Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Once More With Feeling: Contemplating BBAC

Welcome, Second Time Around Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

Finger-feeding at about 6 weeks. Still at the beginning of a long, strange trip.

Could I do it all over again? Would I?

I do hope to have a second child someday. No, there are no current plans or even prospects, but I would love for Lily to have a sibling, I'd love to give birth again, and, honestly, I really would love to have the chance to have a normal, or at least a less abnormal, nursing experience.

When I got to act as a wet nurse a few times for a friend's baby, it choked me up the first time she latched on and chowed down happily - this was something I never got to experience with a newborn or even a young infant. By the time Lily and I made it, she was a roly-poly, active, distractable 5 month old on the verge of crawling - a very different creature than the little borrowed bundle I was guest-nourishing. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled beyond belief that Lily was breastfeeding at all. It was just . . . different.

When we were in the midst of Lily's struggle, I found myself succumbing to moments of desperate jealousy of other moms with newborns or young babies who were able to nurse. My fantasies of motherhood had involved a lot of babywearing, strolling about with the baby nursing and sleeping in my ring sling at the grocery store, in cafes, on long walks. I envisioned making my way through my reading list while I nursed with my feet up in my glider with an ottoman. Tethered to the pump, I looked at those other moms through heartbroken, envious eyes.

Needless to say, I didn't get halcyon days of early motherhood. Please don't mistake this for bitterness - what I DID get was the learning experience of a lifetime, for which I have found my way to be grateful (the Anne of 2.5 years ago is telling me to piss off, but never mind that). It has led to what I feel is a true calling for me, a real vocation. It has given me insight and painful empathy for the mothers I will be serving, having experienced many of their woes firsthand. And it was a real triumph for both of us to be able to overcome everything that we did. I genuinely am not bitter.

Serenity at last.

But the question remains: could I do it again?

I would pray to be blessed with normalcy, but there is NO guarantee. I know much more now, to put it lightly. I would be prepared for any and all of the factors that affected us last time - tongue tie being the biggest, but the other components as well. What's the likelihood of facing some, most, or even ALL of these again with a second baby? Impossible to predict. Another tongue tie is certainly a strong possibility, as heredity is involved, but if we got it addressed immediately, our chances would be much better. Wouldn't they?

No guarantees. What if lightning strikes twice? Can I walk through the fire again? So many life factors come into play. Lily was a first baby. It would be so hard to repeat the process all over again with another child to care for, though as she gets older, she may be independent enough that having to take many of these measures could be more feasible than if she were still a young toddler. What would my financial situation be? What if I needed to return to work earlier than I did with Lily? How would that affect us? All of it daunting - yet not totally deterring.

I would imagine that it's something like a mom preparing for a VBAC after an unwanted cesarean, or looking at another birth after any difficult birth experience, period. Although I was blessed with a really wonderful birth, some aspects of our nursing experience were on the traumatic side, though it was a slow-motion trauma that occurred over months and months. What do VBAC-seekers do? They prepare with information, they seek out good care providers and other support, they evaluate their prior experience and look at factors that affected the outcome, considering whether these are likely to recur. And they work on the emotional healing as well - many times the preparation for the the next birth is a part of the healing process in itself. I'll dub myself as a mom seeking BBAC, then, perhaps: Breastfeeding Baby After Challenges (or Craziness).

So this time around, I'm armed with information, with resources, with experience, with support. I doubt I could be more prepared. Will this be enough? Only one way to find out.

Let's take it from the top.


Please stop by the other Breastfeeding Carnival participants' posts and leave some comment love:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Something of The Night About Them: Guest Post

In the spirit of sharing that's going around lately, today it's MY turn to share a truly lovely, evocative piece by Mars Lord of Mammy Doula. A good read to reflect on for the weekend!

There's something of the night about them.

What is it that happens to some midwives after 8pm? These normally smiley, friendly, font of knowledge midwives seem to take on something of the night. The smiles are gone. The time to sit has vanished (yes I know it's a rare occurrence in the life of a day time midwife, but please… don't interrupt the atmosphere building). There's a need to make and keep everyone quiet.

It is hard to see the breastfeeding posters in the dark. The muted lights must have something to do with that. The breasts of the Mothers have mysteriously failed to function and time has become the enemy. There is much rushing about to be done. There is much keeping of order. It is as though the job spec has changed and the Mothers are to be ignored.

Perhaps the bells that call the midwives only work from 8.30am to 8.00pm. The only sounds heard are the ones demanded babies be taken out of the Mothers' beds and placed dressed and wrapped in plastic containers on wheels.

It now, in the dead of night that Mothers are most at risk. They are more prone to making decisions that they (possibly) regret the next day. That dark lady of the night comes wielding a bottle of 'elixir'. The magic substance that will make their babies sleep and restore quiet and calm to a night ward. Here is when a Mother might agree to testing for her baby. She's been strong in the day, because she knows that baby is fine and the doctor has told her it's borderline and there is no urgent need to act. But now, as the darkness surrounds her and she's groggy from sleep, someone talks to her to tell her how risky borderline is and so assents.

She has never been so tired. The labour was long, the golden hour when it was her, baby and partner slowly getting to know each other is almost a distant memory. Since then she has been hussled into a shower, her baby handled by any number of people. Her attempts at sleep thwarted by a baby that needs feeding, gazing at, kissing, holding and loving. It is hard to sleep when the only baby crying appears to be hers. Jiggling isn't working. No one has read the manual to her. Are her breasts producing enough milk? There's no way, she thinks, of telling. She is fearful of waking the other babies and starting the cacophony of a postnatal ward.

And as she finally succumbs to sleep in walks someone to check her blood pressure, check the baby, check the bins, call her to breakfast.

Being informed is the key here. The Mothers that we support as partners, parents, birth partners, Doulas, need to know that they have someone that they can call in the middle of the night. They should be aware that it is a different culture in the postnatal ward at night than the delivery suite in the day or even early evening. I often hear people talking about their birth experiences and an incredibly high percentage talk about the awful postnatal care, particularly at night.

To those wonderful angels of the night that come in with calming, soothing voices, and time to give to the new Mothers, despite the files falling from their arms. Thank you. You have been far more important than you know.

-- MammyDoula

Mars Lord
Mother of 5
Birth and Postnatal Doula

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest Post on The Leaky Boob: Good Cop, Bad Cop

Hey, check out the post I wrote for The Leaky Boob: "Good Cop, Bad Cop - On The Breastfeeding Police". A snip:

YES, I do think that women who feel they ‘can’t’ produce enough milk have often been sabotaged (i.e. booby-trapped) in ways they are unaware of. And one of the things that most often thwarts them is misinformation.

HOWEVER. Statements that imply that really, everyone can breastfeed and if they didn’t succeed, they just didn’t try hard enough, mind over matter? EVERY BIT as misinformed as the bad advice that might have led a mom to undermine her supply or her belief in her supply. I know it’s highly unorthodox for a breastfeeding advocate to call other breastfeeding advocates out when their intentions really were good, but I see so much poor advice online that it’s really starting to get to me.

And later:

This does NOT mean that there is not a place for peer support. There so absolutely is is – La Leche League turned the tide on breastfeeding half a century ago and its very foundation was peer support. But part of being a trustworthy resource is knowing when something is beyond your knowledge – even for professionals, certain things are beyond one’s scope of practice, and it is crucial to have the honesty and humility to know when to refer.

Please hop on over and take a look!