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♥ Breastfeeding is Hard and That’s Okay♥

 

You’ll see a lot of different opinions about breastfeeding if you look on social media. Some people will tell you that it’s easy and everyone can do it without putting in any effort. Others will tell you breastfeeding is hard and they don’t know why anyone would even try. The reality is often somewhere in the middle, and the ease of it will vary over time. Here are a few things you can do to make it feel easier and less overwhelming during the challenging times.

Breastfeeding is Hard and That's Okay!

Feed Early and Often

We’ve all been there. The baby is crying so hard, you can’t even get them to latch on, even though you know they’re hungry. You’ve been trying to get them to just take the nipple for nearly half an hour, but they’re just so angry, they refuse. Every time you think they’ve got it, they push away again and swing their fists like a tiny boxer. You’re at your wits end at this point, begging them to just calm down. In the end, you have to wait for them to tire themself out to the point they’re half-asleep before you can get them to nurse.

It’s okay. It happens. But it shouldn’t happen on a regular basis. This should describe a once-in-a-while event. If this is happening regularly, chances are that you’re missing your baby’s early hunger cues. Feeding your baby when they first start to show signs of hunger makes it much easier to get into a good position with a proper latch. If you wait until  baby is crying before offering the breast, they’ll become so upset that they can’t control themselves, and may rage themself halfway to sleep before accepting any kind of comfort.

If this happens in between scheduled feedings, you may want to evaluate why you’re feeding on a schedule and consider feeding on demand instead. There may be some very rare instances when strict scheduled feedings may be part of a medical treatment plan, but in most cases, there’s no reason to deny feeding a baby when they’re hungry. If you’ve been instructed by a medical professional to follow a strict schedule, and baby is getting this hungry between feedings, let them know. Ask if the schedule can be adjusted to make baby (and you!) more comfortable. Get a second opinion if necessary.

 

What hunger cues look like

Learn to Recognize the Cues

Here are some hunger cues that you can use to recognize when your baby is getting hungry before they start crying. I’ve organized them in order from early to late.

  1. Licking their lips and making smacking or sucking sounds

  2. Opening and closing their mouth

  3. Sticking their tongue out

  4. Sucking on anything nearby

  5. Rooting – digging their face into any nearby skin or fabric and moving it around

  6. Turning their head and opening their mouth

  7. Bringing their hand to their mouth

  8. Fidgeting or squirming

  9. Breathing fast

  10. Trying to get in position for nursing

  11. Fussing

  12. Hitting you repeatedly

  13. Making frantic, agitated movements

  14. Crying and turning red — too late!

 

Create Helpful Habits

When I nursed my babies, I offered them the breast any time they fussed. Eventually, I got in the habit of offering it any time they moved while I was holding or wearing them.  This became sort of an automatic reaction that I performed without even thinking about it.

It also created a funny story that my best friend and I like to retell our daughters who were born only a few months apart: I was visiting my friend for the day. She had asked me to hold her baby for a few minutes while she got dinner started. My daughter had already nursed herself to sleep and was taking a nap. Not long after my friend walked away, her baby started to wiggle and, without thinking, I started to unsnap my nursing tank. I caught myself quickly, but not before my friend saw and began laughing hysterically. Then I told her how I had almost done the same with with the new puppy we had just gotten a few weeks before. She nearly died laughing!

Beyond providing you with some much-needed laughter, my point is that, by paying attention to my baby’s cues and making a habit of feeding at the first sign of hunger, I was able to relax more. It alleviated the stress of trying to calm my baby when she had gotten too hungry to nurse, or wondering if her cries were from hunger. This made breastfeeding so much easier for me.

 

Make a Plan

When you’re out of the house, be sure to watch baby for these hunger cues, then decide where you’re going to nurse, and get there before the hunger gets too overwhelming for them. If you’re comfortable nursing anywhere, anytime, go ahead and offer the breast right away.

Make sure to always wear a top that provides quick and easy access. There are a plethora of cute nursing tops these days. But you don’t have to spend a fortune on special clothes to wear just for nursing. Many tank tops are stretchy enough to simply pull your breast out of the top without harming the fabric. If you prefer more coverage, you can wear another shirt over it, and just pull it above your breast while nursing. Once I got comfortable with nursing in public, I just pulled T-shirts and blouses up from the bottom. My baby blocked the view of nearly all of my exposed skin. You could also carry a small blanket with you to use to cover any areas you don’t want seen.

For long car trips, make sure to plan to stop an average of every two hours or so, according to your baby’s usual feeding times. Allow for enough time to feed and change baby at each stop. Being in a rush only creates extra unnecessary stress, which also interferes with your body’s oxytocin production, and can make feedings take longer due to delayed let-down.

 

Don’t Stress Over Time

You may have heard some people say things like “breastfeeding is hard because it takes too much time.” The truth is that bottle feeding takes much more time when done properly. The bottles need to be sterilized, as does the water used to prepare formula. Then it needs time to cool to body temperature. After all this has been done, you then have to hold the bottle and ensure that baby isn’t drinking too fast, and take frequent breaks for burping.

