Momma, When You Feel “Touched Out”

This is a picture my 6yr old daughter snapped of me breastfeeding my 2yr old son, while heavily pregnant. I love what this picture captures, his smile at me and my joy in him. I also love that my daughter decided to take the photo. But breastfeeding through my 5th pregnancy has been challenging in many ways, especially when it comes to feeling “touched out”.IMG_E0307

 

Sometimes, all I want is for the little ones to not need me so much! 

Sometimes, I have to tell my son “not now” when he asks to nurse (and that is okay too).

Sometimes, I need half an hour to myself without the children on me, before I can relax with my husband.

All of this is true, but I want to remind you touched out mommas (and myself) of some very important things…

  • You are so very important to these little people in your life! Your babies, toddlers, and children need you. There will never be another time when simply being with YOU is so incredibly calming for them. Your touch, your kisses, your milk, your lap; you are giving them the love they need. The world may not recognize the work you are doing, but it is so important. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • The older children are watching you, and your love is a gift to them too. Those of you with children of multiple ages, you are giving them an incredible living example of what loving sacrifice looks like. Every time you rock a crying baby, sooth an upset 3yr old, and nurse a tired toddler. Every time you scoop them into your lap and read them a story. Every time you forget about that tea you had to heat up for the third time, because you were too busy giving. Every time momma, they see it. It matters.
  • It really does not last forever. They will grow taller, leaner, and more self reliant. They won’t wake you up at night to cuddle. They won’t beg you for one more story. They won’t cry for you to carry them on your tired hips. They won’t need your presence the same way they do now. But, these days will have built a solid foundation within them. They will still know and rely on your love, and your strength will become their own. They won’t always need you like this, but your sacrifices will always matter.

It may not seem like much more than a whirlwind of tasks some days. Running from mess to mess, child to child, meeting the needs all around you all the time. You finally fall into some sort of sleep, tired and TOUCHED OUT.

But momma, it IS sacred work. Raising these beautiful babies is a higher calling. It is something pure, wonderful, and holy. Often the most holy moments are caught in the most mundane and routine tasks of care-giving. It is humbling work. It changes you daily, in ways you may not realize just yet.

So, yes, put those feet up when you can. Give yourself time, and rest.

But remember what an important, and fleeting time this is.

Shalom.

 

 

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16 Weeks Pregnant and Breastfeeding

So, the weeks are flying by this pregnancy. I think having my first totally unassisted pregnancy is contributing to that feeling, because I don’t have my weeks punctuated with doctor’s visits and ultrasounds. Taking care of my four children, especially my toddler, is taking most of my mental space. Speaking of which, my little 21 month old tornado is breastfeeding! I made this choice for a few reasons, and it is very important to me, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.

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For starters, my milk is almost entirely gone. This means that nursing is for comfort mainly, and not comfortable for me at all. In my previous pregnancies, I weaned my toddlers because I had severe nursing aversion (imagine nails scratching a chalkboard, spiders crawling on you, and wanting to scream). Thankfully, my aversion has been mild, but nursing is still not fun without milk.

Nursing positions will get harder as the belly gets bigger. At this point I can still fit my son across my lap, but that will certainly not last too much longer. I will have to find a way to do it without bothering my belly, probably laying down on my side. This may limit how often I can nurse him.

Oh the sensitivity! Pregnancy hormones increase the sensitivity of your nipples. That may sounds like a good thing, until you consider a toddler is using them for comfort. OUCH.

Why do I want to do this? My son is not ready to wean yet. I feel that he deserves a gentle weaning process, on his own time schedule. He is having trouble gaining weight, so the longer I can nurse him, the better for his health. He is very attached to me, and I hope that continuing to nurse him after the new baby is born will help ease the transition to big brother (yea…I hope).

Also, nursing calms the savage toddler beast and gives me 5 seconds to sit rather than chase him around the house minimizing his destruction. Who knew a tornado could be so adorable?

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Unassisted Pregnancy Journal- 12 Weeks “Why an Unassisted Pregnancy?”

How did I come to the seemingly radical decision to avoid all medical assistance during pregnancy? It started 8 years ago.

I am currently 12 weeks pregnant with my 6th pregnancy. I have 4 children, from 7 years old to 20 months. I had a miscarriage two months before my 2nd baby was conceived.

