A Mother’s Breastfeeding Journey

Kathleen Ramsey Little


Successful Breastfeeding Mom

Written by: Kathleen Ramsey Little

August 2014

I’m sitting on the edge of a cliff grasping for what little branches I can find to hang onto.

Using all my strength to keep from plunging down to the deep dark waters of depression below.

I feel incomplete.

Like I’m not a full woman. It’s as if I am not what a real mom should be. I want to nurture and feed him enough to support his life like a mother is supposed to do, but I can’t and it’s tearing me apart inside.

A daily struggle with thoughts saying I’m inadequate. Not good enough. Not a real woman.

I feel defeated.

No. Reaching harder so I don’t fall.

My child will still thrive and be healthy. My baby is loved. He is my world, my life, my everything. I must hold on for him.

I’ve done my best; I’ve tried my hardest. I am a real woman; I am a good mom. My best is more than good enough. I love my baby and he loves me.

Breastfeeding doesn’t only mean attached to the breast. It also means expressed AND donor’s milk.

I am NOT a failure.

I am a Successful Breastfeeding Mom.

Birth-Choice Shaming

Congratulations on your natural, unmedicated birth. You did your research, hired a doula, wrote a birth plan, advocated for yourself and got your OB to agree to your plans. Labor was intense, but manageable. Your moment of triumph came when your sweet baby was placed skin to skin on your chest. It was a perfect end to a beautiful story…well, not quite.

Women are often surprised that they must continue to defend their birth choices and deflect negative comments, even after the birth. One new mom, a labor nurse herself, was mocked and shamed by the doctors and nurses with whom she worked. They taunted her about how she had struggled with her intense labor. They made comments to her that she “wouldn’t make that mistake again,” about refusing an epidural. They even used her as an example to persuade their patients to get an epidural.

This birth-choice shaming is repugnant. Especially when it comes from the healthcare professional that should be supporting mothers and their birth choices. A mother’s decision to decline pain medication, to have an epidural or any of the many other choices she will make need to be respected and honored. Trying to shame someone, about how she could have done better, is not a welcome or productive practice.

Strategies for moms dealing with birth-choice shaming:

1. Interrupt when someone is incorrectly speaking about your birth story and set the record straight.

2. Prepare a phrase to repeat when someone is pushing their opinion on you about YOUR birth experience. For example “I loved my daughter’s birth, even the difficult bits.”

3. Offer to give them information about your birth choices so that they can appreciate your point of view. Most people do not want homework so they will probably not bring up the subject again.

4. Respond: I am glad/sorry that you enjoyed/did not enjoy your birth, but every person has a different experience. I am happy with my choices.

5. When the subject is brought up, stop the conversation by saying that you feel the experience is too personal to discuss and you hope that they will respect you by not speaking about it.

And finally, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. You ultimately shared your birth experience with a very small group of people. Everyone else is a Monday morning quarterback, so go ahead and leave them on the bench.

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Dear God, it’s me again…

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Dear God, it’s me again, Denise RN. I know that I just asked for a miracle last week, for that VBAC, but I could really use your help again. The mom in 407 is only 19 weeks pregnant and her water broke. She’s laying flat in bed, with her head a foot lower than her feet, trying to keep her baby inside. Give her strength Lord. This baby will never make it. Grant her the peace to accept that her baby will not go home with her. Heal her heart so it will be open to another baby someday.

Dear God, it’s me again. It has been a week and 407, I mean Candace, is still pregnant. She has finished her IV antibiotic course and is showing zero signs of infection. I saw her smiling and talking to her belly last night. She has done everything we instruct. I see her hope growing. Why are you allowing her this hope? That baby won’t make it 4 more weeks.

Dear God, it’s me again. I’m amazed at Candace’s strength. She is tired of lying in bed, but she never complains. She would sit on a pin if I told her it would help. 21 weeks, everyone is on the countdown now. Hope is spilling out onto the unit. Why are you letting this hope continue to spread? That baby won’t make it 3 more weeks.

Dear God, it’s me again. 22 weeks! Are you kidding me? Candace is so tired, but full of joy. Thank you for this miracle. We are almost there. The baby is growing and mom still has no signs of infection. This is really going to happen, isn’t it? Since you are in such a gracious mood, can I get a chance to pee before noon?

Dear God, yeah it’s me again. Help me to not fall asleep driving this car. Today was awful. Candace went into labor. I tried to stop it, but the baby came anyway. He was so small and fragile. I laid him on her chest and they cuddled together while he died. She cried when I told her that he was gone. Why, why, why? Why didn’t you take that baby last month? Why couldn’t she keep her baby? Why did you let her have hope for a month and then leave her childless in the end? Give her strength Lord, she is in pain.

