Friday, October 02, 2009

Birth and Breastfeeding

Okay. So. Not to start with anything that is controversial at all. hahahaha.

I'm a big old advocate of women knowing their options in childbirth. And then making decisions based on that knowledge and on knowing themselves.

I'll tell you my story (don't worry, it won't get gory). Once upon a time I thought I would absolutely, no question have an epidural. Why go through all that pain?! And I am a huge ass wimp when it comes to pain. Yesterday I cried cos I stubbed my toe. And labor/childbirth is like the most painful thing, right?! I can't do that. This opinion started to change slowly when a post-doc I knew told me about her birth (just the one at the time, now she has two kids) and how she managed the pain and had a drug-free birth. Simultaneously, I started noticing how many people I knew were having c-sections. And I thought, huh, what's going on.

So then we were trying to get pregnant and I didn't have an OB-GYN (well, I did, but I did not like her at all). I was trying to do a little research to find an OB that I did like but it was rather daunting. While looking at websites for our local hospitals it turned out that I could have a midwife. And I was all like wha? huh? You can have a midwife?

Then I bought a couple of books ... I forget who recommended them to me. But one was Sheila Kitzinger's book, The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. And I learned a lot about natural childbirth and the various kinds of medical interventions that routinely take place during modern labor and delivery. I had to read it again once I was actually pregnant. I made Eric read it (he liked it although at least one Amazon reviewer claims the book is anti-men and anti-doctor, both criticisms that I did not find to be true). I also read Henci Goer's The Thinking Woman's Guide to Childbirth. Again, this book has a natural childbirth perspective. But it also has lots of discussion of the medical literature, talks about what the evidence is supporting the use of various tools of modern obstetrics. What a concept... Those were the only two books I read. Oh, wait, that's not true I also read the hypnobirthing book for the class we took. But that didn't have much general information in it that I didn't already know. Our midwife told me not to read What to Expect When You Are Expecting as she feels that there's too much scare-mongering going on. I'd heard it was rather condescending in its tone, anyway, so I skipped it.

I also watched The Business of Being Born, a movie by Ricki Lake and co. It's a good movie, has interesting information. Of course, it does have its own bias-- it's very pro-home birth. But for anyone who is the least bit interested in birth, home birth, knowing more about modern birth practices in the US, you should watch it. Eric really liked it too. And not just because they had a Monty Python excerpt ("the machine that goes bing!").

I really like the idea of home birth, just not in MY home! hahahah. Ultimately we decided to have our birth at a hospital that is fairly progressive in terms of promoting natural/intervention-free birth and that has a low c-section rate. I had a little more intervention than I was hoping for in our birth. But you know, shit happens. Sometimes literally in labor (oh wait, I said I wasn't getting gory. Oh well, it didn't literally happen to me. Except about an hour after Thalia's birth, she pooped all over me. So funny and sweet. The nurses were gobsmacked at how much she pooped!). Women should have the birth they want. They should also feel empowered enough to do the research, make informed decisions. Have an epidural (or insert other medical intervention here) but know the possible side-effects, what it can and cannot do, etc.

Oh and we had a birth doula. This is one thing I will tell everyone I know to have, regardless of what kind of birth you want. Even if you are having a home-birth with a couple of midwives. Doulas help so much. The research shows that intervention rates go down when doulas are present. Our doula, Rebecca, helped us so much. She offered all kinds of different comfort measures (and I was in active labor for 40 you know, she went through lots and lots of suggestions!), gave me support, allowed Eric to sleep for awhile, supported Eric so he could support me, walked up and down stairs with me, walked the halls endlessly, held my hand, reminded me that when I was in transition it was okay to cry, taught us a bunch about labor and birth before that, answered my phone calls- before, during labor, and even months after the birth! She was present for I think about 30 hours of labor and delivery. I would never give birth without a doula. Many birth doulas belong to/are certified by DONA, if you find one who isn't, just ask why not. There are also post-partum doulas. We had one of those too! So great. (Note: Classics nerds: try to forget that doula means slave in Greek.)

So yeah, have the birth you want. Know what you want. Have a doula. Then be ready for birth to take its own course. You get a baby at the end. It's pretty cool. And if you have emotional trauma from the birth, address it. There are workshops, therapists who deal with this kind of stuff, there are groups who will help.

Okay, yeah, it's good for the baby and the mama. Can we just start there? Not have to go through all the reasons why? Cos I find that kind of boring. I know that lots of people cannot or do not want to breastfeed, and I think that's fine. Lots of healthy, happy adults were formula-fed. Again, I'll just share my story.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed. But Thalia was quite reluctant. I dunno, she didn't much like the taste of colostrum or who knows what. I kept persevering, and eventually we got it figured out. Meanwhile, she had lost a whole bunch of weight. Which the medical establishment is not too crazy about. So we did some supplementing with an SNS system. Which allows the baby to get formula while simultaneously breastfeeding. This worked well and we only did it for a couple of days and then my milk finally came in.

God, those first days were really tough though. Thalia used to fall asleep so easily...she would nurse and fall asleep and we'd have to wake her up to get her to nurse some more. It's really hard, waking up a baby who wants to sleep. I probably wouldn't do that again. It was hard to get all set up every time she wanted to nurse. I found it awkward. I was stubborn. It was exhausting. I was hungry all the time. I would cry cos it was so hard, especially in the middle of the night. As a newborn (ie first six weeks or so) nursed all the time in the evenings, this is called cluster nursing. But it meant that she was attached to my breast for hours in the evening. I would get over-stimulated and sore breasts. I felt like a cow. I cried. I got over-engorged at night. It hurt. I cried (I *said* I was a wimp about pain). Eric reminded me that I could just quit at six months (actually I am sure he would have supported me if I had decided to stop right then and there at the beginning). My stubborn nature won out.