I was 22 years old with my first pregnancy and followed things by the book, more or less. I wanted a natural, vaginal birth but I never considered seeing anyone besides the OB/Gyn I was already seeing before pregnancy for well women care. I never considered a homebirth. I did watch The Business of Being Born and my eyes were opened to the cascade of interventions. I sought to avoid that by talking to my OB, despite his terrible attitude towards me, and writing my birth plan.

Oh, the birth plan! That two page list of wants and do not wants. It was taken from me with a roll of the nurses eyes, and they said “well, we will see how it goes”. I wont get into my whole birth story here, but suffice to say it was traumatic emotionally. I did end up with a vaginal birth, but I didn’t avoid many other interventions.

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My firstborn! Miss Noemi

For my second baby. I decided that I would see midwives. I was taking suboxone (as I had been for years) so they would not do a homebirth for me, not due to any actual increased risks but because of the burdensome laws midwives work under. Many things make a woman “high risk” under the current system, even when it makes little sense and lacks credible evidence. So, a hospital birth it was. I had a bigger room in a different hospital, and I was able to labor in a tub but I found that I preferred land.

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Labor of Love

My midwife made me feel like I was inconveniencing her by coming to the hospital in early active labor, and she didn’t treat me with the warmth I expected. It was far better than my first birth, and I was focused on going through my first all natural labor. Towards the end of my labor, after about 12 hours, I was starting to say “I can’t do this!” (always happens before baby comes!). The midwife suggested she push aside the last bit of my cervix so I could push. I agreed, but once it started and I realized the tremendous pain it was causing me I cried out for her to stop. To my astonishment and hurt, she did not stop. I told her about my history as sexual abuse victim. I told her how my OB forcibly broke my water with my oldest child. Yet, she kept her hand inside of me as I screamed “AMY *(not her real name) STOP!”.

After that I had to get ready to have my baby, because she was coming down the birth canal quickly. I breathed and breathed, and she was born without too much pain although I was stunned by the sheer power of it all. She was my tiny baby, 6lb6oz.

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I tried to minimize and excuse that violation and how I was made to feel like an annoyance. When I realized I was pregnant again, I knew that things had to change. I wasn’t sure who to see, so I went to a new OB practice as I gave myself time to consider my options. I was still talking suboxone, so no midwives would see me at home. And to be honest, I was less than thrilled by my experience anyway.

I had regular prenatal care with a team of OB/Gyns until I was 20 weeks. They started to pressure me about doing the Gestational Diabetes test, that disgusting glucose drink that is worse than soda. I knew I did not have GD, and I knew I was not willing to drink that garbage. I started to think about WHY am I seeing these doctors?

I realized I had NEVER been helped by a doctor during pregnancy. No doctor or midwife did anything to improve my health or my baby’s health. In fact, I had been physically and emotionally injured. It dawned on me all at once that I was doing this solely because society says pregnancy is dangerous and needs to be monitored and overseen by professionals. I realized that it was indoctrinated fear.

My experiences all contradicted this fear, and this belief that pregnancy is a medical condition to be closely monitored. I saw clearly that I was simply a woman who was pregnant, and this was a completely normal and nature state of being. I was not sick, or diseased, or in danger. I did not need help, testing, or assistance. All I received from prenatal visits was stress, which was hardly good for me or the baby.

I left that appointment and told my husband my plan to go unassisted, and have the baby at home unassisted too. He was very supportive. I felt free!

Unfortunately, my little one was facing OP (her face to my front instead of my back). This caused a very long and very painful labor. I had never experienced back labor before, and I had no relief from the severe pain. I managed to endure it for 23 hours, but my mother was very fearful. I cannot blame her for my choice, by any means, but her fear kept rubbing off on me. Finally I checked myself and I was more than 9cm dilated. I knew  my baby was almost here. I could see the worry and concern on my moms face, and she suggested we go to the hospital. I knew that it was either right then, or never, because birth was imminent.

Out of fear, I choose the hospital.

I arrived there with my mom and my husband. I refused their IV and other interventions. The OB was condescending but didn’t fight me. I allowed him to break my water, and immediately my baby was coming down. I was on my back, legs in the air (the typical hospital birth position). I started screaming, really SCREAMING. It was difficult, and everyone was yelling PUSH at me. I pushed as hard as I could, knowing that I was damaging myself in the process. The pain was too severe to insist on changing my position.

