Last week, after having the honor of attending the celebration and funeral for a beloved wife, mom, grandma, and friend, my thoughts turned to what made her such an amazing mother and if those same words could be said about me. I thought about the stories that were shared about her and the traditions she loved. I thought about all the many moments that composed her life that were full of grace and compassion and love, fierce love.
I thought about the moments that compose my life. The sweet ones, the happy ones, and even the not-so-good ones. The times that I kept my cool, the times that I didn’t. I thought about the moments to come and what I wish for them. How I wish I could be more creative and consistent with family traditions. How I wish I hugged my children more; put my phone down more to take the moment to look in their eyes so they could see the fierce love I have for them. How I hope and pray they know that I love them through my words and actions.
And then I felt overwhelmed. How can I change and do those good things more? I have bad habits. I have selfish tendencies. I have inner struggles between wanting to give my children all my attention versus teaching them to be independent. I feel conflicted with my schedule and finding balance between my physical and emotional needs versus my children’s. I struggle to know how to discipline my children to correct negative behavior while still letting them know I love them.
And in a flash, I felt incapable of change. I dismissed all the good I’ve done in the past and feared the mistakes I will surely make in the future. I felt defeated.
As I experienced these emotions, I remembered the vulnerability of laboring women. I remembered how I breathe through the contractions with them; how I remind them that all the contractions that have come and gone are over; how I encourage them not to worry about the contractions to come. And it dawned on me, the same could be said to all the little moments in life we experience every day. All the moments that have already gone by, for good or bad, are over. All the moments that are to come will come, whether we worry about them or not. All we can do is breathe through each moment. Live it, experience it, and do our best. As my son whined today about having a headache and not having the right spoon he wanted, I had a choice in that moment of how to be his mom. I chose to calmly tell him I was sorry he didn’t feel well and that he could choose a different spoon. I thought, “This was a good moment.” Breathe in, soak it in, and move on. That moment has already come and gone and I don’t know what future moments are in store but I’m choosing now to not stress or worry about how to “be” then. I choose now to take each moment one at a time.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was apprehensive about breastfeeding. I wondered what it would be like to nurse my baby. I was surprised to find that nursing felt as natural to me as loving my baby. But there were other surprises as well, like that a good latch didn’t come as naturally. I spent the first month nursing my baby in pain because she was sucking on the tip of my nipple, and not the whole areola. I had been told so many times nursing hurt that I thought that was normal. It was not. My poor nipples and my baby’s lips ended up with blisters on them! Once we got that figured out, it got easier.
We all have had our own surprise experiences with breastfeeding and I believe sharing our stories with each other will help us all grow stronger as moms. So what surprises have you had? Here are some quotes of surprises, for good and bad, from moms just like you:
"Good: the connection between breastfeeding. I love that we have something that's just ours.
Bad: the pain. Even after 2 breastfed babies. The beginning pain isn't fun." - Stormy
"Good...when you get the hang of it, it's awesome. Bad...it's not as easy as sticking your boob in their mouths. It's a lot more complicated than I ever thought it could be. I had little support and breastfed and supplemented until I finally switched to just formula with my first at six weeks. We never had much of a breastfeeding relationship. It was painful, he would cry and scream, he was constipated from supplementing and eventually was put on soy formula at nine weeks. Breastfeeding is amazing, the bond, knowing you are what baby needs, you alone can comfort them, there's something about knowing your baby only wants you, that special time when you don't have to share so much because you are so much to them. They grow so fast and that stage doesn't last long, but I enjoy every moment of it." - Sabrina
"I am surprised at how much I love breastfeeding and how supportive everyone is of me still breastfeeding my almost two year old." - Amelia
"I am surprised that every kid is different with BFing. Each kid I have I learn something new and the BFing relationship goes on longer and longer. I LOVE it!" - Jen
"Bad: the first few weeks because of the pain and insecurity. I have a low supply and have to supplement, the feeling of inadequacy was hard with the first. I was surprised it took until after I was done nursing to learn that my kids tongue tie was the reason we had so much difficulty despite seeing LCs and pediatricians about it. Good: once BF is established the ease and comfort, breathing in the baby's breath and the eye contact, their warmth. The love. The good was totally worth the bad." - Amanda
"Good: How easy my sweet boy made it. He knew immediately what he was doing. Very thankful for that since he is my first. Bad: My supply on one side is significantly lower. They look like lop sided water balloons. Not cool." - Kayla
"Exclusively pumping is breastfeeding too. I tried everything I could and instead of giving up I do one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Not everyone recognizes it as breastfeeding, which makes it even harder. I know breastmilk is the best for my baby and I'll do whatever it takes to give it to him. Bonding over breastmilk can also happen through a bottle, it just takes an open mind and a strong will!! I now have an over supply of milk and I am able to not only feed my baby but I can also donate to help another mom." - Jodi
