demand.)

The fifth is a funny little post about the 12 Days of Birth Activist Christmas:

On the second day of Christmas, a birth activist gave to me two comfy birth balls and a woman wanting to birth free…

Source: Twelve Days of Birth Activist Christmas | Talk Birth

And, the sixth is the memory of my fun little foray into the world of cookie-birth: Gingerbirth, Gingermamas… | Talk Birth

peace on earth

Tuesday Tidbits: Breastfeeding while World-Changing

12247796_1680002715545277_7987491015769319276_oThese sculptures were created for three different customers, but on the same day, so naturally they wanted to hang out together for a little while, like a tiny LLL meeting on the shipping counter.

On my original book blog, my tagline was, “resting and reading and nursing the child, trying to figure out enoughness.”

…when my first baby was born in 2003, I once again became a truly avid reader. Why? Because of breastfeeding. As I nursed my little son, I read and read and read. This became the rhythm of our lives: suck, swallow, read, and consider.

Source: Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice | Talk Birth

The entrance of the iphone and ipad into my life in 2011 had a marked impact on my reading-while-nursing time, increasing my ability to respond to students, keep up with online courses, and now, update etsy listings and customer communications, but I still do a lot of reading and nursing. However, I see from this list of 21 Books From The Last 5 Years That Every Woman Should Read that I’m woefully behind in that I’ve only read one book from this list of 21 (I have also read 74 books this year that are not on the list, so I won’t bemoan my behindedness too much).

I’ve addressed the notion of breastfeeding as a shero’s journey a couple of times in the past:

“Why have I never written about the bloody, messy, tearful, painful parts of breastfeeding in my own personal motherhood story?! They’re there…”

Source: Breastfeeding as a (s)hero’s journey? | Talk Birth

I was reminded of it again today, while reading this blog post on the theme of “I’m an OB and I ‘failed’ at breastfeeding,” with its accompanying subtext that if even an OB “can’t breastfeed,” then it must be okay if you can’t too:

But when we went home two days after Safiya’s birth, she was still not nursing well, requiring me to pump breast milk and supplement with formula early on. I was a fourth-year medical student, and I had one month to study for the second of three exams required to obtain my medical license.

Source: An Obstetrician Finds Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Natural : Shots – Health News : NPR

However, as often happens in medical discourse about breastfeeding and why it “fails,” the systemic context is almost completely overlooked, the critical eye is turned towards women’s bodies and babies’ “demands,” rather than the often broken systems of support surrounding (or not surrounding, or even actively undermining) a family.

Elizabeth Grattan has written a very matter-of-fact analysis of how the personal choice narrative and a socially constructed idea that breastfeeding advocacy is somehow persecuting women who do not breastfeed:

…It is absolutely true that women facing this decision face unsolicited advice and shame. It’s also true that some white men get harassed for the color of their skin. It is true that some in favor of “traditional marriage” feel ostracized because the Constitution doesn’t side with them. Humanity is full of experiences in personal journeys that lead us to empathy on an individual level. But that gives us no right to pretend our personal anecdotes even compare to issues faced on an institutional level. It is not appropriate when the majority pushes back against minority advocacy. But that doesn’t seem to matter much to Jung, who treats both as pawns to gain her own notoriety.

Source: Overselling Breastfeeding? How One Author Exploits The Majority To Silence Minority Advocacy. — Elizabeth Grattan

She also has a good article about breastfeeding as a reproductive rights issue:

Because nutrition for our children isn’t really the argument. Reproductive freedom is.

Quite simply: Breastfeeding might very well be a decision women are making for a variety of reasons (nutrition notwithstanding), but lactating is not a choice. It is a biological process based on the anatomy of the reproductive system. Whether you deliver the child full term or not, pregnancy includes the production of milk in a woman’s body*. That milk is going to make its way to the mammary glands in the breast and if steps are not taken to stop the production or express the milk, engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis are inevitable. A woman cannot will the production of milk away anymore than she could tell her body to go into labor at a certain time and place. Reproduction doesn’t work that way. And since lactating is triggered through the reproductive process, then every aspect of the discussion must be built upon the rights of women.

