Online Support for Moms

Early in my first trimester I signed up for Baby Center’s forums and joined August 2012 due date month, as did over 22,000 other women. It was nice to be able to read that other women were experiencing the same things, or double check that something was normal, or just lurk and read the posts. <–such a first time mom.

But it soon turned ugly. Very ugly. Women were creating drama when they disagreed and the threads turned into a warzone of mommy opinions. (Can you imagine a room full of hundreds of moms debating vaccines/circumcision
/cosleeping, how many ultrasounds are okay/medications/parenting styles etc). People would probably die. Thank God it was all online. I'm pretty sure half of them signed up just to create drama and they didn't really need advice or have any to offer.

One member created a private group for our due date week August 11-15 Due Dates. Mine was the 11th, so I asked to join, along with 61 other people. The first few posts were superficial ones like, "First OB appointment!" Or "What's for dinner?" Only about 25 would post and reply on a regular basis. Although we weren't sharing too much personal information (we all realized there was potential for weird stalker creeper things to happen) we did get to know each other over time. We continued to support each other (without any mommy wars that were on the main board). And not just support through morning sickness, but things like relationship problems, health issues, moving, job changes, and death of family members and pets. We posted our ultrasound pictures, shared our appointment info and worries. It was exciting to see who would have their baby first. As our due dates approached, I was constantly checking for birth announcements.

After our babies were born, it was much harder to keep up with each other. I missed a lot of what was happening with everyone else those first few weeks as I got the hang of motherhood. First we started following each other on Instagram so we could see each other's babies daily. Then we finally let go of any online stranger weirdness and made a private group on Facebook. We took with us the only members who were "regulars."

My husband has referred to them as my virtual reality friends, which is kind of funny. But I know they are much more than that. Because of these women, I am a much better mother. They were the ones who told me cosleeping is okay and why, and how it works for them when I didn't know anyone else who had done it. They introduced me to the blog Nurshable, which gave me patience to not let Layla cry it out in her crib. They helped me with breastfeeding and gave me emotional support. I took their advice on introducing solids and which baby products to buy. I trust their opinions on pretty much everything. We do Secret Santas for holidays and their first birthdays. We also laugh together, a whole lot.

I am also lucky enough to live an hour from 2 of them. For the most part though, we are scattered throughout the country. A couple women are married to farmers in the Midwest. A few are west coast city girls. Some of us have tattoos and others wouldn't dare. We have a 20 year age difference among us. We have different views on religion, politics, and parenting- yet we have not had ONE argument.

I guess we all know that the most important thing is that we love our babies and we all are just doing what works for our families. So we just support each other and offer suggestions to problems without passing judgement. I have yet to meet most of these wonderful women in person, but I feel like I have known them and their families forever. They make my world a better place.

If someone told me 2 years ago when I signed up for Baby Center that I would be writing this about these people I met online, I would have laughed. Hard. I guess the joke is on me.

Happy last day of August to my August mamas ❤
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disclaimer** the chances of finding a group like this are seriously slim. But it's worth a try, because if you land a group of women like I did, consider yourself extremely lucky!

Emotional Late-Night Ramblings

One of my biggest hopes is that Layla will look to me for guidance and take my advice to heart when she is a teenager. I made mistakes that I paid for dearly. I also have had things happen to me that were out of my control. Each experience continues to change who I am just a little bit. I make better decisions now because I know what regret feels like. I know my actions have consequences. I know I’m not the center of the universe.

It’s funny to me now, thinking about beliefs I held as a teenager. Thinking I would believe in the same things, have the same friends, be the same person. The world seemed a lot smaller living under my parents’ roof. Now it’s huge and scary and much worse things have happened than my friend talking about me behind my back. And I’ve learned how fragile life can be which instantly puts things into perspective.

Each person grows at their own pace, which I believe is a big reason friendships don’t always last. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, two people who used to be close just can’t relate any longer. Two people have two different life experiences that can change the way they see themselves and the world, and then there’s no going back. It’s not really about who is “right” or “mature”… It just changes things, and it’s okay to let go.