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to take all of your time. You don’t have to boil your boobs and then let them cool (I’m wincing just at the thought of that!), and babies don’t need to stop to burp as often during feedings directly from the breast. Not using bottles does mean that you are the only one that can feed baby, though. You could pump and allow someone else to bottle-feed baby if you want, but if you’d rather not, then there are ways to get things done while nursing, too.

Babywearing has become increasingly popular over the last couple of decades, and for good reason. It frees up your hands and allows you to get things done without needing someone else to care for baby. With a front-carry in a wrap, sling, or other carrier, you can nurse hands-free. This gives you the mobility and freedom to do dishes, laundry, care for your other children, or write that book you’ve been working on. 

 

Get More Rest

Okay, so you can get the housework done, but what about sleeping? Good news! The Lullaby Trust has some excellent guidelines for how you can safely co-sleep with your baby. This can allow you to get more sleep at night. This way, you don’t have to get out of bed when you hear baby crying. Remember, crying is too late, and this can make it take longer to feed baby. You can respond to cues much sooner when baby is in bed with you. If you sleep with your breasts exposed, you might even find baby helping themself without even waking you!

With side-lying or laid-back breastfeeding, you can even get in a nap while nursing. Follow the safe co-sleeping guidelines even for naps, or anytime you feel so tired that you think you might fall asleep while nursing. Sometimes our bodies will produce hormones that make us fall asleep during nursing sessions. Normally, this is meant to help us fall asleep after feeding, but when we are already sleep-deprived, our bodies may ramp up production of it too soon. I fell asleep during every nursing session throughout the first week with my oldest. It’s important to listen to your body. If this is happening to you, go with the flow (no pun intended!) and just allow yourself to nap while nursing. It can be helpful to keep this in mind when scheduling your day whenever possible.

 

Seek Out Solutions

How many times have you heard of someone that simply said “breastfeeding is hard!” and then gave up sooner than they had wanted to? I’m betting a lot. Many of them probably tried to ignore issues they either didn’t realize were common but solvable, or didn’t know where to look for help. Most of them probably didn’t even know anyone who had breastfed their babies.

If you’re experiencing pain…

If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding, you may have thrush, clogged ducts, or mastitis, or your baby might have lip and/or tongue ties. It could also just be from bad positioning or a bad latch. A little pain is normal at first, especially if you have large breasts, as your baby’s tiny mouth is still learning how to navigate feedings. But if it goes on for more than a few days, or gets to be too much to bear, you should get advice from a qualified professional. This could be a lactation consultant, pediatric dentist, speech therapist, or ear, nose, and throat specialist. You might even want to consult all of them. A second opinion never hurts, either.

Listen to your intuition…

I was surrounded by birth professionals and consulted multiple specialists with my second daughter. All of them told me that her latch was fine. This was not my first baby. I knew this pain was not normal. My mothers’ intuition told me that she had ties. After doing my own research, I was convinced she had both tongue and lip ties. Thankfully, I didn’t let them talk me out of seeking help. I eventually consulted a pediatric dentist that was highly recommended in my state. He was able to diagnose and treat her ties. Imagine how much harder my journey would have been if I hadn’t persisted until I found a provider willing to listen. I may have just given up and regretted it for the rest of my life.

If baby isn’t gaining enough weight…

If your baby is not gaining weight, or isn’t gaining quickly enough, don’t immediately resort to formula. There is always a reason. That reason is only very rarely because you are medically incapable of producing enough milk. It’s almost never that your breastmilk is inadequate in comparison to formula, unless you are severely malnourished yourself. Supplementing with formula can sabotage your own milk supply, as well, leading to more difficulty.

Your baby could have tongue and/or lip ties, and be unable to physically suck enough milk from your breasts without expending too much energy. In this case, even bottle feeding, done properly, could still be insufficient for baby to gain weight any faster. Remember that story about my second daughter’s ties? Unfortunately, it took until she was six weeks old before we were able to get her ties revised. During that time, I suffered through the pain of feeding her as often as possible, while also giving her pumped milk using a spoon and then a fingertip feeder, since she was unable to take in enough milk from my breast or a bottle. If I had just given up and formula fed her, it still wouldn’t have solved her issue. Then she would have had even more troubles, including later in life.

Baby also just might not be getting enough milk due to scheduled or too-short feedings. Our bodies are made to respond to our babies’ needs. When we interfere in that process, their needs may not be adequately met. Remember that nothing about babies is one-size-fits all. Breastfeeding is hard enough without trying to fit it into a neat and tidy box.

 

Don’t Try to Fulfill the Expectations of Others

Chances are, nearly everyone is going to have an opinion about your breastfeeding journey. You’ll hear lots of well-meaning advice, as well as not-so-well-meaning marketing from formula companies. A lot of it may discourage you and make you feel like you’re “doing it wrong”. But that isn’t necessarily true. Our society is very focused on image. If it doesn’t get likes on social media, people don’t want to talk about it. This can make you feel like you’re the only one struggling. It gives the impression that completely normal situations are rare instead of common. Trying to live up to these impossible ideals is enough to make anyone feel inadequate. So stop putting that pressure on yourself. 