Father in heaven, I became a mother today. Thank you for this gift. My little boy was only with me a short time. I wish he could’ve stayed with me. You must have needed him more. When my water broke so early I thought I would never meet him, but he was so strong. Every day I talked to him. I told him how much I loved him. I told him his name is William, just like my dad. I told him about all the things we would do when he was older, and the places we would go together. I prayed every minute for his safe birth. I cherished every little kick and movement this last month. Thank you for those moments. Oh and please bless my nurse, you know which one. The one that pretends she’s not too busy to massage my achy back. The one who smiled encouragingly, while she checked Will’s heart tones each day. The one who helped me hold him when he was born. The one who pointed out all his little miracles, from his tiny toes, to how his nose turns up just like mine. The one who told me how much she loved the name I picked out, while she pretended that she hadn’t been crying. Bless her with peace. Bless her with strength. Bless her with the wisdom to understand she can’t save every baby.

Thank you, God, for my nurse.

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You want a Trial Of Labor After Cesarean (TOLAC)? INCONCEIVABLE!!!

Your OB’s response when you tell him you want a vaginal birth after cesarean section:

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What you are thinking when he says you will die if you try a VBAC:

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What your husband is thinking when he sees you cry in the OB office:

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What the nurses ask when you show up in labor before your scheduled caesarean:

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How you react when they try to prep you for a c-section:

who are you

 

How you articulate your birth plan:

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How you feel after listening to the TOLAC consent:

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How your doctor acts when you haven’t delivered before 5PM

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Your response to the 28th offer to give you an epidural:

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What happens when you fall off Freidman’s Curve:

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What they tell you when you decline augmentation:

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How your nurse explains when starting pitocin:

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What you tell your OB after 2 hours on Pitocin:

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What your nurse does to buy you extra time:

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What everyone does until you are complete:

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How everyone feels when labor goes well and the baby is born healthy:

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What Happened When I breastfed at a Texas High School Football Game…

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I have breastfed almost everywhere, doing almost everything. All together I have breastfed 65 months of my life. That is a lot of opportunity for nursing in public.
As a young mother, nursing my first baby, I was embarrassed and fumbling under large blankets most of the time. It was summer and my poor baby would be drenched with sweat under the modesty shield. My mother breastfed and was supportive, but beyond that I endured all the typical stares, questions and comments that breastfeeding mothers receive. I remember a shopping trip taking longer than I expected. I had to sit in an oven of a car, trying to latch my screaming, hot infant. I should have been sitting in the comfortably cool mall food court.

Something happened that changed how I breastfed my babies. I had more of them. When baby girl arrived, just after baby boy turned one, I had an epiphany about breastfeeding. I HAD to be more flexible! It was mandatory and everyone else would have to live with it. I would breastfeed when and where my baby was hungry, while keeping up with an active toddler.

This strategy worked well for me and in I fit right in with crunchy Oregon mamas. Then I moved to Texas. Women warned me that it is different in Texas, it’s an old boy system, no one breastfeeds there, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed in public. I avoided going out for as long as possible.   I am a band mom and I couldn’t miss my oldest son march with the band.   I steeled myself for the first high school football game. I sat in the bleachers, looking at the people around me.  I knew my baby was getting hungrier. I watched buxom blondes and brunettes walk by. Their breasts were barely contained in their school spirit tanks. I had a comeback all ready to go, for when the security guard came to tell me to leave. My comeback speech would be epic and would involve the aforementioned tank tops. Finally I gritted my teeth and slipped my little girl under my band mom T-shirt and she had her dinner.

That’s when it happened……absolutely nothing. Not one person commented or even managed a sideways glance. I was not able to spout off my clever retort.  I wasn’t made a fearless champion for breastfeeding, singled out for ridicule or praise.  I was just a mom watching my kid march with the band while feeding my hungry baby.

I have since breastfed everywhere in Texas, museums, parks, NASA, the DMV line, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and churches. I breastfed for the last time in our town’s Christmas Parade, sitting on a float in the freezing cold.

I didn’t know it would be the last time or my last baby. That’s just how it happened. It happened in Texas.

My advice to all you new and experienced mamas: Feed your babies where and when they are hungry! I wish I had been more comfortable the first go round. I wish I had not tortured myself and my baby because of society’s ideas about public breastfeeding. We have all heard the stories of boobie backlash. I challenge you to go ahead and brave it. You might get some negative comments, but in most states you have the legal right to breastfeed in public. Maybe someone will be watching you, a future mom or dad. Seeing you confidently breastfeed could make their choice to breastfeed easier.