The OB yelled at me once again to push, and he pulled on her, and out she came. She was 8lb12oz, my biggest baby by far. She was perfect. Although I had only superficial tearing, not requiring any stitches, my insides hurt badly. I was in a lot of pain, and unable to resume normal sexual activities for 6 months. I knew that being on my back, and forced to push so hard was the cause of my suffering. I resented that, and I was angry with myself for allowing it to happen.

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My Big Beautiful baby girl

My next pregnancy came when my 3rd daughter was two years old. I felt elated to be having another baby. I saw the same OB practice just long enough to get confirmation of pregnancy for his birth certificate, and to get an ultrasound. I found out that we were having our first boy!

I chose to have an ultrasound/anatomy scan, because I wanted to make sure that my baby had no serious health issues before having an unassisted birth. If my baby had a heart defect that needs immediate attention, or some other condition that required medical help, I wanted to know that. Many women having a UP/UC forgo ultrasounds, and that is a perfectly valid choice as well.

My birth with our son was finally, finally, my freebirth! It was everything I knew birth could be. It was a dream come true. I was so excited about it that I told everyone who would listen. You can read about my freebirth story here

After that incredible experience, AND a peaceful pregnancy where I did not have to constantly defend my right to choose my own medical care/refuse testing and interventions; I could not imagine NOT having another UP/UC!

So, really the question is, why NOT have an unassisted pregnancy and birth?

Shalom!

 

 

 

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 3 (Nursing Aversion, Pregnancy)

Baby Liora and I settled into a nursing routine. I knew when she would want to nurse, and she knew exactly how to nurse. My breast was her comfort, her nourishment, her contentment. She would rest her chubby baby hand above my breast and fall asleep dreamily. Often times I would hold her there after she unlatched and gaze at her beautiful face, smiling at something in her sleep that I couldn’t see. What do babies dream about? I wondered.

Soon she was crawling, and she loved to move! This was a much more adventurous baby, I realized, than my oldest. I had to baby proof many things I never had to think about before. But still, we nursed. I was still that safe haven to come home to after exploring and moving her body around.

She began sprouting teeth! Now many moms will say “once they have teeth, it is time to wean” but my baby didn’t seem ready to wean at all. She was nursing often, including at night, and besides one or two episodes of biting after she dozed off at my breast, her teeth were no issue for me.

I loved laying down in bed with her and nursing her to sleep. I adored how peaceful it was. I lovingly stroked her golden hair, which was by now growing longer. I was so enamored with her! It was a joy having this special place together, something we shared only between ourselves. It was an extension of the womb, my body caring for her body, my substance giving her strength.

Perhaps that is why I was caught so completely off guard when it fell apart. I never imagined, on those sweet nights nursing her, that in only a month she would be weaned. But deep inside my womb, another life had quietly buried, and announced their presence by altering our nursing relationship.

My milk began to dry up, totally. I had read that most women lose a lot of milk, some lose all, and some lose none. I was not prepared for how quickly my body took my milk away from Liora. I was hardly pregnant before I noticed that I was waking up each morning totally dry, whereas before I was covered in milk from night nursing.

I decided that even without milk, I would nurse Liora for comfort. She was SO attached to breastfeeding, I knew she was not even close to ready for weaning. But I was caught by surprise, I began to detest nursing her! How can this be? What is wrong with me? Why do I feel this horrible feeling every time she latches on?

Nursing Aversion!

I had never heard of it. I would not learn what it was until well after my 3rd baby was born. I had no idea why all of a sudden, whenever Li started to nurse, I wanted to scream and rip out my hair and tear her off my body. It was the worst sensation. I started begging God to give me pain rather than this creepy-crawly-scream-and-run feeling. It is impossible to explain unless you have felt it. It is not being uncomfortable. It is not painful. It is an unbearable sensation.

Perhaps, if I had been aware of this possibility I could have endured it. I don’t know. Probably not. I have so much respect for any woman who has, because I quickly could not nurse her.

Even when it broke my heart. Even when everything inside of me said “nurse your crying baby! She needs you!” I tried. I tried so many times. But each and every time the sensation was immediate and intolerable.

By 13 months, Li was weaned totally. It took two weeks of her daddy staying up with her all night. She couldn’t be near me because she wanted to nurse. I felt horrible. I was so sad. I thought it was all over, she would never nurse again.

But, I didn’t know there was still a future for us as a nursing couple. This journey was not over yet….