When you let go of the expectations of others, you’ll feel a lot less stress. You will be free to find your own way. Every breastfeeding journey is unique. Maybe your baby wants to nurse every hour for twenty minutes during the evenings when you get home from work, but refuses bottles while you’re gone. Or maybe they prefer to nurse for over half an hour every four hours around the clock. What works for one baby won’t work for all babies. You are the only one who can decide what works for you and yours. And you are the only one that should. 

 

Accept That There Will be Times When Breastfeeding is Hard

I know I make it sound easy. It really is, a majority of the time. But even the easiest breastfeeding journey has challenges. You need to accept their existence. You’ll only frustrate yourself if you expect it to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. There will be ups and downs, just like any journey. Celebrate the good times. And hold onto them during the bad ones. Believe in yourself. Know that you will get through them. Breastfeeding is only a season of our lives. It will be over before you know it. Learning more about the history of why we think breastfeeding is so hard might help.

 

Build Your Support Network

You can overcome any obstacle in your path if you seek help when you need it. Don’t ever suffer in silence. And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you should. Talk about your troubles. Keeping it bottled up inside will only make it worse.  Asking for help is not shameful. Everyone needs help now and then. It takes a village, after all!

Join the Baby Led Enlightenment Village
Click here to join the Baby Led Enlightenment Support Village and find the support you’ve been searching for.

 

 

Sources:

1. https://kellymom.com/bf/normal/hunger-cues/

2. https://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/

3. https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/co-sleeping/

4. https://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/bf-basics/latch-resources/

5. https://lllusa.org/lie-back-and-relax-a-look-at-laid-back-breastfeeding/

6. https://www.laleche.org.uk/breastfeeding-how-the-biological-norm-became-perceived-as-a-modern-day-pressure/

♥ The Facts on Having a VBAC ♥

 

In honor of VBAC Awareness Day, I want to share with you some statistics on VBAC.  I’m also including tips for planning a VBAC.

C-Section Facts Roughly 30% or babies born in the US are born via C-section. 10-15% [is] the WHO recommended C-section rate. Up to 80% of births could be vaginal. About 13% of births after C-section are vaginal. Vaginal birth is a safe and reasonable option for most births. Vaginal birth has innumerable benefits for both the baby and the one giving birth. If your provider doesn't support VBAC, you CAN switch at any time.

What is a VBAC?

VBAC stands for having a Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. It means to give birth vaginally after having had a cesarean, also known as a c-section.

C-section has become one of the most frequently performed major operations in the United States. Over 30% of births in the US (higher in some other countries) are c-sections. The World Health Organization recommends a rate closer to 10%. Some hospitals have begun to try to bring their rates down, but sadly, many continue to increase their rates steadily. In Brazil, 80-90% of births in private hospitals are c-sections. With numbers like this, it’s likely that many people will plan to have a VBAC one day.

 

Why Would Anyone Want to Have One?

Reasons differ from person to person. Some choose VBAC because they want to have the experience of vaginal birth. Others choose it because they know that vaginal birth is the best method for optimal seeding of the infant microbiome. Another reason is to avoid the risks that come with having another major surgery. Some choose it because they simply see no reason for another c-section. It is a very personal choice, in any case.

Each surgery performed causes more scar tissue, and impacts not only fertility, but the stability and safety of future pregnancies. Some providers simply refuse to attend a vaginal birth after more than two previous c-sections. For someone who wants to have multiple children, avoiding c-sections is essential to ensure the health and safety of future pregnancies. Not to mention the general lifelong health and wellbeing of the person undergoing them.

 

Why is it so Hard to Have One?

Many providers still have the outdated thought pattern of “once a c-section, always a c-section.” At one time, it was believed that a vaginal birth was never safe after having a c-section. We now know that one of the primary reasons for this belief, the increased risk of uterine rupture, is actually much smaller than once believed. It can also be reduced by simply not inducing, and allowing the body to go into labor on its own.

Other reasons, such as increased risk of stillbirth, have also come from low-quality studies in which there were poorly thought out selection processes. One example is including trials of labor, or TOL, in which a classical or T-inverted scar was present from a prior c-section, but excluding them from the elective c-section group because it was “an indication for repeat surgery”. 

Now that these studies have been scrutinized and the results questioned, we know that the reasons for denying VBACs by many providers and insitutions are invalid. But policy change takes time, as well as pressure from the community. Both from those who are having babies, and those who are delivering them. Unfortunately, many providers don’t want to question the status quo and potentially face repercussions from their place of practice or insurance for “making waves”. And fighting for policy change takes a lot of time and effort that most just can not muster during pregnancy, especially while taking care of their other children.

 

Who is a candidate?

According to ACOG, most people with one previous c-section with a low-transverse icut are candidates, and should be given the option to choose a VBAC. There are times when a VBAC would be contraindicated, however the majority of them are also situations where someone who has never had a c-section would also be recommended for a c-section. Even after two or more previous c-sections, as long as there are no other contraindications, VBAC is still a reasonable option.

 

Can You Have a VBAC at Home?

Yes!

In some states, you may find restrictions imposed upon midwives and their patients regarding insurance coverage and requirements for consulting an OB/GYN for VBAC. And some midwives just don’t want the hassle of the extra paperwork. But having a previous cesarean is not a reason you can’t have a homebirth.