Having a baby is one of those things that changes you. I know people who don’t have kids hate hearing the phrase, “you’ll understand one day when you have a kid.” (I totally hated this phrase pre-baby). But it’s so so so true! It’s one of the only experiences that can turn you into a selfless and sacrificing person overnight. You may still desire to do the same things you did before you had kids but can’t, or they may become silly things you can’t believe you spent time and money on in the first place. Having a kid is so utterly time consuming and exhausting (yet ridiculously rewarding) that I can only make time for what (and who) I absolutely want to, if I’m lucky. Basically what I’m trying to say is, a baby forces you to cut the crap out quickly.

I know Layla will make her own mistakes and learn her own lessons. I just wish there was a way she could learn what is important in life without having to experience heartache over it all. I hope she can recognize good people and stay away from ones who aren’t. I hope I can teach her how to be a sensitive person and a good friend. I hope she is grateful and humble and kind. I want her to follow through on her dreams. And I hope I can be there for her enough when life knocks her down, because it seems like you just can’t escape that. Each day is a special gift, so above everything else, I hope I can show her how to love each other deeply.

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Layla’s 1st Birthday Party

My baby turned one last week… ONE! I have mixed feelings about this, but I have to admit it’s been fun to see her walking around and acting like a big girl. I enjoyed making crafts and getting ready for the party, but I am glad the work is over with too. I’d really like to make birthdays and holidays a big deal, probably because I didn’t have any as a kid!

She had a great day. Started off with a 20 minute nap right before everyone came, so she needed another one at the end of the party. It was nice to get away and hold her and cuddle her, just the two of us. We went swimming, ate cake, opened gifts, and played with friends.

Here are a few (I won’t bombard you with them all…) party pictures courtesy of the one and only Kerri…

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Layla was a very careful cake eater, but I think she enjoyed it. It was my first attempt at a cake from scratch.

Here are a couple of my girl that I took a couple days before her birthday, playing peek-a-boo with Grammi.

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Love you precious girl!

-Mommy

Informed Birth Choices

Tonight I had a chance to sit and talk with my husband’s 87 year-old grandmother (Mom-mom) about her birth experiences. She had seven children between the years 1949-1968. Whew, you go momma!

For all of her babies, she went to the hospital and they knocked her out completely with general anesthesia. Obviously, she lacked the ability to push, so they were all pulled out via forceps. Her husband waited in the waiting room. Her youngest baby (1968) was over 8lbs and was born blue because they had trouble getting him out. He spent a few scary days in an incubator.

It is frightening to read about this period of labor and delivery. Many women were completely traumatized and humiliated. Fathers were excluded, and laboring women didn’t know they had a choice. Often they didn’t. The natural birth movement hadn’t gained momentum where Mom-mom was giving birth.

Fortunately, Mom-mom has an indifferent attitude about the births. She says, “I would just wake up and say, ‘what did I have?'” When I asked her if she would have wanted it differently, she shrugs and says, “That’s just how it was back then.” But I can’t help but feel like she was cheated out of something very important.

Reflecting on my own birth, it saddens me that she missed the moment her babies were born. She didn’t get to see them naked, covered in vernix, take their first breath or hear their first cry. She woke up (who knows how long later) and was handed a swaddled baby- here you go, another girl.

To top it off, doctors had parents convinced that “formula” (if you can even call it that) was superior to breastmilk. All of Mom-moms babies were formula fed. Check out this 1950’s commercial on YouTube.

Nothing like a nice can of carnation sugar to jump start a newborn’s immune system! Yummy!

Obviously, in 2013, we know better. We know that breast is best, and formula has come a long, long way. We know that women need to be alert and help push. But honestly, how much better is birth these days?

A trademark of 1950s birth was convenience and coercion. But those two words still apply, and women need to be informed. There are too many doctors who perform c-sections out of convenience. These surgeries are not without risk! If you are pregnant, you need to know these risks.

Doctors may say, “Your hips are too small,” or, “your baby is too big to fit,” before you are even in labor. No doctor can look at you and know these things. If your doctor says that to you, it’s time to switch care providers.

Ladies, we have the privilege of the Internet now, so please do your L&D research. You should know what continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EMF) is, and if it is something you need, want, or don’t want. It’s your choice. I chose intermittent. You should know the risks of getting an epidural. Do you want an IV or a hep-lock? Will you be allowed to eat and drink during labor? You should know your doctor’s and hospital’s c-section rate. Under what circumstances do you consent to an episiotomy?