Source: The Reproductive Rights Discussion No One Is Having. — Elizabeth Grattan

This exploration reminds me of my own look at breastfeeding as an ecofeminist issue:

Breastfeeding is a feminist issue and a fundamental women’s issue. And, it is an issue deeply embedded in a sociocultural context. Attitudes towards breastfeeding are intimately entwined with attitudes toward women, women’s bodies, and who has “ownership” of them. Patriarchy chafes at a woman having the audacity to feed her child with her own body, under her own authority, and without the need for any other. Feminism sometimes chafes at the “control” over the woman’s body exerted by the breastfeeding infant.

Source: Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue | Talk Birth

Why keep yammering on about breastfeeding? Because it matters. And, it goes way beyond being a personal choice, it is a public health issue with many long-lasting effects on mother, child, and society…

the longer a mother breastfeeds in her life (one or more babies and the collective number of months), significantly impacts her risk for breast cancer; the protective effect of lactation on breast cancer risk is cumulative…

…In addition to offering protection from breast cancer to the mother, having been breastfed has a protective effect. One study cites a 26–31% decrease in the development of breast cancer in females who had been breastfed as babies; if you or she takes no other preventive measures against breast cancer, breastfeeding her alone sets your baby girl up for a nearly 1/3 lower likelihood of developing breast cancer later in her life

Source: Breastfeeding Protects against Breast Cancer: Primary Prevention – Breastfeeding Today

October 2015 115She might look like she’s “just” feeding her baby, but she’s healing the world at the very same time.

Thursday Tidbits: Happy Birth-Day!

September 2015 008This week, our oldest son turned 12! I can hardly believe that it has been twelve years since Mark and I were snuggled up in bed marveling over our new baby boy! Lann is an amazing big brother, a helpful, responsible son, and a creative, imaginative, sensitive kid. He loves Minecraft, computer games in general, and making gaming videos for YouTube.

We had his birthday party earlier this month, so his actual birthday was pretty low-key (minus me scrambling to catch up with backlogged work from being away and poor Tanner being a crying, stumbling around, stressed out little mess from the same). We put up his nice new birthday trampoline and went out to dinner and had cake with my parents.September 2015 137Twelve years ago this is what I was doing…

…I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.

My First Birth | Talk Birth

On Sunday night, Alaina, Tanner, and I got back home from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was an experience, as always. Vending was a rewarding experience with lots of lovely connections woven, but many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, weather extremes this year—90+ degrees, then rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom, who helped me way more than I should have expected her to. It was also fun to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and my little nephew (she also helped me a lot!)

September 2015 077The other day I told my husband that it is interesting to me how I was “maxed out” when I only had one little baby. And, now I have four and I’m still maxed out (but that first little baby is now a twelve-year-old who helps take care of the other babies, so in some sense it is easier to have more kids than less kids!). I also told my mom what the midwife for my second baby told me: one kid takes all of your time, so a second one can’t possibly take any more.

There are a lot of things that are easier about having an older kid and some things that are harder:

And, I no longer smell like piss. So, there’s that.

Sure things have gotten easier in ways. I can leave the house now without small humans attached to me. I sleep for stretches longer than three hours. And I haven’t been vomited on in at least a few months. But in some ways, it’s so very much harder. (Plus they aren’t as cute and easy to forgive anymore.)

Source: It’s a Lie; Mothering Doesn’t Get Any Easier Scary Mommy

What this article doesn’t address is the complexities of having both big kids and little kids at the same time. That is what feels hardest right now and I think it may get harder before it gets easier. Time always feels shorter than I dream of it feeling.

When I was nursing infant Lann, a moment with my then-teenage brother still stands out to me: he walked in while I was nursing Lann to sleep at my parents’ house and said, “oh, he’s having nursies.” The normality of “nursies” to a teenage boy is important (and now that teenage boy is in his twenties and has a breastfed baby boy of his own). I’m surprised to realize that Lann will remember more about me nursing Tanner than Tanner ever will.

What did they learn from those experiences? Well, hopefully, they learned that human bodies are just that, bodies. We respect them and we revere them and we don’t shame them. Because they don’t deserve any of that.

This is where the change starts. With my kids and your kids and the kids who see us feeding our babies without embarrassment. Things become normalized one act a time.

I’ve given my kids the opportunity to see something I hope will serve them in their lives. My son’s partners will never have to be concerned that they won’t be supported. My daughters will know the normalcy that is child birthing and feeding and rearing.