I have met many women who have had amazingly peaceful and powerful homebirths after having a cesarean (or three). I, myself, had my youngest at home after having my first via c-section.

There are considerations, and in some situations, it may involve more risk, but only you can make the choice of how much risk you’re comfortable with, or whether it outweighs the risks associated with a hospital birth.

If a VBAC at home is what you want, be sure to research your options for providers in your area. In some places, there may be no legal options for an attended homebirth after c-section. In these cases, any provider that chooses to attend your birth may be putting themselves at risk for considerable legal repercussions. However, an unassisted home birth after c-section is not subject to these regulations. If you choose this route, like I did, ensure that you have done adequate research and be prepared with a good back-up plan. Unassisted birth is a viable option for many people, but it requires a lot of planning and education. It is definitely not for everyone. Nor is it for the faint of heart.

 

How Can You Have One?

The most important factor in planning a VBAC is having a supportive provider. Many providers are starting to recognize the many benefits of having a vaginal birth, and changing their policies to reflect that. Sadly, there are still many providers that do not support it, or they pretend to, but pull a bait-and-switch. Make sure you ask around for feedback from people in your local area that have had a VBAC. Find out how they were treated and talked to by their providers. Get stories from those who wanted a VBAC but did not have one, as well. You will often be able to identify many red flags to watch out for from specific providers after listening to the stories of others. And you will learn which ones to avoid completely.

The second most important factor when you are planning a VBAC is the actual planning of it. You need to prepare yourself for birth, and consider what you might need to do differently. Working to break up adhesions from scar tissue is something I highly recommend. The softer and more flexible the scar, the safer and easier your VBAC will be. Massage, acupuncture, and certain herbs can help with this. In addition, ensuring your baby is in an optimal position helps to give you the best chance at a smooth birth. Educating yourself on the risks and benefits of – as well as ways to prepare your body and your mind for – VBAC is the best thing that you can do for yourself when you are planning for to have one.

If you want to have a VBAC, get informed. Do your research, ask around, and talk with potential providers about their opinions. Make sure you choose a provider that is supportive and has experience with VBAC. Remember that not all providers are equal. And they are all human, therefore subject to their own biases.

 

Where Can You Learn More?

To learn more, please explore the site vbacfacts.com. It is run by the incredibly passionate Jen Kamel. She has spent decades, tirelessly working to bring awareness and education to birth professionals and parents. Her goal is to ensure everyone has access to and quality information about VBAC. Her website is full of amazing and insightful information, from the current ACOG guidelines, to common myths about VBAC, and much more. I highly recommend giving it a read!

 

Sources:

1. Flamm BL, Newman LA, Thomas SJ, Fallon D, Yoshida MM. Vaginal birth after cesarean delivery: results of a 5-year multicenter collaborative study. Obstet Gynecol. 1990 Nov;76(5 Pt 1):750-4. doi: 10.1097/00006250-199011000-00004. PMID: 2216218. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2216218/
2. Bujold E, Gauthier RJ, Hamilton E. Maternal and perinatal outcomes associated with a trial of labor after prior cesarean delivery. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2005 Sep-Oct;50(5):363-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jmwh.2005.06.001. PMID: 16154061.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16154061/
3. https://vbacfacts.com/2017/10/25/acog-2017-vbac-guidelines/
4. https://vbacfacts.com/
5. https://vbacfacts.com/2012/01/16/myth-risk-of-uterine-rupture-doesnt-change-much-after-a-cesarean/

♥ Black Birth Matters ♥

“According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health.” ¹

We Need Change

I am calling on my followers to learn more about the abysmal treatment of black women and transfolks in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, and what you can do to help.

“There is much evidence to document the impact that generations of imperialism, colonialism, racism and white supremacy has had on African people in general—and on Black women in particular… Black mothers, children and families… are unseen and unheard in a health system driven by the remnants and realities of institutionalized racism.” ²

According to the most recent CDC data, more than half of maternal deaths occur in the postpartum period, and one-third happen seven or more days after delivery. The majority of initial postpartum appointments don’t happen until four-to-six weeks after birth. These are also frequently the only postpartum appointments that occur. Anyone that has had a c-section, pre-eclampsia, depression, or is taking anticoagulants needs to be seen sooner than four weeks after birth. Black women and transfolk are far more likely to experience all of these things, sometimes more than twice as likely as white women. In one study published in 2017, two-thirds of low-income black women never made it to their doctor visit.

The high risk of death surrounding black birth spans all income and education levels. It happened to Shalon Irving. It almost happened to Serena Williams. Their education and money did not change the way that their providers brushed off their concerns and ignored them. This shows that the problem does not stem from race, but from racism.



All of this was even before COVID-19 came along and highlighted the disparities even more.

 

What Can You Do?