You will be surprised that, in most cases, no one will give you a second glance.

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My 10 Crunchy Mom Fails

And Why I’m Okay With It

 

1. I didn’t save my placenta to plant with a tree, eat,
make placenta prints or to encapsulate

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2. I tried using aluminum free deodorant for exactly one day

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3. I can’t bring myself to pay more for Organic

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4. Does mashing parts of my own dinner count as making my own  baby food?

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5. I was disgusted by cloth diapers in my childhood and passed on it as a mom.

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6. Never made cute art out of my belly

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7. Didn’t want to have  a Water Birth

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8. Never even heard of lactation cookies until this year

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9. Struggle growing an herb garden

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10. Never declined newborn medications

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I don’t fall neatly into a mom category. I bet you don’t either! I’m a little crunchy, a bit soccer, a lot grizzly and a full time working mama. Sometimes I feel like I am a goddess of natural birth and attachment parenting, sometimes I’m driving through McDonalds for the second time in a week. That’s why I’m okay with my crunchy mom fails.  I don’t need to try to fit in to someone else’s idea of what makes a good mom.  I am a good mom. I’m a Boho mama.

I have the freedom to parent the way that I choose!

Maybe some of the above crunchiness is right for you.  Click on the links to learn more.

 

The Cult of Natural Childbirth

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Response to the uproar over the “cult of natural childbirth”

I am not a cultist.  I am not a home-birth advocate, although I think it can be done safely.  I am not a highly medical intervention advocate either.  Both extremes put our mothers and babies in danger.   I have been witness to some train wreck births on both ends of the intervention spectrum.  Women and doctors can become fixed on an idea and cannot be dissuaded from their perspective despite their current situation.  This can lead to mistakes on both sides, resulting in poor outcomes.

I am a childbirth educator, advanced practice nurse and a mother.  I am passionate about low intervention, natural childbirth and breastfeeding.   I am an advocate for informed parents making decisions collaboratively with their provider of choice.  I am an advocate of the use of the fewest medical interventions necessary for the comfort and safety of mother and baby.

If a mom plans on an epidural, formula feeding and an induction at 39 weeks my job is to educate her on the best way to make her plan safe and effective.  I will ensure that she know that she has alternatives. Many women are not empowered to know that they have choices, relying on what their mother, aunts or friends tell them is appropriate.  Likewise when a mother desires zero interventions, I will carefully explain the risks and benefits so that she can make an informed decision about her and her baby’s care.  Women are influenced by media, social interactions, and past experiences.  Doctors and nurses should not discount those influences, but add to it the knowledge that they bring, as health care providers.

Women such as Elissa Strauss and Amy Tuteur, M.D. have recently shared their outrage over extreme, natural childbirthers that are glorifying childbirth, sometimes at the expense of their baby’s life.  I have seen that type of misguided activism and the sad outcomes that can occur.  Although I agree that some advocates are taking the movement too far, care needs to be taken not to discredit and marginalize the natural childbirth movement as a whole.  There is room in feminism for all of us women if judgmental ladies would move over.

There is power in childbirth.  It is an amazing feat that only women can accomplish.  Some women choose to exercise their power by having a scheduled, medicalized, epiduralized experience.  Good for them!  We should celebrate that we, as women, have healthcare choices and autonomy to demand that type of childbirth.  Women who choose to have a more natural childbirth experience should also be celebrated and encouraged.  I have been moved to tears watching women find strength, that they didn’t know they had, during natural labor and childbirth.  I have also been amazed at the miracle of birth in the operating room.  The bottom line is that women have choices.  Women must not check their autonomy at the labor unit door. Women deserve be informed of risks and benefits to all medical procedures and their choices should be respected.  Women need to respect other women’s decisions about childbirth.  There is not a right or wrong way to give birth. Each woman, baby and situation is unique and options and choices need to reflect the details of each childbirth situation.

Let’s take a step back and remember what is important in this discussion.  If women are happily foregoing epidurals and Pitocin, then why should the media and medical professionals discourage it?  Identify, criticize and educate about the real dangerous ideas that are out there, like completely unattended births or home VBACs.  When women raise such a huff over what other groups of women are doing it smacks of jealousy and esteem issues.  If you are secure in your woman and motherhood then seeing a bunch of crunchy moms blog, about how they are potty training their 4 week old or how they didn’t make one sound in labor, will not affect you at all.

 

 

Live and let live sisters.

 

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Fertility Myths Busted!

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Evidence for what we already knew was happening…

Nurses have been talking and complaining and trying to work around this trend for decades. Many, and maybe most, c-sections are unnessary and all are riskier than patients know.

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