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 2

Baby Liora was about 1.5 weeks old. I threw out the rest of those tiny bottles of formula. I didn’t want them tempting me and taunting me as I tried to nurse my baby. I began to feel as if I was never wearing a shirt. I was always topless and putting her to the breast. As difficult as that was, I started to feel as if we were making progress. My nipples never hurt or bled like they did with my oldest, her latch was perfect again!

And then, the growth spurt!

Now listen, when you say you want to breastfeed your baby the hospital will hand you a packet of information about it. I remember reading and being told that the baby will nurse approximately 10 minutes on each breast every 2-3 hours. My baby wanted to nurse much longer than that, and it was rare she would go 2 hours between feedings! I felt as if she was nursing 24/7.

The packet told me 10 minutes on each breast! And every 2-3 hours! Surely something must be wrong, because all of a sudden at around the same time every evening she latched on and refused to latch off. I sat on the couch, after three hours of nursing, and cried heartily. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this! I can’t live like this! This is awful!

That is when I stumbled upon a website called kellymom.com, and it quite possibly saved my breastfeeding relationship. Apparently, you should take that handy packet they give you and throw it in your recycle bin or create a bon fire with it. It is useless, and inaccurate.

First of all, newborns love to nurse. They need to nurse! This is how your supply increases. This is also how they are comforted. Remember in my first post I discussed ditching the pacifier, well our breasts are natures real pacifiers! We pacify our babies at the breast, and we keep our supply regular as well.

Second of all, there was no mention of growth spurts! I was caught off guard completely when Li went hours on end nursing. I thought my supply must be gone. I must be starving my baby! Nope. She was just growing. She was just doing what babies do. It can be frustrating, but I promise it does not last forever. It is usually only a few days of extra nursing, and then your back on track.

I was thankful to know that she wasn’t suddenly starving, and also that this would not last forever; because let’s face it, 3 hours of nursing non-stop wasn’t very fun.

One major benefit was nighttime! Now I know often you hear that formula helps a baby sleep, but I really disagree with that. I formula fed my oldest and this is basically how it went….

  • Feed her a bottle before nighttime, rock her sleep and place her next to me in her co-sleeper.
  • Wake up two hours later with her screaming blood murder.
  • Slowly drag myself out of bed, and hold her in one arm as I shhhh shhhh her and make a bottle.
  • Warm the bottle. While she screams.
  • Take screaming newborn to my rocking chair and give her the bottle.
  • Burp her. Get formula puke on my shoulder.
  • Stand up and walk her around the room, patting her back, get her back to sleep.
  • Lay down in bed.
  • Wake up an hour or two later with her screaming bloody murder.
  • Repeat. ALL NIGHT LONG.

Yeah, not very relaxing or conducive for good sleep!

With my Liora, my first breastfed baby, I had her sleep in my bed with me (yes, it absolutely IS safe when done correctly) and this is how our nights went….

  • Nurse baby in my rocking chair before bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at my breast. Awe, so cute!
  • Read a little bit.
  • Go to bed with baby.
  • Baby starts to stir and make little noises.
  • Latch baby to breast while not moving from sleep position, or fully waking up.
  • Go back to sleep while baby feeds herself at my breast.

Guess which situation gave me better sleep?

So here we were, moving right along in our nursing journey.

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Nursing newborn Liora with big sis Noemi next to me

Things were starting to improve a lot. By the time she was 1 month old the days of struggling to latch her were long gone. Now, I had my toddler in the front seat of my grocery cart, and the baby under one arm nursing, while I pushed the cart with the other arm and finished my food shopping! NO joke, I really did this.

I was feeling a pro, finally. But there was still one problem left unresolved. I would keep saying “I am trying to breastfeed”, I still didn’t trust my body. Until one day, I was sitting at the edge of my bed nursing Liora when it dawned on me, “Wait…I AM NURSING!”

It sounds like a simple thing, but in that moment I realized that I had won. My body had not failed me. My baby did not need formula or bottles or pacifiers. All she needed, for the next five months of her life was ME. That’s it. Just me. I was enough. I was feeding her!

Those chubby thighs? My milk did that. Those adorable chubby checks? Yep, my milk again. I looked at my baby contentedly nursing and almost said out-loud to myself “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER!”

And the journey continued…

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 1

*Warning: I do post a single picture of my baby at my chest and my breast is visible*

When I think about my second born child, another little baby girl, something that comes to mind immediately is our closeness. I am close to all my children, but I think of our closeness as something solid and physical. I can feel her body and mine together in a way that is very tangible and real. She was my first breastfed baby.