  • If you are a black mother or a care provider, read this guide for how to acknowledge and address racism in prenatal and postnatal care.
  • If you are a care provider, pay attention to your unconscious biases that may arise when serving black women and transfolks. Work hard to be mindful and overcome them. Talk about them with others in your field, to help them give voice to their own unconscious biases, which is the first step to removing them.
  • Support the NAABB in their mission to “combat the effects of structural racism within maternal and infant health to advance black birth outcomes.”
  • Check out the resources offered by and support Black Women Birthing Justice.
  • Speak up and speak out. Raising awareness of black maternal mortality rates helps inspire policy changes, targeted funding, additional training for providers, and other solutions. Vote for candidates that support these solutions. Talk about these issues with your friends.
  • Share the IRTH app with your black birthing friends and acquaintances, so that they know about this resource for reading and sharing reviews of black care providers. This helps black birthing people make informed decisions when choosing their care providers.
  • Have a look at the anti-racist reading list and other black maternal health resources offered by Every Mother Counts, an organization working for equality in maternal health care around the world.
  • Support National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization working protect constitutional and human rights for women of all races, but primarily focused on black and low-income pregnant and parenting women. They provide legal defense and advocacy services.
  • If you are black and have a passion for helping pregnant women and babies, consider becoming an OB/GYN, midwife, pediatrician or other medical specialist, or doula. Currently, only 4% of doctors are POC. According to a review in 2019, the mortality rate is cut in half when black babies are cared for after their birth by doctors of the same race.

Remember to Share Positivity

It’s easy to share the scary articles and statistics surrounding black birthing women and transfolks. But sharing and celebrating the positive stories is just as important. There are lots of beautiful, peaceful, relaxed, and/or powerful black births that happen every day, and they deserve to be recognized, too. Black birthing people need to see the happy stories and know that they can have those kind of stories themselves. The media likes to share things to scare everyone into believing there is no happiness or joy in the world anymore. Even Google brings up only horror stories and dismal statistics when searching “black birth”. That means it’s up to us to prove them wrong.

 

  • You can tune into the podcast Birthright for inspirational black birth stories.
  • The podcast NATAL Stories also provides positive black birth stories alongside empowering ones that tell of overcoming the issues that black women face.
  • Homecoming Podcast is a podcast focused on black home birth, working to dispel the myths that hospital birth is safer than homebirth and that black people don’t birth at home.

 

sources:

1. https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why
2. https://thenaabb.org/advocacy/

3. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(17)30368-X/fulltext

4. https://theeverymom.com/black-mothers-are-dying-at-an-alarming-rate-how-to-be-an-ally/
5. https://www.nytimes.com/article/black-mothers-birth.html
6. https://thenaabb.org/
7. https://www.blackwomenbirthingjustice.com/
8. https://irthapp.com/
9. https://everymothercounts.org/anti-racist-reading/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5auGBhDEARIsAFyNm9F3mczdvIMSeK4uWb5pb03WdxsoQfICIvx9Z5HLJPb0vLxEw2qtvpYaAuhTEALw_wcB
10. https://www.nationaladvocatesforpregnantwomen.org/
11. https://1410c6d1-d135-4b4a-a0cf-5e7e63a95a5c.filesusr.com/ugd/c11158_150b03cf5fbb484bbdf1a7e0aabc54fb.pdf
12. https://birthrightpodcast.com/
13. https://www.natalstories.com/
14. https://www.instagram.com/homecomingpodcast/

♥ My Homebirth Story — Freebirth ♥

 

Happy International Homebirth Day!

Since the restrictions of 2020 changed the experience of hospital birth so dramatically all over the world, many more women have turned to homebirth as their way of having the birth experience they want. Others have wanted to, but for one reason or another, not gotten that experience they so desire.

Some of you may know that I had a homebirth with my second. What you may not know is that I wanted one with my first, but thought I couldn’t have it because Medicaid didn’t cover homebirth midwives in Ohio, and my husband had been laid off for several months due to a natural disaster, so we had very little funds at the time. I probably could have found a way to make it happen if I’d had the support and knowledge then that I have now. I hear similar stories all the time, where the mama wanted to have a homebirth, but didn’t think she could afford it, or her insurance wouldn’t cover it.

If you want a homebirth, sometimes you have to work for it. It shouldn’t be this way in the US and other countries around the world, but it is. The important thing is that you know there are options, and if that is what you really want, you can have it. For instance, in Florida, homebirth midwives ARE covered by medicaid. There are still guidelines and restrictions put in place by governing bodies that limit the access to them for VBAC, plus size mamas, breech, twins, etc, nearly everywhere. But there are oftentimes ways around this as well. Sometimes, simply seeing an OB one time, regardless of what they tell you regarding their opinion on homebirth, is enough to satisfy the requirements. The red tape and hoops you may need to jump through can vary depending on your insurance, provider, and location. Seek out your local birth network and talk to birth activists in your area to find out more about ways you can advocate for your right to a homebirth.

Read on for more of my personal homebirth story:

 

Planning Makes it Possible

I planned to have an unassisted homebirth with my second daughter. I knew, even before I got pregnant with her, that it was the birth experience I wanted to have. I got involved in my local birth network, studied numerous books, took a course on homeopathy, attended a workshop for birth professionals, and just generally soaked in as much information about birth as I could. When I finally saw that second line, I knew I could do this.