It’s your choice if you want to decline the routine Hepatitis B vaccine at birth. You should be researching that, as well as the vitamin K injection, delayed cord clamping, and erythromycin eye ointment. You should know why these are standard at birth and if they are right for your baby.

Please don’t let things just happen to your body and your baby. Birth trauma is real and it happens every day. Yes, thank God we have skilled OB’s who perform safe c-sections because this saves lives. It’s okay if you have a c-section, I just want you to actually need or want it. All too often the natural birth process is being meddled with unnecessarily with Pitocin inductions and conveniently scheduled c-sections. If you have to have a c-section you still can request things- please don’t tie my hands down and push the curtain down when you pull my baby out.

Be informed, write a birth plan, and choose your care provider carefully. You may not get the exact birth you’re hoping for, but if you do all these things, you’ll greatly increase your chances of it. Your body, your baby, your choice.

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Mom-mom holding my peanut girl, her 20th great-grandchild.

Just Google It

I “Google it” 100 times a day. I literally Google everything. The problem with that though, is you can always find what you’re looking for. Stick with me here:

If you want to read that organic food is healthier, you can. If you want to read that there’s no difference between organic and conventional, you can read that too. If you want to read chemicals in sunscreens cause cancer, there’s a whole lot of articles on that. If you want to hear sunscreen prevents cancer, there’s that too. If you want confirmation of anything you think is right, just Google it.

So what’s the truth? I’m not sure! I’m not a scientist conducting studies on rats, I’m just trying to keep my family healthy. There is so much marketing garbage out there and “studies” that it’s overwhelming.

I’m sure I’ve gotten some things wrong, I’m only human. But in trying to dig up “facts” you have to follow the money:

-I try to find out who is making money off a product. This can be tricky because big companies own small ones, such as Kellogg owns Kashi. I tend to trust small companies over multibillion dollar corporations.

-I read studies if they are available. Then I try to uncover who funded the studies, and who benefits from the findings of the studies. For example, if the FDA says GMO corn is safe because there have been safety studies done, and then you realize Monsanto has funded and conducted these studies on their own product, well that’s just bad science. This happens all. the. time.

-Just because the FDA approves it, doesn’t make it safe. (In fact, if its FDA approved, I just assume it’s not safe). How many times a day do you hear commercials saying, “If you suffered death, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure cancer, blurred vision, etc after taking (insert drug of choice) call the law offices of…” Yeaaaahh. Safety studies. I don’t think so.

-Read about a company’s history. What charities, if any, do they support? Who is the CEO? Here is a little article on Walmart’s. That is a lot of work though, I know.

When money is involved, all bets are off. Not the person selling hats on Etsy, they’re okay. We are talking the higher ups and CEO’s of national organizations and companies. Money is powerful: it can sway my beloved Google search and shout at me from the TV. But until these “studies” are funded fairly from a third party who will not benefit from them, I play it safe. I go with local, sustainable, and small business whenever possible.

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World Breastfeeding Week

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According to the CDC, I am in the 25% of moms who are breastfeeding at a year, even though 75% of moms start breastfeeding. That means women aren’t receiving the right support to continue beyond the first couple days after birth. I know a huge reason I made it this far was because I have had women by my side, showing me how to latch and use a pump. I have had women online providing support. Each encouraging word and suggestion has helped me maintain my milk supply and give me confidence. Every mom deserves the best shot at breastfeeding if she wants one.

Let me get this out of the way first: supporting breastfeeding is not the same thing as being anti-formula. I know a lot of formula feeding moms who are all GREAT mamas, and used formula for a whole variety of reasons. I am not, and do not feel better than them because I breastfeed. Some women can’t nurse, some need to supplement, and others choose not to. Moms need to be supported, period, no matter how they feed their baby. Breastfeeding can often be difficult, so women need to talk about it and support each other. Sometimes it’s treated like a hush hush topic, but it shouldn’t be!

What does support look like? Support can come in all forms. You can share accurate information and dispel outdated myths. Spread breastfeeding facts: did you know that universal breastfeeding in the first hour of life could save 830,000 lives a year? (Save the Children). Through milk banks, donor breastmilk saves lives in the NICU everyday in a way that formula just can’t do. Currently, there is a breastmilk shortage even though it’s a free, and free-flowing, resource.