Source: Breastfeeding and Teenage Boys | The Leaky B@@b

Thinking about the swift passage of time from that tender, new mother and soft, fresh baby of twelve years ago to the boy whose head is now past my shoulder and who records tutorial videos, reads about the solar system, totes his little brother on his hip, and fixes breakfast for everyone, I feel oddly comforted by the information that some cells from each of my kids, might be with me forever:

The new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues examined the brains of 59 deceased older women and found Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. (Many studies on fetal microchimerism focus on the cells left behind by sons, because they are easier to distinguish from the cells of their mother.) Experts now believe that microchimerism is far from rare. “Most of us think that it’s very common, if not universal,” Dr. Nelson said. But it remains quite mysterious.

Fetal cells are frequently found in breast tissue, even in milk, for instance. The researchers argue that children might thrive more if their fetal cells drove up milk production.

Mothers also nurture their babies with body heat. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, acts like a thermostat, and fetal cells in the thyroid gland in theory could cause mothers to generate more heat than they would otherwise.

Source: A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own – The New York Times

 

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Tuesday Tidbits: How to Make Life Easier as a New Parent

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In all my years as a birthworker, I still find that one of the most overlooked topics in childbirth preparation is adequate preparation for postpartum—those early weeks, or months, with a new baby. In my personal life, I experienced a difficult postpartum adjustment with my first baby, an easier one with my second baby, and two delightful, nurturing babymoons with my last two babies. Years after training as a postpartum doula, good postpartum care remains one of my passions, so I really enjoyed this post from a mother of five. Her feelings of rushing to get back to “normal” feel very familiar even though almost twelve years have passed since my first, tender, postpartum adjustment:

“I remember coming home from going out for the afternoon with Hero at 7 days postpartum. After we got back to our tiny apartment I came down with a fever. I was probably wearing the cutest non-comfortable outfit I could squeeze into. I probably didn’t think that 7 days after giving birth required anything of me other than “getting back to normal.” Life went on, and I urged it faster. In fact, that’s the way I parented, too. Smile, laugh, roll over, sit, crawl, walk, run, milestone, milestone, grow, grow, grow…

When I think back on my postpartum times (for the most part) I remember being exhausted, being emotional, being upset at Kirby for not doing enough, feeling fragile, feeling sad, and feeling weak. And then I got pregnant with Peter… And by the time I had him, I had interacted with enough wise mothers who had screwed up enough to know better and they told me what to do and I listened. After five babies I could finally say I did it right. I’m not saying you have to do it like me. Maybe you’ve already got your postpartum flow down and you need no such advice. In that case, a w e s o m e…”

Now I realize that some moms can just go, and they are happier that way! I get that. But it took me too long to realize that that’s not me. And I don’t want you to spend too much time thinking that should be you if it isn’t. Don’t spend four days, don’t spend four weeks, and certainly don’t spend 4 entire babies feeling like a shell of a person trying to figure it out…

The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

Unlike my early memories of my first son’s life, rather than looking back with sense of regret and fatigue, I look back on the weeks postpartum with Tanner (fourth and final full-term baby) with a tinge of wistfulness for the sweet, delicate, care-full time we spent together, nestled in bed in milky, marveling wonder. The author of the post above describes it as a “little sacred space,” and that is exactly how I feel. It also needs to be fiercely protected.

I look at that one week postpartum as a little sacred space that I will never get back. It’s a space where, for the most part, it’s just that brand new baby and me. And I’m selfish about it. And not sorry. Life will keep plummeting forward rapidly and I won’t ever stop it. But I can have a week with a floppy new baby on my chest in my bed and I’ll take it. And I’ll protect it.

AND IF THAT DOESNT TUG AT YOU MOTHERLY HEARTSTRINGS KNOW THIS… (super practical advice I got from my midwife with Peter)

When you have a baby you are recovering from an injury that is deeply internal. Your blood needs to stay concentrated there to bring essential nutrients to heal your organs and make you strong again. When you get up and walk around, your blood abandons your core and flows into your extremities, which can massively prolong your recovery. Stay rested and keep yourself down as much as you can. Just think of your organs! They need you!

via The Fike Life: How to postpartum like a boss.

It isn’t just the weeks following a new baby’s birth that matter, the first hour matters too and can set the tone for the rest of the postpartum journey:

…The way your baby is cared for and nurtured immediately after birth significantly impacts their transition from the womb to life outside.

In a culture that commonly separates mothers and babies for routine procedures such as cleaning, weighing and measuring, most babies are missing that critical time of being skin to skin with their mothers, which has short and long term consequences for all.