 

Preparations

A few weeks before my guess date, a doula and student midwife friend of mine lent me her birth pool. We cleared a space in our living room for it, behind our couch. It was a cozy corner, where I hung up red Christmas lights and a double-heart light. My friend hosted a mother’s blessing for me, and I had brought home several beautiful drawings and quotes from friends, which I hung on the walls. I also put up a family photo with my husband, my oldest daughter, and myself, as well as a photo of my grandma from when she was younger, which we had displayed at her funeral just days before I found out I was pregnant. She was my rock, and I wished I could have had her there for my birth, but this was the next best thing.

Pardon the fuzzy photo, this was the only one I managed to salvage after issues with my camera. 

I’m in labor!

The night I went into labor, I had been sitting on the couch watching TV with my husband, and we were about to go to bed. I had been having contractions off and on all night, the same as I had for the past 3 months. Suddenly, I realized one of them made me sit up straighter than usual. After 2 more, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom, and knew that it was time. I spent the next 2 hours laboring on the toilet, which brought me considerable relief (They don’t call it the porcelain birthing stool for nothing!).

I called my friend around 2AM, who I had planned to have there as my doula. She told me to call her back when I wanted her there. I had no idea when I “should” have her there, but I wanted her there then. Since she clearly didn’t want to come right then, and I felt bad about it being 2AM, I just said ok and we hung up.

I went straight from the toilet to the birth pool. I just draped myself over the side of it without any water for an hour or two. Once I started feeling the need to vocalize through contractions, I had my husband begin filling the pool. We only filled it halfway for the first couple of hours. The contractions were easier to handle when the water was over my lumbar. My baby’s spine was facing mine, so I felt significant pressure in my back. I tried to hold off on filling the pool, so that the water wouldn’t get too cold too soon. I had my husband put on some music to help me relax in the meantime.

My friend called around the time we got the pool filled, and reminded me to have my husband bring me food and drink. I had been sleeping in between contractions, and he had too. He made me some scrambled eggs and brought me some chocolate coconut water, which took me a good hour to fully consume.

 

It’s Time to Push!

About 10 hours after that first contraction that made me sit up straight, my vocalizations became much louder and more frequent. My mom, who lived with us, came out of her bedroom because she could tell something had changed. Our daughter woke up and came out of her bedroom. We told her that her sister was coming. She stayed until the next contraction, but said that my vocalizations were too loud, and retreated to her room again. I began to feel the urge to push. About forty-five minutes later, she began to crown. My husband saw her forehead, but saw her pulling back in a bit in between each contraction. I went slower and panted through a few contractions as her eyebrows began to emerge. My husband told me to push, and I told him to shut up. I was listening to my body, and it was telling me that it needed time to stretch as we reached “the ring of fire”. A few minutes later, her head was free, and my husband worried about her trying to breathe under the water as he saw her mouth opening and closing. I assured him that she was fine, and she would not try to breathe yet, and she was still getting her oxygen from the umbilical cord.

 

I did it!

At almost exactly one hour from the first push, she was free. I had spent the entire labor on my knees, hanging over the side of the pool because my body wouldn’t allow me any other position. I was so relieved to finally be able to sit down properly. My husband helped me bring her to my chest. She was covered in vernix. He brought us a blanket to put over her to keep her warm against my chest, as the water had gotten colder than I had realized. This was when I finally decided to call my friend and tell her to come over. We spent a few more minutes in the pool, giving me a chance to rest. Once I had delivered the placenta, we placed it in a bowl, still attached to our baby, and moved to the couch, where we laid on chux pads together, with the bowl near my head.

My favorite photo ever. I feel it truly embodies the tranquility and connection felt after a homebirth. 

(yes, I wore a Wonder Woman camisole as my birthing gown)

Breastfeeding Begins

I placed her on my belly and allowed her to do “the breast crawl”. It only took her a few minutes to find the breast, but she needed a lot of help with latching. My first had needed help, and I just thought it was similar, her mouth was too tiny and my breast was so big that it was hard for her. I later found out she had tongue and lip ties. But with a little help from me, she was able to get enough colostrum to fill her tummy and she drifted off to sleep peacefully on my chest.

So teeny tiny in comparison!
Drifting off after a nice meal ♥

 

A Happy Ending

About two hours later, my friend and my midwife showed up and worked together to get me cleaned up and baby checked out. My friend brought a cord burning box and some candles. Around 10PM, my husband and I decided it was time to go ahead and burn the cord. We tied it off with some string left from the anklets I made for myself and my daughters at my mother’s blessing, then we got it situated in the box and began to burn through it. It took a lot longer than we expected, and dripped a lot, so we were glad we had the box to support the candles and catch the dripping.

A sacred family moment

 

The Less-Pretty Details (TMI WARNING!!!)

There were a few things I didn’t include in the actual story itself. I feel these need to be mentioned, however, to show that even the most beautiful experience can include trying times.

 

My Tailbone Broke

After about half an hour of pushing, I felt and heard my tailbone break. My mom asked me what happened, and I told her my tailbone just broke, and she told me that there was no way it broke. I began to lose my patience with everyone after that, and used some colorful language when telling both my mother and my husband that I was doing things my way and they needed to stop trying to tell me what to do. After a few weeks of postpartum agony, my chiropractor did an x-ray and proved that my tailbone had indeed broken, and it was due to a deformity caused by a childhood injury. This felt very vindicating.