"I had no clue about nipple shields and lip/tongue ties before I had the baby. Had to quickly learn all about milk supply and how to pump, how to do everything I could to get him just to latch with the shield. Also, that if I'm going crazy while breastfeeding at night it's okay to pump and bottle feed during that time. Better for our relationship." - Courtney
"Bad: you actually can truly have low supply as a mom and it's not always just the latch or a need for lactation cookies (I have IGT); no one talks to you about how LONG nursing takes (it's not 0 mins every 2-3 hrs, it can be 45 mins every 2-3 hrs!). Good: you never realize how much you want to breastfeed until you have your baby (especially after you learn of low supply issues)" - Anonymous
"I thought breastfeeding was going to come so naturally. After all, my mom, grandmother, aunt, and sister all nursed successfully. I didn't understand why I had so many issues and nobody could help me. Not until I found support in Le Leche League and For Babies Sake did I realize I was not alone." - Caren Nugent
"The most fun part of breastfeeding is the bonding experience! I love when baby is old enough to really smile at you, and they just pause a nursing session to look at you with that adorable smile, milk dribbling out, nipple half in... It's just the cutest thing ever!" - Aimee Garcia
"What I didn't expect with breastfeeding problems was that chiropractic care could be the answer to fix them. My son wouldn't latch for 2 weeks so I had to pump then syringe feed him. He finally started to latch then I developed thrush for 8 weeks. I finally went and saw an IBCLC after that, and she helped me discover that a misalignment in my son was causing tons of the issues I was having. I took him to get an adjustment from an ICPA chiropractor and it started the path to correcting all his issues! I also was surprised my milk took a week to come in when I didn't have a cesarean!" - Brooke Harralson
"I was surprised at hungry I was when I was breastfeeding! I felt like I could sit around and eat all day and I looked forward to every mean and snack!" - Maria Pokluda
"I was terrified of breastfeeding because so many of my friends and family had quit or never even tried, saying it was "too hard" or "too painful" or "too inconvenient." But I was determined to make it work despite the negativity around me . I took a breastfeeding class during pregnancy and had a lactation consultant on call to come within 24 hours after the birth. I was very pleasantly surprised that my baby and I both took to breastfeeding so easily and learned that it's not hard with the right resources and support; pain is not normal; and breastfeeding was so convenient for us! I always had "free" milk available and at the right temperature and I loved the built-in mommy & baby bonding time. Breastfeeding may not come as easily with the next baby, but I love knowing I'll have a knowledgeable, positive support system surrounding me." - Kacy Bunte
"I was surprised at how breastfeeding affected intimacy with my partner. I just didn't really think of him being involved in that part of our parenting. It was awesome that I could playfully shoot him with milk from across the room, and that he was there to lovingly support me as I nursed my daughter through painful thrush. The breastfeeding experience brought us closer as a couple and a parenting team." - Jennifer Swiney
"I am still surprised at the negativity I encounter. It seems like everyone around me mindlessly says "breast is best" but they have no idea on how to follow through with that slogan. So when it comes down to some breast work it's easy for people to become uncomfortable, defensive, and not so understanding." - Jennifer Johnson
"I was so surprised that I really was able to exclusively nurse twins. And we continued for a year and a half! Within that there were other surprises--like how sweet it was that they held hands while nursing and how annoying it was that when they got a little older they tried to push each other off. I was surprised at how great my breasts looked while nursing all of my kids and how disappointing it was when they "deflated" after. :-)" - Emilie Wilson, a mother of 5 breastfed children
"I was surprised that breastfeeding not only put my son to sleep, but also me. I wasn't familiar with all the hormones involved before I started breastfeeding. Now, I can't fall asleep without breastfeeding!" - Maryellen Yates
I recently finished reading an eye-opening book: “Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born” by Tina Cassidy. It was amazing to learn about what women have had to endure over the generations and across different cultures as they gave birth. For example, some women had cesareans unmedicated or had symphisiotomies performed on them where their pelvic cartilage was cut and opened to widen the birth canal. I just can’t even fathom undergoing such a treacherous procedure. The history of pain medication has been rocky as well. From ether and chloroform to twilight sleep, women and their doctors sought out ways to help women avoid pain. Unfortunately these often brought on negative side-effects such as maternal hemorrhage, in the case of ether and chloroform, or lack of bonding with their child because they were in a semi-conscious state due to the twilight sleep.
However, the one thing I really gained from reading this book was perspective. I can find many flaws with our current birth atmosphere but many of them pale in comparison to the challenges our ancestral mothers faced. It made me grateful to be alive in this day and age. But, it did make me wonder what current trends we have now, will women 100 years from now think are ridiculous or barbaric? And where do I hope to see the birth atmosphere heading?
Here are my six dreams for the future:
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)