I did try to nurse Noemi, my oldest daughter, only 18 months before Liora was born. I was a new mother, and like many new mothers I experienced significant road blocks to success. Sadly, I was not able to navigate them, and I nursed her for only 2 weeks exclusively.

But Liora, I did things differently with her. First I went with midwives rather than sticking it out with an abusive OB (Noemi’s birth story, I will share soon). They supported me in a natural birth, which helps begin breastfeeding more easily. They believed in my body’s ability to produce milk to feed my baby. This made a huge difference in how we started our journey together.

During pregnancy, I was not convinced of my body’s ability to sustain my baby solely on my milk alone. I kept saying “I am going to try to breastfeed” or “I really hope I can breastfeed”, as if it were a matter of luck or chance. There are a very small percentage of women who have physical problems (IGT, hormonal problems, etc.) but it is quite rare and

I had no reason to suspect any of these. Yet, the memories of my first born screaming constantly, the bloody and painful nipples, and nights crying my eyes out on the front porch had left me feeling rather inadequate and suspicious of my breasts actually working.

The day of her birth came, and as soon as she entered the world she was placed on my chest. She was wide awake, unlike Noemi who was born drugged. She looked right at me, and gently I brought her near my nipple. She latched on right away, perfectly and peacefully. I almost wept with joy! Maybe, just maybe, this could really work.

I was being pressured heavily by the nurses on the ward to give Liora a pacifier. The main reason why my breastfeeding relationship with my oldest was destroyed was due to “nipple confusion”; she nursed as if she was using an artificial nipple, and this caused painful bleeding nipples and low milk supply. The nurses all assured me that it was a “myth” (I hear this often, it angers me so!) and they even gave her pacifiers without my consent on multiple occasions.

Pacifiers do what the name implies, they pacify the crying baby. I took her home using a pacifier, I hated to hear her cry, and it was such an easy solution. I told myself that perhaps I was wrong, perhaps it wouldn’t cause any problems.

Well, it did. Her latch began to become noticeably uncomfortable and she was struggling to get it right. I knew the culprit was the pacifier, but I was being told by everyone around me not to take it away completely. I ignored them, and finally did what I knew I needed to do—get rid of the thing!

I threw out every single pacifier in our home, and within 24 hours her latch was once again perfect. There was only one problem….

Jaundice!

Liora was only a about 5 days old at this point, but I had been taking her to the pediatrician for blood samples due to her looking rather yellow. Almost as soon as I arrived home after our last appointment, they called me back and essentially told me to rush her to the hospital because her levels were dangerously high.

I was still a tired, hormonal mess and our nursing relationship was just getting started. I was so scared for her! I was also worried that once again my milk was not enough. My mother drove us to the hospital while my husband stayed home with our oldest, who I missed badly after days on the maternity ward. I had never been separated from our first child before the birth of her sibling, who was now sick, and I just wanted to crawl into a ball and cry forever.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the nurses put Liora under the lamps to reduce her bilirubin levels. They seemed quite concerned about her but they helped me understand what everything was for, and how to take her out to nurse her.

I sat there staring at my little baby, with these silly goggles on and I could only touch her through a door in the plastic box she was in. I cried. I cried a lot. I stroked her little arms, and I thought about how hard this was and how badly I wanted to bring her home so we could all be a family.

This may sound a bit dramatic, but remember I had just given birth!

I pumped like crazy while she was sleeping, desperate to keep my milk supply going. I did not trust my body, and I felt as if I would surely dry up like a hot desert valley if I didn’t keep on pumping! But man, I hated that contraption! Also, my body just didn’t respond very well to it. I kept taking her out whenever possible and nursing her, but the nurses really discouraged me from doing so because she needed to be under the lights.

I was pressured into giving her a little formula. They kept telling me dire warnings of what could happen if she didn’t eat enough. I was reminded that excreting the bilirubin was the best way to get rid of it. I relented and gave her tiny bottles of formula after putting her to my breast.

I felt almost defeated. I was so happy that we addressed her latch problem, but now here I was giving her formula. My heart was heavy as I considered the possibility that this just wouldn’t work. I would fail again.

But then, the next day, they released her! I was overjoyed to be going back home with my little baby, to join her big sister and daddy. I wanted to stay home with them forever, and just enjoy being together.

The nurse gave me a bag of formula before I left….