 

I hemorrhaged 

After delivery, my friend showed up before my midwife, and urged me to get up and go to the bathroom. I had tons of chux pads ready so that I wouldn’t need to worry about this. I didn’t feel I had the strength to get up, and she had to support most of my weight when I finally relented and went. As soon as I sat down on the toilet, I dropped two big clots, and started to fall asleep. My mom panicked and started to call 911. Thankfully, my friend was able to wake me and get me up and back to the couch and hydrated, and my mom told them it was a false alarm. I drank copious amounts of coconut water over the next hour and took several doses of homeopathic remedies. This helped me regain my strength and begin to rebuild my blood volume. I personally think I should not have gotten up when I did, and could have avoided such trouble if I had listened to my body telling me to wait a little longer, rather than my friend urging me to get up, but there is no way to be sure of what was actually the best thing to do in that moment, or if the hemmoraging could have been entirely avoided either way. Had the coconut water and homeopathics not shown effective, the next step would have been to cut a small piece of my placenta off and stick it in my cheek. The placenta contains hormones that signal the uterus to contract, which would have helped to stop the hemmorage as well.

 

The Afterpains

One thing no one seems to mention when preparing for birth is the afterpains. The contractions after delivery felt so much stronger to me because I had nothing to push against them anymore. They lasted for nearly an entire day, with the worst of them happening over the first six hours or so. Taking homeopathic Sabina helped greatly, but the pain was still pretty intense. My midwife did a massage on my uterus to try to help it contract (part of the reasoning behind the “breast crawl” as well), and it HURT. I was not prepared for that at all. Clearly, I had missed a few things in my research!

 

If you would like to learn more about your options for homebirth, with or without assistance, here are a few great resources to check out:

American Pregnancy Association

Birthing Better

Midwives Alliance North America

The Unassisted Baby


♥ We Need Connection ♥

 

“It hurts to feel separate. We are wired to seek connection and belonging—to feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it also takes one to sustain an adult. We were not built to live in isolation, hidden behind apartment doors, phone screens, and dead eyes. We thrive when we feel like part of a tribe, when the people we share space with become part of ‘us,’ not ‘them.'” ~Lori Deschene

 

Photo by Dan Meyers  on Unsplash

 

Yesterday, a friend of mine made an unsettling post. She had clearly been going through a rough time, and had lost her sense of self-worth. This was not a friend I knew well, but something in me felt this was a cry for help. I took some time to look through her recent posts and made a few supportive comments, hoping it would help uplift her.  Later that evening, a mutual friend of ours (whom I had never really spoken with directly either) contacted me and expressed concern for her because her profile had been deleted. He didn’t remember anyone else that was on her friend’s list, and only remembered me because I had been the last to comment on her last post, which he still had up on his screen.

 

I spent the next several hours reaching out to people I remembered were mutual friends. I contacted the two people I knew who lived in the same area as she, and asked if they knew her. It took several hours for either to respond, during which time I was trying to find a phone number that might belong to her so that I could try calling her. It was getting late, and I began to struggle with worrying I may be bothering someone at/near/after bedtime if I called, and worrying that my friend may not be safe. I started thinking maybe I should call the suicide hotline or local police and ask for a well-check to be done on her instead, but then what if that caused CPS to get involved and remove her kids because they considered her a threat to THEIR wellbeing, and suddenly I’d have destroyed the life of the person I was trying to help?
 
Thankfully, one of my friends in the area responded as I was wrestling these competing worries, and told me she knew her and would reach out. I felt immense relief, and trusted that I had found the right person, and that my friend would be taken care of. My other friend local to her responded a few hours later, in the middle of the night, and reached out to her immediately as well. 
 
It took until morning for me to find out for sure that she was okay. I also now had several other friends worried and waiting for an update. 
 
Did I do the right thing by getting so many people concerned? Did I go too far in considering calling this person I called friend, though barely knew, and had never spoken with face-to face? Was it ok that I stopped when I received a response from someone who knew her? Will our friends that know her in-person be able to provide her with the support she needs?
 
I don’t know the answer to any of these for sure. I don’t even know if my friend will be ok emotionally long-term. But I know she is alive, and I know she now knows that many people care about her enough to worry about her late at night. I am a firm believer in following your intuition, and mine had been trying to tell me all day that something was wrong and she needed intervention.
 
If it were me, I would probably be embarrassed, but I would also feel touched to know so many people went out of their way to check on me and were worried for my safety.
 
She might have been ok if we had not come together to inquire for her wellbeing. Or she might not have. I would prefer to feel guilt for action rather than inaction. I would have felt far worse to have woken up a week from now to a tragic announcement and wonder if I could have done something to prevent it. Who knows? It still might happen. Emotions and mental health are unpredictable and difficult to stabilize at times. Humans are complex creatures. But I’m never going to let that stop me from trying to help a fellow hurting human.
 
If you see someone who is struggling, please take the time to stop and support them. Clicking “care” isn’t enough. If you’re close enough to support them in-person, please reach out to them. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Most people won’t. Send them a message, leave a kind comment, ask them questions that help guide them to see their situation from a healthier perspective. Listen to your intuition and act when you hear warning bells going off. Don’t ignore their suffering because it makes you uncomfortable. 
 