A couple of months in I was having lots of nipple pain. I called a local leader of La Leche League. I suspected thrush. Well, no. Thalia's latch was just not that great, so we worked on it again, latch got better, I got really good, supportive nursing bras (at Nordstrom's - they are the best at Nordstrom's worth every damn last penny), pain went away. A few months later Thalia started biting me. She caused a few bleeding wounds. That made me cry a lot. I walked around with aloe leaves stuffed in my bra and practically mainlining the advil. One week when Thalia was about 8 months old I pumped a lot cos she bit me every time (she was teething, and didn't know what to do with those teeth, I think) she nursed. I wanted to die. But did I mention I was stubborn?

I'm still nursing Thalia. No plans to stop anytime soon. We will wean when she and/or I are ready. Now this may be depressing, but I feel like just in the last six months have I gotten really good at this whole nursing thing. But sheesh, I feel like a pro. Thalia's really good at it too. The breastfeeding relationship, it's constantly changing and evolving.

My favorite breastfeeding advocate is Jack Newman. His book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers is great.

La Leche League. Really, really, really great people. They are not breastfeeding nazis. Don't believe the hype. I've talked to my leader twice, extensively, on the phone. So great. So supportive. So knowledgable. Not medical advice, but still.

Kellymom. There is a TON of information on this site. It's awesome.

Random other tidbits:
*I read while nursing. Or watch TV. I can't just sit there and bliss out like some people can. My brain needs entertained, even when I was sleep deprived and she was a tiny baby. My kindle has been a godsend for this.

*I drink alcoholic beverages. I don't "pump and dump." I don't get drunk. See Jack Newman.

*Boppy's are the BEST. I have one downstairs and one upstairs. Plus lots of pillows.

*I nurse in public. I don't cover up, although I did at first. No one has ever said boo. If they did, I'd bite their damn head off. Then tell them to eat their lunch with a napkin over their head. If they still had one.

What we've learned

So Thalia turns one on Monday ("holy hell what happened to that year?!" on the one hand and on the other hand, "holy hell that feels like a million years ago!"). In light of this milestone and the fact that friends are either having a baby or contemplating having a baby, we feel like all this stuff that is now in our heads should be shared. Also, cos it's just kinda neat that we learned all this stuff and if we don't write it down then we'll likely forget it all and that would just be kind of ... sad.

So we thought we'd do a series of posts, by the both of us, about what we've learned in this past year of parenting a baby.

Now, mostly we will be posting about stuff that has worked for us. This is not to say that it will work for everyone. Certainly some of it will not work for some people. We are idiosyncratic and rebellious enough for that to be the case. And honest enough to realize that just because we decided to do something does not mean it is the ONLY.RIGHT.THING.TO.DO or your child will be irreparably harmed, hate you forever, grow up with a complex, with one leg shorter than the other, whatever. Almost every parenting challenge has a multitude of solutions - often there is no perfect solution. This itself is one of the biggest challenges of being a parent, at least for me (Daniela). Often it isn't black or white, but shades of gray. Every parent has to find the shade of gray that best matches their shoes. Or you know, their values, principles, philosophy. Every family is different, blah blah blah. This is the story of our family. And, you know, it's quirky.

So yeah. We'll see how many posts we manage to write!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thalia talks!

Here's a video we took of Thalia on her changing table (one of her favorite places, as you know).  We've tried before to get a video of her in one of her chatty moods, but they usually end as soon as the camera comes out.  This time, Eric played with her while Daniela took the video-- it worked! 

Happy New Year to all!  We're excited about what 2009 has in store for our family (personally, if not financially)!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some of our favorite things

Nia with Mami,

Beer with Daddy,

Hanging out with my head upside down,

Snoozing with Tía Jenny,

Bonus! Dog photo!
Moose with his Christmas bone,

(he did not really mind trying to eat it through the wrapping paper and the plastic encasing it!)

Friday, December 12, 2008


Thalia has been smiling away at us for several weeks now, for good chunks of time, even. The problem has been catching a smile with the camera. Either the camera is not handy or we just want to enjoy the smiles and coos for ourselves in the moment or she sees the camera and is like, "What? Smile? What's that?" But yesterday I managed to get some photos.

We have a rather prolonged morning in bed time most days. And Thalia tends to be quite happy and smiley then. I love this I'm-so-happy-my eyes-shut face!

I think one of Thalia's favorite places in the world is her changing table. She is always very happy there, except when very hungry. So by leaving her there for a couple of minutes and taking a million photos I managed to get some shots of her smiling.

While on the changing table and smiling, Thalia is always looking the same way- I believe she is entertained by the painted, colored rings that I put on the slanted ceiling above her. It's funny because when I put them there, I had no idea she would be able to see them or that she would like them so much! Here's a photo of them, from her perspective, more-or-less,

Friday, November 28, 2008


The somnolence of post-Thanksgiving day feasting...

Friday, November 21, 2008

For Papas everywhere...

Well, actually Thalia has only one Papa but he requested some more photos. And he's right, we've fallen behind on posting lately. Thalia has grown - she's now almost 7 weeks old! where did the time go, exactly? The one thing that hasn't changed is how cute she least, we think so. Not the most unbiased opinion but whatever! We're pretty sure you think so too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thalia's famous!

Not really, but....

We had some pictures of her taken by a professional photographer.  We haven't gotten all of them yet, but she has posted a few as a preview on her blog.  You can see them here:

We'll let you know when the pictures are available for ordering, if you're interested....