Research breastfeeding basics. Some people- even some doctors- might tell you to let a new baby sleep at night and schedule feedings. This is not good advice, and both of these things could affect your supply when it comes in. Learn about supply and demand and reach out to people to help you with other household things so you can nurse your new baby around the clock. It’s worth it.

Maybe you don’t know anyone who nursed a baby longer than a few months. Reach out to your local LLL chapter, join a moms group, or an online support group. There’s a great one on Facebook. I check in with other nursing moms to make sure things are going well for them. If they have an issue or a question that I can’t answer, I reach out to my own network of nursing moms and get back to them.

Get started on the right foot by seeing all different lactation consultants before you leave the hospital. I stayed less than 48 hours after giving birth and saw 3 different LC’s who all had different tricks. The first few weeks are hard, but don’t quit just yet! It gets much, much better!

Research your options. If you can’t nurse but want to give your baby breastmilk, consider a donor. Join Human Milk 4 Human Babies on Facebook. You may be surprised by how eager a close friend, relative, or complete stranger is to share their milk with you. This isn’t gross- think about the baby who is allergic to formula and whose mother can’t produce enough milk (I’ve seen a milk request for this situation more than once). And if you think about it- human milk is the perfect food for your human baby. If you have an over-supply or a freezer stash you won’t use, consider donating! I’m willing to bet you a lot of money there’s a mama nearby who would love to have it.

Be sensitive to moms nursing in public. Nursing moms are protected by law and have the right to nurse without a cover wherever they are legally allowed to be. When a mom (especially a new one) feels like she is awkward and hot with a cover on, and is struggling with a latch or supply and cracked nipples, one rude comment or look from a stranger or friend could be enough to make her quit. Don’t be the person who makes a mother quit breastfeeding. Be the person who helps her to keep going.

The Medici Madonna

It’s 10:40am- nap time- and today I am babysitting at the kids’ grandparents house, my first time here. I put the little guy in his crib and took my girl in the next room to get her to go down.

The quickest, easiest, and sometimes only way to get her to sleep at the same time as R is to nurse her while walking around. As I’m pacing, singing, and nursing around this unfamiliar guest room, I spot a glorious sight on the wall. A framed print of the preparatory drawing for the Medici Madonna. I’m not the only one breastfeeding in this room!

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I think it’s important to note that she is not wearing a cover, and that the baby looks to be a year old. In the actual sculpture, the child looks more like a two year old.

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The statue is located outside of a church in Italy. Then it got me wondering what it was like to nurse in public in a country where there are hundreds of pieces of breastfeeding art on display. Sadly, even Italy is beginning to sexualize breasts (although not quite as bad as it is in the US), according to this interesting blog post.

It also reminded me of this post I read recently about the Bible and breastfeeding. It says the Bible references breasts in relation to nursing twice as often than it does about sexuality. So, while yes, breasts can be sexual, let’s not forget their primary and most important function- feeding a child.

There are situations where I am more comfortable using a cover or going somewhere privately. Most of the time I don’t. And really it isn’t because I’m on a crusade to show the world I’m nursing- it’s more like its 90 degrees out, my baby needs to eat, she has refused to let me use a cover since 6 months old, and I’m not traipsing off the beach to waste my gas turning the air on, sitting in the car to nurse because someone might look at me funny. It’s a mother’s choice. If a mom is comfortable to nurse without one, that’s her right.

What disappoints me most is that other young women- even mothers- are often the ones giving disapproving looks. If you’re uncomfortable with your kid- boy or girl- seeing a mom breastfeeding, it’s possibly time for some reflection.

When my girl was 8 weeks old I nannied for another family. The 3 year old boy had a little brother and had seen his mom nursing. When I said it was time for her to eat, he smiled and asked, “is she going to drink from your chest?” Hilarious, but more importantly it was normal to him. I know a bunch of moms whose kids have this normalized view of nursing and to them, I give two thumbs up.

I hope that my daughter will grow up to appreciate her healthy body and that one day she will be blessed to carry and nurse a baby, and not measure her worth by her sexuality. Maybe we should all hang a framed print to remind us that breastfeeding truly is a beautiful work of art.

fine.