“Good vibes only” can lead to a lot of people losing the support they so desperately need. Yes, it is important to protect yourself from the negativity of others, especially if you feel it is taking a toll on your own mental health. But if you are someone who has the good fortune to be resilient and always look for the goodness in things, consider that maybe you have been given these gifts in order to be able to help those who cannot help themselves. Don’t shut out everyone who shares their struggles, as I have seen many do. Invite them in, and share your goodness and happiness and resilience with them. 

 

That is how we change lives and make the world a better place. 

 

For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 
 

If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit their website. Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources. 

 

 

♥ Let’s Be Frank About Breech ♥

 

 

 

 

Breech is when the baby is in a number of positions that are head-up. There are many different breech positions and presentations. Some babies are breech until just a few weeks, days, or even hours before labor. Others are breech until sometime during labor. And a small percentage of babies are born breech. 

Many doctors will try to tell you that breech is an indication for c-section. This is simply not true. Breech is just a variation of normal. Midwives are much more likely to have experience with facilitating the birth of breech babies than obstetricians are, because obstetricians are surgeons. Obstetricians get paid more for performing surgery than they do for vaginal births. C-sections are also more convenient for them, as they don’t have to show up at the hospital at whatever random time a mom shows up in labor when they schedule the c-section in advance. They can plan their vacations and golf games easier this way. They can afford their fancy cars and private schools for their kids this way.

I recently had an extensive exchange with a mom who sounded terrified of having a c-section and all of the repercussions that came along with it. This was worsened by COVID-19 restrictions at her hospital and limited leave for her husband to be with her, leaving her to be alone for the majority of her hospital stay, and unsure of how to care for her infant and dog at home alone while her husband was forced to go back to work. However, her doctor never told her that she had any options beyond scheduling a c-section. She simply told her, at 35 weeks, that since her baby was still breech, she would schedule her for a c-section. She gave her no advice for encouraging the baby to turn, and never told her that vaginal breech birth was possible. Once I had informed her that she DOES have options, she seemed to be determined to avoid having a c-section. She went to her doctor the next day, ready to question what she had been told. Or so she thought. When I spoke with her a few hours later, she had again resigned herself to having a major surgery for no reason beyond the doctor’s convenience unless the baby magically turned on its own before the scheduled time (39 weeks, not even allowing the baby the chance of going to true full-term), with no effort on her part. 

She will likely end up having that c-section, feeling defeated and powerless. She will spend multiple days in the hospital, alone for most of it, unable to keep her baby in the room with her the entire time, not knowing what is being done with or to her baby while out of her sight. She will struggle to take the dog outside, possibly pulling a stitch or worse as she tries to. She will have difficulty caring for her baby on her own while she heals from major surgery. She may have issues with her supply and getting the baby to latch. She may have difficulty bonding with her baby and develop post-partum depression. If she manages to overcome her depression through counseling, drugs, and/or any number of mindset-shifting events, she may find the strength to forgive herself . Or she may not, and wrestle with depression for the rest of her life, borne of a self-hatred for not advocating for herself and her baby. She may not even realize these feelings, or where they stem from.

This happens far too often. Moms are pressured to ignore their instincts and accept many possible risks, including infection, injury to the baby, scar tissue, lengthened recovery time, excessive blood loss, increased risk of post-partum depression, difficulty breastfeeding, difficulty bonding with their baby, and many more, up to and including death. They are not informed of their options. They are brushed aside when they learn about their options and attempt to exercise their rights to choose them. They end up with severe complications and feel angry at themselves, regretting not standing up for themselves and their babies. They have a hard time processing the trauma of what they experience, and the feeling of powerlessness that goes along with it. 

It isn’t their fault. They have been groomed for this kind of mistreatment and disempowerment their entire lives. That is what our society does. Anyone who questions what they are told and seeks to educate themselves gets shamed, ridiculed, and laughed at. They are made to feel as though they know nothing, and pressured to trust that the given authority figure knows best, so they should simply accept whatever they tell them without question. The media teaches us to reinforce this, and seeks outliers to make examples of, encouraging others to judge and shame them for making choices different from those they would make for themselves.

We need to fight back. Question parents, question teachers, question doctors, question lawmakers, question the media. The United States is going through a massive upheaval right now. We are questioning the status quo. It’s time to stand up and speak out. No more lying down and taking the abuse that they give. Change begins within each and every one of us.

 

If your doctor tells you that you are going to have a c-section because your baby is breech, tell them you know your options and you will make the choice that is right for you. Educate yourself, listen to your intuition, and make your own choice. Knowledge is the best cure for fear, and fear is the most common ingredient in a recipe for disaster.

 

Here is a list of resources to learn more about breech presentations and your options if your baby is breech:

Home4Birth

Birth Without Fear

Informed Pregnancy

AIMS

BellyBelly

Spinning Babies

Evidence Based Birth

 

As always, do your own research and listen to your intuition, and do not allow anyone, regardless of the letters after their name, to pressure you into making a choice that you do not feel comfortable with.