As these procedures are not necessary to maintain or enhance the wellbeing of either mother or baby, there is no reason why they cannot be delayed beyond the first critical hour.

via 7 Huge Benefits of An Undisturbed First Hour After Birth | BellyBelly.

Why doesn’t this uninterrupted hour and subsequent caring postpartum support happen for all new families? One reason is related to the “treatment intensity” of the US birth culture:

The questions you post in your article are good ones: Are midwives safer than doctors? How can homes be safer than hospitals and what implications does this study have for the US?

It’s a super knotty issue and it shouldn’t be about the superiority of midwives over doctors or homes over hospitals. The debate we should be having is over “treatment intensity” in childbirth and when enough is enough. The concern is that patients can be harmed by doing too much and by doing too little–in the US I worry that we cause avoidable harm by always erring on the side of too much.

via An Unexpected Opinion on Home Birth | Every Mother Counts.

Another is related to routine hospital practices that are not evidence based:

1. Start with giving the birthing woman antibiotics in high doses so that the baby develops candida (thrush) and colic. Then mix in a lot of stitches, either to repair the perineum or the lower belly/uterus.

2. Separate the mother and newborn. Make the mother walk a long distance (with her stitched body) to be able to see/feed her newborn…

via 6 Point Recipe for Making New Parenthood as Difficult as Possible | Wise Woman Way of Birth | by Gloria Lemay.

On a related note, we find that breastfeeding gets off to a better start when birth is undisturbed. We also find that decisions about breastfeeding may be made months before the baby is actually born:

…Recently, a nurse contacted me asking for ideas for teaching an early pregnancy breastfeeding class. I think this is a great idea, since mothers’ decisions about breastfeeding are often made before the baby is conceived and if not then, during the first trimester.

via Breastfeeding Class Resources | Talk Birth.

11800191_1651989138346635_1607714063463262593_nIt isn’t just postpartum during which we need these reminders about the “cycle of care.” The cycle of care of young children can be largely invisible, both to those around us and to ourselves. I’ve taken some time this week to appreciate my investment in my baby and cut myself a little slack on the other things I always want to “get done.” Brain-building is important work too!

Speaking of said baby, who has been taking his first steps this week at nine months old, I was amused this week to come across one of my older posts on family size decisions, in which I decreed my doneness with my childbearing years. Instead of embarrassing, I find the post oddly affirming or reinforcing that at some level I really did know that we weren’t quite “done,” there was still space in our family (and our hearts!) and there really was one more baby “out there” for us.

We decided we’d make the final, ultimate decision after she turned two, because too much longer after that point would make more of an age gap than we’d want. I posted on Facebook asking how do people know they’re “done.” I had an expectation of having some kind of blinding epiphany and a deep knowing that our family is complete, as I’ve had so many other people describe: “I just knew, our family was complete.” I didn’t have that knowing though—I vacillated day to day. What if I never know for sure, I fretted. Perhaps this sense of wistfulness and possibility with continue forever—maybe it is simply normal. One more. No, finished. But…ONE more?! And, I have a space in my heart that knows with great confidence that four (living) children would be the ultimate maximum for us. I definitely do not want more than four…so, does that mean there still is one more “out there” for us?

via Driveway Revelations (on Family Size) | Talk Birth.

However, I also find it to be true that four is most definitely the ultimate maximum. We laughed earlier this week remembering that a couple of weeks after Tanner was born I kept saying that I thought maybe we’d picked the wrong name for him. Mark asked me what I thought it should be and I said I kept thinking that maybe it should have been “Max.” While we joked at the time that this was because he is Maximus Babius, I only now caught on to the unintended double joke that he has definitely pushed our family size to our “max”!

Other tidbits:

I got this book about midwives in Mexico to review and have been zooming through it. It is SO good!

We’ve been working on new sculptures!

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(read more: Sneak Peek: Pregnant Mama – Brigid’s Grove)

We’ve added some new Moon Wisdom/First Moon bundles to our shop:

11825154_1650996815112534_7593072070926503121_nAnd, our new blessing cards came in. We were printing these on regular printer paper and are excited to have nice, professional cards instead!

11800234_1650792701799612_305310151573875723_nWe also still have five spaces left in the Red Tent Initiation program beginning at the end of the month:

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And, as is our tradition, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, you can get 10% off items in our shop throughout August: WBW10OFF.